A Brief Exploration on Noble Dharma-Seal in The Agama Sutras --And A Brief Discussion on the Historic View of Neither-Arising-Nor-Ceasing Dharma

Tsai Lichen
Associate researcher,
Buddhist Institute of True Enlightenment MBA,
Tunghai University


In his teachings the Buddha continuously emphasized the positivist spirit of “observing things as they really are”, and there were definite Buddhist standards to uphold. However, in modern academic researches on Buddhism, not only the traditional positivism in Buddhism no longer exists, but the standards of Buddhist research are not upheld any more.

This paper thinks that the scientific positivist principle of three-valid-cognition-ways in traditional Buddhism is the academic standard that should be adopted in modern Buddhist academia. According to this principle of three-valid-cognition-ways, the origin and the correct meanings of Noble Dharma-seal, as the Buddhist standard, are studied in this paper. Hence the important criterion is established and can be followed to judge whether the content of a demonstration is correct or not.

This study finds that the core doctrine of Buddhism is to fully possess both “neither-arising- nor-ceasing dharma” (emptiness-nature) and “arising-and-ceasing dharma” (dependent-arising dharma), and to differentiate between them. Respectively, Noble Dharma-seal is composed of “fundamental dharma-seal” and “correction dharma-seal.” “Fundamental dharma-seal” is precisely “neither-arising-nor-ceasing dharma.” It is the only and unchangeable dharma-seal. “Correction dharma-seal” is changeable, with its number from none to countlessness. Among them, the real existence of “neither-arising-nor-ceasing dharma” (fundamental dharma-seal) has philosophically the definite significance of personal realization and logics. All that violate this point will make a logical mistake of contradicting the principle of three-valid-cognition-ways, and will be wrong discourses on the Buddhist doctrines.

The three dharma-seal sutras of Agamas all point out that “neither-arising-nor-ceasing dharma” is precisely the origin of dharma-seal, the Mahayana seal of One Ultimate Reality. It proves that, during the Buddha’s lifetime, the Hinayana saints had personally heard the doctrines of Mahayana One Ultimate Reality from the Buddha; and then, those doctrines were collected in The Four Agama Sutras by the Hinayana saints. This is the direct documentary evidence that Mahayana teachings had been expounded during the Buddha’s lifetime, which is the earliest, most direct and reliable documentary evidence in Buddhist history; all the more, it is an undeniable truth.

This paper thinks the historic view of Buddhism is actually “that of neither-arising-nor- ceasing dharma.” It takes “neither-arising-nor-ceasing dharma” as the crucial core doctrine of Buddhism. This view accords with the principle of three-valid-cognition-ways and documentary evidence, provides the best interpretation, and is also in accordance with the ultimate meaning of “Noble Dharma-seal being the Buddhist standard.”

Keywords: dependent-arising dharma, dharma-seal, arising-and-ceasing dharma, neither-arising- nor-ceasing dharma, middle-way, Three Samadhis, Three Liberation Ways,emptiness-nature


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