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Diamond Sūtra 《金剛般若波羅蜜經》

The wondrous practice of non-abiding 妙行無住分

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The wondrous practice of non-abiding 妙行無住


Text


復次須菩提菩薩布施所謂不住布施不住香味法布施

Yifa: “Furthermore Subhuti, regarding dharmas, bodhisattvas should not rely on anything while practicing giving.

This is what is called giving without relying on sight, giving without relying on sound, scent, taste, touch or thought.”

Sanskrit: api tu khalu punaḥ subhute na bodhisattvena vastupratiṣṭhitena dānaṃ dātavyam, na kvacitpratiṣṭhitena dānaṃ dātavyam| na rūpapratiṣṭhitena dānaṃ dātavyam| na śabdagandharasaspraṣṭavyadharmeṣu pratiṣṭhitena dānaṃ dātavyam|


Comments


The basic understanding of these two sentences is to not practice giving for selfish purposes, such as expecting something in return or for appreciation by your peers.

'Practicing giving' is a translation for the Sanskrit word dāna (Chinese: 布施). The ṃ ending (dānaṃ) marks the accusive (direct object) case for the noun. The original meaning was to give clothes and food to the poor. It is intended as a practice to accumulate merit [Fo Guang Shan Online Dictionary]. The Mahāyāna school added the give of teaching the Dhárma (Sanskrit: dharma-deśanā, Chinese: 法施) and the gift of non-fear (Sanskrit: abhaya, Chinese: 無畏). Later this also include gifts of money, physical work, and wisdom. Dāna is the first of the six pāramitās (六度). The others are (2) sīla or proper conduct 持戒, (3) kṣānti or tolerance 忍辱, (4) vīrya or diligence 精進, (5) dhyāna or concentration 禪定, and (6) prajñā or wisdom 智慧. Dāna is one of the Six Contemplations (六念). Dāna is also important in other Indian religions, including Hindu and Jain.

What does 'giving without abiding' mean? The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines says,

When he has given a gift, he does not make it into a basis or support.
And does never expect any reward from it.
Having thus renouced, he becomes a wise renouncer of all.
The little that he has renounced becomes much and immeasurable.
(Conze 1973, p70)


Dhárma is one of the most widely used words in the teachings of the Buddha, which is also known as Buddha-Dhárma (Chinese 佛法). There are no capital letters in Sanskrit. In the Sanskrit text the term saddharma (Chinese: 妙法), literally meaning 'the wonderful Dhárma', is used when the teachings of the Buddha is intended. Dharma is also a term used more widely in other Indic religions. In Hinduism, Dharma means 'that which supports or holds together.' (Mittal and Thursby 2006, p6)

In this context dhármas (lower case d, Chinese: ) are mental objects (Sanskrit: dharmāyatana, Chinese: 法處) or phenomena. A number of other objects are mentioned here, specifically sounds [śabda], scents [gandha], tastes [rasa], sensations [spraṣṭavya], and dharmas. The objects are the six objects (Chinese: 六境) of the six sense organs (Sanskrit: ṣaḍāyatana, Chinese: 六根): forms (objects of the eyes), sounds (objects of the ears), scents (objects of the nose), tastes (objects of the tongue), sensations (objects of touch), and dhárma (mental objects). In the narrow sense dhármas are all phenomena, except the objects of the other five senses and in the broader sense it includes these objects as well.

In this case, the Sanskrit text does not use the term dhárma but rather the word vastu, which means 'thing.'

The Six Sense Organs are the fifth link in the twelve link chain of dependent origination (Sanskrit: dvādaśāvgapratītyasamutpāda, Chinese: 十二因緣). This leads to craving and attachment.

The English function word moreover translates the Chinese 復次, Sanskrit khalu punaḥ. In some cases Kumārajīva does not translate this into Chinese.

Text


須菩提菩薩如是布施不住何以菩薩不住布施福德不可思

Yifa: “Subhuti, bodhisattvas should give like this and not rely on appearances. Why is this? If bodhisattvas give without relying on appearances, their rewards are inconceivable.”

Sanskrit: evaṃ hi sūbhūte bodhisattvena mahāsattvena dānaṃ dātavyaṃ yathā na nimittasaṃjñāyāmapi pratitiṣṭhet| tatkasya hetoḥ ? yaḥ subhūte bodhisattvo'pratiṣṭhito dānaṃ dadāti, tasya subhūte puṇyaskandhasya na sukaraṃ pramāṇāmudgrahītum|


Comments


This is one of the key sentences in the sūtra: if you give without expecting anything in return then the benefit that you receive will be immeasurable. This is apparently paradoxical statement but holds true to common sense. Most people have experienced the joy of helping someone else and know that it is spoiled by selfishly expecting something in return.

The English word characteristic translates the Chinese , Sanskrit nimitta. The English word merit translates the Chinese 福德, Sanskrit puṇya. In this passage puṇya is part of the Sanskrit compound puṇyaskandha, which means 'body of merit' (Red Pine 2009, p 95). Conze uses the phrase 'heap of merit.' Kumārajīva does not use a quantifier hence the translation here (Lapus Lazuli Texts), writing simply 'merits' is good.

The Sanskrit text literally says that the merit will be "not [na] easy [sukara] to measure [pramāṇa]."

Text


須菩提云何東方虛空思量?」「世尊!」 「須菩提西北方四維上下虛空思量?」 「世尊!」 「須菩提菩薩無住布施福德亦復如是不可思須菩提菩薩

Yifa: “Subhuti, what does your mind say? The space in the eastern direction can be conceived of, can it not?”

“It cannot World-Honored One.”

“Subhuti, the space in the northern, western, southern, and four ordinal directions, as well as above and below can be conceived of, can it not?”

“It cannot World-Honored One.”

“Subhuti, when a bodhisattva gives without relying on appearances the rewards are also like this, inconceivable.”

“Subhuti, bodhisattvas should rely only as has been taught.”

Sanskrit: tatkiṃ manyase subhūte sukaraṃ pūrvasyāṃ diśi ākāśasya pramāṇamudgrahītum ? subhūtirāha-no hīdaṃ bhagavan| bhagavānāha- evaṃ dakṣiṇapaścimottarāsu adha ūrdhvaṃ digvidikṣu samantāddaśasu dikṣu sukaramākāśasya pramāṇamudgrahītum ? subhūtirāha-no hīdaṃ bhagavan| bhagavānāha-evameva subhūte yo bodhisattvo'pratiṣṭhito dānaṃ dadāti, tasya subhūte puṇyaskandhasya na sukaraṃ pramāṇamudgrahītum| evaṃ hi subhūte bodhisattvayānasaṃprasthitena dānaṃ dātavyaṃ yathā na nimittasaṃjñāyāmapi pratitiṣṭhet||4||


Comments


The Buddha reinforces the point by making an analogy with the unlimited nature of space in the different directions. In his commentary on the sutra Hui Neng describes the meaning of merit explaining,

By merit is meant the support of gods and people. When bodhisattvas practice charity they seek nothing in return. Hence, the merit they receive is immeasurable as the sky.
(Manji 04591)


In the Siha Sutta, General Siha asks the Buddha to point out a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now. The Buddha replies,

"It is possible, Siha. One who gives, who is a master of giving, is dear & charming to people at large. And the fact that who is generous, a master of giving, is dear & charming to people at large: this is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now.

"Furthermore, good people, people of integrity, admire one who gives, who is a master of giving. And the fact that good people, people of integrity, admire one who gives, who is a master of giving: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now.

"Furthermore, the fine reputation of one who gives, who is a master of giving, is spread far & wide. And the fact that the fine reputation of one who gives, who is a master of giving, is spread far & wide: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now.

"Furthermore, when one who gives, who is a master of giving, approaches any assembly of people — noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives — he/she does so confidently & without embarrassment. And the fact that when one who gives, who is a master of giving, approaches any assembly of people — noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives — he/she does so confidently & without embarrassment: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now.
(AN 5.342)


Merit (功德) is mentioned in chapters 14, 15, 16, 19, and 28. It is closely related to rewards (福德 and ), mentioned in chapters 4, 6, 8, 11, 19, 24, and 28. In the Sanskrit text the word puṇya is used in all cases. Other English words that you may see in other texts are "blessings" and "benefits". Alternate Sanskrit words are anuśaṃsa, which is not used in the Diamond Sūtra, and guṇa, which is used once in Chapter 6.

The question "what do you think?" is one of the most common phrases in the Diamond Sūtra. The English word think translates the Chinese word (Sanskrit: man). The Sanskrit word manyase (you think) is the second person, singular form of the verb root √man.

Discussion


Merit is a central concept in the Diamond Sutra. It raises the following discussion points:
  • What is merit, really?
  • Can merit really be defined? Is there any other way to know what it is besides direct experience?
  • What are some modern ideas that seem similar to merit (e.g., social status)?

Notes

  1. Hui Neng Exegesis on the Diamond Sutra 金剛經解義, Manji 0459, translated by Red Pine 2009, p 95
  2. "Siha Sutta: To General Siha (On Generosity)" (AN 5.34), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.034.than.html.

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