On meeting a householder engaged in saluting the sun and sky, the Buddha is asked for advice on the proper performance of this ancient ritual. The Buddha explains the threefold preparation of eradicating:
- Four Vices in Conduct
- Four Causes of Unwholesome Karma and the
- Six Channels for Dissipating Wealth.
The Buddha goes on to shed light on friendship by pointing out:
- Four False Friends
- Four True Friends
- Four Divisions of Wealth and the
- Four Bases of Popularity.
Establishing the fundamentals of a good home life, the Buddha reveals what the directions of the sky – previously bowed to in an empty ritual – represent within the Buddha-Dharma and how one indeed honors and upholds them.
Moreover, the Buddha explains how one is in turn honored and upheld by them. In this way a thorough set of reciprocal social obligations is established – a brief code of Buddhist virtue and ethics.
The Empty Ritual
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Buddha was residing in the Bamboo Grove, in the Squirrels’ Sanctuary, near Rajagaha.
Young Sigala, the child of a householder, arose early in the morning and set off from Rajagaha with wet hair and clothes to engage in the ancient practice of saluting sun and sky – bowing at sunrise with joined hands to the East, South, West, North, below (Nadir), and above (Zenith).
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 traditional manner and said:
"Young householder, on what account have you arisen early, set off from the city with wet hair and clothes, and come to salute with joined hands Sun and Sky – East, South, West, North, Nadir, and Zenith?"
"My father, Venerable sir, when he was dying said to me: ‘Dear child, do not neglect to worship the Sun and Sky.’ Respecting and upholding my father’s wish, to show reverence and honor, I get up early, leave the city with wet hair and clothes, and pay homage with joined hands to Sun and Sky."
"But, young householder," the Buddha pointed out, "this is not the noble way of honoring and upholding Sun and Sky."
"How then, Venerable sir, what is the noble way of honoring and upholding the Sky? It would be a wonderful thing if the Noble One were to instruct me in the noble way of doing so."
"Listen then, young householder, attending carefully to what I say, and I will tell you."
"Very well, Venerable sir," young Sigala answered.
The Buddha explained, in terms of preparation, those things to be done before setting out to honor and uphold the Sky.
"Young householder, inasmuch as a noble lay follower eradicates the Four Vices in Conduct, abandons the Four Motivations of Unwholesome Karma, and avoids the Six Channels for Dissipating Wealth, to that extent, honoring and protecting them, a lay follower nobly honors and upholds the Sky."
"By avoiding these fourteen unskillful things, one sets oneself on the path leading to success here and beyond: One comes into favor 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 destinations."