Sutras

[3] Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Section On Four Kinds Of Clear Instructions On Purity: Third Heavy Precept《楞严经·四种清净明诲章》第三重戒

大佛顶首楞严经》卷第六:四种决定清净明诲章:第三重戒
[The] Great Buddha’s Crown’s Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Sixth Scroll: Section [On] Four Kinds [Of] Clear [And] Definitive Instructions [On] Purity: Third Heavy Precept

【释迦牟尼佛】:「阿难,又复世界六道众生,其心不偷,则不随其生死相续。汝修三昧,本出尘劳。偷心不除,尘不可出。

[Śākyamuni Buddha]: ‘Ānanda [1], again, [if the] six paths’ [2] sentient beings [of] all worlds, [are with] their minds without stealing, then [will they] not follow it [with] births [and] deaths [in] continuous succession [3]. You cultivate Samādhi [4], originally [to] exit dusts’ afflictions [6]. [With] stealing’s mind not eliminated, [these] dusts cannot [be] exited [6].

纵有多智禅定现前,如不断偷,必落邪道。上品精灵、中品妖魅、下品邪人,诸魅所著。彼等群邪,亦有徒众,各各自谓成无上道。

Even if having much wisdom [and] meditative concentration [7] manifesting presently, if not severing stealing, [there will] definitely [be] fall [into] demonic paths [8]. [With those] high grade [becoming] energy[-devouring] spirits, [those] middle grade [becoming] seductive demons [9], [and those] low grade [becoming] demonic humans, [by] all those demons possessed. Those [and] other demonic hordes, likewise have assemblies [of] disciples, [with] each [and every] one self-saying [to have] accomplished [the] unsurpassable path [10] [11] [12].

我灭度后,末法之中,多此妖邪炽盛世间。潜匿奸欺,称善知识,各自谓已得上人法。詃惑无识,恐令失心。所过之处,其家耗散。

After my Parinirvāṇa [13], within [the] Dharma-Ending Age [14], many [of] these evil demons [will] flourish [in the] world. Secretly hiding treachery [and] cheating, claiming [to be] good-knowing friends [15], [with] each self-saying [to have] already attained supreme persons’ Dharma [16]. Deceiving [and] confusing [those] without knowledge, [with] fear enabling [them to] lose [their] minds. Of places that [they] pass [by], their families [will be] dissipated [and] scattered [17].

我教比丘,循方乞食,令其舍贪,成菩提道。诸比丘等,不自熟食,寄于残生,旅泊三界,示一往还,去已无返。

I [have] taught Bhikṣus [18], [to] follow [my] method [to] beg [for] food, [to] enable them [to] renounce greed, [and] accomplish [the] Bodhi [19] path. All Bhikṣus [and] others, [are] not [to] personally cook food, [with] entrusting of [the] rest [of their] lives, [to] travelling [and] wandering [in the] three realms [20]. Manifesting [as a] Once-Returner [21], [having] departed already, without return [22] [23].

云何贼人,假我衣服,裨贩如来,造种种业,皆言佛法?却非出家具戒比丘,为小乘道。由是疑误无量众生,堕无间狱。

How can [these] thieves, falsely [wear] my robes, profit [from] peddling [the] Thus Come [One] [24] [25], create all kinds [of negative] karma, [with] all [that] said [as the] Buddha’s Dharma? Yet slandering [those who have] left [the] household [life to become] Bhikṣus [with] complete Precepts [26], as [those of the] Small Vehicle’s [27] path. Due [to] this confusing [and] misleading immeasurable sentient beings, falling [into] Uninterrupted Hell [28] [29].

若我灭后,其有比丘,发心决定修三摩地,能于如来形像之前,身然一灯,烧一指节,及于身上爇一香炷,我说是人,无始宿债,一时酬毕,长揖世间,永脱诸漏。虽未即明无上觉路,是人于法已决定心。

If, after my Parinirvāṇa, there are Bhikṣus, [who] give rise [to the] mind, [to] decisively cultivate Samādhi, [who are] able [to], before [the] Thus Come [One’s] image, [with their] bodies burn a lamp, burn one finger section [30], and on [their] bodies burn one incense stick [31], I say these persons’ beginningless past debts [32], [will in] one moment [be] repaid completely. [They will] forever bid farewell [to the] world, [and] forever [be] liberated [from] all outflows [33]. Although yet [to] immediately understand unsurpassable awakening’s [34] path, these persons, for [the] Dharma, [will] already [have] decisive minds [35].

若不为此舍身微因,纵成无为,必还生人,酬其宿债。如我马麦,正等无异。

If not with this tiny cause [of] relinquishing [their] bodies, even if accomplishing [the] unconditioned [36], [they] must return [to be] born human, [to] repay their past debts [37]. Like myself [eating] horse wheat [38], exactly [the] same without difference.

汝教世人修三摩地,后断偷盗,是名如来先佛世尊,第三决定清净明诲。

You [should] teach [the] world’s people [who] cultivate Samādhi, later [to] sever stealing, [as this] is named [as the] Thus Come [One’s and] prior Buddha World-Honoured [Ones’] “Third Clear [And] Definitive Instruction [On] Purity” [39].

是故阿难,若不断偷修禅定者,譬如有人,水灌漏卮,欲求其满,纵经尘劫,终无平复。

Therefore, Ānanda, those if not severing stealing, [while] cultivating meditative concentration, for example, [are] like a person, [with] water pouring into [a] leaking cup, desiring [to] seek its fullness. Even if passing dust [motes of] kalpas [40], [in the] end without levelling [it] again [41].

若诸比丘,衣钵之余,分寸不畜。乞食余分,施饿众生。于大集会,合掌礼众。有人捶詈,同于称赞。

If all Bhikṣus, of [that] beyond robes [and] alms bowls [42], [they should be with a] tiny [part of others] not stored [43]. [When with] begged food’s surplus distributing [it], giving [it to] hungry sentient beings [44]. [When] in great gatherings, [with] joined palms prostrating [to] assemblies [45]. [When there] are people beating [and] scolding [them, with these regarded to be the] same as praise [46] [47].

必使身心二俱捐舍,身肉骨血,与众生共。不将如来不了义说,回为己解,以误初学。佛印是人,得真三昧。

If enabling [their] body [and] mind, both together, [to be] donated [and] relinquished [48], [with their] bodies, flesh, bones [and] blood, giving [to] sentient beings together, not using [the] Thus Come [One’s] speaking [of] non-definitive [teachings [49], as] replies for oneself’s justifications, with [them] confusing [those] beginning [to] learn, [the] Buddhas affirm these persons, [will] attain true Samādhi [50].

如我所说,名为佛说。不如此说,即波旬说。」

Such that I [have] spoken, [is] named as Buddhas’ speech. Not such [as] spoken, is Pāpīyāms’ [51] speech [52].’

字汇、小结、注解
Glossary, Summaries And Notes:


[1] Ānanda (阿难): The Buddha’s personal attendant monk, here representing the audience, including us.

[2] Six paths (六道): Realms of hell-beings (地狱众生), hungry ghosts (饿鬼), animals (畜生), human beings (人), asuras (阿修罗) and heavenly beings (天人). (See Note [16])

[3] When thoughts of stealing are eradicated from the mind, there will be no deeds of stealing, and thus no creation of evil karma (恶业) from stealing that binds us to rebirth (轮回).

[4] Samādhi (三摩地): Meditative concentration for progress towards attainment of wisdom.

[5] Dusts’ afflictions (尘劳): Concerns, burdens or labours (劳) of worldly life. There are the six dusts (六尘) of sight (form) dust (色尘), sound dust (声尘), smell dust (香尘), taste dust (味尘), touch dust (触尘) and dharma (thought) dust (法尘). Afflictions (烦恼) are troubles of suffering arising from relating to the six dusts with the three poisons (三毒) of greed (attachment) (贪), hatred (aversion) (嗔) and delusion (ignorance) (痴).

[6] Summary (1): As the Precepts (戒) observed well form the foundation for cultivating Samādhi (三摩地), that leads to wisdom (智慧) for liberation (解脱) from all afflictions (烦恼), breaking this Third Heavy Precept (第三重戒) against stealing makes liberation impossible.

[7] Meditative concentration (禅定): [3] Samādhi (三昧)

[8] Demonic paths (邪道): Paths of becoming (like) malevolent evil ghosts (恶鬼), by possession and/or in person.

[9] Demons (魅;魔): Evil ghosts (恶鬼). The demons taught here can be collectively considered as the demons in the ‘Fifty Aggregates’ Demons Section’《五十阴魔章》, as detailed at the end of this sūtra.

[10] Unsurpassable path (无上道): The way to supreme enlightenment, i.e. the fruit of Buddhahood (佛果).

[11] Self-saying to have accomplished the unsurpassable path (自谓成无上道): This is to break the Fourth Heavy Precept (第四重戒).

[12] Summary (2): If there is much theoretical (but not actual realised) wisdom and practical meditative concentration (禅定), but with breaking of this Precept, due to the strong evil karma (恶业) created, this at best leads to rebirth as demons (魔) with various powers, but never to liberation (解脱). Due to possibly having some remnant good karma (善业), they might be able to lead some minor demons. However, they will mislead themselves and others into thinking they are already Buddhas, (thus creating more evil karma for more suffering to come, keeping liberation even further away).

(True Concentration [定] and true Wisdom [慧] must arise from the Precepts (戒) being truly observed. Otherwise, what manifests as ‘concentration’ or ‘wisdom’ could be from one’s greedy and deluded minds, fooling oneself, and/or from external demons fooling oneself, to mislead one to serve them, and/or to eventually become reborn as one of them.)

[13] Parinirvāṇa (灭度): The Buddha’s relinquishment of his manifested physical form after completing his teachings and fulfilling his karmic affinity with sentient beings in his time.

[14] Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期): This current period of 10,000 years we are in, when the quality of the Right Dharma (正法) being taught, learnt, practised and realised is in general decline.

[15] Good-knowing friends (善知识): Spiritual friends who know and share the good Dharma (善法) with us.

[16] Supreme persons’ Dharma (上人法): Buddhas’ Dharma (佛法)

[17] Summary (3): Such evil beings will become innumerable in this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), who deviously fool the ignorant to be their good spiritual teachers and friends, even claiming to be Buddhas and their true disciples with the Right Dharma (正法), (thus ‘stealing’ enlightened identities and ‘robbing’ others’ spiritual lives. Influencing the foolish to influence more, thus misleading many to also break this Precept). They will also use fear with their deviant teachings to threaten and manipulate followers to lose their minds, families and wealth.

[18] Bhikṣus (比丘): Buddhist monks

[19] Bodhi (菩提): Buddha’s awakening; fruit of Buddhahood (佛果).

[20] Three realms (三界): Desire realm (欲界), form realm (色界) and formlessness realm (无色界). (See Note [2])

[21] Travelling and wandering in the three realms, manifesting as a Once-Returner (旅泊三界,示一往还): To possibly traverse the world-system widely to spiritually benefit many beings, while progressing spiritually to become a Once-Returner (一往还;一往一来) in this life, also called a Sakṛdāgāmin (斯陀含). A Once-Returner will at most be reborn once more in this Desire Realm (欲界), as a human (人) or heavenly being (天人), with less than seven lives towards Arhathood (阿罗汉果). If progressing as a Once-Returner in this life to be a Non-Returner (See Note [22]) in the next life, this will be the very last life in the Desire Realm.

[22] Having departed already, without return (去已无返): After departing from this life as a Once-Returner (一往还), to possibly become a Non-Returner (不还;无返), also called an Anāgāmin (阿那含), in the Pure Abodes (净居天), the highest of the Form Realm (色界) for self-liberation (解脱), to become at least an Arhat (阿罗汉), while furthering spiritual progress as a Bodhisattva (菩萨) towards Buddhahood (佛果), for guiding one and all to the same ultimate goal. Thus, with one ‘departed already’ (去已) from this life, ‘without return’ (无返) as one yet to be liberated.

Regardless of one’s spiritual status in this human life, even if being neither a Once-Returner nor Non-Returner, even if not having any form of enlightenment, all can also aspire to reach Pure Land (净土) directly in the next life, which transcends the Pure Abodes, with the purest of spiritual benefits (such as being able to learn the pure Dharma directly from a Buddha and his pure Saṃgha), through which there will be swiftest self-liberation and progress on the Bodhisattva path to Buddhahood.

[23] Summary (4): To reduce greed, monastics are (originally) not supposed to cook, while seeking alms food (only once) daily, (for only one pre-midday meal). (Ideally, they should seek alms randomly to connect to more laypersons.)

[24] Thus Come One (如来): The Buddha, who ‘as if came’ to be, from awakening of always present Buddha-nature (佛性); potential for Buddhahood.

[25] Profit from peddling the Thus Come One (裨贩如来): Riding upon the ‘brand’ of the Buddha to propagate wrong teachings, while pretending to be Great Masters (大师), Arhats (阿罗汉), Bodhisattvas (菩萨), Buddhas, their manifestations (化身) and messengers to gather fame and fortune.

[26] Complete Precepts (具足戒): Precepts of full ordination as Great Vehicle (Mahāyāna: 大乘) monastics, who aspire for Buddhahood (佛果).

[27] Small Vehicle (小乘): Teachings for those who aspire for Arhathood (阿罗汉果), which is self-liberation (解脱).

[28] Uninterrupted Hell (无间地狱): The lowest and worst hell with uninterrupted suffering for the longest time.

[29] Summary (5): To impersonate as Buddhist monastics is as if to steal and exploit the Buddha’s identity and his robes. Those who do so usually break more Precepts for selfish benefits, thus creating more negative karma in the name of the Buddha’s teachings. To appear genuine, they will slander monastics who abide by the complete Precepts with the aspiration to guide one and all to Buddhahood as those who seek self-liberation only. With such lies that misguide many, they will fall into the worst hell.

[30] With their bodies burn a lamp, burn one finger section (身然一灯,烧一指节): The first practice is the major practice of offering the entire body, with one’s meritorious virtues (功德) offered as ‘incense’ (德香), similar to the practice of Medicine King Bodhisattva (药王菩萨) in the Dharrma [Lotus] Flower Sūtra《法华经》. This is ideally done as compassionate sacrifice to save others selflessly, and should not be mistaken as suicide. It also expresses firm resolution to progress towards Buddhahood for one and all, even at the expense of one’s life.

The second practice is a minor version of the first practice, usually done with the part before the first joint of the little finger of the non-muscle hand, so as to lessen inconvenient usage of that hand later. Both ascetic practices are seldom practised these days. They are done to express and test the power of Samādhi and resolution. For those not ready, if there is regret arising with pain, there will be creating of evil karma instead. Thus, if to be practised, there should be ‘burning off’ (or ‘offering’ away) of mental defilements first, including attachment to the body.

[31] On their bodies burn one incense stick (身上爇一香炷): Usually offered between the forehead and the crown for monastics, and on the forearm for laypersons, forming Precept scars (戒疤), as reminders of their spiritual commitments, expressing refuge (皈依) (in the Triple Gem [三宝]), repentance (忏悔) (for transgressions) and Bodhicitta’s resolution for Buddhahood (发菩提心). (The Triple Gem is with the Buddhas’ gem [佛宝], Dharma gem [法宝] and the Saṃgha gem [僧宝]. The Saṃgha [僧] here refers to the noble [i.e. enlightened] assembly of monastics and laypersons collectively.)

[32] Past debts (宿债): Negative karmic debts to others from the past in this present and/or past lives.

[33] Outflows (漏): Faults flowing out from the three poisons (三毒). (See Note [5])

[34] Unsurpassable awakening (无上觉): Supreme enlightenment of Buddhahood (佛果).

[35] Summary (6): To express determination to cultivate Samādhi, monastics can offer incense on their bodies, offer finger sections or their whole bodies. Doing so will clear past karmic debts instantly, with ability to be liberated from the three poisons. Even if yet to attain Buddhahood, they will definitely do so.

[36] Unconditioned (无为): Buddhahood (佛果), which is no longer conditioned by worldly dharmas (世间法).

[37] Summary (7): If not able to let go of attachment to a small part of the body, even with Buddhahood attained, there must be return to the human world to repay past karmic debts, such like the Buddha did. (See Note [38])

[38] Horse wheat (马麦) incident: According to the ‘Sūtra On Arising Of Practices’《兴起行经》, in a distant past life, when Pípóyè Thus Come One (毘婆叶如来) was in Pántóumóbá city (槃头摩跋城) with 168,000 Great Bhikṣus (大比丘), Śākyamuni Buddha-to-be was the Brahmin (婆罗门) Yīntíqílì (因提耆利) then, the teacher of five hundred young disciples. One day, King Pántóu (槃头) invited the Buddha and his monastics for alms food in his palace. There, the Buddha requested for some food to take back for a sick monk named Maitreya (弥勒) (who later became Maitreya Bodhisattva [弥勒菩萨]), who could not join them.

When the Brahmin smelt the delicious food as they passed by, he became jealous and thought, ‘These Śramaṇas (沙门) with shaven heads should rightly eat horse wheat [i.e. oats], and should not eat this offering of tasty food.’ (此髠头沙门,正应食马麦,不应食此甘馔之供。) He said to his disciples, ‘You and others, do you see these practitioners with shaven heads, who ate tasty food or not?’ (汝等见此髠头道人,食于甘美肴膳不?) To which they all replied, ‘Thus truly as seen. These others, and their teacher, likewise should eat horse wheat.’ (尔实见。此等师主,亦应食马麦。) As a negative karmic result of having such jealousy and ill will towards the enlightened, as expressed in thought and speech, the Brahmin and his disciples passed through hell for innumerable thousands of years.

After the Brahmin became Śākyamuni Buddha (释迦牟尼佛), he was once, with these five hundred disciples reborn, who are now Arhats (阿罗汉), at Anavatapta (阿耨大泉) to enter the rains retreat. They were invited by the Brahmin Agnidattā (阿只达), who was supposed to offer them alms food throughout. However, he was confused by Māra (魔罗) to indulge in sense pleasures behind closed doors, while rejecting all visitors. As there was shortage of food due to famine, it was impossible to seek alms elsewhere.

When a horse breeder came to know this, he offered to share his horse wheat with them for 90 days (over three months). With nothing else to eat but this coarse food, this was the negative karmic effect of their past created evil. As the Brahmin in the past did not think or say that the Buddha should eat horse wheat, (as Buddhas are not shaven bald, but with remaining hair that never grow longer); only saying that the monks (Śramaṇas) should, the Buddha now ate naturally dehulled wheat kernel. As the disciples in the past thought and said that the Buddha should also eat horse wheat, thus having created more negative karma, the Arhats now ate wheat covered with hull.

Such was retribution from their collective karma (共业) and different karma (别业), with similar yet dissimilar effects, despite being already enlightened, albeit to different extents. Of course, the Buddha, being fully enlightened with all-knowing wisdom (一切智), should know how to not give supporting conditions (助缘) for each negative karmic seed to ripen. However, he should had chosen to undergo this incident to illustrate the certain and enduring nature of karma, as a cautionary example and reminder, for all to be mindful of their thoughts, words and deeds in terms of morality. If karma operates in such an exacting manner, even for the perfectly purified Buddha, it surely works likewise for the ignorant and unenlightened like us.

[39] Summary (8): After severing stealing, as taught in the Third Heavy Precept (第三重戒), to cultivate Samādhi, as taught by all Buddhas explicitly and decisively, there should be severing of stealing. (All Buddhas teach in the same way for guiding all to perfect their Precepts, so as to perfect meditative concentration, and to perfect realisation of wisdom. Those who stubbornly reject this teaching by refusing to see its sensibility surely have much passive and/or active greed and delusion over this.)

[40] Kalpas (劫): One world cycle, the time for a world to be formed and destroyed, about 1,334,000,000 years.

[41] Summary (9): To keep stealing, even while cultivating ‘concentration’ for ‘progress’ towards liberation for innumerable kalpas, this is futile.

[42] Robes and alms bowls (衣钵): Basic requisites of monastics, for sheltering the body from the elements, and for containing alms food to sustain the body, both for furthering the spiritual life. To be satisfied with only the bare essentials is part of ascetic practice, eating whatever is ethically offered without discrimination, thus lessening craving. (See the Second Heavy Precept [第二重戒] for more on eating and drinking requirements.)

[43] With a tiny part of others not stored (分寸不畜): This is to ensure there will not be giving rise to greed and complacency with much stored, that also disconnects monastics from laypersons, thus depriving them of more regular opportunities to create merits by making alms food offerings, also depriving them of the Dharma that can be shared upon meeting them.

[44] Giving it to hungry sentient beings (施饿众生): This is to ensure no surplus food is stored or wasted, while practising generosity towards the needy readily.

[45] With joined palms prostrating to assemblies (合掌礼众): This is to practise universal reverence towards everyone since all have Buddha-nature (佛性).

[46] When there are people beating and scolding them, with these regarded to be the same as praise. (有人捶詈,同于称赞): This is to practise seeing pain and pleasure, blame and praise to be equally empty (空) in nature, without permanence (常) and self (我).

[47] Summary (10): Other than their robes and alms bowls, monastics should not keep the slightest of other possessions. Their excess gathered food should be shared with the needy daily. They should express reverence to all. When abused physically and verbally, these should be equanimously seen, as not different from praise.

[48] Body and mind, both together, to be donated and relinquished (身心二俱捐舍): This is to be practised only for those correspondingly ready, part by part. For example, it is possible to donate some parts of the body relatively painlessly when alive now, such as hair, a kidney, bone marrow, part of the liver and blood. Other organ donations are possible medically nowadays upon brain death. However, as ‘brain death’ is not actual death, with the body still alive, the consciousness will still be within the body, thus feeling the pain of being cut up before really dying. Most are thus not ready for this. (See Note [30])

[49] Non-definitive (不了义) teachings: Provisional, conventional, skilful or relative (neyārtha) teachings, that need further explanation, which are the opposite of definitive (了义) teachings, that are ultimate or absolute (nītārtha), not needing further explanation. Confusing of beginners is done by presenting non-definitive teachings as definitive teachings and vice versa, thus increasing one another’s attachment, aversion and delusion, instead of decreasing them. There should only be teaching of the non-definitive as the non-definitive first to beginners, before teaching the definitive as the definitive later to the advanced.

For example, although it is taught to be permissible for monastics to store one (but not two) of up to a hundred different items, if they help to provide for oneself and for advancing on the path of practice (《阿含经》:蓄物可以资身进道。/《萨婆多论》:许百物各可蓄一,但禁余二者。), these are non-definitive teachings, for making exceptions, not to be taken as definitive teachings, for excusing and endorsing one’s greed to accumulate many actually unneeded items. What more definitive as the spirit of these teachings here, is to be satisfied with as little of the material as practically possible, not to ‘satisfy’ oneself with as much as that deemed allowable in the letter.

As another example, ‘form is emptiness’ (色即是空) is an absolute truth (真谛), while ’emptiness is form’ (空即是色) is a relative truth (假谛). Both truths should be understood with balance, not mistaking relative truth as absolute truth, or absolute truth as relative truth, while missing the Middle Truth (中谛).

[50] Summary (11): Those able to give of their bodies and their parts to others, while not misspeaking the non-definitive teachings as definitive teachings to excuse their transgressions to mislead them, will attain true meditative concentration.

[51] Pāpīyāms (波旬): Māra-Pāpīyāms (魔波旬) in full. ‘Pāpīyāms’ is an epithet meaning ‘The Evil One’. ‘Māra’ (魔罗) means ‘Bringer Of Death’. He is the Demon King (魔王), a god ruling the Sixth Desire Realm Heaven (欲界天), as a heavenly demon (天魔). He is also named Namuci (那牟质), which means ‘Non-Releaser’, as he personifies death, which does not allow anyone to escape from its grasp (unless with the Right Dharma [正法] practised in time).

[52] Summary (12): The Buddha is thus unequivocally conclusive on the above, while warning all that any other teachings that counter these are not only non-Buddhist teachings, but are those of the most evil one, capable of harming many sentient beings’ physical and spiritual lives, keeping one another trapped in rebirth. These teachings are not to be compromised for the goal of Buddhahood.

Namo Amituofo : Translation, glossary, summaries and notes by Shen Shi’an

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