Importance of Sila or Morality in Buddhism

Binu Baba Napit

Sila is the set of principles concerning right and wrong or good and bad behaviour, matter of public, private, morality, standard of morality seem to be dropping. It is spoken of first because it is the foundation for the other two. Its importance cannot be overstressed without sila, no further practices can be undertake. For lay people the basic level of sila consists of five precepts or training rules, refraining from taking life, refraining from laying, and so on these observances foster a basic purity that makes it easy to progress along the path of practices.

Various factors which may be defined as morality are mental volition which arises in the person who abstains from wrong physical actions such as killing, stealing etc. The three mental factors of abstention,.i.e., right speech right action and right livelihood, greedlessness, absence of ill will, right view, the five restraints and the mental factor of avitikkama.

Five Moral Precept:

The fundamental training to abide by the advice of all the Buddhas to avoid all evil, to do good, and to purify the mind is to observe the five moral precepts. Panca sila is the basic code of moral practice for all Buddhists. Everyone should ardently and willingly observe these moral precepts as they lead to a noble way of living and to happiness and prosperity.

The procedure for understanding panca sila consists of the following five steps.

  1. Asking for permission to pay Homage.
  2. Asking for panca sila together with the Noble three fold refuge.
  3. Paying homage to the Buddha
  4. Taking the Noble three fold Refuge and
  5. Undertaking to observe the precepts.

There are five sila which devotees take infront of Buddha. They are given below

1) Panatipata Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami (I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from killing any living beings)

2) Addinnadana Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami (I under take to observe well the precept of abstaining from stealing other properties)

3) Kamesumicchachara Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from sexual misconduct)

4) Musavada Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from telling lies, sleandering, speaking harsh and talking vainly)

5) Surameraya Majjapamadathana Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami (I undertake to observe well the precept of obstaining from intoxicant drinks and drugs)

Eight Moral Precepts (upasatha sila)

Buddhist usually observe eight or nine moral precepts instead of pancasila on sabbatha days to acquires greater merit these special moral precept are called sabbatha precepts (upasatha sila) Upasatha means, living with good conduct. After observing this sila, one has to obstain from all sexual activity and from taking food after midday till down the next day. One must also abstain from all sexual activity and from taking food after midday till down the next day. One must also abstain from enjoying music, song, dance using perfumes, cosmetic, high or luxurious seats and beds the purpose of these obstainces is to control one’s lust pride, craving for and attachment to sensuous objects.

The procedure for undertaking to observe sabbatha precepts is the same as that for observing panca sila.

During upasatha devotees take the following silas.

1) Panatipata Veramani sikhapadam Samadiyami (I undertake to observe well the precept of obstaining from killing any living beings)

2) Addinnadana Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami (I under take to observe well the precept of abstaining from stealing other properties)

3) Abramha  Cariya  Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from the ignoble practice of sexual intercourse)

4) Musavada Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from telling lies, sleandering, speaking harsh and talking vainly)

5) Surameraya majjapamadathana Veramani Sikhapadam Samadiyami (I undertake to observe well the precept of obstaining from intoxicant drinks and drugs)

6) Vikalbhojana Veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami(I undertake to observe well the precept of obstaining from taking food after midday till down the next day.

7) Nacca gita vadita visuka dassana malagandha Vilopana Dharana mandana vibusanathana veramanisikkhapadam samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of abstaining from dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, which are obstacles to the Noble Practice and also abstaining from wearing flowers, using perfums and beautifying with any  cosmetic.

8) Uccasayana mahasayena veramanisikkhapadam samadiyami ( I undertake to observe well the precept of obstaining from staying on any high or luxurious seat or bed)

9)  (for observing Navanga sila) Yathabalam methasaha gatina cetasa sabbavantam lokam phrittva viharami (I shall permeat all living beings with loving kindness to the best of any ability)

The benefits of morality

A virtously people enjoy many benefits such as gladdering heart which leads to joy and happiness. If one who enjoys delightful satisfaction, there arises calmness of mind and body followed by bliss. when one gets this knowledge of things as they really are, one gets wearied of and detached from the ills and suffering of the cycle of rebirths. After gaining the path and fruition knowledge he/she develops reflective knowledge which enables him her to see that the cessation of phenomena of the aggregates of Nama and rupa has taken place in him/ her. Thus morality has many benefits including the realization of Nibbana. It has the clearity  serenity and peace of mind as its benefits, it has the potency of clearifying and refreshing the mind

Defilement of Morality

It means impairment of morality and in the reverse, non impairment of morality is purification of morality, Impairment of morality may arise through destruction due to gain, fame etc or through seven minor arts of sexuality.

Cleansing of Morality

When the moral precepts are not broken, not torn not piereed,not blotched and not mottled, the morality is said to be clean and pure.

Purification of Morality

Purification of morality characterised by nonˉ tearing non blotching or non mottling of sila is brought about by the complete.

One who fulfils Morality acquires five or more than five types of benefit with gain. Developing the training of morality enables one to remove various kind of defilement which affect or torment the mind. In Sila the Buddha declared that those who possess of the training of morality enter the path of surely and they are determinedly bent on the destruction of cankers, Not only the removal of the various defilement but also experience the taste of Noble fruition is a benefit of the development of Morality.

(Napit has completed Masters’ Degree in Theravada Buddhism from Lumbini Buddhist University)