Monday, September 12, 2011

The wisdom of Diamond Sutra - chapter 17



佛告須菩提:善男子,善女人,發阿耨多羅三藐三菩提心者,當生如是心,我當滅度 一切眾生,滅度一切眾生已,而無有一眾生實滅渡者。何以故?須菩提,若菩薩有我相,人相、人相、眾生相、壽者相,即非菩薩,所以者何?須菩提,實無有法發阿耨多羅三藐三菩提心者。須菩提,於意云何?如來於然燈佛所,有法得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提不?


佛言:如是如是:須菩提,實無有法,如來得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提。須菩提,若有法如來得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提者,然燈佛即不與我授記,汝於來世,當得作佛,號釋迦牟尼。以實無有法,得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提,是故然燈 佛與我授記,作是言,汝於來世當得作佛,號釋迦牟尼。何以故?如來者,即諸法如義。





My translation of chapter 17: Doing away with SELF

Then Subhuti addressed the Buddha, “World Honored One, if good men and good women resolve to attain the highest enlightenment, where should they put their heart, and how should they calm their restless mind?” The Buddha said to Subhuti: “Good men and good women who resolve to attain highest enlightenment should think like this: ‘I will liberate all sentient beings by bringing them to nirvana.’ Yet when all sentient beings have been liberated, not a single sentient being will be perceived as having attained nirvana (Paul's comment: because there is no perceiving subject). Why not? Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva abides in the notions of a self, a person, a sentient being, or an elder, he (or she) is not a Bodhisattva. Why? Subhuti, the attainment of the highest enlightenment doesn't mean there is a person who has learned a certain Dharma and practiced it accordingly.

“Subhuti, what do you think? When the Tathagata was under the guidance of Dipankara Buddha and obtained the highest enlightenment, did he learn some special Dharma and practise it?” “No, World Honored One. As I understand the meaning of your teaching, when you was under the guidance of Dipankara Buddha, you didn't learn any new Dharma.” The Buddha said, “So it seems, Subhuti, so it seems" Subhuti, there is no special Dharma that one can learn to obtain the highest enlightenment. On the contrary, if Thathagata thought that he had learned anything, Dipankara Buddha would not have called him enlightened and foretold, ‘You will attain Buddhahood in the future, with the name Shakyamuni.’ It is precisely because there is actually nothing to be obtained in the highest enlightenment that Dipankara Buddha foretold, ‘You will attain Buddhahood in the future, with the name Shakyamuni.’ (Paul's comment: any physical and mental entity being learned and practiced will presuppose the existence of a self).

Why? This is because ‘tathagata’ means ‘all Dharmas can lead to enlightenment.’ (諸法如義)

If someone says that the Tathagata attained highest enlightenment, Subhuti, there is in fact, no special Dharma can be learned to obtain the Buddha’s highest enlightenment. Subhuti, the highest enlightenment attained by the Tathagata is neither full nor void (無實無虛). Therefore the Tathagata teaches that all Dharmas can have the effect of (or can be viewed as) the Buddha's (enlightening) Dharma. Subhuti, however, please note that when the Buddha says all Dharma, he doesn't mean all actual Dharma, but referring all Dharmas as an all inclusive concept. Like when the Buddha refers to persons with immensely lengthy body, he doesn't refer to any physical person with an immensely lengthy body, but only use the term metaphorically."

“Subhuti, so it is with a bodhisattva. If someone says, ‘I will bring countless sentient beings to nirvana,’ then he is not a Bodhisattva. Why? Subhuti, there is no method or action that can define a Bodhisattva. Equivalently speaking, all Dharmas (that, by definition, has the potential to enlighten anyone) are not defined in relation to a self, a person, a sentient being, or an elder.

Subhuti, if a bodhisattva says ‘I will bring (an actual) honorable Buddha world,’ then he is not a Bodhisattva. Why? The Tathagata says bring the honorable Buddha world he doesn't refer to any physical Buddha world, he just uses the term metaphorically as a tool of enlightenment. Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva understands Dharma without invoking the concept of Self, the Tathagata says this is a true Bodhisattva.”

Paul's comment: This is an important summary chapter of many important concepts introduced in previous chapters. The dilemma is: Highest level of enlightenment involves doing away with Self. One must look from the perspective outside all sentient beings (in particular outside the perspective of Self). Only if a Bodhisattva can put his heart/mind at this highest level (i.e. beyond self and other sentient beings) can he truly rests his heart/mind and he truly can be named a Bodhisattva. But thus putting his heart, he will be "obligated" to "liberate all sentient beings by bringing them to nirvana" (滅度一切眾生). And when he is doing this, he will need to perform it PHYSICALLY, i.e. involving an actor, he himself, and a receiver, the one who is being enlightened!

The practical problem to solve is: How can the Bodhisattva acts in the physical dimension and at the same time mentally being above the physical dimension? (在相而離相) The Diamond Sutra explained the theory, the practice side will involve the practice of morality and meditation.

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