Vastness & Engagement: Exploring the Diamond Sutra

Coming out of a few weeks of conversation about foundational themes in the Buddhist systems called Mahāyāna, or “Great Vehicle,” we look at one of the most important and beloved texts of the Mahāyāna school known as the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā), the Diamond Sutra (vajracchedikā sūtra). I’m reading through it slowly, in Red Pine’s ch’an/zen-oriented translation, and reflecting on some of the themes it suggests, especially in relation to social action and the path of Engaged Buddhism.


Meditation: breathing in and out kindness (3.20.18)

Talk: Beginning to orient toward the Diamond Sutra, looking at the gorgeous, ancient image of Indra’s Web, and the vastness of View that it implies. [Recording cut off last few minutes of talk; sorry!] (3.13.18)


Meditation: With pūja, visualizing interdependence, breathing with the trees (3.27.18)

Talk: Continuing with the beginning of the Diamond Sutra. Some history and context, then the opening chapters about the role called bodhisattva and the Great Vow these beings make. Vastness and interdependence. The existential teaching of Not-self and the ancient question about the nature of existence. How bodhisattvas engage with the infinite. (3.27.18)


Meditation: Brightening awareness as the heart of meditation practice. Oriented toward beginners. (4.3.18)

Talk: The spectrum of practice between renunciation and engagement. How liberation practice oscillates between letting go and leaning in. (4.3.18)


Meditation: on balancing the inward and outward breaths as a somatic metaphor for internal/self and external/others awareness.

Talk: A discussion of some of the early history of the Bodhisattva ideal, and its evolution as a formal path of practice. The issue is important because it describes the relationship between ideas of individual vs collective and systemic liberation. (4.10.18)


Talk: A conversation with senior practitioner, writer, and teacher Jason Espada, who has practiced deeply with the (Prajñāpāramitā) teachings. I give an overview of the Bodhisattva Vow, and then we touch on the importance of the wisdom teachings in relation to the core ethical and meditative aspects of the path, and the relation of these teachings to social action and activism. (4.17.18)


Talk: We look at an idea about the nature of the mind and sense of self that’s deeply resonant with Buddhist and Yogic ideas about who we are and what perception is: that the mind makes a virtual model of the world in order to move through it most accurately. I reference this article about the work of neuroscientist Thomas Metzinger on virtual reality experiments. (4.24.18)


Moving ahead, we’ll start looking at specific social action issues (racism, patriarchy, etc.) through a contemplative inquiry lens rooted in ideas about bodhisattva practice and the nature of the “self” as a distributed phenomenon. Onward!