The word "blameless" is often used in suttas: https://www.google.com/search?q=blameless%20site%3Aaccesstoinsight.org

AN 4.62 suggests it's highly good:

Seeing clearly — the wise one —
he knows both sides:
that these are not worth one sixteenth-sixteenth
of the bliss of blamelessness.

  • Is there doctrine about it, or do people just already know and agree on what it means?
  • Is it given as an ideal for monks and for lay-people?
  • What is its opposite -- i.e. "blame" -- who does the blaming?
  • Is it to do with self-reproach? Or with blaming other people, ...?
  • Is it identical to "absence of remorse", which AN 11.1 explains is the purpose of skillful virtue?
  • What about "irresponsible" -- behaving badly, not accepting blame, even blaming others instead?
  • Does someone know correctly whether and when their life is blameless, or might they be self-deluded?
  • What about the Lokavipatti Sutta AN 8.6 -- does that say that "desirable things" (e.g. "blamelessness" in this context) shouldn't charm the mind, and its opposite shouldn't be resisted? Is blame and blamelessness just another of the worldly winds?
  • Blameless is a synonym for one who is unblemished or free of conditioning, not owing anything to the world, debtless and from that position bliss is the result. Bliss does not come from the acquisition of being blameless like a when your birthday arrives, one receives a present - that is a silly understanding of bliss. Instead, bliss is simply what remains when you recognize how you suffered, in what way you suffered, and that you no longer need to suffer again; nothing is attained.
    – user17652
    Apr 18, 2022 at 16:00

5 Answers 5


AN 4.62 defines the happiness of debtlessness and the happiness of blamelessness, but says that the happiness of blamelessness is worth a lot more than the happiness of debtlessness.

And what is the happiness of blamelessness? It’s when a noble disciple has blameless conduct by way of body, speech, and mind. When he reflects on this, he’s filled with pleasure and happiness. This is called ‘the happiness of blamelessness’. ......

Seeing clearly, a clever person knows both kinds of happiness: the other kind is not worth a sixteenth part of the happiness of blamelessness.”
AN 4.62

The following Dhammapada verses also talk about blamelessness.

If knowledgeable people praise him, having observed him day after day to be blameless in conduct, intelligent, endowed with discernment & virtue: like an ingot of gold — who's fit to find fault with him? Even devas praise him. Even by Brahmas he's praised.
Dhp 229 - 230

Blameless in conduct by way of body, speech and mind is related to virtue, and therefore also freedom from remorse.

Remorse is of course, what one feels, when one is blamed for his or her conduct. When one is blameless, one is remorseless. This leads to jhana according to the sutta below, and eventually to liberation. And that's how blameless conduct is related to the Dhamma.

Remorse can be considered self-blame.

"Skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, Ananda, and freedom from remorse as their reward."

"Freedom from remorse has joy as its purpose, joy as its reward."

"Joy has rapture as its purpose, rapture as its reward."

(this goes on, till)

"Dispassion has knowledge & vision of release as its purpose, knowledge & vision of release as its reward.
AN 11.1

Having blameless conduct is also one of the four factors of stream entry.

And a noble disciple’s ethical conduct is loved by the noble ones, unbroken, impeccable, spotless, and unmarred, liberating, praised by sensible people, not mistaken, and leading to immersion. These are the four factors of stream-entry that they have.
AN 10.92

  • Yes except that blame and remorse may be unrelated -- if e.g. "remorse" is a feeling about your own actions or inactions, and "blame" is what other people say -- so a person might feel remorse when there's no external blame, and maybe vice versa.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 19, 2022 at 12:56
  • @ChrisW I see remorse as self-blame.
    – ruben2020
    Apr 19, 2022 at 15:47

The definition of "blameless" in the suttas is recursive--the definition uses "blameless" to describe "blameless".

AN4.135:5.1: And how is a person blameless?
AN4.135:5.2: It’s when a person does things by way of body, speech, and mind that are blameless.

To understand the definition, we have to consider the context. Blame is contextual. It is contextual because the context for blamelessness is the assembly. Living together in harmony requires blamelessness.

AN3.95:4.2: An assembly where the mendicants live in harmony, appreciating each other, without quarreling, blending like milk and water, and regarding each other with kindly eyes. This is called a harmonious assembly.

Assemblies are bound together by commonly held rules. Monastics will have the Vinaya. Yet even laity has rules. Even organized crime has rules. Those who break the rules in their society with body, speech or mind are not blameless.

Some rules assume the conceit, "I am". Importantly, Buddhist rules do not. For example, take the first three rules of MN8:

MN8:12.2: ‘Others will be cruel, but here we will not be cruel.’
MN8:12.3: ‘Others will kill living creatures, but here we will not kill living creatures.’
MN8:12.4: ‘Others will steal, but here we will not steal.’

Because Mara exploits loopholes with a passion, blamelessness requires utter vigilance. It also requires abandoning the conceit, "I am".

DN34:1.2.11: What one thing should be given up?
DN34:1.2.12: The conceit ‘I am’.

SN45.3:2.2: Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.

Without blamelessness, how could there be a spiritual life?

  • i found this answer blameworthy and marked it down. It appears to drift off-topic, which is blameworthy. In other words, the answer quoted many suttas that did not include the word "blame" or "blameless". Apr 18, 2022 at 11:35
  • 1
    Thank you for explaining the downvote. I understand the concern. I am unable to search the Abhidhamma at this time. The connections posted are therefore my inference.
    – OyaMist
    Apr 18, 2022 at 14:01
  • Indeed. I found the following ideas to be unsubstantiated inferences: (i) "the context for blamelessness is the assembly". For example, in MN 144, blamelessness was mentioned without any context to any assembly; (ii) "Some rules assume the conceit, "I am". Importantly, Buddhist rules do not. ". I started a new question on this idea; (iii) "Assemblies are bound together by commonly held rules.". This appears to say all social groups as "assemblies" per the meaning of "assembly" in the quote; and (iv) this social group (BSE) of mostly "rebirthers" are kalyanamitta & spiritual companions. Apr 18, 2022 at 20:53
  • Excellent. I shall defer to your better resources for research. My answer works personally yet cannot span the quotes of the Buddha definitively for all. For example, please note that Channa and Ven. Sāriputta are an assembly in MN144.
    – OyaMist
    Apr 19, 2022 at 11:52

Most importand to relay on Samma-mana, right conceit, going after blameless. Without the notion of feeling rightly blameless, the path wouldn't develop and faultlessness is prerequisite for pathdevelopment Jhanas. Sure it's problematical to be accepted by on-house-holder and stand-maintainer as there way requires dusty blameful ways of which they are not willing to give up. In that way they start to develop a virtue out of incapacity, try to polish there faults with 1000 useless words of wrong conceit, maintaining there being.

By seeing blameworthy as blameless and viciversa, step by step they increase their bond downwardly, hoping that rebirth will not come along for those denying cause and effect anyway.

Most blameworthy those followers of the naked... most blameworthy their jeloose ways. Stingy in all regards incapable for Jhanas, Paths and fruits, burning off by defending decaying stand, house.

  • i never read 'Samma-mana' before. please quote this term from sutta. thanks Apr 19, 2022 at 4:32
  • @DhammaDhatu I guess an example is in the Bhikkhuni Sutta i.e. the conceit of comparing oneself with another who has further advanced on the path and telling oneself, "If they can attain that by doing that then so can I" -- i.e. emulating one's betters, learning from or copying a teacher.
    – ChrisW
    Apr 19, 2022 at 4:56
  • thanks Chris. your speculative view above sounds reasonable and possible. Regards Apr 19, 2022 at 6:54

"We want a happiness that’s blameless, i.e., one that doesn’t harm anybody."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Brahmaviharas on the Path" https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Meditations8/151122_Brahmaviharas_on_the_Path.pdf


"Blame" means "blamed, censured or criticized" by the Buddha; similar to being condemned by the Biblical God Yahweh for your sins.

Buddhism is not an escape for ex-Christians from being blamed, judged and terrorized with threats of being sent to hell. MN 130 particularly shows the extreme horrific depictions of hell held to be believed & taught by the Buddha.

Also, there are many suttas where the Buddha appears to accept capital punishment is the inevitable outcome of certain bad kammas, including adultery (which many secular cultures such as in France appear to now hold to be OK, fun and acceptable; such as married men & even married women having mistresses & lovers). For example:

The blood you have shed when, arrested as thieves plundering villages, you had your heads cut off... when, arrested as highway thieves, you had your heads cut off... when, arrested as adulterers, you had your heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans.

SN 15.13

Then King Yama says, 'My good man, didn't you see among human beings kings — catching a thief, a criminal — having him tortured in many ways: flogging him with whips, beating him with canes, beating him with clubs; cutting off his hands, cutting off his feet, cut off his hands & feet; cutting off his ears, cutting off his nose, cutting off his ears & nose; subjecting him to the 'porridge pot,' the 'polished-shell shave,' the 'Rāhu's mouth,' the 'flaming garland,' the 'blazing hand,' the 'grass-duty (ascetic),' the 'bark-dress (ascetic),' the 'burning antelope,' the 'meat hooks,' the 'coin-gouging,' the 'lye pickling,' the 'pivot on a stake,' the 'rolled-up bed'; having him splashed with boiling oil, devoured by dogs, impaled alive on a stake; cutting off his head with a sword?

MN 130

Instead of legalistically searching for the meaning of words in dictionaries, it is best to read suttas for a contextual explanation:

Of course you are uncertain, Kalamas. Of course you are in doubt. When there are reasons for doubt, uncertainty is born. So in this case, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering' — then you should abandon them.

Kalama Sutta

Buddha: There are those families that were friends of the bhikkhu Channa, Sariputta, families that were his intimates, families that were blameworthy; but I do not say that to this extent he was blameworthy. Sariputta, when one lays down this body and clings to a new body, then I say one is blameworthy.

MN 144

  • "similar to being condemned by the Biblical God Yahweh" Really? The way it was explained to me in Sunday school was that deliberate sin is one's own decision to distance or remove oneself from God's love. I guess it's possible that a similar mechanism is taught in Buddhism too -- but, saying that Buddhism is similar to Christianity might say more about you than about Buddhism. Secondly I am not terrorized with threats of being sent to hell, never been an adulterer -- does that for example make me "blameless", is that all that "blameless" means?
    – ChrisW
    Apr 18, 2022 at 3:10
  • Third, yes I was wondering whether the only possible answer is based on the Kalama sutta -- i.e. it's whatever "the wise" might criticise or not (or perhaps similarly, "ethics praised by the Noble"). But then, forgive me for doubting, what about people's capacity for self-deception (e.g. "Of course my behaviour is moral" etc.).
    – ChrisW
    Apr 18, 2022 at 3:16
  • Fourthly, "blame" seems to me a huge mechanism in some less-enlightened personal relationships (e.g. the subjects of other people's recent questions) -- e.g. people use blame to try to coerce each other, or they deny blame to deny responsibility or escape coercion. Is that related to the sense in which "blameless" is used in the suttas -- does it necessarily include simplifying one's relationships to avoid any people who might blame you?
    – ChrisW
    Apr 18, 2022 at 3:24
  • 1
    I assume the enthusiastic comments above are expressions of gratitude for my answer. Thank you. if so. Apr 18, 2022 at 4:27

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