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A. Charles Muller and Kenneth K. Tanaka


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A portion of this sutra provides scriptural authority for the Mahayana bodhisattva precepts, and as a result the work has been especially esteemed, studied, and circulated for more than a millennium.

Precepts for bodhisattva practitioners in Mahāyāna Buddhism and more


The Brahmā’s Net Sutra is the primary extant vinaya text that articulates a set of precepts from a Mahayana perspective, mainly intended for “bodhisattva practitioners,” primarily householders, rather than renunciant monks or nuns. Before the appearance of this text the monastic rules and regulations in East Asian Buddhism were defined fully by the “Hinayana” vinaya, most importantly the Four-part Vinaya associated with the Dharmaguptaka school in India. With the appearance of the Brahmā’s Net Sutra many East Asian schools diversified their precept practices, with some groups of practitioners taking up either set of precepts, often utilizing both.

Taishō 1484

Volume 44a

The Brahmā’s Net Sutra

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). In fact, the extent of the Brahmā’s Net Sutra’s agreement with the Flower Ornament Sutra is so pronounced that it is regarded as the “concluding sutra” of the latter.


Long thought to be the Skt. Brahmajāla-sūtra translated by Kumārajīva into the Chinese as Fanwang jing (梵網經), the work is now seen within modern scholarship as composed in China around 420, based on various Mahayana and Hinayana vinaya writings available at that time. 2 fascicles.

Translator(s): A. Charles Muller and Kenneth K. Tanaka

Table of Contents

A Message on the Publication of the English Tripiṭaka    NUMATA Yehan   v
Editorial Foreword    Kenneth K. Tanaka    vii
Publisher’s Foreword    A. Charles Muller    ix
Translators’ Introduction    A. Charles Muller and Kenneth K. Tanaka    xvii

The Brahmā’s Net Sutra

Fascicle 1. Exposition of the Brahmā’s Net Sutra [Preface]    3
   Preface to the Brahmā’s Net Sutra by Śramaṇa Sengzhao    3
   The Forty Stages    4
       [Convocation]    4
       Ten Departures for the Destination    6
       Ten Nourishing Mental States     6
       Ten Adamantine Mental States    6
       Ten Grounds    7
   The Ten Departures toward the Destination    8
       1. The Mental State of Detachment    8
       2. The Mental State of Morality    8
       3. The Mental State of Patience    9
       4. The Mental State of Zeal    9
       5. The Mental State of Concentration    10
       6. The Mental State of Insight    10
       7. The Mental State of Making Vows    11
       8. The Mental State of Guarding    11
       9. The Mental State of Joy    12
     10. The Summit Mental State    12
  The Ten Nourishing Mental States    13
       1. The Mental State of Kindness    13
       2. The Mental State of Pity    13
       3. The Mental State of Joy    14
       4. The Mental State of Nonattachment    14
       5. The Mental State of Giving    15
       6. The Mental State of Caring Speech    15
       7. The Mental State of Beneficence    15
       8. The Mental State of Sameness    16
       9. The Mental State of Concentration    16
     10. The Mental State of Insight    16
   The Ten Adamantine Mental States    17
       1. The Mental State of Faith    17
       2. The Mental State of Mindfulness    18
       3. The Profound Mental State    18
       4. The Mental State of Penetrating Illumination    18
       5. The Direct Mental State    19
       6. The Mental State of Nonretrogression    19
       7. The Mental State of the Great Vehicle    19
       8. The Markless Mental State    20
       9. The Mental State of Wisdom    20
     10. The Indestructible Mental State    21
   The Ten Grounds 21
       1. The Ground of the Equality of the Essence 21
       2. The Ground of the Skillful Wisdom of the Essence 23
       3. The Ground of the Luminosity of the Essence 25
       4. The Ground of the Knowability of the Essence 26
       5. The Ground of the Wisdom-illumination of the Essence 28
       6. The Ground of the Floral Radiance of the Essence 29
       7. The Ground of the Completion of the Essential Nature 31
       8. The Ground of the Buddha’s Roar of the Essential Nature 32
       9. The Ground of the Flower Ornamentation of the Essence 34
     10. The Ground of Entry into the Buddha Realm
            of the Essential Nature 35

Fascicle 2. The Precepts
   Preface to the Bodhisattva Precepts of the Brahmā’s Net Sutra 37
   Invocation 38
   The Teaching Transmitted to the Transformation-body Buddhas 38
   Repayment of Kindness and a Separate Iteration of the Teaching 39
   The Exhortation 40
   The Bodhisattva Precepts 41
       The Transmission and Remembrance of the Founding Teacher 41
   Preface to the Formation of the Precepts 42
       Interlocutor’s Preface 42
       The Preface of the World-honored One 42
          The Preface of the Preceptor 42
          The Dharma Preface 43
          The Preface for the Disciples 43
   The Main Sermon 43
          Introduction of the Exhortation to Uphold 43
   The Ten Grave Precepts 44
       1. Prohibition of Killing for Pleasure 44
       2. Prohibition of Stealing Others’ Property 44
       3. Prohibition of the Heartless Pursuit of Lust 44
       4. Prohibition of Intentional Lying 45
       5. Prohibition of the Sale of Alcohol 45
       6. Prohibition of Speaking of the Faults of Others 45
       7. Prohibition of Praising Oneself and Disparaging Others 46
       8. Prohibition of Parsimony and Abuse of Others 46
       9. Prohibition of Holding Resentments and Not Accepting Apologies 46
     10. Prohibition of Denigration of the Three Treasures 47
   Conclusion 47
   The Minor Precepts 48
       Division of Ten Precepts 48
          Precepts Concerning the Guarding of One’s Own Thoughts
             1. Do Not Show Disrespect to Senior Teachers 48
             2. Do Not Drink Alcohol 48
         Protecting Other's Mental Functions
             3. Do Not Eat Meat 49
             4. Do Not Eat the Five Pungent Roots 49
             5. Do Not Fail to Encourage Others to Repent 49
         Reversing and Cultivating the Buddha-dharma
             6. Do Not Fail to Request Instruction in the Dharma from Visiting Teachers 50
             7. Do Not Miss a Chance to Attend Dharma Lectures 50
             8. Do Not Abandon the Great Vehicle and Regress to the Lesser Vehicle 50
         Saving and Protecting Sentient Beings
             9. Do Not Fail to Care for the Ill 51
           10. Do Not Amass Weapons 51
      Division of Ten Precepts 51
         Guarding One’s Own Virtue
           11. Do Not Serve as a Negotiator for the Military 52
           12. Do Not Get Involved in Trade and Business that Causes Trouble for Others 52
           13. Do Not Make Groundless Accusations 52
           14. Do Not Harm Living Beings by Setting Fires 52
         Bringing Others into the Fold and Protecting Them
            15. Do Not Teach Non-Buddhist Doctrines 53
            16. Do Not be Parsimonious with Offering Material Wealth or the Dharma 53
            17. Do Not Seek to Gain Political Influence 54
            18. Do Not Pretend to Be An Accomplished Teacher 54
            19. Do Not Get Involved in Treachery 54
             20. Do Not Fail to Help Both the Living and the Deceased 55
      Division of Ten Precepts 55
          The Shared Cultivation of the Three Karmic Activities
             21. Do Not Be Intolerant of Wrongs Done by Others 56
             22. Do Not Arrogantly Despise Your Dharma Teacher 56
             23. Do Not Despise Beginning Practitioners 57
          Practicing with Those Who Hold the Same Vows
              24. Do Not Fear the Superior and Follow the Inferior 58
          Properly Maintaining the Sangha
              25. Do Not Fail to Properly Fulfill Administrative Duties 58
              26. Do Not Receive Guests Improperly 58
              27. Do Not Accept Personal Invitations 59
              28. Do Not Extend Personal Invitations to Monks 59
           Harmonizing and Polishing the Precepts
              29. Do Not Engage in Improper Livelihood 60
              30. Do Not Hurt People While Feigning Intimacy with Them 60
       Division of Nine Precepts 60
          Making Proper Donations
              31. Do Not Be Lax in Rescuing Vulnerable Articles and People from Harm 61
          Not Doing As One Pleases
              32. Do Not Deviously Confiscate Others’ Property 61
          Avoiding Harmful Influences
              33. Do Not Pass Your Time in Idleness 62
          Advancing in the True Vehicle
              34. Do Not Abandon the Aspiration for Enlightenment 62
          Not Avoiding Making Vows
              35. Do Not Fail to Make Vows 63

          Making Vows
              36. Do Not Fail to Initiate Vows on Your Own 63
          Avoiding Danger
              37. Do Not Intentionally Go to Dangerous Places 65
          Not Creating Confusion
              38. Do Not Take Your Place Out of Order 66
          Profit and Happiness
              39. Do Not Pursue Personal Gain 66
       Division of Nine Precepts 67
          Using Moral Discipline to Gather [Believers] 67
          Gathering in People of Various Capacities
              40. Do Not Err in Terms of Who Can Be Taught 67
          Separating Out Wrong Situations
              41. Do Not Seek Disciples for the Wrong Reasons 68
          Guarding the External
              42. Do Not Give the Precepts to Unsuitable People 70
          Guarding the Internal
              43. Do Not Intenionally Break the Holy Precepts 70
          Showing Respect
              44. Do Not Fail to Revere the Sutras and Vinayas 71
          Teaching By Means of Compassion
                 Being Proactive 71
              45. Do Not Fail to Teach Sentient Beings 71
          Teaching Others
              46. Do Not Preach the Dharma Using Improper Protocol 71
          Warding Off Evil
              47. Do Not Establish Systems that Undermine the Dharma 72
          Maintaining Orthodoxy
              48. Do Not Undermine the Dharma from Within 73
          General Conclusion 73
          Dissemination Section 74
             Concluding Exhortation for Faithful Practice 74

Notes 77
Glossary 81
Bibliography 87
Index 89
A List of the Volumes of the BDK English Tripiṭaka (First Series) 101