The book,in its original form in Sanskrit, is called ‘Vajrachedikapragnyaparmita Sutra’ (. ‘वज्रच्छेदिकाप्रज्ञापारमितासूत्र ‘ ). However in short it is known as ‘Vajra’ or Diamond Sutra. The Buddhists Sutras or hymns were to be rote learned and then chanted. Since these were to be chanted, in the beginning few lines of the text, express instructions were given about purifying the mouth and the body of the monk before Sutra can be chanted by him.
A sutra is a sermon spoken by the Buddha. All sutras begin with the phrase, ‘Thus I have heard’, and then describe the place where the sermon was first given. The Diamond Sutra was originally preached in a park in northern India. The first few lines of text here also report that there was a large crowd present, including over a thousand monks. Among them is Subhuti who asks Buddha to explain to the crowd how to achieve enlightenment. In the first section Buddha explains that learning four lines of this text and teaching them to others would bring Subhuti more merit than if he filled three thousand galaxies with treasure and then gave it all away to the poor. This shows the importance of copying Buddhas teachings in the Buddhist tradition.
A central doctrine of Buddhism is that the material world is an illusion, and therefore there are no individuals or objects. This is called the principle of non-duality. And since there are no people or other living beings, there is really no suffering. In this text Buddha elucidates this doctrine by asking Subhuti questions about the ‘world’. One of the questions concerns the number of grains of sand in the River Ganges. ‘Suppose’, says Buddha ‘there were as many River Ganges as there are sand grains. Surely, the total number of sand grains in all these rivers would be immense?’ But this is a trick question. Sand grains are part of the material world and, as Buddha explains, the material world is an illusion. Really, there are no sand grains at all, just as there is no River Ganges and no Subhuti.
In the next section, Buddha names his sermon. He tells Subhuti that their dialogue should thereafter be known as ‘The Diamond Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom’. The diamond – ‘vajra’ – is a symbol of indestructibility and power over illusion. ‘The Perfection of Wisdom’ refers to a larger group of sutras, all preaching the doctrine that the world is illusory. Of course, naming the sutra is also part of the illusion, as Buddha points out. Subhuti is moved to tears on hearing this and understanding the Buddha’s teaching.
After his return from central Asia, this book was handed over to British Museum as per previous agreement between Stein, Government of India and British Government and has been lying in their collections for last 100 years,. Few days back, British library has made few of such invaluable books available in digital form on the internet. Diamond Sutra is one book from this collection. The original books has been printed on a paper roll and is to be read by unrolling from left to right. On the internet this book is available in form of 5 slides. At the end of the book the publisher of the book ‘Vang Jie’ has mentioned that he has published this book ” Reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 15th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong [11 May 868]”.\
19 January 2012