- Diamond Sutra
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Mahāyāna Sūtras Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras
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The Diamond Sūtra (Sanskrit: Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra), is a short and well-known Mahāyāna sūtra from the Prajñāpāramitā, or "Perfection of Wisdom" genre, and emphasizes the practice of non-abiding and non-attachment. Note that the title properly translated is the Diamond Cutter of Perfect Wisdom although it is popular to refer to it as the Diamond Sūtra.
A copy of the Chinese version of Diamond Sūtra, found among the Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century and dated back to 868, is, in the words of the British Library, "the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book."
The earliest known Sanskrit title for the sūtra is the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra. In English, shortened forms such as Diamond Sūtra and Vajra Sūtra are common. The Diamond Sūtra has also been highly regarded in a number of Asian countries where Mahāyāna Buddhism has been traditionally practiced. Translations of this title into the languages of some of these countries include:
- Sanskrit: वज्रच्छेदिकाप्रज्ञापारमितासूत्र, Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra
- Chinese: 金剛般若波羅蜜多經, jīngāng bōrěbōluómìduō jīng, shortened to 金剛經, jīngāng jīng
- Japanese: 金剛般若波羅蜜多経, kongou hannyaharamita kyou, shortened to 金剛経, kongou kyou
- Korean: 금강반야바라밀경, geumgang banyabaramil gyeong, shortened to 금강경, geumgang gyeong
- Vietnamese Kim cương bát-nhã-ba-la-mật-đa kinh, shortened to Kim cương kinh
- Tibetan (Wylie): ’phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa rdo rje gcod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo
The history of the text is not fully known, but Japanese scholars generally consider the Diamond Sūtra to be from a very early date in the development of Prajñāpāramitā literature. Some western scholars also believe that the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra was adapted from the earlier Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra. Early western scholarship on the Diamond Sūtra is summarized by Müller.
The first translation of the Diamond Sūtra into Chinese is thought to have been made in 401 CE by the venerated and prolific translator Kumārajīva. Kumārajīva's translation style is distinctive, possessing a flowing smoothness that reflects his prioritization on conveying the meaning as opposed to precise literal rendering. The Kumārajīva translation has been particularly highly regarded over the centuries, and it is this version that appears on the 868 CE Dunhuang scroll. In addition to the Kumārajīva translation, a number of later translations exist. The Diamond Sūtra was again translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by Bodhiruci in 509 CE, Paramārtha in 558 CE, Xuanzang in 648 CE, and Yijing in 703 CE.
Contents and teachings
The Diamond Sūtra, like many Buddhist sūtras, begins with the famous phrase "Thus have I heard" (Skt. evaṃ mayā śrutam). In the sūtra, the Buddha has finished his daily walk with the monks to gather offerings of food, and he sits down to rest. Elder Subhūti comes forth and asks the Buddha a question. What follows is a dialogue regarding the nature of perception. The Buddha often uses paradoxical phrases such as, "What is called the highest teaching is not the highest teaching". The Buddha is generally thought to be trying to help Subhūti unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality and enlightenment.
- All conditioned phenomena
- Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;
- Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning;
- Thusly should they be contemplated.
In the Zen school
The Five Houses Caodong / Sōtō
Linji / Rinzai
Fayan / Hōgen
Guiyang / Igyō
Yunmen / Unmon
Doctrine and practice Buddha-nature
Principal texts Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra
Outline of Buddhism