Dhammika Sutta

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The Dhammika Sutta is text from of the Sutta Nipata (Snp 2.14) section of the Khuddaka Nikaya. In this sutta, the Buddha instructs a lay disciple named Dhammika on precepts to be followed by monks and lay people. In regards to the lay person, the Buddha identifies the Five Precepts to be observed on ordinary days, and the Eight Precepts to be observed on special days of observance.


Dhammika asks of virtue

In the sutta, Dhammika, along with 500 other lay followers, approaches the Buddha and his monks, and Dhammika asks the Buddha how should a disciple be virtuous (Pali: sādhu) — both a disciple who has gone from home to homelessness (i.e. a monk) and a disciple from a household (i.e. a lay person). Dhammika then proceeds to extol the Buddha's compassion and wisdom.[1]

Monastic virtue

In response to Dhammika's question, the Buddha first addresses his monks and advises them as follows:

  • do alms rounds at the appropriate time
  • be rid of interest in the five senses
  • return from alms rounds, sit alone and turn inward
  • do not slander or blame others or seek out disputation
  • care for your food, dwelling and robes but do not become attached to them

Lay virtue

The Buddha notes that a householder's obligations prevent a householder from fully pursuing a monk's path.[2] Thus, the Buddha articulates "the layman's duty" (Pali: gahatthavatta), what are essentially the Five Precepts, as follows:

  • Do not kill or hurt living things or incite others to kill
  • Avoid taking what is not given or inciting others to do so
  • Observe celibacy or at least do not have sex with another's wife
  • Do not lie or incite others to lie
  • Do not drink or incite others to drink intoxicants

For the Uposatha, the Buddha extols the practice of the Eight Precepts, which involve the aforementioned Five Precepts (with celibacy alone identified for the third precept) and the following three precepts added:

  • Do not eat at inappropriate times (traditionally meaning, one meal before noon)
  • Do not wear garlands or perfumes
  • Sleep at floor level

The Buddha further stated that, when celebrating the Uposatha, with a purified heart (Pali: pasanna citto) and rejoicing mind (Pali: anumodamāno), the wise (Pali: viññu) share their food and drink with monks of the Sangha.

In the sutta's last verse, the Buddha advises that, if a lay person supports their parents and engages in fair trading, they will be reborn among self-radiant devas.

Translation from SuttaCentral

This translation of the text Dhammika Sutta is published by SuttaCentral under license CC0 1.0. Translation by Laurence Khantipalo Mills (edited by Bhikkhu Sujato). SuttaCentral icon square 170px.png

2.14. To Dhammika: the Pure Hearkeners’ Conduct


At one time the Lord dwelt at Sāvatthī, in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. There the upāsaka Dhammika accompanied by five hundred upasakas went up to the Radiant One and sat to one side. Having done so and saluted the Radiant One, the upasaka Dhammika addressed him with verses.

I ask of Gotama—one profoundly wise:
Behaving in which way a hearkener is good—
whether from home to homelessness gone
or upasakas living the householder’s life.

The birthplaces of this world together with devas
and final Release, you clearly understand,
none compare with you in seeing this profundity
for, as they say, you are Buddha supreme.

All knowledge is yours, you have perfectly revealed
Dharma, out of your compassion for beings all,
remover of the veil, one with the All-round Eye
and stainless do you illuminate the world.

Then came to your presence a nāga renowned,
Erāvaṇa by name, having heard you were a conqueror,
he had secluded talk with you and then attained—
“Sādhu” he exclaimed, and departed, pleased.

Then were there kings, Vessavaṇa, Kuvera,
who came to ask questions on Dharma from you,
so you, O Wise One, being asked then replied,
and they being pleased departed from there.

These theorist sectarians used to dispute—
Ājīvakas and Nigaṇṭhas, all of that kind—
unable in wisdom they go not beyond you,
as a man standing still passes not one running swiftly.

Then there are Brahmins who’re used to dispute—
even old Brahmins are found among them;
or other disputants proud of themselves:
all, for the meaning, depend on you.

This Dharma indeed is blissful, profound,
by you well-proclaimed, O Radiant One,
so wishing to listen are all of us here,
now when we asked, speak to us, Buddha the best.

So let all these bhikkhus well-seated here,
upāsakas too, who likewise wish to listen,
listen to the dharma by the stainless won,
as devas to Vāsava’s well-spoken words.

Listen, O bhikkhus, I give you chance to hear—
to the Dharma that’s strict—all of you remember it,
let the intelligent seeing the benefit
practise the deportment of one who’s left home.

A bhikkhu in the times proscribed should wander not
but seek for alms timely going round a town;
who goes at times proscribed, temptations do tempt,
so the awakened go not within the wrong time.

Sights with sounds and tastes, smells and touches too—
all these with which beings are completely drunk,
for all of these dharmas let go desire,
and at the right time walk for the morning meal.

A bhikkhu with timely almsfood gained
returns by himself, then seated alone,
contemplative within, not distracted without,
not externalizing, since oneself’s restrained.

Should he with other hearkeners converse,
with bhikkhus, or anyone else at all,
of the Dharma let him speak refined,
not utter slander or another’s blame.

Some, disputatious, offer warfare with words,
but we do not praise them, those of little wit,
bound by attachment to talking this and that,
so certainly they send their minds far away.

The truly wise disciple having listened to the Dharma
pointed out by the Well-farer, should carefully use
food-offerings, a sitting and a sleeping place,
with water for washing the principal robes.

Let a bhikkhu, therefore, with almsfood and hut
for sitting and sleeping, for his robes washing,
be unsullied, quite unattached,
as water-drop spreads not upon a lotus-leaf.

Now I shall tell you the household’s rule,
by practising which one’s a good hearkener,
for by one with possessions it cannot be got—
that dharma complete by a bhikkhu attained.

Kill not any beings nor cause them to be killed,
and do not approve of them having been killed,
put by the rod for all that lives—
whether they are weak, or strong in the world.

What is “ungiven”—anything, anywhere,
that’s known to be others’, its theft one should avoid.
Neither order things taken,
nor others’ removal approve—
all of this “ungiven” let the hearkener avoid.

Let the intelligent person live a celibate life,
as one would avoid a pit of glowing coals;
but being unable to live the celibate life,
go not beyond the bounds with others’ partners.

In government assembly, or artisans’ guild,
or one to another, speak not what is false,
not others compel, nor approve of their lies,
all kinds of untruthfulness you should avoid.

Whatever householder this Dharma approves,
in maddening drink should never indulge,
nor make others drink, nor approve if they do,
knowing it leads to a mind that’s disturbed.

Fools do many evils because they are drunk,
while causing other people to be negligent.
This basis of demerit should be avoided,
but fools are delighted, confused with mind upset.

Kill not any being, what’s not given do not take,
neither be a liar nor addicted to drink,
and, let go of sex and the non-celibate life,
in the “wrong-time” for food, eat not in the night.

Neither necklaces display nor perfumes employ,
use the ground as a bed or sleep upon a mat:
these are the uposatha eight-factored vows
made known by the Buddha gone to dukkha’s end.

With devotion at heart the uposathas kept,
completely perfected in its eight parts,
on the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth days,
as well the days special in the moon’s half months.

Let that one intelligent with devoted heart,
having kept uposatha, early next morning,
distribute food and drink—whatever’s suitable—
to the bhikkhusaṅgha, rejoicing in this act.

Support mother and father according to Dharma,
do business as merchant to honesty adhering,
diligently practising this householder’s rule—
then to the self-radiant devas one will arrive.

— Translated by Laurence Khantipalo Mills (edited by Bhikkhu Sujato), SuttaCentral

See also


  1. Ireland (1983b) points out that Dhammika's elaborate veneration of the Buddha is an important part of this sutta insomuch that it models "faith" while the rest of the sutta discusses "moral discipline." These two endeavors — faith and discipline — Ireland states, "are the basic requisites for making further progress on the Buddhist path."
  2. Ireland (1983b) compares the Buddha's comment here to the Buddha's last verse in the "Muni Sutta" ("The Sage," Sn 1.12) which Ireland translates as: "As a peacock never approaches the swiftness of a swan, so a householder cannot imitate a bhikkhu, a hermit meditating in the forest."


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