Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Brief Code of Buddhist Ethics

Sigalovada Sutra
Dharmachari Seven (translation DN 31)

On meeting a householder engaged in Saluting the Directions, the Buddha was asked for advice on the proper performance of this ancient Vedic custom. The Buddha explained the threefold preparation that must first be established. Namely, one must eradicate the: (1) Four Vices in Conduct, (2) Four Causes of Unwholesome Karma, and (3) Six Channels of Dissipating Wealth.
Then light is shed on friendship in four ways by pointing out the: (1) Four False Friends, (2) Four True Friends, (3) Four Divisions of Wealth, and (4) Four Bases of Popularity.
The Buddha then reveals what the Cardinal Directions – which the householder was previously only bowing to in an empty ritual – represent and how one indeed honors and upholds them.
The Buddha also explains how one is honored and upheld by them. In this way a short but thorough set of reciprocal social obligations is established – a "brief code of Buddhist ethics."

Part I. The Empty Ritual
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Buddha was residing in the Bamboo Grove, at the Squirrels’ Sanctuary, near Rajagaha.[Footnote 1]

Now at that time the child of a householder, the young Sigala, arose early in the morning. This young householder set off from Rajagaha with wet hair and clothes[2] to engage in the ancient practice of paying homage to the cardinal directions – bowing at sunrise with joined hands to the East, South, West, North, below (Nadir), and above (Zenith).

Then the Buddha, arranging his robes in the morning, took his bowl and set off toward Rajagaha for alms. He saw Sigala, the young householder, worshiping in the customary manner and said:

"Young householder, on what account have you arisen early in the morning, set off from the city with wet hair and clothes, and come to salute with joined hands these cardinal directions – East, South, West, North, Nadir, and Zenith?"

"My father, Sir, when he was dying said to me: ‘My dear child, do not neglect to worship the cardinal directions.’ Respecting and upholding my father’s word, to show reverence and honor, I get up early in the morning, leave Rajagaha with wet hair and clothes, and with joined hands pay homage to these cardinal directions."

"But, young householder, this is not the way in which one nobly honors and upholds the cardinal directions."

"Then, Teacher, how – what is the noble way of honoring and upholding the cardinal directions? It would be a wonderful thing if the Noble One were to instruct me accordingly as to how this should be done in the noblest way."

"Listen then, young householder, attending carefully to what I say, and I will tell you."

"Very well, Sir," answered the young Sigala.

The Buddha began by explaining, as a matter of preparation, those things to be done before setting out to honor and uphold the cardinal directions.

Part II. Preparation
"Young householder, inasmuch as a noble lay follower eradicates the Four Vices in Conduct[Footnote 3] abandons the Four Motivations of Unwholesome Karma, and

III. avoids the Six Channels for Dissipating Wealth, to that extent, covering and protecting them, a noble lay follower actually honors and upholds the cardinal directions."

"By avoiding these fourteen unskillful things, one sets off on the path leading to success here and beyond: One comes to be favored in this world and the world to come. With the dissolution of this body, after death, such a person goes on to be reborn in a happy and fortunate destination."[4]

"Young householder, what are the Four Vices in Conduct that one eradicates?

The destruction of life is a defilement, a vice in conduct, as are:

  • taking what is not given,
  • sensual misconduct,[5]
  • and lying speech.

These are the four karmic-defilements[6] one eradicates."

Thus did the Enlightened One explain, and when the Teacher had explained, he summarized before continuing:

Killing, theft, harmful indulgence, lies –
Such vices are not extolled by the wise.


"Due to what four causes[7] is unwholesome karma produced?

Led by desire one perpetrates unwholesome actions.
Spurred by anger one performs unskillful deeds.
Motivated by ignorance one engages in demeritorious conduct.
Provoked by fear one produces unwholesome karma.

But to the extent that one is not motivated by greed, hatred, delusion, or fear, a lay follower accumulates no unwholesome karma."

Thus did the Buddha explain, and when the Enlightened One had explained, he summarized what he had just said before continuing:

Who led by craving, contempt, cowardice, or confusion
Transgresses the self-discipline thus proclaimed,
All of that person’s glory dims and fades away
Declining like the light of the waning moon.
But who in spite of desire, dislike, dread, or delusion
Does not transgress the self-discipline thus proclaimed,
All of that person’s glory gains in strength
Dazzling like the light of the waxing moon.

"What are the Six Channels for Dissipating Wealth one abstains from pursuing?
Indulging in intoxicants which occasion heedlessness[8] is one as are:

  • roaming the streets at unseemly hours,
  • frequenting unsavory shows,
  • being infatuated with gambling,
  • associating with the foolish, and
  • being addicted to idleness."

"[Why?] There are, young householder, these six miserable consequences to indulging in intoxicants which occasion heedlessness:

  • loss of wealth,
  • increase in quarrels,
  • susceptibility to disease,
  • loss of reputation,
  • indecent exposure, and
  • weakened intellect."

"There are, young householder, these six harmful consequences to roaming the streets at unseemly hours:

  • You are unprotected and unguarded.
  • Your spouse and children are unprotected and unguarded.
  • Your property is unprotected and unguarded.
  • You’re suspected of crimes.
  • You’re the subject of false rumors.
  • You encounter many troubles.

"There are, young householder, these six unskillful things associated with frequenting unsavory shows. One who does so remains restless and agitated, wondering:

  • Where is there dancing?
  • Where is there singing?
  • Where is there music playing?
  • Where is there reciting?
  • Where is there this entertainment?
  • Where is there that entertainment?[9]

"There are, young householder, these six unwelcome consequences to being infatuated with gambling:

  • One is despised due to winning.
  • One grieves on account of losing.
  • One dissipates one’s wealth.[10]
  • One’s word is not relied on.
  • One comes to be disparaged by friends and associates.
  • One, unable to properly support another, is not much sought after."[11]

"There are, young householder, these six disagreeable consequences to associating with the foolish:

  • Any gambler,
  • any wastrel,
  • any drunkard,
  • any cheater,
  • any swindler,
  • any violent person

is one’s friend and companion."

"There are, young householder, these six unprofitable consequences associated with being addicted to idleness. Nothing is accomplished because one is not inclined to put forth the effort to get any work done, instead thinking:

  • It’s too cold!
  • It’s too hot!
  • It’s too late in the evening!
  • It’s too early in the morning!
  • I’m too hungry!
  • I’m too full!

Living in this way, one leaves many wholesome and profitable things left undone. New wealth is left unacquired. And savings dwindle away."

Thus did the Enlightened One explain, and when the Buddha had explained in this way, he summarized before moving on to a new topic:

Some are two-faced friends,
Calling you ‘friend, friend’ only to your face.
Some are with you through your hour of need
And should be recognized as friends indeed.
Sleeping and cheating,
Quarreling and causing harm,
Unwise association and miserliness –
These six causes ruin a person.
One regarding fools as friends
Is given to disadvantageous ways
On account of which one grieves in two places –
In this world and the world to come.
Dice-and-promiscuity, drinking, dance-and-song,
In bed by day and taking night as the time to rise,
Associating with fools, a heart to hardness inclined –
These manifold
[12] causes ruin a person.
Who indulges in games of chance, consumes intoxicants,
Consorts with partners as dear to others as their very lives –
Associating with clouded rather than enlightened minds –
Such a person declines just as the waning moon.
Intoxicated, broke, destitute,
Thirsty even when drinking,
One sinks in debt like a stone in water –
And bringing family disrepute, one is soon bereft of kin.
Who by habit sleeps the day away,
Looks on night as the time to wake,
Ever intoxicated and overindulgent,
Is unfit to lead the household life.
Who cries, ‘Too cold!’ ‘Too hot!’ ‘Too late!’
Thereby leaving many things left undone,
What opportunities for good one might have had
Soon have slipped past such a person.
Yet one who regards cold and heat
As less than a pinch of grass,
Performing one’s duties with vitality,
That person does not fall away from happiness.

Part. III Friendship
"These four, young householder, should be understood as Foes in the Guise of Friends:

  • one who borrows your possessions,[Footnote 13]
  • one who renders lip-service,[14]
  • one who flatters,
  • one who encourages ruin.

"[Why?] In four ways, young householder, should one who borrows your possessions be understood to be a foe in the guise of a friend:

  • One borrows[15] with no thought of returning, appropriating everything.
  • One gives little wanting much in return.
  • What one must do, one does out of fear.[16]
  • One is always looking out for selfish ends.

"In four ways, young householder, should one who renders lip-service be understood to be an adversary disguised as a friend:

  • One speaks proudly of favors attempted in the past.[17]
  • One makes friendly vows regarding the future.
  • One tries to gain favor with empty words.
  • One pleads inability when an opportunity to be of service actually arises.[18]

"In four ways, young householder, should one who flatters be understood to be a foe masquerading as a friend:

  • One consents to the doing of unwholesome deeds.
  • One dissents to the doing of beneficial things.
  • One praises you to your face.
  • One speaks ill of you behind your back.[19]

"In four ways, young householder, should one who encourages ruin be understood to be an enemy in the guise of a friend:

  • One is a companion for indulging in intoxicants which occasion heedlessness.
  • One is a companion for roaming the streets at unseemly hours.
  • One is a companion for frequenting unsavory shows.
  • One is a companion for gambling."

Thus did the Buddha explain, and when the Enlightened One had thus explained, he summarized before continuing:

  • The friend arrogating selfishly,
  • The friend airing empty promises,
  • The friend overflowing with flattery,
  • The friend accompanying ruin –
  • These four as foes the wise behold!
  • Thus recognizing them even from afar,
  • They avoid them as paths of peril.

"Conversely, young householder, these four should be understood as warm-hearted friends:

  • one who helps,
  • one who is the same in good times and bad,
  • one who provides good counsel,
  • one who sympathizes.[20]

"[Why?] In four ways, young householder, should one who helps be understood to be a warm-hearted friend:

  • One guards you when you’re heedless.[21]
  • One protects your wealth when you’re heedless.
  • One serves as a refuge when you’re afraid.
  • One, when you have obligations to meet, provides you with twice as much as you need.

"In four ways, young householder, should one who is the same in good times and bad be understood to be a warm-hearted friend:

  • One shares one’s secrets.
  • One guards your secrets.
  • In your misfortune, one does not abandon you.
  • Even one’s life one sacrifices for your sake.

"In four ways, young householder, should one who provides good counsel be understood to be a warm-hearted friend:

  • One restrains you from performing unskillful deeds.
  • One encourages you to do what is beneficial.
  • One informs you of things you did not know.
  • One points out the path to a fortunate rebirth.

"In four ways, young householder, should one who sympathizes be understood to be a warm-hearted friend:

  • One does not rejoice in your misfortune.
  • One rejoices on account of your success.
  • One restrains others from speaking ill of you.
  • One commends those who speak well of you."

Thus explained the Buddha. And when the Enlightened One had thus explained, he summarized [with an important addition on the earning and apportioning of one’s money] before moving on to explain the cardinal directions:

The friend who is a guardian and helpful,
The friend alike through weal and woe,
The friend who provides sage counsel,
The friend throbbing with sympathy, too –
These four as friends the wise behold
And cherish them with warmest regard
As a mother does her own child.
The wise and virtuous shine like a flame blazing forth!
Who acquires wealth in harmless ways
Like a bee that without harm its nectar gathers
Riches soon mount high for such a person
Accruing like an anthill with stunning growth.
With riches acquired in this way,
The layperson fit for household life
In four portions divides such wealth.
Thus does one friendship win:
One portion for one’s wants one uses,
Two portions on one’s business spends
[Satisfying the past, ensuring the future].
The fourth for times of need one keeps

Part IV. Cardinal Directions
"Now, young householder, how does a noble lay follower indeed honor and uphold the cardinal directions? [Not by bowing to the six directions with joined hands, but rather by looking upon the following persons as the various directions and upholding them in the following way:]

  • Parents are looked upon as the East,[Footnote 24]
  • Teachers as the South,
  • Family as the West,
  • Friends as the North,
  • Employees as the Nadir,
  • Advisors[25] as the Zenith."

I. "In five ways, young householder, should a child minister[26] to mother and father as the East [by thinking]:

  • I shall support them, having formerly been supported by them.[27]
  • I shall fulfill their obligations when they are no longer able to.
  • I shall keep up the family tradition.[28]
  • I shall make myself worthy of my inheritance.[29]
  • I shall, when they depart, make charitable offerings to benefit them.[30]

"In five ways, young householder, do the parents thus ministered to as the East by their child show their compassion:

  • They restrain you from doing harm.[31]
  • They encourage you in what is wholesome.
  • They provide for your education enabling you to be of independent means.[32]
  • They offer you appropriate help in selecting the best marriage possible.[33]
  • They, in due time,[34] hand over your inheritance.

"In these five ways does a child minister to one’s parents as the East, and the parents show their compassion to that child. Thus is the East honored and upheld by noble householders and made safe and secure."[35]

II. "In five ways, young householder, should a student minister to teachers and tutors as the South:

  • by rising to greet them,[36]
  • by attending on them,
  • by an eagerness to learn,[37]
  • by rendering appropriate personal service, and
  • by [study and practice thus] learning one’s lessons well.

"In five ways, young householder, do teachers and tutors thus ministered to as the South by their students show their compassion:

  • They train them to the best of their ability.
  • They see to it that they grasp their lessons well.
  • They instruct them widely and thoroughly.[38]
  • They recommend them to their colleagues and friends.
  • They provide for their safety in all directions.

"The teachers and tutors thus ministered to as the South by their students show their compassion towards them in these five ways. Thus is the South honored and upheld by them and made safe and secure."

III. "In five ways, young householder, should a spouse minister to one’s partner[39] as the West:

  • by being courteous,
  • by not disparaging one’s partner,
  • by being faithful,
  • by handing over household authority,[40] and
  • by providing one’s partner with adornments.[41]

"The partner thus ministered to as the West by the spouse shows compassion to that spouse in these five ways:

  • by organizing one’s duties well,
  • by being hospitable to those around the house,[42]
  • by being faithful,
  • by protecting what is stored up in the house, and
  • by the skillful and efficient discharging of one’s duties.[43]

"In these five ways does a partner show compassion to the spouse who ministers to one as the West. In this way is the West honored and upheld by partners and is protected and made safe."

IV. "In five ways, young householder, should a friend[44] minister to friends and associates as the North:

  • by liberality,[45]
  • by kind and courteous speech,
  • by looking out for their welfare,
  • by being impartial, and
  • by keeping one’s word to them.

"The friends and associates thus ministered to as the North by a friend show compassion to that friend in five ways:

  • They protect you when you are heedless.[46]
  • They protect your property when you are heedless.
  • They act as a refuge when you’re in danger.
  • They do not desert you in your times of trouble.
  • They show consideration for your family members.

"The friends and associates thus ministered to as the North by a friend show their compassion toward that friend in these five ways. Thus is the North honored and upheld by friends, making it safe and secure."

V. "In five ways should an employer minister to one’s employees and assistants as the Nadir:[47]

  • by assigning them work according to their ability,
  • by supplying them with wages and necessities,
  • by nurturing them through times of illness,
  • by sharing with them unexpected treats, and
  • by granting them leave from time to time.[48]

"The employees and assistants thus ministered to as the Nadir show compassion to their employer in five ways:

  • They commence before you.
  • They leave off after you.[49]
  • They take only what is given.
  • They perform their duties well.
  • They uphold your good name and reputation.

"The employees and assistants thus ministered to as the Nadir by an employer show their compassion toward that employer in these five ways. Thus is the Nadir honored and upheld, making it safe and secure."

VI. "In five ways, young householder, should a householder minister to ascetics and brahmins as the Zenith:[50]

  • by loving[51] deeds,
  • by loving words,
  • by loving thoughts,
  • by opening one’s home to them, and
  • by providing for their material needs.[52]

"The ascetics and brahmins thus ministered to as the Zenith by a householder show their compassion towards that householder in five[53] ways:

  • They dissuade you from harmful things.[54]
  • They persuade you to adopt beneficial things.
  • They are benevolent and compassionate toward you.[55]
  • They acquaint you with things you are unfamiliar with, and they clarify what you are already familiar with.[56]
  • They point out the path to happy and fortunate realms of rebirth.[57]

"In these [five] ways do advisors show their compassion towards a householder who ministers to them as the Zenith. Thus is the Zenith honored and upheld making it safe and secure."

Part V. Summary
Thus did the Enlightened One explain. And when the Buddha had thus explained, he concluded by summarizing:

Guardians as the East,
Instructors are the South
Family as the West,
Associates are the North
Assistants below,
Ascetics above –
One suited to exert a householder’s discretion
Honors and upholds these cardinal directions.
Wise and full of virtue,
Gentle and keen,
Humble and amenable
[Footnote 58]
Such a person may indeed honor attain.
Energetic, overcoming indolence,
In the midst of adversity unshaken,
Immaculate in manner, and intelligent –
Such a person may indeed honor attain.
Hospitable, amicable to all,
Beneficent, and liberal,
A guide, counselor, and model –
Such a person may indeed honor attain.
Generous, of sweet speech,
Helpful, and impartial to all –
By these four
[59] fixed, the world goes round
As the linchpin serves the moving cart.
If these in the world were not found
Then this repercussion would redound:
Neither mother nor father could expect
From children proper honor and respect.
Since these four winning ways
The wise approve and display,
They to eminence have attained
With praise and honor rightly gained

Part VI. Reaction
When the Buddha had concluded this sutra, the young householder Sigala exclaimed: "Excellent, Exalted One, excellent! It is as if a person were to set upright what had been overturned, or were to reveal what had been hidden, or were to point out the way to one who had become lost, or were to hold a lamp against the dark so that those with eyes might see exactly what was there! Just so has this ennobling Doctrine and Discipline been explained in a variety of ways by the Enlightened One.

"I go for guidance[60] to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.61 May the Teacher take notice of me as a seeker, a lay follower, as one having gone for guidance to the Three Gems from this day forward!" [So concludes the "Advice to Sigala Discourse" from the "Division of Lengthy Discourses" of the Pali Canon].

Part. VII Commentary

1. Rajagaha: ancient northern Indian city (modern-day Rajgir, in the state of Uttar Pradesh) nestled in the center of a ring of seven hills on the otherwise flat Gangetic plains.

2. The wet hair and clothes indicate the ritual purification preparatory to performing this ancient ritual of "worshiping" the cardinal directions. With this view in mind, the corresponding "Preparation" section of the present translation is introduced.

3. The Buddha will define this and each of the other terms he introduces as the discourse unfolds.

4. The text has "heaven" (sagga). But this is likely to be misleading to the critical reader. In Buddhist perspective, heaven (deva-lokas) is not a single place. Heavenly realms are conceived of as literal planes of existence. Rebirth into them takes place depending on an individual’s wholesome karma. The condition (beauty, radiance, range of influence, etc.) and duration of one’s existence there is dependent on the ripening of one’s deeds. These fortunate destinations may be attained as a result of engaging in the karma (course of conduct) described in this sutra. As distinct from other teachings, just as merit is of varying degrees, so too is the condition and longevity of the heavenly beings there. Therefore, in sharp contrast to the popular Christian conception, these worlds are neither eternal nor are the beings there equal in their enjoyment of the fruits of their previous conduct. In other words, it’s not a one-size-fits-all world anymore than the human realm is. Although anyone may enter, one does not necessarily remain as long as one likes. For when the store of meritorious karma that serves as one’s support there is exhausted, one falls away from that existence and goes on to be reborn according to other causes (karma). One act (e.g., of charity) may lead to rebirth into one of these realms – such as the lowest of these, the Realm of the Four Great Kings (catu-maha-rajika-deva-loka, the "kings" corresponding to each of the Four Quarters) – so that even an otherwise "bad" person enters. But the pleasant result is soon exhausted, and one passes away to experience the results of other acts previously willed and carried out. Although the Buddha pointed out the path to heaven, heaven is not the goal of Buddhism. Although the Buddha pointed out the path to a happy human birth (as well as ease and prosperity in this very life), the human world is not the goal of Buddhism either.

5. Kamesu-micchacara: "sexual misconduct," "wrong sensual indulgence." Kama (as in the famous, non-Buddhist Sanskrit classic, The Kama Sutra) denotes pleasure associated with the senses, sensuality. Sensual misconduct is doing wrong for the sake of satisfying sensual-desire. Harm (to oneself or others) as by overindulgence (e.g., gluttony, intoxication) in the service of satisfying the craving that arises dependent on the senses is what this term encompasses. Any excessive or addictive sensual (kamesu) indulgence constitutes misconduct (miccachara). More often than not, however, the term is translated only as sexual misconduct. (See Buddhism and Sex, by Walshe, Buddhist Publication Society, Wheel No. 225). This makes sense when sex is viewed as representative of sensuality in general – much in the way as the ordinary Buddhist thinks that Samma-vaca (Right speech) as the third factor of the Noble Eightfold Path means only to abstain from lying, the grossest form of verbal misconduct, when it in fact refers to "speech that is timely, true, gentle, purposeful, and uttered kind-heartedly" (Anguttara Nikaya, Fives, 198). It is abstaining from speaking unseasonably (at the wrong moment), falsely, harshly, idly, or maliciously. (The honest truth, the situation as one sees it or claims it to be, may be more harmful when spoken in any of these other four ways than even a fib). The problem with thinking that kamesu micchacara only refers to sex is that one soon becomes accustomed to the shorthand and neglects to consider that kamesu really refers to all five senses (kama-guna, kama-chanda). Moreover, "misconduct" is then often hastily defined as "fornication and adultery." But the Buddha did not teach that householders should abstain from sex, nor did he proclaim that they should engage in sex only in the context of marriage. It is both mistaken and off-putting to confuse the puritanical teachings of other traditions as moral universals taught by the Buddha. Consenting individuals not under the protection of parents or guardians are free to engage in and enjoy sex without admonishment (so long as they in so doing are not being harmed or causing harm). "Sexual misconduct" means engaging in sex with a non-consenting individual, or one under protection (this would exclude anyone who is still under the support of parents or guardians), or someone under a mandate not to (as by royal decree or court edict), or someone under duress, or someone promised, betrothed, formally engaged, or married. In brief one avoids doing harm by abstaining, not from sex, but from these forms of misconduct. To overstate the meaning only engenders hypocrisy and guilt for those trying to live as Buddhists. Complete abstinence (brahmacariya) is the supreme-life, but is only incumbent on those who willingly adopt such a stringent rule (e.g., lay persons who choose to keep more than five precepts for a period of time). This is never imposed on adults but voluntarily adopted as a form of training and self-discipline to bring craving under control. One is perhaps best advised to follow the customs and sensibilities of one’s era and environment, not because these are necessarily right but because one avoids reproach, harm, hurt feelings, and many unnecessary troubles by doing so.

6. Kamma-kilesa: "vices in conduct," "actions of defilement," "behavioral failures." Kamma (Sanskrit, karma) denotes an intentional action, deed, something willed and carried out. It may be physical (e.g., killing, beating, stealing, sexual abuse), verbal (e.g., speaking falsely, divisively, harshly, or uselessly), or mental (e.g., holding false views, bearing malice in one’s heart, intending harm). Kilesa denotes defilement or failure, that which will yield an unpleasant result.

7. Agati: Four "wrong paths," "unskillful courses of action," "unwholesome impulses." These are the four bases of doing harm. Karma (action) bears pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral consequences both in the form of mental-resultants (vipaka) and fruit (phala). The four motivations (or causes) of action that bear unpleasant results are multivalent terms – single words encompassing a many shaded range of meanings which depending on context call for a variety of English translations: (1) chanda (desire, attachment, bias, lust, craving, selfishness, avarice, attraction, like), (2) dosa (ill-will, anger, hate, contempt, resentment, repugnance, annoyance, dislike), (3) moha (ignorance, delusion, folly, foolishness, lapsed-mindfulness, holding wrong or distorted views, confusion, lack of insight or clarity, mental darkness), and (4) bhava (fear, cowardice, a kind of "hate" – in the sense of aversion or repugnance – that seeks to withdraw, to pull back from, rather than lashing out at or attempting to destroy the object arousing it). Whether one devises to escape or eradicate an object, the root motivation (i.e., hate) is the same; therefore, bhava is only sometimes singled out as a separate unskillful root.

8. Heedlessness: carelessness, inattention, negligence, infatuation, a lack of self-restraint liable to give rise to remorse (e.g., forgetting or dismissing good admonishments or advice previously received). To be off one’s guard (PTS). In the case of intoxication, however, it is twofold in that what one would normally not do, one can hardly stop oneself from doing on account of being intoxicated. Furthermore, on account of being intoxicated, one also leaves undone what would have been beneficial to do.

9. This and that entertainment: Text lists two archaic shows (finger-cymbals and blowing into ceramic bottles) which, when translated literally, do more to obscure rather than bring out the meaning of what is being said. This list of six, of course, is not composed of the most prurient examples possible, nor is this an exhaustive list. Rather, the list is representative of frivolity in general as understood in ancient India. "Entertainment" in that culture at that time encompassed: dancing, singing, music, recitals, hand-music (clapping), drumming, fairytale shows, acrobatics, conjuring tricks, animal-combats (bullfights, cockfights, etc.), fighting with staves, boxing, wrestling, sham-fights, parades, maneuvers and military reviews (Brahmajala Sutra, Walshe translation). Compare with modern entertainment (television, spectator-sports, monster truck rallies, etc.). "Unsavory" does not refer to all forms of diversion, but rather to those that, far from leading one to any improvement, actually arouse base and unwholesome qualities in a person. It would be completely mistaken, however, to come away with the idea that a "good Buddhist" is rigid, puritanical, or dour.

10. Wealth is dissipated whether one is currently winning or losing because such are the odds that make gambling profitable for those who organize gambling, in the long run always favoring the house or other players. Moreover, such is the human inability to walk away when winning or – if one is fortunate enough to be pulled out – to stay away for very long after just having won.

11. Considered a wastrel, one is not much sought after for the purpose of a relationship or marriage.

12. Text has six causes: (1) gambling and promiscuity, (2) drink, (3) dance and song, (4) sleeping by day and loitering by night, (5) foolish companionship, and (6) stinginess.

13. Foes in the Guise of Friends, alternative renderings: a person who arrogates, a person of words not deeds, a person who merely flatters, and a companion in foolishness. Or the rapacious, the person of empty promises, the flatterer, and the fool. Or one who takes everything, one who gives a little wanting a lot in return, one who does one’s duty only out of fear, and one who pursues only one’s own interests. "One steals from everybody, one wants a lot for very little, what one must do, one does out of fear, one seeks one’s own ends" (Walshe).

14. One who "renders lip service" is one who makes vows not backed by deeds. This person makes avowals, empty offers, and utters worthless promises.

15. This translation employs "borrowing" as a euphemism for "arrogating" since such a foe borrows as a form of stealing. Being greedy, this person constantly appropriates your possessions. By intending or promising to return things, this person manages to stay around much longer than an outright thief could ever hope to.

16. One does one’s duty out of fear of what trouble one would get in for not doing it instead of a sense of compassion, reciprocal-obligation, or noble duty.

17. Buddhaghosa’s Commentary to this text explains: "Such as a supply of rice was put by for you; we sat watching the road, but you did not come, and now it is gone bad. In the next case a present of corn is spoken of in the future" (cited in Pali Text Society translation, p. 177).

18. If you want a cart, the Commentary explains, this person’s is suddenly unavailable owing to some unfortunate circumstance: The person would lend it to you, or so the person claims, but it’s missing a wheel or its axle is broken.

19. Alternate renderings: assenting to misbehavior, dissenting to proper conduct, smiling in your face, cutting you down behind your back. One agrees (and joins you) in misconduct, one disagrees (and dissuades you) from better conduct, one speaks well of you in your presence, and one speaks disparagingly of you in your absence.

20. Anukampako: Literally "throbs with sympathy," is moved in tune with your emotional state, vibrates empathetically, feels as you feel, resonates with you. In other words, this person is happy in your happiness and sad in your sadness.

21. Heedlessness again, see previous note.

22. A bee gathers nectar without in any way harming the flowers from which it is collected. In fact, to the extent that a bee cross pollinates flowers, it is benefitting them. In just this way, should a person gather money or wealth (i.e., earn one’s livelihood) – without doing harm to any living beings. At a minimum, in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path, one should avoid trade in: weapons, slaves, flesh (as a butcher or distributor of butchered flesh), poisons, or intoxicants.

23. The Four Divisions of Wealth is the apportioning of one’s wealth into four equal parts. As a business person: (1) spend and enjoy the first portion; (2) pay off expenses; (3) reinvest (new inventory, advertising); (4) set aside the fourth portion for less prosperous times. As a wage earner, this works equally well: spending one quarter on enjoyment, paying off debt and one’s bills, investing for future success (e.g., work clothes or other necessities, additional training or whatever might be of use in prospering in one’s chosen work), and saving for less prosperous times.

24. Deliberate imagery of the cardinal directions: The renowned British translator Rhys Davids points out an underlying wisdom to the Buddha’s choice of directions. Not arbitrary, "the symbolism is deliberately chosen: as the day in the East, so life begins with parents’ care; teacher’s fees and the South are the same word: dakkhina; domestic care follows when the youth becomes [the adult], as the West holds the later daylight; North is ‘beyond’ (attara) so by help of friends, etc., [one] gets beyond troubles" (PTS).

25. Advisors: Text’s "ascetics and brahmins" is here condensed into a single term. Ascetic (samana) refers to a religious mendicant, recluse, or wayfarer. A brahmin (supreme or highest kind of person) is broader and referred to a religious scholar, cleric – a special type of learned person able to provide spiritual guidance, counseling, and direction. In India, for those not familiar with Buddhism, it meant a member of the priestly caste. The Buddha, however, displaced a popular misconception by pointing out that one is a brahmin, not by birth, as conceived of in the ancient caste-conscious Indian system, but by one’s conduct in this life. And it is in this improved sense that the term should be understood here. "One does not become an outcast by birth, one does not become a brahmin by birth. It is by deed that one becomes an outcast, it is by deed that one becomes a brahmin" ("The Outcast," Vasala Sutra, Sutta-Nipata, translated by Ven. Saddhatissa, 1994, Curzon Press, England, p. 14). In this same discourse, the Buddha seems to define what brahmin had originally meant in Indian society, namely, simply one who is "familiar with the Vedas and who [is] born in a family which recites the Vedas" (Ibid., p. 15). As the Vedas are ancient religious texts (the fundamental basis of the collective tradition that today we call Hinduism), brahmins are often referred to as the "priestly class." They preserved the ancient wisdom handed down by yogis and seers of old and orchestrated popular rites and rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies. Webster’s definition is more in line with what the term came to mean: "(brahmana) a Hindu of the highest caste traditionally assigned to the priesthood...3: usually brahmin: a person of high social standing and cultivated intellect and taste..." Brahmanism (the religion, the rites of which these priest officiated) is therein defined as "orthodox Hinduism adhering to the pantheism of the Vedas and to the ancient sacrifices and family ceremonies" (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, tenth edition, 1993, p. 138). And the Vedas are defined as "Veda: [Sanskrit, literally "knowledge..."]... : any of four canonical collections of hymns, prayers, and liturgical formulas that comprise the earliest Hindu sacred writings" (Ibid., p. 1308). It should be mentioned at least briefly that "Hindu" (taken from the Indus River Valley) was a name applied to all the diverse practices of the Indian subcontinent by the imperial British who were trying to make sense of a foreign culture. Prior to that there was no such thing as "Hinduism." There are now, however, the systematized and codified beliefs of Sri Shankara that may be referred to in this way. Therefore, it is not right to say that the Buddha was simply a Hindu. For he was certainly not a brahmin, nor an advocate of Brahmanism, but rather a wandering ascetic (samana) that opposed the dogmatic religious establishment of his day much in the way that – but much more universally than – for example, the jaina (teacher) Mahavira (Nigantha Nataputta, the founder of Jainism) did. The Buddha did not reject many of the beliefs of the dominant society, but he refined, reinterpreted, and breathed new life into them – as he is seen doing in this discourse with regard to the hackneyed (and thus "empty" in the sense of having lost its meaning or having had its deeper significance obscured) Vedic ritual of "worshiping the quarters" that occasions his instructions to Sigala. The Buddha did give two more concise answers when asked by the wandering ascetic Sabhiya, "What do you have to do to be a brahmin (brahmana)? What does it mean to renounce [the household and its attendant all-consuming concerns] and be a holy person (a hermit, samana)?" "A brahmin is a person who, having avoided all evil, is stainless, good, composed, and poised. Overcoming the cycle of rebirth [becoming, existence, the wheel of life and death, Samsara], one has become perfect. One is unattached and steadfast [mindful and unmoveable, having attained that unshakeable condition]." "An ascetic [a true yogin, or holy person] is one who has calmed oneself, having abandoned merit and demerit. One knows this world and the world beyond. One is stainless, having overcome birth and death [having attained at least to the stage of stream-enterer, i.e., one who has glimpsed nirvana and is thereby sure of attaining the goal]" ("Discourse to Sabhiya," Sabhiya Sutra, Sutta Nipata, vv. 518-520).

26. "Minister": provide for, tend to, guard, honor, support, respect, help, make safe; to attend to the wants and needs of others; care for, watch over, look after, give attention to; to cover and protect.

27. Another way to understand obligations to one’s parents in more modern times, particularly in the West, might run as follows: (1) I shall support them when they are unable to support themselves, having formerly been supported by them when I was unable to support myself. (2) I shall, in keeping with their commitments, perform their duties for them when they are no longer able to do it themselves. (3) I shall reciprocate all they’ve done for me by maintaining the family lineage and tradition. (See subsequent note). (4) I shall make myself worthy of my heritage. (5) I shall, after their passing, give on their behalf thereby benefitting them (if only by name) even after they’re gone.

28. "Family tradition": Kula-vansa, according to Rhys Davids, implies both lineage and tradition. He adds that Buddhaghosa’s Commentary on this discourse elucidates the meaning in the following way: "not dissipating property, restoring, if need be, the family honor and integrity, and maintaining gifts to [ascetics and brahmins]."

29. Inheritance may also be rendered "heritage" denoting the intangible and immaterial aspects (i.e., name, reputation, whatever a family might be famous for) of what one inherits, as distinct from "inheritance," which only denotes the tangible and material aspects of money and property.

30. The eminent scholar Maurice Walshe has, "After my parents’ deaths, I will distribute gifts on their behalf," which suggests a custom that would engender fond remembrance of the departed. Ven. Narada translates the same line, "I shall offer alms in honor of my departed relatives" and goes on to explain that "this is a sacred custom of the [nobles] who never forgot the dead." It is common practice in Buddhist countries to make offerings on behalf of the departed to benefit them through a kind of transfer or sharing of merit. The merit of good that is willed and carried out by the living may benefit the deceased: The departed are edified, by approving of the good one is doing (bodily, verbally, or mentally), particularly on their behalf, and can thus gain by virtue of being shown this consideration after they pass away (depending, however, on where they have taken rebirth).

31. Doing harm to themselves and others through negligence and inexperience. In other words, parents "raise" a child to avoid vice and detrimental things to the best of their abilities. This is done partly by direct instruction, but mostly by setting an example for a child to emulate. To restrain one’s child, one must first restrain oneself so as to avoid being without influence on account of being thought a hypocrite.

32. They ensure that their child will be able to become self-supporting and independent as by teaching that child a skill or craft, or sending one to school, or through apprenticeship in the family business.

33. In earlier times, both in the East and West, parents "arranged" their male and female children’s marriages. One would be wrong to think that this was as a matter of course a massive infringement on the personal freedom of individuals. (It, however, came in time to be abhorred and rejected because it was open to exactly this abuse). "Dating" (searching for oneself and gaining experience) is a modern practice unheard of before that has still not been universally adopted. Arrangement was the norm. And carried out with compassion, the parents were often in the best position to contract an agreement from a suitor’s family. Most importantly parents took into consideration their child’s wishes and preferences, having only their best interests at heart. Of course any system that does not allow for free agency is begging for abuse. That there were abuses, there can be no doubt. Western parents, ideally, neither arrange marriages nor unduly force their will on their children. However, they are no less eager for their children to make the best possible selection. And if children know this, they can avail themselves of help that does not conflict with their sense of personal freedom. The mistake is to think that the modern system (founding marriages almost exclusively on the strength of romantic feelings as if emotional states were reliable and stable) is in all ways better than the archaic system. Emotion may be a suitable basis for romantic relationships, but marriage is much more than that.

34. "In due time" means as appropriate, and does not exclusively refer to post mortem remembrance in a will. Rhys Davids explains that parents hand over one’s inheritance both on suitable occasions and at death (PTS). For example, a parent thinking to retire might therefore relinquish the family business to the care of a child. This would have been the Indian custom since the final stage of an ideal life is the sannyasin phase (when one, having fulfilled one’s duties, renounces the world and the all-consuming concerns of the home to give oneself over to spiritual exertions).

35. Alternative rendering: "Thus is the East covered making it peaceful and free from fear." Of course not only the child, the parents also contribute – in the reciprocal manner described – to bringing about this peace and freedom from fear. Therefore, "good householders" (i.e., noble lay followers) has replaced the direct reference to the single child being addressed.

36. That is to say, by offering the customary and appropriate marks of respect and deference, which in ancient India were represented by this set of five. These may differ across cultures and as time passes, but the thrust is the same: The goal is to elicit the best efforts of teachers. How might this be done today? One might hazard an alternative rendering: (1) By offering a mark of respect as time and place dictate (i.e., coming quickly to order of one’s own accord). (2) By being considerate towards teachers as appropriate (e.g., bringing water, helping distribute a handout). (3) By expressing an eagerness to learn as indicated, in part, by respectful attention while receiving instruction. (4) By serving them. (5) And by making the teachers’ efforts fruitful through mastering what one is taught. Even this updated list will seem lacking unless one understands the educational context the Buddha was referring to: These reciprocal duties make a great deal more sense in their traditional Indian context involving gurus (experts) and chelas (novices). In the West this corresponds to the way plumbers and electricians, to take only two examples, learn their craft – through a master-journeyman relationship. One learns not from a lectern, but by long-term apprenticeship. Expressions found in various translations (such as "serving" one’s teachers) make much less sense, with the danger of being quite misleading, when we thoughtlessly try to import the Buddha’s instructions into a new set of cultural biases that assume that "teaching" mainly involves only periodic interactions in a fixed setting under a somewhat detached single speaker-large audience model.

37. As Rhys Davids notes in the PTS translation: "Childers has obedience. This is quite wrong. Considering the enormous importance attached in the autocratic states and religious Orders of Europe to obedience, it is most worthy of notice that obedience does not occur in Buddhist ethics. It is not mentioned in any one of the 227 rules of the Buddhist [Monastic] Order. It does not occur in any one of the clauses of this summary of the ethics of the Buddhist layman, and it does not enter into any one of the divisions of the [Noble] Eightfold Path nor of the thirty-seven constituent qualities of [enlightenment]. Hence no member of the Buddhist order takes any vow of obedience; and the vows of a Buddhist layman ignore it. Has this been one of the reasons for the success of Buddhism? It looked beyond obedience" (p. 181).

38. They instruct one in a wide range of disciplines: With great depth and breadth in one subject according to each teacher’s ability; thus the student becomes well versed in a healthy variety of disciplines.

39. "Partners" refers to those living together in a relationship, marriage, or domestic arrangement – spouses, mates. Although text has "wife and children," the West only makes reference to one’s partner. Children are not mentioned, having already been covered in relation to the East. Neither marriage nor the roles adopted to make it work are static. The Buddha’s words are, therefore, not lost because of these changes. However, it is a mistake to interpret them in a strict and unyielding manner. Like gurus and their apprentices (see previous note), a household partnership involves two individuals whose assignments are not governed by their sex but by what they do. When "teaching" itself changes, the obligations cannot be thought to remain unchanged. If one serves a partnership (as by care giving) in the home and the other serves it (as by earning a livelihood) outside the home, then their obligations are clear. If, however, both serve the relationship more or less equally outside the home (as with a dual income family), then both must serve it equally in the home as well. Role differences should not be confused with any inherent inequality based on biological sex. Partners are equal and become distinct by their behavior, by the role they want to adopt. One partner does one thing, another partner does another thing, regardless of sex. Thus is this advice universal. A domestic-arrangement is not necessarily a "marriage." One partner (male or female) is not necessarily a "husband" or a "wife." To avoid the sexist assumptions imbedded in the language, "spouse and partner" are employed instead. Using "partner and partner" would have been too awkward. (See The Status of Women in Ancient India by Indra, 2nd revised ed., Motilal Banarasidass).

40. Handing over household authority: relinquishing control of domestic matters to the person most often attending to those matters.

41. Alternative rendering: By respect (honor), courtesy (non-disparagement), fidelity (faithfulness), relinquishing control of household matters (equality), and furnishing one’s partner with things for personal beautification (consideration).

42. "Those around the house": Ven. Narada notes that parijana literally means "the folk around." It would, therefore, encompass domestics, in-laws, formal guests, casual visitors, neighbors, and so on.

43. Alternative rendering: By being conscientious, considerate of others, non-promiscuous, careful, and industrious.

44. Text has "clansman" (a member of the extended web of relations or clan), in this context with the meaning of a popular member of the group, a good member of the community, a civic-minded individual, an honorable citizen.

45. The first four in this list are known as the Four Bases of Popularity. Alternative rendering: by generosity (giving gifts and openhandedness), courtesy (in speech), caring (for them as one does for oneself), impartiality, and sincerity.

46. Heedless: off one’s guard, incapacitated. (See previous note).

47. Nadir: the ground, the unyielding support beneath one’s gentle feet (underlings, subordinates); helpers, aides, household servants, assistants – those to be compensated for performing a function.

48. This may also be understood in the following way: "by not overworking them," "by letting them off at a reasonable time," "by setting a reasonable work schedule."

49. The text has "rise before you" and "retire after you," respectively, which are specific to domestic help. To accommodate a broader, more modern sense, "commence" has been used since it indicates an eagerness to work. Alternatively, one might insert "arrive," "begin," "be ready to go before being asked to get ready," as the case may be.

50. Zenith: the sky (the lofty and detached) above one’s head, the idealists acting as beacons of the supreme life; those worthy of reverence and consideration on account of the ideals they espouse and wholeheartedly try to live up to.

51. Compassionately, friendly, warm-heartedly, kindly, sympathetically; warmly and inspiring warmth; with caring and concern.

52. Material needs: Buddhist ascetics should be eminently easy to support since, ideally, they have but Four Requisites: alms, robes, medicine, and shelter.

53. Text list six things, as if to remind us that advisors do more for supporters than supporters do for advisors. But to preserve regularity of exposition, these two have been collapsed into one.

54. Dissuade one from "harmful things" such as unwholesome deeds, malicious words, wrong-views; spiritual advisors pacify one overcome by greed, hatred, or delusion and encourage self-restraint.

55. Indicative of a heart suffused with loving-kindness that seeks not for itself but for the welfare of even non-supportive householders, how much more the supportive ones.

56. Text has "cause one to hear what one has never heard" (what one did not know). Reading has become the norm, but in ancient times oral recitation was the standard.

57. See previous note regarding heaven.

58. Amenable to good counsel, tractable, inviting correction and admonishment, receptive to advice.

59. Sangaha-vatthu: The Four Bases of Popularity (or of Sympathy, "winning ways"): liberality, affability, beneficence, impartiality. In the Lakkhana Sutra, the Buddha says of himself, "the Tathagata, then being human, became popular to the people by the four bases of popularity, to wit, by giving, by kindly speech, by sagacious conduct and by impartiality, he by the doing and by the accumulating of that karma, by the mass and by the abundance thereof, was when the body perished reborn after death in a bright and blessed world..." (Dialogues of the Buddha III, pg. 145; also in Anguttara II, 32, 248; Jataka V, 330).

60. Sarana (guidance). In the classic A Buddhist Catechism, Colonel Olcott notes, "Wijesinha Mudaliar writes me: ‘This word has been hitherto very inappropriately and erroneously rendered Refuge, by European Pali scholars, and thoughtlessly so accepted by native Pali scholars. Neither Pali etymology nor Buddhistic philosophy justifies the translation. Refuge, in the sense of a fleeing back or a place of shelter, is quite foreign to true Buddhism, which insists on every [person] working out [his or her] own emancipation. The root Sr in Sanskrit (Sara in Pali) means to move, to go; so that Saranam would denote a moving, or [one] or that which goes before or with another – a Guide or Helper. I construe the passage thus: Gachchami, I go, Buddham, to Buddha, Saranam, as my Guide. The translation of the Tisarana as the ‘Three Refuges,’ has given rise to much misapprehension... The term refuge is more applicable to Nirvana, of which Saranam is a synonym. The [Chief Abbot] Sumangala also calls my attention to the fact that the Pali root Sara has the secondary meaning of killing, or that which destroys. Buddham saranam gachchami might thus be rendered ‘I go to the Buddha, the [Doctrine], and the Order, as the destroyers of my fears – the first by his preaching, the second by its axiomatic truth, the third by their various examples and precepts’" (Note 1, pp. 43-44).

61. The Buddha (the Enlightened One), the Dharma (the Doctrine and Discipline that leads to enlightenment), and the Noble Sangha (followers who have attained one of the four stages of liberation – as distinct from the Monastic Order in general). These "Three Gems" (Ti-Ratana) may also be rendered as the Teacher (of enlightenment), the Teaching (leading to enlightenment), and the (successfully) Taught. Unless sangha in the context of Ti-Sarana is understood as noble and accomplished, the community of those who have rightly practiced and attained, one might become disheartened by the behavior of misconducted monastics. The four Noble Disciples (ariya) are the stream-enterer, once returner, non-returner, and the enlightened. (Oftentimes, there is a division between the person who has attained the "path" and the person who has attained "fruition" of the path, an important difference separated by a single moment; no one attains the latter except by attaining the former. This yields the "eight kinds of persons"). This means that Sangha may, in fact, include lay people, but only in the context of those who have made noble attainments. It does not technically refer to the Buddhist "community" as a whole as the term is sometimes used.


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