Moraga, Calif. October 19, 2017. BDK America announces publication and immediate availability of The Brahmā's Net Sutra, translated by A.Charles Muller and Kenneth K. Tanaka.

The volume includes the primary text that articulates practitioner precepts from a Mahayana perspective. 


See full catalog listing here.


BDK America is delighted to bring this translation to a wider audience. The work is especially important because it includes the first known set of instructions with advice to "bodhishattva practitioners," a term that includes lay practitioners. The work shows that many devout Buddhists lived and worked everyday lives. That is, they followed major Buddhist precepts without renouncing the world.

Composed in China around 420, the Brahmā’s Net Sutra is based on various contemporary Mahayana and Hinayana vinaya writings and includes extensive discussion of indigenous Chinese moral concepts such as filial piety, etc. The text is based in the same mainstream Mahayana thought of the Flower Ornament Sutra (Huayan jing), the Nirvana Sutra (Niepan jing), and the Sutra for Humane Kings (Renwang jing).

From the Translators' Introduction

In their translation from the Chinese, A. Charles Muller and Kenneth K. Tanaka stress the importance of the work, and note the following:

The study of vinaya materials is of great importance in Buddhist studies, and not simply because these works define the code of behavior for monks, nuns, and laypeople. They also provide, in a way seen in almost no other genre in the Buddhist canon, a snapshot of the historical realities of society in given periods of Buddhist history, especially revealing how Buddhist practitioners, both lay and monastic, interacted with their societies. The vinayas, and especially the discourse seen in this sutra, show monastic and lay Buddhist practitioners engaged at every level of society, from top to bottom. Buddhist practitioners were involved in military affairs, political intrigues, matchmaking, and every other sort of “mundane” social activity. The vinaya texts reveal how the Buddhist community in a certain age judged and dealt with such matters.

This Text and the Three Baskets

The Brahmā's Net Sutra has long been associated with the collection of Buddhist writings known as vinaya. Vinaya is one of the three baskets (tripiṭaka) of the Buddhist canon, and relates primarily to monks and nuns and rules and advice for managing a monastic life. The other two baskets are for sutras (learned discourses from the Buddha) and abhidharma (commentary by Buddhist sages). 

The translators, however, note that the work is only partially a vinaya text. 

"Presenting the Brahmā’s Net Sutra solely as a vinaya work, however, continues an imbalanced view of the sutra that has been repeated since at least the Sui dynasty (581–618 C.E.). In fact only the second half of the sutra is a vinaya text... The Brahmā’s Net Sutra was written in two fascicles, each radically different in structure, content, theme, grammar, etc., from the other. Because of the extent of these differences many modern scholars consider that the two fascicles were originally two separate works...."

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