Rating: 4 out of 5.

Although I think most people associate Buddhism with India, it has also historically had a strong presence in China, and it is because of China that The Diamond Sutra ended up on my reading list. When I picked it up, the only thing I knew about it was that a copy of it was the oldest existing printed book. The information at the front informed me that it was a Buddhist text, and that it was going to tell me about enlightenment. With that, I went into one of the shortest books I’ve read in a very long time.

Buddhism, like the Bhagavad Gita, is said to be closely related in many ways to Christianity’s New Testament, but while I didn’t gather much of that from the Bhagavad Gita, I definitely heard those echoes while reading The Diamond Sutra. It reminded me of nothing so much as a New Testament parable formatted like a Socratic dialogue. The text is supposed to be a conversation between the Buddha and Subhuti (apologies to anyone who is more familiar with Buddhism if I’m referencing or explaining things incorrectly), regarding how to attain a state of what I would describe as non-entity.

While easy enough to read, it was definitely not easy to understand, full of apparent contradictions and initially obvious statements that are upon further reflection completely opaque. I suspect that I would have to learn more about Buddhism as a whole, and work with these ideas for much longer, before I could really appreciate what is being said herein.

There isn’t really a lot else for me to say. This was an interesting read, and very quick, but I personally found it less interesting than the other historical works that I’ve been consuming over the past year or so. If it weren’t for the interest of it being the oldest printed book, I doubt if I’d have chosen to read it, and unless you are more deeply conversant with Buddhism than I am, I don’t know that you’ll get a lot out of it, either. Still, it is short, so it can’t hurt to give it a try.

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