Diamond Gathas, Summer Break

Hello!  May this post find you at ease or with a friend nearby to help you through.  Sometimes sitting, sometimes going to a cheap summer movie.  Whatever your poison, whatever your antidote.  May you take up your practice with the fierceness and compassion of a Buddha!

I am coming close to summer retreat and student meetings in Toronto.  I have been busy studying and finishing a paper on the Diamond Sutra and so have not had time to post here.  I don’t expect to post again until later in July.  So please come back and see what arises then!

For now, I am including a small snippet from my paper on Practicing the Diamond Sutra.  This part has to do with composing gathas (four-line stanzas) about it.  Part of this is out of context, since it is only a part of the paper, but hopefully the idea is clear enough – as clear as any of this can be, that is!

Thank you for reading!


Another way of practicing this sutra is to compose gathas about it.  The Buddha tells Subhuti that if someone “grasped but one four-line gatha of this dharma teaching and made it known and explained it in detail to others, the body of merit produced as a result would be immeasurably, infinitely” great.[1]  Which four-line gatha of the Diamond Sutra?  This question is mistaken.  There are only two four line gathas in the Diamond Sutra and they occur in chapters twenty-six and thirty-two, long after the Buddha talks about gathas in chapter eight.  So there must be another way of grasping gathas about the teaching than simply turning to one of these two.  Furthermore, it is important to remember that there is no Diamond Sutra text.  The sutra that we read and understand arises from our translations and interpretations.  It is brought to life by our living, breathing, and practicing it.  And the wisdom teachings that it conveys, these teachings – not the words in some book – give birth to Buddhas and bodhisattvas.  Composing gathas about this is to compose gathas about the Diamond Sutra.

Here are some gathas I have composed that are inspired by my practice of the Diamond Sutra.  Anyone can take up this practice.  Even if you have not read the sutra, you can compose gathas about your everyday ordinary life, which is none other than the way of Buddha!

*          *          *

Practicing enlightenment without thoughts of enlightenment

This is just sitting with live hwadu

Sounding the moktak is discipline, birdsong is concentration

The breath that does not end or begin is the mother of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas

*          *          *

How many walked this path before?

And how many will take it up?

Summer rain washes away all traces

Of Winter’s retreat in quiet places.

*          *          *

The Buddha’s awakening is a non-awakening

Thus we say he is awake!

Can we turn the Dharma-eye on ourselves and say:

We too are awake!  There is no one who is awake!

*          *          *

Give, Give, Give! Practice Charity!

There is no gift to give

No giver and no one to receive

But do not forget there are mouths to feed!

*          *          *

How do we decorate the flower hall?

Make peaceful hearts in times of war?

Feed hungry mouths with empty hands?

Live fully in this world without demands?

*          *          *

How do we decorate the flower hall?

Make peaceful hearts in times of war

Feed hungry mouths with empty hands

Live fully in this world without demands

*          *          *

Take up this sutra and practice it

But do not get caught up in this and that

Before you move you are already there

Just a barefoot Buddha, empty hands, flowing tears

*          *          *

[1] P. 6 of Red Pine’s The Diamond Sutra; Chapter 8 of the Diamond Sutra.

3 thoughts on “Diamond Gathas, Summer Break”

  1. Nice post! Robert Aitken Roshi wrote many gathas (and published some in The Dragon That Never Sleeps). He also phrased the second line as a vow. Here’s an example (that contains birdsong, just like your first verse!):

    When birdsong is loud in the trees
    I vow with all beings
    to put down my work and to listen,
    recreated as song.

    1. Thank you for your comment and for the Gatha from Aitken Roshi! He was truly a shining zen master that called us to practice. I deeply appreciate his writing and teaching!

      And thank you for your posts these past few weeks over at Ox Herding. Not only do they convey the flavors of Korean Buddhism, they are inspiring and to the heart.

      I hope this finds you well today. Until soon, take care.

    2. And as a follow up – you are right to point out the reference to birdsong, although I had not hear this specific use of it in Aitken Roshi. Many of the gathas I wrote above were written after talking with a friend, listening to a Dharma talk, or reading a passage out of the Diamond Sutra. So there are many references that I did not cite or fill in. Indeed – it took many beings to write them, not just one.

      Again – may this find you well! until soon…

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