Everything You Need To Know About The Ancient Diamond Sutra

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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 transforming 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 an old outpost of the Silk Road.

The Diamond Sutra, along with thousands of other sacred scrolls and artefacts, 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.

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 the Diamond Sutra is to encourage us not to be bound by any idea at all—even the ones in the Diamond Sutra.

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 the Diamond Sutra are timeless. Sutras are short passages that communicate a 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 the Diamond 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.”


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So, what does this passage mean to you? Tell us in the comments below.

Shannon Terrell

Shannon Terrell is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She revels in the thrill of exploration, whether it be new cultures, new landscapes, or new ways to bring on the happy. If she’s not hiking or practicing yoga, she probably has her nose in a book.

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