一切 & sarva


There is a difference. 一切法 means “all dharmas” and 諸法 means “(many) dharmas”. 諸 usually just makes plurality explicit.

In Chinese (like English) 一切 can be a pronoun as well as an adjective, but in that case it usually isn’t placed in front of a noun to avoid ambiguity. I’ve seen this usage in translations of Indic texts.

I’ve also seen sarvaloka in Chinese, but I usually read loka as a metaphor for the human race. “All the world” usually means “everyone in the world.” Unless the passage is talking about all the worlds in a chiliocosm, but that’s a different story.


I think the example above was sarvaloke, in the locative, as “all over the world”.


That would make sense for the way it reads in Chinese. It could be replicated with a locative preposition in translation, but the term for world commonly doubles as all inclusive of human society, so it was probably considered equivalent if the passage was talking about, for instance, all the people and gods of the world assembling for a teaching, etc. That’s an example I recall off the top of my head in Chinese texts I’ve worked with.


Agreed. Sarvaloke functionally means everything located in the world, but that world itself, grammatically speaking, is declined in the singular.


Yes, it’s a single collection of many things, so it’s literally singular but understood to mean something plural (people, places)–hence the applicability of “all.” In English and Chinese, there would probably be a tendency to read “all” as a pronoun: “All the nation was in agreement.” I’m not well-versed in Indic grammar–perhaps it’s a case of bending rules?



In the EBT doesn’t “sabba” just mean everything we experience via the senses? So it’s about a focus on phenomena, and away from speculation about ontology.


While researching pronouns for another project, I did notice that sarva is a pronominal adjective in Sanskrit. It’s non-standard to read all as a pronoun when it’s a modifier, but it makes sense in certain contexts.


諸 = various , each and every , numerous


  1. various
  2. many


  1. all
  2. everything
  3. anything
  4. everybody
  5. everyone


  1. many
  2. much


I would actually be curious to see examples of usage showing 諸 and 一切 being interchangeable, especially if there’s clear evidence of a translator rendering sarva as 諸. In most Buddhist translations, both terms occur and 一切 is used for “all” and 諸 is used for “more than one of a class”. Also, I don’t recall seeing 諸 used as a pronoun the way 一切 can be used–as the subject and object of a verb on its own.

Pulleyblank agrees with my reading, as well–in classical Chinese texts it indicates a class of nouns, which can sometimes with context mean all of them, but usually not. 諸 does have pronomial roots that continued to be expressed with certain grammatical structures in classical texts like the Analects, but by the time Kumarajiva et al were translating, it had become mainly an adjective. (Outlines of Classical Chinese Grammar, p.126)



I think that it is the “each and every” reading @Gene offers that informs the occasional usage of 諸 as “all” (although I can’t find an example of it specifically translating ‘sarva’ atm).

Consider T1564.23c16 Madhyamakaśāstra @
All Buddhas either speak of self or speak of no self. All dharmas’ true aspect, within this, there is neither self nor no self. All dharmas’ true aspect is defined as mental activity’s and spoken language’s ending. There is no arising and no cessation, there is calm extinction, such is nirvāṇa. All is real, all is unreal, all is both real and unreal, all is neither real nor unreal: this is called all Buddhas’ dharma.

Notice how 諸佛 & 諸法 are used in the above at opening of the 1st and 3rd lines. Interestingly enough, and this is IMO, we lack a Sanskritic recension that would give us exactly what the Chinese is translating here because, once again IMO, the Madhyamakaśāstra likely comes from a nonstandard, minority, or divergent recension than the Sanskritic MMK we all know.

Also see:諸法

Although you’ll likely note that Charles Muller, who the DDB entry is based on, doesn’t actually cite any sūtrāṇi for that entry.

Consider T1796.635a22 Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa**: 不染著諸法三昧

To contextualise how 諸法 is being read in T1796**, from later in that same 18th parivarta 399a21**: 月幢相三昧者,如大軍將幢以寶作月像,見此幢相,人皆隨從;菩薩入是三昧中,諸法通達無礙,皆悉隨從。

**EDIT: I mistakenly referred to T1796 as Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa above. I misidentified it as the upadeśa by accident. T1796 is a commentary on the Sūtra of Mahāvairocana’s Completion of Buddhahood. The rest of the citations were supposed to clarify 不染著諸法三昧. Instead they are free-flowing examples.

The rest of the citations are from the miscellany (parivarta 18) of T1509, the real Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa:

709c29: […] 如諸法實相之音『有佛無佛,一切法、一切法相空,空中無有相,無相中則無作』<-- this uses both 諸 & 一切, but there may be a nuance I am missing in the text. I am only an amateur Chinese language enthusiast and am far from being able to immediately look at these texts and read a cogent string of sentences.

Observe later in the same 18th parivarta again

710a25: 復有麁業,於諸法畢竟空中取相生著心,所謂取色相,受、想、行、識相,眼相乃至意相,色相乃至法相,男相、女相,三界,善、不善,有為、無為相等。


Oh man, I got my Sanskrit titles confused. T1796 is a commentary on a different text entirely. The Sanskrit attribution is wrong here. It’s not from Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa.

I will fix these garbled citations in a second.

EDIT: fixed.


Yes, I can see it in this case that a translator may feel forced to use 諸 instead of 一切 because in Chinese verse he’s constrained by the number of syllables he can use. This could be a matter of poetic license as much as 諸 being intended to translate “sarva,” though. In context, you can drop “all” and the reader still understands you mean “all.”

I’m not saying 諸 doesn’t ever mean all/every, just that it’s ambiguous like a plural noun is ambiguous in English and other languages. 一切 is not ambiguous. It’s how you explicitly say “all.”

A simple prose example I was thinking of after replying is a common passage like this (T26, Sutra 1):


Does it mean the Buddha addressed all the bhiksus present? Yes, probably. But that is communicated with a plural noun in English because it’s what we’d assume to be the case. “At that time, the Bhagavan addressed the bhiksus.” If there was a doubt, or if we want to add emphasis, then we add “all.” This is how 諸 and 一切 are used in Buddhist texts in my experience. Classical Chinese doesn’t have a plural form for nouns, so they use modifiers to make it explicit. You also see 一 modifying nouns to make them definitely singular, which translates as “a” or “the” in English, unless it’s important that it’s one instead another number.



Indeed. And the “all” is also by it’s nature “many”, meaning that one could speak of “the many dharmāḥ” and mean “all dharmāḥ,” potentially, but still have technically said “the many dharmāḥ.”