Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Long Discourses

21. Brahmā’s Shaking

1. Thus I have heard:[1] One time, the Buddha traveled to Magadha accompanied by an assembly of 1,250 great monks. Wandering among the people, they reached the bamboo grove and stopped to stay at the royal palace.[2]

2. At the time, there was an ascetic named Supriya[3] who had a disciple named Brahmadatta. This teacher and student were always following the Buddha. The ascetic Supriya criticized the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha of monks in countless ways, and his disciple Brahmadatta praised the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha of monks in countless ways. The teacher and his student both felt differently and contradicted each other. Why is that? It was because of their different customs, different views, and different friends.

3. It was then that a group of monks assembled in the meeting hall after soliciting alms to have this discussion: “Amazing and rare are the great miraculous power and majestic virtue possessed by the Bhagavān. He fully knows the intentions and destinations of sentient beings, but the ascetic Supriya and his disciple follow the Tathāgata and the Saṅgha of monks. The ascetic Supriya criticizes the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha in countless ways, and his disciple Brahmadatta praises the Tathāgata, Dharma, and Saṅgha in countless ways. The teacher and his student both feel differently as a result of their different customs, different views, and different friends.”

4. It was then that the Bhagavān overheard the monks having that discussion with his heavenly ear that surpasses the human ear. The Bhagavān emerged from his quiet abode, went to the meeting hall, and sat in front of that large assembly. Although he knew, he still asked them, “Monks, what’s the reason you’ve gathered here in the meeting hall? What are you discussing?”

5. The monks then said to the Buddha, “After soliciting alms, we gathered here in the meeting hall to have this discussion: ‘Amazing and rare are the great miraculous power and majestic virtue possessed by the Bhagavān. He fully knows the intentions and destinations of sentient beings, but the ascetic Supriya and his disciple always follow the Tathāgata and the Sangha of monks. The ascetic Supriya criticizes the Tathāgata, Dharma, and Saṅgha in countless ways, and his disciple Brahmadatta praises the Tathāgata, Dharma, and Saṅgha in countless ways. The teacher and his student both feel differently as a result of their different customs, different views, and different friends.’ We gathered here in the meeting hall to discuss this situation.”

6. The Bhagavān then told the monks, “If someone criticizes the Tathāgata, Dharma, and the Saṅgha in some way, don’t allow yourselves to feel angry and have harmful intent toward them. Why is that? If they criticize me, the Dharma, and Saṅgha of monks and you feel angry and have harmful intent, it’ll result in your own downfall; therefore, don’t allow yourself to feel angry and have harmful intent toward them.

7. “Monks, if someone praises the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, that isn’t enough for you to feel delighted and rejoice. Why is that? If you feel delighted, then it will be your downfall; therefore, you shouldn’t feel delighted. Why is that? These are minor matters of deportment and observing precepts. Ordinary, uneducated people don’t penetrate the [Dharma’s] profound meaning, so they praise only what they see [with their eyes].

Minor Matters of Conduct

8. “What are the minor matters of deportment and observing precepts that ordinary, uneducated people only praise when they see them?

9. “There’s this praise: ‘The ascetic Gautama has ceased killing, desisted from killing, and discarded swords and staves. He feels remorse [for wrongdoing] and compassion for all [living things].’ This is a minor matter of deportment and observing precepts for which ordinary, uneducated people praise the Buddha.

10. “There’s also this praise: ‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded taking what’s not given, ceased taking what’s not given, and doesn’t have any thoughts of stealing.’

11. “There’s also this praise: ‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded lustful desire and purely cultivates the religious life. He simply guards the precepts and doesn’t engage in sexual intercourse. His conduct is pure and clean.’

12. “There’s also this praise: ‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded and ceased false speech. His words being sincere and his statements being true, he doesn’t deceive worldly people.’ … ‘The ascetic Gautama discarded and ceased duplicity. He doesn’t say things here to cause misunderstandings there or say things there to cause misunderstandings here. When there’s conflict, he brings people together. Once they are united, he increases their joy. His words and statements don’t divide those who are unified. His heart is sincere, and he speaks when it’s appropriate.’ … ‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded and ceased harsh speech. If there are crude words that hurt people, increase feelings of resentment, and nurture hatred, he doesn’t use any of those crude words. He always delights people’s mind with skillful words that are desired by many, and people don’t grow tired of hearing them. He only speaks these words.’ … ‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded and ceased fancy speech. He speaks when it’s appropriate, speaks truly, speaks beneficially, speaks about principles, speaks about discipline, and stops speaking otherwise. He only speaks these words.’

13. “‘The ascetic Gautama has discarded and parted with drinking alcohol. He isn’t attached to fragrant flowers, doesn’t watch performances, doesn’t sit on high seats, doesn’t eat at the wrong time, and doesn’t take gold or silver. He doesn’t take care of wives, children, workers, or servants. He doesn’t take care of elephants, horses, pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, or other birds and animals. He doesn’t take care of war elephants, cavalry, charioteers, or infantry. He doesn’t take care of farmland or plant the five grains. He doesn’t bully people with his fists. He doesn’t trick people with weights and scales. He doesn’t buy and sell agreements or negotiate them. He doesn’t take on or touch debts that grow without end. He doesn’t engage in secret plots, doesn’t act differently to people’s faces and behind their backs, and doesn’t act at the wrong time. He takes care of his body and eats as much as fills his stomach. Wherever he goes, his robe and bowl follow him, just as a flying bird’s body has a pair of wings.’ These are minor matters of observing the precepts for which ordinary, uneducated people praise the Buddha.

Wrong Livelihoods

14. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who accept the faithful gifts of others and try to hoard robes, food, and drinks insatiably. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

15. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and work in their own occupations, like planting trees to serve as shelters for demons and spirits. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

16. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and pursue ways of getting benefits like high and wide beds made of ivory and assorted jewels and various embroidered carpets, blankets, and cushions. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

17. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and pursue ways of adorning themselves. They rub their bodies with ghee, wash with perfume, apply fragrant powders, comb their hair with fragrant liquids, wear beautiful flower garlands, dye their eyes dark blue, and paint their faces. They wear metal rings and strings that are clean, look at themselves in mirrors, wear valuable leather shoes, wear pure white over their clothes, and carry parasols, fans, flags, and banners as ornaments. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

18. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who focus on entertainment. They play games on boards with eight squares, ten squares, and a hundred or a thousand squares,[4] entertaining themselves in various ways. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

19. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and just talk about pointless things that obstruct the path. [They discuss] subjects like kings, battles, warhorses, officials, ministers, riding chariots and horses, and enjoying themselves in parks. They have conversations while they lie down, rise, and walk about women’s affairs, clothing, food and drink, and relatives. They discuss the subject of finding treasures in the ocean, too. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

20. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and just pursue wrong livelihoods. They flatter people with beautiful expressions or appear to criticize them, and they pursue profit with profit. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

21. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and just argue with each other. Whether in parks, near ponds, or in meeting halls, they blame each other: ‘I know the sūtras and discipline; you know nothing.’ ‘I’m on the correct path; you’re going down the wrong road.’ ‘Either you put what’s first last, or you put what’s last first.’ ‘I can endure [this]; you aren’t able to endure it.’ ‘Your words aren’t correct.’ ‘If you have any doubts, you should come and ask me; I can answer everything.’ The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

22. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and pursue a messenger’s livelihood. Whether it’s for kings, the king’s ministers, priests, or gentlemen, they relay their messages. They travel from here to there and there to here. They take a message here and deliver it there or take a message there and deliver it here. They might do this themselves or instruct others to do it. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

23. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and just study military strategy and combat. They might train in the use of swords and staves or the bow and arrow. They might fight animals like chickens, dogs, pigs, sheep, elephants, horses, cattle, and camels or fight men and women. They might make different kinds of music using horns and drums, singing and dancing. They might climb poles, perform handstands, and practice various acrobatics. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

24. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path. They make their living with wrong livelihoods such as telling the signs of men and women’s good and bad fortune, their beauty and ugliness, or the signs of livestock. They do this seeking to profit by it. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

25. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path. They make their living with wrong livelihoods. They summon demons and spirits or drive them away with various rites and prayers. In countless ways, they frighten and afflict people. They gather and scatter [people] and cause them pain and pleasure. They can also prevent miscarriages, produce clothing, and make people act like donkeys with spells, or make people blind, deaf, and dumb. They demonstrate these arts with their palms together raised to the sun and moon, and they practice asceticism in pursuit of profit. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

26. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path. They make their living with wrong livelihoods. They might perform spells for people [that cause] illness, chant evil and good spells, and practice medicine with acupuncture, cauterization, and herbs and minerals to cure various ailments. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

27. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path. They make their living with wrong livelihoods. They might perform spells of water and fire, spells for demons, chant warrior spells, elephant spells, and spells for limbs. They might perform spells or make charms for making households peaceful, or they might perform spells to understand [things] burnt by fire or chewed by mice. They might chant from books of discerning death and life, chant from books about dreams, tell fortunes using people’s hands and faces, chant from books of gods, or chant from language books. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

28. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path. They make their living with wrong livelihoods. They make predictions based on the heavens and seasons: “It will rain … it won’t rain … the harvest will be bountiful … the harvest will be poor … many people will fall ill … few will be ill … there’ll be terrible [events] … there’ll be peace.” They might discuss earthquakes, comets, solar and lunar eclipses, stellar occultations and non-occultations and where they will happen, and they’re able to predict them. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

29. “‘There are other ascetics and priests who eat the faithful alms of others and practice teachings that obstruct the path, making their living from wrong livelihoods. They might say, “This country will win; that country is not their equal … that country will win; this country is not their equal.” They divine the fortune and misfortune and discuss the flourishing and demise [of different countries]. The ascetic Gautama doesn’t do such things.’

30. “Monks, these are the minor matters of observing the precepts for which ordinary, uneducated people praise the Buddha.

Views about Past Eons

31. The Buddha told the monks, “Moreover, there’s another teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great, but it’s only the noble disciples who praise this teaching of the Tathāgata’s. What is that profound, subtle, great, and illuminating teaching for which the noble disciples praise the Tathāgata?

32. “Ascetics and priests make diverse and countless statements as they like about past and future eons, and they all enter 62 views by doing so. Making these diverse and countless statements about past and future eons, none of them can go beyond these 62 views.

33. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests make diverse and countless statements as they like about past and future eons and enter these 62 views that they don’t go beyond?

34. “Ascetics and priests each make diverse and countless statements as they like about past eons, and they all enter 18 views. Making these diverse and countless statements about past eons, none of them can go beyond these 18 views.

35. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests make diverse and countless statements as they like about past eons, and enter these 18 views that they don’t go beyond?

Self and World Are Eternal

36. “Ascetics and priests create this eternalist theory about past eons: ‘Self and the world always exists.’ They all enter four views. Regarding past eons, they say that self and the world always exists and don’t go beyond these four views that they enter.

37. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests create eternalist theories about past eons, saying that self and the world always exist, and they don’t go beyond these four views that they enter?

38. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration of mind through which they remember 20 eons of [world] formation and destruction. They say, ‘Self and the world are eternal. This is true, the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I entered a concentration of mind through which I remembered 20 eons of [world] formation and destruction. During that time, sentient beings neither increased nor decreased. They always came together and didn’t scatter. By this, I know: “Self and the world are eternal. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the first view. As a result of this assertion about past eons that self and world are eternal, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

39. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration of mind through which they remember 40 eons of [world] formation and destruction. They say, ‘Self and the world are eternal. This is true; the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I entered a concentration of mind through which I remembered 40 eons of [world] formation and destruction. During that time, sentient beings neither increased nor decreased. They always came together and didn’t scatter. By this, I know: “Self and the world are eternal. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the second view. As a result of this assertion about past eons that self and world are eternal, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

40. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration of mind through which they remember 80 eons of [world] formation and destruction. They say, ‘Self and the world are eternal. This is true; the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I entered a concentration of mind through which I remembered 80 eons of [world] formation and destruction. During that time, sentient beings neither increased nor decreased. They always came together and didn’t scatter. By this, I know: “Self and the world are eternal. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the third view. As a result of this assertion about past eons that self and world are eternal, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

41. “Some ascetics and priests possess quick intelligence and are skilled observers. Using the methods of quick intelligence and observation, they investigate the truth as they see it themselves. Using their own eloquence, they say, ‘Self and the world are eternal.’ This is the fourth view. As a result of this assertion about past eons that self and world are eternal, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

42. “These ascetics and priests make assertion about past eons that self and the world are eternal, and they all enter these four views. [Saying that] self and the world are eternal, they don’t go beyond these four views that they enter.

43. “There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this ground of views thus maintained and thus adhered to, and he also knows its results. The Tathāgata’s knowledge goes beyond this. Although his knowledge is unattached, he attained complete cessation through this detachment. He knows the assembly, cessation, enjoyment, fault, and escape [of this ground of views]. Because of his equal observation and liberation without remainder, he’s called a Tathāgata.

44. “This is that other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata.

Self and World Are Half Eternal and Half Impermanent

45. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata?

46. “Ascetics and priests create this theory about past eons: ‘Self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent.’ As a result of this assertion about past eons that self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent, those ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

47. “At the beginning of this eon of formation, there was a sentient being whose merits ended, whose life ended, and whose practice ended. When their life ended in the Ābhāsvara Heaven, they were born in an empty Brahma Heaven. This being’s mind craved that birthplace and so was born there. It also wished for other sentient beings to be born there, too.

48. “After this sentient being was born according to its craving and wish, there were other sentient beings whose lives, practices, and merits were exhausted. When their lives ended in the Ābhāsvara Heaven, they were reborn in that empty Brahma Heaven. The sentient being who was born there first thought, ‘Here, I am Brahma, Great Brahmā! I appeared spontaneously; it’s impossible that another created me. I know all meanings and scriptures, and I’m sovereign over a thousand worlds. I am the most honored who’s able to transform himself and who’s sublime, supreme, and the father of sentient beings. I was here first by myself, and those other sentient beings came later. I created those sentient beings who came later.’

49. “Those later sentient beings also thought, ‘He is Great Brahmā. He was able to create himself; no other could create him. He knows all meanings and scriptures, and he’s sovereign over a thousand worlds. He’s the most honored who’s able to transform himself and who’s, sublime, supreme, and the father of sentient beings. He was here first by himself, and it was later than we arrived. We sentient beings are his creations.’

50. “After the lives and practices of those brahma sentient beings are exhausted, they are born in the world and gradually grow up. They shave their hair, put on the three Dharma robes, and leave home to cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind and become aware of their past births as a result of that concentration. They say, ‘That Great Brahmā was able to create himself; no other could create him. He knows all meanings and scriptures, and he’s sovereign over a thousand worlds. He’s the most honored who’s able to transform himself and who’s sublime, supreme, and the father of sentient beings. Everlasting and unchanging is that Brahmā who created us, but we are impermanent, changing, and unable to last long. Therefore, it should be known: “Self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is called the first view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons [that self and world are] half eternal and half impermanent, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

51. “Some sentient beings are playful and lazy. Countless are the games with which they entertain themselves. While they enjoy their games, their bodies are exhausted, and they forget themselves. As they forget themselves, their lives end, and they are reborn in the world. They gradually grow up, shave their hair, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, and cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind through which they become aware of their past births. They say, ‘Those other sentient beings who didn’t frequently entertain themselves with games exist eternally in their abodes, everlasting unchanging. As a result of my frequent games, I came to this impermanent state that’s subject to change. Therefore, I know: “Self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the second view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons [that self and world are] half eternal and half impermanent, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

52. “Some sentient beings forget themselves after watching each other one after the other. As a result, they’re born in the world when their lives end. They gradually grow up, shave their hair, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, and cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind through which they became aware of their past births. Then they say, ‘Those sentient beings that don’t forget themselves while watching each other one after the other are everlasting and unchanging. We frequently watched each other and forgot ourselves after doing so. As a result, we’ve come to this impermanent state that’s subject to change. Therefore, I know: “Self and the world is half eternal and half impermanent. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the third view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons [that self and world are] half eternal and half impermanent, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

53. “Some ascetics and priests possess quick intelligence and are skilled observers. With their quick intelligence and observation, they use their own eloquence to say, ‘Self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the fourth view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons [that self and world are] half eternal and half impermanent, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

54. “These ascetics and priests create the theory about past eons that self and the world are half eternal and half impermanent. They all enter these four views and don’t go beyond them.

55. “There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this ground of views thus maintained and thus adhered to, and he also knows its results. The Tathāgata’s knowledge goes beyond this. Although his knowledge is unattached, he attained complete cessation through this detachment. He knows the assembly, cessation, enjoyment, fault, and escape [of this ground of views]. Because of his equal observation and liberation without remainder, he’s called a Tathāgata.

56. “This is that other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata.

Self and the World Are Limited and Limitless

57. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata?

58. “Ascetics and priests create this theory about past eons: ‘Self and the world are limited and limitless.’ As a result of creating this theory about past eons that self and the world are limited and limitless, those ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

59. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration mind through which they examine the world and perceive that it has limits. They then say, ‘This world has limits. This is true; the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I entered a concentration of mind through which I examined the world and its limits. Therefore, I know: “The world has limits. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the first view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons that self and world have limits, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

60. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration of mind through which they examine the world and perceive that it’s limitlessness. They then say, ‘This world is limitless. This is true; the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I’ve entered a concentration of mind through which I examined the world and its limitlessness. Therefore, I know: “This world is limitless. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the second view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons that self and world are limitless, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

61. “Some ascetics and priests use various methods to enter a concentration of mind through which they examine the world. They take the upward direction to have a limit and the four directions to be limitless. They then say, ‘This world has a limit, and it’s limitless. This is true; the rest is false. Why is that? Using various methods, I’ve entered a concentration of mind through which I examined the world. I observed that the upward direction has a limit and that the four directions are limitless. Therefore, I know: “The world has a limit, and it’s limitless. This is true; the rest is false.”’ This is the third view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons that self and world are limited and limitless, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

62. “Some ascetics and priests possess quick intelligence and are skilled observers. With their quick intelligence and observation, they use their own eloquence to say, ‘Self and the world are neither limited nor limitless. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the fourth view. As a result of creating this theory about past eons that self and world are neither limited nor limitless, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

63. “These ascetics and priests create the theory regarding past eons that self and the world are limited and limitless. They all enter these four views and don’t go beyond them.

64. “There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this ground of views thus maintained and thus adhered to, and he also knows its results. The Tathāgata’s knowledge goes beyond this. Although his knowledge is unattached, he attained complete cessation through this detachment. He knows the assembly, cessation, enjoyment, fault, and escape [of this ground of views]. Because of his equal observation and liberation without remainder, he’s called a Tathāgata.

65. “This is that other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata.

Equivocations

66. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata?

67. “Ascetics and priests equivocate about past eons. When asked at different times, they have different answers, and they enter four views. As a result of equivocating about past eons, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

68. “Some ascetics and priests create theories such as this and form views like this: ‘I don’t see or know that there are good and bad results or that there aren’t results [to actions]. Not seeing or knowing it, I would say, “Are there results that are good and bad, or are there no results?” The world has ascetics and priests who are broadly learned, clever, and wise. They always enjoy quietude, eloquence, and subtlety. They’re honored by the world and skillfully discern views with wisdom. Suppose they were to question me about this profound subject; I wouldn’t be able to answer them. I’d be ashamed of that. Fearing that happening, I’ll use this answer as my refuge, island, home, and ultimate path.’

69. “When they’re questioned, they will answer, ‘This matter is thus … this matter is true … this matter is different … this matter isn’t different … this matter is neither different nor not different.’ This is the first view. As a result of this type of equivocation, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

70. “Some ascetics and priests create theories such as this and form views like this: ‘I don’t see or know that there is another world or that there isn’t another world. The world’s ascetics and priests perceive it with their heavenly eye and use the knowledge of other minds to see distant things as though they were nearby, which other people don’t see. They might know if there’s another world or isn’t another world, but I don’t know or see that there’s another world or that there’s no other world. If I were to say either, that would be false speech. I dislike and fear false speech, so I’ll make that [answer] my refuge, island, home, and ultimate path.’

71. “When they’re questioned, they will answer, ‘This matter is thus … this matter is true … this matter is different … this matter isn’t different … this matter is neither different nor not different.’ This is the second view. As a result of this type of equivocation, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

72. “Some ascetics and priests form views like this and create theories such as this: ‘I don’t know or see what’s skillful and what’s unskillful. How can I thus say “this is skillful” or “this is unskillful” when I don’t know or see it? Craving arises in me regarding this, and anger arises from the craving. Having craving and anger, then I’d be subject to birth. I wanted to cease being subject [to birth], so I left home to cultivate myself. To be subject to that is terrible, so I’ll take this [answer] to be my refuge, island, home, and ultimate path.’

73. “When they’re questioned, they will answer, ‘This matter is thus … this matter is true … this matter is different … this matter isn’t different … this matter is neither different nor not different.’ This is the third view. As a result of this type of equivocation, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

74. “Some ascetics and priests are foolish and dull-witted. When others question them, they answer according to what others say. ‘This matter is thus … this matter is true … this matter is different … this matter isn’t different … this matter is neither different nor not different.’ This is the fourth view. As a result of this type of equivocation, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these four views.

75. “These ascetics and priests equivocate regarding past eons. They all enter these four views and don’t go beyond them.

76. “There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this ground of views thus maintained and thus adhered to, and he also knows its results. The Tathāgata’s knowledge goes beyond this. Although his knowledge is unattached, he attained complete cessation through this detachment. He knows the assembly, cessation, enjoyment, fault, and escape [of this ground of views]. Because of his equal observation and liberation without remainder, he’s called a Tathāgata.

77. “This is that other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata.

The World Has No Cause

78. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great and which causes the noble disciples to truly and equally praise the Tathāgata?

79. “Some ascetics and priests say about past eons that this world arose without cause, and they all enter two views. As a result of saying about past eons that this world arose without cause, they don’t go beyond these two views.

80. What are the reasons those ascetics and priests say about past eons that [the world] exists without cause and don’t go beyond these two views?

81. “Some sentient beings have no perception or awareness. If those sentient beings produce perception, then they are reborn in the world when their lives end. They gradually grow up, shave their hair, put on the three Dharma robes, leave home, and cultivate the path. They enter a concentration of mind through which they become aware of their past births. They say, ‘I didn’t exist in the past, but now suddenly I exist. This world didn’t exist before, but now it does. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the first view. As a result of saying about past eons that [the world] exists without cause, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these two views.

82. “Some ascetics and priests possess quick intelligence and are skilled observers. With their quick intelligence and observation, they use their own eloquence to say: ‘This world exists without a cause. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the second view. As a result of saying about past eons that [the world] exists without cause, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these two views.

83. “These ascetics and priests [say] about past eons [that the world] exists without a cause. They all enter these two views and don’t go beyond them. There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this … same as before.

84. “Ascetics and priests make diverse and countless statements as they like about past eons, and they all enter these 18 views. Making these diverse and countless statements that they make as they like about past eons, none of them go beyond these 18 views. There’s only the Tathāgata that knows this … same as before.

Views about Future Eons

85. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great? Ascetics and priests make countless and diverse statements as they like about the future eons, and they all enter 44 views by doing so. Making these diverse and countless statements about future eons, they don’t go beyond these 44 views.

86. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests make countless and diverse as they like about future eons, entering 44 views that they don’t go beyond?

87. “Some ascetics and priests create theories regarding future eons, claiming that the world will have perception. They all enter 16 views about future eons by doing so. Theorizing about future eons that the world will have perception, they don’t go beyond these 16 views.

88. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests create theories regarding future eons that the world will have perception, and none of them go beyond these 16 views?

The World Will Have Perception

89. “Some ascetics and priests create such theories and such views as this: ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with form and perception. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the first view. As a result of this theory regarding future eons that the world will have perception, ascetics and priests don’t go beyond these16 views.

90. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born without form and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

91. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with and without form and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

92. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without form and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

93. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with limits and perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

94. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born without limits and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

95. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with and without limits and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

96. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without limits and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

97. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with only happiness and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

98. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with only suffering and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

99. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with both happiness and suffering and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

100. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with neither happiness nor suffering and with perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

101. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with a single perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

102. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with diverse perceptions. This is true; the rest is false.’

103. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with a little perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

104. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with measureless perception. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the sixteenth view.

105. “Some ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they will be born with perception and the world will have perception, and they don’t go beyond these 16 views. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

The World Won’t Have Perception

106. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great…? Ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born without perception and claim that the world will have no perception. They all enter eight views about future eons by doing so. Creating theories of birth without perception, they don’t go beyond these eight views.

107. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born without perception and claim the world won’t have perception, entering eight views that they don’t go beyond?

108. “Some ascetics and priests create this view and this theory: ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with form and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

109. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born without form or perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

110. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with and without form and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

111. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without form and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

112. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with limits and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

113. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born without limits or perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

114. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born with and without limits and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

115. “Some say, ‘After this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without limits and without perception. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the eighth view.

116. “If ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born without perception and the world won’t have perception, then as a result they’ll all enter eight views and won’t go beyond them. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

The World Will Have Neither Perception Nor No Perception

117. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great…? Some ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born with neither perception nor no perception and claim that the world will have neither perception nor no perception. They all enter eight views about future eons by doing so. Creating theories of birth with neither perception nor no perception and claiming that the world will have neither perception nor no perception, they don’t go beyond these eight views.

118. “What are the reasons those ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born with neither perception nor no perception and claim the world will have neither perception nor no perception, entering eight views that they don’t go beyond?

119. “Ascetics and priests create such a theory and form such a view as this: ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born with form and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

120. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born without form and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

121. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born with and without form and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

122. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without form and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

123. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born with limits and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

124. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born without limits and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

125. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born with and without limits and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’

126. “Some say, ‘When this life ends, I’ll be born neither with nor without limits and neither perception nor no perception. This is true; the rest is false.’ This is the eighth view.

127. “If ascetics and priests create theories about future eons that they’ll be born with neither perception nor no perception and claim the world will have neither perception nor no perception, then as a result they’ll all enter eight views and won’t go beyond them. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

Annihilationist Theories

128. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great…? Some ascetics and priests create annihilationist theories about future eons and claim sentient beings will be annihilated without remainder. They all enter seven views about future eons by doing so. Creating annihilationist theories about future eons and claiming that sentient beings will be annihilated without remainder, they don’t go beyond these seven views.

129. “What are the reasons that those ascetics and priests create annihilationist theories about future eons and claim that sentient beings will be annihilated without remainder, entering seven views that they don’t go beyond?

130. “Some ascetics and priests create such a theory and form such a view as this: ‘My body of four elements and six senses was born from parents, fed milk, and raised, grew larger with clothes and food, and it’s caressed, hugged, and protected. Still, it’s impermanent and sure to decay and die. That’s precisely what’s called “annihilated.”’ This is the first view.

131. “Some ascetics and priests say this: ‘Here, I won’t be called annihilated. In the desire realm heavens, I’ll be annihilated without remainder. That’s precisely what’s called “annihilated.”’ This is the second view.

132. “Some ascetics and priests say this: ‘I won’t be annihilated here; my body will be conjured in the form realm with faculties that are perfect, and it’ll be annihilated without remainder. This is “annihilation.”’

133. “Some say, ‘I won’t be annihilated here; I’ll be annihilated in the formless abode of emptiness.’

134. “Some say, ‘I won’t be annihilated here; I’ll be annihilated in the formless abode of consciousness.’

135. “Some say, ‘I won’t be annihilated here; I’ll be annihilated in the formless abode of nothingness.’[5]

136. “Some say, ‘I won’t be annihilated here; I’ll be annihilated in the formless abode of neither perception nor no perception.’ This is the seventh annihilation and the seventh view.

137. “As a result of saying about future eons that these sentient beings will be annihilated without remainder, ascetics and priests enter seven views and don’t go beyond them. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … likewise as before.

Nirvāṇa in the Present Life

138. “Again, what’s the other teaching that illuminates what’s profound, subtle, and great…? Some ascetics and priests create theories about future eons and Nirvāṇa in the present life, saying that sentient beings will have Nirvāṇa in the present. They all enter five views about future eons by doing so. Creating theories about future eons and Nirvāṇa in the present life, they don’t go beyond these five views.

139. “What are the reasons that ascetics and priests claim about future eons that sentient beings will have Nirvāṇa in the present life, entering five views that they don’t go beyond?

140. “Some ascetics and priests form this view and this theory: ‘Here in the present life, I partake of the five desires and indulge myself. This is the Nirvāṇa that I’ve attained in the present.’ This is the first view.

141. “Again, some ascetics and priests say this: ‘This is Nirvāṇa in the present, nothing else is. Again, there’s Nirvāṇa in the present life that’s sublime and supreme. You don’t know of it; only I know it. I’ve departed from desire and bad and unskillful things. With perception and contemplation, that seclusion gave rise to joy and happiness, and I entered the first dhyāna. This is called Nirvāṇa in the present life.’ This is the second view.

142. “Again, some ascetics and priests say this: ‘This is Nirvāṇa in the present, nothing else is. Again, there’s Nirvāṇa in the present life that’s sublime and supreme. You don’t know of it; only I know it. I ceased perception and contemplation. With inner joy, unified mind, and the absence of perception and contemplation, concentration gave rise to joy and happiness, and I entered the second dhyāna. This is called Nirvāṇa in the present life.’ This is the third view.

143. “Again, some ascetics and priests say this: ‘This is Nirvāṇa in the present, nothing else is. Again, there’s Nirvāṇa in the present life that’s sublime and supreme. You don’t know of it; only I know it. I eliminated thought, discarded joy, and abided in happiness, equanimity, mindfulness, and a unified mind. I personally knew happiness as it’s declared by noble people and entered the third dhyāna. This is called Nirvāṇa in the present life.’ This is the fourth view.

144. “Again, some ascetics and priests say this: ‘This is Nirvāṇa in the present, nothing else is. Again, there’s Nirvāṇa in the present life that’s sublime and supreme. You don’t know of it; only I know it. As my happiness and suffering ceased, it eliminated my prior sorrow and joy. Feeling neither pain nor pleasure, I was equanimous, mindful, and pure, and I entered the fourth dhyāna. This is called the supreme Nirvāṇa.’ This is the fifth view.

145. “If ascetics and priests create these theories about future eons and Nirvāṇa in the present life, they don’t go beyond these five views. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

146. “Some ascetics and priests make countless and diverse statements as they like about future eons, and they all enter these 44 views and don’t go beyond them. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

147. “Some ascetics and priests make countless and diverse statements as they like about past and future eons, and they all enter these 62 views by doing so. Making these diverse and countless statements about past and future eons, they don’t go beyond these 62 views. There’s only the Buddha who can know this … same as before.

The Net of Views

148. “Some ascetics and priests create eternalist theories and say that self and the world are eternal. Those ascetics and priests regarding this possess the knowledge of [past] births, which is caused by a different faith, different desire, different learning, different relations, different understanding, different view, different concentration, and different tolerance. Because it rarely occurs, it’s called an attainment … each ground of views is the same up to Nirvāṇa in the present life.

149. “Ascetics and priests create eternalist theories and say that the world is eternal. As a result of being conditioned by that ascertainment, they produce and give rise to craving, but they aren’t aware of it themselves. Being defiled and attached to craving, they submit to those cravings… each ground of views is the same up to Nirvāṇa in the present life.

150. “Some ascetics and priests create eternalist theories about past eons and say that the world is eternal. They do so as a result of being conditioned by contact. It would be impossible for them to establish their theories unless they were conditioned by contact… each ground of views is the same up to Nirvāṇa in the present.

151. “Some ascetics and priests each speak according to their views about past and future eons. They all enter these 62 views by doing so. They each speak according to their views, and they all depend on those views, which they don’t go beyond.

152. “It’s like a fisherman who covers the top of a small pond with a fine-meshed net. He knows that whatever kind of aquatic life in the pond that enters his net won’t have a way to escape and won’t go beyond it.

153. “Ascetics and priests are likewise. They make diverse statements about past and future eons, and they all enter these 62 views and don’t go beyond them.

154. “If monks really know the accumulation, cessation, enjoyment, fault, and escape of the six contacts, that’s the supreme escape from those views. The Tathāgata himself knows that his birth and death has ended. Those who have bodies do so because they desire the merits to be liberated as gods or humans. If they have no body, then gods and worldly people have no basis for that. They then are like a palm tree that’s been cut at its root; it doesn’t grow anymore. The Buddha is likewise; he has ended birth and death and won’t be born again.”

The Sūtra’s Title

155. When the Buddha spoke this teaching, this great realm of a thousand worlds quaked and shook in six ways. At that moment, Ānanda was behind the Buddha fanning him. He bared his right shoulder and knelt with his palms together. He said, “This teaching is profound! What’s its name? How should it be accepted and remembered?”

156. The Buddha told Ānanda, “This sūtra should be called the ‘Shaking of Meaning,’ ‘Shaking of the Teaching,’ ‘Shaking of Views,’ ‘Shaking of Māra,’ and ‘Shaking of Brahmā.’”[6]

157. When Ānanda heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.

Notes

  1. Direct parallels include DN 1 and an alternate Chinese translation, T 21. The Chinese title is translated as “Brahmā’s Shaking” (梵動), which suggests that the Sanskrit equivalent was Brahmacāla rather than Brahmajāla. [back]
  2. This was in the capital of Magadha, Rājagṛha. [back]
  3. The Chinese translates his name as “Good Thought” (善念). The alternate translation (T 21) transliterates his name as “Supi” (須卑) and a Tibetan translation bears a similar meaning to Skt. *Supriya (P. Suppiya).[back]
  4. The Chinese is obscure, but it seems to correspond to descriptions checkered game boards in Theravāda commentaries (DA. I. p.85), which are termed “aṭṭhapadaṃ dasapadaṃ”. These Pali terms refer to game boards with eight and ten squares to a side. [back]
  5. Nothingness. Skt. ākiṃcanya, P. ākiñcañña. The Chinese translation (不用處) literally means “abode of no function,” presumably meaning that no phenomena exists there to produce any activity.[back]
  6. This version of the Brahma’s Net Sūtra is unique in called itself the “Brahma’s Shaking Sūtra,” even though it contains the metaphor of the fishing net that’s the inspiration for the sūtra’s title in other traditions. Perhaps it refers instead to the earthquake that causes Ānanda to ask about its title. As I noted above, it also would have been a simple change in pronunciation from jāla (net) to cāla (motion) to change the title to this meaning.[back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 1 February 2021