Sunday Dharma: The Diamond Sutra in 30 Lines

Kongokai Diamond realm MandalaThe Vajracchedika-prajnaparamita or Diamond Sutra is a relatively short sutra drawn from the massive Maha Prajna-paramitra or Great Transcendent Wisdom Sutra. A Chinese version, a scroll printed in 868 CE, is the world’s oldest, dated, printed book.

If there is one word that sums up The Diamond Sutra it might be “paradoxical.” It is difficult to understand at first, but those who persevere will eventually understand why it is one of the most important and influential Buddhist texts. The sutra emphasizes the illusory nature of all phenomena and stresses the value of compassion, especially the spirit of giving without expecting to receive something in return.

As I said the Maha Prajna-paramitra is massive, voluminous.  Both the Diamond and Heart sutras were attempt to distill it all into more manageable works.   The Diamond Sutra is 300 lines of Sanskrit.  I don’t know how many lines English versions contain but the early translation by E.B. Cowell, F. Max Mulller, and J. Takakusu is about 9000 words, and that includes footnotes interspersed throughout the text.

This is my much condensed interpretation of the Diamond Sutra, prepared with an eye toward a piece that could be easily chanted.

Diamond Wisdom That Cuts Through Illusion

Om Transcendent Wisdom Diamond Sutra

On the path to liberation, true heroes of the mind
Lead all beings to shore of bliss, leaving none behind.
They have no thoughts of beings; they have no thoughts of bliss,
For the highest wisdom is non-wisdom such as this.

This teaching is like a diamond, wisdom shining bright.
It cuts through all illusion; the light of all insight.
Yet there is no teaching, no wisdom to be taught.
Fearless is he or she who understands this thought.

Do not depend on perceptions of beings, self or soul.
Cultivate compassion and let all discrimination go.
What has no self, no soul nor separate being cannot be seized.
All things are Buddha; all things are awakening.

Buddha has said, do not think that I have attained a pure and perfect mind,
Nor that I sit or stand, or come or go anywhere at any time.
Those that think they see me cannot really see,
And not a grain of anything has been attained or proclaimed by me.

The awakened have gone beyond all concepts to reveal
This diamond doctrine, its meaning hidden deep but not concealed.
Like a dew drop, an illusion, a shadow, a bubble floating in a stream,
Like a dream at night, a flash of light, so is this world to be seen.

Om Transcendent Wisdom Diamond Sutra


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