The Diamond Sutra
May 8, 2004 6:33 AM   Subscribe

A few days ago we had the Gutenberg Bible from the 1450s. Feh. The British Library now presents the oldest printed book in the world, the 868AD Diamond Sutra, in Shockwave format.
posted by Pretty_Generic (10 comments total)

So I tell you - Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:

A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;

A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

Interesting that the world's oldest book should tell us the world doesn't exist.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:49 AM on May 8, 2004

it doesn't. it says that at some future point this world and all of its experiences will seem to be a mere star at dawn, a bubble in a stream, will be remembered as a flash of lightning, a flickering lamp. it is proclaiming that there is more and greater to come, which will make this life seem like a phantom and a dream. how do you impute "world doesn't exist" from that?
posted by quonsar at 7:00 AM on May 8, 2004

I would say that the implication of the text is that when you awaken from your dreaming, you see that the phenomenal world of your memories, meanings and constructions of reality are nothing more than a bubbling stream, a flash of lightning, etc.
posted by donfactor at 7:07 AM on May 8, 2004

I'm really going from what the British Library say in the commentary:

A central doctrine of Buddhism is that the material world is an illusion, and therefore there are no individuals or objects... [The Buddha said that] really, there are no sand grains at all, just as there is no River Ganges and no Subhuti.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:08 AM on May 8, 2004

He doesn't mention spoons explicitly, we have to assume.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:09 AM on May 8, 2004

but there *is* foon.
posted by quonsar at 7:13 AM on May 8, 2004

Actually the quoted verse is the last one in the Sutra - a summing up of the entire Tathagatha or Jewel of Transcendental Wisdom.

After that Subhuti and all the others including the "whole realms of Gods, Men, Titans,were filled with joy by His teaching, and, taking it sincerely to heart they went their ways."

From the A.F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam translation
Shambala, Berkeley, 1969.
posted by donfactor at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2004

The Buddha taught that all things are impermanent, so everything is fleeting, including something as seemingly constant as the world. So, the world is not really any more enduring than all of the other things mentioned.

The quote from the British Library is a little off. Buddhism doesn't really teach that "the material world is an illusion". The fact that "there are no sand grains at all, just as there is no River Ganges and no Subhuti" isn't talking about the 'material world', it is talking about the 'artificial' constructs placed upon material reality (it is impossible to identifyany true essence in anything, including ourselves)

The Buddha said many times that nothing could be said about what happens after one reaches enlightenment.
posted by daveg at 4:13 PM on May 8, 2004

The Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra

After that, Subhuti asked the Buddha, "What should this sutra be called and how should we act regarding its teachings?"

The Buddha replied,"Thls sutra should be called The Diamond that Cuts through Illusion because it has the capacity to cut through allusions and afflictions and bring us to the shore of liberation. Please use this title and practice according to its deepest meaning. Why? What the Tathagata has called the highest, transcendent understanding is not, in fact, the highest, transcendent understanding. That is why it is truly the highest, transcendent understanding:"

The Buddha asked,"What do you think, Subhuti? Is there any dharma that the Tathagata teaches?"

Subhuti replied, "The Tathagata has nothing to teach, World-Honored One."

"What do you think, Subhuti? Are there many particles of dust in the 3,000 chiliocosms?"

"Very many, World-Honored One."

"Subhuti, the Tathagata says that these particles of dust are not particles of dust, That is why they are truly particles of dust. And what the Tathagata calls chiliocosms are not in fact chiliocosms. That is why they are called chiliocosmsl"

"What do you think, Subhuti? Can the Tathagata be recognized by the possession of the thirty-two marks?"

The Venerable Subhuti replied, "No, World-Honored One. Why? Because what the Tathagata calls the thirty-two marks are not essentially marks and that is why the Tathagata calls them the thirty-two marks."

"Subhuti, if as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges a son or daughter of a good family gives up his or her life as an act of generosity and if another daughter or son of a good family knows how to accept, practice, and explain this sutra to others, even if only a gatha of four lines, the happiness resulting from explaining this sutra is far greater."

posted by y2karl at 5:29 PM on May 8, 2004

um...thanks, y2karl, that clears it up completely.
posted by bingo at 8:07 PM on May 8, 2004

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