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Diamond Sūtra Discussion

The convocation of the assembly 法會因由

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The convocation of the assembly 法會因由



Thus have I heard

Sanskrit: evaṃ mayā śrutam|


Every sūtra spoken by the Buddha begins with this text, 'Thus have I heard.' The Buddha instructed Ananda to use these words to make it clear that he was repeating what he had heard from the Buddha (Tzu Chuang, 2012). In Indic religions teachings were transmitted orally, so that learning by listening is especially important. So the Sanskrit the term used here, śruta (Chinese ), is especially relevant. (Mittal and Thursby 2006, p 18)

The Sanskrit word evaṃ is the accusative (grammatical object) form of the word eva (English: thus, Chinese: 如是). The Sanskrit word mayā is the instrumental case, first person, singular pronoun (English: I, Chinese: ).



Yifa: Once, the Buddha was in the Kingdom of Sravasti, in Jetavana, Anathapindika’s Park, with a great assembly of bhiksus, one thousand two hundred and fifty in all.

Sanskrit: ekasmin samaye bhagavān śrāvastyāṃ viharati sma jetavane'nāthapiṇḍadasyārāme mahatā bhikṣusaṃghena sārthaṃ trayodaśabhirbhikṣuśataiḥ saṃbahulaiśca bodhisattvairmahāsattvaiḥ|


This sentence is the preface (序分) or the first part of the three parts of the sūtra. The teaching of the Dhárma requires six different elements that are known as the Six Accomplishments (六成就). These are faith (信成就), hearing (聞成就), time (時成就), teacher (主成就), location (處成就), and assembly (眾成就) (Hsing Yun 2012, p 58; Jiang Wei Zhen 1941). Without any one of these elements no teaching could take place. We have faith because of the phrase 'Thus have I heard' at the beginning of the sūtra, which also includes hearing. The time is 'one time.' The teacher is the Buddha. The location is Jeta Grove in Śrāvastī. This sentence also gives some details about the sixth accomplishment, the assembly, which consists of 1,250 monks.

The Buddha spent about 25 years in Sravasti, in the ancient kingdom of Kosala. Sravasti is located on the river Aciravati, the present-day Rapti River, which is a tributary to the Ganges, after joining the Ghaghara River. Anāthapiṇḍada, literally meaning Feeder of the Defenceless, whose personal name was Sudatta, was a wealthy lay person who offered Jeta Grove to the Buddha. Anāthapiṇḍada covered the ground of Jeta Grove with gold to buy the land for the Buddha. The Cullavagga (Pali Vinaya) says,

Then the householder Anathapindika saw Prince Jeta's pleasure grove, neither too far from a village . . . fitting for meditation, and seeing it, he approached Prince Jeta ; having approached he spoke thus to Prince Jeta : "Give me, young master, the pleasure grove to make a monastery."

"The pleasure grove is not to be given away, householder, even for the price of a hundred thousand."

"Young master, the monastery is taken."

"The monastery is not taken, householder." They asked the chief ministers of justice, saying : "Is it taken or is it not taken?" The chief ministers spoke thus : "The monastery is taken at the price fixed by you, young master." Then the householder Anathapindika, having had gold coins brought out by means of wagons, had the Jeta Grove spread with the price of a hundred thousand.
(Cv VI.4 223)

The kingdom of Kosala was defeated by the kingdom of Magadha after the passing of the Buddha. Magadha rose to further prominence in the Mauryan Empire, especially in the time of King Ashoka, with its capital based in Pataliputra. (Avari 2007, p90-91)

The Sankrit text uses the term vihara, which is today thought of as a Buddhist monastery or a place for monks and nuns to live and practice.

Jeta Grove is called jetavane in Sanskrit. This is composed of two parts: Jeta, named after Prince Jeta and vane the locative case for the word vana (forest).

This Sanskrit version gives 1,300 monks.



Yifa: Then, during mealtime, the World-Honored One put on his robe, took up his bowl, and entered the great city of Sravasti to beg for food.

Sanskrit: atha khalu bhagavān pūrvāhṇakālasamaye nivāsya pātracīvaramādāya śrāvastīṃ mahānagarīṃ piṇḍāya prāvikṣat|


Begging was an accepted practice in ancient India. It was not uncommon for wandering ascetics of the Śramaṇa trdition tradition at that time to live by collecting alms (Harvey, 1990). By begging for food the Buddha showed his dependency on other members of society and that he was humble enough to do so even though he came from a priliged position in that society. The same was true of many of his followers who were Brahmins.

Here the Buddha is referred to as the Bhagavān, which literally means 'Blessed One.' The Chinese term used is 世尊, which literally means 'World Honored One.' You will see 'World Honored One' used frequently in other English translations.

The Sanskrit text uses the term piṇḍāya, the dative case for the noun pieces (of food) piṇḍā. Since people in India eat with their hands, rather than utensils, pieces is appropriate.



Yifa: After begging from house to house inside the city, he returned to where he was staying.

Sanskrit: atha khalu bhagavān śrāvastīṃ mahānagarīṃ piṇḍāya caritvā kṛtabhaktakṛtyaḥ paścādbhaktapiṇḍapātapratikrāntaḥ


There were rules for begging sequentially at each house. Monks had to stop at each house, had to accept what was given, and could not take more than would fit into an alms bowl.

The Sanskrit word caritvā is a gerund meaning 'having moved.' The Chinese text uses the term sequentially (次第) but does not mention moving from door to door.



Yifa: When he finished eating his meal, he put away his robe and bowl, washed his feet, arranged his seat, and then sat.

Sanskrit: pātracīvaraṃ pratiśāmya pādau prakṣālya nyaṣīdatprajñapta evāsane paryaṅkamābhujya ṛjuṃ kāyaṃ praṇidhāya pratimukhīṃ smṛtimupasthāpya| atha khalu saṃbahulā bhikṣavo yena bhagavāṃstenopasaṃkrāman| upasaṃkramya bhagavataḥ pādau śirobhirabhivandya bhagavantaṃ triṣpradakṣiṇīkṛtya ekānte nyaṣīdan||1||


This sentence emphasizes the Buddha's mindfullness of taking care of everyday things. Although the Chinese text does not include the term mindfulness, the Sanskrit text does include the word smṛti (English: mindfullness). He takes care of these things before beginning to talk. Interestingly, it also gives us a glimpse at the life that the Buddha lived in ancient India. The practice of begging for food house-to-house is an ascetic practice described in the Visuddhimagga (Buddhaghoṣa 1991). The sequence of begging for alms from house to house and returning to eat at Jeta Grove demonstrates the Six Paramitas (Hsing Yun 2012, p 43-44).

The Sanskrit word for foot is pāda. This is very close to the Latin word pod, which is the basis for many medical and scientific words in English, such as podiatry, the medical study of feet. In the Sanskrit text above the dual form pādau is used to indicate that the Buddha washed both feet. The use of dual form is like plural in English (eg, feet) and must be used when the number is two.

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