(The Code of Discipline For Layman)


Sigalovada Sutta which belongs to the Digha Nikaya, in Sutta Pitaka, is one of the moat well-known discourses in the Buddhist World. It is also called GIHI-VINAYA-the Code of Disciplines for layman. This Sutta gives e 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 a preliminary step to be able to lead a happy, peaceful and progressive house-hold life.

In this connection, the instructions given by the Compassionate Buddha particularly for the welfare and happiness of the layman are to be found in various suttas.  Among them, Maha Mangala Sutta, Parabhava Sutta Vyaggha-pajja Sutta, Dhammika Sutta and Sigalovada Sutta are well-known to the Buddhists. These discourses prove that the Buddha’s Teachings are not only for the welfare of the present world but also for the next world.

Some people used to criticise that the Buddha was not unduly concerned with the social life, economic progress, worldly happiness and material welfare of his lay disciples in the world. The Suttas mentioned above are shinning examples showing that such critiscism is entirely unwarranted. The Buddha had emphasized that without some degree of economic well-being, spiritual progress was extremely difficult. He realised that poverty led to various crimes such as theft and murder. He, therefore, asked his lay-disciples to earn money in a righteous way as much as possible without being lazy.

Once the Buddha explained to the millionaire, Anathapindika, his chief benefactor, that the four kinds of genuine satisfaction and material pleasure that could be enjoyed by a layman for leading a happy and peaceful family life were as follows:-

I  Atthi Sukh -A sufficient income

If a layman has saved some money, accumulated some wealth and property in a righteous way, without indulging in any of the forbidden trades or professions he will be able to enjoy a genuine satisfaction in thinking of his own future security in life.

II Bhoga Sukha - Enjoyment of Wealth

This happiness can be enjoyed by layman, when he spends his money in profitable ways in looking after his parents, wife and children and doing meritorious deeds.  The one who miserly hoards money will not be able to enjoy this worldly happiness.

III Anana Sukha - Freedom from debts

This happiness can also be enjoyed by a layman who is not indebted to anybody. If one is indebted to others owing to borrowing of money or other articles, he will have no peace, happiness or consolation in his mind until he himself gets rid of the debt.

IV Anavajja Sukha - Harmless Life.

This happiness can be enjoyed by a householder who leads a harmless life without doing any harm, danger, damage or causing misery to any of his fellow beings. If he has done any wrong or harm to anybody, he cannot enjoy any sort of satisfaction when he thinks of his own unwholesome deeds.

One day even at his death bed he, himself, will recollect and repent his wrongful actions and then there will be neither peace nor consolation in his mind. By this we can understand how much the Buddha was concerned about the material welfare of his lay disciples.

The Sigalovada Sutta is one of the outstanding discourses of the Buddha which emphasized social relations among various members of a society. It assures a perfect / harmony, solidarity and responsibility in a community by laying down obligations which a layman had to fulfil.

Although the Buddha had laid down this code of disciplines-for the layman two thousand five hundred years ago, they are still fresh and modern. These rules are applicable even today to any advanced and civilized human society, without distinction of cast, creed, colour; race or sex.  If the rules are strictly followed, they will be beneficial to the creation of good citizens, men of integrity, the brotherhood of men and the kinship of all fellow-beings.

The main topics that are being described in the Sigalovada Sutta are as follows :-

1 Four Vices of Life.

i Destruction of life
ii Stealing of others’ things
iii Sexual misconduct
iv Telling the untruth

2 Four Causes of Committing Evils.

i CHANDA - desire
ii DOSA - hatred
iii BHAYA - fear
iv MOHA - ignorance

3 The Six Channels of Dissipation of Wealth.

i     Indulgence in intoxication                            - six evil consequences
ii    Wandering in streets at unseemly hours    - six evil consequences
iii   Frequenting theatrical shows                      - six evil consequences
iv    Indulgence in gambling                              - six evil consequences
v     Association with evil friends                       - six evil consequences
vi    Habit of idleness                                         - six evil consequences

4 Four Kinds of Enemies in the Guise of Friends.

i  ANNADATTHUHARA - He who associates for gain
ii VACI PARAMA  - He who renders lip service
iii ANUPPIYABHANI  - He who flatters
iv APAYA SAKHA  - He who brings ruin

The four types of friends have been described for identification.

5 Four Kinds of Real Friends.

 - A friend who helps

- A friend who shares the same weal and woe

- A friend who gives good counsel

- A friend who sympathises.

The four types of friends have been described in this sutta.

6. Four ways of managing one’s wealth.

i First portion for day to day expenses.
ii Second portion for business.
Iii Third portion for business.
iv Fourth portion for safe-keeping.

7 Six quarters.

i East -  Parents.
ii South -  Teachers.
iii West -  Wife, husband and children.
iv North -  Friends and associates.
v Nadir -  Employees.
vi Zenith -  Monks and Brahmins.

In the “six Quarters”, the five duties of parents and children towards each other, the five duties of teachers and pupils towards each other, the five duties of wife and husband towards each other, the five duties of friends and associates towards each other and the five duties of monks and laymen towards each other are hereby explained in this sutta.

According to the Teachings of Sigalovada Sutta, parents have to guide their children, look after their education and hand over their inheritance in due course.  Children also in return have to honour and respect their parents and to keep up the good name of their family.

Teachers have to train and instruct their pupils and the pupils have also in return to respect, give their service and attention to them. A husband must be courteous, faithful and respectful to the wife providing for her needs and at the same time the wife must also be faithful and protect her husband’s property, discharging her duties according to the best of her ability.

Friends should be generous, courteous and helpful to each other. Employers should assign to his employees works according to their strength, pay them accordingly and give them holidays whenever necessary and employees in return should also perform their duties skillfully and uphold the good reputation of their master.

Laymen should minister to Monks and Brahmins by welcoming them gladly and supplying their requisites and in return, Monks and Brahmins, should love the laymen with kind heart and persuade them to do more and more good.

Regarding the code of disciplines of laymen described in the discourse, the Ven. Buddhaghosa - a well-known commentator of Buddhist Pali Cannon says, “Nothing in the duties of a householder is left unmentioned. This Sutta is called the Vinaya of a householder. Hence one who practises what has been taught in it, growth is to be looked for, not decay.”

Such teachings, therefore, are very essential for a layman to enjoy a happy and peaceful family life with material progress. All the members of a society will be contented when they adhere to those Buddhist ethics out-lined in the discourse.

In this way the standard of society will be strengthened by the unity, diversity of achievements, friendship and the accomplishments of the members. In such a community, the radiation of a friendly feeling will encourage the idea of dedicating oneself to the service of others. If one cannot render service to others, at least, one learns how to live aloof, without doing any harm to anybody which is also regarded as a service to society.


A writer of the Burma Buddhist World Mission in
Rangoon, says in his foreword to the Sigalovada Sutta :-

“All the problems humanity would dissolve and vanish if this Sutta is to be universally studied and put into practice. Among the social problems, economic problems as well as the problems of personal conduct, each of them has its own solution here. The Sigalovada Sutta stand unique in the world's religious literature because it is free from dogma as well as from obscure mysticism.

Its wisdom is clear and brilliant like a perfect diamond polished by a master-hand. It is the voice of the Buddha speaking to us of the world we live in”.

T. W. Rliys .Davids says in his introduction to this Sigalovada Sutta ;-

“The Buddha’s doctrine of love and goodwill between man and man is here set forth in a domestic and social ethic with more comprehensive detail than is of great interest to find in it a Sutta entirely devoted to the outlook and the relation of the laymen on and to his surroundings...may even now of this Vinaya or Code of Disciplines, so fundamental are the human interest involved, so sane and wide, is the wisdom that envisages them, that utterances as fresh and practically as biding today and here as they were then in Rajagsha.

Therefore, a copy of this precious discourse must be placed at hand in every Buddhist home as a guide book.  Parents should read it, practise it and teach their children to learn how to respect their teachers and parents. No other disciplinary rules or social or domestic ethics are required to train the children except what has been taught in the Sutta.  Parent will never be disappointed or displeased with their children if they train them to follow some of the Vinaya rules mentioned here.

They will never go astray. How often have people got into trouble, disaster, because of the association with undesirable friends. This Sutta teaches you the various characteristics of good and evil friends. As such, it is my earnest desire that those who are able to understand and appreciate the invaluable instructions given in this sutta, adopt themselves as a guide in order to strengthen their confidence, devotion and practical knowledge for the attainment of Ever lasting Happiness.

For the compilation of this publication I have included the Pali Text with its corresponding English translation, paragraph by paragraph, so that the students who wish to learn this discourse for their Dhamma Examinations may be able to study the translation from Pali to English.  I hope this will achieve its object in removing any obstacle that the students may encounter in translation from Pali to English. For the general readers I hope it will not cause much inconvenience in reading the English translation and omitting the Pali Text of this Sutta.

The story of Sigala
Sigalovada Sutta

Complied By The Ven. Sri S.V. Pandit P. Pemaratana Nayaka Thero
Chief Monk of Mahindarama (Sri Lanka) Buddhist Temple
No. 2, Jalan Kampar, 10460 Pulau Pinang.

10th October,1993.