Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 15: Existence and Inexistence

1. Two Kinds of Views

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove of Śrāvastī.

2. It was then that the Bhagavān addressed the monks, “You should know that there are two kinds of views. What are the two? They are the views of existence and views of inexistence.[1] There are ascetics and priests who, having developed and recited these two kinds of views, never follow their Dharmas and don’t truly understand them. They therefore aren’t ascetics or priests, for those ascetics violate the way of ascetics, and those priests violate the way of priests. Those ascetics and priests[2] entertain themselves with things they never realize for themselves.

3. “There are ascetics and priests who recite and memorize these two kinds of views, but they know to discard them when they truly understand them. These therefore are ascetics who keep to the ascetic practice and priests who know the priestly practice. They entertain themselves with things they’ve realized for themselves. Birth and death is ended, the religious practice is established, and the task is accomplished.[3] They truly know that they won’t be subject to another existence.

4. “Therefore, monks, you shouldn’t cultivate these two kinds of views, nor should you recite them. You should abandoned all of them. Thus, monks, you should train yourselves.”

5. When the monks heard what the Buddha taught, they rejoiced and approved.


  1. views of existence and views of inexistence. C. 有見、無見. The next sūtra gives these two categories some definition. The views of existence involve views about the three realms of existence: desire, form, and formlessness. The views of inexistence refer to the various views about the past and future that are listed in detail in sources like the Brahmajāla Sūtra (cf. DN 1 and DĀ 21). It may seem counterintuitive to call them views of inexistence, but most Buddhist schools besides the Sarvāstivādins considered the past and future to not exist. [back]
  2. Those ascetics and priests. C. 此沙門. I’ve adopted an older reading here that mentions priests too, since the passage lumps both together. The Taisho reading is likely a later omission. [back]
  3. the task has been accomplished. The Taisho reading omits this phrase, but an older reading includes it. I’ve restored it in my translation. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 30 August 2023