The early lines of the sutra are taken up with the Buddha discussing with his disciple Subhuti how a bodhisattva should practise. The essence described here is non-discrimination. (But even that's not accurate.)
I'd better quote:
...those bodhisattva mahasattvas will not engage in discriminating a self and will not discriminate a sentient being, will not discriminate a living being, will not engage in discriminating a person.Whoa! Neither discrimination nor non-discrimination. Here is the difficulty of trying to use words to signify the dharmakaya, or the buddha, or phenomena, or anything at all. Better to remain silent! Even the use of the word signify is fraught with difficulty, since one of the "characteristics" of the dharmakaya is signlessness, that is, a state without characteristics.
Subhuti, those bodhisattva mahasattvas will not engage in discriminating phenomena nor discriminating non-phenomena; nor will they engage in discrimination or non-discrimination. Why is that? Subhuti, because if those bodhisattva mahasattvas engage in discriminating phenomena, that itself would be of them grasping a self and grasping a sentient being, grasping a living being, grasping a person. Because even if they engage in discriminating phenomena as non-existent, that would be of them grasping a self and grasping a sentient being, grasping a living being, grasping a person. (Italics added)
But to get back to the existence or non of the Buddha...A few stanzas later, the Buddha compares the bodhisattvas' giving of vast gifts (completely filling this billionfold world system with the seven types of precious things...) with the merit of reciting, explaining and thoroughly teaching even four lines of the Vajra Cutter sutra. The merit produced by that would be incalculably greater.
Why is that? Subhuti, because the unsurpassed perfectly completed enlightenment of the tathagata arhat perfectly completed buddhas arises from it; the buddha bhagavans also are produced from it.I put the word arises in italics. Why? Because that's the key. The Buddha clearly indicates that buddhahood is a dependent arising. In other words, it is in the nature of emptiness or voidness. It neither exists nor does not exist. It arises from a conjunction of causes and conditions.
It is not only the Vajra Cutter that asserts this, now that I think of it. It is a basic teaching of the Mahayana that our ability to develop bodhichitta, the mind of enlightenment, the heart of great compassion, depends on other sentient beings, on the people around us. It's an odd way of phrasing it, but we can't practise in a void. We have to practise with others. We can't become Buddhas without the wing of bodhichitta, and we can't generate bodhichitta without other sentient beings. Therefore, our buddhahood is dependent. In the nature of emptiness.
So all we can say is, it neither exists nor does not exist.
At least, that's the way I see it. And in a future post, I'll contemplate whether I see anything at all.