Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa


Introduction to 3.4.5
Upālisuttaṃ
How to Conduct Oneself Correctly in Right Speech


This Sutta was given by the Buddha to Thera Upāli who had expressed his desire to retire into the woods for solitude. The Buddha replied that this kind of forest life was not easy and could only be mastered by someone, who had attained sufficient tranquility through full mastery over the mind.1 Then he gave his admonition about all the steps that needed to be performed to reach the stage of someone who could withdraw in the forests successfully. It should be someone who has conquered all the hindrances, transcended all different stages of concentration and gone beyond perception and feeling and has realized by his insight that all deep planted impurities were destroyed: ‘……samatikkamma saññāvedayitanirodhaṃ upasampajja viharati; paññāya cassa disvā āsavā parikkhīṇā honti’. Only then when Bhikkhus thus were comfortably able to dwell in solitude in the vastness of the forest they should do so, otherwise not: ‘Imampi kho, upāli, mama sāvakā attani dhammaṃ sampassamānā araññavanapatthāni pantāni senāsanāni paṭisevanti, no ca kho tāva anuppattasadatthā2 viharanti.’ At the end of this admonition the Buddha pleads with Upāli to stay with the order: “Come here, Upāli, stay with the Saṅgha. By living with the Saṅgha you will develop at ease: - “Iṅgha tvaṃ, upāli, saṅghe viharāhi. Saṅghe te viharato phāsu bhavissatī.”

One reason for this was that Upāli might not only develop in meditation at ease, but also, while staying amongst men he might gain perfect insight in the world of the Saṅgha and understand the rules that had been laid out for their interaction and for the benefit of their development and progress3. Upāli later became the Vinayadharānaṃ, the one most proficient in the Vinaya and was the one who presided the Paṭhamadhammasaṅgīti, the first council initiated under Mahā Kassapa in regards to the Bhikkhu-vinaya.4

The following introductions will refer to the commentarial detailed explanations5 with the hope that this selection of suttas supports proper establishment in this tricky factor on the Noble Eightfold Path: sammāvācā!

The commentarial exposition6 of musāvādo highlights the mental disposition and the intention to speak falsehood as its precondition and proves that the respective volition to deceive others, disturb their mental calm or, to while away their time precedes wrong speech accompanied by the effort to put it into effect: - Musāti visaṃvādanapurekkhārassa7 atthabhañjako8 vacīpayogo kāyapayogo vā. Visaṃvādanādhippāyena9 panassa paravisaṃvādanakakāyavacīpayogasamuṭṭhāpikā.10 cetanā musāvādo. – ‘False’ is the effort by speech or body to destroy welfare by one determined on deceiving. ‘False speech’ is the intention producing effort by speech or body to deceive another by one determined on deceiving.’

It is qualified through this volition: – ‘Lakkhaṇato pana atathaṃ vatthuṃ tathato paraṃ viññāpetukāmassa11 tathāviññattisamuṭṭhāpikā12 cetanā musāvādo.’ – ‘The characteristic of ‘false speech’ is the volition of one desiring to communicate to another something untrue as being true, it is this volition that causes such an act of communication.’

A differentiation of its effect by comparison with the respective intention preceding the performance of false speech defines it as less blameworthy when the welfare destroyed is slight and more blameworthy when the welfare destroyed is great. In the same way it is defined as less blameworthy when the intention is dominated by the desire to maintain one’s own possessions and resistance to part with them. But when another's wellbeing is destroyed as result of speaking false witness it is more blameworthy.

If one’s volition resulting in the effort to perform a lie on another by means of body or speech takes effect in another person and that one understands the meaning then one is imprisoned in the trap of kammic consequences resulting from the moment of this volition to deceive: ‘Tāya ce kiriyāya paro tamatthaṃ jānāti, ayaṃ kiriyāsamuṭṭhāpikacetanākkhaṇeyeva13 musāvādakammunā bajjhati14.

For this the following four components have to be fulfilled so musāvāda takes its full effect and produces kammic result for the speaker:
‘Tassa cattāro sambhārā honti – atathaṃ vatthu, visaṃvādanacittaṃ, tajjo vāyāmo, parassa tadatthavijānananti. Eko payogo sāhatthikova’ . – ‘An untrue situation; the intention to deceive; the effort to do so and the communication of the falseness to others. The single means are one's own person only.’

May all remain aware of wholesome volition behind every sentence being uttered so sammāvācā is maintained!

[1] see more details at lesson 3.9.2

[2] anuppattasadatthā: anuppatta (pp.) + sadatthā: attained, reached + one’s own welfare

[3] One of these lectures to Upāli is found under lesson 3.4.9: Vivādasuttaṃ

[4] see under lesson 2.1.5 and 2.1.6

[5] verbatim in Sammādiṭṭhisuttavaṇṇanā as well as Brahmajālasuttavaṇṇanā

[6] for commentarial exposition of samphappalāpo see 3.4.7, of pisunāvācā and pharusāvācā see 3.4.9

[7] visaṃvādanapurekkhārassa: visaṃvādana + purekkhāra (gen.): deceiving, lying + deference, devoted to

[8] atthabhañjako: attha + bhañjako: welfare + breaking, spoiling

[9] visaṃvādanādhippāyena: visaṃvādana + adhippāya (instr.): deceiving, lying + desire, intention

[10] paravisaṃvādanakakāyavacīpayogasamuṭṭhāpikā: para + visaṃvādanaka + kāyavacīpayoga + samuṭṭhāpikā: other + someone deceiving, lying + by means of body and speech + causing, occasioning

[11] viññāpetukāmassa: viññāpetu + kāmassa giving to understand + desiring

[12] tathāviññattisamuṭṭhāpikā: tathā + viññatti +samuṭṭhāpikā: thus + intimation + causing

[13] kiriyāsamuṭṭhāpikacetanākkhaṇeyeva: kiriyā +samuṭṭhāpika +cetanā + k + khaṇe + yeva: act + occasioning + volition + moment + just

[14] bajjhati: to be bound, imprisoned  
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Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.4.5

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Last modified: Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 7:24 PM