The Diamond Sutra, like many sutras, begins with the famous phrase "Thus have I heard". In the sutra the Buddha has finished his daily walk with the monks to gather offerings of food and sits down to rest. One of the more senior monks, Subhuti, comes forth and asks the Buddha a question.
What follows is an often repetitive dialogue regarding the nature of perception. The Buddha often uses paradoxical phrases like "What is called the highest teaching is not the highest teaching".
The Buddha is trying to help Subhuti unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality, enlightenment, and compassion. At one notable point the Buddha teaches Subhuti that what makes a Bodhisattva so great is that the Bodhisattva does not take pride in his work to save others, nor is his compassion calculated or contrived. The Bodhisattva practices sincere compassion that comes from deep within, without any sense of ego or gain.
In another section, Subhuti expresses concern that the Diamond Sutra will be forgotten 500 years after it is taught (or, alternatively, during the last 500 years of this era). The Buddha assures Subhuti that well after he is gone there will be some who can grasp the meaning of the Diamond Sutra and put it into practice. This section seems to reflect a concern found in other Buddhist texts that the teachings of the Buddha would eventually fade and become corrupted. A popular Buddhist concept, known as mappo in Japanese, also reflects this anxiety.
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這部經的原題目是玄奘大師所翻譯的《能斷金剛般若波羅蜜經》(梵文 Sanskrit: Vajracchedikāpraj?āpāramitāsūtra)，「金剛」(梵 文 Vajra)有兩種意義：1，閃電：具有極大的快速而又猛烈的威力；2，鑽石：世界上最堅硬、最珍貴、最受人青睞的寶貝。佛教運用Vajra來形容教法的 堅固和能夠破斥外道，而不被外道所破壞。由於人們認虛為實、認假為真，所以頑固地執著自我和外部客觀世界是真實的，由此造作無量無邊的身業、口業、意業， 並且受這三種業力的牽引、拖累，以致長劫地生死輪回，經受不可言狀的種種痛苦，始終無法獲得自由和解脫。那麼，在這「道高一尺，魔高一丈」重重迷障面前， 人們是否就一籌莫展、無能為力了呢？絕對不是的。「道高一尺，魔高一丈」的頑強也有它的剋星，那就是威力無比、變化無窮、神妙莫測、光芒四射的大智慧—— 金剛般若波羅蜜多（sk. Praj?āpāramitā），靠著這無上智慧的指引，就能夠超越欲界、色界、無色界，最終到達涅槃寂靜的彼岸。這就是本經題的深刻涵義。
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