“Moreover, Subhūti, if a good man (or woman) receives, holds, reads, and recites this sutra, and if people ridicule him, that man has karmic offenses from his previous lives that destine him for evil paths. However, because in his present life he is ridiculed by others [while abiding by this sutra], his previous karmic offenses are destroyed, and he will attain Anuttarasaṃyaksaṃbodhi.”
Excerpts from Mastering the School Tenets of The Diamond Sutra
Venerable Xiao Pingshi
The above quote states that the merits that we gain from upholding and disseminating the Diamond Sutra will enable us to attain Buddhahood, and all our past karmic offenses can be destroyed if others ridicule us for doing so. While this sounds very attractive and powerful for Buddhist practitioners, one will be able to uphold and disseminate the Diamond Sutra only if one knows what exactly “this sutra” means and how to carry this out before and after one’s awakening. We need to know what the Diamond Sutra is really preaching underneath its text.
Volume 10 of The Blue Cliff Record by Chan master Yuanwu Keqin states, “The Diamond Sutra says, ‘If one is scornfully reviled by others, one has done wicked acts in previous ages that will bring one down into the evil way, but because of one’s scorn and vilification by others in the present age, the wicked action in the former ages is thereby extinguished.… The Diamond Sutra is likened to the indestructible Dharma body and cannot be destroyed; it is capable of cutting through anything…. There are three kinds of such prajna: the prajna of reality, the observant prajna, and the language prajna….’”
What Chan master Yuanwu Keqin means in the foregoing is that practitioners should understand and realize the Diamond Sutra rather than merely reading and reciting its texts on the sutra scroll. In other words, we need to know what the Diamond Sutra preaches. The word “Diamond” in the Diamond Sutra denotes the tathagatagarbha, the very mind taught by the Buddha in the second turning of the Dharma wheel. The unique attribute of this tathagatagarbha mind is its permanent and indestructible nature. When we have attained enlightenment, three types of prajnas will appear in us in the following sequence: the prajna of reality, the observant prajna, and the language prajna. Fundamentally, however, these three types of prajna have two subcategories, one for ordinary people and the other for bodhisattvas. That is, according to different levels of attainment, practitioners will naturally develop various degrees of prajna in each phase along their cultivation paths. Here, we focus only on the subcategory for (already enlightened) bodhisattvas.
In brief, the prajna of reality for bodhisattvas refers to the prajna of those who have personally experienced and realized that the tathagatagarbha is the origin of all dharmas. These people can directly observe the dharma nature of reality-suchness and affirm that this mind gives rise to all dharmas.
The observant prajna refers to the prajna of enlightened bodhisattvas who have gone through the variant process of contemplative Chan in searching for the diamond-like mind, the tathagatagarbha, that which is the origin of all dharmas. They can directly observe the dharma nature of reality-suchness and abide in its nirvanic state.
Lastly, the language prajna is derived from the two aforementioned types of prajnas, both of which are verbalized and textualized to convey and disseminate the Buddha’s teachings. This explains why it is called language prajna. Nonetheless, these textual contents are ultimately not tantamount to the prajna itself; the notion of language prajna is neither different from nor identical to the prajna of reality and the observant prajna.
As mentioned earlier, through our personal realization of the Diamond Sutra, we will naturally go through the three specific prajna phases in time. We can experience the prajna of reality and attest to it with our previously learned language prajna to affirm its existence. By doing so, we will uphold the Diamond Sutra in full faith; if others ridicule us for receiving, reading, or reciting it in our current lives, our past karmic offenses will be extinguished.
The underlying insight of the aforementioned quote in the Diamond Sutra is about finding (through the method of contemplative Chan) the diamond-like mind, the tathagatagarbha, which is crucial for Buddhists’ attainment of enlightenment and Buddhahood.
Mastering the School Tenets of The Diamond Sutra, Vol. 4, pp.227-244