Apocryphal Scripture

J.C. Cleary, S. Bando, Heng-ching Shih, P. N. Gregory & Keiyo Arai
Publish Place: 
Berkeley, California 94704
Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research
Publish Year: 
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This text, the Bequeathed Teaching Sutra (Fo chui ban nie pan liao shuo jiao jiejing, or Yijiaojing for short), was translated into Chinese around 400 C.E. and became an influential text often cited and commented on among Chinese Buddhists in the Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties. In Chan (Zen) communities in particular, it was considered a basic reference, taught and studied through the ages.

The brief Bequeathed Teaching Sutra is a lesson on monastic discipline presented as Buddha’s last teaching just before his demise. After his parinirvāṇa, the Buddha teaches, the monks should rely on thorough discipline to guide them. The technical term for this is prātimokṣa, literally “liberation in all respects,” because thorough discipline frees the monks from all potential entanglements. The Buddha warns the monks not to seek wealth and property, social position, or political power, nor to play on the credulity of the people as fortune-tellers and healers. He teaches monks to avoid anger and pride, sophistry and trivial argument. Monks should reduce their desires and learn how to be satisfied with little. They should feel shame for their shortcomings and work diligently for enlightenment all the time. The Buddha teaches here from the perspective of cause and effect: pure discipline is a basic necessity because it allows good qualities to develop.