The Transendent Awareness That Cuts Like a Diamond Sutra
"The lord buddha replied, "Subhuti, any good person who concentrates on attaining total enlightenment should cherish one thought: the intention to attain the highest transcendent awareness in order to show all sentient beings the eternal peace and freedom of nirvana. If this intention is sincere, these sentient beings are already freed. And yet, Subhuti, if the full truth is realized, one knows that not a single sentient being has ever been freed. And why, Subhuti?
Because if the great bodhisattvas have held onto any such arbitrary conceptions as one's own self, other selves, living beings, or a universal self, they could not be called great bodhisattvas. And what does this mean, Subhuti? It means that there are no sentient beings to be freed and there is no selfhood that can begin the practice of seeking to attain total enlightenment.
"What do you think, Subhuti? When the well-traveled one was with the buddha Dipankara did he have any such arbitrary conception of the spiritual truth by which he sought to attain total enlightenment intuitively?"
"No, blessed lord. As I understand what you are saying, when you were with buddha Dipankara you had no such arbitrary conception of spirituality by which you sought total enlightenment intuitively."
The Lord Buddha was very pleased with this, and said, "You are right, Subhuti. Speaking truthfully there is no such arbitrary conception of spiritual truth as that. If there had been, Dipankara would not have predicted that in some future life I would attain buddhahood under the name Shakyamuni. What does this mean Subhuti? It means that what I attained is not something limited and arbitrary that can be called 'total enlightenment,' but is that buddhahood whose being is identical with the being of all things and is what it is--universal, inconceivable, inscrutable.
"Suppose, Subhuti, there were a student who asserts that the well-traveled one had some ideas about the spiritual truth that warranted his seeking to attain complete enlightenment. Understand, Subhuti, that the well-traveled one truly had no ideas of the spiritual truth by which he sought to attain total enlightenment."
The Lord Buddha emphasized this by saying, "Subhuti, the buddhahood which the well-traveled one attained is both the same and not the same as total enlightenment. This is merely another way of saying that the phenomena of all things is one beingness with buddhahood and complete enlightenment, and is neither reality nor unreality, but is together with all phenomena in openness and silence, inconceivable and inscrutable. Subhuti, that is why I say that the spiritual truth of all things can never be encompassed by any arbitrary conception of phenomena, however universal that conception may be. That is why it is called the truth, and that is why there is no such thing as the truth.
"Subhuti, suppose I were to speak of the largeness of the human body. What would you understand thereby?"
"World-honored one, I would understand that the lord buddha was not speaking of the largeness of the human body as an arbitrary conception of its being. I would understand that the words carried merely an imaginary meaning."
"Subhuti, it is just the same when the great bodhisattvas speak of delivering numberless sentient beings. If they have in mind any arbitrary conception of sentient beings or of definite numbers, they are unworthy of being called great bodhisattvas. And why, Subhuti? Because the very reason they are called great bodhisattvas is because they have abandoned all such arbitrary conceptions. And what is true of one arbitrary conception is true of all conceptions. The well-traveled one's teachings are entirely free of all such arbitrary conceptions as one's own self, other selves, living beings, and a universal self."
To make this teaching even more empathic, the lord buddha continued, "If a great bodhisattva were to speak as follows, 'I will add embellishments to the buddhafields' he would be unworthy of being called a great bodhisattva. Why? Because the well-traveled one has explicitly taught that when a great bodhisattva uses such words, they must not bear in mind any such arbitrary conception of phenomena; they are to use such expressions merely as so many words.
"Subhuti, it is only those students whose understanding can penetrate deeply enough into the meaning of the well-traveled one's teachings concerning the egolessness of both things and living beings, and who can clearly understand their significance, that are worthy to be called great bodhisattvas."
 The buddha then asked Subhuti, "What do you think? Does the well-traveled one have ordinary eyes?"
"Subhuti replied, "Sure, he has ordinary eyes."
"Does he have the eyes of enlightenment?"
"Of course, the well-traveled one has the eyes of enlightenment, otherwise he would not be the buddha."
"Does the well-traveled one have the eyes of transcendent intelligence?"
"Yes, the well-traveled one has the eyes of transcendent intelligence."
"Does the well-traveled one have the eyes of spiritual intuition?"
"Yes, lord, the well-traveled one has the eyes of spiritual intuition."
"Does the well-traveled one have the buddha eyes of love and compassion for all sentient beings?"
Subhuti agreed and said, "Lord, you love all sentient life."
"What do you think, Subhuti? When I referred to the grains of sand in the river Ganges, did I assert that they were truly grains of sand?"
"No blessed lord, you only spoke of them as grains of sand."
"Subhuti, if there were as many Ganges rivers as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges, and if there were as many buddhalands as there are grains of sand in all those innumerable rivers, would these buddhalands be considered numerous?"
"Very numerous indeed, Lord Buddha."
"Listen up, Subhuti. Within these innumerable buddhalands there are every form of sentient beings with all their various mentalities and attitudes, all of which are fully known to the well-traveled one, but not one of them is held in the well-traveled one's mind as an arbitrary conception. They are all merely thought of. Not one of this vast accumulation of conceptions since beginningless time, through to the never ending future, not one of them is graspable."
 The Buddha continued, "What do you think Subhuti? If a follower were to give away enough goods to fill 3,000 universes, would a great blessing and merit incur to him or her?"
Subhuti replied, "Honored one, such a follower would acquire considerable blessings and merit."
The Lord Buddha said, "Subhuti, if such a blessing had any substantiality, if it were anything other than a figure of speech. The well-traveled one would not have used the words blessings and merit."
 Again the lord buddha inquired of Subhuti, saying, "Can the well-traveled one be fully known through any manifestation of form or idea?"
"No, world-honored one! The well-traveled one cannot be fully known through any manifestation of form or idea. Why? Because the phenomena of form and idea are inadequate to express buddhahood. They can only serve as mere expressions, a hint of that which is inconceivable.
"What do you think, Subhuti? Can the well-traveled one be fully known through any of his transcendent transformations? "
"No, world-honored one! The well-traveled one cannot be fully known even by his transcendent transformations. Why? Because what the well-traveled one has referred to as 'transcendent transformations' is merely a figure of speech. Even the most advanced bodhisattvas are unable to fully realize via intuition that which is essentially inscrutable."
 The Lord Buddha then warned Subhuti, saying, "Subhuti, do not believe that the well-traveled one ever thinks, 'I ought to present a system for teaching spiritual truths.' You should never entertain such an idea. Why? Because if anyone thinks this way, they will not only be misunderstanding the teachings of the well- traveled one, but they will be slandering as well. Furthermore, what has been referred to as 'a system of teaching' has no meaning, because truth cannot be cut up into pieces and arranged into a system. The words can only be used as figures of speech."
Then Subhuti, blessed with enlightened, transcendent intelligence, said to The Buddha, "Blessed lord, in future ages when any sentient beings happen to hear this scripture, will the essential elements of faith arise within their hearts?"
The Lord Buddha said, "Subhuti, why do you still think in such arbitrary terms? There are no such things as sentient beings, neither are there any non-sentient beings. Why? Because what you think of as sentient beings are unreal and non-existent. When the well-traveled one has used such words in is teachings, he has merely used them as figures of speech. Your question is therefore irrelevant."
 Subhuti again asked, "Blessed Lord, when you attained complete enlightenment, did you feel in your mind that nothing had been acquired?"
The Buddha replied, "That is it precisely, Suhuti. When I attained total enlightenment, I did not feel, as the mind feels, any arbitrary conception of spiritual truth, not even the slightest. Even the words 'total enlightenment' are merely words.
[23a] "Furthermore Subhuti, what I have attained in total enlightenment is the same as what all others have attained. It is undifferentiated, regarded neither as a high state, nor a low state. It is wholly independent of any definite or arbitrary conceptions of an individual self, other selves living beings, or a universal self."
[23b] "Subhuti, when someone is selflessly charitable, they should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is no distinction between one's self and the selfhood of others. Thus one practices charity by giving not only gifts, but through kindness and sympathy. Simply practice kindness and you will become fully enlightened.
"Subhuti, what I just said about kindness does not mean that when someone is being charitable they should hold onto arbitrary conceptions about kindness, for kindness is, after all, only a word and charity needs to be spontaneous and selfless."
 The Buddha continued, "Subhuti, if a person collected treasures as high as 3,000 of the highest mountains, and gave them to others, his or her merit would be less than what would accrue to the person who simply observed and studied this scripture and, out of kindness, explained it to others. The latter person would accumulate hundreds of times the merit, hundreds of thousands of trillions of times the merit. There is no comparison."
 The Lord Buddha continued, "Do you think, Subhuti, that the well-traveled one would consider in his own mind, 'I will deliver human beings'? That would be a degrading thought. Why? Because there are not really any sentient beings to be delivered by the well-traveled one. Should there be any sentient beings to be delivered by the well-traveled one, it would mean that the well- traveled one was harboring in his mind some arbitrary conceptions about phenomena, such as a self, other selves, living beings, and universal self. Even when the well-traveled one refers to himself he is not holding on to such arbitrary thoughts. Only earth people think of selfhood as a personal thing. Subhuti, even the expression 'earth people' as used by the well-traveled one does not mean that there are any such beings. It is merely used as a figure of speech."
 Then The Buddha inquired of Subhuti, "What do you think Subhuti? Is it possible to recognize the well-traveled one by the 32 physical marks?"
Subhuti replied, "Yes, world-honored one, the well-traveled one may thus be recognized."
"Subhuti, if that were true then Chakravartin, the mythological king (who also had the 32 marks) would be called a well-traveled one."
Then Subhuti, realizing his error, said, "World-honored one, now I realize that the well-traveled one cannot be recognized merely by his 32 physical marks of excellence."
The Lord Buddha then said, "Should anyone, looking at an image or likeness of the well-traveled one, claim to know the well-traveled one and worship him, that person would be mistaken, not knowing the true well-traveled one."
 The Lord Buddha continued, "Subhuti, do not think thee opposite either, that when the well-traveled one attained total enlightenment it was not by means of his possessing the 32 marks of physical excellence. Don't think that way. Otherwise, when you begin the practice of seeking total enlightenment you would think that all systems of phenomena and all conceptions about phenomena are to be rejected. Don't think that way. Why? Because when a person seeks to attain complete enlightenment, they should neither grasp after nor reject arbitrary conceptions of reality."
 The Lord Buddha continued, "Subhuti, if someone gives treasures equal to the number of sands on the shores of the Ganges River, and if another, having realized the egolessness of all things, thereby understands selflessness, the latter would be more blessed than the one who practiced external charity. Why? Because great bodhisattvas do not see blessings and merit as a private possession."
Subhuti inquired of the Lord Buddha, "What do you mean 'great bodhisattvas do not see blessings and merit as a private possession'?"
The Lord Buddha replied, "Because those blessings and merit have never been lusted after by those great bodhisattvas, they do not see them as private possessions, but as the common possession of all beings."
 The Buddha said, "Subhuti, if any person were to say that the well-traveled one is now coming or going, or sitting up or lying down, they would not have understood the principle I have been teaching. Why? Because while the expression 'well-traveled one' means 'he who has thus come, thus gone,' the true well-traveled one is never coming from anywhere or going anywhere. The name 'well-traveled one' is merely an expression."
 The Lord Buddha resumed, "Subhuti, if any good person, either man or woman, were to take 3,000 galaxies and grind them into microscopic powder and blow it into space, what do you think, would this powder have any individual existence?"
"Subhuti replied, "Yes, lord, as a microscopic powder infinitely dissipated, it might be said to have a relative existence, but as you use words, it has no existence. The words have only a figurative meaning. Otherwise the words would imply a belief in the existence of matter as an independent and self-existent thing, which it is not.
"Furthermore, when the well-traveled one refers to the '3,000 galaxies,' he could only do so as a figure of speech. Why? Because if the 3,000 galaxies really existed, their only reality would consist in their cosmic unity. Whether as microscopic powder or as galaxies, what does it matter? Only in the sense of the cosmic unity of ultimate being can the well-traveled one rightfully refer to it."
The Lord Buddha was very pleased with this reply and said, "Subhuti, although earth people have always grasped after an arbitrary conception of matter and galaxies, the concept has no true basis; it is an illusion of the mortal mind. Even when it is referred to as 'cosmic unity' it is inscrutable."
 The Lord Buddha continued, "If any person were to say that the well-traveled one, in his teachings, has constantly referred to himself, to other selves, to living beings, and a universal self, what do you think, would that person have understood my meaning?"
Subhuti replied, "No, blessed lord. That person would not have understood the meaning of your teachings. For when you refer to them, you are not referring to their actual existence, you only use words as figures of speech, as symbols. Only in that sense can words be used, for conceptions, ideas, limited truths, and spiritual truths have no more reality than have matter and phenomena."
Then the Lord Buddha made his meaning even more emphatic by saying, "Subhuti, when people begin their practice of seeking to attaining total enlightenment, they ought to see, to perceive, to know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all spiritual truths are no-things, and, therefore, they ought not to conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions whatsoever."
 The Lord Buddha continued, "Subhuti, if anyone gave to the well-traveled one treasures sufficient to fill the universe; and if another person, a good man or woman, in seeking to attain complete enlightenment were to earnestly and faithfully observe and study even a single stanza of this scripture and explain it to others, the accumulated blessing and merit of that latter person would be greater.
"Subhuti, how can one explain this scripture to others without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of things and phenomena and spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and in selfless harmony with the thusness of being well-traveled. Why? Because all the mind's arbitrary conceptions of matter, phenomena, and of all conditioning factors and all conceptions and ideas relating thereto are like a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, evanescent dew, a flash of lightening. Every true student should see all phenomena and all activities this way, and thus keep the mind free and selfless and tranquil."
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