Buddha Pronounces the Sutra of Neither Increase nor Decrease
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Northern Wei Dynasty
by The Indian Tripitaka Master Bodhiruci

Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying on the Grdhrakuta Mountain, near the city of Rajagrha, together with a multitude of 1,250 great bhiksus and innumerable, countless Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, in numbers beyond reckoning. At that time, in the huge multitude, Sariputra the Wise rose from his seat, came before the Buddha, and bowed down at the feet of the Buddha. He then stepped back to sit on one side. Joining his palms, he asked the Buddha, "World-Honored One, since time without a beginning, sentient beings have been transmigrating, through the four modes of birth, to and fro along the six life-paths in the Three Realms of Existence, suffering endlessly in life and death. World-Honored One, is this mass of sentient beings, or ocean of sentient beings, increasing or decreasing? I am unable to understand this profound question. How should I answer if someone asks me this question?"

At that time the World-Honored One told Sariputra, "Very good! Very good! You are able to ask me about this profound meaning because you want to give peace to all sentient beings, to give happiness to all sentient beings, to sympathize with all sentient beings, to help all sentient beings, and to give comfort and benefits to all sentient beings such as gods and humans. Sariputra, if you did not ask the Tathagata, the Samyak-Sa?buddha, about this meaning, there would be many faults. Why? Then, in present and future times, gods, humans, and all other sentient beings would long undergo distress and damage and lose forever [the opportunity for] all benefits, peace, and joy.

"Sariputra, the enormously wrong view refers to seeing increase in the realm of sentient beings or to seeing decrease in the realm of sentient beings. Sentient beings that hold this enormously wrong view, because of it, are born without eyes. Therefore, they mistakenly go the evil way in the long night. For this reason, they go down to the evil life-paths in their current lives. Sariputra, the enormous perilous tribulation refers to one's obstinate adherence to the view of increase or decrease in the realm of sentient beings. Sariputra, those who are obstinate in their wrong adherence misguidedly walk the evil way in the long night. For this reason, they will go down to the evil life-paths in their future lives.

"Sariputra, foolish ordinary beings do not see, in accord with true reality, the one dharma realm. Because they do not see, in accord with true reality, the one dharma realm, they invoke the wrong view in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or that the realm of sentient beings decreases. Sariputra, when the Tathagata is in the world, my disciples will not take this view. However, over 500 years after my parinirvana, there will be many sentient beings that are foolish and senseless. Although they will remove their hair and beard, donning the three Dharma robes, to appear as a sramana in the Buddha Dharma, they will not have within themselves the virtuous ways of a sramana. People of this type are actually not sramanas, but they will claim themselves to be sramanas. They are actually not the disciples of the Buddha though they allege to be, saying, 'I am a sramana, a true disciple of the Buddha.'

"People such as these hold the view of increase or decrease. Why? These sentient beings follow the Tathagata's sutras of provisional meaning because they do not have the Wisdom-eye and are far from the view of emptiness in accord with true reality. [Other reasons are] that they do not know, in accord with true reality, what the Tathagata has realized from His initial resolve [for attaining Buddhahood]; that they do not know how to train and learn, in accord with true reality, the immeasurable virtuous ways for realizing bodhi; that they do not know, in accord with true reality, the immeasurable dharmas acquired by the Tathagata; that they do not know, in accord with true reality, the Tathagata's immeasurable power; that they do not know the Tathagata's immeasurable realm; that they do not believe in the Tathagata's immeasurable action field; that they do not know, in accord with true reality, the Tathagata's inconceivable, immeasurable command of dharmas; that they do not know, in accord with true reality, the Tathagata's inconceivable, immeasurable helpful ways; that they are unable to differentiate the Tathagata's immeasurable distinct states; that they are incapable of entering into the Tathagata's inconceivable great compassion; and that they do not know, in accord with true reality, the Tathagata's maha-parinirvana.

"Sariputra, foolish ordinary beings, because they do not have the wisdom developed from hearing the Dharma, adhere to the view of cessation or extinction with respect to the Tathagata's nirvana. Because of their perception of cessation or extinction, they claim that the realm of sentient beings does decrease. This is an enormously wrong view and an extremely grave, sinister karma.

"Furthermore, Sariputra, from the view of decrease, these sentient beings elicit three more views. These three views and the view of decrease, never separated from one another, are like a net. What are these three views? The first is the view of cessation, which means the ultimate end. The second is the view of extinction, which is equated to nirvana. The third is the view of void nirvana, which means that nirvana is ultimately nothingness. Sariputra, so fettering, so gripping, and so contagious are these three views! From the causes and conditions of the force of these three views, two more wrong views in turn arise. These two views and those three, never separated from one another, are like a net. What are these two views? One view is no motivation, and the other is the view of ultimately no nirvana. Derived from the view of no motivation are two more views. These two views and the view of no motivation, never separated from one another, are like a net. What are these two views? One view is that engaging in ascetic practices will lead to the truth, and the other is the inversion view, such as taking impurity for purity.

"Sariputra, from the view that ultimately there is no nirvana, six more views arise. These six views and the view of no nirvana, never separated from one another, are like a net. What are these six views? The first is that the world has a beginning; the second is that the world has an end; the third is that sentient beings are created by an illusion; the fourth is that there is no suffering or happiness; the fifth is that there is no such thing as [transmigration of] sentient beings; and the sixth is that there is no holy truth.

"Furthermore, Sariputra, these sentient beings, from the view of increase, elicit two other views. These two views and the view of increase, never separated from one another, are like a net. What are these two views? One view is that nirvana is created, and the other view is that nirvana suddenly comes about without causes or conditions. Sariputra, these two views cause the minds of sentient beings to have no wish and no drive to progress energetically in good dharmas. Sariputra, even if seven Buddha-Tathagatas, the Samyak-Sambuddhas, successively appeared in the world to pronounce the Dharma to the sentient beings that hold these two views, it would be impossible for them to develop any drive to make diligent progress in good dharmas.

"Sariputra, these two views are the afflictions arising from the roots of ignorance! Such are the view that nirva?a is created and the view that it suddenly comes about without causes or conditions!

"Sariputra, these two views are the extremely evil dharma of enormous fundamental troubles. Sariputra, from these two views arise all the [wrong] views. These two views and all the [wrong] views, never separated from one another, are like a net. All the [wrong] views include various kinds of views whether internal or external, whether crude, subtle, or in-between, whether of increase or decrease. Sariputra, these two views, however, depend on the one realm, share the one realm, and are included in the one realm. Foolish ordinary beings, because they do not know and see, in accord with true reality, the one realm, invoke the extremely evil view in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or that the realm of sentient beings decreases."

At that time Sariputra the Wise asked the Buddha, "World-Honored One, what is meant by one realm? All foolish ordinary beings, because they do not know and do not see, in accord with true reality, the one realm, invoke the extremely evil, enormous wrong view in their minds, saying that the realm of sentient beings increases or that the realm of sentient beings decreases."

Sariputra continued, "Very good! World-Honored One, this meaning is too profound for me to understand. I pray only that the Tathagata will explain to me, to make me understand."

At that time the World-Honored One told Sariputra the Wise, "This profound meaning is in the realm of the Tathagata's wisdom. It is also in the action field of the Tathagata's mind. Sariputra, all voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas are unable to know, to see, or to observe with their wisdom such profound meaning. Much less can all the foolish ordinary beings speculate [about it]. Only the wisdom of Buddha-Tathagatas is able to observe, to know, and to see this meaning. Sariputra, all voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, with all their wisdom, can only believe this meaning out of respect, but they are unable to know, to see, or to observe it in accord with true reality. Sariputra, this profound meaning is in effect the highest truth, and the highest truth is in effect the realm of sentient beings. The realm of sentient beings is in effect the Tathagata store, and the Tathagata store is in effect the dharma body. Sariputra, the meaning of the dharma body, in the Buddha Dharma, explained by me is not apart, not removed, not severed, and not different from the inconceivable virtue and wisdom of the Tathagata, which are more abundant than the sands of the Ganges.

"Sariputra, taking the ordinary lamp as an analogy, its brightness and its flame are not apart or removed from each other. As another analogy, the luster and the form of a precious jewel are not apart or removed from each other. The meaning of the dharma body explained by the Tathagata is the same way. In the Buddha Dharma, it is not apart, not removed, not severed, and not different from the inconceivable virtue and wisdom of the Tathagata, which are more abundant than the sands of the Ganges.

"Sariputra, the dharma body is a dharma of no birth and no death, neither of the past nor of the future, because it is away from the two opposites. Sariputra, it is not of the past because it is apart from birth, and it is not of the future because it is apart from death. Sariputra, the dharma body of the Tathagata is permanent because it is the changeless dharma and the endless dharma. Sariputra, the dharma body of the Tathagata is eternal because it is the everlasting refuge and it is equal [in all sentient beings] unto the endless future. Sariputra, the dharma body of the Tathagata is cool because it is the dharma of non-duality and the dharma of no differentiation. Sariputra, the dharma body of the Tathagata never changes because it is the dharma without cessation and the dharma without formation.

"Sariputra, it is this dharma body that, fettered by boundless afflictions more numerous than the sands of the Ganges, has been following along with the world since time without a beginning. When it is drifting to and fro in the ocean waves of life and death, it is called sentient beings. Sariputra, it is also this dharma body that, tired of the suffering of life and death in the world, abandoning all the desires and quests, cultivating the six paramitas, and going through the 84,000 Dharma Doors to train in the bodhi Way, is called Bodhisattvas.

"Furthermore, Sariputra, it is also this dharma body that, having transcended all the sufferings in the world and having left the bondage of afflictions and all the defilements of afflictions, acquires purity and silence, to abide in the pure dharma on the other shore, arriving on the ground which all sentient beings wish for. When it has attained the unexcelled, ultimate insight into the realm of objects, away from all hindrances and obstructions, and has acquired the power of command in the midst of all dharmas, it is called the Tathagata, the Samyak-Sambuddha. Therefore, Sariputra, not apart from the realm of sentient beings is the dharma body, and not apart from the dharma body is the realm of sentient beings. The realm of sentient beings is in effect the dharma body, and the dharma body is in effect the realm of sentient beings. Sariputra, these two dharmas have the same meaning under different names.

"Furthermore, Sariputra, as I said above, there are three kinds of dharmas in the realm of sentient beings. They all are true suchness, without any distinction or difference. What are these three dharmas? The first is the essence of the Tathagata store, which has been responsive to the pure dharmas since the past. The second is the essence of the Tathagata store, which has been unresponsive to the bondage of afflictions and the impure dharmas since the past. The third is the Tathagata store, which is equal in all dharmas and eternal unto the endless future.

"Sariputra, know that the essence of the Tathagata store has been responsive to the pure dharmas since the past. This dharma is accord with true reality, not false, and it is not apart or removed from the inconceivable wisdom and purity in the dharma realm of true suchness. As the past has no beginning, there has always been this essence of dharmas, responsive to purity. Sariputra, pertaining to this pure dharma realm of true suchness, I pronounce to sentient beings this inconceivable dharma, called the inherently pure mind.

"Sariputra, know that the essence of the Tathagata store has been unresponsive to the bondage of afflictions and the impure dharmas since the past. It has never been responsive to the bondage of afflictions and impure dharmas, which, however, can be annihilated only by the bodhi wisdom of the Tathagata. Sariputra, pertaining to this inconceivable dharma realm unresponsive to but fettered by afflictions, I pronounce to sentient beings the inconceivable dharma of the inherently pure mind, which is covered up by afflictions that are like long-visiting dust.

"Sariputra, know that the Tathagata store, which is equal in all dharmas and eternal unto the endless future. It is the root of all dharmas, complete and replete with all dharmas, and it is not apart or removed from the true reality of all worldly dharmas. It holds all dharmas and encompasses all dharmas. Sariputra, pertaining to this refuge of inconceivable pure dharma realm, which has neither birth nor death, always cool, never changing, I pronounce that it be called sentient beings. Why? Sentient beings are in effect the refuge which has neither birth nor death, permanent, eternal, cool, and changeless. They are a different name of the inconceivable pure dharma realm. According to this meaning, the pure dharma realm is called sentient beings.

"Sariputra, all of these three dharmas are true suchness, not distinct, not different. From this neither varying nor changing dharma of true suchness, one never elicits the two extremely evil, unwholesome wrong views. Why? Because one sees in accord with true reality. As for the view of increase and the view of decrease, Sariputra, Buddha-Tathagatas forever stay far away from these two wrong views. Both are denounced by Buddha-Tathagatas.

"Sariputra, if, among bhiksus, bhikunis, upasakas, and upasikas, there are those who hold either or both of these two views, Buddha-Tathagatas will not be their World-Honored Ones. They are not my disciples. Sariputra, because of the causes and conditions of these two views, these people will go from gloom into gloom, from dark into dark. I say that they are called the icchantikas. Therefore, Sariputra, you all should learn this Dharma to convert sentient beings, enabling them to keep away from these two views and to stay on the right path. Sariputra, you should also learn this Dharma, to keep away from those two views and to stay on the right path."

After the Buddha had pronounced this Sutra, Sariputra the Wise, bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas, as well as Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas and the eight classes of Dharma protectors-gods, dragons, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas-together with humans, nonhumans, and others, greatly rejoiced. They all believed in and reverently carried out the teachings.

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