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

Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle

The Buddha told Subhuti, “All bodhisattvas should master their minds in the following way: 

“All sentient beings, whether they are born from eggs or wombs, through moisture or transformation, whether they have forms or not, whether they are with or without thoughts, or not completely with thoughts nor without thoughts, I will liberate and deliver them to nirvana without remainder. And yet, of the innumerable sentient beings being liberated and delivered, there really is no sentient beings that are liberated and delivered. Why is this, Subhuti?

“Because if a bodhisattva holds a view of self, others, sentient beings and lifespan, then he is not a bodhisattva.”

Now let me ask you, what is samyak or right equality? What is sambodhi or right realization? There are deep meanings to them. What is the “right equality”? What is the “right realization”? Master Lianzhu already said that anuttara samyaksambodhi mind is the right equality and right realization, which is the perfect enlightenment. It's easy to say the words “perfect enlightenment.” But what is the deeper, more profound meaning of these words? One must understand what these words mean. 

After Sakyamuni Buddha gained perfect enlightenment, he turned the dharma wheel three times, as we all know. The first turning of the dharma wheel was at Deer Park. This was turning the wheel of the small vehicle, which was teaching the Four Noble Truth of suffering, cause of suffering, end of suffering and the path to end the suffering.

Where was the second turning of the dharma wheel? What did the Buddha talk about? [Someone answered, “Deer Park.”] That was the first turning, at Deer Park, and the teaching was about the Four Noble Truth. I've just said it! Where was the second turning? You've been studying buddhism for years to know that Sakyamuni Buddha turned the dharma wheel three times. Now I'd like to ask you, where was the second turning? [Someone answered, “Venuvana!”] It was at the Bamboo Grove Monastery, Rajagriha. What did he teach? [Someone answered, “prajna.”] The Buddha taught about prajna. What else? What does it mean? The essence of prajna is Non-phenomena [ultimately all phenomena are intrinsically empty].¹⁴

Now let me ask you, in which city did the third turning of the dharma wheel take place? What was the Buddha's teaching?  The third turning took place in Lotus City. The Buddha spoke on the Enlightening Reality.¹⁵

What is the right equality? Non-phenomena¹⁶ is the right equality. The Vajra Sutra reveals that “ultimately all phenomena are intrinsically empty,” therefore, all is equal. This is the right equality. 

What is the right realization? [If you realize] the Enlightening Reality,¹⁷ then that is the right realization. This is extremely profound, wouldn't you agree?

The Vajra Sutra is exceedingly profound. It talks about two wisdoms; the wisdom of the nature of equality which is the right equality and the perfect mirror-like wisdom¹⁸ which is the enlightening reality. These two wisdoms are extremely important concepts in Buddhism.

Sakyamuni Buddha performed three turnings of the dharma wheel and taught the right equality and right realization, which is the highest and perfect enlightenment. The first turning concerned the Four Noble Truth: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of sufferings, the truth of the ending of suffering and the truth of the path to end the suffering. They are all the Ultimate Truth [satya].¹⁹ Equality is the ultimate truth. Perfect and enlightening reality is the ultimate truth. Non-phenomena is also the ultimate truth.

The Vajra Sutra discusses the right equality and the right realization; anuttara samyaksambodhi is the perfect enlightenment. Contemplate it. As I continue with my exposition, you will come to a greater understanding.  

Now, we discourse Chapter Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle. What is the Great Vehicle [Mahayana]? Tantrayana also belongs to the Great Vehicle. Remember Mahayana includes many different sects and Tantrayana is one of them.

[In the Chinese translation, the translator added titles,] a title for this excerpt: Chapter Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle means that this is the real meaning of the ultimate great vehicle.

Three—The Right and Ultimate Meaning of the Great Vehicle

The Buddha told Subhuti, “All bodhisattvas should master their minds in the following way: 

“All sentient beings, whether they are born from eggs or wombs, through moisture or transformation, whether they have forms or not, with or without thoughts, or not completely with thoughts nor without thoughts, I liberate and deliver them to nirvana without remainder. And yet, of the innumerable sentient beings being liberated and delivered, there really is no sentient beings that are liberated and delivered. Why is this, Subhuti?”

This passage relates to the right equality and the right realization. The Buddha said, “whether they are born from eggs or from wombs, born through moisture or through transformation.” Let's first talk about the phrase “born from eggs.”

Today, we ate tomato fried eggs. When I was a soldier and in military school, tomato fried eggs was a popular dish. We often eat it here at the temple too. Being a monk is like being a soldier, I eat tomato fried eggs every day. [laughter] Egg-born means born from eggs. I've been here for a long time but still haven't eaten turtle eggs.²⁰ [laughter] Turtles are born from eggs, that is, they hatch from eggs. [laughter] That's why there is the term turtle eggs [or wang ba dan, which the Chinese use to curse “a son of a bitch”]. 

[A joke] Five people went to a restaurant to eat turtle soup. They asked the waiter to divide the soup into five bowls. The waiter tried for so long to divide it, but finally said, “It's impossible for me to divide it.” “Why?” “Because there are six turtle eggs and there are only five of you. How can I divide it up?” In other words, the waiter said there are six SOBs, meaning five SOBs referring to the five customers and one referring to himself. [laughter]

What is born through moisture? Many aquatic beings are born through moisture. Beings born in water are referred to as “born through moisture.” There are many of them. Do you know why a true vegetarian can't get vaccinated? Because after they get vaccinated, they will kill the Covid-19 virus. A virus is also a living being. If one is supposed to die, then one will die. Either the virus dies or the vegetarian dies [if he gets infected]. Isn't that right? ²¹ So, for a vegetarian, being vaccinated means killing.

These viruses are born through moisture. Many germs are too. “A mouthful of clean water has 84,000 germs in it. If you don't chant a mantra for them, it is as if you're killing sentient beings.” Plants are also living beings. When you uproot them, when you pull the carrots, they cry out, argh! Do you think vegetables don't cry? They grow; they have cells too. Do you think that just because you are a vegetarian you don't kill anything? That's wrong. Do you know who came up with the rule requiring monastics to be vegetarian? It was Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty.

Are Thai monks vegetarian? [Thai monks and nuns are not vegetarian.] They still maintain buddhist tradition closest to the ancient times. Other buddhist sects have altered, especially Chinese Buddhism, which adopted vegetarianism. The vegetarian tradition was originated by Emperor Wu of Liang, who also initiated the tradition of using burnt incense to etch dots on a monk's forehead. In Thailand, do monks have these dots? [No] Prior to Emperor Wu, there had never been such a tradition. Why would marks made by burnt incense be required on one's forehead? Because of a lack of a mind of equality. 

Although Emperor Wu of Liang was a Son of Heaven with a buddhist heart, he caused chaos in his harem. He married the most stunning woman of his dynasty. After he established his capital at Jiankang upon his victories, he took all his opponents' concubines for himself. His then first wife regretted that he ever became an emperor because afterwards, she never saw him again. The emperor was extremely lustful. He's a womanizer. How many children did he have? You say, how many? With the most gorgeous woman they had two daughters, who engaged in incestuous relations with their uncles. It's a horrible karmic retribution. It was all very messy. The emperor was dreadful. 

We often use the Emperor Liang's Repentance as our repentance ceremony. Actually, it is not his, the ritual just has his name attached to it. He asked the sangha to compile a repentance ritual to bardo deliver one of his beloved concubines. But he was licentious. The palace had many maidens in attendance. A breeze once lifted the skirt of one of the palace maidens and he saw her legs. Emperor Wu had his way with her that very night.

Any time Emperor Wu met with adversity, he went to the temple he built next to the palace, the Tongtai Temple, and became a monk. Afterwards, his ministers brought him back to the palace, and he became emperor again. The next time he encountered difficulties, he would become a monk again, and his ministers would bring him back to the palace to resume being emperor. The third time he became a monk, they would bring him back to the palace again. But one cannot escape retribution. Emperor Wu ended up starving to death in his own palace.

Let's see, where was I? [Grandmaster chuckles] I am not criticizing Emperor Wu. He was a Son of Heaven with the heart of a buddhist. He built countless buddhist temples.  

…born from wombs, born through moisture… 

 

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