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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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The Sixty-two Wrong Views

Alexander Berzin
March 2006

The Net of Brahma Sutra (Tshangs-pa’i drva-ba’i mdo, Skt. Brahmajvala Sutra), both in its Mahayana and Theravada versions, presents sixty-two wrong views (lta-ba ngan-pa, bad views) propounded by the eighteen non-Buddhist extremists (mu-stegs, Skt. tirthika). Although the two versions present slightly different lists, all sixty-two wrong views are based on considering the self or “soul” of a person (gang-zag-gi bdag) to be self-sufficiently knowable (rang-rkya thub-pa’i rdzas-yod) and the universe to be truly existent. (bden-par grub-pa). 

The Eighteen Wrong Views Concerning the Past and the Present

Eighteen of the sixty-two wrong views concern the past and the present, which arises from the past. Looking to the past and depending on how far in the past the various proponents can see, or which realms they can see, there are: 

(1) Four proponents that the self in its current rebirth state (for instance, as a long-lived god) and the universe are eternal (have no end). 

(2) Four proponents that some beings in their specific rebirth states and some aspects of universe have no end and some have an end. 

(3) Two proponents that selves in their current rebirth state and the universe have no cause. The Pali version explains that they assert that these occur just by chance. 

(4) Four proponents that the universe: is finite, infinite, both, or neither. 

(5) Four proponents who wriggle like an eel and give irrelevant answers. When asked whether constructive actions are what have brought happiness and destructive actions suffering, they say that the self when in a pure realm doesn’t need to rid itself of (abandon) anything anymore. The Pali version explains these as those who are evasive because they do not know the answer and are afraid of debate. 

The Forty-four Wrong Views Concerning the Future

Then, there are forty-four wrong views concerning the future. There are: 

(6) Sixteen proponents of a self-sufficiently knowable self that, after death, has awareness. Their positions are that such a self, after death,

  • has form (Pali: is material), no form (immaterial), both, or neither;

  • has an end (is not eternal), no end (is eternal), both, or neither;

  • has pleasure, no pleasure (only pain), both, or neither;

  • has cognition of just one thing and is uniform, or has cognition of many things and is varied – in other words, it has perception that is limited, or perception that is unlimited. 

(7) Eight proponents of a self-sufficiently knowable self that, after death, has no awareness. Their positions are that such a self, after death,

  • has form (Pali: is material), no form, both, or neither;

  • has an end (Pali: is not eternal), no end, both, or neither. 

(8) Eight proponents of a self-sufficiently knowable self that, after death, has neither awareness nor no awareness. Their positions are that such a self, after death,

  • has form (Pali: is material), no form, both, or neither;
  • has an end (Pali: is not eternal), no end, both, or neither. 

(9) Seven proponents of annihilation of a self-sufficiently knowable self. Their positions are that such a self becomes totally nonexistent only after a rebirth as

  • a human,

  • a divine being (a god) of the plane of sensory desire (Desire Ream),

  • a divine being of the plane of ethereal forms (Form Realm),

  • a divine being in each of the four divisions of the plane of formless beings (Formless Realm). 

(10) Five proponents of release in this lifetime

  • through indulging in desirable sense objects in this lifetime,

  • through attaining each of the four states of mental stability (four dhyanas).