The Diamond Sutra Section Seven: Nothing Has Been Attained and Nothing Has Been Said

Section Seven of the Diamond Sutra has been added. A link to the sutra can be found at the top of this page. Discussions of previous sections of the Diamond Sutra can be found here or by clicking on the Diamond Sutra tag on the right margin of this page.


In this section the Buddha follows up on his statement in the previous section “…this is why I have often said to you monks that even my teachings should be understood to be like a raft; if even the Dharma must be let go of, then how much more must everything else be let go of?”

He does this by asking Subhuti “…what do you say? Has the Tathagata really attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi? Has the Tathagata really spoken a Dharma?”

Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi means “complete, unsurpassed enlightenment,” which is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practice.

Subhuti answers correctly by saying, “As far as I understand what the Buddha has said, there is no definite dharma that can be called anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, and there is no definite Dharma that could be spoken about by the Tathagata.”

When spelled with a small d, dharma means “thing,” or in this case “anything that can be thought of or named.”

Subhuti’s saying “…there is no definite Dharma that could be spoken about by the Tathagata” means that the teachings of the Buddha have no definite form. They are methods for purifying the mind in an infinite variety of circumstances, not strict codes to be followed blindly. Like a raft, the teachings are used when and where they are needed and not where they are not needed.

Subhuti continues: And why is this? The Dharma of which the Tathagata speaks cannot be held onto, it cannot be spoken, it is not a law, and it is not a non-law.”

The true Dharma is the Dharma that is understood, the Dharma that alters consciousness for the better, the Dharma that ultimately brings anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

“And that is why all bodhisattvas understand the unconditioned dharmas differently.”

The “unconditioned dharmas” are the eight unchanging attributes of the Tathagata or the enlightened state. Since these attributes are qualities of the Tathagata, this line might be interpreted to mean “All bodhisattvas understand the Tathagata differently.” The truth is one, but the angles from which we perceive it are many.

Buddhist sutras generally agree that the unconditioned state of enlightenment is: 1) timeless, 2) without delusion, 3) ageless, 4) deathless, 5) pure, 6) universal, 7) motionless, 8) joyful.

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