The Buddhist Path to Enlightenment (study)

by Dr Kala Acharya | 2016 | 118,883 words

This page relates ‘Abstention from Stealing (adinnadana)’ of the study on the Buddhist path to enlightenment. The Buddha was born in the Lumbini grove near the present-day border of India and Nepal in the 6th century B.C. He had achieved enlightenment at the age of thirty–five under the ‘Bodhi-tree’ at Buddha-Gaya. This study investigates the teachings after his Enlightenment which the Buddha decided to teach ‘out of compassion for beings’.

2.4.2. Abstention from Stealing (adinnādāna)

[Full title: The Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya-aṭṭhaṅgika-magga)—(4): Right Action—(b): Abstention from Stealing (adinnādāna)]

He avoids taking what is not given and abstains from it; what another person possesses of goods and chattel in the village or in the wood, that he does not take away with thievish intent.[1]

The second training precept under right action is to abstain from stealing and to live honestly taking only what is one‘s own by right. To take what belongs to another is not as serious as to deprive him of his life, but it is still a serious crime because it deprives him of some happiness. As no on wants to be robbed, it is not difficult to understand that it is wrong to take what is not one’s own. The thought that urges a person to steal can never be good or wholesome. Then robbery leads to violence and even to murder.

This precept is easily violated by those in trade and commerce, for all kinds of fraud and dishonesty come under the second precept. A man can use both his pen and his tongue with intent to steal. There can be no peace or happiness in a society where people are always on the look-out to cheat and rob their neighbours.

Sometimes it is thought that poverty leads to theft. There is some truth in it, but if people are lazy and work-shy, or if they abuse their talents, they become poor. They are then tempted to rob the rich, while others may consider theft an easy means to living a gay life, so crime increases. It is the duty of the governments to reduce poverty by removing unemployment.

Theft may take many forms. For instance, if an employee slacks or works badly and yet is paid in full, it is really a theft, for he takes money he has not earned. The same applies to the employer if he fails to pay adequate wages.

Commentaries mention a number of ways in which "taking what is not given" can be committed. Some of the most common may be enumerated:

(1) stealing: taking the belongings of others secretly, as in housebreaking, pick pocketing, etc.;

(2) robbery: taking what belongs to others openly by force or threats;

(3) snatching: suddenly pulling away another's possession before he has time to resist;

(4) fraudulence: gaining possession of another's belongings by falsely claiming them as one's own;

(5) deceitfulness: using false weights and measures to cheat customers.

They are five components of stealing:

  1. Property belonging to another,
  2. The perception of the property belonging to another,
  3. The thought of stealing,
  4. The act, and
  5. The removal of the article.[2]

Footnotes and references:


AN III, p. 176


AN II, p. 87; AA II, p.58

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