DN 31 Sigalaka Sutta: To Sigalaka Advice to Lay People
Sigalovada sutta which belongs to digha nikaya is also called Gihi-vinaya which is the code of disciplines for layman. It gives a clear picture of the domestic and social life of a layman. A layman must practise self-control, proper conduct, good manners and a sense of modesty as preliminary step to be able to lead a happy, peaceful and progressive household life.
Thus have i heard.
Once the Lord Buddha was staying at Rajagaha, at the Squirrels' Feeding Place in the Bamboo Grove. At that time Sigalaka the householder's son was paying homage, with wet clothes and hair and with joined palms, to the different directions: to the east, the south, the west, the north, the nadir and the zenith. Buddha who was on alms round saw Sigalaka paying homage to the different directions, he said: 'Householder's son, why have you got up early to pay homage to the different directions? The latter replied: 'Lord, my father, when he was dying, told me to do so. Thus out of respect for my father's words, which I revere, honor and hold sacred, I have got up to pay homage in this way to the six directions.'
Buddha: 'But, householder's son, that is not the right way to pay homage to the six directions according to the Ariyan discipline.' Sigalaka: 'Well, Lord, how should one pay homage to the six directions according to the Ariyan discipline? It would be good if the Blessed Lord were to teach me the proper way in accordance to the Ariyan discipline.' Buddha: 'Then listen carefully, pay attention, and I will speak. Young householder, it is by abandoning the four defilements of action, by not doing evil from the four causes, by not following the six ways of wasting one's substance, through avoiding these fourteen evil ways that the Ariyan disciple covers the six directions and by such practice becomes a conqueror of both worlds, so that all will go well with him in this world and the next, and at the breaking-up of the body after death he will go to a good destiny, a heavenly world.
What are the four defilements of action that are abandoned?
The wise reprove killing, stealing, lying and adultery.
What are the four causes of evil from which he refrains?
Evil action springs from
If the Ariyan disciple does not act out of attachment, ill-will, folly or fear, he will not do evil from any one of the four causes. Desire and hatred, fear and folly: He who breaks the law through these, Loses all his fair repute Like the moon at waning-time. Desire and hatred, fear and folly, He who never yields to these Grows in goodness and repute Like the moon at waxing-time.
Which are the six ways of wasting one's substance that he does not follow?
Addiction to strong drink and sloth- producing drugs: It results in loss of wealth as you need to spend money on liquor and drugs. When intoxicated, it will result in loss of good character, indecent exposure and increase quarrels/fights. Chronic consumption may also result in impaired intelligence and susceptibility to disease.
Loitering in the streets at unfitting times: He is subjected to danger when wandering out in late wee hours and he subject his wife and children to danger as he is not at home to protect them. His property will also be without guard or protection. He will be suspected of wrong deeds and object of false rumours. Many troubles will befall upon him.
Attending fairs: His mind will always be distracted by the shows, entertainments and music. He will always go to such shows spending time and money there, getting distracted there instead of diligently doing his work.
Being addicted to gambling: He will lose his wealth in his bets and drained his resources and wealth on his gambles. Nobody will trust his words in court of law. He will be despised by friends and officials. There will be marital issues when he gets in debts and get hunted down by loan sharks. Thus he will not be in demand for marriage.
Keeping bad company: By associating with gamblers, promiscuous person, drunkard, cheater, bully, swindler and man of violence, one will catch on and pick up the bad habits and behave the same way. These bad habits will result in loss of wealth, loss of job and family issues thereafter.
Habitual idleness : He will have excuses like weather is too hot or cold, it is too early or late, he is hungry or too full and does not go to work because of these excuses. This will result in not getting employed or getting fired which result in dissipation of wealth.
Nobody can live in society without friends. In many instances the Buddha advised people to be friendly with those of good moral character. Friendship is cemented by generosity, courtesy, benevolence, empathy and timely intervention when in need. Certainly a friend in need is a friend indeed. Buddha told Sigalaka that there are 4 kinds of enemies in the guise of friends and 4 kinds of real friends.
Four foes in disguise as friends:
A greedy friend who takes everything: He takes what he can get, gives little and ask much, he associates only for gain and only pursues his own interest.
A lip service friend (great talker): He only express friendly words as regards the past or future, tries to gain favor by empty words and when opportunity comes he confesses his inability to do what he promised.
A flatterer friend: He praises his friend in front of him but speaks ill of him in his absence, he assents to bad actions and he dissents from good actions.
A fellow waster: He accompanies him for bad habits like drinking or gambling. He accompanies him to wander in the streets at untimely hours and he accompanies him for frequent shows.
Four kinds of real friends:
A Helper: he guards his friend when he is off guard, guards his property when he is off guard, becomes a refuge when he is in need and when some business is to be done, he provides him with double the amount he needs.
Friend who shares same weal and woe: He tells his secret and in return keeps the secrets of his friend, he does not forsake his friend when in trouble and he would even lay down his life for his friend.
A friend who gives good counsel: He restrains his friend from doing wrong, he encourages his friend to do right, informs his friend what he has not heard before and reveals to his friend the way to heavenly state.
A Friend who sympathizes: He does not rejoice over his friend’s misfortune, he rejoices over his friend’s prosperity, restrains anyone who speaks ill of his friend and cheers anyone who praises his friend.
Once Ananda is said to have told the Buddha that half of the noble life depended upon friendship, association and intimacy with good friends. Buddha replied “Not just half of it but the whole”. Buddha also once said: “monks, I do not know any other single condition that is helpful to the arising of what is wholesome that has not yet arisen and the elimination of what is unwholesome that has already arisen a friendship with the good”. 6 Directions
Sigalovada sutta is one of the discourses of the Buddha which emphasized social relations among various members of a society. The entire civilised society is classified into six units: each unit have reciprocal relations and represented as 6 directions: North, South, East West, Zenith and Nadir. Buddha elaborated further to Sigalaka how a Ariyan disciple protect the six directions below:
North: Friends and colleagues (5 ways): We should treat friends and colleagues with kind words, generosity, consideration of their welfare, equality/impartiality and truthfulness. In return friends and colleagues should reciprocate with providing protection when he is vulnerable, guarding his property, becoming a refuge when he is afraid, not forsaking when he is in trouble and showing consideration for his family.
South: Teachers and pupils (5 ways) Pupils should show their respect to their teachers by rising from their seats in salutation, waiting upon them, showing eagerness to learn, personal service and attentive learning. Teachers should care for their pupils by training them well, ensuring the teachings are well-grasped, instructing in every branch of knowledge, speaking well of them among their friends and companions and providing for their safety in every way.
East: Parents and children (5ways): A child should support his parents who supported him, maintain the family lineage and tradition, perform necessary duties on them, be worthy of his inheritance and transfer merits in due time. Parents have the duty to restrain them from wrongdoing, guide them towards good actions, train them for a profession, supporting the choice of a suitable spouse and hand over their inheritance in due time.
West: Wives and husbands (5 ways): A husband should take care of his wife by showing her respect, being courteous towards her, be faithful to her, hand over authority of household management and provide her with gifts. In return a wife fulfills her obligation towards her husband by performing her duties, showing hospitality to relatives of both side, be faithful to him, watch over the goods he brings home and being skillful and diligent in all duties.
Zenith: Lay people and sangha (5 ways): The lay person should respect sangha by kind actions, speech and thoughts, keeping open house for them and support them basic requisites. In return the sangha have the obligation to care for the lay people by restraining them from wrongdoing, guiding them to good actions, thinking compassionately, teaching them what they ought to know, clarifying what they already know and showing them the path to heaven.
Nadir: Employees and employers (5 ways): Employers should treat their employees properly by assigning them work according to their strength, supplying them with food and wages, tending them in sickness, sharing special treats with them and granting them leave from time to time.In return employees should reciprocate by willing to start early and finish late when necessary, being content with what is given, doing their job well and promoting their good reputation.
After hearing what Buddha has said, Sigdaka said to the Lord: 'Excellent, Reverend Gotama, excellent! It is as if someone were to set up what had been knocked down, to point out the way to one who had got lost, to bring an oil-lamp into a dark place so that those with eyes could see what was there. Just so the Reverend Gotama has expounded the Dhamma in various ways, May the Reverend Gotama accept me as a lay-follower from this day forth as long as life shall last!'
In summary in this sutta, Buddha taught Sigalaka the moral conducts of different members of the society so as to achieve a peaceful harmonious society in the form of the 6 directions. He also taught Sigalaka the four defilements of action to be abandoned, 4 causes of evil to refrain from, avoid the six ways of wasting one's substance, four foes in disguise as friends and four kinds of real friends.
References: 1. www.accesstoinsight.org 2. https://suttacentral.net/ 3. The long discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Bodhi)