Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The wisdom of Diamond Sutra - chapter 6




My rendition: Those who have faith

Subhuti: World Honored One, do you think in the later 500 years, there can still be people instantly gaining faith and take their vows through hearing passages contained in this Sutra?

The Buddha said to Subhuti, “Do not raise such doubt. After my passing away, in the latter 500 years, there will be those who observe the disciplines (持戒) and cultivate Merit (修福), who will gain instant faith and take their vows through hearing passages in this Sutra."

"You should know that these people have not merely cultivated the roots of virtue with one, two, three, four, or five Buddhas; they have cultivated all kinds of virtuous roots with hundreds of thousands, even countless numbers of Buddhas. Upon hearing these passages, Subhuti, some will, in an instant, give rise to pure faith. The Buddha fully knows and fully sees the reasons behind these people having such countless Merit. Why? (Through these accumulated Merit), these people will be freed from the limiting constraint of a self, a person, a sentient being, or an elder. They will also be freed from the limiting constraint of Dharma or non-Dharma."

"Why? If his heart is moved by his perception, his will be constrained by his own self, constrained by people, constrained by sentient beings or by elders. If his perceives according to the Dharma, as along as his heart is moved by his perception, he will still be constrained by self, people, sentient beings and elders. Why? If he perceives in contrary to the Dharma, he will likewise be constrained by self, people, sentient beings and elders. Therefore, the conclusion will be the same whether he perceives according to the Dharma or not."

"That's why Thatagata often told you: Monks, you must always remember my Dharma-as-a-raft metaphor: Even my Dharma can be cast away, more so for those unrelated to my Dharma."

Paul's comment: There is another important passage in this chapter: the raft-metaphor (知我說法,如筏喻者,法尚應捨,何況非法 - I shall translate it into English verse some day). A discrete perception, preference or attitude (even good ones!) towards the Dharma, according to the Buddha is also constraining and limiting, and has to be cast away, albeit at the right time only, after one becomes enlightened. In other words, if one still finds himself can't cast away the Dharma, i.e. if he feels the Dharma is still useful for his path to Enlightenment, he will know that he is not yet Enlightened; and of course, it would be foolish for him to throw away the Dharma then, assuming that he still wants to proceed further!

One very interesting question: why did Subhuti query the possibility of enlightenment during the latter 500 years? Buddhist scholars have been debating what is the exact period of the latter 500 years, no matter their different conclusions, suffice to say here that Subhuti must mean the time when there will be significantly less publicly recognized enlightened teachers for people to model from (for example: nowadays how many Buddhists can claim themselves to be Bodhisattva for people to model from? Even the Dalia Lama claimed himself to be "just an ordinary monk"!).

Buddha understood the scenario of the latter 500 years. His belief was that sentient beings then will have accumulated countless Merit, and this Merit allows them to be enlightened after hearing the passages. Where come this countless Merit? Accumulated from virtuous acts of countless Buddhas, that will include himself and probably many among the listening monks and Bodhisattva, and yes, they too needed to have faith!

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