No Merit

Eight: No Merit

“Subhūti, what do you think? If a person were to fill the three thousand chiliocosms with the seven kinds of jewels and give them away charitably, wouldn’t the merit attained by this person be great?”

Subhūti said, “Extremely great, Blessed One. And why? This merit has no
nature of merit; therefore the Tathāgata says that this merit is great.”

The Buddha said: “But if there were a person well-attentive to this sūtra such that he or she could teach a four line verse from it to others, this person’s merit would exceed that of the former example. Why? Subhūti, all of the Buddhas and all of their supreme awakenings of peerless perfect enlightenment spring forth from this sūtra. Subhūti, that which is called the buddhadharma is not the buddhadharma.”

fill the three thousand chiliocosms: in the Buddhist cosmological scheme of things, a chiliocosm is a composite of one billion worlds; Buddhaghosa even extends that figure to a trillion, so when all this is calculated “by three thousand” as the sutra states, one is left with a very staggering mind realization. The sutra uses this metaphor to highlight that the extraordinary sense of “merit” knows no bifurcation: both giver and the receiver are part and parcel of a much larger, intertwining whole. Thus, in the Tathagatic schemata, the greatest merit is “no merit”. The classic illustration of this is Bodhidharma’s encounter with the emperor:

teach a four line verse from it to others: in light of extraordinary merit, the Diamond Sutra has such exceptional import that just memorizing a few lines from it and expounding it to others would extend merit to its ultimate; the greatest sign of this happened to Huineng who actually self-realized Enlightenment after hearing someone recite a verse from the sutra: “Let your mind function freely, without abiding anywhere or in anything”. Indeed, the extraordinary merit that accrued from this episode in the annals of Ch’an history is most poignant as Huineng became its grand Sixth Patriarch. Huineng eventually fine-tuned the Diamond Sutras importance in the Platform Sutra.

all of the Buddhas and all of their supreme awakenings of peerless perfect enlightenment spring forth from this sūtra: this signifies that the Diamond is a Tathagata-sutra par-excellence. In terms of that extraordinary merit, when one begins to fathom the sutra’s depths one learns to see and hear as do the Tathagatas themselves; there is no greater merit than that, which is why the Diamond is the Crown Jewel of the Mahayana.

that which is called the buddhadharma is not the buddhadharma: once again, as in the former section, the Buddhadharma is a “wordless teaching” and supersedes any linguistic formulation as it is well beyond language itself.

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