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Buddha's Words to Householders

Do not fall away from happiness. [Buddha's wisdom]

What follows is based on Digha Nikaya 31: Sigalovada Sutta (The Discourse to Sigala – "A Layperson's Guidelines". Below are extracts and slight modulations.

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On one occasion the Exalted One [Buddha] was dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Sanctuary, near Rajagaha. There he set down guidelines for householders. A few of them have been slightly adjusted here.

Overview

Inasmuch the good disciple
  • has eradicated the four vices in conduct, [1]
  • commits no evil action [as enumerated in the following text - or otherwise],
  • abstains from dissipating wealth, avoiding fourteen evil things, covering six life areas appropriately, and entering on the victorious path for here and hereafter -

he is favoured in this world and in the world beyond: After death he enters a happy heavenly realm. [Mod Buddha]

[1] kamma-kilesa, lit., 'actions of defilement.'

The destruction of life, householder, is a vice and so are stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying. [Buddha]

Killing, stealing, lying and adultery, these four evils the wise never praise. [Buddha]

The fit disciple is not led by desire, anger, ignorance, and fear. He commits no evil. [Buddha]

Whoever through desire, hate or fear, or ignorance should transgress the Dhamma, all his glory fades away. Whoever through desire, hate or fear, or ignorance never transgresses the Dhamma, all his glory ever increases. [Buddha]

Channels of Misery to Come

3. What are the six channels for dissipating wealth which a follower does not pursue?

  1. indulgence in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness;
  2. sauntering in streets at unseemly hours;
  3. frequenting theatrical shows;
  4. indulgence in gambling which causes heedlessness;
  5. association with evil companions;
  6. the habit of idleness.

(a) There are these six evil consequences in indulging in intoxicants which cause infatuation and heedlessness:

  1. loss of wealth,
  2. increase of quarrels,
  3. susceptibility to disease,
  4. earning an evil reputation,
  5. shameless exposure of body,
  6. weakening of intellect.

(b) There are these six evil consequences in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours:

  1. he himself is unprotected and unguarded,
  2. his wife and children are unprotected and unguarded,
  3. his property is unprotected and unguarded,
  4. he is suspected of evil deeds, [3]
  5. he is subject to false rumours,
  6. he meets with many troubles.

[3] Crimes committed by others.

(c) There are these six evil consequences in frequenting theatrical shows: He is ever thinking:

  1. where is there dancing?
  2. where is there singing?
  3. where is there music?
  4. where is there recitation?
  5. where is there playing with cymbals?
  6. where is there pot-blowing? [4]

[4] A form of amusement.

(d) There are these six evil consequences in indulging in gambling:

  1. the winner begets hate,
  2. the loser grieves for lost wealth,
  3. loss of wealth,
  4. his word is not relied upon in a court of law,
  5. he is despised by his friends and associates,
  6. he is not sought after for matrimony; for people would say he is a gambler and is not fit to look after a wife.

(e) There are these six evil consequences in associating with evil companions, namely: any gambler, any libertine, any drunkard, any swindler, any cheat, any rowdy is his friend and companion.

(f) There are these six evil consequences in being addicted to idleness: He does no work, saying:

  1. that it is extremely cold,
  2. that it is extremely hot,
  3. that it is too late in the evening,
  4. that it is too early in the morning,
  5. that he is extremely hungry,
  6. that he is too full.

Living in this way, he leaves many duties undone, new wealth he does not get, and wealth he has acquired dwindles away. [Buddha]

One is a bottle friend; one says, 'friend, friend' only to one's face; one is a friend and an associate only when it is advantageous. [Buddha]

Sleeping till sunrise, adultery, irascibility, malevolence, evil companions, avarice -- these six causes ruin a man. [Buddha]

The man who has evil comrades and friends is given to evil ways, to ruin does he fall in both worlds — this one and the next. [Buddha]

Dice, women, liquor, dancing, singing, sleeping by day, sauntering at unseemly hours, evil companions, avarice — all these causes ruin a man. [Buddha]

Who plays with dice and drinks intoxicants, goes to women who are dear unto others as their own lives, associates with the mean and not with elders — he declines just as the moon during the waning half. [Buddha]

Who . . . frequents the bars, sinks in debt as a stone in water, swiftly brings disrepute to his family. [With Buddha]

Who by habit sleeps by day, and keeps late hours, is ever intoxicated, and is licentious, is not fit to lead a household life. [Buddha]

Who says it is too hot, too cold, too late, and leaves things undone, the opportunities for good go past such men. [Buddha]

But he who does not regard cold or heat any more than a blade of grass and who does his duties manfully, does not fall away from happiness. [Buddha]

Bad Friends and Foes after Some Time

These four should be understood as foes in the guise of friends:
(1) he who appropriates a friend's possessions,
(2) he who renders lip-service,
(3) he who flatters,
(4) he who brings ruin. [Buddha]

(1) In four ways should one who appropriates be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:

  1. he appropriates his friend's wealth,
  2. he gives little and asks much,
  3. he does his duty out of fear,
  4. he associates for his own advantage.

(2) In four ways should one who renders lip-service be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:

  1. he makes friendly profession as regards the past,
  2. he makes friendly profession as regards the future,
  3. he tries to gain one's favor by empty words,
  4. when opportunity for service has arisen, he expresses his inability.

(3) In four ways should one who flatters be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:

  1. he approves of his friend's evil deeds,
  2. he disapproves his friend's good deeds,
  3. he praises him in his presence,
  4. he speaks ill of him in his absence.

(4) In four ways should one who brings ruin be understood as a foe in the guise of a friend:

  1. he is a companion in indulging in intoxicants that cause infatuation and heedlessness,
  2. he is a companion in sauntering in streets at unseemly hours,
  3. he is a companion in frequenting theatrical shows,
  4. he is a companion in indulging in gambling which causes heedlessness.

The friend who appropriates,
the friend who renders lip-service,
the friend that flatters,
the friend who brings ruin,
these four as enemies the wise behold;
avoid them from afar as paths of peril.

True Friends

These four should be understood as warm-hearted friends:
(1) he who is a helpmate,
(2) he who is the same in happiness and sorrow,
(3) he who gives good counsel,
(4) he who sympathises. [Buddha]

1) In four ways should a helpmate be understood as a warm-hearted friend:

  1. he guards the heedless,
  2. he protects the wealth of the heedless,
  3. he becomes a refuge when you are in danger,
  4. when there are commitments he provides you with double the supply needed.

(2) In four ways should one who is the same in happiness and sorrow be understood as a warm-hearted friend:

  1. he reveals his secrets,
  2. he conceals one's own secrets,
  3. in misfortune he does not forsake one,
  4. even his life he sacrifices for one's sake.

(3) In four ways should one who gives good counsel be understood as a warm-hearted friend:

  1. he restrains one from doing evil,
  2. he encourages one to do good,
  3. he informs one of what is unknown to oneself,
  4. he points out the path to heaven.

(4) In four ways should one who sympathises be understood as a warm-hearted friend:

  1. he does not rejoice in one's misfortune,
  2. he rejoices in one's prosperity,
  3. he restrains others speaking ill of oneself,
  4. he praises those who speak well of oneself.

The friend who is a helpmate,
the friend in happiness and woe,
the friend who gives good counsel,
the friend who sympathises too –
these four as friends the wise behold
and cherish them devotedly
as does a mother her own child. [Buddha]

The wise and virtuous shine like a blazing fire. [Buddha]

Comparison

Real understanding of friendly service may also be had through the four life ideals in Hinduism. They are artha, wealth; kama, pleasures; dharma, righteousness; and moksha, liberation.

1. Those who set out to hinder our getting solvent, our fine pleasures, hamper or hinder righteousness, and keep us from better freedom degrees, are not friends. They function more or less as enemies of our long-run welfare. Those who take our all right confidence away, may be of the same ilk.

2. Those who do not hinder or thwart our getting in our way towards realising the four goals, but do not help us a bit either, may be classified as just so-so. Many associates may be of such a kind, or be seen as bartering ones. Skilful trade (bartering) leaves both parties satisfied.

3. Those who help us through ups and downs are good friends. How able they are, is another matter. But those who help us toward getting solvency, or usher it in, are good friends. Those who help us getting abler, likewise. Those who allow us or help us to get fine pleasures are friends too, and should be remembered and treated as such. Those who tell us what is right or proper for us, are also friends, even if their frienly counsels may be hard to take at the time.

4. And those who help us toward more freedom may be the best friends of all - there is inner freedom, mental, and outer freedom, to name some of them, and "every little helps," hopefully. - TK

Handling Wealth

He who acquires his wealth in harmless ways
like a bee that gathers honey; [6]
riches mount up for him
like an ant hill's rapid growth. [Buddha]

[6] Dhammapada v. 49: "As a bee, without harming the flower, its colour or scent, flies away, collecting only the honey . . ."

With wealth acquired this way,
a layman fit for household life,
divides his wealth in four portions:
thus will he win friendship. [Buddha]

One portion he uses for his wants, [7]
two portions he spends on his business,
the fourth he keeps for times of need. [Buddha]

[7] This portion includes what is spent on good works: gifts to the wise and contemplatives, charity, etc.

Basics for Six Fields of Life

Children and Parents

In five ways . . . a child should minister to his parents . . .:

  1. Having supported me I shall support them,
  2. I shall do their duties,
  3. I shall keep the family tradition,
  4. I shall make myself worthy of my inheritance,
  5. furthermore I shall offer alms in honour of my departed relatives. [9]

In five ways the parents thus ministered to . . . by their children, show their compassion:

  1. they restrain them from evil,
  2. they encourage them to do good,
  3. they train them for a profession,
  4. they arrange a suitable marriage,
  5. at the proper time they hand over their inheritance to them.

In these five ways do children minister to their parents . . . and the parents show their compassion to their children. Thus is [very much of personal life] covered by them and made safe and secure. [Buddha]

Pupils and Teachers

In five ways a pupil should minister to a teacher . . .:

  1. by rising from the seat in salutation,
  2. by attending on him,
  3. by eagerness to learn,
  4. by personal service,
  5. by respectful attention while receiving instructions.

In five ways do teachers thus ministered to . . . by their pupils, show their compassion:

  1. they train them in the best discipline,
  2. they see that they grasp their lessons well,
  3. they instruct them in the arts and sciences,
  4. they introduce them to their friends and associates,
  5. they provide for their safety in every quarter.

The teachers thus ministered to . . . by their pupils, show their compassion towards them in these five ways. Thus is [facets of group living] covered by them and made safe and secure. [Buddha]

Husband and Wife

In five ways should a wife . . . be ministered to by a husband:

  1. by being courteous to her,
  2. by not despising her,
  3. by being faithful to her,
  4. by handing over authority to her,
  5. by providing her with adornments.

The wife thus ministered to . . . by her husband shows her compassion to her husband in five ways:

  1. she performs her duties well,
  2. she is hospitable to relations and attendants [10]
  3. she is faithful,
  4. she protects what he brings,
  5. she is skilled and industrious in discharging her duties.

[10] lit., 'the folk around' (parijana).

In these five ways does the wife show her compassion to her husband who ministers to her . . . Thus is the [partner area] covered by him and made safe[r] and [far more] secure. [Buddha]

On Friendly Terms with Relatives, on and up

In five ways should a clansman minister to his friends and associates in the [area of esteem]:

  1. by liberality,
  2. by courteous speech,
  3. by being helpful,
  4. by being impartial,
  5. by sincerity.

The friends and associates thus ministered to . . . by a clansman show compassion to him in five ways:

  1. they protect him when he is heedless,
  2. they protect his property when he is heedless,
  3. they become a refuge when he is in danger,
  4. they do not forsake him in his troubles,
  5. they show consideration for his family.

The friends and associates thus ministered to . . . by a clansman show their compassion towards him in these five ways. Thus is the [esteem area] covered by him and made safe[r] and [far more] secure. [Buddha]

Serving and Administering

In five ways should a master minister to his servants and employees as the [bottom area]:

  1. by assigning them work according to their ability,
  2. by supplying them with food and with wages,
  3. by tending them in sickness,
  4. by sharing with them any delicacies,
  5. by granting them leave at times.

The servants and employees thus ministered to as the [deep area] Nadir by their master show their compassion to him in five ways:

  1. they rise before him,
  2. they go to sleep after him,
  3. they take only what is given,
  4. they perform their duties well,
  5. they uphold his good name and fame.

The servants and employees thus ministered to . . . show their compassion towards him in these five ways. Thus is the [bottom field of life] covered by him and made safe and secure. [Buddha]

Recluses and Intellectuals and . . .

In five ways should a householder minister to ascetics and brahmans as the [top area]:

  1. by lovable deeds,
  2. by lovable words,
  3. by lovable thoughts,
  4. by keeping open house to them,
  5. by supplying their material needs.

The ascetics and brahmans thus ministered to . . . by a householder show their compassion towards him in six ways:

  1. they restrain him from evil,
  2. they persuade him to do good,
  3. they love him with a kind heart,
  4. they make him hear what he has not heard,
  5. they clarify what he has already heard,
  6. they point out the path to a heavenly state.

In these six ways do ascetics and brahmans show their compassion towards a householder who ministers to them as [of the top area]. Thus is the [top area] covered by him and made safe[r] and [better and perhaps more] secure. [These are evil times]

The four main directions of the compass and up and down constitute a framework and relate to a fundamental symbolism: As the new day beings in the East, so life begins with parents' care; teacher's fees are associated with the South; domestic cares follow when the youth becomes man, as the West [representing partners, friends etc.] holds the later daylight; North is 'beyond' (uttara), so by help of friends and so on he can get beyond troubles." – (cf. Rhys Davids). The symbolism is not credited too much in the West, and is, after all, secondary; the good points are as given by Buddha anyway.
. . .

Favorable Qualities for Householders

Who is wise and virtuous,
Gentle and keen-witted,
Humble and amenable,
Such a one may attain to honour. [Buddha]

Who is energetic and not indolent,
In misfortune unshaken,
Flawless in manner and intelligent,
Such a one may attain to honour. [Buddha]

Who is hospitable, and friendly,
Liberal and unselfish,
A guide, an instructor, a leader,
Such a one may attain to honour. [Buddha]

Generosity, sweet speech,
Helpfulness to others,
Impartiality to all,
As the case demands. [Buddha]

These four winning ways make the world go round.
. . .
These four winning ways the wise appraise in every way,
To eminence they attain, and should gain praise. [Mod Buddha]

Final Words

The young householder Sigala said: "Excellent! It is as if a man were to:

  • set upright that which was overturned,
  • reveal that which was hidden,
  • point out the way to one who had gone astray,
  • hold a lamp amidst the darkness,
so that those who have eyes may see."

The old doctrine has been explained.

Yukinobu?. Seven sages of the Bamboo Grove. From the Edo period (1800s or earlier). Detail.
Two bamboo grasses now: a grove later if things go well.

Contents


Buddha teachings, Sigalovada Sutta, Layperson's Code of Discipline, Literature  

Narada Thera, tr. "Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala. The Layperson's Code of Discipline" (Digha Nikaya, No. 31). In Everyman's Ethics: Four Discourses by the Buddha (The Wheel Publication No. 14). Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1985. On-line adaptation: Access to Insight edition 1996.
www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/digha/dn31.0.nara.html Also
www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/digha/dn31.html of 1995.

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Buddha teachings, Sigalovada Sutta, Layperson's Code of Discipline. USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
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