Finding The Diamond Sutra

In the Magao caves near Dunhuang,  Aurel Stein found an old book, which was found to have been printed and published on 11 May 868 –  the oldest known printed and dated book.  This is the cover of that book,  now in the collection of the British Library in London.             

It was printed on a thick and continuous roll of paper. The printing was done by preparing wooden blocks and then pressing these blocks on the paper. The book is in the form of a continuous roll of paper about 16 feet long, and contains a full version of the Diamond Sutra. This Sutra is considered by Mahayana Buddhists as perhaps the holiest Sutra preached by Buddha himself.  XuanZang had travelled to India to translate and take away with him the Diamond Sutra and other sutra’s in their original form.


          A page of the sutra: Portrayal of Buddha delivering the Diamond Sutra

A sutra is a sermon spoken by the Buddha. All sutras begin with the phrase, ‘Thus I have heard’, and then describe the place where the sermon was first given. The Diamond Sutra was originally preached in a park in northern India. The first few lines of text here also report that there was a large crowd present, including over a thousand monks. Among them is Subhuti, a follower who asks Buddha to explain to the crowd how to achieve enlightenment. In the first section Buddha explains that learning four lines of this text and teaching them to others would bring Subhuti more merit than if he filled three thousand galaxies with treasure and then gave it all away to the poor.