Shurangama Sutra

User’s Guide to Volumes I to VIII of the printed Shurangama Sutra series, with the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua’s Commentaries

Because of the length of the Shurangama Sutra, with commentaries by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, the entire commentarial series has been divided into eight volumes. That is found in Volume 1 to 8 of the Shurangama Sutra.

To help readers to navigate through the lengthy text in the printed BTTS texts:

The entries in the Shurangama Sutra text are marked as numberpairs. For example, “Twenty-five Means to Enlightenment” is at 5:19, i.e. volume five, page nineteen of the printed volumes. This provides a simplified directory of the Shurangama Sutra, and is perfect for the general reader. You can also look for the corresponding paragraphs in “The Shurangama Sutra” on page 1; each paragraph is tagged with a similar number-pair.

Chapter One  1  2  3
Chapter Two  1  2  3  4

Chapter Three  1  2  3  4
Chapter Four  1  2  3  4

Chapter Five  1  2  3  4  5
Chapter Six  1  2  3  4  5

Chapter Seven  1  2  3  4  5
Chapter Eight   1  2  3  4  5  6

The Fundamental Importance
of the Shurangama Sutra

Within Buddhism, there are very many important sutras. However, the most important sutra is the Shurangama Sutra. If there are places which have the Shurangama Sutra, then the Proper Dharma dwells in the world. If there is no Shurangama Sutra, then the Dharma-ending Age appears. Therefore, we Buddhist disciples, each and every one, must use our strength and our blood, sweat, and toil to protect the Shurangama Sutra. In the Sutra of the Ultimate Extinction of the Dharma, it says very, very clearly that in the Dharma-ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first to disappear. The rest of the sutras will follow. As long as Shurangama Sutra does not disappear, then the Proper Dharma Age is present.

Because of that, we Buddhist disciples must use our lives to protect the Shurangama Sutra, must use vows and resolution to protect the Shurangama Sutra, and must cause the Shurangama Sutra to be known far and wide, reaching every nook and cranny, reaching into each and every dust-mote, reaching out to the exhaustion of empty space and of the Dharma Realm. If we can do that, then the Proper Dharma will continue radiating great light for a long time to come.

Why would the Shurangama Sutra be destroyed? It is too true. The Shurangama Sutra is the Buddha’s true body. The Shurangama Sutra is the Buddha’s sharira. The Shurangama Sutra is the Buddha’s true and actual stupa and shrine. Therefore, because the Shurangama Sutra is so true, all the demon kings use all kinds of methods to destroy the Shurangama Sutra. They begin by starting rumors, saying that the Shurangama Sutra is phony. Why do they say the Shurangama Sutra is phony? Since the Shurangama Sutra speaks too truly, especially in the sections on the Four Decisive Deeds, the Twenty-five Sages Describing Perfect Penetration, and the States of the Fifty Skandha Demons. Those of off-center persuasions and externally-oriented ways, weird demons and strange freaks, are unable to stand it. Consequently there are a good many senseless people who claim that the Shurangama Sutra is a forgery.

Now, the principles set forth in the Shurangama Sutra are on the one hand proper, and on the other in accord with principle, and the weird demons and strange freaks, those in various cults and sects, are thus exposed. Even so, many people, in particular unwise scholars and garbage-collecting professors “Tread upon the holy writ.” With their extremely scant and partial understanding, they are confused and unclear, lacking real erudition and true and actual wisdom. That is why they resort to baseless criticism. We who study the Buddhadharma should be acutely aware of these circumstances. Therefore, wherever we go, we should mention the Shurangama Sutra. Wherever we go, we should propagate the Shurangama Sutra. Wherever we go, we should introduce the Shurangama Sutra to people. Why is that? It is to help the Proper Dharma long to dwell in the world.

If the Shurangama Sutra is regarded as true, then there is no problem. To verify its truth, let me say that if the Shurangama Sutra were phony, then I would willingly fall into the hells forever through all eternity . for being unable to recognize the Buddhadharma . for mistaking the false for true. If the Shurangama Sutra is true, then life after life in every time I make the vow to propagate the Great Dharma of the Shurangama, that I shall in every time and every place expound upon the true principles of the Shurangama.

Everyone should pay attention to the following point. How could the Shurangama Sutra not have been spoken by the Buddha? No one else could have spoken the Shurangama Sutra. And so I hope that all those people who make senseless accusations will wake up fast and stop creating the causes for suffering in the Hell of Pulling Out Tongues. No matter who the scholar is, no matter what country students of the Buddhadharma are from, all should quickly mend their ways, admit their mistakes, and bring about a change. There is no greater good than that.

I can then say that all who look at the Shurangama Sutra, all who listen to the Shurangama Sutra, and all who investigate the Shurangama Sutra, will very quickly accomplish Buddhahood.

Composed by, Gold Mountain Shramana Tripitaka Master Hua.

The Shurangama Sutra Text:

The Ten Doors of Discrimination 1:1 
The General Explanation of the Title 1:4
Causes and Conditions for the Arising of the Teaching 1:30
The Division and The Vehicle 1:52
The Depth of the Meaning and Principle 1:54
The Teaching Substance 1:62
Individuals Able to Receive the Teaching 1:64
Similarities, Differences and Determination of Time 1:66
The History of the Transmission and Translation 1:68
The Translator 1:70
The Reviewer, Certifier and Editor 1:76
The Testimony of Faith 1:79
Ananda’s Fall 1:121
The Way to Shamatha  1:155
The False Consciousness is Without a Location 1:167
The False Consciousness is Not the Mind 1:215
The False Consciousness is Without a Substance 1:253
Ananda Repents and Seeks the Truth 1:267 

The Seeing Nature 2:1 
Seeing Is the Mind 2:4
Seeing Does Not Move 2:9
Seeing Does Not Become Extinct 2:28
Seeing is Not Lost 2:46
Seeing Does Not Return 2:58
Seeing Does Not Intermingle 2:80
Seeing Is Not Obstructed 2:103
Seeing Is Not Separate 2:116
Seeing Transcends the Ordinary 2:142
Seeing is Apart from Seeing 2:159
The Two False Views 2:172
Mixing and Uniting 2:208

False Is Just True 3:1
The Five Skandhas 3:5
The Six Entrances 3:27
The Twelve Places 3:60
The Eighteen Realms 3:95
The Seven Elements Are All-Pervasive 3:138
Ananda Gives Rise to Faith 3:208

The Reason for Continual Arisal 4:1 

The Reason for Perfect Penetration 4:62
Ananda Attaches to Causes and Conditions 4:115
The Two Decisive Doctrines 4:142
Purification of the Turbidities 4:145
Liberation of the Organs 4:161
Hearing is Not Sound 4:211
The Source of the Knot 4:237

The Six Knots 5:1 
Twenty-five Means to Enlightenment 5:19
The Six Defiling Objects 5:24
Five Organs 5:44
The Six Consciousnesses 5:63
The Seven Elements 5:92
The Ear Organ 5:129
Manjushri Selects the Organ of Entry 5:189

The Three Non-Outflow Studies 6:1 
One Must Cut Off Lust 6:10
One Must Cut Off Killing 6:20
One Must Cut Off Stealing 6:31
One Must Cut Off False Speech 6:48
Establishing the Bodhimanda 6:75 

The Spiritual Mantra 6:87 
The Two Upside-down Causes 6:162
The Twelve Categories of Living Beings 6:177

The Three Gradual Stages 7:1 
The Bodhisattva Stages 7:25
The Ten Faiths 7:28
The Ten Dwellings 7:39
The Ten Conducts 7:46
The Ten Transferences 7:55
The Four Positions of Additional Practices 7:64
The Ten Positions of the Ten Grounds 7:68
The Position of Equal and Wonderful Enlightenment 7:75
The Names of the Sutra 7:82
The Seven Destinies 7:88
Destiny of Hells 7:118
Destiny of Ghosts 7:161
Destiny of Animals 7:175
Destiny of People 7:185
Destiny of Immortals 7:194
Destiny of Gods 7:206
Destiny of Asuras 7:248

The Origin of Demonic States 8:1 
The Form Skandha 8:25
The Feeling Skandha 8:50
The Thinking Skandha 8:82
The Formations Skandha 8:174
The Consciousness Skandha 8:238
Concluding Instructions 8:277
The Arising and Cessation of the Five Skandhas 8:287
Exhortation to Propagate the Sutra 8:320

The Buddha Speaks the Ultimate
Extinction of the Dharma Sutra

Thus I have heard. At one time the Buddha was in the state of Kushinagara. The Tathagata was to enter nirvana within three months and the bhikshus and Bodhisattvas as well as the great multitude of beings had come to pay homage to the Buddha and to bow in reverence. The World Honored One was tranquil and silent. He spoke not a word and his light did not appear. Worthy Ananda bowed and asked the Buddha,

”0 Bhagavan, heretofore whenever you spoke the Dharma, awesome light would naturally appear. Yet today among this great assembly there is no such radiance. There must be a good cause for this and we wish to hear the Bhagavan’s explanation.”

The Buddha remained silent and did not answer until the request had been repeated three times. He then told Ananda,

”After I enter nirvana, when the Dharma is about to perish, during the evil age of the five turbidities, the way of demons will flourish. Demonic beings will become shramanas; they will pervert and destroy my teachings. Monastics will wear the garb of laypersons and will prefer handsome clothes. Their precept sashes will be made of multi-colored cloth. They will use intoxicants, eat meat, kill other beings and they will indulge in their desire for flavorful food. They will lack compassion and they will bear hatred and exhibit jealousy even among themselves.

”Even then Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats will reverently and diligently cultivate immaculate virtue. They will be respected by all people and their teachings will be fair and egalitarian. These cultivators of the Way will take pity on the poor, they will be mindful of the aged, and they will save and give counsel to those people they find in difficult circumstances. They will at all times exhort others to worship and to protect sutras and images of the Buddha. They will do meritorious deeds, be resolute and kind, and never harm others. They will make physical sacrifices for others’ benefit. They will hold no great regard for themselves but will be patient, yielding, humane, and peaceful.

”As long as such people exist, the hordes of demonic bhikshus will be jealous of them. The demons will harass them, slander and defame them, expel them from their midst and degrade them. They will ostracize the good monks from the monastic community. Thereafter these demons derive no virtue from their practice. Their monastic buildings will be vacant and overgrown with weeds. For want of care and maintenance their Way-places will drift into ruin and oblivion. The demonic bhikshus will increase their greed for wealth and will amass great heaps of goods. They will refuse to distribute any of it or to use it to gain blessings and virtue.

”At this time, the evil monks will buy and sell slaves to till their fields and to slash and burn the mountain forests. They will do harm to living creatures and they will feel not the least bit of compassion. These slaves will themselves become bhikshus and maidservants will become bhikshunis. Totally lacking in Way-virtue, these people will run amok, indulging in licentious behavior. In their turbid confusion they will fail to separate the men from the women in the monastic communities.

From this generation on, the Way will be weakened. Fugitives from the law will seek refuge in my Way, wishing to be shramanas but failing to observe the moral regulations. Monastics will continue to recite the precepts twice a month, but in name alone. Being lazy and lax, no one will want to listen any longer. These evil shramanas will be unwilling to recite the sutras in their entirety and they will make abbreviations at the beginning and at the end of the texts as they please. Soon the practice of reciting sutras will stop altogether. Even if there are people who recite texts, they will be unlettered, unqualified people who will insist, nonetheless, that they are correct. Bumptious, arrogant, and vain, these people will seek fame and glory. They will put on airs in the hope of attracting offerings from other people.

”When the lives of these demonic bhikshus come to an end their essential spirits will fall into the Avichi Hell. Having committed the five evil deeds, they will suffer successive rebirths as hungry ghosts and as animals. They will know all such states of woe as they pass on through eons as numerous as sands on the banks of the Ganges River. When their offenses are accounted for they will be reborn in a border land where the Triple Jewel is unknown.

”When the Dharma is about to disappear, women will become vigorous and will at all times do deeds of virtue. Men will grow lax and will no longer speak the Dharma. Those who are genuine shramanas will be looked upon as dung and no one will have faith in them. When the Dharma is about to perish, all the gods will begin to weep. Rivers will dry up and the five grains will not ripen. Pestilences will frequently take millions of lives. The masses will toil and suffer while the local officials will plot and scheme. No one will adhere to principles. Instead, the human race will multiply, becoming like the sands of the ocean-bed. Good persons will be hard to find; at most there will be one or two. As the eon comes to a close, the revolutions of the sun and the moon will grow short and the lifespan of people will decrease. Their hair will turn white by the time they are forty. Because of excessive licentious behavior they will quickly exhaust their seminal fluids and will die at a young age, usually before sixty years. As the lifespan of males decreases, that of females will increase to seventy, eighty, ninety, or one hundred years.

”The mighty rivers will flood and lose harmony with their natural cycles, yet people will not take notice or feel concern. Extremes of climate will soon be taken for granted. Beings of all races will mix together at random, without regard for the noble and the mean. Their births and rebirths will cause them to sink and float, like feeding aquatic creatures.

”Even then Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats will gather together in an unprecedented assembly because they will all have been harried and pursued by the hordes of demons. They will no longer dwell in the assemblies but the Three Vehicles will retreat to the wilderness. In a tranquil place they will find shelter, happiness, and long life. Gods will protect them and the moon will shine down upon them. The Three Vehicles will have an opportunity to meet together and the Way will flourish. However, within fifty-two years the Shurangama Sutra and the Pratyutpanna [Standing Buddha] Samadhi, will be the first to change and then to disappear. The twelve divisions of the canon will gradually follow until they vanish completely, never to appear again. Its words and texts will be totally unknown ever after. The precept sashes of shramanas will turn white of themselves. When my Dharma disappears it will be just like an oil lamp that flares brightly for an instant just before it goes out. So too, will the Dharma flare and die. After this time it is difficult to speak with certainty of what will follow.

”A period of ten million years will follow before the time when Maitreya is about to appear in the world to become the next Buddha. At that time the planet will be entirely peaceful. Evil vapors will have dissipated, rain will be ample and regular, and crops will grow abundantly. Trees will grow to a great height and people will grow to be eighty feet tall. The average lifespan will extend to 84,000 years. It will be impossible to count all the beings who will be taken across to liberation.”

Worthy Ananda addressed the Buddha, “What should we call this Sutra and how shall we uphold it?”

The Buddha said, “Ananda, this sutra is called The Ultimate Extinction of the Dharma. Tell everyone to propagate it widely; the merit of your actions will be measureless, beyond reckoning.”

When the four-fold assembly of disciples heard this sutra they grieved and wept. Each of them resolved to attain the true path of the Supreme Sage. Then bowing to the Buddha, they withdrew.

End of The Buddha Speaks the Ultimate Extinction of the Dharma Sutra.

From the Seng You Records, translator anonymous.
Appended to the Song Annals.