Dust to Dust

Thirteen: Dust to Dust

[Gemmell]

Upon that occasion, Subhuti enquired of the Lord Buddha, saying : “Blessed One, by what name shall this Scripture be known, that we may regard it with reverence? ”

The Lord Buddha replied, saying: ” Subhuti, this Scripture shall be known as *The Diamond Sutra,’ The Transcendent Wisdom,’ by means of which we reach ‘ The Other Shore.’ By this name you shall reverently regard it! And why? Subhuti, what the Lord Buddha declared as ‘transcendent wisdom’ by means of which we reach ‘the other shore,’ is not essentially ‘transcendent wisdom’—in its essence it transcends all wisdom.”

The Lord Buddha addressed Subhuti, saying: “What do you think? Did the Lord Buddha formulate a precise system of Law [Dharma] or doctrine?”

Subhuti replied, saying: “No, World-Honored One! The Lord Buddha did not formulate a precise system of Law or doctrine.”

The Lord Buddha addressed Subhuti, saying: “What do you think? Within the myriad worlds which comprise this universe, are the atoms of dust numerous?”

Subhuti replied, saying: “Very numerous, O’ Blessed One!”

The Lord Buddha continuing his discourse, said: ” Subhuti, the Lord Buddha declares that all these ‘ atoms of dust ‘ are not essentially ‘atoms of dust,’ they are merely termed ‘atoms of dust.’ The Lord Buddha also declares that those ‘myriad worlds ‘ are not really ‘myriad worlds,’ they are merely designated ‘myriad worlds.’ ”

The Lord Buddha addressed Subhuti, saying: ” What do you think? Can the Lord Buddha be perceived by means of his thirty–two bodily distinctions?”

Subhuti replied, saying : ” No, World Honored One! The Lord Buddha cannot be perceived by means of his thirty-two bodily distinctions. And why? Because, what the Lord Buddha referred to as his ‘thirty – two bodily distinctions,’ are not in reality ‘bodily distinctions,’ they are merely defined as ‘ bodily distinctions.’”

The Lord Buddha addressed Subhuti, saying: “If a good disciple, whether man or woman, day by day sacrificed lives innumerable as the sands of the Ganges ; and if another disciple adhered with implicit faith to a stanza of this Scripture, and diligently explained it to others, the intrinsic merit of such a disciple would be relatively greater than the other.”

*Vajrachedika Prajnaparamita, The Diamond-Cutter Wisdom That Has Gone Beyond.

Blessed One, by what name shall this Scripture be known, that we may regard it with reverence: Usually the naming of a given sutra occurs at the end; here it occurs “in medias res” since we’re half-way through. Conze always felt that this was the official end of the Sutra, since what remains is mainly redacted material of what we’ve already covered; others are of the opinion that the remaining sections enhance Subhuti’s understanding of the subject matter.

is not essentially ‘transcendent wisdom’—in its essence it transcends all wisdom: Gemmell’s translation is wonderful; it essentially highlights that the general notion of prajnaparamita—its formalized base—also needs to be jettisoned. This is what the Diamond Sutra has been doing throughout—deconstructing all nominalized understandings of the Absolute and Transcendent; thus what remains is the true imagelessness of the invisible core of the wordless teaching; teacher, text and meaning is left hanging naked (sunya) in the void of THAT which cannot be expressed; as the sutra shows, the Dharma itself it thus no-Dharma…and then no-no Dharma and so on ad infinitum.  As the Buddha once spoke to Manjushri, “I have been among you for forty-nine years, yet I have not spoken a single word.”

Buddha declares that all these ‘atoms of dust’ are not essentially ‘atoms of dust’, they are merely termed ‘atoms of dust.’: there’s a lot packed into this statement. Ma Soeng includes the following:

“Because a dust mote is [identical with, or is] an expression of the Ultimate Reality, it can therefore contain all things…Since all the universes contained within a dust mote are also expressions of Reality, they too contain all other universes…this goes on indefinitely, and thus realms-embracing realms ad infinitum are established.” (Ma Soeng, pg. 108)

Red Pine breaks all this down even further:

“Sheng-yi says, “Every world is the result of karma. Without karma there is no world. The world is the result of myriad delusions of beings in the past, and our delusions are like specks of dust. Due to the dust of our delusions, we undertake myriad actions and create the karma of our present world. The dust of beneficial delusions creates the world of devas. The dust of harmful delusions creates the world of sinners. A mixture of the two creates the world of humans. But from the point of view of prajna wisdom, the dust of our delusions arrives from nowhere and departs nowhere. Its nature is empty. Thus, it is not the dust of delusions.” Also Fu Hsi says, “Dust is combined to make a world. A world is broken into specks of dust. A world represents the fruit of humans and gods. The dust is their karmic seeds. The seeds of dust aren’t real. Nor is the fruit of the world. Who knows the fruit and seed are false is the one who wanders free.” The Buddha once told Manjushri, ‘To live in the world beyond the world, and to live in the dust beyond the dust, this is the ultimate dharma.” (Red Pine, The Diamond Sutra, pgs. 212-213)

Indeed, it’s even all beyond the dustless mirror….No mirror, no dust, sans everything…

The Lord Buddha cannot be perceived by means of his thirty-two bodily distinctions: this was covered earlier in our study of the Sutra in section five, but Red Pine drives this all home in fine fashion:

“The body of thirty-two attributes is a buddha’s nirmanakaya. It is his physical body or incarnated body, in which he appears to teach other beings. It is, however, the result of karma and is not his real body [Dharmakaya—inclusion mine]. When the Buddha posed a similar question about his reward body in Chapter Five, Subhuti said the Buddha could not be seen because the attributes of his reward body are no attributes. But at the time Subhuti did not realize that by means of the very attributes that are no attributes the Tathagata can, in fact, be seen. Subhuti still does not understand this. However, instead of being obstructed by emptiness, he is now obstructed by the logic of prajna in which he has now become an adept. But his vision is still limited to the emptiness of things; he does not yet possess the dharma eye [emphasis mine], which sees emptiness as a raft and to which the Buddha will introduce to Subhuti in Chapter Eighteen.” (Red Pine, pg. 215)

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