Buddha Pronounces the Sutra of Neither Increase Nor Decrease, 佛說不增不減經
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Sūtra 14 (posted 04/2008, revised 04/2016)  Book information on Home page

佛說不增不減經
Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Neither Increase Nor Decrease

Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Northern Wei Dynasty
by
The Tripiṭaka Master Bodhiruci from India

Thus I have heard:
    At one time the Bhagavān was staying on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, near the city of Rājagṛha, together with 1,250 great bhikṣus and a boundless multitude of Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, in numbers beyond reckoning. In the huge multitude, Śāriputra the Wise rose from his seat, came to the Buddha, and bowed down at His feet. He then stepped back and sat on one side. Joining his palms, he said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, for ages without a beginning, sentient beings have been transmigrating, through the four modes of birth in saṁsāra, along the six life-paths in the Three Realms of Existence, suffering endlessly. World-Honored One, does this mass of sentient beings, or ocean of sentient beings, increase and decrease? I cannot understand this profound meaning. If someone asks me about this, how should I answer?”
    The World-Honored One told Śāriputra, “Very good! Very good! You can ask me about this profound meaning because you want to bring stability to all sentient beings, to bring peace and joy to all sentient beings, to pity all sentient beings, to help all sentient beings, and to bring comfort and benefits to all sentient beings, such as gods and humans. Śāriputra, if you did not ask the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, about this meaning, there would be many faults. Why? Because, in present and future times, gods, humans, and all other sentient beings would long undergo distress and harm, and lose forever all benefits, peace, and joy.
    “Śāriputra, the enormously wrong view means seeing the realm of sentient beings [sattva-dhātu] increase or seeing the realm of sentient beings decrease. Śāriputra, sentient beings who hold this enormously wrong view are born as if without eyes and willfully walk the evil way in the long night. For this reason, they go down the evil life-paths in their current lives. Śāriputra, the enormously perilous tribulation means one’s obstinate adherence to [the wrong view] that the realm of sentient beings increases or decreases. Śāriputra, those who are obstinate in their wrong adherence willfully walk the evil way in the long night. For this reason, they will go down the evil life-paths in their future lives.
    “Śāriputra, foolish ordinary beings do not know the one dharma realm [dharma-dhātu] in accord with true reality.[1] Because they do not see the one dharma realm in accord with true reality, they elicit wrong views in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or decreases. Śāriputra, when the Tathāgata is in the world, my disciples will not elicit these wrong views. However, over five hundred years after my entering nirvāṇa,[2] there will be many sentient beings who are foolish and senseless. Although they will remove their hair and beards, and don the three Dharma robes to appear as śramaṇas in the Buddha Dharma, they will not have within themselves the virtues of a śramaṇa. Such people are not śramaṇas, but will claim to be śramaṇas. They are not disciples of the Buddha though they will claim to be disciples of the Buddha, saying, ‘I am a śramaṇa, a true disciple of the Buddha.’
    “Such people hold the wrong view of increase or decrease. Why? Because these sentient beings follow the Tathāgata’s sūtras of provisional meaning and do not have the wisdom eye; because they are far from the view of emptiness [of dharmas], which is in accord with true reality; because they do not know in accord with true reality what the Tathāgata has realized since His initial resolve [to attain Buddhahood]; because they do not know in accord with true reality how to train in countless virtuous ways and accumulate merit in order to attain bodhi; because they do not know in accord with true reality the innumerable dharmas acquired by the Tathāgata; because they do not know in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s immeasurable power; because they do not know in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s immeasurable attainments; because they do not believe in the Tathāgata’s immeasurable action range; because they do not know in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s inconceivable, immeasurable command of dharmas; because they do not know in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s countless inconceivable skillful means; because they cannot differentiate in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s immeasurable, different attainments; because they cannot enter into the Tathāgata’s inconceivable great compassion; because they do not know in accord with true reality the Tathāgata’s great nirvāṇa.
    “Śāriputra, foolish ordinary beings do not have the wisdom that comes from hearing the Dharma. When they hear about a Tathāgata’s entering nirvāṇa, they take the wrong view of cessation or extinction. Because of their perception of cessation or extinction, they claim that the realm of sentient beings decreases. Their claim constitutes an enormously wrong view and an extremely grave, evil karma.
    “Furthermore, Śāriputra, from the wrong view of decrease, these sentient beings derive three more wrong views. These three views and the view of decrease, like a net,[3] are inseparable from each other. What are these three views? They are (1) the view of cessation, which means the ultimate end; (2) the view of extinction, which is equated to nirvāṇa; (3) the view that nirvāṇa is a void, which means that nirvāṇa is the ultimate quiet nothingness. Śāriputra, in this way these three views fetter, hold, and impress [sentient beings].
    “From the force of those three views successively arise two more wrong views. These two views and those three views, like a net, are inseparable from each other. What are these two views? One is the view of no desire [to attain nirvāṇa], and the other is the view that ultimately there is no nirvāṇa.
    “Śāriputra, from the view of no desire arise two more wrong views. These two views and the view of no desire, like a net, are inseparable from each other. What are these two views? One is the view in favor of observing useless precepts [śīla-vrata-parāmarśa],[4] and the other is the inverted view,[5] such as taking impurity as purity.
    “Śāriputra, from the view that ultimately there is no nirvāṇa arise six more wrong views. These six views and the view of no nirvāṇa, like a net, are inseparable from each other. What are these six views? They are the views that (1) the world has a beginning, (2) the world has an end, (3) sentient beings are created by an illusion, (4) there is neither pain nor pleasure, (5) there are no affairs of sentient beings,[6] and (6) there are no noble truths.[7]
    “Furthermore, Śāriputra, from the wrong view of increase, these sentient beings elicit two more wrong views. These two views and the view of increase, like a net, are inseparable from each other. What are these two views? One is the view that nirvāṇa originates births [of sentient beings], and the other is the view that [sentient beings] suddenly come into existence without causes or conditions. Śāriputra, these two wrong views cause the minds of sentient beings to have no desire and no drive to make energetic progress in doing good dharmas. Śāriputra, because these sentient beings hold these two views, even if seven Buddha-Tathāgatas, Arhats, Samyak-Saṁbuddhas, successively appeared in the world to expound the Dharma to them, it would be impossible for them to generate the desire and drive to make energetic progress in doing good dharmas. Śāriputra, these two views—the view that nirvāṇa originates births [of sentient beings] and the view that [sentient beings] suddenly come into existence without causes and conditions—are the roots of afflictions arising from ignorance.
    “Śāriputra, these two views are a dharma[8] of extremely evil, enormous fundamental troubles. Śāriputra, from these two views arise all other wrong views. All other wrong views and these two views, like a net, are inseparable from each other. All views include various kinds of views, whether internal or external, whether coarse, fine, or in between.
    “Śāriputra, the two wrong views—the view of increase and the view of decrease—depend on the one realm, identify with the one realm, and unite with the one realm. Because foolish ordinary beings neither know nor see the one realm in accord with true reality, they entertain extremely evil, enormously wrong views in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or that the realm of sentient beings decreases.”
    Then Śāriputra the Wise asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is meant by ‘the one realm,’ which caused You to say, ‘Because foolish ordinary beings neither know nor see the one realm in accord with true reality, they entertain extremely evil, enormously wrong views in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or that the realm of sentient beings decreases.’ Very good! World-Honored One, this meaning is too profound for me to comprehend. I pray that the Tathāgata will explain to me, to make me comprehend it.”
    Then the World-Honored One told Śāriputra the Wise, “This profound meaning is in the realm of a Tathāgata’s wisdom, and in the action range of a Tathāgata’s mind. Śāriputra, even using their wisdom, no voice-hearer or Pratyekabuddha can know, see, or observe such profound meaning. Much less can any foolish ordinary being fathom it. Only the wisdom of Buddha-Tathāgatas can know, see, and observe this meaning. Śāriputra, using their wisdom, all voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas can only believe this meaning out of respect, but they cannot know, see, or observe it in accord with true reality. Śāriputra, this profound meaning is the highest truth [paramārtha], and the highest truth is the realm of sentient beings. The realm of sentient beings is the Tathāgata store [tathāgata-garbha], and the Tathāgata store is the dharma body [dharma-kāya].[9] Śāriputra, the dharma body, as I have explained its meaning, is not separate, not detached, not split, and not different from a Tathāgata’s merit and wisdom, nor from the inconceivable Buddha Dharma [with teachings] more numerous than the sands of the Ganges.
    “Śāriputra, as an analogy, a lamp is not separate or detached from its light, color, and touch. As another analogy, a precious jewel is not separate or detached from its luster, color, and shape. Śāriputra, likewise is the dharma body as the Tathāgata has explained its meaning. It is not separate, not detached, not split, and not different from a Tathāgata’s merit and wisdom, nor from the inconceivable Buddha Dharma [with teachings] more numerous than the sands of the Ganges.
    “Śāriputra, the dharma body is a dharma of no birth and no death, neither of the past nor of the future, because it is apart from the two opposites. Śāriputra, it is not of the past because it is apart from the time of birth; it is not of the future because it is apart from the time of death. Śāriputra, a Tathāgata’s dharma body is permanent because it is a dharma of no change and a dharma of no end. Śāriputra, a Tathāgata’s dharma body is eternal because it is an ever-available refuge and because it is equal [in all Buddhas and sentient beings][10] throughout all time. Śāriputra, a Tathāgata’s dharma body is tranquil because it is a dharma free from duality and a dharma free from differentiation. Śāriputra, a Tathāgata’s dharma body never changes because it is a dharma of no destruction and a dharma of no action.
    “Śāriputra, when this dharma body, fettered by endless afflictions more numerous than the sands of the Ganges, for ages without a beginning follows the world, drifts along with [its ocean] waves, and shuttles between birth and death, it is called a sentient being.
    “Śāriputra, when this dharma body, tired of the suffering of repeated birth and death in the world, abandons all desires and pursuits, and trains to attain bodhi by practicing the ten pāramitās and going through the 84,000 Dharma Doors [dharma-paryāya],[11] it is called a Bodhisattva.
    “Furthermore, Śāriputra, when this dharma body has passed all suffering in the world and left behind the fetters and filth of all one’s afflictions, it reveals its purity and abides in pure dharma nature [dharmatā] on the opposite shore,[12] arriving on the ground that all sentient beings wish for. Because it has achieved the unsurpassed understanding of all states of realization, is free from all hindrances[13] and obstructions, and has acquired the power of freedom in the midst of all dharmas, it is called a Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. Therefore, Śāriputra, not apart from the realm of sentient beings is the dharma body; not apart from the dharma body is the realm of sentient beings. The realm of sentient beings is the dharma body; the dharma body is the realm of sentient beings. Śāriputra, these two dharmas with different names have the same meaning.
    “Furthermore, Śāriputra, as I said before, there are three dharmas[14] in the realm of sentient beings. They are true suchness [bhūta-tathātā], with no difference or distinction. What are these three dharmas? They are (1) the Tathāgata store’s pure dharma nature, which is innately coherent [sambaddha] with the Tathāgata store’s original state; (2) one’s afflictions that sheathe one’s Tathāgata store, which are innately incoherent [asambaddha] with one’s Tathāgata store’s original state; (3) the Tathāgata store’s existence, which has the nature of being changeless throughout all time.[15][16]
    “Śāriputra, know that the Tathāgata store’s pure dharma nature being innately coherent with the Tathāgata store’s original state is in accord with true reality and is not false. It is an inconceivable dharma, not separate or detached from the dharma realm of wisdom, purity, and true suchness. Since the origin without a beginning, this pure and coherent dharma nature has always been existent. Śāriputra, in accord with the dharma realm of purity and true suchness, I pronounce to sentient beings this inconceivable dharma of the inherent pure mind [prakṛti-pariśuddha-citta].
    “Śāriputra, know that the impure dharma of one’s afflictions that sheathe one’s Tathāgata store has always been separate from, detached from, and incoherent with one’s Tathāgata store’s original state. It can be eradicated only by a Tathāgata’s bodhi wisdom [when one becomes a Buddha]. Śāriputra, in accord with this inconceivable dharma realm of incoherent afflictions that sheathe the Tathāgata store, I pronounce to sentient beings this inconceivable dharma of one’s inherent pure mind, tainted by one’s visitor-like afflictions [āgantuka kleśa].[17]
    “Śāriputra, know that the Tathāgata store’s existence being changeless throughout all time is the root of all dharmas, provides all dharmas, possesses all dharmas, and is not separate or detached from the true reality of all dharmas. It sustains all dharmas and encompasses all dharmas. Śāriputra, in accord with this inconceivable pure dharma realm, a permanent, tranquil, and changeless refuge with neither birth nor death, I say that it [the dharma realm] is called sentient beings. Why? Because ‘sentient beings’ is a different name for a permanent, tranquil, and changeless refuge with neither birth nor death, and for the inconceivable pure dharma realm. Based on this meaning, in accord with that dharma, I say that it is called sentient beings.[18]
    “Śāriputra, these three dharmas are true suchness, with no difference or distinction. Relying on these three dharmas, which are true suchness, with no difference or distinction, one never elicits the two extremely evil, wrong views. Why not? Because one sees dharmas in accord with true reality. As for the view of increase and the view of decrease, Śāriputra, Buddha-Tathāgatas forever stay far away from these two wrong views. They are denounced by Buddha-Tathāgatas.
    “Śāriputra, if, among bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, there are those who hold either or both of these two wrong views, Buddha-Tathāgatas are not their World-Honored Ones. These people are not my disciples. Śāriputra, by holding these two wrong views, they will go from gloom into gloom, from dark into dark. I say that they are called icchantikas. Therefore, Śāriputra, you now should study this teaching to transform sentient beings, enabling them to stay away from these two wrong views and stay on the right path.[19] Śāriputra, you should study other such teachings to stay away from these two wrong views and stay on the right path.”
    After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, Śāriputra the Wise, bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, as well as Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas and the eight classes of Dharma protectors—gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, and mahoragas—together with humans, nonhumans, and all others in the multitude greatly rejoiced. They all believed in and reverently carried out His teachings.

Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Neither Increase Nor Decrease
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T16n0668)


Notes


    1. See “true reality (bhūta-koṭi)” defined in the glossary’s “true suchness.” (Return to text)
    2. Attaining nirvāṇa means attaining bodhi; entering nirvāṇa means entering parinirvāṇa. See “parinirvāṇa” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    3. A net is used in different contexts as different analogies. It is well known that the god-king Indra’s net (Indra-jāla), made of jewels, adorns his palace. In fascicle 2 of text 1484 (in 2 fascicles), the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Brahma Net, after observing the jeweled nets adorning Brahma-kings’ palaces, the Buddha says that countless worlds are like the eyes of a net (T24n1484, 1003c14–15). Moreover, the Huayan School of China holds that as manifestations of the one mind, all dharmas are like mutual reflections of the jewels of Indra’s net, all reflections reflecting one another, forming endless reflections (Rulu 2014, 19). However, text 1484 should be distinguished from the Brahmajāla-sutta in the Pāli Canon, whose Chinese counterpart is text 21 (T01n0021) in the Chinese Canon. In text 21, the word net (jāla) means dragnet, a snare that catches all wrong views, and the Buddha discusses the sixty-two views held by non-Buddhists and praises the true Dharma (saddharma). Here, net means a dragnet made of wrong views. (Return to text)
    4. See “the view in favor of observing useless precepts” in the glossary’s “afflictions.” (Return to text)
    5. See “inversion” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    6. The affairs of sentient beings are transmigration in the Three Realms of Existence. (Return to text)
    7. See Four Noble Truths in the glossary. (Return to text)
    8. See “dharma” in the glossary. As the word dharma means “anything” (mental, physical, or event), anything can be labeled as dharma, such as the dharma of drinking, the dharma of a river, and the dharma of a sentient being. Other examples in a later passage are “a dharma of no change and a dharma of no end.” If dharma in certain contexts clearly means doctrine or teachings, it is translated as such or capitalized. (Return to text)
    9. See “dharma body” in the glossary’s “three bodies of a Buddha.” (Return to text)
    10. The term “equal dharma body” (pingdeng fashen 平等法身) means that all Buddhas and all sentient beings have “the same” dharma body throughout all time. This term appears in many texts. For example, text 962, the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Dhāraṇi of the Jewel Siddhi for Attaining Buddhahood, states that “the one dharma that all sentient beings and all Tathāgatas have is the equal dharma body . . . because things and the principle are equal [the same], like the open sky that always abides in one appearance [the appearance of no appearance], without any differences” (T19n0962, 0335b21–23); text 1666, the earlier of the two Chinese versions of A Treatise on Eliciting Faith in the Mahāyāna, states that “the dharma realm in one appearance is a Tathāgata’s equal dharma body” (T32n1666, 0576b13); text 1924, a Chinese treatise on śamatha and vipaśyanā, states that “all sentient beings and all Buddhas have the [same] one pure mind, which is the Tathāgata store, the equal dharma body” (T46n1924, 0649a1). (Return to text)
    11. Dharma Door (dharma-paryāya) means the teachings of the Buddha. The Sanskrit word paryāya means course, and is translated into Chinese as door because teachings provide an entrance into attaining bodhi. As Dharma Door is the general term for all teachings of the Buddha, as a figure of speech 84,000 different Dharma Doors are available to serve the needs of sentient beings of different capacities. (Return to text)
    12. The opposite shore is that shore of nirvāṇa, opposite this shore of saṁsāra. (Return to text)
    13. See “three kinds of hindrances” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    14. The three dharmas describe the nature of the Tathāgata store. From The Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra [Discerning the jewel nature: A Mahāyāna treatise on higher tantra], a Sanskrit text edited and published by E. H. Johnston (1885–1942) in 1950, Jikido Takasaki 高崎直道 (1926–2013) cites in his book A Study on the Ratnagotravibhāga (Uttaratantra) these three dharmas (Takasaki 2014a, 39):
          (1) anādisāṁnidhya-saṁbaddhasvabhāva-śubhadharmatā;
          (2) anādisāṁnidhyāsaṁbaddhasvabhāva-kleśakośatā;
          (3) aparāntakoṭisama-dhruvadharmatā-saṁvidya-mānatā. (Return to text)
    15. The phrase “throughout all time” is an interpretation of the Sanskrit phrase “at both ends” (aparāntakoṭi). Takasaki translates this third dharma as “. . . the existence [saṁvidyamānatām] of the Essential Nature [dharmatā] as eternal and the ultimate limit of the world [aparāntakoṭi-sama], . . . ” (Ibid., 268). (Return to text)
    16. The first dharma means that the Tathāgata store is not empty because it is one’s inherent pure mind; the second dharma means that the Tathāgata store is empty because one’s afflictions that sheathe it are empty; the third dharma means that the Tathāgata store is existent and changeless throughout all time. (Return to text)
    17. See note 39 in Sūtra 51 on this website. (Return to text)
    18. In a preceding passage, the Buddha says, “The realm of sentient beings is the Tathāgata store, and the Tathāgata store is the dharma body.” After explaining why the dharma body, which has neither birth nor death, is called a sentient being, a Bodhisattva, or a Tathāgata, He says, “The realm of sentient beings is the dharma body.” Here, based on the three dharmas that describe the nature of the Tathāgata store, He says that the dharma realm is the realm of sentient beings. This is a conclusion that the realm of sentient beings neither increases nor decreases. (Return to text)
    19. See Eightfold Right Path in the glossary. (Return to text)

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