by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The Buddha’s Discourse on Morality (sila) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha Declared the Seven Factors of Non-Decline for Rulers. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
“Very well, Venerable Sir,” assented Ānanda, and he called upon the bhikkhus to accompany the Buddha. Then the Buddha, accompanied by many bhikkhus, went to Pāṭali village.
When the lay devotees of Pāṭali village heard that the Buddha had arrived at their village, they were very glad, for they had the great good fortune of having to receive the Buddha even without asking for it. They had just finished building a guest-house. How appropriate it would be if their first guest was the Buddha himself? “We shall request the Bhagavā to accept our offering of the guest-house and to listen to the Bhagava’s words of appreciation of our good deed,” they discussed among themselves. They approached the Buddha, made obeisance to Him, and sat at a suitable place. Then they said to Him: “May it please the Bhagavā to accept our new guest-house as His living quarters during His sojourn.” The Buddha showed His consent by remaining silent.
Having received the Buddha’s consent, the lay devotees of Pāṭali village rose from their seats, made obeisance to Him and went to their guest-house. They made it ready for use by furnishing it with floor coverings throughout, arranging separate seats, filling the big water pots and lighting the lamps. They arranged with the mothers to feed their infants early that evening and to put them to bed. Then they went back to the Buddha, made obeisance to Him, and stood on one side.
They said to Him:
“Venerable Sir, at the guest house, the floor has been covered throughout with floor-coverings, separate seats have been arranged, big water pots have been filled and lamps have been lit. May the Bhagavā proceed there when He wishes.”
(Note: The new guest-house was built by the villagers at the centre of the village. The main purpose in building it was to house visiting officials of the Licchavis and the Magadhans who often came and stayed at Pāṭali village, which was a border village. It was essential for the village because they had to surrender their houses to the visiting officials for their temporary lodging for a month or so, on each occasion. The new guest-house would now ease the situation. It was well arranged for the use of visiting officials with living quarters as well as strong rooms for the upkeep of treasures. At the time of the Buddha’s visit to the village it had just been completed. At first the villagers thought that the Buddha might prefer to dwell in the forest and so they did not make it ready to receive Him. Only when the Buddha consented to put up there, did the villagers prepare things to make it ready for His stay.)
Then the Buddha, at evening time, rearranged His robes, and taking His alms-bowl and great robe, proceeded to the guest-house accompanied by the bhikkhus. After washing His feet, He entered the guest-house where He sat against the middle post, facing east. The bhikkhus also washed their feet and entered the guest-house, and sat against the west wall, facing east, with the Buddha in front of them. The lay devotees of Pāṭali village also washed their feet and entered the guest-house, and sat against the east wall facing west, with the Buddha in front of them.
Then the Buddha discoursed on the five disadvantages befalling an immoral person and the five advantages that bless a person of virtue thus:
Five Disadvantages to An Immoral Man
"Householders, five disadvantages descend on an immoral person who lacks morality, and what are the five?”
(i) Householders, in this world, the immoral person, who lacks moral virtue, suffers great loss in fortune through heedlessness. This is the first disadvantage befalling an immoral person who lacks morality
(ii) Householders, furthermore, the ill-repute of an immoral person, who lacks moral virtue, spreads far and wide. This is the second disadvantage befalling an immoral person who lacks morality.
(iii) Householders, furthermore, an immoral person, who lacks moral virtue in the midst of any class of society, whether among the ruling class, or the recluses or the brahmin class, or the wealthy, looks diffident and uneasy. This is the third disadvantage befalling an immoral person who lacks morality.
(iv) Householders, further more, an immoral person, who lacks moral virtue, dies in a bewildered state. This is the fourth disadvantage befalling an immoral person who lacks morality.
(v) Householders, furthermore, an immoral person, who lacks moral virtue, after death and dissolution of the body, is destined to fall to the miserable existences of niraya. This is the fifth disadvantage befalling an immoral person who lacks morality. “Householders these are the five disadvantages befalling an immoral person through lack of morality.”
Five Advantages that bless A Virtuous Person
“Householders, five advantages bless a virtuous person for his being virtuous. What are the five?”
(i) Householders, in this world, a virtuous person, who possess moral virtue, acquires great wealth through being heedful. This is the first advantage that waits on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.
(ii) Householders, furthermore, the good reputation of a virtuous person, who possess moral virtue, spreads far and wide. This is the second advantage that waits on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.
(iii) Householders, furthermore, a virtuous person, who possess moral virtue in the midst of any class of society, whether among the ruling class, or the recluses, or the brahmin class, or the wealthy, can hold up his head and look anyone in the face. This is the third advantage that waits on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.
(iv) Householders, furthermore, a virtuous person, who possess moral virtue, dies without any bewilderment. This is the fourth advantage that waits on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.
(v) Householders, furthermore, a virtuous person, who possess moral virtue, after death and dissolution of the body, is destined to the fortunate existences of devas. This is fifth advantage that waits on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.
“Householders, these are the five advantages that wait on a virtuous person for his being virtuous.”
Although this discourse was addressed to lay persons it also applies to bhikkhus.
(1) With a lay person, lack of moral virtue may lead to committing evil deeds such as killing. As he indulges in evil, he tends to forget his usual means of livelihood, such as cultivation or trading, thereby incurring great losses of property. Worse still, his evil deed might be illegal under the law proclaimed by the king such as killing of animals, and he is liable to criminal punishment. If he steals, he also commits a crime equally liable to punishment. Thus, his lack of moral virtue can bring him great losses of property. Similarly, a bhikkhu lacking morality, being heedless, loses virtue, loses the good Doctrine, the word of the Buddha, loses jhāna, and loses the seven noble properties of ariyas.
(2) An immoral man earns a bad repute so that he is written off as an outcast, useless for this world and hopeless for future worlds. “This man is so stingy that he would not even take part in offering alms-food by drawing lots,” this is the kind of name he builds up for himself. All the four kinds of assemblies see him in that light only.
Similarly, in the case of a bhikkhu who lacks moral virtue, the ill repute that such and such bhikkhu is loose in bhikkhu morality, does not take up serious learning of the good Doctrine, makes a living on practice of medicine, or similar methods of livelihood abhorred by the Buddha, and that his behaviour is marked by six kinds of disrespect, spreads among the four kinds of assemblies.
(3) An immoral lay person is always pricked by a guilty conscience for the misdeeds he has done. Therefore, he does not dare to face the crowd. “Someone there might recognize me,” he fears, “and I might be apprehended and sent to the authorities.” That is why, in any of the four kinds of assemblies, he holds his face down and his shoulders stooping, he would uneasily keep on scratching the earth with a stick. He keeps his mouth shut as far as possible. Likewise, an immoral bhikkhu feels uneasy to face an assembly which might have knowledge of his misdeeds, in which case he might have to face punishment under the Vinaya process such as excommunication. Therefore, he goes into the assembly with great misgivings and speaks little. Some immoral bhikkhu, however, might put up a bold face and wander around amongst Sangha but in his heart he is feeling miserable only.
(4) An immoral one, whether lay person or bhikkhu, may put up pretences while living but, on his death bed, his evil deeds appear before him in their respective sensedoors. He feebly opens his eyes to see the present world, and then closes his eyes to see his oncoming world where he finds no solace whatever. His imminent destination, the four miserable states of apāya, becomes vividly clear to him. He feels great pangs of conscience as if thrust by a hundred spears on his head. “Help me! Help me!” He would scream in desperation and then breathe his last. This is what the Buddha means by “he dies in a state of bewilderment.”
(5) The fifth disadvantages befalling an immoral one needs no explanation.
(The advantages that wait on a virtuous one may be known as the opposite of the above five disadvantages befalling an immoral one.)
The Buddha then went on late into the night instructing the lay devotees of Pāṭali village on other topics including the happy consequences of their donation of the guest-house, thereby pointing out the benefits of the Doctrine, exhorting them to set themselves up in the practice thereof, and gladdening them in the practice. Then He sent them away, saying: “Householders, the night is far advanced; you may leave when you wish.”
“Very well, Venerable Sir,” the devotees of Pāṭali village said in assent, and making obeisance to Him, departed respectfully. Then not long after their departure, the Buddha retired in seclusion.
(Note: “The Buddha retired in seclusion” should be understood as referring to a separate part of the guest house screened off for privacy. A cot had been placed there for the Buddha, and He considered that the devotees would earn much merit if He were to use the guest house in all the four bodily postures. Therefore, He lay on the cot on his right side and rested.)
Footnotes and references:
Disadvanlage: ādīnava. Also translated as danger, fault.
Bewildered; Samnulha. The commentary explains this as delirium.
Seven noble properties of ariyas: satta ariya dhanani.
(i) Saddhā dhanam - faith in Three Jewels and kamma
(ii) Sīla dhanam - wealth of morality
(iii) Hirī dhanam - wealth of shame for doing evil
(iv) Ottappa dhanam - wealth of fear for doing evil
(v) Suta dhanam - wealth of vast knowledge
(vi) Cāga dhanam - wealth of charity, renunciation
(vii) Paññā dhanam - wealth of magga-phala attainments.