Is copying a Dhamma book in hard copy and converting it into a pdf to read on my kindle a breach of the second precept? I am planning only to read it myself and not give it to anyone.

I also thought that Dhamma material should be free. Why are people amongst them well known monks and nuns charging for dhamma material?

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    See related question; Does illegal downloading or viewing of copyright material violate the second precept?.
    – user2424
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 14:19
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    Do you own the hard copy of the book, which you're copying ... is it your hard copy?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 15:15
  • yes I do own the book ...its my hard copy
    – user68706
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 22:36
  • There is an unexplored distinction in this question between copyright protection and compensation. The foundation of copyright includes elements that protect the authenticity and integrity of expression, as well as, use and derivations. There are Fair Use guidelines that can speak to this question in a Buddhist context. Unfortunately, as stated, the second clause of this question conflates compensation with copyright in the absence of sufficient facts -- making this, in fact, two questions. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 21:08

4 Answers 4


The second of the Five Precepts (pañca-sila) is “Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami”… meaning…. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given. Overall, the precepts offer a clear moral foundation which has benefits for how we interact with others and our own spiritual progress. When one develops a strong conviction that the sacrifices one might have to make in observing the precepts that are really worth making, that there are some things of greater value to be gained by letting go of those unskillful activities, such thought / doubts come up at times. But here in this instance I do not see anything wrong in what you did.

The question is how can I explain this to you, to one who have decided that you’re not going to kill under any circumstances, that you’re not going to steal under any circumstances from anyone at all, no illicit sex, no lying, no intoxicants ever at all. When you give such limitless protection to all beings in following the precepts to the letter, then you gain a share in that limitless protection as well. Taking what is not given [stealing] is breaking a precept. A disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking what is not given. But when it comes to the True Teachings of the Buddha there is no such thing as stealing. Also there is no such thing as plagiarism, or plagiarizing when it comes to dhamma. No one can take ownership of the teachings of the Buddha.

But there is a serious problem, and a grave danger to those who speak of and write about Dhamma. It is of the distortion of the Suddamma. Today many a writers make gross distortions and incorrect adaptation of the Teaching of the Buddha to 'explain' the Dhamma. Thus it is very difficult for you and I to learn the true Dhamma without any adulterations or distortions that are widespread in most of today’s preaching and in the written material found in book stores and libraries. So in going forward in this dhamma path you and I have to be a bit cautious.


Copying a Dhamma book in hard copy that you bought & converting it into a pdf to read on your kindle & not give it to anyone else is not a breach of the second precept.

  • (-1) This is one of the type of answers which make me cautious about buddhist practice in social contexts .... Why not simply say: "well, that fellow didn't indicate that he/she intended to give it as free", and then to consider really cool: "well, so what's my matter with it?" ? Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 0:10
  • Your comment is incomprehensible. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 0:52
  • It means: to consequently avoid taking things having owners which are not explicitely given for free. The half-sentence with "...cool..." means to arrive at a detached inner state first. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 8:59
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    The answer might be clearer if you explained why "that you bought" is important; and whether it would be the same answer if it were a book "that you borrowed". A problem with very short answers like this one is that there's no reason to believe them (except trust or faith in you and in your speaking correctly).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 9:44
  • Personally, I think most scenarios is not breaking the precept because the transgression occurs under Copyright Law rather than under Dhamma Law. Under Dhamma Law, if I share my suttas with you & you copy them with my permission, that is not a breach of the 2nd precept. Thus, the only breach that occurs is under copyright law. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 10:19

There are many sutras which claim that it is merit to copy them. So, even if you did not own the copy of the sutra I would think it was okay to copy it. The problem arises when deciding what to do with that copy. Copyright is a modern concept used to protect commerce. To avoid breaking the law you should own a copy. But, I think the original meritorious idea was to spread the teaching of the sutras.

Spreading the dharma is not always without cost. The dharma is free, but the media may not be without cost. You also have the issue of the clergy charging money in place of accepting donations. Donations is acceptable in the right place and time, but some societies are not accustomed to that practice.


To take what is not given, is a break of the precept. Just prove that, possible ask the owner (giver), which is not wrong for householder to do and should be usual.

For more and details, one is welcom to look: [Q&A] Breach of second precept (copyrights, Dhamma books)

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]

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