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 5 2021-08-08

Ananda was a lazy pig; he ate until he became fat. He always courted with women, loved eating and was lustful. He wanted to enjoy everything. Among the ten chief disciples, Ananda was the only one who did not have any realms nor attainments before the Buddha entered parinirvana. Only afterwards did Ananda started to cultivate spiritually. The other nine chief disciples all had attainments by the time Buddha entered parinirvana. 

In the Buddha's sangha, there were Sariputra and Moggallana. They each had their own followers prior to taking refuge in Sakyamuni Buddha. Sariputra was an elder, so was Moggallana. Sariputra was first and foremost in wisdom, and Moggallana was first and foremost in supernatural power. Both perceived Sakyamuni Buddha's dharma teachings to be truly remarkable, and so they led their followers to take refuge in Sakyamuni Buddha. That was why the Buddha's sangha became very large. The Buddha respected Sariputra and Moggallana, who themselves were leaders; the Buddha also respected Mahakasyapa. Even though Mahakasyapa left the sangha, the Buddha still asked him to return several times. Yet he rejected until the time of the Buddha's parinirvana, when he rushed back immediately to bid farewell to Sakyamuni Buddha.

Sakyamuni Buddha highly respected Mahakasyapa as he was most earnest in his spiritual cultivation. Ananda was most earnest in playing hooky, so Mahakasyapa very much disrespected Ananda. Although eventually Ananda also did earnest spiritual cultivation, it was due to Mahakasyapa's admonishment. They never got along. Ananda was attending to Sakyamuni Buddha, yet he was such a lazy pig, so Mahakasyapa quietly left the sangha. 

Later on, he guided many people onto the path, and he had many followers. When the Buddha entered parinirvana, he returned to the Buddha's side. Ananda wanted to lit Buddha's cremation fire, but the lighting was unsuccessful despite several tries. Only after Mahakasyapa returned could the fire be lit. That showed that Sakyamuni Buddha truly respected Mahakasyapa; he waited for his return.

This is [the exposition on] Chapter One—The Setting of the Dharma Teaching. Its profundity is in the annihilation of the daily life: eating, dressing, lodging and traveling; to destroy desires for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep; and to close off the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Those are the key points of this section.

Has anybody expounded the Vajra Sutra this way? Have you ever listened to other people explaining it this way? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But this is how Grandmaster expounded it, explaining the profundity of this chapter.

Om mani padme hum

Discourse 6 2021-08-14

Two—Subhuti's Request

At that time, the venerable elder Subhuti was present at the assembly. He rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, and with palms joined, respectfully bowed and addressed the Buddha saying, “World-honored One, the Tathagata's sublime mindfulness and entrustment to the bodhisattvas is indeed extraordinary. 

“World-honored One, when good men and good women give rise to the mind of anuttara samyaksambodhi and strive for perfect enlightenment, how should they dwell in their minds and how should they master their minds?”

The Buddha said, “Excellent, Subhuti. As you said, the Tathagata is mindful of the bodhisattvas and entrusts the bodhisattvas. Now listen carefully while I tell you how the mind of good men and women should abide when they strive for the perfect enlightenment of anuttara samyaksambodhi and how they should master their minds.”

“Wonderful indeed is your teaching, World-honored One. I will pay heed to what you say.”

Now, I will talk about the Vajra Sutra. Chapter Two—The Request of Shanxian. Let me ask you all. What is Shanxian [Good Manifestation]? Masters, you often chant the Vajra Sutra: Chapter One—The Setting of the Dharma Teaching, Chapter Two—Subhuti's Request. If you understand, please raise your hand. What is Shanxian? Master Lianwang, do you know? [Master Lianwang answered, “I guess Shanxian is Subhuti's name.”] Is it a wild guess? [laughing] Please be seated. He guessed correctly.

Subhuti had three names. The first name is Born-Empty “Kongsheng.” The second name is Good and Auspicious “Shanji.” The third name is “Shanxian,” which means good manifestation. The sutra used his third name, The Request of Good Manifestation. Many people don't know that Shanxian is Subhuti's other name. Master Lianwang guessed right. [Referring to him, Grandmaster said,] You caught a fish in the dark. [laughter] There are reasons behind his three names.

At that time, the venerable elder Subhuti was present at the assembly. He rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, and with palms joined, respectfully bowed and addressed the Buddha saying, “World-honored One, the Tathagata's sublime mindfulness and entrustment to the bodhisattvas is indeed extraordinary. 

“World-honored One, when good men and good women give rise to the mind of anuttara samyaksambodhi and strive for perfect enlightenment, how should they dwell in their minds, and how should they master their minds?”

The Buddha said, “Excellent Subhuti, as you said, the Tathagata is mindful of the bodhisattvas and entrusts the bodhisattvas. Now listen carefully while I tell you how the mind of good men and women should abide when they strive for the perfect enlightenment of anuttara samyaksambodhi, and how they should master their minds.”

“Wonderful indeed is your teaching, World-honored One. I will pay heed to what you say.”

I was reading an excerpt of the sutra. First, I will talk about the origin of the name Shanxian. I might not have enough time tonight to cover this topic alone. What time is it now?

Let me talk about the name “Subhuti” first. Some people split the name Subhuti [“Xu Puti” in Mandarin] into “Xu” meaning needing, so “Subhuti” becomes “needing bodhi.” Is that right? You can say it's right because everybody needs bodhi.³  You can also say it's wrong because you should not break up his name. His name is Subhuti.

Actually, there were two Subhutis among Buddha's disciples. One Subhuti belonged to royalty. In India, they have social classes; spiritual cultivators belong to the Brahman class. The other Subhuti was a spiritual cultivator who belonged to the Brahman class. This Subhuti [in the Vajra Sutra] was the Brahmin who was a spiritual cultivator and not the other Subhuti from royalty. Let me clarify that we should not break up his name. It is right to say that each one of us needs bodhi, but Subhuti is a name of a person. It's the Venerable Subhuti. 

I will tell you something that no one else knows, only Grandmaster knows; it is not even written in the Avadanasataka Sutra.⁴ People talk about three lifetimes of the past, present and future. I talk about four lifetimes. Only Grandmaster Lu knows about Subhuti's earliest lifetime, nobody else knows. But after I talk about it, then everybody will know. 

The Avadanasataka Sutra wrote about only one of Subhuti's past lives, where he was also a spiritual cultivator. But the one I am about to say is not in the Avadanasataka Sutra. What was written in the Avadanasataka Sutra is that he was once a spiritual cultivator with many followers, all of whom subsequently left him. He felt angry and hated those people. He cursed them. That's one of Subhuti's past lifetimes that was known. 

What I want to talk about now is an earlier lifetime of his. It is not in the sutra, and nobody knows about it. How did I know? Because Subhuti told me. In one of his past lives, he was also a spiritual cultivator. He took care of several orphans inside the temple. He took in children who were discarded by their parents and cared for them. The temple was well-known for it; that people can leave their unwanted children at the temple, that Subhuti would take care of the orphans. 

At the time, Subhuti was the temple's abbot. The news spread. There was a group of robbers who thought the temple must have lots of money. They thought Subhuti must have been rich to be able to take care of all the orphans. They went to rob the temple but no matter how hard they searched; they couldn't find any money. They forced Subhuti to give them money. The robbers were cruel and threatened Subhuti, “Give us the money!” Subhuti said, “I don't have any money.” The robbers asked, “If you have no money, how can you take care of the orphans?” He said, “When we go out for alms-begging, we ask for a little more so we can feed these orphans.” The robbers didn't believe him. The robbers captured several of the orphans who were crying. Again, they threatened Subhuti, “If you don't tell us where you hide the money, we'll kill the orphans.” Subhuti said, “But I really have no money! I just feel pity for the orphans, so I care for them by begging for alms. I just eat a little bit myself and then I share the rest with the orphans.” 

But the robbers didn't believe him. “If we don't kill an orphan, then you wouldn't tell where the money is hidden.” The robbers did kill the kid and there was blood all over the ground. Subhuti cried loudly. He really didn't have any money. Had he any money, it would not have been so horrible. The robbers then killed the second kid. Then, they killed all the orphans. Subhuti still couldn't produce any money. Finally, they realized that Subhuti really didn't have any money, so they finally left. Subhuti was left alone. At that time, Subhuti was furious, his heart was full of hatred. He didn't even want to be a human being anymore. 

Because all orphans have been killed, he left the temple. He went deep into the mountain and lived in a cave until he died. This is what Subhuti told me. Nobody else knew. He had deep hatred toward human beings in his heart. His hatred towards mankind started then. That's one lifetime of Subhuti, that's how he lived his life then.

According to the Avadanasataka Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha talked about the origin of Subhuti. In the second lifetime, he was also the abbot of a temple. He brought all his followers to go for alms begging for food. However, all his disciples left him one by one. They didn't believe in him anymore because Subhuti still carried anger in his heart. He constantly scolded everybody, so they all left. Afterwards, he chastised them even more because he already hated human beings to start with; he said all human beings are no good. The way he cursed and rebuked was very harsh, and all his followers left him. That is according to the scripts written in the Avadanasataka Sutra.

He had hatred towards human beings for a second lifetime. Because he had hatred for two lifetimes, he became a poisonous dragon for 500 lifetimes. What is a poisonous dragon? In India, they don't make a difference between dragons and snakes, both of which are called naga. He became a poisonous snake for 500 lifetimes.

One day, his retribution as a poisonous snake was ending but his hatred was still there. There was a garuda⁵ who flew and captured the snake using his claws. The garuda grabbed him from the sea and flew to the sky. The garuda was going to eat the snake, which was a huge and nice meal. 

5 Garuda is a gigantic golden-winged mythical bird.

-To be continued-

 

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