THE DIAMOND SUTRA
In The Voice of the Silence we are told that the aspirant on the Secret Path must come to see the voidness of the seeming full, the fullness of the seeming void. At a first glance, this injunction seems to say no more than Samuel Butler's statement in his Notebooks that everything matters more than we think it does and at the same time nothing matters as much as we think it does. In fact, however, the student of Theosophy soon finds in his attempt to practise his self-chosen discipline, that impersonality, detachment and discrimination are profounder concepts and more elusive virtues than he had thought at the threshold of Theosophical study. Ahamkara or egotism is so deep-seated and so pervasive that the very struggle to overcome it seems to facilitate its expression in newer and subtler forms. Similarly, the continual effort to free ourselves from personal preconceptions in our perceptions of the realities around us and in our relationships seems to engender new and unnoticed presuppositions, fresh and unseen barriers to understanding. In order to see the central problem of the spiritual life more clearly, it would be worth while to ponder over the Mahayana classic, known as the Diamond Cutter or the Diamond Sutra.
The Vajrachedika (Diamond Cutter) is a small Sanskrit text belonging to the Maha-Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Transcendental Wisdom). It has been suggested that this text was first transmitted by Nagarjuna who lived in the second century, but this has been denied by some scholars who have declared it to be written down only in the fourth century. It is, however, definitely known that this subtle and profound discourse was first translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva about 400 A.D. and has been subsequently rendered into Chinese and more recently into English by several scholars. Although the supreme doctrine of Voidness is now accessible to all truth-seekers, it remains essentially esoteric and difficult to comprehend. Mere head-learning will not enable us to grasp the Heart-Doctrine, and the Diamond Sutra stresses that the state of transcendence over all conditioned consciousness cannot be visualized by purely intellectual means or in terms of categories applicable to our common modes of awareness.
The first and last requirement for the attainment of spiritual wisdom is to rid our consciousness and our conduct of our continual obsession with the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, the dire heresy of separateness and the derivative notions of individual progress, personal salvation and self-realization. In order to hinder the hindrances to ego-free meditation and awareness, the mind should be kept independent of any thoughts which arise within it; for, as long as the mind depends upon anything, it has no sure haven. We are urged not to become passive or nihilistic but rather to make our Manasic consciousness more universal and eventually Mahat-mic by freeing it from the compulsions, obsessions and tortuous rationalizations of Kama Manasic activity. This means in practice that we must become increasingly aware of the extent to which every single thought, feeling and judgment is conditioned by the limited context in which we experience it. The wider and more universal and more enduring the context, the easier it should be for us to prevent ourselves from becoming dependent upon and attached to it.
This requires regular meditation but also the adoption of an attitude of relaxed and well-meaning impersonality in all our activities and relationships. The more we do this, the more meaningful it becomes for us to consider, in any particular context of a personal thought or reaction, how a Mahatma or a Bodhisattva would react or view the matter in the same context. It is no doubt extremely difficult for our Manasic consciousness to adopt or even to visualize a Buddhic standpoint in any given situation, but this is precisely the object of our training and our daily discipline. We are told that if a Bodhisattva cherishes, even to the slightest extent, the idea of an ego-entity or personality, he is consequently not a Bodhisattva.
In the practice of this yoga, there must be, as the Diamond Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita make clear, no mental or emotional attachment to the results of our actions. In this system of yoga, the Gita points out, no effort is lost and even a little of this practice delivers a man from great risk. The Diamond Sutra warns us against even charitable acts performed with a view to attaining a spiritual benefit. A student of Theosophy must not give of his time, money and energy with any thought of personal result or recognition or even because he is urged to do so, but it must become second nature for him to do so in view of the fact that he has initially accepted that all his obligations are wholly self-determined. It is paradoxically true that the assumption of full personal responsibility is the beginning of impersonality, for by ceasing to concern ourselves with the responsibilities of others we are ready to see that all our freely self-chosen responsibilities flow solely from the potency and will-energy of the Higher Self or the Divine Triad which belongs to all and therefore to none.
In the Diamond Sutra the Buddha denies the reality of all predictable things, of the individual self as of all changing appearances, likewise of merit and demerit, even of liberation and non-liberation. In the ultimate analysis, no differentiation is at all possible between the primordially undifferentiated and the differentiated cosmos. However we conceive the idea of the One Reality or of transcendental wisdom, it is no more than a mental concept, "merely a name." If we make a hard-and-fast distinction between Nirvana and Samsara, the Goal and the Way, we fail to see that they are, for the mind of man, merely the ultimate pair of opposites, no less unreal than all lesser pairs of opposites, like ego and non-ego. Only on the plane of the unconditioned consciousness, which is beyond all pairs of opposites and all dichotomous thinking, do we realize the Truth because we become IT.
Similarly, it would be a mistake for us to become concerned about our present incarnation in relation to past and future lives. It is no doubt useful to reflect upon the workings of Karma in relation to our present or any other personality, but we must gain the "higher carelessness" that is based upon the awareness that "there is no passing away nor coming into existence." Again, we must not become self-conscious about helping in the liberation of all beings, for this thought is itself illusory in so far as it fails to take note of the fact that the notions of being and of liberation are purely relative. Above all, we must see that the attaining of Buddhahood is not the attaining of anything, but only the realization of what is eternally and indestructibly potential in every living creature. The Buddha and the non-Buddha are not different in kind; a Buddha knows and the non-Buddha does not know that he, like everyone else, is a Buddha. On attaining Buddhahood, nothing is either lost or gained; "look inward, thou art Buddha."
The continual stress of the Diamond Sutra is upon the attainment of true impersonality, the performance of every activity, including charity, without any attachment to appearances. It is necessary for us to persevere one-pointedly in this instruction.
Another lesson in the Sutra for students of Theosophy is the assertion that the Tathagatas, the Masters of Wisdom and of Compassion, cannot be recognized by any material characteristic. As long as we are concerned with personal and material characteristics, we remain deluded. Nor should we cling to particular formulations of the truth; so long as the mind is attached even to the teaching of the Good Law, it will cherish the idea of "I" and "Other." In order to enter the stream and become a Srotapatti, the disciple must pay no regard to form, sound, odour, taste, touch or any quality. A Bodhisattva is one who has developed a pure, lucid mind, not depending upon sound, flavour, touch, odour or any quality. The Tathagata is He who declares that which is true, that which is fundamental, that which is ultimate. A disciple who practises charity with a mind attached to formal notions is like unto a man groping sightless in the gloom, but a Bodhisattva who practices charity with a mind detached from any formal notions is like unto a man with open eyes in the radiant glory of the morning, to whom all kinds of objects are clearly visible. Thus, by perceiving the voidness of the seeming full, he participates in the fullness of the seeming void. The Tathagata is a signification implying all formulas for the attainment of Enlightenment and he is beyond them all. He is wholly devoid of any conception of separate selfhood and cannot be identified with any sect or any particular formulation of doctrine. He understands the manifold modes of mind of all living beings, like the Krishna of the 10th and 11th chapters of the Gita. All Bodhisattvas are insentient as to the rewards of Merit. "Because TATHAGATA has neither whence nor whither, therefore is He called Tathagata."
The Buddha tells Subhuti: –
Who sees Me by form,
The Diamond Sutra has sometimes been misunderstood to be a plea for a world-denying and inert standpoint. It was actually meant as a dynamite to the complacency of formal believers and self-righteous coteries. At the time when the Sutra was written down, there were many Buddhists who had become as smug and yet as anxious for personal advancement in spiritual life as the Brahmins to whom the Buddha came with a profoundly relevant message.
Students of Theosophy, too, fall prey to the cosiness of complacency and the curse of anxiety. The message of the Diamond Sutra has been reiterated with pertinent clarity by Judge and Crosbie in their letters to those who came to them for counsel. Though we are not separate from anything, we are surrounded by appearances that seem to make us separate, and we are urged by Judge to proceed to state and accept mentally that we are all these illusions. If we are anxious, we raise a barrier against progress, by perturbation and straining harshly. No matter where we are, the same spirit pervades all and is accessible. "What need, then, to change places?" Again, we are told: "Now, then, is there not many a cubic inch of your own body which is entitled to know and to be the Truth in greater measure than now? And yet you grieve for the ignorance of so many other human beings!" Resignation, we are told, is the sure, true, and royal road. "The lesson intended by the Karma of your present life is the higher patience.... Insist on carelessness. Assert to yourself that it is not of the slightest consequence what you were yesterday, but in every moment strive for that moment; the results will follow of themselves." The higher carelessness that we are asked to cultivate is in reality a calm reliance on the law, and a doing of our own duty, checking ourselves by a periodic examination and purification of our motives. As we begin to rely on the Higher Self – the Buddha-nature – little by little new ideals and thought-forms will drive out the old ones as this is the eternal process.
Similarly, Crosbie warns against the danger of thinking too much of oneself, one's present conditions and prospects. We have to acquire greater control over our thoughts, the power of direction, the exercise of deliberation at all times. "Get the point of view of the One who is doing the leading and hold to it." No one can clear another's sight. "We try to free ourselves from something. Is not this the attitude of separateness?" We forget that "The One sees All." We have power over nothing but the "is." "We" are the One Self and there is nothing but the One Self. Masters cannot interfere with Karma. The Egoic perceptions on this plane are limited by all personal claims. "Impersonality isn't talking; it isn't silence; it isn't insinuation; it isn't repulsion; it isn't negation." It means becoming "less doctrinal and more human." Is that not the central message of the Diamond Sutra?
Hermes, January 1975