Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.5.1
Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ-5 - What is Right Action?

‘‘akataṃ vata me pāpaṃ, kataṃ me kalyāṇa’’

As in previous chapters this short selection from the Vibhaṅgasutta introduces the basic principles of sammākammanto and expresses the need for someone, who aims at a healthy lifestyle, to avoid any undertaking of micchākammanto. At the apparent level this is realized by abstaining from any action that kills, takes away something or indulges in sexual misconduct. While the Sutta-explanations emphasize the avoidance of this triad of unwholesome actions of body the Abhidhamma stresses the effort behind it:

“Katamo tasmiṃ samaye sammākammanto hoti? Yā tasmiṃ samaye tīhi kāyaduccaritehi ārati virati paṭivirati veramaṇī akiriyā akaraṇaṃ anajjhāpatti1 velāanatikkamo2 setughāto3 sammākammanto maggaṅgaṃ maggapariyāpannaṃ – ayaṃ tasmiṃ samaye sammākammanto hoti.” 4 – “And how at that time it is right action? If at that time the three evil actions by body are renounced, abstained and completely refrained from, there is abstinence, neither performing nor executing them, no committing of any offence nor traversing their limit and destruction of the causeway leading to them – then at that time it is sammākammanto, a path-component and included in the path!”

When someone undergoes the training and makes it his life’s goal to live a moral life according to the teaching of the Buddha he is asked to take the vow to fulfill five precepts as a healthy foundation for further progress:

- Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
- Adinnādānā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
- Kāmesu-micchācārā (abrahmacariyā) veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
- Musāvādā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
- Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.

Under further reflection one realizes that the emphasis through the repetitive formula of ‘veramaṇī-sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi’ points out to the lifelong step-by step training one has to undergo!

The literal translation: ‘I solemnly take upon myself the path of training of abstaining from…’ underlines this fact. For a practitioner on the path of the Buddha its implications become clear while walking this path – the vow needs to be pondered upon every moment of one’s life, the volition behind anything one aims to perform vocally or physically needs to get reflected; one’s words, behavior and activities to be repeatedly mulled over. Experience of failure motivates to development of awareness of the respective volition and accompanying mental process. In this way the understanding of one’s sole responsibility for one’s action gets cultivated: kammassakomhi, kammadāyādo kammayoni kammabandhu kammapaṭisaraṇo, yaṃ kammaṃ karissāmi – kalyāṇaṃ vā pāpakaṃ vā– tassa dāyādo bhavissāmī’ti.5 Pure confession of any shortcomings turns useless unless it is submerged with the determination and exertion for future avoidance: “…… satthari vā viññūsu vā sabrahmacārīsu desetabbaṃ, vivaritabbaṃ, uttānīkātabbaṃ; desetvā vivaritvā uttānīkatvā āyatiṃ saṃvaraṃ āpajjitabbaṃ!” – “Then you should confess it, reveal it, lay it open to the teacher or to a wise one or a companion in the holy life. Having confessed, revealed it and laid it open you should exercise restraint in the future!”6

[1] anajjhāpatti: an + ajjhāpatti: not + incurring guilt, comitting offence

[2] velāanatikkamo: velā + an + atikkamo: measure, limit + not + going over, passing beyond, traversing

[3] setughāto: setu + ghāto: bridge + destruction

[4] Lokuttarakusalaṃ, Suddhikapaṭipadā, Dhammasaṅgaṇīpāḷi, Abhidhammapiṭake

[5] See 2.1.3 Abhiṇhapaccavekkhitabbaṭhānasuttaṃ

[6] see 3.3.6 & 3.3.7 Ambalaṭṭhikarāhulovādasuttaṃ

Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.5.1

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:41 AM