Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.7.6 Indriyasaṃvarasīlaṃ – 

Maintaining One’s Object of Meditation Unobstructed!


Makkaṭova araññamhi, vane bhantamigo1 viya;

Bālo viya ca utrasto2, na bhave lolalocano3.

Adho khipeyya cakkhūni, yugamattadaso siyā;

Vanamakkaṭalolassa4, na cittassa vasaṃ vaje5.


May one not (dwell) - like a monkey in a jungle,

Or like a roaming deer in a forest - or a frightened child with agitated eyes.

May one (remain) with eyes downcast, established to look just one yoke’s measure ahead,

So one’s mind may not get suppressed by a wild forest-monkey’s mind!


     The present lesson highlights once more important aspects of what is called indriyasaṃvarasīlaṃ - the virtue and quality of restraint in mastering the sense-faculties.

     This selection from the Visuddhimaggo emphasizes and explains what has been described as: ‘anuttarā indriyabhāvanā’ – ‘the outstanding development of the senses’ by the Buddha6. Inspiring examples of Bhikkhus invigorate encouragement – here the chosen example of the Thera Mahātissa, dwelling in Cetiyapabbata, depicts well guarded control of senses and presents an inspiration for any meditator not to get distracted by whatever appears in front of his eyes.7

     Even so the Buddha says that for a householder, determined to follow the path of the Buddha the training principles of someone who has left the householders life do not directly apply - ‘‘Gahaṭṭhavattaṃ pana vo vadāmi, yathākaro sāvako sādhu hoti; Na hesa labbhā sapariggahena, phassetuṃ yo kevalo bhikkhudhammo.”8 - still inspiring reinforcement can be obtained from the conduct of Bhikkhus. Especially the tetrad of saṃvarasīla can provide great inspiration for serious meditators if they understand the underlying principles of pātimokkhasaṃvarasīlaṃ, ājīvapārisuddhisīlaṃ, indriyasaṃvarasīlaṃ and even paccayasannissitasīlaṃ.

     Thus the guiding, core principle of pātimokkhasaṃvarasīlaṃ, the virtue of perfecting the regulations of the Pātimokkha, challenges alertness in seeing danger by being fearful in even the slightest wrongdoing that would lead astray from the correct path and thus provides inspiration for any layman.9 The base here is saddhā – full faith and devotion in the correctness of the path.10

     A previous lesson in the last chapter11 already pointed to the inspiration one can derive from ājīvapārisuddhisīlaṃ, the virtue of purifying one’s livelihood, by fathoming self deception in regards to the pitfalls of ignoble speech. Thus a layman should always aim towards honest self-reflection and avoid falling into the trap of deceitful talk, boastful talk, giving a hint, trickery, desiring gain with gain.12 To maintain and perfect the purification of livelihood sati - constant alertness, awareness and mindfulness has to be maintained.13

     Even the principles of humbleness, modesty and restraint use of requisites that determine paccayasannissitasīlaṃ, the virtue of restraint in requisites, may prompt a householder to reflect on his or her use of material goods in the vast fields of profligate spending by exploiting earth’s beauty and wasting natural resources. Such reflection should abandon greed and foster wisdom and understanding.14

     The Visuddhimagga relates various other examples of highly developed monks, who, even by endangering their lives were able to maintain their precepts, their efforts or their control of senses. One of these is the Elder by the name of Cittaguttatthera, who had been dwelling over sixty years in the cave of Kuraṇḍakamahāleṇa. This cave was adorned with lovely paintings of previous Buddhas. At one time Thera Cittaguttatthera was visited by a number of young monks who were attracted by those paintings. Curious to find out more about them, their origin and their meaning they enquired with Cittaguttatthera. The only reply they received was that he had never seen any paintings before in all the sixty years and even didn’t know about their existence at all: “Therena kira ettakaṃ addhānaṃ vasantena cakkhuṃ ummīletvā leṇaṃ na ullokitapubbaṃ.” – “It is said that the Thera had lived in that cave for so many years and never raised his eyes and looked at the cave.”

     Another inspiring example is the case of Thera Mahātissa who was dwelling in the forest of Cīragumba.15 At one time on his daily routine on his walk for alms after a longer period of lack of food he felt exhausted, tired and realized he was to weak to proceed. Fatigued he sat down in a Mango-grove where many ripened mangos had fallen to the ground. In spite of being close to starvation he never trembled in his resolve to touch anything that has not been given to him and would not eat any of them. He was ‘saved’ by an elderly layperson, who then gave him mangos to eat, carried Thera Mahātissa on his back to his home. While on his back Thera Mahātissa gained complete insight in the working principles of sīla and attained full liberation:

‘‘Na pitā napi te mātā, na ñāti napi bandhavo;

Karotetādisaṃ16 kiccaṃ, sīlavantassa kāraṇā”.


‘‘Neither father, nor mother, not your relatives and kinsfolks;

Have done this much for you, as did the sīla that you perfected!


1. bhantamigo: bhamati (pp.) + migo: roamed, swayed + deer

2. utrasto: alarmed, terrified

3. lolalocano: lola + locano: agitated, greedy + eye

4. vanamakkaṭalolassa: vana + makkaṭa + lolassa: forest + monkey + agitated, wavering

5. vaje: va + je: as if + oh, ah

6. See also lesson 3.7.4 Indriyabhāvanāsutta - where the Buddha provides guidance how to restrain one’s sense faculties in the proper way.

7. Refer to 3.7.3 Saṃvarasuttaṃ: Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu uppannaṃ bhaddakaṃ samādhinimittaṃ anurakkhati aṭṭhikasaññaṃ puḷavakasaññaṃ vinīlakasaññaṃ vicchiddakasaññaṃ uddhumātakasaññaṃ. Apparently in the given example -aṭṭhikasaññaṃ- in this lesson Thera Mahātissa had chosen one of the objects of contemplation out of the ten contemplations on the impurities—asubha saññā. Here reflections on a gross object of meditation enable even a mind full of attachment toward the body and the “I, Me, Myself” to understand the process of becoming, passing away and decaying. Thus this kind of contemplation enables to glimpse the impermanent nature of mind and matter phenomenons and to take up subtler objects of meditation such as Ānāpāna, Vipassanā and Satipaṭṭhāna: …… ‘So imameva kāyaṃ upasaṃharati –‘ayampi kho kāyo evaṃdhammo evaṃbhāvī evaṃ anatīto’ti. Evampi kho, bhikkhave, Bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati. Iti ajjhattaṃ vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, bahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati, ajjhattabahiddhā vā kāye kāyānupassī viharati. Samudayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, vayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati, samudayavayadhammānupassī vā kāyasmiṃ viharati. ‘Atthi kāyo’ti vā panassa sati paccupaṭṭhitā hoti yāvadeva ñāṇamattāya paṭissatimattāya anissito ca viharati, na ca kiñci loke upādiyati. Evampi kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati.—…… regarding his own  body he considers thus: “Indeed, this body is of the same nature, it will become like that and cannot escape it.” Thus he dwells observing body in body internally, or he dwells observing body in body externally, or he dwells observing body in body both internally and externally. Thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of arising in the body, thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away in the body, thus he dwells observing the phenomenon of arising and passing away in the body. Now his awareness is established: “This is body!” Thus he develops his awareness to such an extent that there is mere understanding along with mere awareness. In this way he dwells detached, without clinging towards anything in the world of mind and matter. This is how, O’ Bhikkhus, a Bhikkhu dwells observing body in body. (Dīghanikāyo, Mahāvaggapāḷi, Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṃ, Kāyānupassanā, Navasivathikapabbaṃ)

8. ……”I will declare the conduct for a householder, by performing it accordingly he will prove to be a perfect disciple, because those with householder duties cannot fulfil conduct that applies to Bhikkhus. See lesson 3.6.0: Dhammikasutta, Cūḷavaggo, Suttanipātapāḷi, Khuddakanikāye

9. ……‘‘idha bhikkhu pātimokkhasaṃvarasaṃvuto viharati ācāragocarasampanno aṇumattesu vajjesu bhayadassāvī samādāya sikkhati sikkhāpadesū’’ti vaṃ vuttaṃ sīlaṃ, idaṃ pātimokkhasaṃvarasīlaṃ nāma.” - …...‘‘here a Bhikkhu dwells restrained with proper conduct and resort by fulfilling the pātimokkha-requirements being fearful in even the slightest wrong-doing – so he trains himself in upholding precepts of training” (Sīlaniddeso, Visuddhimaggo)

10. sīle saddhāya pātimokkhasaṃvaro sampādetabbo

11. See 3.6.15 Sīlappabhedakathā - Easy to Fall Prey to Breakage of Sīla

12. Yā pana ājīvahetupaññattānaṃ channaṃ sikkhāpadānaṃ vītikkamassa, ‘‘kuhanā lapanā nemittikatā nippesikatā lābhena lābhaṃ nijigīsanatā’’ti evamādīnañca pāpadhammānaṃ vasena pavattā micchājīvā virati, idaṃ ājīvapārisuddhisīlaṃ.” - Virtue as purification of livelihood is abstinence from any form of wrong livelihood that – known as: causes of acquisition of sources of revenue - transgresses the six training precepts by evil manners such as deceitful talk, boastful talk, giving a hint, trickery, desiring gain with gain. ……(Sīlaniddeso, Visuddhimaggo)

13. Yathā pana indriyasaṃvaro satiyā, tathā vīriyena ājīvapārisuddhi sampādetabbā. Vīriyasādhanā hi sā, sammāraddhavīriyassa micchājīvappahānasambhavato. – In the same way as restraint in sense-faculties should get developed through sati – awareness, purification of livelihood must be undertaken by means of vīriya – energy. Because forsaking wrong livelihood by someone who has unrelentingly applied energy is realized through accomplishment of energy. (Sīlaniddeso, Visuddhimaggo)

14. Yathā ca vīriyena ājīvapārisuddhi, tathā paccayasannissitasīlaṃ paññāya sampādetabbaṃ. Paññāsādhanaṃ hi taṃ, paññavato paccayesu ādīnavānisaṃsadassanasamatthabhāvato. Tasmā pahāya paccayagedhaṃ dhammena samena uppanne paccaye yathāvuttena vidhinā paññāya paccavekkhitvā paribhuñjantena sampādetabbaṃ. - In the same way as ājīvapārisuddhi should get developed through vīriya – energy restraint in requisites should get developed through pañña – understanding and wisdom. This virtue is accomplished through pañña – because only one with wisdom recognizes properly advantages and disadvantages in the acquisition of requisites. One should abandon greed for them and reflect with wisdom in the before manner said the usage of requisites that one has achieved lawfully and according to the principles of Dhamma. (Sīlaniddeso, Visuddhimaggo)

15. S. N. Goenka refers to some of these inspiring examples in his discourses during a long course.

16. karotetādisaṃ: karote + tādisa: do (med.) + such like


Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.7.6

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Last modified: Tuesday, 9 August 2022, 7:55 PM