For denourishing restlessness and remorse, code of discipline and principles of moral conduct are useful. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel026.html#rest But what are exactly these principles of moral conduct and code of discipline for laymen?

There are so many codes of discipline(five precepts, eight precepts) and principles of moral conduct. I am somewhat clear about the codes of discipline, but what are these principles of moral conduct? (some principles in my mind are ten skillful actions.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.176.than.html)

2 Answers 2


You have correctly identified principles (IMO) of moral conduct in your OP, @Dewmini Gunasekera. For the benefit of others may I list them? While the five precepts are usually stated in negative terms they have their positive counterparts. They are the principles of non-injury and loving-kindness, the principles of honesty, the principles of sexual propriety, the principles of truthfulness and the principles of sobriety that a Lay Follower is to follow.

Some Buddhists observe the Eight Precepts once a month. These three additional precepts are: Abstaining from eating after mid-day; Abstaining from dancing, singing, music and other forms of entertainment; and Abstaining from garlands, scents, cosmetics and other kinds of adornment.

For those who are desire a greater degree of withdrawal from lay life, and are prepared to make a full-time commitment, there are two more precepts. They are Abstaining from luxurious beds, and Abstaining from accepting money. For lay Buddhists the keeping of the five basic moral precepts of is adequate but is in itself quite demanding.

One of the fundamental Buddhist principles of moral thought and action is kamma. Kamma is the Law of Moral Causation. Kamma, literally, means action; but, in its ultimate sense, it means the meritorious and demeritorious volition (Kusala Akusala Cetana). It is the principle of Kamma that prompts a person to refrain from evil, do good and be good without being frightened of any punishment or tempted by any reward. For Buddhism the relevant kind of action is volitional action, deeds expressive of morally determinate volition, since it is volition that gives the action ethical significance. Thus the Buddha expressly identifies action with volition. In a discourse on the analysis of kamma he says: "Monks, it is volition that I call action (kamma). Having willed, one performs an action through body, speech, or mind."

The Majjima Nikaya Sutta Number 24, Rathavinãta Sutta, shows us the importance of the Purification of Morality (Virtuous conduct). Moral discipline is the foundation for concentration, concentration the foundation for wisdom. The Pali word for "moral discipline," is Sila. The observance of sila leads to harmony at several levels — social, psychological, kammic, and contemplative. At the social level the principles of sila help to establish harmonious interpersonal relations.

The ultimate moral code taught by the Buddha is beyond the changing conditions of the world. For example a disciple is a person who has submitted to the Blessed One and His Dhamma. To yield or surrender (oneself) to the will or authority of Buddha and Dhamma requires real discrimination—the capacity to recognize the necessity of completely opening oneself and letting go. The more one surrenders, the more accountable one will become for ones own choices, ones own practice, and for the terms of one’s engagement in this path. If you find a person who understands submission to authority and you’ll see a person who is humble, full of love, unselfish, accountable, and personally responsible. Find a person who does not understand submission to authority and you’ll see a person who is prideful, full of criticism, selfish, self ruled, and spiritually irresponsible. Such mindful surrender is an opening to a deeper dimension of truth.

  • Can you please check the answer on the eight precepts? abstaining from luxurious beds is contained in eight precepts. accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sila/atthasila.html accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sila/dasasila.html I read on a book of rerukane chandawimala thero that such high beds and chairs are not available now. Luxurious probably meant to be ones with carves of animals(though there may be other conditions also).
    – seeker
    Aug 15, 2016 at 7:18
  • Another concern, when I have a random free day, is it okay if I observe the eight precepts?
    – seeker
    Aug 15, 2016 at 10:23
  • 1
    I am with a special group of lay people here in Toronto. For everyone the 5 precepts are the minimum. They also refrain from slander, harsh & empty talk. Few try to observe 8 precepts on every weekend. Few of them observe 8 precepts on week days when free. Few try to not eat in the afternoons. When observing Sil, in Pali we say precept 9 as 7 - so you are right. Then we combine 7 & 8 as one. A group of 25 even recite 'Pirith' once every month for 5-6 hours (Gihi-pirith) in houses. (Natca Geeta Waadita Visuka Dassana Mala Ganda Vilepana Dharana Mandana Vibhusanattana Veramani Sikkha Padam..) Aug 15, 2016 at 11:57

When I was ordained as a novice monk some 30 years ago, I was given the Dharma name Sila Ananda. In that context, the term "sila" meant "merit," referring to a quality acquired over previous lifetimes. A fundamental cause of confusion occurs when a person assumes that the Buddhist rules of conduct have a purpose similar to the Christian rules of conduct. To understand the difference, it helps to take note that the Christian rules involve the concept of a God who is a constant presence in the life of a monk or nun, whereas the Buddhist rules lack such a reference. My meditation teacher, the late Namgyal Rinpoche, referred to rules as forms of aspiration. The concept of sin is not present in Buddhism. My teacher used to give a "Lama Couple Ordination" to couples who were in a sexual relationship and wanted to teach Dharma together. In order to understand sila, one must look for the psychological reasons for following a rule. Essentially, each rule was formulated (while the Buddha was still alive) when a monk or nun became seriously confused because of something they did. For example, when a monk became sexually involved with a woman, he will have become deeply connected with her, thereby interfering with inner transmissions from the Buddha. Do not forget that the Tibetan Buddhists have works of art that display male and female deities in sexual union. And, if the woman were to bear a child, the monk would be responsible for caring for both mother and child. Also, there is no "sin" in finding the opposite sex attractive. In an interview on Youtube, the Dalai Lama talked about finding women attractive. The formation of a rule by the Buddha back then was an act of compassion for the monk or nun and for anyone else affected by the action in question. This underlying principle hold true for both the ordained and the layperson.

  • +1 "Namgyal Rinpoche"
    – Andriy Volkov
    May 18, 2018 at 15:02
  • 1
    Namgyal Rinpoche was a Canadian born Theravadin monk who achieved Enlightenment after eight years in a Burmese monastery. He was recognized by the Karmapa to be an incarnation of the famous Namgyal Rinpoche of Sikkim. I received traditional mindfulness meditation instructions from him over 50 years ago. May 19, 2018 at 16:48

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