The interpretation of the 8 precepts

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:58 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:My desire is to request 8 precepts and live these day to day, in a sense the precepts that would be given to an Anagarika.

Although it may help to make a formal undertaking in front of a bhikkhu, there really isn't any need for that. You can do it yourself in front of your Buddha image.

If there's no bhikkhus near you perhaps there are some who are available on Skype or other Chat rooms if you prefer to do it that way. You could even declare your intention here if that helps.

It's the determination to train yourself that counts.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Anagarika » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:41 am

Thanks, Bhante, for your response. I agree that so much of this commitment must come from within. Certainly, the support from you, and all on DW, as kalyana mitta is so very important. It's wonderful that all can connect electronically through this valuable forum, and tragic that we are all spread out across the world and for some, have no physical sangha or Wat to attend in person. In any case, I am fortunate to be back to my "home Wat" in Fang Thailand this September, and will ask the Abbot to receive the 8 precepts, just to undertake this formally. I would so wish to be a samanera again, but here in my city and with my vocation, it's just not feasible.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby starter » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:02 pm

starter wrote:I wonder if the following life-long eight precepts (not the 8 monastic precepts) were taught by the Buddha; if so I'd appreciate the name of the sutta:

1. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
2. I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking what is not given.
3. I undertake the training rule to abstain from indulging in sexual misconduct
4. I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech.
5. I undertake the training rule to abstain from malicious/divisive speech.
6. I undertake the training rule to abstain from harsh speech.
7. I undertake the training rule to abstain from gossiping.
8. I undertake the training rule to abstain from wrong livelihood
and from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.

Thanks and metta!


Today I happened to read the Ud 5.6 Soṇa Sutta: Soṇa, which confirmed that the objective of the Eight Precepts set up by the Buddha is to bring the laity closer to how the monastics' practice so that they could taste the monastic life before deciding to ordain one day. The later invention of the "eight life-long precepts" as cited and highlighted above is now offered to lay practitioners as an alternative to the Eight Precepts set up by the Buddha in some places. As mentioned in my previous post, I almost chose these "life-long precepts" instead, since they are what a practitioner should practice anyway without having to worry about abstaining from eating at wrong times ...

I'd like to share my thoughts again that we'd better adhere to the Buddha's original precepts without adding such new inventions of Eight Precepts, especially confusing them with the original precepts.

Metta to all!

Ud 5.6 Soṇa Sutta: Soṇa

"... Give me the going-forth, Master Mahā Kaccāyana!"

When this was said, Ven. Mahā Kaccāyana said to Soṇa Koṭikaṇṇa, "It's hard, Soṇa, the life-long, one-meal-a-day, sleeping-alone holy life. Please, right there as you are a householder, devote yourself to the message of the Awakened Ones and to the proper-time [i.e., uposatha day], one-meal-a-day, sleeping-alone holy life." And so Soṇa Koṭikaṇṇa's idea of going-forth subsided."
Last edited by starter on Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:21 pm

The eight precepts with right livelihood as the eighth might well be a later tradition, but they are the original teaching. There is nothing innovative therein. Right speech includes abstaining from back-biting, abuse, and idle chatter. A Buddhist dedicated to observing the five precepts should also practise right livelihood. Whenever they can, they should also undertake the eight Uposatha day precepts.

The instructions given to Soṇa were specific for him. Mahākassapa had psychic powers almost equal to the Buddha.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Dhammanando » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:35 pm

starter wrote:I wonder if the following life-long eight precepts (not the 8 monastic precepts) were taught by the Buddha; if so I'd appreciate the name of the sutta:


The "[sevenfold] moral habit with livelihood as the eighth" (ājīvaṭṭhamakasīlaṃ) is a commentarial term. The formulation is based upon a sutta (whose name I can't remember right now) where the Buddha lays down abstention from wrong livelihood and from the first seven of the akusala kammapaṭha as being the very minimum standard of virtue needed for progress in bhāvanā.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby starter » Sun Jul 06, 2014 11:15 pm

Hello Bhante Dhammanando and Bhante Pesala,

Many thanks for your comments. I understand that all the eight were taught by the Buddha under either ten wholesome conducts or the noble eight-factored path. Sorry I didn't make my point clear. My point is that the Buddha didn't teach them as the eight precepts.

On one hand, they might confuse with the eight monastic precepts set up by the Buddha, and they should probably not be offered to the lay practitioners as an alternative to the eight monastic precepts.

On the other hand, those who can really observe all these 8 "precepts" would have already perfected their sila (right speech, right action, right livelihood). This is not very practical (and could dilute the lay practitioners effort on the five or eight precepts set up by the Buddha), since even stream winners could still have "evil conducts" and have not yet perfected their sila (they have just entered the N8P to perfect their speech/action/livelihood), to my understanding:

Sn 2.1 PTS: Sn 222-238
Ratana Sutta: The Jewel Discourse
...
"With his gaining of insight he abandons three states of mind, namely self-illusion/self view (Sakkaya-ditthi), doubt (Vicikiccha), and attachment to sila (precepts/virtues) and rites/rituals (Silabbataparamasa), should there be any. He is also fully freed from the four states of woe, and therefore, incapable of committing the six major wrongdoings. This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this (asseveration of the) truth may there be happiness.

"Any evil conduct he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path (N8P). This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this truth may there be happiness. ..."

Mega metta!

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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:39 pm

starter wrote:Many thanks for your comments. I understand that all the eight were taught by the Buddha under either ten wholesome conducts or the noble eight-factored path. Sorry I didn't make my point clear. My point is that the Buddha didn't teach them as the eight precepts.


I’m not sure what you mean by didn’t teach them as the eight precepts. Do you mean that the Buddha didn’t teach the ājīvaṭṭhamakasīla as something to be formally undertaken, as in “Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi, adinnādāna veramaṇī… etc.” ? If so, then you’re quite right, but then neither are the five precepts or the eight uposatha precepts ever taught this way in the Suttas. Indeed the only precepts that are ever presented in this way are the ten precepts of a sāmaṇera, and these only in the Khuddakapaṭha.

Or did you mean something else?

starter wrote:On one hand, they might confuse with the eight monastic precepts set up by the Buddha, and they should probably not be offered to the lay practitioners as an alternative to the eight monastic precepts.


Why not? The ājīvaṭṭhamakasīla are in fact offered to lay yogis in some meditation centres in Burma (chiefly Ledi Sayadaw-influenced ones). For success during periods of intensive bhāvanā they are arguably a more relevant set of restraints than the uposatha precepts (in the Suttas observance of the latter is taught as a path to heaven and never crops up in discourses dealing with the relationship between sīla and bhāvanā). Such persons may well find abstention from divisive, harsh and frivolous speech both more challenging and more rewarding than abstention from afternoon meals, high beds, etc.

starter wrote:On the other hand, those who can really observe all these 8 "precepts" would have already perfected their sila (right speech, right action, right livelihood).


I don’t understand what you’re saying here.

starter wrote:This is not very practical (and could dilute the lay practitioners effort on the five or eight precepts set up by the Buddha),


I suppose it could, but so what? I mean by the same token one could argue that since the five precepts and eight uposatha precepts require only abstention from false speech, undertaking either of these instead of the ājīvaṭṭhamakasīla could dilute one’s efforts to refrain from divisive, harsh or frivolous speech. :)

starter wrote:since even stream winners could still have "evil conducts" and have not yet perfected their sila (they have just entered the N8P to perfect their speech/action/livelihood), to my understanding:
[…]
"Any evil conduct he may still do by deed, word or thought, he is incapable of concealing it; since it has been proclaimed that such concealing is impossible for one who has seen the Path (N8P). This precious jewel is the Sangha. By this truth may there be happiness. ..."


But in the commentary to the Ratana Sutta the said misconduct on the part of a sekha disciple is limited to such transgressions of the monastic rule as would not proceed from unwholesome volitions, or at least not necessarily proceed from such volitions. It wouldn’t include actions such as intentional killing, stealing, etc., which orthodoxy holds to be not possible for sekhas.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Anagarika » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:53 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:My desire is to request 8 precepts and live these day to day, in a sense the precepts that would be given to an Anagarika.

Although it may help to make a formal undertaking in front of a bhikkhu, there really isn't any need for that. You can do it yourself in front of your Buddha image.

If there's no bhikkhus near you perhaps there are some who are available on Skype or other Chat rooms if you prefer to do it that way. You could even declare your intention here if that helps.

It's the determination to train yourself that counts.


As this thread is ongoing, I noticed my post from nearly a year ago. I did request Anagarika ordination from my "home wat" Abbot in Fang, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and he agreed to the formal anagarika ordination. With the abbot was a good friend who is also a Bhikkhu at the Wat, and other senior monks from the area. It was a great day and of course I am humbled and appreciative that my home Wat supported this. I am grateful for the refresher in Pali diction that my friend gave me before the ordination ceremony....some of my pronunciations were suspect and he sat with me in the evenings and drilled me over and over until I had it right. Nothing worse than a farang mangling the Pali. :shock:

Is keeping the 8 precepts each day a challenge? I can say that it is, especially as I am out of the comfort and supportive environment of Thailand and my Wat, and back in the west. Celibacy is difficult..I'll be honest. I liken it to meditation training, in that in the beginning it is uncomfortable, then in weeks it grows painful (such as after the first hour of sitting and the knees and ankles begin to bark), then the body settles in and it becomes more natural. Instead of the lizard brain "barking" for sexual release, the mind and body converts to a sense of stability and even positive energy keeping this precept day to day. Avoiding the endless sexual themes that pop up online (even my email server has dating site ads that pop up with photos of attractive women.....can't they just be ads for dog food???) becomes necessary.

Not eating after midday? I was working at this even before ordaining. Now, it's very natural. I do keep a bit of cheese around in the event that at 10 pm I need a bit of protein to kill the pangs before sleeping. Not all wats permit cheese, but as some do, I allow myself this when necessary and feel that it is OK in moderation. The most difficult part of not eating after midday is being at events ( I still maintain my work) and being asked my I am not eating anything. I'm working on a good response to this question. I also struggled at first with having to eat more calories at lunch than I was ever used to consuming, and then battling the food coma afterward. Again, the body initially struggles with this, but after a few weeks it settles in.

It's interesting to me that with the struggle in giving things up, one gets more back in return. This would be a challenging practice were it not true that the five/eight/ten/Bhikkhu precepts really do fit in well with the entirety of the meditation practice, and the study, and the composition of the practitioner in all facets of life. One supplements the other, in a way. I also am emboldened by the examples of the most excellent Bhikkhus on this forum, those that I learn from whether online or in person, and by the examples of my Thai Abbot and my farang Bhikkhu friend. What I am doing is minor compared to what they live and practice each day.
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby Mkoll » Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:09 am

:goodpost: Anagarika.

The sexual bombardment in advertising is relentless, isn't it?
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Re: The interpretation of the 8 precepts

Postby martinfrank » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:22 pm

I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon).

I think this is a good rule for a healthy (vegetarian :thinking: ) diet and to reduce weight. As I understand it this is not a "moral" rule for lay people and there might be occasions when we have to tell ourselves "I am not a monk!". If a monk gets hungry in the afternoon, he can (in theory) sit down and deal with it, because this is his job. If you are a businessman and get invited for dinner, you can manage not to drink alcohol and not to eat meat, but to eat NOTHING will definitely look odd. What are you going to order? One mineral water? While your business friends order full dinner? Whom will it benefit? Is it not better to eat in moderation when invited or inviting and eat nothing when we are at home or alone?

I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.

If only people would care so much about the stains of their heart as they care about the stains on their face! What about deodorants? What about chanting? What about music? Movies? TV? YouTube?

I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.

Isn't this is a rule for monks? What sense does it make for lay people? Just buy a Futon in Ikea and your done!
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