THE DIAMOND SUTRA
Based on William Gemmell's Translation Edited, Rearranged and Interpreted
THIS VERSION is based upon the English translation by William Gemmell, of the Chinese translation made by Kumarajiva, and was published by Kegan Paul in 1912. It is not an exact translation of the Chinese but is in a measure interpreted; it is very well done and proved to be more suitable for the present purpose than Max Muller's more scholarly one which was made direct from the Sanskrit original text.
There is no knowledge as to its author nor as to the date of its composition, but it must have been written about the beginning of the Christian era. It is the ninth section of a much larger treatise entitled: Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra. It is very metaphysical and difficult reading, but has always been very highly valued by Buddhist scholars. Apparently the text had become more or less confused long before the Chinese translations were made, so that in its present form there is little progressive unfolding of the theme. The Truth is there but it takes a scholar to dig it out. In this Version, the editor interprets its theme to be: The observance of the Six Paramitas in the light of the fundamental Dharma of emptiness and egolessness. With this in mind the Sutra has been rearranged and divided into sections and freely interpreted. To bring its
teaching into clear and emphatic notice, quotations have been made from THE AWAKENING OF FAITH SUTRA to provide definitions of the Paramitas and they have been inserted near the head of each section.
As explained in the Preface to the Self-realisation of Noble Wisdom, this Sutra was greatly used from the very beginning by the founders of the Zen Sect concurrently with the LANKAVATARA, but because of the greater difficulties of the latter, it gradually displaced it, and after the Tenth Century was almost exclusively used as its chief Sutra. Its chief teaching that all phenomenal things and definitive ideas are subjective and a manifestation of one's own mind, that even the Scriptures are "empty," largely explains the characteristic tenets of the Zen Sect:
"A special transmission outside the Scriptures;
No dependence upon words and letters;
Direct pointing to one's deepest consciousness;
Seeing into one's nature and the attainment of Buddahood."
The Sutra teaches, according to Max Muller, "In contradistinction to the fallacious phenomena, there is the true essence of mind. Underlying the phenomena of mind, there is an unchanging principle." This is true, but the Sutra also teaches that all good disciples should practice the Paramitas in the light of it.