I will bring to nirvana the total amount of living beings, every single one numbered among the ranks of living kind: those who were born from eggs, those who were born from a womb, those who were born through warmth and moisture, those who were born miraculously, those who have a physical form, those with none, those with conceptions, those with none, and those with neither conceptions nor no conceptions. However many living beings there are, in whatever realms there may be, anyone at all labelled with the name of ‘living being,’ all these will I bring to total nirvana, to the sphere beyond all grief, where none of the parts of the suffering person are left at all. Yet even if I do manage to bring this limitless number of living beings to total nirvana, there will be no living being at all who was brought to their total nirvana.
Why is this so? Because, Subhuti, if a bodhisattva were to slip into conceiving of someone as a living being, then we could never call them a bodhisattva."
Notes: The above is Chapter Six of the Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, or ‘Diamond Cutter Perfection of Wisdom Discourse’). Subhuti was a senior monastic disciple of Buddha; a bodhisattva (‘being-of-enlightenment’) vows to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment, and is the highest mode of existence for a Buddhist.