The Buddha’s Admonition Against Making False Spiritual Claims 佛陀对大妄语的警戒

Liars are not true
even to themselves,
much less to others
and to Truth itself.

Stonepeace | Books


[The] Great Buddha’s Crown’s Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Sixth Scroll: Section [On] Four Kinds [Of] Clear [And] Definitive Instructions [On] Purity: Fourth Heavy Precept


[Śākyamuni Buddha]: ‘Ānanda [1], such six paths’ [2] sentient beings [of the] world, although then [with] bodies [and] minds without killing, stealing [and] sexual conduct, [with] these three practices already complete, if [with] great false speech, immediately [will their] Samādhi [3], not attain purity [4].


Becoming demons [5][6] [with] attachment [and] delusion, losing [the] Thus Come [One’s] [7] seed [8]. [With] those saying [the] yet [to be] attained [as] attained, [the] yet [to be] realised [as] realised. Perhaps seeking [to be the] world’s honoured, victorious [and] foremost [9].


Saying before people, “I [have] now already attained [the] Srotāpanna fruit, Sakṛdāgāmin fruit, Anāgāmin fruit, Arhat path [10], Pratyekabuddha Vehicle [11], Ten Grounds, Pre-Grounds, [and] all positions [of] Bodhisattvas [12]“, seeking others’ reverence [and] repentance, craving [for] their offerings [13].


These [are] Icchantikas [14], [who] eliminate [their] Buddha seeds [8]. Like [a] person with [a] knife severing [a] Tāla tree [15]. [The] Buddhas predict these persons, [to] forever destroy [their] good roots. Without again [attaining] knowledge [and] insight, sinking [into the] three sufferings oceans [16], not accomplishing Samādhi [17].


After my Parinirvāṇa [18], [I] order all Bodhisattvas and Arhats, [to] manifest bodies [to be] born within that Dharma-Ending [Age [19], to] become all kinds [of] forms, [to] deliver all [from] rebirth.


Perhaps becoming Śramaṇas [20], white-robed laypersons [21], kings, officials, young males [and] young females. [As] such, and even [as] licentious women, widows, adulterers, thieves, butchers [and] peddlers, with them together working, praising [the] Buddha Vehicle [22], [to] enable their bodies [and] minds [to] enter Samādhi.


[To the] end, not self-saying, “I [am a] true Bodhisattva, [a] true Arhat”, [to] divulge [the] Buddha’s secret cause, [to] lightly speak [so to those] yet [to] learn. Only except [at] life’s end, secretly having [that] left [for] entrusting. Why [would] these persons, confuse sentient beings, [by] accomplishing great false speech [23]?


You [should] teach [the] world’s people [who] cultivate Samādhi, later [to] again sever [and] eliminate all great false speech, [which] is named [as the] Thus Come [One’s and] prior Buddha World-Honoured [Ones’] “Fourth Clear [And] Definitive Instruction [On] Purity” [24].


Therefore, Ānanda, if [there are] those [who do] not sever their great false speech, [this is] like [one] carving human faeces, [to] be sandalwood’s forms, desiring [to] seek fragrance [from them, which] is without possibility [25].


I [have] taught Bhikṣus [26], [that the] straightforward mind [27] [is the] place [for realising the] path. In [the] four comportments’ [28] all actions within, still without falsehood, how can [they] self-claim [to have] attained supreme persons’ Dharma [29]?


For example, like [a] poor person, falsely naming [oneself as an] emperor, [this is to] self-court extermination. Moreover, [as a] Dharma King [30], how can [this title be] falsified [and] stolen?


[With the] causal ground’s [direction] not true, [the] effect attracted [will be with] twists [and] turns [31]. Seeking [the] Buddha’s Bodhi [32] [thus], like [a] person biting [one’s own] navel, who will accomplish [this]?


If all Bhikṣus, [have] minds like straight strings, [with] all true [and] sincere, [they will] enter Samādhi, [and] forever [be] without demonic matters. I affirm [that] these persons, [will] accomplish Bodhisattvas’ unsurpassable knowledge [and] awakening [33].


Such that I [have] spoken, [is] named as Buddhas’ speech. Not such [as] spoken, is Pāpīyāms’ [34] speech [35].’

Glossary And Notes:

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).

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

[4] Summary (1): Even if all observe the first three Precepts to abstain from killing, stealing and sexual conduct perfectly, if with great false speech (i.e. lying), their meditative concentration will not be pure. [When thoughts of have false speech are eradicated from the mind, there will be no deeds of lying, and thus no creation of evil karma (恶业) from lying that binds us to rebirth (轮回).]

[5] Demons (魔): Evil ghosts (恶鬼)

[6] Becoming demons (成魔): Become overwhelmed by inner ‘demons’ (内魔) of much greed (贪), hatred (嗔) and delusion (痴). This might thus lead to being possessed by outer demons (外魔) with similar poisons.

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

[8] Thus Come One’s seed (如来种) / Buddha’s seed (佛种): Buddha-nature (佛性); potential for Buddhahood (佛果).

[9] Summary (2): They might become demons (魔) with much greed and delusion, who are disconnected from their Buddha-nature (佛性), yet claiming to have attained enlightenment, perhaps as Buddhas.

[10] Srotāpanna (须陀洹), Sakṛdāgāmin (斯陀含), Anāgāmin (阿那含), Arhat (阿罗汉): Those who attained the first (初果), second (二果), third (三果) and fourth fruits (四果) of self-liberation through learning practice from a Buddha.

[11] Pratyekabuddha Vehicle (辟支佛乘): Path of attaining self-liberation by observing the mind and nature, without learning practice from a Buddha.

[12] Ten Grounds (十地): The 41st to 50th positions of Bodhisattvas (菩萨) (who aspire to guide one and all to Buddhahood [佛果]). Pre-Grounds (地前): The 1st to 40th positions of Bodhisattvas

[13] Summary (3): They might claim to have various levels of enlightenment, to seek fame and fortune, by exploiting those with guilt and confusion.

[14] Icchantikas (一颠迦): Those with ‘incorrigible’ disbelief and slander of the Buddha’s teachings, who thus do not aspire for Buddhahood (佛果). Although sometimes taught to be without remorse and thus spiritually hopeless, they are also sometimes taught to be able to repent, to walk the path to Buddhahood later, since all sentient beings have indestructible Buddha-nature, even if disconnected from it for some time. They can be those who break the Four Heavy Precepts (四重戒) by having sexual conduct, killing, stealing and lying without moral shame and fear. They can also pretend to be enlightened beings, who misrepresent the Right Dharma (正法) by teaching and practising it wrongly, to gather followers for their selfish benefits in terms of wealth, sex, fame and food.

[15] Tāla tree (多罗木): Found in India, it can grow to a great height, but once chopped, cannot grow again.

[16] Three suffering oceans (三苦海): Great suffering with rebirth in the paths of hell-beings (地狱众生), hungry ghosts (饿鬼) and animals (畜生).

[17] Summary (4): They are those who have suspended their Buddha-nature for indefinite time, thus bound for great suffering when reborn in the three lower paths (See Note [16]) for indefinite time, with difficulty to attain meditative concentration and wisdom.

[18] 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.

[19] 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.

[20] Śramaṇas (沙门): Buddhist monastics

[21] White-robed laypersons (白衣居士): Buddhist laypersons traditionally with white dressing expressing the goal of purity.

[22] Buddha Vehicle (佛乘): The Buddha’s teachings leading one and all to Buddhahood (佛果).

[23] Summary (5) with notes: Out of great compassion (大悲), the Buddha commanded the enlightened to manifest in all manners of form in this era, as skilful means (善巧方便) to guide us to enter meditative concentration for progress towards Buddhahood (佛果), before it is too late, when we enter deeper into this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), that leads to the ‘Dharma-Ended Age’ (‘无法时期’). They can manifest in any form, except as those who claim to be enlightened. This is so as beings in this era lack the meritorious virtues (功德) to deserve the direct appearance of enlightened beings in their full meritorious splendour.

Also, this rule aids us to clearly and easily denounce all who claim to be enlightened ones (or their manifestations) as charlatans, who will unfortunately be innumerable in this era with understanding of the Right Dharma (正法) weakening. Their claims are great false speech (大妄语), the greatest form of lying with the gravest of karmic consequences due to their severe damage in destroying others’ spiritual lives.

The truly enlightened can even manifest as those who seem ‘evil’, who do not really break any Precepts (戒), so as to blend in with those really evil, to guide them to the right path. Essentially, be it as the clearly virtuous or apparently ‘non-virtuous’, there is attracting and inspiring of followers only by right conduct and right teachings, never by mere claims of having special identities or powers, that anyone can make. This teaching also reminds us to not be superficial, by discriminating others unfairly, based on mere appearances and initial behaviour seen.

Bodhisattvas (菩萨) practise the Four Gatherings (四摄) as skilful means to attract and benefit others, with (1) generosity (布施) (with wealth [财施], fearlessness [无畏施] and the Dharma [法施]), (2) kind words (爱语), (3) beneficial actions (利行) and (4) together action (同事) (by working to identify with them). True to being enlightened, compassionate and selfless, despite their great and continual efforts, they do so without greed for any recognition, gratitude or repayment, thus able to help many anonymously. They also give with understanding of ‘the three wheels’ (of the giver, gift and recipient) essence being empty’ (三轮体空) of permanence (常) and self (我).

Thus, those who claim they are enlightened and dwell on in the world for benefitting from their claims are directly liars, while those who are truly enlightened will not dwell on upon disclosure of their identities. This is to be aligned with the Buddha’s instructions. Any revelation of who they are is to be done discreetly only, for inspiring those left behind, followed by immediate departure. Or it can be arranged to be disclosed after departure. Most enlightened manifestations are however never disclosed, even after departure, as we lack meritorious virtues to know who they are, even if we have enough meritorious virtues to be (discreetly) helped to some extent. Non-disclosure is also a skilful means to not let us take their presence among us for granted.

[24] Summary (6): After severing sexual conduct, killing and stealing, as taught in the Fourth Heavy Precept (第三重戒), to cultivate Samādhi, as taught by all Buddhas explicitly and decisively, there should be severing of great false speech. (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.)

[25] Summary (7): To keep having great false speech, even while cultivating (‘concentration’ for ‘progress’) towards liberation (for innumerable kalpas), this is futile.

[26] Bhikṣus (比丘): Buddhist monks

[27] Straightforward mind (直心): Mind that is not immorally convoluted, that is aligned directly with the Precepts (戒).

[28] Four comportments (四威仪): Walking (行), standing (住), sitting (坐) and lying down (卧).

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

[30] Dharma King (法王): Buddha (佛陀)

[31] Cause (因) and Effect (果): With the ground (of motivation) as cause (因) for (spiritual) growth not right, the resulting fruit (果) will be wrong (or warped), veered away (or distorted) from the true goal originally targeted.

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

[33] Summary (8): There should be the straightforward mind with firm and forthright morality instead. With truthfulness in all postures and actions always, there should never be false claims of Buddhahood. Having such false claims is to head towards great karmic suffering. With spiritual learning and practice beginning and progressing with truthfulness and sincerity, without any convoluted deviousness, meditative concentration towards Buddhahood will be attained, without any demonic disturbances.

[34] 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).

[35] Summary (9): 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 and notes by Shen Shi’an

Important Related Articles:

How To Awaken Those Tricked By Buddhist Cults

Are There Mediums & Manifestations Of Buddhas & Bodhisattvas Around?

Verses On The Buddha’s Order


  • 大佛顶首楞严经:

    The Great Buddha’s Crown’s Foremost Surangama Sutra:
    Section On Clear Instructions For Purity:
    Passage On Stealing

    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。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。我灭度后末法之中,多此妖邪,炽盛世间,潜匿(nì:hide)奸欺,称善知识。各自谓已得上人法。诱惑无识,恐令失心。所过之处,其家耗散。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。云何贼人假我衣服,裨(bì)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。



  • To build one’s so called own truth on a lie itself and lying to others through twisting true teachings, what sort of honesty can we expect from such a person?

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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