At that time, after listening to this Sutra, Subhuti had understood its profound meaning and was moved to tears.
He said, “What a rare and precious thing it is that you should deliver such a deeply profound teaching. Since the day I attained the eyes of understanding, thanks to the guidance of the Buddha, I have never before heard teachings so deep and wonderful as these. Most Honored One, if someone hears this Sutra, and has pure and clear confidence in it they will have a profound insight into the truth. Having perceived that profound insight, that person will realize the rarest kind of virtue. Most Honored One, that insight into the truth is essentially not insight into the truth, but is what the Buddha calls insight into the truth.”
“Most Honored One, having listened to this Sutra, I am able to receive and retain it with faith and understanding. This is not difficult for me, but in ages to come – in the last five hundred years, if there is a person who hears this Sutra, who receives and retains it with faith and understanding, then that person will be a rare one, a person of most remarkable achievement. Such a person will be able to awaken pure faith because they have ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings, or a universal self. Why? Because if they continue to hold onto arbitrary conceptions as to their own selfhood, they will be holding onto something that is non-existent. It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves, living beings, or a universal self. These are all expressions of non-existent things. Buddhas are Buddhas because they have been able to discard all arbitrary conceptions of form and phenomena, they have transcended all perceptions, and have penetrated the illusion of all forms.”
The Buddha replied:
“So it is, Subhuti. Most wonderfully blest will be those beings who, on hearing this Sutra, will not tremble, nor be frightened, or terrified in any way. And why? The Buddha has taught this Sutra as the highest perfection. And what the Buddha teaches as the highest perfection, that also the innumerable Blessed Buddhas do teach. Therefore is it called the ‘highest perfection’.”
“Subhuti, when I talk about the practice of transcendent patience, I do not hold onto any arbitrary conceptions about the phenomena of patience, I merely refer to it as the practice of transcendent patience. And why is that? Because when, thousands of lifetimes ago, the Prince of Kalinga severed the flesh from my limbs and my body I had no perception of a self, a being, a soul, or a universal self. If I had cherished any of these arbitrary notions at the time my limbs were being torn away, I would have fallen into anger and hatred.”
“I also remember Subhuti that during my five hundred previous lives I had used life after life to practice patience and to look upon my life humbly, as though I were a saint called upon to suffer humility. Even then my mind was free of arbitrary conceptions of the phenomena of my self, a being, a soul, or a universal self.”
“Therefore, Subhuti, disciples should leave behind all distinctions of phenomena and awaken the thought of the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment. A disciple should do this by not allowing their mind to depend upon ideas evoked by the world of the senses – by not allowing their mind to depend upon ideas stirred by sounds, odors, flavors, sensory touch, or any other qualities. The disciple’s mind should be kept independent of any thoughts that might arise within it. If the disciple’s mind depends upon anything in the sensory realm it will have no solid foundation in any reality. This is why Buddha teaches that the mind of a disciple should not accept the appearances of things as a basis when exercising charity. Subhuti, as disciples practice compassion and charity for the welfare of all living beings they should do it without relying on appearances, and without attachment. Just as the Buddha declares that form is not form, so he also declares that all living beings are, in fact, not living beings.”