In the history of Chinese Buddhism there are three Buddhist sutras which are regarded as “core texts.” These are the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra as spoken by the Buddha, and the Platform Sutra as spoken by Huineng, the sixth Chinese patriarch of the Chan School of Buddhism.
Kumarajiva, one of the most well-known translators of Buddhist sutras into Chinese, translated the Heart Sutra into Chinese in the fifth century during the Later Qin dynasty. By the seventh century, another translation by Xuanzang made during the Tang dynasty became the one with the widest currency among the Chinese public. The translation of the Diamond Sutra used in this book is Kumarajiva’s translation, and the one most widely circulated, though Xuanzang did retranslate the Diamond Sutra as well. Two of China’s great translators expended large amounts of time and effort to translate the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra, clearly demonstrating just how extraordinary and important these two Buddhist sutras are.
The mere mention of the Diamond Sutra calls to mind Buddhism, and likewise any mention of Buddhism brings to mind the presence of the Diamond Sutra. Today most Buddhists who recite the Diamond Sutra do so to ask for protection against ill fortune and pray for good fortune and long life. When someone passes away, their family and friends as well as Buddhist monastics will recite the Diamond Sutra to help the person find a better rebirth. Everyone from great monastics to the public at large read and recite this sutra. The language of the Diamond Sutra is beautifully refined and possesses an excellent rhythm, such that even if one does not understand its meaning, reciting it or hearing it read can bring peace and joy to one’s heart.
I wrote my Introduction to the Diamond Sutra1 in 1997, a text of nearly three hundred thousand Chinese characters, in which I arranged and explicated the meaning of this sutra. Today, a dozen or so years later, I’ve endeavored to write the present volume as a way of sharing a practical method for achieving success and fulfillment contained within the Diamond Sutra.
The Sanskrit title of the Diamond Sutra is Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra. But what do words like vajra, prajna, and paramita mean? And how are we to understand and practice the Diamond Sutra?
The Diamond Sutra relates a series of questions and answers that take place between the Buddha and his disciple Subhuti, regarded as the Buddha’s foremost disciple in understanding emptiness. Their dialog expounds on the empty nature of prajna, and asserts that “all phenomena lack an inherent self” and “all phenomena are transient.” Once we thoroughly understand emptiness, this understanding will benefit us and allow us to be successful in whatever we do, in both worldly and spiritual pursuits.
Four Insights for Finding Fulfillment shares my belief in the ability to apply the Dharma in the human world. The Dharma must be put into practice. We cannot separate ourselves from our experiences, nor can we separate ourselves from the larger community of human beings. We can use the elements of our daily lives to succeed in our practice and deepen our faith. It is as Huineng said:
Daily, constantly practicing to benefit others,
Attaining Buddhahood does not come from giving money.
Bodhi is found within the mind
Why bother looking for the extraordinary outside?
It is not enough to read the sutras, we must also practice them. Learning Buddhism is meant to bring fulfillment right here, in the human world; after all, what aspects of our daily lives cannot be applied to spiritual practice? “Prajna” is the “secret ingredient” to this kind of success.
Besides quoting from the Diamond Sutra and the other great wisdom texts of Buddhism, I will also supply supporting material from Buddhism’s treasury of gongans. Called koans in Japanese, they are the stories of generations of great practitioners of the Chan School. Their wisdom is like a lamp casting light on a room that has been darkened for thousands of years. It is my hope that, even amidst this hectic modern life, that everyone can gain some understanding, for once one gains realizations they, too, become a shining source of light.
One can say that the Diamond Sutra has four main teachings: to give without notions, to liberate with no notion of self, to live without abiding, and to cultivate without attainment. The principles articulated by the Buddha more than two thousand years ago can not only be applied to each of us individually and to the Buddhist monastic order as a whole, but they can also be applied to any organization or enterprise. As a monastic disciple of the Buddha, teaching the Dharma for the benefit of living beings has been both a joy and a responsibility, and I think about the Diamond Sutra from time to time and try to practice its four main teachings such that I “believe it, receive it, and practice it” just as mentioned at the close of the sutra.
It is my hope that everyone will find fulfillment and grasp the secret to success from the Diamond Sutra and become great successes in this world!
1. Selections were published in 2001 as Describing the Indescribable.