In His exhortation to the first group of sixty monks, who were ready to set out on the Buddha's mission to disseminate the dhamma, the Buddha said thus: "Monks! Teach the dhamma, the beginning, the middle, the end of which are replete with goodness".
What did the Buddha mean by the beginning, the middle, the end, which are replete with goodness?
The beginning is sila.
The middle is samadhi.
The end is panna
Sila, samadhi, panna form the main bases of the Buddha's discourses. Therefore, this foreword will deal with sila, samadhi, panna.
What is sila ?
Sila is good practice. A good practice is a practice that keeps one well and benefits one.
How does it keep one well?
Sila keeps one from killing, stealing, committing adultery, taking intoxicants. In this way, it keeps one from doing evil deeds.
Sila keeps one from telling lies, setting one against the other, using rough and abusive words, indulging in unbeneficial talk. In this way, sila keeps one from saying evil words.
How does it benefit one?
There are four types of Kusala (good) Kamma. They are as follows:
1. Kusala Kamma leading to rebirth in human and deva bhumis.
2. Kusala Kamma leading to rebirth in rupa brahma (Brahmas with mind and body) bhumis.
3. Kusala Kamma leading to rebirth in arupa brahma (Brahmas with mind only) bhumis.
4. Kusala Kamma leading to the achievement of maggas, that can put an end to endless rebirths, with their concomitants, such as old age, disease, death, separation etc.
Anyone, who wishes to acquire any of these four types of Kusala Kammas, must, first of all, have sila.
A question can be raised at this stage. Is it not possible for one to make dana, which is also a Kusala Kamma, without taking sila?
Of course, dana can be made without taking sila. However, if sila is taken before dana, the quality of dana becomes very much improved, since sila can keep one from evil deeds and evil words. Dana without sila will be an ordinary dana. Dana with sila will become a dana, which has the quality of dakkhinavisuddhi (purity of charity). In the matter of receiving benefits, the latter will earn more.
That is the reason why the monks ask the donors to take sila, before the latter offer their gifts to the former.
Therefore, if someone asks "Why is sila so called?", one can answer thus, without fear of contradiction. Sila is so called because it keeps one from bodily and verbal evils. It is also so called because it helps one in his efforts to gain all or any of the four Kusala Kammas.
Two types of sila
There are two types of sila. One is for the monks and the other is for laymen.
Sila for monks
A monk, who keeps the following four kinds of sila, is called a monk with sila.
1. Patimokkha samvara sila
Self control to refrain from breaking any of thevinaya rules (rules for the monks), prescribed by the Buddha, is called Patimokkha samvara sila.
2. Ajiva parisuddhi sila
Self control to refrain from adopting the wrong mode of gaining a living is called ajiva parisuddhi sila.
3. Indriya samvara sila
Self control to restrain or subjugate the senses arising in the sense-organs, namely, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind is called indriya samvara sila.
4.Paccaya sannissita sila
Self control to have appropriate contemplations, whenever any of the four necessaries of the monk's daily life is used or taken, is called paccaya sannissita sila. Clothing, alms-food, dwelling place, medicine are four necessaries. For example, when the monk puts on his robes, he must remember that he puts it on, not to adorn himself and that he does so to protect himself against heat and cold, and also to cover up his private parts.
Sila for laymen
A layman, who keeps panca sila or Ajivatthamaka sila, is said to be a person with sila.
Five vows for panca si/a
Eight vows for ajivatthamaka sila
Panca sila means sila, which requires one to take five vows.
Ajivatthamaka sila means sila, the eighth vow of which requires one to refrain from earning a wrongful livelihood.
These two silas are minimum silas for a Buddhist. Therefore they are called nicca silas. Nicca means always. A Buddhist must keep either of the two silas always.
Atthanga uposatha sila
When other silas are mentioned, they are simply mentioned as Panca sila, Ajivatthamaka sila, Navanga (nine vows) sila, Dasa (ten vows) sila. When, however, Atthanga sila is mentioned, it is mentioned as Atthanga Uposatha Sila. Why? It has three different meanings.
They are as follows:
Therefore Atthanga Uposatha Sila means eight vows of sila, which should be kept on the days which are fixed for keeping that sila.
According toCatumaharaja Sutta, Devaduta Vagga, Tika Nipata, Anguttara Nikaya, there are three ways of fixing days for keeping Atthanaga Uposatha Sila. They are as follows:
For lack of space, only the first way, namely, Pakati, will be explained.
In fixing the days, the lunar month is used. A lunar month has two parts, namely, waxing (of the moon) part and the waning (of the moon) part. According to the pakati way, three days in each part, namely, the eighth, the fourteenth, or the fifteenth, are fixed for keeping atthanaga uposatha sila. Therefore there are six pakati uposatha days in a month for keeping atthanaga sila. The Commentary includes also the fifth day of each part. Therefore according to it, there are eight pakati uposatha days.
In Burma, 8th waxing, full moon, 8th waning, full waning days are generally fixed for keeping uposatha sila.
Atthanaga uposatha sila has three aims. They are as follows:
Advantages of sila
In Digha Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya and Vinaya, the Buddha taught that there are five advantages of sila. They are as follows:
Disadvantages of lack of sila
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