Brahmajāla Sūtra

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Vairocana as described in the Brahmajala Sutra

The Brahmajāla Sūtra (traditional Chinese: 梵網經; ; pinyin: Fànwǎng jīng; Japanese pronunciation: Bonmōkyō), also called the Brahma's Net Sutra, is a Mahayana Buddhist Vinaya Sutra. The Chinese translation can be found in the Taishō Tripiṭaka.[1] The Tibetan translation can be found in Peking (Beijing) Kangyur 256.[2] From the Tibetan it was also translated into Mongolian and the Manchu languages. It is known alternatively as the Brahmajāla Bodhisattva Śīla Sūtra (traditional Chinese: 梵網菩薩戒經; ; pinyin: Fàn Wǎng Púsà Jiè Jīng).

The Brahmajāla Sūtra is related to the important Huayan 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 into Chinese by Kumārajīva in 406. Several scholars assume that it was composed in East Asia by unknown authors in the mid-5th century, and is apocryphal.[3][4][5][6] The sutra itself claims that it is part of a much longer Sanskrit text, but such a text has never been found.[3] [7] Qu Dacheng (pinyin transliteration) or Wut Tai Shing (Cantonese transliteration)[8] suggests that because the contents of the longer Brahmajala Sutra very much resembled the Avataṃsaka Sutra that was already translated, the translators of the Brahmajala Sutra only translated the key differences.[9] Some scholars and many Mahayana monastics believe the sutra is not apocryphal.[10] Amoghavajra, one of the patriarchs of Shingon Buddhism who was fluent in both Sanskrit and Chinese, stated that the Brahmajala Sutra is a part of the Vajrasekhara Sutra that was not translated into Chinese.[11] Ven. Taixu on his study of the Brahmajala Sutra and the Mahayana Yoga of the Adamantine Sea Mañjuśrī Thousand Arms Thousand Bowls Great King of Tantra noted many similarities between the two and therefore the Brahmajala Sutra must have been translated from Sanskrit.[12] Qu Dacheng states that the Brahmajala Sutra whilst not translated by Kumārajīva is unlikely to be apocryphal. Of special interest, Qu notes some of the Brahmajala Sutra's Ten Bodhisattva Bhūmi matches the Mahāvastu, an early Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Mahayana text never translated into Chinese.[13]


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.[14]

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.[15]

The sutra is also noteworthy for describing who Vairocana is as personification of the dharma or Dharmakāya:[15]

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.[15]

Bodhisattva Precepts[edit]

The Brahmajala Sutra has a list of ten major and forty-eight minor rules known as the Bodhisattva Precepts.[16] The Bodhisattva Precepts may be often called the "Brahma Net Precepts" (Chinese: 梵網戒; pinyin: Fànwǎng Jiè), particularly in Buddhist scholarship, although other sets of bodhisattva precepts may be found in other texts as well. Typically, in East Asian Mahayana traditions, only the 10 Major Precepts are considered the Bodhisattva Precepts. According to the sutra, the 10 Major Bodhisattva Precepts are in summary:[17]

  1. Not to kill or encourage others to kill.
  2. Not to steal or encourage others to steal.
  3. Not to engage in licentious acts or encourage others to do so. A monk is expected to abstain from sexual conduct entirely.
  4. Not to use false words and speech, or encourage others to do so.
  5. Not to trade or sell alcoholic beverages or encourage others to do so.
  6. Not to broadcast the misdeeds or faults of the Buddhist assembly, nor encourage others to do so.
  7. Not to praise oneself and speak ill of others, or encourage others to do so.
  8. Not to be stingy, or encourage others to do so.
  9. Not to harbor anger or encourage others to be angry.
  10. Not to speak ill of the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha (lit. the Triple Jewel) or encourage others to do so.

Breaking any of these precepts is described as a parajika (Skt. Unforgivable) offence.[18]


  1. ^ Taisho 1484 is found in Volume 24 of the Taisho Tripitaka."Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō" 大正新脩大藏經 [Taishō Shinshū Tripitaka]. CBETA 漢文大藏經 (in Chinese). This is an index to the Taisho Tripitaka - nb Volume 24 is listed as the last volume in the 律部 or Vinaya Section. Taisho 1484 or the Brahmajala Sutra is located here.
  2. ^ 東京帝國大學法文學部編財團法人齋藤報恩會補助. 西藏大藏經總目錄索引-A Catalogue-Index of The Tibetan Buddhist Canons (Bkah-hgyur and Bstan-bgyur). p. 10,102. on page 10: Chos-kyi rgya-mo, sans-rgyas rnam-par-snan-mdsad-kyis byan-chub-sems-dpahi sems-kyi gnas bsad-pa lehu bcu-pa [Peking (Beijing) Kangyur No.] 256; on page 102: [Peking (Beijing) Kangyur No.] 256 [Taisho] 1484CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b Cho, Eunsu. Fanwang jing in Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004, Volume One
  4. ^ Buswell, Robert Jr. (1990). Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-1253-9., page 8
  5. ^ Muller, Charles, Digital Dictionary of Buddhism: 梵網經
  6. ^ Swanson, Paul (1998). Apocryphal Texts in Chinese Buddhism. T'ien-t'ai Chih-i's Use of Apocryphal Scriptures" in: Debeek, Arie van; Toorn, Karel van der (1998). Canonization and Decanonization. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-11246-4., page 248
  7. ^ Bhikṣuṇī Vinītā (Tseng Vinita) (2010). A Unique Collection of Twenty Sutras in a Sanskrit Manuscript from the Potala Volume I,I. Beijing and Vienna: China Tibetology Publishing House and Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. p. xix. ISBN 9783700169062. "It preserves twelve codices unici, the only extant Sanskrit texts so far; these are sutras no. 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 20. Two sutras among them, no. 4 and 10, have neither Tibetan nor Chinese translations, nor, to the best of my knowledge, any reliable historical record." Although Bhikṣuṇī Vinītā is not talking directly about the Brahmajala Sutra, she makes clear that the surviving extant Buddhist Sanskrit textual record (including surviving extant commentarial references existing in Sanskrit and translated languages) are hardly complete.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  8. ^ "List of Academic Staff". 副教授 is translated as Associate Professor
  9. ^ Wut Tai Shing or Qu Dacheng(屈大成) (May 2007). 從古文本論《梵網經》之真偽 [Using Ancient Texts to Determine the Authenticity or Apocryphalness of the Brahmajala Sutra] (PDF). 普門學報 (trans. to English: Universal Gate Buddhist Journal) (in Chinese) (39): 18. Retrieved 2018-01-02. 此外,大本《梵網經》的內容架構,跟《華嚴經》十分接近。或是《華嚴經》既已譯出,無必要再大花力氣傳譯一相類似的長篇經典... (trans. to Eng:Moreover, the structure (arrangement) of contents of the unabriged Brahmajala Sutra and the Avataṃsaka Sūtra are very alike. In other words, since the Avataṃsaka Sūtra was already translated, (the translator(s)) felt there was no need to commit huge efforts to translate a long sutra with similar contents.)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ Shi Yinguang. 印光法師文鈔 [Ven. Shi Yinguang's Works] (PDF) (in Chinese). p. 69. translated summary The Brahmajala Sutra is BuddhavacanaCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. ^ Wut Tai Shing or Qu Dacheng(屈大成) (May 2007). 從古文本論《梵網經》之真偽 [Using Ancient Texts to Determine the Authenticity or Apocryphalness of the Brahmajala Sutra] (PDF). 普門學報 (trans. to English: Universal Gate Buddhist Journal) (in Chinese) (39): 18. Retrieved 2018-01-02. 還值得一提的,是不空(七○五-七七四)《金剛頂經大瑜伽祕密心地法門義訣》提到廣本《金剛頂經》沒有傳入中土時,指中土《梵網經》乃撮取廣本中較淺易的修行內容,如是不空認為《梵網經》乃密典《金剛頂經》的一部分...(trans. to English : It is also worth noting that Amoghavajra (705-774) in “Instructions on the Gate to the Teaching of the Secret Heart of Great Yoga of the Adamantine Pinnacle Sutra“ stated at the time when the unabridged version of the Vajrasekhara Sutra was not transmitted to China, the Chinese [translation] of the Brahmajala Sutra absorbed the comparatively simpler [Buddhist] cultivation practices found in the unabridged version [of the Vajrasekhara Sutra] and therefore Amoghavajra supposed the Brahmajala Sutra is one part of the tantric text of the Vajrasekhara Sutra…)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Shi Taixu (太虛大師) (2014-11-10). 梵网经与千钵经抉隐 [Revealing [the Connection Between] the Brahmajala Sutra and the Mahayana Yoga of the Adamantine Sea Mañjuśrī Thousand Arms Thousand Bowls Great King of Tantra] (in Chinese). Retrieved 2018-01-02.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ Wut Tai Shing or Qu Dacheng(屈大成) (May 2007). 從古文本論《梵網經》之真偽 [Using Ancient Texts to Determine the Authenticity or Apocryphalness of the Brahmajala Sutra] (PDF). 普門學報 (trans. to English: Universal Gate Buddhist Journal) (in Chinese) (39): 5,18. Retrieved 2018-01-02. p 5:此外,《梵網經》的十地說有取於《大事》,而《大事》從無漢譯本,也反證《梵網經》非漢人偽作。(trans. to English: Moreover, some of the Ten Bodhisattva Bhūmi found in the Brahmajala Sutra came from the Mahāvastu and the Mahāvastu never had a Chinese translation and proves the Brahmajala Sutra was not an apocryphal sutra composed by a Chinese person.) and p 18:《梵網經》多次用到佛性一詞...這詞的出現,已足證明《梵網經》非羅什所譯,但這不代表《梵網經》是偽經。...又經文所提到的新的說法、法數、譯語等,不見於早期譯典,無從抄襲。因此,《梵網經》乃偽作的可能性甚低。 (trans. to English: The Brahmajala Sutra uses the phrase “Buddha-nature” on multiple occasions…this [usage] is enough to certify that it was not translated by Kumārajīva, but this certainly does not mean The Brahmajala Sutra is apocrypha…Also the contents of the sutra mentions new explications, new numerical discourses, new translation usages, etc., these can't be found in earlier translations and as such there is nowhere to extract from. Therefore the possibility for the Brahmajala Sutra to be an apocryphal sutra is very low.)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  14. ^ Keown, Damien (2008). "Fang wang ching", in A Dictionary of Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 3rd ed. ISBN 0192800620, p. 93
  15. ^ a b c Sutra Translation Committee of the US and Canada (2000). The Brahma Net Sutra, New York
  16. ^ Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (bodhisattvaśīla). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 137. ISBN 9780691157863.
  17. ^ Thanh, Minh (2000). "The Brahma Net Sutra". New York: Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada. Archived from the original on June 11, 2011. Retrieved 10 December 2012.
  18. ^ "Brahma Net Sutra:Moral Code of the Bodhisattva". Young Men Buddhist Association of America. Translated by Thanh, Minh; Leigh, P.D. Retrieved 2018-07-15.

Further reading[edit]

  • De Groot, Jan Jakob Maria (1893). Le code du Mahâyâna en Chine; son influence sur la vie monacale et sur le monde laique, Amsterdam: Müller
  • Muller, Charles (2012). Exposition of the Sutra of Brahma´s Net, Sŏul-si (Seul): Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. ISBN 9788994117171
  • Muller, Charles; Tanaka, Kenneth K., trans. (2017). The Brahma’s Net Sutra, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai Amerika
  • Sutra Translation Committee of the United States and Canada (2000). [1]
  • Wut Tai Shing (Cantonese transliteration) or Qu Dacheng (Pinyin transliteration) or 屈大成 (Chinese) (May 2007). [2] 從古文本論《梵網經》之真偽 (in Chinese) (Eng. Trans. of title:Using Ancient Texts to Determine the Authenticity or Apocryphalness of the Brahmajala Sutra), Kaohsiung.
  • Wut Tai Shing (Cantonese transliteration) or Qu Dacheng (Pinyin transliteration) or 屈大成 (Chinese) (March 2007). [3] 從古文獻記載論《梵網經》之真偽 (in Chinese) (Eng. Trans. of title:Using Ancient Accounts to Determine the Authenticity or Aprocryphalness of the Brahmajala Sutra), Kaohsiung.