Back to collection

Diamond Sūtra 金剛般若波羅蜜經

The merits of maintaining this sūtra 持經功德分

Click on any word to see more details.

The merits of maintaining this sūtra 功德



“Subhūti, suppose there were a good man or a good woman who, in the morning, gave his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River [gaṅgā]. In the middle of the day, this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River [gaṅgā]. Then in the evening [sāya], this person would also give his or her body away as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River [gaṅgā]. Suppose this giving continued for incalculable billions of eons [kalpas]. If there are people again who hear [śrutvā] this sūtra with a mind of belief, without doubt, then the merits [puṇya] of these people surpass the former merits. How much more so for those who write [likhitvā], accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it?

Sanskrit: yaśca khalu punaḥ subhūte strī vā puruṣo vā purvāhṇakālasamaye gaṅgānadīvālukāsamānātmabhāvān parityajet, evaṃ madhyāhnakālasamaye gaṅgānadīvālukāsamānātmabhāvān parityajet, sāyāhnakālasamaye gaṅgānadīvālukāsamānātmabhāvān parityajet, anena paryāyeṇa bahūni kalpakoṭiniyutaśatasahasrāṇyātmabhāvān parityajet, yaścemaṃ dharmaparyāyaṃ śrutvā na pratikṣipet, ayameva tatonidānaṃ bahutaraṃ puṇyaskandhaṃ prasunuyādaprameyamasaṃkhyeyam, kaḥ punarvādo yo likhitvā udgṛhṇīyāddhārayedvācayetparyavāpnuyāt, parebhyaśca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayet||


The Buddha is making an analogy to the Indian god Puruṣa, a cosmic being who sacrificed his self-existence for the creation of the world and the human race. (Red Pine 2009, p 253)

The English word eon translates the Chinese , Sanskrit kalpa. A kalpa is a very long unit of time, equal to 4.32 billion years according to the Puranas.



“Subhūti, to summarize [khalu punaḥ], this sūtra has inconceivable [acintya], immeasurable, limitless merit [puṇya]. The Tathāgata speaks it to send forth those in the Great Vehicle [agrayāna], to send forth those in the Supreme Vehicle. If there are people able to accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain this sūtra to others, then the Tathāgata is always aware of them and always sees them. Thusly, these people are carrying the Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi of the Tathāgata. Why? Subhūti, those who are happy with lesser teachings [hīnādhimuktiakaiḥ] are attached to views of a self, views of a person, views of a being, and views of a life [jīva]. They cannot hear [śrotum], accept, maintain, study, recite, and explain it to others.

Sanskrit: api tu khalu punaḥ subhūte acintyo'tulyo'yaṃ dharmaparyāyaḥ| ayaṃ ca subhūte dharmaparyāyastathāgatena bhāṣito'grayānasaṃprasthitānāṃ sattvānāmarthāya, śreṣṭhayānasaṃprasthitānāṃ sattvānāmarthāya| ye imaṃ dharmaparyāyamudgrahīṣyanti dhārayiṣyanti vācayiṣyanti paryavāpsyanti, parebhyaśca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayiṣyanti, jñātāste subhūte tathāgatena buddhajñānena, dṛṣṭāste subhūte tathāgatena buddhacakṣuṣā, buddhāste tathāgatena| sarve te subhūte sattvā aprameyeṇa puṇyaskandhenāṃ samanvāgatā bhaviṣyanti| acintyenātulyenāmāpyenāparimāṇena puṇyaskandhena samanvāgatā bhaviṣyanti| sarve te subhūte sattvāḥ samāṃśena bodhiṃ dhārayiṣyanti vacayiṣyanti paryavāpsyanti| tatkasya hetoḥ ? na hi śakyaṃ subhūte ayaṃ dharmaparyāyo hīnādhimuktiakaiḥ sattvaiḥ śrotum, nātmadṛṣṭikairna sattvadṛṣṭikairna jīvadṛṣṭikairna pudgaladṛṣṭikaiḥ| nābodhisattvapratijñai sattvaiḥ śakyamayaṃ dharmaparyāyaḥ śrotuṃ vā udgrahītuṃ vā dhārayituṃ vā vācayituṃ vā paryavāptuṃ vā|


Hui Neng says,

If people can hear this sūtra and realize its truth, both self and other suddenly vannish, and they at once become buddhas. Renouncing the body has limited merit and cannot compare with the unlimited wisdom of upholding this sūtra. (Red Pine 2009, p 257 quoting Hui Neng Exegesis on the Diamond Sūtra, Manji 0459)

The English word inconceivable translates the Chinese 不可思議, Sanskrit acintya. The English phrase in summary translates the Chinese 以要言之, Sanskrit khalu punaḥ. Kumārajīva does not often translate this phrase from the Sanskrit, which is generally more verbose than the Chinese.

The English phrase Great Vehicle translates the Chinese 大乘, Sanskrit agrayāna. The Sūtra on the Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines says,

'Great Vehicle' is a synonym of immeasurableness. ' Immeasurable' mean infinitude. By means of the perfections has a Bodhisattva set out in it.
(Conze 1973, p91)

Question: What does "lesser Dharma" mean?

This is a difficult question. In the translation by Yifa the term "lesser Dharma" is used. Here, in the Lapis Lazuli translation "lesser teachings" is used, which has the same meaning in English. The Chinese term is . The Sanskrit term used Sanskrit text, hīnādhimuktiakaiḥ. The adjective hīnā means small or lesser and the word mukti means liberation. Buddhists should always be respectful of other religious faiths and their viewpoints as all valid. Still, while comparisons are difficult, as Buddhists we want to study the teachings that we feel are the most useful.

It is not really clear what the term "lesser Dharma" means but it may refer to "Lesser Dharma" could possibly refer to Hinayana teachings (Chinese: 小乘), which is an older name for Theravada Buddhism (Chinese: 南傳佛教). This is Jiang Wei Nong's interpretation. (Jiang Wei Nong, 2011, p563)

"Lesser Dharma" could also possibly refer to teachings that are derived from the Buddha's teachings but claimed by others as their own. At the time that the Buddha lived in India there were a number of religious groups challenging the Vedic tradition and debating with each other, including the Buddha himself, materialists, the Jain tradition, and others. (Avari 2007, p 96-98) If a teacher from another tradition took the teachings of the Buddha, mixed that with other ideas, and claimed that they were all developed by him or her self, then that may possibly be referred to as a lesser teaching. Because all the Indian traditions depended in the early stages nearly entirely on oral transmission and ideas were exchanged during debates, it is difficult to say conclusively the source of the various ideas that are common to a number of different traditions such as karma and karmic results, self versus non-self, duality versus non-duality, and Nirvāṇa. Long after the Buddha passed away, some teachers incorporated the Buddha himself into the Hindu pantheon of gods as an attempt to assimilate Buddhists into their own following. (Avari 2007, p 243)

Broadening the scope of these interpretations, "Lesser Dharma" could also mean anything that is not Mahāyāna. In historic times, different Buddhist schools often debated each other and also debated non-Buddhist schools. These other non-Buddhist schools also used the term "Dharma" to describe their philosophies. Nāgārjuna, Shāntideva, and others in the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) School formulated arguments deconstructing the ideas of other Buddhist and early Hindu schools that regarded phenonenon, including the self, as concrete and real. (Śāntideva, and the Padmakara Translation Group 2006, p 23)



Subhūti, in every place [sthāna] where this sūtra exists, the devas, humans, and asuras from every world [lokasya] should [bhaviṣyati] provide offerings [pūjanīya]. This place is a shrine [caitya] to which everyone should respectfully make obeisance and circumambulate, adorning its resting place with flowers and incense.

Sanskrit: nedaṃ sthānaṃ vidyate||

api tu khalu punaḥ subhūte yatra pṛthivīpradeśe idaṃ sūtraṃ prakaśayiṣyate, pūjanīyaḥ sa pṛthivīpradeśo bhaviṣyati sadevamānuṣāsurasya lokasya| vandanīyaḥ pradakṣiṇīyaśca sa pṛthivīpradeśo bhaviṣyati, caityabhūtaḥ sa pṛthivīpradeśo bhaviṣyati||15||


The English word shrine translates the Sanskrit caitya. The Chinese word used more literally means stupa. A stupa is a place where the relics of the Buddha or senior monks are kept, making this another analogy between the Dhárma, or the Buddha's teachings, and his body.


Different types of merit are compared in the Diamond Sūtra. It raises the following questions:

  • Can amount of merit be measured? If merit cannot be measured, what does it mean to say "limited merit" and "unlimited merit?"

Dictionary loading status: not loaded

Glossary and Other Vocabulary