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Siṅgāla Suttaṃ

(D.iii.179)

A Discourse to Siṅgāla

Introduction

This important discourse explains in detail the social responsibilities and proper conduct for a lay Buddhist. It is referred to as A Lay Person’s Discipline.

I have abbreviated the translation in places to avoid some repetitions that are not needed when writing. I have added some Pāḷi words in parentheses for those who wish to know the original words used, and some footnotes to explain the meaning of key terms in more detail. Translation is an art, and the best English word to use depends on the context. If you have time, learn sufficient Pāḷi to read the original texts with the help of a dictionary. The Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipiṭaka is an excellent tool to study the texts and Commentaries. It includes a dictionary to translate from Pāḷi to English or Hindi.

Contents

Six Directions

Four Impure Actions

Four Causes of Evil

Six Ways of Dissipating Wealth

Enemies Disguised as Friends

Good-hearted Friends

Securing the Six Directions

#SingalaSuttaTop#SixDirectionsTranslation

Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Squirrels’ Sanctuary in the Bamboo Grove. At that time, Siṅgālaka, the son of a householder, having risen early in the morning, and come out from Rājagaha, in wet clothes and hair, worshipped with joined palms the different directions — the east, the south, the west, the north, the nadir and the zenith.

Then the Blessed One, having dressed (nivāsetvā), taking his almsbowl and double-robe (pattacīvaramādāya),¹ entered Rājagaha for alms. On seeing Siṅgālaka the Blessed One said: “Why do you, householder’s son, have risen early in the morning and come out from Rājagaha, in wet cloths and with wet hair, worship with joined palms the different directions?”

"Venerable sir, on his deathbed my father said, ‘Dear son, honour the directions.’ So, venerable sir, respecting (sakkaronto), esteeming (garuṃ karonto), honouring (mānento), and venerating (pūjento) my father’s last words, I rise early in the morning, come out from Rājagaha in wet clothes and with wet hair, and worship with joined palms the different directions."

#SingalaSuttaTop#FourImpureActionsSix Directions

“It is not thus, householder’s son,² that the six directions are worshipped in the noble one’s discipline.”

“How then, venerable sir, should the six directions be worshipped in the noble one’s discipline? It would be good if the Blessed One would teach me how the six directions are to be worshipped in the noble one’s discipline.”

“In that case, householder’s son, listen and pay careful attention. I will speak.”

“Very well, venerable sir,” Siṅgālaka replied, and the Blessed One said:–

“Householder’s son, the noble disciple has abandoned four impure actions; he does no evil due to the four causes; and he does not follow six practices that cause dissipation of wealth. By avoiding these fourteen evils, he secures the six directions and practices for success in both worlds. He has accomplished his tasks for this world as well as for the next. On the break-up of the body after death, he is reborn in a fortunate celestial realm.”

#SingalaSuttaTop#FourCausesofEvilFour Impure Actions

“What are the four impure actions that he has abandoned? Killing living beings (pāṇātipāto), householder’s son, is an impure action, taking what is not given (adinnādānaṃ) is an impure action, sexual misconduct (kāmesumicchācāro) is an impure action, telling lies (musāvādo) is an impure action. He has abandoned these four impure actions.”

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One (sugato) had spoken these words, the Teacher (satthā) added:–

“Killing, stealing, telling lies, and committing adultery ³ are never praised by the wise.

#SingalaSuttaTop#SixWaysofDissipatingWealthFour Causes of Evil

“What are the four causes through which he does not do evil deeds? Taking a wrong course through desire (chandāgatiṃ), one commits evil; taking a wrong course through anger (dosāgatiṃ), one commits evil; taking a wrong course through delusion (mohāgatiṃ), one commits evil; and taking a wrong course through fear (bhayagatiṃ), one commits evil. However, householder’s son, a noble disciple does not commit evil taking a wrong course through these four causes.

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One had spoken these words, the Teacher added:–

“Whoever transgresses the Dhamma due to desire, anger, fear, or delusion,
His fame declines like the moon in the waning half of the month.

“Whoever does not transgress the Dhamma due to desire, anger, fear or delusion,
His fame increases like the moon in the waxing half of the month.”

#SingalaSuttaTop#EnemiesDisguisedasFriendsSix Ways of Dissipating Wealth

“What are the six ways of dissipating wealth that he does not follow?

“Indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness,⁴ householder’s son, leads to the dissipation of wealth. Sauntering in streets at unseemly hours leads to the dissipation of wealth. Indulgence in visiting shows leads to the dissipation of wealth. Indulgence in gambling that causes heedlessness leads to the dissipation of wealth. Associating with evil friends leads to the dissipation of wealth. Indulgence in laziness leads to the dissipation of wealth.”

Six Dangers of Indulgence in Intoxicants

“There are these six dangers, householder’s son, of indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness. The immediate loss of wealth, an increase in quarrels, diseases of the sense-faculties, he gets a bad reputation, indecent exposure of his body, the impairment of wisdom. These, householder’s son, are the six dangers of indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness.”

Six Dangers of Sauntering in Streets

“There are these six dangers, householder’s son, of sauntering in streets at unseemly hours. He himself is unprotected, his wife and children are unprotected, his property is unprotected, he is suspected of committing evil deeds, he is subject to false accusations, he encounters many painful things. These, householder’s son, are the six dangers of sauntering in streets at unseemly hours.”

Six Dangers of Visiting Shows

“There are these six dangers,⁵ householder’s son, of visiting shows (samajjābhicaraṇa). ‘Where is there dancing (naccaṃ)? Where is there singing (gītaṃ)? Where is there music (vāditaṃ)? Where is there story-telling (akkhānaṃ)? Where is there playing of tabla (pāṇissaraṃ)? Where is there drumming (kumbhathunaṃ)?’ These, householder’s son, are the six dangers of visiting shows.”

Six Dangers of Gambling

“There are these six dangers of addiction (anuyoga)⁶ to gambling that causes heedlessness. Winning begets enmity, the loser grieves over his loss, there is immediate loss of wealth, his word is not trusted in a court of law, he is despised by his friends and associates, he is not sought as a marriage partner because people say, ‘He is a gambler, he cannot support a wife.’ These, householder’s son, are the six dangers of addiction to gambling that causes heedlessness.”

Six Dangers of Evil Friends

“There are these six dangers of associating with evil friends. Those who are gamblers (dhuttā), those who are libertines (soṇḍā), those who are drunkards (pipāsā), those who are fraudsters (nekatikā), those who are cheats (vañcanikā), and those who are thugs (sāhasikā); form his circle of friends. These, householder’s son, are the six dangers of associating with evil friends.

Six Dangers of Laziness

“There are these six dangers of habitual ⁶ laziness: thinking ‘It is too cold,’ he does no work, thinking ‘It is too hot,’ he does no work, thinking ‘It is too late,’ he does no work, thinking ‘It is too early,’ he does no work, thinking ‘I am too hungry,’ he does no work, thinking ‘I am too full,’ he does no work. Thus many duties are left undone, not acquiring new wealth, but dissipating such wealth as he has already accumulated. These are the six dangers, householder’s son, of habitual laziness.

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One had spoken these words, the Teacher added:–

“There are those called drinking companions, who are friends only in one's presence.
One who is a friend in times of crisis is a true friend.”

“Sleeping until the sun is high; committing adultery;
Making enemies and engaging in unbeneficial activities;
Evil friendship and being very selfish. These six causes bring ruin.”

“Evil friends and associates of evil conduct and resorts
Leads to ruin in this world and the next.”

“Playing dice, womanising, dancing and singing;
Sleeping during the day; wandering at the wrong time;
Evil friends and selfishness; these six causes bring ruin.”

“Playing dice; indulgence in drinking;
Misbehaving with women who are as dear as life to other men,
With women sought after by the vile but shunned by the mature;
His fame declines like the moon in the waning half of the month.

“The destitute drunkard,
Longing to drink, frequents drinking dens.
As a stone sinks in water, he becomes immersed in debt.
He is quickly disowned and rejected by his relatives.

“He who sleeps in the day, and is lazy at night,
Always drunk and lustful, cannot manage a household.

“Saying ‘It is too cold, too hot, too late,’
Thus leaving work undone, many opportunities pass the young man by.”

“For him who considers cold and heat as no more than a blade of grass
Who dutifully attends to the affairs of men, happiness and prosperity do not decline.”

#SingalaSuttaTop#Good-heartedFriendsEnemies Disguised as Friends

“These four, householder’s son, should be regarded as enemies disguised as friends. A friend who only takes should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend; a friend who makes empty promises should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend; a friend who flatters should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend; and a friend who is a wastrel should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend.

A Friend Who Only Takes

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who only takes should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend. He only takes, wanting much but giving little; he does things only out of fear; he follows only for his own advantage. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who only takes should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend.”

A Friend Who Makes Empty Promises

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who makes empty promises should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend. He speaks about what he would have done in the past; he speaks about what he would do in the future; he tries to please one with empty promises; when an occasion arises to help, be shows his inability. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who makes empty promises should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend.”

A Friend Who Flatters

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who flatters should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend. He approves of your evil deeds; He also approves of your good deeds; He speaks of your virtues in your presence; He speaks of your faults in your absence. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who flatters should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend.”

A Friend Who Is a Wastrel

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is a wastrel should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend. He is a companion when indulging in intoxicants that cause heedlessness; He is a companion when sauntering in streets at unseemly hours; He is a companion when frequenting shows ; He is a companion when indulging in gambling, which causes heedlessness. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is a wastrel should be known as an enemy disguised as a friend.”

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One had spoken these words, the Teacher added:–

“The friend who only takes, the friend who makes empty promises,
The friend who flatters, and the friend who is a wastrel —
The wise knowing these four as enemies,
Avoid them like a dangerous road.”

#SingalaSuttaTop#SecuringtheSixDirectionsGood-hearted Friends

“These four, householder’s son, should be known as good-hearted (suhado) friends: he who is helpful (upakāro); he who is the same in prosperity and adversity (samānasukhadukkho); he who gives good counsel (atthakhāyī)); and he who is compassionate (anukampaka).

A Friend Who Is Helpful

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is helpful should be known as a good-hearted friend: he protects you when you are heedless (pamattaṃ); he protects your property when you are heedless; he is a refuge when you are afraid; when something needs to be done he gives you twice what you need. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is helpful should be known as a good-hearted friend.”

A Friend Who Is Loyal

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is the same in prosperity and adversity should be known as a good-hearted friend: he tells you his secrets; he keeps your secrets; he does not forsake you in adversity; he will even sacrifice his life for you. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is loyal should be known as a good-hearted friend.”

A Friend Who Gives Good Counsel

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who gives good counsel should be known as a good-hearted friend: he restrains you from evil; he exhorts you to do good; he tells you what you do not know; he shows you the way to heaven. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who gives good counsel should be known as a good-hearted friend.”

A Friend Who Is Compassionate

“For four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is compassionate should be known as a good-hearted friend: he does not rejoice in your misfortune; he rejoices in your prosperity; he restrains those who speak about your faults; he praises those who speak about your virtues. For these four reasons, householder’s son, a friend who is compassionate should be known as a good-hearted friend.”

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One had spoken these words, the Teacher added:–

“The friend who is helpful, the friend who is loyal,
The friend who gives good counsel, and the friend who is compassionate
The wise should know these four as good-hearted friends.
Care for them with devotion as a mother cares for her own child.

“The wise man endowed with virtue shines bright like a blazing fire.
The wealth acquired harmlessly, as a bee gathers nectar from flowers
Grow as a termite mound grows ⁷ higher and higher.

“Having acquired wealth in this way, a man who can set up a household
Should divide his wealth into four portions; thus he can gather friends.
He should spend one portion; use two to run his business;
The fourth should be reserved for emergencies.”

#SingalaSuttaTop#NotesSecuring the Six Directions

“How, householder’s son, does the noble disciple secure the six directions? These six directions should be known. The parents should be known as the east, teachers should be known as the south, wife and children should be known as the west, friends and associates should be known as the north, slaves ⁸ (dasā) and employees (kammakāra) should be known as the nadir and recluses and priests should be known as the zenith.

Parents as the East

“In five ways, householder’s son, should a son minister to his parents as the east. My parents have supported me, I will support them in turn; I will manage affairs on their behalf; I will maintain the family traditions; I will be worthy of my inheritance; I will offer alms on behalf of my departed parents.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. They restrain him from evil, they exhort him to do good, they train him to acquire skills, they seek a suitable wife for him, they give him his inheritance when the time comes. In these five ways, householder’s son, the parents ministered to as the east by a son show him compassion. Thus the eastern direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Teachers as the South

“In five ways, householder’s son, should a son minister to his teachers as the south. By standing up to greet them; by attending on and waiting on them daily; by obeying their instructions; by performing personal services; by acquiring their skill thoroughly.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the teacher ministered to as the south by a pupil shows him compassion. He trains him well, he makes him master his skill, he teaches him everything he knows about his skill, he introduces him to his friends and associates, he protects him from all directions. In these five ways, householder’s son, the teacher ministered to as the south by a pupil shows him compassion. Thus the southern direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Wife as the West

“In five ways, householder’s son, should a husband minister to his wife as the west. By honouring her (sammānanāya); by not disrespecting her (anavamānāya);⁹ by not being unfaithful to her (anaticariyāya); by relinquishing control to her in domestic matters (issariyavossaggena); by providing her with ornaments (alaṅkārānuppadānena).

“In five ways, householder’s son, the wife ministered to as the west by a husband shows him compassion. She performs her work well (susaṃvihitakammantā), she treats the members of the household well (saṅgahitaparijanā), she is not unfaithful (anaticārinī), she carefully protects what her husband brings home (sambhatañca anurakkhati), she is skilled (dakkhā) and not lazy (analasā) in performing all of her duties (sabbakiccesu). In these five ways, householder’s son, a wife ministered to as the west by a husband shows him compassion. Thus the western direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Friends as the North

“In five ways, householder’s son, should a son of a good family (kulaputta) minister to friends and associations as the north. By generosity; by courteous speech; by being helpful; by being impartial; by being true to his word.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the friends and associates ministered to as the north by a son of a good family show him compassion. They protect him when he is heedless, they protect his property when he is heedless, they are a refuge when he afraid, they do not forsake him when he faces adversity, they help his descendants. In these five ways, householder’s son, the friends and associates ministered to as the north by the son of a good family show him compassion. Thus the northern direction is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Employees as the Nadir

“In five ways, householder’s son, should an employer minister to slaves and employees as the nadir. By assigning them work according to their strength; by giving them food and wages; by caring for them when sick; by sharing delicious unexpected treats; by granting them leave at times.

“In five ways, householder’s son, the employees ministered to as the nadir by an employer show him compassion. They rise before him, they sleep after him, they take only what is given, they perform their duties well, they spread his good reputation. In these five ways, householder’s son, the employees ministered to as the nadir by the employer show him compassion. Thus the nadir is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Recluses and Priests as the Zenith

“In five ways, householder’s son, should the son of a good family minister to recluses (samaṇa) and priests (brāhmaṇā) as the zenith. By kind actions; by kind speech; by kind thoughts; by keeping an open door for them; by providing their material needs.

“In six ways, householder’s son, the recluses and priests ministered to as the zenith by the son of a good family show him compassion. They restrain him from evil, they exhort him to do good, they maintain a compassionate mind towards him, they teach him what he have not heard, they explain what he has heard already, they point out the path to heaven. In these six ways, householder’s son, the recluses and priests ministered to as the zenith by the son of a good family show him compassion. Thus the zenith is made secure, peaceful, and free from dangers.”

Thus said the Blessed One. After the Fortunate One had spoken these words, the Teacher added:–

“Mother and father as the east, teachers as the south,
Wife and children as the west, friends and associates as the north
Slaves and employees as the zenith, recluses and priests above.
These six directions a truly good householder should honour.

“The wise and virtuous man who is gentle (saṇho) and quick-witted (paṭibhānavā),
Humble (nivātavutti) and prudent (atthaddho), such a one gains fame.

“Diligent (uṭṭhānako) and not lazy (analaso), not shaken (vedhati) in adversity (āpadāsu),
Constantly employed and intelligent, such a one gains fame.

“Benevolent and friendly, he understands what is said, free from meanness,
He leads with helpful counsel and well-reasoned advice.

“Generosity and amiable speech, and helping others here,
Treating others impartially, just as he would treat himself,
These four benevolent practices in this world are like the yoke of a chariot,

“If these did not exist in the world,
Parents would not be respected by their children.

“Because they are rightly esteemed by the wise,
Therefore they reach eminence and are universally praised.”

When this had been said, Siṅgālaka the householder’s son said this to the Blessed One: “It is excellent, venerable sir! It is marvellous, venerable sir! What was overturned has been set upright, what was hidden has been revealed, the right path has been pointed out to one who was lost, a light has been brought into the darkness so that those with eyes can see forms. Thus the Blessed One has explained the Dhamma in various ways. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. May the Blessed One regard me as a lay disciple from today onwards as long as life lasts.”

#SingalaSuttaTopNotes:

1. This stock phrase describes how monks prepare to walk for alms. Having put on the lower robe around the waist, and the upper robe around both shoulders, they carry the folded double-robe and the almsbowl. If they live in remote areas they may put on the upper robe only before entering the village.

2. Householder’s son (gahapatiputta). There is no way to tell his age, but one assumes that he was still fairly young and unmarried. On coming into an inheritance at a young age, being faced with many new responsibilities, he would have been in need of advice. His mother, Siṅgālamātā, became a nun and an Arahant, and was praised as the best of the nuns liberated by faith.

3. Committing adultery. Literally, “Going to the wives of others (paradāragamanañceva). Sexual misconduct (kāmesumicchācāra) means literally “Misconduct in sensual pleasures,” but the meaning is sexual misconduct. This includes having sexual relations with twenty types of women (Vin.iii.139); ten unmarried and ten married: 1) Protected by her mother (māturakkhitā), 2) Protected by her father (piturakkhitā), 3) Protected by her mother and father (mātāpiturakkhitā), 4) Protected by her brother (bhāturakkhitā), 5) Protected by her sister (bhaginirakkhitā), 6) Protected by her relatives (ñātirakkhitā), 7) Protected by her clan (gottarakkhitā), 8) Protected by the Dhamma (dhammarakkhitā), 9) Protected in some other way (sārakkhā) such as a flower garland (betrothed), 10) Protected by a legal punishment (saparidaṇḍā). Ten kinds of wives: 1) Bought with money (dhanakkītā), 2) Living together through affection (chandavāsinī), 3) Living together by giving property (bhogavāsinī), 4) Living together by giving clothing (paṭavāsinī), 5) Bought by providing water (odapattakinī), 6) Living together having removed the water-pot carrying cloth (obhaṭacumbaṭā), 7) A female slave (dāsī), 8) A female worker (kammakārī), 9) A captured wife (dhajāhaṭā), 10) A temporary wife (muhuttikā). This reference from the Vinaya texts concerns the Saṅghādisesa training rule about acting as a match-maker, but it can also be applied to the context of avoiding sexual misconduct. An unmarried couple living together through affection are not committing sexual misconduct, unless the girl is one of the ten protected by her relatives, etc., or one of the ten kinds of wives. That is, if couples are unmarried, they should remain faithful to each other.

4. Indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness (surāmerayamajjappamādaṭṭhānānuyoge). Spirits (surā), fermented drinks (meraya), that intoxicate (majja), and cause heedlessness (pamādaṭṭhāna), indulgence in, indulging in or having the habit of (anuyoga). The fifth precept is an undertaking to abstain from taking intoxicants, not an undertaking to refrain from getting intoxicated. A number of misinformed Buddhists think that taking a little alcohol does not break the precept, but virtuous Buddhist are teetotalers. The precepts are a voluntary undertaking, not commandments. An occasional drink does not lead to a lay person’s downfall. However, drinking intoxicants habitually, being addicted to them, and indulgence clearly leads to the dissipation of one’s wealth for all of the reasons stated. Nothing more need be said regarding drugs. It should be obvious that both legal and illegal drugs that cause heedlessness should be included here.

5. Whatever kind of show it is that one likes, the disadvantage is that one must make inquiries to find out where and when they are going to happen, then make plans to go there. While away from one’s house, one’s property is unguarded, which is the danger. Wealth is dissipated in buying tickets or gifts to offer to the performers, the cost of travelling there, and the loss of earnings. In the crowds that gather at such events there will also be thieves looking for a chance to steal from or rob victims, perhaps using violence.

6. The word “anuyoga” means applying oneself to something, being intent on it, and devoted to it. Buying lottery tickets is also gambling, and it also dissipates one’s wealth a little, but most people are not addicted to gambling in a harmful way. In this context, it refers to habitual gambling, which soon leads to poverty and indebtedness so I have translated it as “addiction.” Others (Nārada) translate it as “indulgence in.” In the context of laziness I have translated the same word, anuyoga, as “habitual,” and in the context of drinking intoxicants as “indulgence in.”

7. The similes of a bee collecting nectar to make honey and termites collecting grains of sand to build up the termite mound make it clear that becoming wealthy is a gradual process. Getting rich by taking advantage of others, while disregarding their true welfare, may be much quicker, but using only honest trading or hard labour it takes time. Nevertheless, great wealth will gradually accumulate if one is frugal and honest. Whether one’s business prospers slowly or quickly also depends on one’s past kamma, but the importance of present kamma and hard work cannot be overstated.

8. Slaves in the Buddha’s time seem to have been common-place. They were bonded labourers born into a household rather than slaves traded by human traffickers. Anāthapiṇḍika had a slave woman named Puṇṇā. He liberated her when she was able to persuade the Buddha to remain longer. They were part of the household and provided with food and somewhere to live, but were not entitled to wages. They would have been highly dependent on the good-will of their owner. Employees (kammakarā) were hired for a wage and so were free to come and go as they pleased.

9. He should not treat her like a slave or employee, by beating or threatening her.

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