Brahmajala Sutra (Mahayana)

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For the Theravada text of the same name, see Brahmajala Sutta (Theravada).
Vairocana as described in the Brahmajala Sutra

The Brahmajala Sūtra (traditional Chinese: 梵網經; ; pinyin: Fànwǎng jīng; Japanese pronunciation: Bonmōkyō), also called the Brahma's Net Sutra, is a text of Mahayana Buddhism.[1] It is known alternatively as the Brahmajala Bodhisattva Śīla Sūtra (traditional Chinese: 梵網菩薩戒經; ; pinyin: Fàn Wǎng Púsà Jiè Jīng).

The Brahmajala Sutra is related to the important Huayan school's metaphor of Indra's net.

It is not related to the Brahmajala Sutta of the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism


The sutra is traditionally regarded as having been recorded in Sanskrit and then translated by Kumārajīva in 406, but scholars also speculate that it was written in East Asia by unknown authors in the mid-5th century CE, and is apocryphal.[1][2][3][4] The sutra itself claims that it is the final chapter of a much longer Sanskrit text, but such a text has never been found.[1]


This sutra introduces Vairocana and his relationship to Gautama Buddha. It also states ten major precepts for Bodhisattvas (Chinese: 十重戒) and the 48 minor precepts to follow to advance along the bodhisattva path.

The bodhisattva precepts of the Brahmajala Sutra came to be treated in China as a higher ethic a monastic would adopt after ordination in addition to the prātimokṣa vows. In Japan, the ten precepts came to displace monastic rules almost completely starting with Saichō and the rise of the Tendai.[5]

The name of the sutra derives from the vast net that the god Brahma hangs in his palace and how each jewel in the net reflects the light of every other jewel:

At that time, he [Shakyamuni Buddha] contemplated the wonderful Jewel Net hung in Lord Brahma's palace and preached the Brahmajala Sutta for the Great Assembly. He said: "The innumerable worlds in the cosmos are like the eyes of the net. Each and every world is different, its variety infinite. So too are the Dharma Doors (methods of cultivation) taught by the Buddhas.[6]

The sutra is also noteworthy for describing who Vairocana is as personification of the dharma or Dharmakāya:[6]

Now, I, Vairocana Buddha, am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; on a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Cho, Eunsu. Fanwang jing in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004, Volume One
  2. ^ Buswell, Robert E.; ed. (1990). Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0585349630, p. 8
  3. ^ Muller, Charles, Digital Dictionary of Buddhism: 梵網經
  4. ^ Swanson, Paul (1998). Apocryphal Texts in Chinese Buddhism. T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's Use of Apocryphal Scriptures: In: Arie Van Debeek, Karel Van Der Toorn (eds.), Canonization and Decanonization, Leiden; Boston: Brill, ISBN 9004112464, p. 248
  5. ^ Keown, Damien (2008). "Fang wang ching", in A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 3rd ed. ISBN 0192800620, p. 93
  6. ^ a b c Sutra Translation Committee of the US and Canada (2000). The Brahma Net Sutra, New York

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