(Last Updated on : 05/01/2012)
(Sanskrit) or sala
(Pali) is normally translated into English as "virtuous behaviour", "morality", "ethics" or "precept". It is an action practised through the body, speech, or mind, and involves a designed effort. It is one of the three practices (sila, samadhi, and panya) and the second paramita. It pertains to moral purity of thought, word, and deed. The four conditions of sala are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment.
??la is the foundation of Samadhi/Bhavana (Meditative cultivation) or mind cultivation. Keeping the precepts encourages not only peace of mind of the cultivator, which is internally, but also peace within the community, which is externally. According to the Law of Karma
, keeping the precepts are praiseworty and it acts as reasons which would bring about peaceful and happy effects. Maintaining these precepts keeps the cultivator free from rebirth in the four miserable spheres of existence.
sala refers to overall principles of ethical behaviour. There are various levels of sila, which are equivalent to 'basic morality' (five precepts
), 'basic morality with asceticism' (eight precepts), 'novice monkhood' (ten precepts) and 'monkhood' (Vinaya or Patimokkha). Common people generally set about to live by the five precepts which are common to all Buddhist schools. If they desire, they can choose to undertake the eight precepts, which have some additional precepts of basic asceticism.
The five precepts
are not given in the form of commands like "thou shalt not ...", but are disciplining rules in order to lead a better life in which one is happy, without worries, and can meditate well.
The precepts are:
1. To refrain from taking life. (non-violence towards sentient life forms)
2. To refrain from taking that which is not given. (not committing stealing)
3. To refrain from sensual (sexual) misconduct.
4. To refrain from lying. (speaking truth always)
5. To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness. (refrain from using drugs or alcohol)
In the eight precepts, the third precept on sexual misconduct is made more rigorous, and becomes a precept of celibacy.
The three additional rules of the eight precepts are:
6. To refrain from eating at wrong times. (only eat from sunrise to noon)
7. To refrain from dancing, using jewellery, visiting shows, etc.
8. To refrain from using a rich, opulent bed.
Vinaya is the specific moral code for monks and nuns. It includes the Patimokkha, a set of 227 rules for monks in the Theravadin recension. The precise content of the Vinaya Pitaka
(scriptures on Vinaya) vary somewhat according to different schools, and different schools or subschools set different standards for the degree of adhesion to Vinaya. Novice-monks use the ten precepts, which are the basic precepts for monastics.
In Eastern Buddhism, there is also a distinctive Vinaya and ethics contained within the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra (not the Pali text of the same name) for Bodhisattvas
, where, for instance, the eating of meat is looked at with a sense of disapproval and vegetarianism is actively encouraged.