At that time, the venerable Subhuti then asked the Buddha, "World-Honored One, may I ask you a question again? If sons or daughters of a good family want to develop the highest, most fulfilled and awakened mind, if they wish to attain the Highest Perfect Wisdom, what should they do to help quiet their drifting minds and master their thinking?"
The Buddha replied:
"Subhuti, a good son or daughter who wants to give rise to the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind must create this resolved attitude of mind: 'I must help to lead all beings to the shore of awakening, but, after these beings have become liberated, in truth I know that not even a single being has been liberated.'
Why is this so? If a disciple cherishes the idea of a self, a person, a living being or a universal self, then that person is not an authentic disciple. Why? Because in fact there is no independently existing object of mind called the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind."
"What do you think, Subhuti? In ancient times, when the Buddha was living with Dipankara Buddha, did he attain anything called the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind?"
"No, Most Honored One. According to what I understand from the teachings of the Buddha, there is no attaining of anything called the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind."
The Buddha said:
"You are correct, Subhuti. In fact, there does not exist any so-called highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind that the Buddha attains. Because if there had been any such thing, Dipankara Buddha would not have predicted of me, 'In the future, you will come to be a Buddha known as The Most Honored One'. This prediction was made because there is, in fact, nothing to be attained. Someone would be mistaken to say that the Buddha has attained the highest, most fulfilled, and awakened mind because there is no such thing as a highest, most fulfilled, or awakened mind to be attained."
"Subhuti, a comparison can be made with the idea of a large human body. What would you understand me to mean if I spoke of a 'large human body'?"
"I would understand that the lord Buddha was speaking of a 'large human body' not as an arbitrary conception of its being, but as a series of words only. I would understand that the words carried merely an imaginary meaning. When the Buddha speaks of a large human body, he uses the words only as words."
"Subhuti, it is just the same when a disciple speaks of liberating numberless sentient beings. If they have in mind any arbitrary conception of sentient beings or of definite numbers, then they are unworthy of being called a disciple. Subhuti, my teachings reveal that even such a thing as is called a 'disciple' is non-existent. Furthermore, there is really nothing for a disciple to liberate."
"A true disciple knows that there is no such thing as a self, a person, a living being, or a universal self. A true disciple knows that all things are devoid of selfhood, devoid of any separate individuality."
To make this teaching even more emphatic, the lord Buddha continued,
"If a disciple were to speak as follows, 'I have to create a serene and beautiful Buddha field', that person is not yet truly a disciple. Why? What the Buddha calls a 'serene and beautiful Buddha field' is not in fact a serene and beautiful Buddha field. And that is why it is called a serene and beautiful Buddha field. Subhuti, only a disciple who is wholly devoid of any conception of separate selfhood is worthy of being called a disciple."