Section two of the Diamond Sutra has been posted here. The sutra can also be accessed from a link at the top of this page.
The first section of the sutra, which was posted yesterday, tells us who heard the Buddha’s talk, where the talk occurred, and who was there. The “I” of the phrase “Thus have I heard…” is Ananda, one of the Buddha’s main disciples.
The second section tells us why the Buddha gave this talk. It is a response to a question asked by Subhuti. Since Subhuti is a senior monk, who is well-versed in the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness, we know that the questioner is asking for a deep answer.
Subhuti’s question is “…when good men and good women commit themselves to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, on what should they base themselves, and how should they subdue their minds?”
Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi means “complete, unsurpassed enlightenment,” which is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practice.
Since all “conditioned things” are empty (including us), Subhuti is asking how does an empty being attain enlightenment? Or, as he put it, “…on what should they base themselves?” (“…and how should they subdue their minds?”) An important sense of this question is how does an empty being “base” itself on anything?
The Buddha repeats Subhuti’s question word-for-word. This repetition is common in Buddhist literature as it avoids ambiguity. The rest of the sutra is the Buddha’s answer to Subhuti’s question.
Tathagata is one the ten names of the Buddha.