Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra

Vajra Sutra (Diamond Sutra)

■ Detailed Exposition by Living Buddha Lian-Sheng, Grandmaster Sheng-yen Lu

■ Translated into English by True Buddha School Vajra Sutra Translation Team

Discourse 4 2021-08-07

One—The Setting of the Dharma Teaching

Thus have I heard. One time the Buddha was staying at Anathapindika Monastery at Prince Jeta’s Grove, near the great city of Sravasti, with an assembly of 1,250 monks. When it was mealtime, the World-honored One donned his sanghati robe, took up his alms bowl, entered Sravasti and went from door to door asking for food. After the almsround, he returned to the monastery and ate his meal. He then put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, prepared his seat, and sat down.

Today, I will continue to discourse the Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra.

This sutra is about the indestructible wisdom by which one reaches supreme attainment. It’s the indestructible wisdom which destroys everything. By destroying everything, one accomplishes ultimate enlightenment.

The dharma teaching on the Vajra Sutra begins now!

Thus have I heard. The “I” in this phrase refers to Ananda and the rest of the audience listening to Sakyamuni Buddha’s dharma teaching. “I” refers to Ananda and his fellow disciples who were listening to the Buddha’s teaching. This phrase connotes the notion “as if you were there” listening to the teaching. “I” refers to Ananda, who had an extraordinary memory. He could remember everything the Buddha said, and his memory was reinforced and supplemented by what the rest of the audience heard.

As far as I know, there is no one in the world with a memory so powerful that they could commit all Sakyamuni Buddha’s sutras to memory. Such a person does not exist, at least not nowadays. My own memory is certainly not up to such a task.

Earlier this morning, I was thinking about Prof. Chu Shi-I's research into quantum physics. I could not remember the word “quantum.” Was it article, electron, or neutron? Suddenly the word quantum popped up in my brain; that’s how I remembered it. Prof. Chu is the expert in quantum physics, yet it took me awhile to remember the word “quantum.” [jokingly] I have memory loss. I can’t remember things anymore!

The Buddha said that Ananda’s memory was supernaturally powerful. He could remember everything the Buddha said, and his memory was supplemented by others present. So “I” referred to Ananda and the audience, who together compiled the Buddha’s teachings. They discussed what the Buddha said, and if everyone agreed, the Buddha’s words were recorded. Every sutra starts with Thus have I heard. This phrase refers to Ananda and the assembly of bhikkhus in the audience.

One time, the Buddha was staying at Anathapindika Monastery at Prince Jeta’s Grove in Sravasti.

The Buddha was in Sravasti, as everybody knows. “Anathapindika Monastery at Prince Jeta’s Grove” is commonly referred as Anathapindika Monastery at Jetavana, or Jetavana for short. Sakyamuni Buddha had three main residences. During his earliest period, he lived in a cave at Vulture Peak. Later, he lived at Venuvana Vihara (Bamboo Grove Monastery). Finally, he resided at Anathapindikarama (a monastery built by Anathapindika).

What is Jeta? [Chinese transliteration of the Indian name.] Jeta refers to the Prince of Jeta. Some people have said Jeta is a kind of tree. No, that’s wrong! Jeta refers to the Prince of Jeta, who owned the grove. Anathapindika wanted to buy the grove. Who checked the geomancy? It was Sariputra, who traveled all around Sravasti and found a good location.

Anathapindika was a great philanthropist in Sravasti. His name means “an elder who looked after and provided room and board for orphans, widowers, unmarried men and the poor.” Anathapindika wanted to donate land to Sakyamuni Buddha. Sariputra checked the geomancy around Sravasti and found land which belonged to the Prince of Jeta. The Prince of Jeta told Anathapindika that if he could cover the ground with gold, he would sell the land. Anathapindika did cover the ground with gold, so Prince Jeta sold him the grove.

Since the trees were not covered in gold and there were many trees in the woods, Prince Jeta told Anathapindika that since Anathapindika had donated the land to Sakyamuni Buddha, he would donate the trees. This is the origin of the name Jeta’s Trees and Anathapindika’s Grove.

Anathapindika was extremely wealthy and had been a great philanthropist who helped the needy. He had enough money to buy the grove and donate it to the Buddha. Prince Jeta donated the trees. That’s how the name Jeta’s Trees and Anathapindika’s Grove came about. It’s called Jetavana for short.

Now you understand this excerpt “One time the Buddha was staying at Anathapindika Monastery at Prince Jeta’s Grove in Sravasti.”

Some people have wrongly translated Jeta [into Chinese] as Rootless Tree. This is wrong; it is Prince Jeta’s trees together with Anathapindika’s Grove, which was donated to Sakyamuni Buddha. And it was Sariputra who evaluated the geomancy of this land.

Thus have I heard. One time the Buddha was staying at Anathapindika Monastery at Prince Jeta’s Grove, near the great city of Sravasti, with an assembly of 1,250 monks. When it was mealtime, the World-honored One donned his sanghati robe, took up his alms bowl, entered Sravasti and went from door to door asking for food. After the almsround, he returned to the monastery and ate his meal. He then put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, prepared his seat and sat down.

It was an assembly of 1,250 monks, so there were many people there. At mealtime, the Buddha wore his robe, took his alms bowl and went into the great city of Sravasti to ask for alms.

I will explain this part. It’s mealtime. Eating in Taiwanese is called chiah-peng. In Cantonese, it’s called sik fan. In Malay or Bahasa Indonesia, it’s called makan nasi. In Mandarin, it’s chi fan. At noon, we would say lunch time. At night, dinner time. In the morning, breakfast. There is further meaning related to this “eating.” Mahakasyapa especially chose poor people to ask for food. The Buddha asked him, “why do you beg only from the poor?” He answered that he wanted the poor to gain merits and become rich in future lives. Therefore, Mahakasyapa was like Lianxu [a very thin monk in the audience]

Ananda begged only from the rich. The Buddha asked him, “why do you beg only from rich people?” Ananda replied, “I want to lessen the burden of the poor. I find it hard to bear that poor people, despite their poverty, still offer food to me.” Therefore, he begged only from the rich. For this reason, Ananda was like Xuanren. [a fat and round monk in the audience]

You can see a big difference between the two. One is the round Xuanren, the other one is the skinny Lianxu. Mahakasyapa was very thin and skinny, while Ananda was fat and round.

I’d say what they said made sense, but at the same time it also didn’t make sense; they didn’t have equality in mind. When you go for alms, you eat whatever’s given; you don’t choose. If you choose, then you’re partial. Sakyamuni Buddha was impartial. You must be indiscriminate; you can’t choose what to eat. That’s how monastic people should be, one eats whatever food is offered. If one encounters a poor person, then one eats whatever food is offered by the poor person. If one happens to encounter a rich person the next day, one eats whatever food the rich person offers.

There’s deeper meaning to eating. The Buddha said, “one person only begged from poor people while the other only begged from the rich. Neither had the mind of equality, they were partial." One was partial towards the poor whilst the other was partial towards the rich. They were both wrong. One eats whatever is offered. This should be the mindset of a practitioner. One should not discriminate. Remember, if one discriminates, one is on the wrong track.

Let me tell you, Mahakasyapa was truly remarkable! For this very reason he was recognized as the one foremost in monkhood cultivation. Why did he leave Sakyamuni Buddha’s sangha in the end? Because Sakyamuni Buddha lived at the Venuvana Vihara.

This excerpt mentions eating, dressing, lodging and traveling, each of which has a deeper meaning.

Mahakasyapa was foremost in ancient monkhood cultivation. What he ate, how he lived, what he wore and how he traveled were different from the other monks. How did he eat? When food was offered, he would first visualize. He visualized prior to eating. Just as we do, he would make offerings to all buddhas, bodhisattvas and sentient beings of the six realms. Then, he visualized food as poo and soup as pee. This is the practice of an ascetic monk.

Practitioners should remember that it isn’t just about a mindset of equality. A practitioner must visualize that what he eats is the most disgusting thing imaginable! No kidding. [Laughter. Grandmaster was kidding in saying this phrase in Cantonese, knowing that it was meant as a joke.] As if drinking pee and eating poo is the way of an ascetic monk.

Why did Mahakasyapa leave the sangha? Because Sakyamuni Buddha went to live in Venuvana Vihara and Jetavana Grove. Those were luxurious mansions, and Mahakasyapa was not comfortable living there. Where did he live? He lived in the cemetery, in between graves. He lived in caves, under trees. These were his abode. Even while he slept, he didn't lie down. He slept in a sitting up position. That was the real Mahakasyapa.

 

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