This week Tesshin Roshi began our discussion of the Diamond Sutra. This Sutra was first written down in the 300’s CE. It is one of the most popular of the eighteen short Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) texts. It is said that this is the very Sutra which moved the Sixth Patriarch to become a Zen monk when he heard it being chanted. Roshi mentioned that the Sanskrit word for this sutra is “Vajraccedika-sutra” or, in English, the “Diamond Cutter Sutra.” Diamond cutting is to be understood as that thing which can cut through the toughest of substances. This substance, of course, is our delusions.
Roshi noted that this sutra begins with a recounting of a typical day in Shakyamuni’s life. This is strange – why would one of the earliest and most revered wisdom sutras focus on such a mundane subject? Here Roshi was clear – you really only understand a person by observing their everyday activities. It would appear that Zen emphasizes the everyday, but it is much more subtle than that. Zen makes no distinction between what is commonly known as mundane and sacred. This is because the only moment which is real is the moment right in front of you. The past has already happened and the future is yet to happen. This means that every moment is special and understanding how someone acts moment to moment serves as the best insight into that person’s values and judgements. Roshi emphasized this by pointing out that how an individual lives their life is much more important than anything that person says or writes down. As such, the Diamond Sutra gives us a deep insight into the Historical Buddha by describing his mundane everyday activities.
Roshi wrapped up by stating that he will spend the next few Dharma talks exploring the Diamond Sutra and explaining why it is considered the Sanskrit work closest in spirit to the philosophy of Zen