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.