The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes How Many types of Morality are there? 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 on Pāramitā. 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).

Notes (e): How Many types of Morality are there?

Morality in Groups of Twos:

(1) Cāritta-sīla and Vāritta-sīla

Precept involving performance of certain action (cāritta); Precept of abstentions (vāritta).

Of these two kinds, the precept laid down by the Buddha saying, “This should be done” is Cāritta-sīla. For example, performance of duties towards a preceptor (upajjhāya vatta); or duties towards a teacher (ācariya vatta), is fulfilment of cāritta sīla through practice.

Not doing what is prohibited by the Buddha saying, “This should not be done” is fulfilment of Vāritta-sīla. For example, observance of Parajika rules of the Vinaya (which prohibits bhikkhus from indulgence in sexual intercourse, from stealing, from killing and from falsely claiming attainments to magga and phala Insight) is observance of vāritta-sīla through avoidance.

Some people casually misinterpret these disciplinary rules saying that cāritta-sīla is the precept which would lead to no offence if it is not fulfilled, but its observance contributes to purifying one’s morality. In interpreting thus they make no distinction between bhikkhus and lay men.

Actually, the Buddha has laid down definite disciplinary rules concerning duties to be performed by a pupil towards his preceptor or teacher. Any co-resident pupil, who fails to abide by these rules, not only fails to fulfil the cāritta-sīla but is also guilty of breaking the disciplinary rules concerning performance of duties (vatta bhedaka dukkata āpatti). Thus, for bhikkhus, it cannot be said that non-fulfilment of cāritta-sīla would lead to no offence; for them, cāritta-sīla is the mandatory observance of the precepts laid down by the Buddha. As for lay person, it may be said that avoidance of wrong deeds, which would definitely give rise to rebirths in lower planes of existence, falls under the category of cāritta-sīla. On the other hand, abstinence from wrong deeds, which may or may not result in such rebirths, varitta, showing reverence to the aged, should be classified as cāritta-sīla.

For example, there are five precepts to be observed by lay men: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants. Indulgence in these deeds, instead of avoiding them, leads definitely to lower planes of existence. Therefore, abstaining from these five wrong deeds which will certainly result in such rebirths constitutes vāritta-sīla.

A lay person can also observe the eight precepts which are the avoidance of killing, stealing, lying and taking intoxicants, (these four precepts, falling under the category of vāritta-sīla and the additional four precepts of total sexual abstinence, abstaining from eating in the afternoon, abstaining from dancing, singing, playing music, and enjoying to them, and abstaining from using high and luxurious beds.

Actions included in these four additional precepts do not necessarily lead to the lower planes of existence. Lay noble persons, such as ‘Stream Winners’ (Sotāpanna), ‘Once Returners’ (Sakadāgāmin), enjoy lawful sexual relations with their own spouses, eat in the afternoon, dance, sing, etc. and sleep on high and luxurious beds. But, since they do so with mind unassociated with wrong view (diṭṭhi-vippayutta citta), their action will not result in rebirths in the lower planes of existence.

But an ordinary worldling may do these acts with mind either accompanied by wrong view (diṭṭhi-sampayutta) or unaccompanied by wrong view (diṭṭhi-vippayutta). These actions may or may not lead to rebirths in the lower plane of existence. Therefore, the four precepts, namely, total sexual abstinence, abstaining from eating in the afternoon, abstaining from dancing, singing, playing music, etc. and abstaining from using high and luxurious beds should be called Cāritta-sīla.

When a person, who has taken refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, observes the Five Precepts with meticulous care, he would be a lay disciple of the Buddha, an upāsaka. If he makes further efforts to observe the Eight Precepts, it is for the purpose of practising holy life at a higher level of endeavour. But, the Buddha has not said that the observance of the Eight Precepts will save one from the lower destinations and that observance of the Five Precepts alone is not enough to secure safety from the danger of falling into the lower planes of existence.

In this sense, therefore, the four additional observances included in the Eight Precepts should be considered to belong to the category of Cāritta-sīla. For bhikkhus, however, the Buddha has strictly forbidden them from indulging in these four acts; hence, for bhikkhus, avoidance of these acts constitutes definitely Vāritta-sīla.

Note for Special Consideration

A cursory reading of the above distinction between Cāritta-sīla and Vāritta-sīla or a superficial consideration of the fact of indulgence by noble disciples such as Visākhā in lawful sexual relation, eating in the afternoon, dancing, singing, playing music, etc. in using high and luxurious beds could lead one to wrong conceptions. One could easily take the wrong view that all such acts are faultless, blameless and, therefore, one is then liable to indulge in them more and more with the accompaniment of wrong view (micchādiṭṭhi). It is most important that one should not fall into such error of conception. Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants, being demeritorious wrong deeds, invariably lead to the lower planes of existence. There is no escape from their ill consequences. That is why noble persons (ariyas), will never do such acts, even if they are under the threat of death to do so. They will willingly give up their lives rather than acquiesce to do such acts, because they have uprooted, through magga Insight, all traces of latent tendency (anusaya) to do demeritorious acts. Just because ariyas, such as the ‘Stream Winners’, ‘Once-Returners’ and ‘Non-Returners’, indulge in taking food in the afternoon, etc. just as ordinary persons do, it is not correct to say that they do so with identical mental attitudes in their various acts.

The ariyas do not look upon objects of sense pleasure in the same way an ordinary worldling does; their manner of indulgence in sense pleasure is also different from that of worldlings.

The Commentary to the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN I, p.350) says that the ariya's attitude towards pleasurable sense objects is like that of a clean brahmin, who, pursued by an elephant in rut, seeks refuge with loathing and much reluctance in a dumping ground of excreta. When oppressed by craving for sensual pleasures, the defilement that has not been eradicated by the knowledge of the Path, the ‘Stream Winner’ or the ‘Once Returner’ deals with objects of sensual pleasures with mind unaccompanied by wrong view, just to pacify, subdue the burning heat of the defilement.

This exposition deserves careful consideration. Citing the example of ariya persons such as Visākhā, the worldling is liable to say wrongly that the ariyas indulge in sensepleasures exactly in the same way as he does. As pointed out in the Aṅguttara Commentary, the ariyas enjoy sense pleasures, with mind unaccompanied by wrong view, just to calm the burning desire, which is the defilement they have not yet destroyed with the knowledge of the Path, whereas the worldling indulges in sense pleasures generally with mind associated with wrong view.

To summarise, one may have sex relation with one’s spouse, take meal in the afternoon, dance, sing, play music, etc. and use high and luxurious beds, etc. with mind accompanied by wrong view resulting in rebirths in the lower planes of existence, or with mind unaccompanied by wrong view, not resulting in the lower planes of existence. Therefore, abstinence from these four actions (which may not lead to the lower planes of existence) should be classed as Cāritta-sīla and not as Vāritta-sīla.

The division of the Eight Precepts into four Cāritta-sīla and four Vāritta-sīla is tenable only when the vow of abstinence is made, separately for each individual precept as is current now. Should the vow be taken for the whole group of the Eight Precepts, saying: “I observe the Eight precepts,” it would simply be observance of Cāritta-sīla, because the

Eight Precepts constitute a code of morality which one may or may not observe.

As for the Five Precepts, whether the vow is taken for the Five Precepts as a whole or as separate individual precepts, its observance is practice of Vāritta-sīla definitely. (More detailed treatment of Vāritta and Cāritta-sīlas is given in the Chapter on Miscellany below).

Of the two categories of Sīla, observance of Cāritta-sīla can be accomplished only when one is endowed with faith and energy. Faith is believing that good results will follow good deeds of practising morality; and energy means the relentless effort with which one observes the precepts in keeping with his faith.

No special effort is needed to become accomplished in the observance of the Vāritta-sīla. It requires only faith. Mere refrain through faith from doing deeds which the Buddha has taught to be demeritorious is sufficient for the fulfilment of Vāritta-sīla.

(2) Abhisamācārika-sīla

Group of moral practices (Abhisamācārika-sīla) which promote good conduct and which include all forms of virtuous acts other than those classed as a set of eight precepts with right livelihood as the eighth, Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla. All forms of moral practices which are taught for fulfilment of the Path and the Fruition come under this classification.

Since it forms the beginning of the life of purity consisting in the Path, the set of eight precepts consisting of the practices of the right livelihood. (Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is also termed Ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla.

Precepts with right livelihood as the eighth, Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla, include three moral physical actions: abstaining from killing, from stealing, from indulging in wrongful sexual intercourse;four moral verbal actions: abstaining from lying, from malicious speech, from using harsh and abusive words, from frivolous talks; and finally abstaining from wrong livelihood.

The Visuddhi-magga states that the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla may also be termed Ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla as it includes precepts which are to be fulfilled in the initial stage of developing the Noble Path.

This Commentary statement is likely to be misinterpreted by some as to mean that only Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is the precept which should be observed first for the attainment of the Path. There have even appeared some groups which maintained that the Five Precepts, the Eight Precepts and the Ten Precepts, which are generally observed at present, are not the initial precepts which should be observed for the attainment of the Path.

On the other hand, there are some people who say that they have not even heard of this strange code of morality called Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla;it could not have been taught by the Buddha; it may be a later accretion of no particular worth.

As a matter of fact, Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is certainly the precept taught by the Buddha himself. The Visuddhi-magga quoted the Uparipannasa Pāli (5 Vagga, 7 Sutta): “Tenāha pubbeva kho panassa kāyakammam vacikammam ājivo suparisuddho hoti ti” to show that the Buddha taught the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla, the set of precepts with right livelihood as the eighth.

The Buddha made His appearance in the world at a time when it was enveloped in the dark mass of evil forces. People were depraved, bereft of morality, steeped as they were in evil thoughts, words and deeds. When the Buddha wanted to inculcate in those wild, debased beings a sense of gentle civility through practice of morality, He had to select a moral code from amongst various sets of precepts which would best suit their coarse minds. He thus taught them at the initial stages the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla. When the grosser forms of evil had been removed from the habits of the untamed beings by teaching them the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla, the Buddha no longer made use of it; instead he taught the Five Precepts and the Eight Precepts in his further civilizing endeavours.

Having thus been set aside by the Buddha when a certain stage of moral purification has been reached by the people, successive teachers from the time of the Buddha till the present time have not given much attention to the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla; lay people also have not made special effort to observe it (because Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla was originally meant for people of debased morality only). A question arises here: Since Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla forms the initial practice for the Path and since it had been used at the time when the Buddha first appeared, would it not be even more suitable to observe it at the present time?

The term ‘initial practice for the Path’ is applicable only when the Ājīvaṭṭhamakasīla is observed by those who have no code of morality whatever at the start to serve as the precept for the Path. Those who have only recently given up wrong views and begun to embrace Buddhism should no doubt start to purify themselves by observing this Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla but when they have become well established in the Buddhist belief after being well trained in the Sīla, it should no longer be termed ‘the initial practice for the Path’.

Even children of Buddhist parents have been taught to understand the dire consequences of gross misdeeds such as taking the life of sentient beings and they refrain from doing so. Accordingly, when they grow up and begin to observe precepts, there is no need for them to keep the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla. They should gradually advance in their training from the Five Precepts to the Eight Precepts and on to the Ten Precepts.

In other words, observance of Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is the necessary step which those steeped in immorality should take to rid themselves of debased habits; but for those who have been well brought up under the guidance of Buddhist parents, it is clear that they already possess a modicum of moral conduct. Therefore, there is no special need for them to observe the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla. What has been said above applies to the present time when the Buddha’s Teaching is widely extant.

Although brought up in a Buddhist environment and taught to refrain from gross misdeeds, if one judges oneself to be deficient in moral conduct and to have committed all kinds of grave transgression, one has no alternative but to start with the initial purification process of observing the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla for the practice of the Noble Path.

Those inclined to follow the line of least resistance are likely to find this Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla attractive if someone points out that in observing this Sīla, one does not have to refrain from indulging in intoxicating drinks and drugs, one does not have to refrain from dancing, singing, enjoying shows, that it is easily observed, being free from difficult restraints and that it serves as the basis for the attainment of the Path and the Fruition.

It is a weakness of human nature to look for easy means of acquiring wealth. People forget or ignore the fact that even with hard labour and diligent work, it is not always possible to have one’s dream of riches fulfilled. Many of them have become a prey to fraudulent villains who claim to possess magical secrets of multiplying one’s wealth. By seeking an easy way of becoming rich, people have fallen a victim to their own avarice.

Just as there are deceivers in worldly affairs, there are also frauds in religious matters, especially concerning the attainment of the Path and the Fruition which is, of course, not easy at all to come by. Many are those who, inclining to seek short cuts, have followed to their great loss the spurious teachings of self-acclaimed masters who promise them the stage of a ‘Stream-Winner’ within seven days of practising their technique or that of a ‘Once-Returner’ if one has adequate intellectual development. After finishing their seven days' course of practice, the master announces pseudo-attainments of his pupils as a ‘Stream-Winner’ or a ‘Once-Returner’ who consequently are delighted with their illusory achievements.

Here, we would like to sound a note of caution. The copper metal, if it could be converted into the precious metal of gold, through practice of alchemy, would become possessed of the properties of gold which are vastly different from those of the original base metal of copper. Likewise a noble person known as an Ariya who has achieved the First Path and Fruition only as a ‘Stream-Winner’ is easily distinguished from an ordinary worldling by means of his physical, verbal, mental demeanour. Instead of placidly accepting the announcement of the master as having attained the stage of a ‘Stream-Winner’ or a ‘Once-Returner’, one should, by selfintrospection, examine one’s true nature to see if one has changed for the better and has truly benefited by the seven days' course of practice. Only by self-evaluation in this manner could one save oneself from being misled by dubious teachers of religion.

Thus, in matters of observing the precepts or in other pursuits there is no short cut or easy way to achieve one’s cherished object. A person addicted to drinks will not be able to observe even the Five Precepts, not to speak of the higher practices such as the Eight Precepts.

The group of moral precepts other than the said Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is classified as Abhisamācārika-sīla, precepts which promote good conduct. Even the Five Precepts are to be considered as superior to the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla.

It may be questioned: ‘How could the Five Precepts, which have only one restraint (i.e. not to speak lies) out of the four verbal restraints, be superior to the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla which requires the observance of all the four verbal restraints (lying, gossiping, using abusive language and engaging in frivolous talks)?’

The answer lies in the fact that of the four verbal restraints, lying forms the basis of breach of all the verbal restraints. The Buddha teaches that for one who commits falsehood, there is no misdeed which he is not liable to perpetuate; and one who can abstain from lying can easily observe the remaining precepts.

How could one, who does not speak lies, engage himself in slandering, abusing and frivolous talks? This explains why only the restraint of falsehood is included as the main verbal restraint in the Five Precepts. Question arises, therefore, that the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla is superior to the Five Precepts.

Again, it may be asked: ‘Since the precept to refrain from wrong livelihood, which does not feature in the Five Precepts, forms the Eighth Precept of the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla, surely it should be deemed superior to the Five Precepts.’

The answer in brief to this question is: For one who observes the Five Precepts, no special effort is needed to refrain from wrong livelihood. After all, wrong livelihood means earning one’s living through wrong means of killing, stealing and lying. By observing the Five Precepts meticulously, one is automatically avoiding the misdeeds of killing. stealing and lying. Thus, the precept to refrain from wrong livelihood as an additional observance in the Ājīvaṭṭhamaka-sīla does not justify the claim of its superiority over the Five Precepts. What has been discussed above applies only to lay devotees.

For members of the Sangha, the rules of discipline laid down by the Buddha for them as expounded in the Vinaya Piṭaka are known as Sikkhāpadas.

The offences, for which penalties are imposed, may be classified under seven categories depending on their nature:

(i) Pārājika,
(ii) Sanghādisesa,
(iii) Thullaccaya,
(iv) Pācittiya,
(v) Patidesaniya,
(vi) Dukkata,
(vii) Dubbhāsita.

An offence in the first category of offences (Pārājika), and one in the second category (Sanghādisesa), are classified as grave offences (Garukāpatti).

The remaining five categories which consist of light offences are called ‘Lahukāpatti’. The group of moral precepts observed by bhikkhus so that there is no breach of lesser and minor offences classified under lahukāpatti is known as Abhisamācārika-sīla; that observed by them to avoid transgression of grave offences (garukāpatti), is known as Ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla.

Of the five volumes of the Vinaya Piṭaka, Pārājika Pāli and Pācittiya Pāli, also known as Ubhato Vibhanga deal with codes of morality which belong to Adibrahmacariya category of sīla;Mahā Vagga Pāli and Cūla Vagga Pāli which are collectively termed Khandhaka Vagga describe the group of morality which has been classified Abhisamācārika-sīla. (The last volume, Parivāra, gives a summary and classification of the rules in the four previous volumes).

(Bhikkhus become accomplished in Ādibrahmacariyaka-sīla only after completing observance of Abhisamācārika-sīla. When a bhikkhu meticulously avoids transgression of even a minor fault, a light offence, it goes without saying that he will take the greatest care not to be guilty of grave offences).

(3) Virati-sīla and Avirati-sīla

(a) Virati-sīla means the mental concomitants of three abstinences, that is, right speech, right action and right livelihood as explained under the subtitle “What is morality?”

(b) Avirati-sīla consists of precepts associated with various mental concomitants, such as volition, etc., other than the mental factors of three abstinences (virati).

(4) Nissita-sīla and Anissita-sīla

(a) Nissita-sīla is morality practised depending upon craving or upon wrong view. When one observes precepts with the aim of achieving a happy existence in the future abounding in wealth and property, one’s sīla is called morality of dependence upon craving. Observance of precepts or rituals (such as imitating cows or dogs) in the wrong belief that they are conducive to spiritual purification is called morality of dependence upon wrong view.

(Those who have embraced Buddhism are not likely to practise the morality of dependence upon wrong view; but they should guard themselves against practising the morality of dependence upon craving which they are liable to do).

(b) Anissita-sīla is morality practised without depending upon craving or upon wrong view with the sole aim of cultivating the noble practice. This means practice of mundane morality which is prerequisite for that supramundane morality.

(5) Kālapariyanta-sīla and Āpānākoṭika-sīla

(a) Kālapariyanta-sīla is morality observed for a limited period.

(b) Āpānakotika-sīla is morality observed for life.

In describing Kālapariyanta-sīla, the Visuddhi-magga mentions only in a general way the limit of the observing period (kālaparicchedam katvā samādinnam sīlam). But its Tikā is more specific in prescribing the time limit: whole day or whole night, etc. (kalaparicchedam katvā ti imañ ca rattim imañ ca divan ti ādinā viya kālavasena paricchedam katvā).

Nowadays, many people take the precepts without mentioning any time limit; so it seems for life. But as the intention is to observe a certain precept for a day or a limited period only, it is certainly a temporary morality. As the formulae in the Commentary and the Sub-Commentary for taking the vow of precept, mentioned above, require the stating of the period of observance, one should mention the period during which one would observe the precept. However, neglecting to do so constitutes no fault; it would still be a temporary practice of morality.

The intention, though unspoken, is generally assumed to be for the whole period of a day, or a night, or a whole day and night. But it is not necessarily so, according to the Commentary on the Patisambhidā Magga, which states that one may observe the precepts for one sitting, like lay devotees who, having established themselves in the Triple Gem, observe a set of Precepts while making a donation to an invited bhikkhu in their home. They observe the Precepts only for the duration of the ceremony of alms-giving. Or they may undertake to observe a set of precepts during their sojourn at a monastery for a day or two or more. These are all observances of temporary morality.

Thus, according to this Commentary, it is beneficial to observe precepts even for a very short period. Therefore, teachers explain that it is quite proper to encourage children, who are not used to go without an evening meal, to take the eight precepts on uposatha days and observe them all throughout the morning only. One always gains merit for doing the good deed of observing precepts. however short the duration of the observance may be.

Two stories in the Cula Vagga of the Peta Vatthu illustrate this point. During the time of the Buddha, there was, in Rājagaha, a hunter who earned his living by killing deer day and night. A friend of his was a disciple of the Buddha, being established in the Triple Refuge. The friend advised the hunter to refrain from the evil act of killing game animals. But his advice fell on deaf ears. Undaunted, he suggested to the hunter to refrain from killing at least during night time and instead to engage himself in the meritorious act of observing precepts. The hunter finally gave in to his friend’s persistent persuasion, and abandoning all acts of preparations for killing during night time, he spent his time observing precepts. After his death, the hunter gained rebirth near Rājagaha as a Vemanika peta, who was subjected to great suffering during the day, but lived a happy life at night enjoying fully the pleasures of the senses.

The Venerable Nārada Thera, encountering this peta in the course of his wanderings, enquired of him as to what kind of meritorious acts he had performed in his previous lives. The peta recounted his life as a hunter, how he earned his living by killing; how his friend, who was established in the Triple Refuge, counselled him to give up his wrong mode of living; how he refused his friend’s good advice at first but finally succumbed to his persuasion half-heartedly by giving up hunting at night time and devoting to good deed of observing precepts. For his cruel misdeeds in the day time, he was suffering intensely during the day while at night he lived the blissful, sensuous life of devas.

The second peta story is similar. But it concerns a wealthy sportsman who hunted deer, day and night, as a pastime for sheer enjoyment, not for livelihood. He also paid no heed to a friend of his who proffered him good advice for his benefit. Ultimately, he was won over by an arahat, who came on an alms-round to his friend’s house, who instructed him to devote at least the night time to meritorious acts instead of full-time pursuit after sport. He suffered the same fate after death as the hunter of the previous story.

We learn from these two stories that we reap the benefit of meritorious deeds even if they were performed only for the short period of night time. Accordingly, we should make an endeavour to observe the precepts for whatever time we could afford however short it may be.

(6) Sapariyanta-sīla and Apariyanta-sīla.

(a) Sapariyanta-sīla is morality, the observance of which is brought to an end before a stipulated time for some reason such as being coaxed or tempted with an offer of wealth or servants and attendants to break the observance or being threatened with destruction of one’s life and limb or of one’s relatives to do so. In this type of sīla it should be noted that although its observance is brought to an end through outside interference, nevertheless, merit has been already gained, commensurate with one’s precepts. Sīla observed before is not rendered fruitless by its termination.

(b) Apariyanta-sīla is morality, the observance of which is not cut short by any outside influence but is maintained till completion of the intended period.

(7) Lokiya-sīla and Lokuttara-sīla

(a) Lokiya-sīla is morality subject to (or accompanied by) mental intoxicants (āsavas) such as sensual desire, desire for future existence, wrong view and ignorance.

(b) Lokuttara-sīla is morality not subject to (or not accompanied by) the mental intoxicants.

Lokiya-sīla is conducive to happy future rebirths (as a human being or a deva) and is a prerequisite for escape from the cycle of rebirths. Lokuttara-sīla brings about escape from saṃsāra;it is also an object for contemplation with Reflective Knowledge (Paccavekkhanā-ñāṇa).

Morality in Groups of Threes

(1) (a) Hīna-sīla, (b) Majjhima-sīla, and (c) Paṇīta-sīla.

When the four elements, viz. will (chanda), energy (vīriya), consciousness (citta) and investigative knowledge (vimamsa), (a) with which precepts are observed are of inferior quality, it is Hīna-sīla; (b) when they are of medium quality, it is Majjhima-sīla; (c) when they are of superior quality, it is Panita-sīla.

(a) When morality is observed through desire for fame, it is Hīna-sīla. Such an observance is an act of hypocrisy, a deceptive show of sham piety, without pure volition for doing a genuine meritorious deed. Hence it is low (hīna).

(b) Observance of morality through desire for a good destination is no doubt associated with a certain amount of greed, but it is a wholesome wish for beneficial results of one’s good deeds and is accompanied by volition and faith. Hence it is nobler than one observed through desire for fame.

On the other hand, since the motivating force here is still tainted with the expectation of beneficial results from one’s meritoriousness, it is not ranked a superior kind, but only a middle one.

(c) The morality observed, not through desire for fame nor through desire for reaping beneficial results of one’s good deeds, but through understanding that observance of precept is a noble practice for pure life and through realization that one should indeed cultivate these practices, solely for their nobleness is known as a major morality. Only such a morality of superior quality observed with pure wholesome volition, unassociated with any form of greed, is reckoned as the genuine Perfection of Morality (Sīla-pāramī).

(When the Bodhisatta took the existence of a nāga, during his two lives as Campeyya Nāga and Bhūridatta Nāga, he could not exert for the superior kind of morality, but observed precepts only in the hope of attaining rebirth as a human being. In that sense, the morality he observed was of medium quality. Nevertheless, since he did not break the precepts and persisted in their observance even at the risk of his life, his effort is to be regarded as fulfilment of the Perfection of Morality).


(a) When the morality is defiled by demeritorious thoughts of self-praise and disparagement of others such as “I am virtuous; others are not virtuous and inferior to me”, it is a minor morality.

(b) The morality which is not tainted with such defilements but is a mundane sīla is a middle morality.

(c) When the morality is free from all taints and is associated with supramundane Path and Fruition it is classed as a major morality.


(a) Hīna-sīla (Minor morality) is the morality that is observed with a view to attain happy prosperous rebirths.

(b) Majjhima-sīla (Middle morality) is one practised for self-liberation from the cycle of suffering such as that practised by future ordinary disciples of the Buddhas or by future Paccekabuddhas (Non-Teaching Buddhas).

(c) Panita-sīla is observed by Bodhisattas for the purpose of liberating all beings from the cycle of rebirths and it qualifies as Perfection of Morality (Sīla-pāramī). (This Commentarial statement is made with reference to the noblest type of morality. But this does not mean that morality observed by Bodhisattas alone qualifies as such; morality belonging to Paccekabuddhas and Disciples of a Buddha, though it is not the noblest type, should also be recognized as Perfection of Morality).

(2) (a) Attādhipateyya-sīla, (b) Lokādhipateyya-sīla and (c) Dhammādhipateyya-sīla.

(a) Attādhipateyya-sīla is the morality observed out of self-respect and to satisfy one’s conscious by abandoning what is unbecoming and unprofitable.

(b) Lokādhipateyya-sīla is the morality observed out of regard for the world and to ward off censure of others.

(c) Dhammādhipateyya-sīla is the morality observed in reverence to the glory of the Buddha’s Teaching. One who practises this sīla is convinced that the discourse of the Buddha on the subjects of the Path, the Fruition and Nibbāna truly show the way to liberation from the cycle of rebirths and that the only way to pay respect to the Dhamma and to honour the Dhamma is through observance of precepts.

(3) (a) Parāmaṭṭha-sīla, (b) Aparāmaṭṭha-sīla, and (c) Patippassaddha-sīla.

(a) Parāmaṭṭha-sīla is the same as Nissita-sīla (item 4 of the Groups of Twos); it is observed with adherence to craving or wrong view. Because of craving, one is pleased with the thought that his morality would result in happy destination he longs for and that it is superior to that of others. Because of wrong view, he holds that his morality is the ‘Soul or Substance’. In either case, that morality falls under the category of Paramattha-sīla.

(Even while practising it, this morality burns with the fires of craving and wrong view. The fires of craving and wrong view burn not only when enjoying the sense pleasures, but even while practising alms-giving and morality. Only when the practice of good deeds reaches the state of meditation, that it becomes immune from the ravages of these fires. By practising (Vipassanā Meditation) till one comes to realize that this body is not self, not a personality but mere phenomenon of matter and mind, one can become free from the fires of wrong personalitybelief, sakkaya-diṭṭhi ).

(b) Aparāmaṭṭha-sīla is morality observed by a virtuous worldling (kalyānaputhujjana) who is established in the Triple Gem and who has started cultivating the Noble Path of eight constituents with a view to attain the Path and Fruition. This is also the morality of a learner (sekkha) who, through cultivating the Noble Path of eight constituents, has attained one of the four Paths or the first three Fruitions but still has to work for the Final Goal of the Fourth Fruition.

(c) Patippassaddha-sīla is morality that becomes calm on attaining the four Fruition States (of sotāpatti, sakadāgāmī, anāgāmī and arahatta).

(4) (a) Visuddha-sīla, (b) Avisudhha-sīla, and (c) Vematika-sīla.

(a) Visuddha-sīla is morality of a bhikkhu who has not committed a single offence (of the Vinaya rules) or who has made amends after committing an offence.

(b) Avisuddha-sīla is morality of a bhikkhu who has committed an offence and has not made amends after committing it.

(c) Vematika-sīla is morality of a bhikkhu who has misgivings about the alms-food he has accepted (whether it is bear meat which is not allowable, or pork which is allowable for him); who has misgivings about the offence he has committed (whether it is a pācittiya-āpatti or dukkata-āpatti) and who is uncertain whether the act he has done constitutes an offence or not.

(A bhikkhu engaged in meditation should endeavour to purify his sīla if it is impure. Should he be guilty of a light offence (i.e. one of the ninety-two pacittiya offences), he should remedy it by admission of the offence to a bhikkhu and thus purify his sīla. Should he be guilty of a grave offence (i.e. one of the thirteen sanghādisesa offences), he should approach the Sangha and confess his offence. Then, as ordered by the Sangha, he should first observe the parivāsa penance[1] and then carry out the manatta penance[2]. Then only would his sīla become pure and he is fit for practice of meditation. Should he have doubts about the nature of the alms-food he has accepted or of any of the actions he has done, he should carefully scrutinize them or consult a Vinaya specialist who is learned in the Vinaya rules and thus remove his scruples and purify his sīla).

(5) (a) Sekkha-sīla, (b) Asekkha-sīla, and (c) Nevasekkha-nāsekkha-sīla.

(a) Sekha-sīla is the morality observed by one who is still undergoing Training. It is the morality associated with those who have attained the Four Paths and the first Three Fruition States.

(b) Asekkha-sīla is the morality observed by one who no longer requires any training. It is the morality associated with those who have attained the Fruition State of an Arahat.

(c) The group of mundane precepts not falling under (a) and (b) is Nevasekkhanāsekkha-sīla. It is the morality observed by one who is neither a learner nor a non-learner; it is the morality of an ordinary worldling.

Morality in Groups of Fours

(1) (a) Hānabhāgiya-sīla, (b) Thitibhāgiya-sīla, (c) Visesabhāgiya-sīla, and (d) Nibbedhabhāgiya-sīla.

(a) The morality that is bound to decrease is called Hānabhāgiya-sīla. (A certain bhikkhu associates himself with immoral persons only and does not associate with the virtuous; he does not know or see the fault of committing an offence, he often dwells with wrong thoughts and does not guard his faculties. The morality of such a bhikkhu makes no progress, instead it decreases day by day.)

(b) The morality that remains stagnant is called Thitibhāgiya-sīla. (A certain bhikkhu remains satisfied with the morality he is already established in and does not wish to practise meditation for further advancement. He is quite content with mere morality and does not strive for any higher state; his morality neither makes progress nor decreases, it just stagnates.)

(c) The morality that will gain distinction is called Visesabhāgiya-sīla. (A certain bhikkhu, having established himself in morality, is not content with mere morality but strives for concentration of mind. The morality of that bhikkhu is called Visesabhāgiya-sīla or the morality that will gain the special benefit of the concentration of mind.)

(d) The morality that penetrates and dispels the darkness of defilements is Nibbedhabhāgiya-sīla. (A certain bhikkhu is not content with mere morality but strives hard to get, through Vipassanā meditation, strong Vipassanā-insight (balavavipassanā-ñāṇa) which is the knowledge of disgust with the sufferings of the cycle of rebirths. The morality of that bhikkhu is the one that penetrates and dispels the darkness of defilements through the Path and the Fruition.)

(2) (a) Bhikkhu-sīla, (b) Bhikkhunī-sīla, (c) Anupasampanna-sīla, and (d) Gahaṭṭha-sīla.

(a) The rules of discipline promulgated by the Exalted One for bhikkhus and those which should also be observed by them although promulgated for bhikkhunīs are called Bhikkhu-sīla.

(b) The rules of discipline promulgated for bhikkhunīs and those which should also be observed by them although promulgated for bhikkhus are called Bhikkhunī-sīla.

(c) The Ten Precepts observed by male and female novices or neophytes, sāmaṇeras and sāmaṇerīs, are called Anupasampanna-sīla. (Non-bhikkhus are called anupasampanna. Although lay men are also Anupasampanna, according to this definition, they will be shown as gahaṭṭha separately and are, therefore, not included here. Only sāmaṇeras and sāmaṇerīs are taken as anupasampanna by the Commentator. Yet there is another kind called sikkhamāna. As the sikkhamānas are elder sāmaṇerīs who undergo a special training as probationers to become bhikkhunīs, they are not mentioned here separately but are reckoned as sāmaṇerīs).

(d) The morality observed by the laity is called Gahaṭṭha-sīla. With regard to Gahaṭṭha Sīla, the Visuddhi-magga says:

Upasaka upāsikānam niccasīlavasena pañcasikkhāpadāni sati vā ussāhe dasa upesathaṅga vasena atthāti idam gahattha-sīlam.

The Five Precepts as a permanent undertaking, the Ten Precepts when possible and the Eight Precepts as a special observance on an Uposatha day, come under Gahaṭṭha Sīla which should be observed by male and female followers.

There are different views on the meaning of the Pāli phrase: “sati vā ussāhe——when possible” of the Visuddhi-magga.

Some teachers take the view that not only the Five Precepts but also the Ten Precepts are to be observed as permanent undertaking. They wrongly apply to the Ten Precepts the attribute of nicca-sīla, a ‘permanent undertaking’ which is only meant for the Five Precepts.

According to these teachers, “To observe the Five Precepts, it is not necessary to consider whether a person has the ability; he should observe the Five Precepts forever. Regarding the Ten Precepts, even though it is urged that the Ten Precepts should be observed as a permanent undertaking, only persons with the ability should observe them. The ‘ability’ means the ability to abandon his treasure of gold and silver with no more attachment to it; giving up his possessions in this manner, he should observe the Ten Precepts for the whole of his life, not just for some days and months only’. If his intention is to avoid handing gold and silver during the period of observance only and to use them again afterwards, then he should not observe them at all.

Again, some people erroneously think and say: “It is difficult for people to abandon their own possessions of gold and silver; therefore, laymen are not fit to observe the Ten Precepts.” Also, according to the Visuddhi-magga Mahātika, the term ‘dāsa’ (ten), should be taken as the Ten Precepts of sāmaṇeras. It is commented further that sīla here is meant to be like the sīla observed by Ghatikāra the pot-maker and others. This commentarial statement makes for more confusion in the already mistaken view of these people. They take the extreme view that it is not enough for people to merely refrain from acquiring and accepting new wealth; they should be able to abandon all that they have already possessed just as Gha Tikara of the Ghatikāra Sutta (Rājavagga, Majjhimapaṇṇāsa) refrained from using gold and silver for his whole life. And only when they are like Ghatikāra in this respect, they can be fully established in the Ten Precepts. Thus they have made an overstatement.

To clarify:

Their view is that only when a person can “abandon his treasure of gold and silver with no more attachment to it”, he should observe the Ten Precepts. It is mistaken as it arises with reference to Jātarūpa sikkhāpada of the Ten Precepts. According to this interpretation, only when people can abandon all the wealth they possess, without clinging any more, they will be fully established in the precepts. Ghatikāra is an anāgāmin (a Non-Returner), who has already abandoned all his wealth without clinging any more. Nowadays, although the laity do not acquire fresh wealth on the day of observance of the Ten Precepts, they have stored up at home and elsewhere all the wealth they have made previously and so it is against the jātarūpa sikkhāpada. Hence, they should not observe the Ten Precepts unless they abandon all their wealth with no more attachment. Even if they take the Ten Precepts, they fail to keep them.

The interpretation of these teachers is not sustainable, because there is for bhikkhus, rupiyasikkhapada, concerning handling and possession of money which is more subtle and nobler than the jātarūpa sikkhapada of the laity. According to that sikkhāpada, a bhikkhu should not accept money nor let others do so for him; if it is left near him in the absence of someone to receive it, he should not remain complacent but raise his objection saying: “Gold and silver is not allowable for bhikkhus; we do not want to accept it.” If he does not raise any objection, then he commits an offence; and the gold and silver should be abandoned by him too. This is the disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha.

Suppose a dāyaka comes to a bhikkhu and offers money, even though the bhikkhu, following the Vinaya rules, forbade him and refuses to accepts it; but he leaves it all the same and goes away; if another dāyaka comes along and the bhikkhu tells him about the money and the dāyaka says: “Then please show me a safe place for keeping the money”, the bhikkhu may go up to the seventh terrace of the monastery, taking the dāyaka with him, and says: “Here is a safe place”. But he should not say: “Keep it here”. However, when the dāyaka has gone away after keeping the money safely in the place shown by the bhikkhu, the bhikkhu can close the door of the room carefully and keep watch on it. In doing so, the bhikkhu is not guilty of infringement of any disciplinary rule, states the Commentary clearly on rūpiya sikkhāpada.

If possession of gold and silver is not allowable for the laity observing the jātarūpa sikkhāpada, it will, by no means, be allowable for the bhikkhu who observes the subtler and nobler precepts to keep watch on his gold and silver. Thus, it should be noted that if such a bhikkhu is free from offence, so is the laity who is not affected in the observance of the jātarūpa sikkhāpada by his possession of wealth left in place of security.

In the Visuddhi-magga Mahātikā, the example of Ghaṭikāra the pot-maker, is not cited to convey the meaning that “the laity should observe the Ten Precepts only when they can abandon all their wealth without clinging any more” like Ghatikāra. Actually, the example of Ghaṭikara, a superior observer of the Ten Precepts, is cited just to exhort the people not to be content with their ordinary observance of the Ten Precepts, but that they should make efforts to become observers of a higher type following Ghatikara’s example. Even though they cannot be equal to him, the citation is made in order to encourage them to emulate Ghatikara as far as possible.

The authority for this remark is: “sīlamayanti niccasīla uposatha niyamādivasena pañca attha dasa vā silāni samādiyantassa” as commented in the Itivuttaka Aṭṭhakathā by Acariya Dhammapāla Thera, the author of Visuddhi-magga Mahātikā.

[Five, Eight and Ten Precepts]

[Brahmacariya-Pañcama Sīla]

[Aṭṭhanga Uposatha Sīla]

(3) (a) Pakati-sīla, (b) Acāra-sīla, (c) Dhammatā-sīla and (d) Pubbahetu-sīla.

(a) Non-transgression of the Five Precepts by inhabitants of the Northern Continent is called Pakati-sīla. (By nature, these inhabitants refrain from wrong deeds, such as killing, etc. without taking the vow of the Five Precepts.) Non-breaking of the Five Precepts by them is not a matter of restraint through a vow (samadana-virati), but of natural restraint even when transgression is demanded by circumstances (sampattavirati).

(b) Following traditional practices of one’s family, locality or sect is called Acāra-sīla. (Refraining from evil because it is done so by one’s ancestry is called Kula-acāra; refraining from evil because it is generally done so in one’s locality is called Desaacāra; refraining from evil because it is done so in one’s sect is called Pāsaṇa-sīla.)

(c) The kind of sīla kept by the mother of a Bodhisatta since she conceived her son, by virtue of which she has no thought for man, is called Dhammatā-sīla. (A Bodhisatta’s mother regularly observes the Five Precepts and desires no man, not even her husband, from the moment of conception. This is because an extremely Noble Being, the Bodhisatta, is lying in her womb. As the sīla is kept as a rule by the mother of a Bodhisatta, it is called Dhammatā-sīla.)

(d) The observance of sīla by chaste persons, such as the youth Pippali (who later became Mahā Kassapa) and the Bodhisatta like King Mahāsīlava, through natural inclination and without anyone’s instruction is called Pubbahetu-sīla. (As a result of habitual observance of sīla in their former births, they are by nature inclined to observe sīla in this life.)

(4) (a) Pātimokkhasamvara-sīla, (b) Indriyasamvara-sīla, (c) Ājivapārisuddhi-sīla, and (d) Paccayasannissita-sīla.

These four are chiefly concerned with the bhikkhu. When the Bodhisatta, Sumedha the Hermit, reflected on the Perfection of Morality, he said to himself: “tath'eva tvam catūsu bhūmisu, silāni paripūraya——likewise, you should become accomplished in the four realms of sīla.”

(4a) Pātimokkhasamvara-sīla

The Sīla that liberates its observer from suffering of the four lower worlds is called Pātimokkhasamvara-sīla. (“pāti” - observer;“mokkha” - to set free)

The observer of this sīla (i) should have proper conduct, (ii) should have blameless, wholesome resorts, (iii) should see great danger in the slightest fault; the offence may be small like a particle of dust but one should see in it a danger as big as Mount Meru which has a height of one hundred and sixty-eight thousand yojanas above and under water and (iv) should observe and practise the precepts properly.

To explain further:

(i) In the world, there is Ācāra-dhamma that should be practised, and there is Anācāradhamma that should not be practised. The three wrong physical actions (killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse) and the four wrong speeches (telling lies, backbiting, abusing and babbling), altogether seven wrong doings (duccarita), and other deeds that cause breach of sīla constitute anācāra.

To give some examples of unwholesome actions that would cause breach of sīla: in the world, some bhikkhus earn their living by making gifts of bamboo, leaves, flowers, fruits, soap powder, and tooth sticks to the laity; they degrade themselves by approving of the wrong speeches of the laity, flattering them to gain favour, telling much falsehood mixed with a little truth just like a lot of uncooked peas mixed with a few cooked ones in a pot. They look after children of the laity as nurse-maids, embracing them, dressing them, etc. They serve as messengers running errands for their lay supporters; they give medical treatment to laity, look after their properties, exchange food and beverage with them. Such wrong livelihood as well as every other resort of wrong livelihood condemned by the Buddha are called Anācāra-dhamma.

It is improper for the bhikkhu to give bamboo, leaves, etc. even if the laity come and ask for their use; more so, therefore, when they are not asked for. Such acts of giving are not the business of bhikkhus. If they do so, they would be destroying the faith of the laity (kuladūsana) in the Vinaya.

In this connection, it might be asked whether the laity’s faith would not be destroyed if the bhikkhu does not give them what they want, or whether, if the bhikkhu gave them what they want, their faith would develop with the thought: “This is the bhikkhu who satisfies our needs.” The laity’s faith in the bhikkhu as a disciple of the Exalted One has been genuine and pure even before receiving gifts from the bhikkhu; after their receipt, the laity will see him as the giver of bamboo, the giver of leaves, etc. and as a result attachment will arise in them. Therefore, their faith in the bhikkhu becomes tainted with attachment. The genuine faith has been destroyed. Accordingly, the Exalted One has condemned the giving of gifts by the bhikkhu, naming such act as Kuladūsana, ‘despoilment of the laity’s faith’.

All practices which are the opposite of the aforesaid Anācāra are Ācāra practices which should be cultivated.

(ii) Resort is of two kinds, namely, wrong resort and right resort.

Wrong resort: some bhikkhus, in the Teachings of the Buddha, have intimate dealings with prostitutes, widows, divorced women, spinsters, eunuchs and bhikkhunīs. They frequent ale houses which is unbecoming for a bhikkhu. They mingle with kings, ministers, heretics and their followers like ordinary laymen. They associate with people who have no faith, who abuse and threaten the disciples of the Buddha, bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, male and female lay devotees and who wish them ill. All these intimate associates of bhikkhus and places frequented by them are wrong resort for bhikkhus.

‘Wrong resorts’ here refers to unwholesome friendship and association and improper places for bhikkhus to visit. But if a prostitute invites bhikkhus for alms offering, they can go and receive it, maintaining steadfast mindfulness. Herein, prostitutes, widows, divorced women, spinsters, eunuchs and bhikkhunīs are regarded as unwholesome resorts, because they form the bases of five sensual pleasures. Ale houses, taverns etc. are dangerous to the noble practice of Dhamma. Association with kings and ministers are also not beneficial; offerings made by them may prove destructive like a thunderbolt. And the houses, where there is no faith, where people are abusive and threatening, are unwholesome resorts because they discourage faith and cause fear in the bhikkhu.

People and places as opposed to those described above constitute the bhikkhu's wholesome resort. Some lay people have faith and confidence in the Triple Gem; they believe also in kamma and its results; they are like wells or lakes where the bhikkhu may enjoy inexhaustible supply of water. Their houses are brightened by the colour of the robes of bhikkhus who visit them frequently. The atmosphere of such a place is filled with the breeze which is caused by movements of bhikkhus. Here, people wish them well, wish for the welfare of bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs and male and female lay devotees; such a house is a wholesome resort for bhikkhus.

[To explain still further: Ācāra, Anācāra and Gocara].

(4b) Indriyasamvara-sīla

Guarding the faculty of sense is called Indriyasamvara-sīla. [(The six bases, namely, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are called Indriya.) Indriya means governing. In seeing a sight, the eye (cakkhu pasāda) is the governing organ. If the eye is defective, it cannot see an object (eye-consciousness cannot arise); therefore, the Buddha says that the eye is called cakkhundriya. Similarly, in hearing a sound, the ear (sota pasāda) is the governing organ. If the ear is defective, it cannot hear a sound (ear-consciousness cannot arise); therefore, the ear is called sotindriya. In smelling an odour, the nose (ghāna pasāda) is the governing organ; if the nose is defective, it cannot smell an odour (nose-consciousness cannot arise); therefore, the nose is called ghānindriya. In tasting a flavour, the tongue (jivhā pasāda) is the governing organ. If the tongue is defective, it cannot taste a flavour (tongueconsciousness cannot arise); therefore, the tongue is called jivhindriya. In touching a tangible object, the body (kāya pasāda) is the governing organ. If the body is defective, it cannot feel a tangible object (body-consciousness cannot arise); therefore, the body is called kāyindriya. In cognizing a mental object, the mind (mana) is the governing organ.

With no mind there cannot arise mind-consciousness;therefore, mind is called manidriya.

Thus guarding these six faculties (indriya) is called Indriyasamvara-sīla.]

This is how to guard the six sense faculties: when seeing a visible object with the eye, one should be aware of it only as a visible object; one should not cognize even the general aspect of what is seen, e.g. “this is a woman”, “this is a man”, “this is beautiful”, that will cause the arising of defilements. Nor should one give attention to details (anubyañjana) regarding the sign or image of that woman, man, etc., such as shape of hand, leg, etc. the manner of smiling, laughing, talking, etc. looking aside, etc., which will cause repeated arising of defilements.

Example of Venerable Mahā Tissa:

With regard to guarding the faculty of eye, Venerable Mahā Tissa who lived on the top of Cetīya mountain should be shown as an example. One day, the Venerable Mahā Tissa went into Anurādha for alms food. That day, a woman, who had quarrelled with her husband, left her house to go back to her parents' place. She had dressed herself in fine clothes. Seeing the Venerable, who was coming with the restraint of his faculties, she laughed loudly with the thought: “I will make him my husband after alluring him.” The Venerable Mahā Tissa looked up to see what it was. Seeing the bones of her teeth, he developed Perception of Foulness (Asubha saññā), and contemplating on it, he attained arahatship.

Her husband who was going after her saw the Venerable and asked:

“Venerable Sir, did you see a woman on the way?”

Nābhijānāmi itthi vā, puriso vā ito gato,
api ca aṭṭhisamghato, gacchatesa mahāpathe

“Dāyaka, I don't notice whether it was a man or a woman that went by. I was only aware that a skeleton had gone along the road.”

Even though the Venerable saw the sight of a woman, he just saw it, but was not aware that it was a woman; instead, he simply developed his meditation and became an arahat. That incident should be taken as a good example.

Without control of the sense of sight, when a bhikkhu sees a pleasant object, covetousness (abhijjhā) will arise in him; if he sees an unpleasant object, unhappiness, grief (domanassa) will arise in him. Therefore, one should exercise control over one’s sense of sight through mindfulness to prevent arising of such unwholesome states of mind.

With regard to the remaining sense doors, similar control is to be maintained so that no defilement would arise from hearing a sound, smelling an odour, tasting a flavour, touching a tangible object or cognizing a mental object.

(4c) Ājivaparisuddhi-sīla

Ājivapārisuddhi-sīla, the morality of purity of livelihood, means avoiding six kinds of livelihood which the Vinaya prohibits and avoiding of all other kinds of wrong livelihood.

[Six and Five kinds of Wrong Livelihood]

(4d) Paccayasannissita-sīla

Morality fulfilled by depending on the four requisites is called Paccayasannissita-sīla.

The four requisites are robes, food, dwelling place and medicine. They are indispensable; living is impossible without them. But when using them, one should reflect on the nature of the requisite concerned so that such evils as greed, hatred, etc. may not arise.

The way in which one should reflect: (While using robes) without considering it as an embellishment (which will cause arising of demeritorious thoughts), one reflects on it wisely: “For the purpose of protection from the cold, I wear this robe; for the purpose of protection from the heat of the sun, I wear this robe; for the purpose of protection from contact with mosquitoes, gad-flies, wind, heat of the sun, snakes, scorpions, fleas, etc. I wear this robe; for the purpose of concealing the private parts of the body (that would disturb conscience), I wear this robe.”

(While using alms-food) one reflects wisely: “I take this alms-food not for amusement as children do; I take this alms-food not for intoxication with manliness; I take this alms-food not for development of body beauty; I take this alms-food not for a clear skin and complexion. I take this alms-food only for long endurance and maintenance of the body; I take this alms-food for warding off the oppression of hunger; I take this alms-food for facilitating the noble practice. By thus taking alms-food, the old suffering of hunger and thirst will be got rid of; I will also ward off the new suffering of indigestion due to overeating, etc. By moderate eating, the old suffering of hunger and thirst and the new suffering of indigestion due to over-eating cannot arise, and my body will be maintained. This alms-food is sought properly and eaten in a blameless manner and by taking it moderately I shall live in comfort.”

With regard to living in comfort by eating moderately, the Buddha expounded:

Cattāro pañca ālope,
abhutvā udakam pive.
Alam phāsuviharāya,
pahitattassa bhikkhuno

With four or five morsels still to eat, a bhikkhu should finish off his meal by drinking water. This is sufficient to abiding in comfort of the bhikkhu with resolute will for meditation.

Even though this discourse was expounded by the Buddha primarily to meditating yogis, it is also beneficial to non-meditators. By following this instruction, they can abide in ease, free from discomfort of immoderate eating.

(While using a dwelling place) one reflects: “I use this dwelling place for the purpose of protection from the cold; I use this dwelling place for the purpose of protection from the heat of the sun; I use this dwelling place for the purpose of protection from mosquitoes, gadflies, wind, heat of the sun, snakes, scorpions, fleas, etc. I use this dwelling place to ward off the perils of extreme climates and for enjoying (secluded living).”

(While using medicine) one reflects: “I take this medicine for the purpose of countering illness, for the protection of life and for immunity from afflictions that have arisen or are arising.”

This elaborate manner of reflection is called Mahā Paccavekkhanā.

How to fulfil these four kinds of sīla

Of these four kinds, the Pātimokkhasamvara-sīla should be fulfilled with faith and confidence (saddhā): faith and confidence in the Buddha thus, “The Exalted One who has promulgated the sikkhāpadas is truly a Buddha who realizes all the Laws of Nature without exception, (i.e. having a clear vision of the Buddha)”; faith and confidence in the Dhamma thus, “The sikkhāpadas to be practised by the Sangha are indeed those promulgated by the Buddha. (i.e. having a clear vision of the Dhamma)”; faith and confidence in the Sangha thus, “Members of the Sangha are the disciples of the Buddha, all of whom practising well these sikkhāpadas (i.e. having a clear vision of the Sangha).”

Thus, if one has faith and confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, one would be able to fulfil the Pātimokkhasamvara-sīla.

Therefore, the sikkhapadas as promulgated by the Buddha should be observed without exception, with faith and confidence and should be fulfilled even at the cost of one’s life. The Buddha, indeed, has expounded thus: “Kiki va andam camarīva vāladhiṃ, etc.——Just as the female pheasant guards her eggs, even sacrificing her life, just as the yak (camari) guards its tail, even sacrificing its life, just as the householder guards his only son with loving-kindness, just as the one-eyed man protects his only eye with meticulous care, even so the observers of moral precepts in all three ages should have a high regard for the sīla, and guarding it with affection.”

[The Story of Elders who fulfilled Pātimokkhasaṃvara-sīla]

[The Story of Venerable Mahā-Mitta]

[The Story of Venerable Sāriputta]

[The Story of Venerable Ambakhadaka Mahā Tissa]

[Two Kinds of Reflection (Paccavekkhaṇā)]

Morality in Groups of Fives

(1) Morality is of five kinds:

(a) Pariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla,
(b) Apariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla,
(c) Paripunna Parisuddhi Sīla,
(d) Aparāmattha Parisuddhi Sīla, and
(e) Patippassaddhi Parisuddhi Sīla.

(a) Pariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla:

(a) Morality consisting in limited purification (Pariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla). Morality observed by lay devotees and sāmaṇeras are called morality consisting in limited purification, because it is limited by the number of precepts to be kept.

The Visuddhi-magga does explain the limit by the number of the precepts in Pariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla. But the Patisambhidā Magga Commentary explains, as has been mentioned before, two kinds of limit (i) limit regarding the number of precepts observed (Sikkhāpada pariyanta); (ii) limit regarding the period of observance of precepts (Kala pariyanta).

(i) Limit regarding the number of precepts observed: this refers to the number of precepts traditionally observed by lay devotees, namely, one, two, three or four precepts; five, eight or ten precepts (whatever number of precepts they can observe). Probationers, sāmaṇeras and sāmaṇerīs keep the ten precepts. This is the limit regarding the number of precept observed.

(ii) Limit regarding the period of observance of precepts: when lay devotees make a ceremonial offering of alms, they also observe precepts within the limited period of the ceremony; whenever they go to monastery too, they observe precepts before returning home, or for a few days or more during day-time or night-time. This is the limit regarding the period of observance of precepts.

(b) Apariyanta Parisuddhi Sīla:

Morality without limit (Apariyanta pārisuddhi Sīla). The Dve Matika which is the summary of the Ubhato Vibhanga enumerates 227 sikkhāpadas for members of the Sangha. When expanded, these sikkhāpadas total up to nine thousand, one hundred and eighty crores, five million and thirty-six thousand. These disciplinary rules for bhikkhus are promulgated by the Buddha and were recorded in brief by the Convenors of the First Council. The whole group of these disciplinary rules is called Apariyanta parisuddhi Sīla. Though the disciplinary rules are laid down by the Buddha in a definite number, the Sangha has to observe all of them without exception; furthermore, it is impossible to foresee the termination of observance of sīla through five kinds of destruction, namely, that due to gain, that due to fame, that due to relatives, that due to impairment of body and that due to loss of life. For these reasons, these disciplinary rules are collectively called Apariyanta parisuddhi Sīla. This is the kind of sīla observed by the Venerable Mahā Tissa of Ciragumba described above.

(c) Paripunna Parisuddhi Sīla:

Morality which is completely purified by a worldling who is striving for the spiritual good is called Paripunna parisuddhi Sīla. His morality, since the time of admission to the Order, has been very pure like a bright ruby properly cut or like well refined gold. Therefore, it is devoid of even the stain of impure thoughts and becomes the approximate cause for arahatship. Hence it is named Paripunna parisuddhi Sīla. The Venerable Mahā Sangharakkhita and his nephew, Venerable Sangharakkhitta, set examples of how such sīla is to be observed.

The Story of Venerable Mahā Sangharakkhita

While the Venerable Mahā Sangharakkhita of over sixty years standing in the Order (aged eighty) was lying on his death bed, bhikkhus enquired of him: “Venerable Sir, have you attained the supramundane states?” The Venerable replied: “I have not made any such attainment yet.” At that time a young bhikkhu attendant of the Venerable addressed him:

“Venerable Sir, people living within twelve leagues have assembled here thinking that the Venerable One has passed into parinibbāna. If they come to know that you have passed away as an ordinary worldling, they will be much disappointed.”

Then the Venerable said, “Friend, thinking I will see the coming Buddha Metteya, I have not strived for Vipassanā Insight meditation. If it will be a disappointment for many, help me to sit up and give me a chance to contemplate with mindfulness.” The young bhikkhu helped the Venerable to sit up and went out. As soon as the young bhikkhu left the room the Venerable attained arahatship and gave a sign by a snap of his fingers. The young bhikkhu then returned and made him lie down as before. He reported the matter to the Sangha who assembled and addressed the Venerable: “Venerable Sir, you have performed such a difficult task of attaining the supramundane state even when so close to death.” The Venerable replied: “Friends, it is not difficult for me to attain arahatship when the hour of death is drawing near. Rather, I will tell you what is really difficult to perform. Friends, I see no action which I have done without mindfulness and full comprehension since the time of my admission into the Order. It is only such kind of action which is always accompanied by mindfulness and full comprehension that is far more difficult to do.”

The Venerable’s nephew also attained arahatship like him when he completed fifty-sixth year as a bhikkhu.

(d) Aparāmattha Parisuddhi Sīla:

Morality unaffected by wrong view and observed by sekkha, noble persons and morality untarnished by lust, and observed by worldlings are called Aparāmaṭṭha pārisuddhi Sīla, the kind of morality observed by the Venerable Tissa the householder’s son.

[The Story of The Venerable Tissa]

[The Story of A Senior Monk]

(The sīla of these noble Venerables is Aparamattha-sīla.)

(e) Patippassaddhi Parisuddhi Sīla.

Morality of arahats, etc.{GL_NOTE::} which is purified through subsidence of the fires of defilements is called Patippassaddhi pārisuddhi Sīla.


(2) Morality is of five kinds:

(a) Pahāna-sīla
(b) Veramani-sīla
(c) Cetanā-sīla
(d) Samrata-sīla
(e) Avitikkama-sīla

(a) Pahāna-sīla

Morality observed by abandoning killing, etc. is called Morality of abandoning (Pahāna-sīla). (Here ‘etc.’ covers not only the wrong deeds of stealing, sexual misconduct and so on but also abandoning of everything that ought to be abandoned through successive stages of meritorious deeds. In terms of Abhidhamma, ‘abandoning’ (pahāna) means a group of wholesome consciousness together with their mental concomitants which are characterised by their function of abandoning everything that is to be abandoned wherever necessary.)

(b) Veramani-sīla

Morality observed by abstaining from killing, etc. is called Morality of abstention (Veramani-sīla). In terms of Abhidhamma, it is a group of wholesome consciousness together with their mental concomitants headed by virati cetasika.

(c) Cetanā-sīla

Morality observed by volition which associates avoidance of killing, etc. with consciousness is called Morality of Volition (Cetanā-sīla).

(d) Samrata-sīla

Morality observed by preventing thoughts of wrong deeds, such as killing, etc. from defiling the mind is called Morality of Restraint (Samvara-sīla). In terms of Abhidhamma, it is a group of wholesome consciousness together with their mental concomitants headed by sati cetasika.

(e) Avitikkama-sīla

Morality observed by not committing wrong deeds, such as killing, etc. is called Morality of Non-transgression (Avitikkama-sīla). In terms of Abhidhamma it is wholesome consciousness together with their mental concomitants.

(These five kinds of morality beginning with Pahāna-sīla are not separate ones like other sets of sīla; observance of one, e.g. Pahāna Sīla, by abandoning killing, etc. means observance of all the remaining ones as well.)

Footnotes and references:


Parivāsa: a penalty for a sanghādisesa offence requiring him to live under suspension from association with the rest of the Saṇgha for as many days as he has knowingly concealed his offence. At the end of this parivāsa observance he undergoes a further period of penance, mānatta.


Manatta: a period of penance for six days to gain approbation of the Saṇgha, after which he requests the Saṇgha to reinstate him to full association with the rest of the Saṇgha.

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