Reading the Diamond Sutra

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A while back, I began to want to study some sutras. I first chose The Dhammapada because I thought it would be sort of fundamental and basic, like the ground floor of Buddhist teachings. That guess seemed spot-on as I read the Gil Fronsdal translation a couple of times.

However, I wanted something more substantial. Maybe more challenging. I was thinking about commentaries — so many learned Buddhist scholars have written commentaries over the centuries … shouldn’t I check them out?

So I wound up with The Diamond Sutra, a 2001 edition translated by Red Pine and published by Counterpoint. This text has been kicking my butt for a few months now.

The Buddha said, “Subhuti, if someone should claim, ‘the Tathagata teaches a dharma,’ such a claim would be untrue. Such a view of me, Subhuti, would be a misconception. And how so? In the teaching of a dharma, Subhuti, in the ‘teaching of a dharma,’ there is no such dharma to be found as the ‘teaching of a dharma.’ ” (p. 22)

Whoa! This is a major, stupendous koan! The first time through this text, I had to give up on the commentaries. They were too hard for me. So I contented myself with only reading the sutra (it’s 27 pages). Still too hard. So I read the first five chapters (3 and a half pages) about 10 times. Then I read the commentaries on those five chapters.

I’m still working on this, on days when I feel alert and focused and smart. If I sit down with it for about two hours, I can work through about two chapters and the commentaries. Do I understand it? Heck, no. But I am enjoying it now. And little by little, I think some drops of water are falling on a very hard stone.

Breathe.

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5 responses

  1. EJO, sorry about the delay. Comments by first-time commenters, and all comments containing links, are moderated. I have been traveling and was not able to check comments for a few days. Thanks for reading!

  2. I also recently began to dive into the Diamond Sutra, starting with the version that has Thich Nhat Hanh’s commentary but after that I will begin to read the Red Pine version which my teacher greatly recommends.

  3. Hi, Nosan. I love Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing. I looked for his Diamond Sutra commentary in bookstores, but so far, I have not found it. Red Pine quotes from it a little bit in his version.