Home » Excerpts » Throwing Away the Four Notions in the Diamond Sutra

People in the world tend to believe in one of two views:
the view of being or the view of non-being.
That is because they are bound to wrong perception.

– The Buddha (The Sutra on the Middle Way)

The Middle Way between the illusions of being and non-being
is the truth of constant change (Anicca) and non-self (Anatta).
Not realising so leads to suffering (Dukkha).

– Stonepeace

In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha Talks about four notions that affect all our views and perceptions. These four notions need to be thrown away. The first notion we need to throw away is the notion of self. There is the idea that i am this body, this body is me or, this body is mine and it belongs to me. We say these things based on the notion that “I am.” But a better statement would be, “I inter-am.” It’s closer to the truth in the light of interconnectedness; we see there is no separate self that can exist by itself. You cannot exist without your parents, your ancestors, food, water, air, earth, and everything else in the cosmos. By looking deeply into the nature of reality, we can throw away the notion “I am.”

The second notion the Diamond Sutra advises us to throw away is the notion of person or human being. When we look into the human being, we see animal ancestors, we see plant and mineral ancestors. A human is made of non-human elements. If we take away the non-human elements, the human being would no longer be there. This is the oldest teaching on deep ecology. In order to protect the human being, you have to protect what is not human. Discriminating between human and nature is a wrong view. The third notion is that of living beings. We distinguish living beings from non-living beings. We distinguish humans and animals from plants and minerals. But looking deeply into living beings, we see elements that we call non-living beings: plants and minerals. You can see that plants and minerals are also alive. After meditation we see there’s no real frontier separating living beings and so-called non-living beings.

The fourth notion to be thrown away is the notion of life span. We believe that we’re born at one point in time, that we shall die at another point in time, and that in between is our life span. Most of us believe we’ll spend sevety, eightly, nnety, one hundred years on this planet and then we’ll be gone. But when we look deeply, we see this is a wrong perception. In our mind, to be born means that from nothing we become something, to die means that from something we become nothing; and from someone we become no one. But a cloud can’t be born; it has come from the water in the rivers and oceans, and dust and the heat of the sun have helped create it. A cloud can never die; it can only become rain or snow. A piece of paper can’t be born; it’s made of trees, the sun, the cloud, the logger, and the worker in the paper factory. When we burn a piece of paper, the paper is transformed into heat, ash, and smoke; it cannot be reduced to nothingness. Birth and death are notions that cannot be applied to reality. These four notions are at the foundation of our fear, discrimination, and suffering. When we are able to see them as wrong views, ignorance and suffering will no longer touch us. We’ll no longer suffer because of our wrong views.

Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way
by Thich Nhat Hanh
Get it at Awareness Place shops or Amazon

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