When it comes to ancient texts, most are familiar with the big names: The Book of Kells, the Gutenberg Bible, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. But one that most people don’t know about is the Diamond Sutra — the world’s earliest dated and printed book.
The messages of this ancient text are just as powerful today as they were a thousand years ago. Here’s how to access the wisdom and transform the power of this sacred sutra.
What Is the Diamond Sutra?
The Diamond Sutra is an ancient Buddhist text discovered in Dunhuang, China in 1900 by a Daoist monk. It was found in a remote oasis on the edge of the Gobi Desert along with an old outpost of the Silk Road.
The Diamond Sutra, along with thousands of other sacred scrolls and artifacts, was hidden in a shrine called The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas.
The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas, or Mogao Grottoes, is over 1,000 years old and is one of the most important Buddhist spiritual sites in China.
The site is a complex of (you guessed it!) one thousand caves dug into a sandstone cliff face. The entire labyrinth is half a mile in length and spans a height of 10 stories. Today, almost half of the caves have collapsed in on themselves or are filled with sand, but many are still accessible to the public.
This mysterious place is the home of some of the most powerful paintings, sculptures, and scriptures in Mahayana Buddhism.
When was the Diamond Sutra printed?
Although the Diamond Sutra wasn’t officially discovered until the 1900s, we do know how long ago it was created.
The Diamond Sutra was printed in 868 CE, during the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong.
Where was the Diamond Sutra printed?
Even though sutras are ancient teachings of the Buddha, who lived and preached in ancient Nepal, the Diamond Sutra was printed in China.
It’s believed that Buddhism found its way to China through the trade routes of the Silk Road.
Where is the Diamond Sutra located?
So, where is this famous sacred text today? The Diamond Sutra currently lives in the British Library and you can even interactively peek through its pages online.
The British Library is a part of the International Dunhuang Project. This international collaboration seeks to make 100,000 manuscripts, paintings, and artifacts from Silk Road sites available to the world via the Internet.
What Is the Diamond Sutra All About?
The Diamond Sutra is one of the most important sacred texts in Mahayana Buddhism. It’s 6,000 words long and tells the story of a conversation the Buddha had with one of his disciples, Subhuti.
In Sanskrit, the Diamond Sutra is called the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, which means, “The Perfect Wisdom that Cuts Like a Thunderbolt.”
We often refer to this sutra in English as the Diamond Sutra, because like a diamond or thunderbolt, the sutra’s wisdom is designed to slice through the materialism of the world to reveal powerful truths. Truths we can access and put to use in our everyday lives.
So, what did the Buddha and Subhuti discuss?
Well, at the time, the Buddha was staying in Anathapindika’s grove with over 1,000 other monks. He and Subhuti proceeded to have a long conversation about a number of topics, including human impermanence and the nature of reality itself.
Pretty deep stuff, huh? Perhaps that’s why the Diamond Sutra is so famous. It’s quite possibly one of the most enigmatic lessons the Buddha taught.
Trained scholars still argue over the true meaning of the Diamond Sutra.
Some say it’s simply the Buddha’s lecture on the transient nature of the world. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is stable or fixed.
But other scholars argue that the true purpose of this sutra is to encourage us not to be bound by any idea at all—even the ones in the Diamond Sutra.
How Can I Use the Wisdom of the Diamond Sutra In My Own Life?
So, what does a 1,000-year-old ancient scripture like the Diamond Sutra have to offer us today?
The lessons from this Buddhist sutra are timeless. Sutras are short passages that communicate powerful spiritual teaching. They’re as relevant and transformative today as they were a thousand years ago.
Deborah King, Author of Mindvalley’s Be A Modern Master Program, explains that sutras are powerful devices for raising your inner consciousness to a higher level.
They are designed to be read and re-read, contemplated, and meditated upon. They can be also used in yoga, spoken, or chanted out loud.
At first glance, they might look like poetry. But after a second or third reading, the truth of the message begins to surface.
An illuminating quote from the Diamond Sutra for meditation
The best way to tap into the ancient power of this sutra is by exploring its passages. Even though this ancient text was originally written in Sanskrit, we have access to English translations to help us tap into its life-transforming messages.
Here is one of the most powerful passages from the Diamond Sutra. Use it in meditation or print it out to put up on your wall. See if you can tap into its deeper meaning.
“So you should view this fleeting world –
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.”