How is "師長尊卑之序" supposed to be read?

I would like to ask @cdpatton a question if he doesn’t mind.

In SA 1243, there is this word or phrase “師長尊卑之序”.

Is this supposed to be one word or is it supposed to be read separately like this: “師長” and “尊卑之序”? I saw Vietnamese and Malaysian translations where the phrase is seemingly translated as “monks” or “teachers” and “noble and ordinary” (nobles and common people?).

Given the list of pairs that 師長 is part of, I would read it as “teachers and elders.” It represents people with experience who teach those without, so they are related in that way. I wouldn’t translate it as “monks.” Senior monks might be included in the categories, but it doesn’t mean monks in particular.

尊卑 does indeed mean “high and low (social status)”, so it could be translated as “noble and common.”

序 here probably means “order (of things)” given the context.

之 is a grammar word indicating subordination between nouns, which is in reverse order of English. When placed between nouns, it’s like the English preposition “of” or sometimes creates a possessive relationship if the first noun is personal.

So, the entire phrase would be “the order of … teachers and elders, and nobles and commoners.” I see that this is the end of a long list:


The subordination may well include the entire list to yield:

“The world also would not know there is an order of father and mother, younger and older brothers, younger and older sisters, wife and child, clan and friends, teachers and elders, and nobles and commoners.”

These are hierarchical relationships in ancient societies.


Thank you very much for your explanation and answer.

I should note that the punctuation of the sentence provided by CBETA indicates that the editor who added it thought that it read like this:

“The world would also not know that there is an order of high and low between father and mother, older and younger brother …”

It’s a case of ambiguity, but the punctuation is an opinion added by a later reader.


Hello Eric and Charlie ,

Hi Eric , I understand you wanted Charlie to help in this matter .
If I may interrupt ,

“The world also would not know there is an order of father and mother, younger and older brothers, younger and older sisters, wife and child, clan and friends, teachers and elders, and nobles and commoners.” [/quote]

The meaning of 宗亲 actually alluded as “relatives of the same clan”.

If one refer to 呂氏春秋
Lüshi Chunqiu
[Chinese_classic_text)compiled around 239 BC under the patronage of the [Qin Dynasty] Chancellor [Lü Buwei]
Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals ,


As for 師長尊卑 , according to buddhist text The Hundred Fables (story) (shown below) ,
Here it appears to indicate as relationship between the disciple/ novice (student) and monk (master) (teacher).
尊卑 means juniors and seniors .


Regards .

Yes, I’m aware of that usage. In this passage, however, it’s used in a list of pairs that are higher and lower in social pecking order. You could read it that way, of course, but it doesn’t fit the passage.

The end of the sentence basically depends on whether you put another list comma in it or not.

That is:

If not, then the list ends with 師長. If you do, then 尊卑 is the next item. The list contains social relationships outside of a samgha, so I’m not sure why we would start reading junior and senior monks at the end. I would read “teachers and elders” as any sort of teachers and elders.

1 Like

Hi Charlie ,

If you treat 宗亲 as clan & friends , I don’t see how this should include friends ? Friends is outside the picture . Clan & relatives would be better imo anyway .

I see the text says " the world" , so I agree the elders fits well in this case .

IMO 師長尊卑之序 should be without the coma , as one phrase . My take is ,

“The order of humility and revering the elders .”

I guess you already checked the parallel ?

若從學若師 student and teacher
若君若大人 civilian and officer

" 為不得分別若父若母、若兄若弟、若男女、若從學若師若君若大人。"




Ps .
长辈 is elders .
师长 can be elders only or include teacher as well depending on context .

Best wishes .

Ok, I have moved this topic to Discussion category instead.

Let me add another parallel from Ven Xuanzang’s translation of T 765:


Differences that can be seen from comparing SA 1243 of T 99, EA2 40 of T 150A, and T 765 are really interesting, considering that these three particular versions likely come from the Sarvastivadins:
-T 150A’s school affiliation of Sarvastivada was proposed by Prof. Paul Harrison in 1997.
-T 765 is translated by Ven Xuanzang who translated a number of Sarvastivadin texts, not to mention that in the same T 765, there are five qualities that a filial child should establish his or her parents in, namely faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom, against the Pali version where only four are mentioned, minus learning. The emphasis on these five qualities can be seen in T 26 and T 99 where some texts from Pali parallels either mention only four out of five qualities, or the five faculties are mentioned, whereas the versions that occur in T 26 and T 99 will mention all these five qualities from T 765 instead.

I’m not sure what the difference would be between clan and relatives. They’d be synonyms. Friends, however, would be of lower precedence socially compared to relatives. 親 is used for friends or associates quite frequently.

I suppose all of the list items could be read as compounds: “Parents, brothers, sisters, etc.” But there’s a clear pattern when they’re read as pairs of nouns.

Thanks for posting the parallels. No, I hadn’t looked at them. They both look somewhat different from this text, so I’m not sure if they are that helpful. Do we think 尊卑 is a translation of 君大人? 大小 would certainly be similar.

It’s not helpful for 宗親 either. 知識 is the closest thing to it, and it just means a friend or close associate.

It’s interesting that Xuanzang’s text, which is in the Itivrttaka, doesn’t set up this high and low social status idea. It just says people wouldn’t recognize these things, and I guess the intimation is that they wouldn’t pay proper respect. And it does end with synonyms for teachers.

1 Like

~ 宗zōng ㄗㄨㄥˉ

◎ 家族的上辈,民族的祖先:祖宗。宗庙。宗祠。(family ancestry)


~ 亲(親)qīn ㄑㄧㄣˉ

◎ 有血统或夫妻关系的:亲属。亲人。亲缘。双亲(父母)。亲眷。(blood related)

Ps. 亲 in Chinese was never meant for friends .

Then please explain terms like 善親友, which translate the concept of Dharma friends in Buddhist texts.

The most illuminating method of resolving what a term means tends to be to look at its usage in the same text.

Similar lists occur in Gunabhadra’s Samyukta, and they do support Gene’s reading that 宗親 means relatives, especially at 241a05 where we read:


There’s a clear distinction there between what would appear to be extended family and associates.

善亲友 is an idiom meant one whom has faith in the dhamma .

作者: 丁福保



Right. The person is a “good friend.” The term is a direct translation of kalyāṇa-mitra. 友 is added for clarity. The Chinese translation of Vasubandhu is another example of 親 meaning friend.

親 is a word that can mean relatives or close friends in different contexts, hence my reading of passage we were discussing. In this case, it’s tough to say it means friends given the way 宗親 is used in other passages by Gunabhadra, but it does often mean close friends.

It’s just interesting to me the way the pairs read in light of the “high and low” principle, but it may just be the Chinese way of listing them with higher and lower status. In American English, we usually say “mother and father” and we don’t make a distinction between elder and junior siblings, but in Confucianism, those relationships are more important and hierarchical.

1 Like

Hi Charlie ,

I hope you don’t mind for my sincere endeavor .

~ 佛说般舟三昧经
(Pratyutpanna-buddha saṃmukhāvasthita samādhi sūtra)(Pratyutpanna Samādhi Sūtra)

[Original script text & plain mandarin]

Translated by :
(Venerable Shi Yi Teng)
In plain mandarin .

~ Original text

【云何行。常在大姓家生。父母 兄弟 宗亲 知识 无不爱敬。 】

~ Translation in plain mandarin

怎样做,才能在大户人家出生,父母 兄弟 姐妹 亲戚,和大智慧者 无不喜爱和尊敬?
(Father mother , brothers , sisters , relatives and the wise men )

According to the dictionary ,
亲友 means relatives and friends


【词语】: 亲友
【拼音】: qīnyǒu
【解释】: 亲戚朋友。

2 .親友

亲友 qīnyǒu

[relatives and friends] 亲朋好友




Btw , according to the SA1243 text , it says if one has shamefulness and conscience , then one would know the relationship between the family members and not crossing the line knowing it is not right to be disrespectful therefore not behave like in the animals realm that do not know boundary . Thus the notion of friends would not be in the framework or in the picture at all .

I think that the teaching is about not engaging in promiscuity in general, which is an act that is evident in animals (except perhaps owl monkeys). So it’s about having conscience and prudence to not engage in such action. I think the notion of friends does fit in the framework since nowadays there’s such a thing called “friends with benefits”, so…yeah.

In EA2 40, there is “若男女”, and in EA 18.1, there is “知識”, so I don’t think the message of the teaching is simply about respect, it’s about acting like how a human who possesses both conscience and prudence does.

In “Newly Identified Khotanese Fragments in the “Bodhisattva Compendium” and Their Chinese, Pāli and Sanskrit Parallels”, FAN Jingjing translated T 765’s passage as:

If these two white and pure good dharmas do not exist, the living beings in the world will get mixed up. Just like cows, goats, chickens, pigs and dogs, people will not be able to recognize father or mother, brother or sister, or rule, or preceptor, or teacher, or quasi-teacher, and so on.

Some people may translate “軌範” as “teacher”, but I agree with FAN Jingjing’s translation as “rule” (or “rule of conduct” for me) because if “軌範” referred to “teacher”, then you would expect “軌範師”, rather than “軌範”. 軌範’s usage as “rule” or “rule of conduct” is evident in T 126 where a nun is praised for her diligent effort in upholding her conduct. “親教”, on the other hand, seems to always refer to a person, whether as “親教” or “親教師”. Therefore, people can behave like animals because of not recognizing “rule” or “rule of conduct”.

In conclusion, the teaching, as I can gather from the parallel versions, need not be about just respect to and not crossing the line of family members and teachers. It’s about acting like a decent human being that can distinguish whom one can appropriately have sexual relationship with. This is certainly in line with the third precept, the teachings for laypeople where the spouse shouldn’t be unfaithful to his or her own partner (DN 31 and T 16) and to think only about him or her (MA 135), and AN 5.179 and MA 128 where the Buddha said in verses that a spouse should be content with his or her own partner.

Hi again Eric and Charlie ,

As this is about Buddha’s teachings , it will affect the future generations .
You are the translator , I will let you both judge & decide what ever it is .

Yes , Eric I agree the teachings about not being promiscuous and so on .
Anyway , you could always discuss with the Mahayana monks if you like whom should be well versed in Chinese .

As myself happens born Chinese and brought up in Chinese education , I see some translation wording not suitable so being busy body to offer some opinion .

Good luck and have a good day .
Thanks .