Eight precepts

In Buddhism, the eight precepts (Sanskrit: aṣṭāṇga-śīla or aṣṭā-sīla, Pali: aṭṭhaṅga-sīla or aṭṭha-sīla) is a list of precepts that are observed by lay devotees on observance days and festivals. They include general precepts such as refraining from killing, but also more specific ones, such as abstaining from cosmetics. Probably based on pre-Buddhist brahmanical practices, the eight precepts are often upheld on the Buddhist observance days, and in such context called the uposatha vows or one-day precepts. They are considered to support meditation practice, and are often observed when staying in monasteries and temples. In some periods and places, such as in 7th–10th-century China, the precepts were widely observed. In modern times, there have been revival movements and important political figures that have observed them continuously.


Translations of
eight precepts
(RR: p'algwan hoe)
Sinhalaaṭa sil
(RTGS: sin paet)
Glossary of Buddhism

The first five of the eight precepts are similar to the five precepts, that is, to refrain from killing living beings, stealing, wrong speech and to abstain from intoxicating drink or drugs,[1] but the third precept is abstinence of all sexual activity instead of refraining from sexual offenses.[2] The final three precepts are to abstain from eating at the wrong time (after midday); to abstain from entertainment such as dancing, singing, music, watching shows, as well as to abstain from wearing garlands, perfumes, cosmetics, and personal adornments; and to abstain from luxurious seats and beds.[3][4]

To summarise, following anthropologist Barend Terwiel's translation from Pāli language used in Thai ceremonies:

  1. "I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking life
  2. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking what is not given
  3. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from unchastity
  4. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from false speech
  5. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from intoxicants which cause a careless frame of mind
  6. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from taking food at the wrong time
  7. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from dancing, music, visiting shows, flowers, make-up, the wearing of ornaments and decorations
  8. I undertake [to observe] the rule of abstinence from a tall, high sleeping place."[5]

In Thailand, when the eight precepts are taken, it is believed that if one of them is broken, they are all broken.[6] In the Pāli tradition, the precepts are described in the Dhammika Sutta, part of the Sutta-Nipāta.[7] In many medieval Chinese texts, the order of the last three items is different, with number 6 and 8 switched.[8][9]

According to ethicist Damien Keown, the eight precepts were derived from the regulations described in the Brahmajala Sutta, an Early Buddhist Text. Since in this discourse the Buddha describes his own behavior, Keown argues that the eight precepts and several other moral doctrines in Buddhism are derived from the Buddha as a model figure.[10] Religion scholar J.H. Bateson and Pāli scholar Shundō Tachibana have argued that the eight precepts may be partly based on pre-Buddhist brahmanical practices (vrata) during the fast on the full and new moon.[7][11]


Borobudur on Vesak Day 2011
Buddhist lay devotees observe the eight precepts often during yearly festivals such as Vesak.

On regular observance days (Sanskrit: poṣadha, Pali: uposatha), Buddhist lay devotees often observe the eight precepts. In that context, the eight precepts are also called the uposatha vows (Sanskrit and Pali: upavāsa; Sanskrit: poṣadhaśīla, Pali: uposatha-sīla).[12][13] When laypeople stay in a Buddhist monastery[1] or go on a meditation retreat,[14] they also observe the eight precepts often; they are also upheld during yearly festivals such as Vesak.[15][16] Presently, the uposatha vows are mostly associated with Theravāda Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia,[1] but it was a widespread practice in China as well,[16] and is still practiced.[17] In practice, in Theravāda traditions, the precepts are mostly observed by faithful devotees above 40 years of age.[18] Since the eight precepts are often observed for one day, they are also known as the one-day precepts.[19] Sometimes a formula is recited confirming the observance for one day (and one night):

"I undertake to observe in harmony during this day and this night these eight precepts that have been designed by the wisdom of the Buddha."[5]

Observance does not need to be temporary, however: some lay devotees choose to undertake the eight precepts continuously to improve themselves in morality.[4] The eight precepts are also undertaken by people preparing for ordination as a monk, sometimes called anagarika in Pāli or pha khao in Thai.[20] Furthermore, many nuns in Buddhist countries, such as the mae chi in Thailand or the dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka, observe the eight or ten precepts all the time as part of their way of life.[21][22]


The mae chi in Thailand observe the eight precepts all the time as part of their way of life.

The Pāli texts describe that one undertakes the eight precepts on the observance days following the example of the enlightened disciples of the Buddha.[23][24] The eight precepts are meant to give lay people an impression of what it means to live as a monastic,[13][25] and the precepts "may function as the thin end of a wedge for attracting some to monastic life".[26] People who are observing the eight precepts are sometimes also addressed differently.[27][28] The objective of the eight precepts is different from the five in that they are less moral in nature, but more focused on developing meditative concentration, and preventing distractions.[18] Indeed, in Sri Lanka, lay devotees observing the eight precepts are expected to spend much time and effort on meditation, focusing especially on meditation on the parts of the body. This is intended to develop detachment.[29]

Among the eight precepts, the third precept is about maintaining chastity. Buddhist tradition therefore requires lay people to be chaste on observance days, which is similar to the historical Indian tradition of being chaste on parvan days. As for the sixth rule, this means not having food after midday, in imitation of a nearly identical rule for monks. Fluids are allowed.[30][18] Taiwanese physician Ming-Jun Hung and his co-authors have analyzed early and medieval Chinese Buddhist Texts and argue that the main purposes of the half-day fast is to lessen desire, improve fitness and strength, and decrease sleepiness.[31] Historically, Chinese Buddhists have interpreted the eight precepts as including vegetarianism.[32]

The seventh precept is sometimes also interpreted to mean not wearing colorful clothes, which has led to a tradition for people to wear plain white when observing the eight precepts.[18][33] This does not necessarily mean, however, that a Buddhist devotee dressed in white is observing the eight precepts all the time.[34] As for the eighth precept, not sitting or sleeping on luxurious seats or beds, this usually comes down to sleeping on a mat on the floor. Though not specified in the precepts themselves, in Thailand and China, people observing the precepts usually stay in the temple overnight. This is to prevent temptations at home to break the eight precepts, and helps foster the community effort in upholding the precepts.[35]


Anagarika Dharmapala
In 19th-century Sri Lanka, there was a revival of observing the eight precepts due to the influence of Anagarika Dharmapala.

In 6th-century Korea, the eight precepts came to be associated with worship of Maitreya, due to the work of Hyeryang, a Korean monk that wrote a tract about these matters.[8] In 7th–10th-century China, government officials would often observe the eight precepts for one or more months a year, during which they often invited monks to teach them at home. On the same months that were designated for such religious observance, called the chai, the government also refrained from executing death penalties.[36]

In the late 19th century in Sri Lanka, there was a renewed interest in the tradition of observing the eight precepts, during the time of the Buddhist revival. This was mostly because of the influence of Anagarika Dharmapāla, who observed the ten precepts (similar to the eight) continuously, maintaining a status between lay person and monk.[37] The interest was further fostered by campaigns emphasizing Buddhist religious practice on traditional observance days.[38] In the 1980s and 1990s, Thailand saw the rise to popularity of the politician Chamlong Srimuang. As a member of the Buddhist Santi Asoke movement, Srimuang observed the eight precepts continuously, even during his life as a politician. The movement interprets the eight precepts as eating one vegetarian meal a day. Srimuang's strict life following the precepts has led his friends to call him "half monk–half man".[39] Just like the Santi Asoke movement, the Thai Dhammakaya Temple also emphasizes eight precepts, especially in their training programs.[40] In Sri Lanka, in the 2000s, the eight precepts were still observed with great strictness, as was noticed by Religion scholar Jonathan Walters in his field research.[41] In Theravāda traditions in the West, the eight precepts are observed as well.[42]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Religions Buddhism: Theravada Buddhism". BBC. 2 October 2002. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018.
  2. ^ Tucci, Giuseppe; Kitagawa, Joseph M. (27 April 2018). "Buddhism - Popular Religious Practices". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 4 December 2018.
  3. ^ Keown 2004, p. 22.
  4. ^ a b Getz 2004, p. 673.
  5. ^ a b Terwiel 2012, p. 191.
  6. ^ Terwiel 2012, p. 201.
  7. ^ a b Tachibana 1992, p. 65.
  8. ^ a b McBride 2014, Buddhist Rituals.
  9. ^ Teiser 2003, p. 150, n.40.
  10. ^ Keown 2016, pp. 28–31.
  11. ^ Bateson 1912, p. 836.
  12. ^ Keown 2004, Uposatha.
  13. ^ a b Buswell & Lopez 2013, Aṣṭāṅgasamanvāgataṃ upavāsaṃ.
  14. ^ Surinrut, Auamnoy & Sangwatanaroj 2017, p. 650.
  15. ^ Vithararta 1990, pp. 230–1.
  16. ^ a b Buswell & Lopez 2013, Baguan zhai.
  17. ^ Harvey 2000, p. 88.
  18. ^ a b c d Harvey 2000, p. 87.
  19. ^ Buswell & Lopez 2013, Upavāsa.
  20. ^ Gosling 1984, p. 62.
  21. ^ "Nuns: Buddhist Nuns". Encyclopedia of Religion. Thomson Gale. 2005. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018 – via Encyclopedia.com.
  22. ^ "Nuns". Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Gale Group. 2004. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018 – via Encyclopedia.com.
  23. ^ Witanachchi 2003, p. 555.
  24. ^ Tachibana 1992, p. 67.
  25. ^ Tachibana 1992, p. 66.
  26. ^ Whitaker & Smith 2018, Ethics (sīla).
  27. ^ Terwiel 2012, p. 192.
  28. ^ Gombrich 1995, p. 78.
  29. ^ Gombrich 1995, pp. 314, 329.
  30. ^ Terwiel 2012, pp. 201–2.
  31. ^ Hung, Kuo & Chen 2002.
  32. ^ Watson 1988, pp. 13–4.
  33. ^ Buswell & Lopez 2013, Ugraparipṛcchā.
  34. ^ Terwiel 2012, p. 187, n.16.
  35. ^ See Terwiel (2012, p. 203) and Harvey (2000, p. 87). Only Harvey mentions China, and the sitting.
  36. ^ Watson 1988, p. 13.
  37. ^ Harvey 2013, pp. 378–9.
  38. ^ Bloss 1987, p. 8.
  39. ^ Keyes 1989, pp. 319–20.
  40. ^ Fuengfusakul 1993, p. 157.
  41. ^ Walters 2010, p. 131.
  42. ^ Gomes 2004, p. 49.


External links


The Abhidharmadīpa or Lamp of Abhidharma is an Abhidharma text thought to have been authored by Vasumitra as a response to Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakośakārikā.

The text consists of verse and prose commentary. It currently survives as an incomplete collection of Sanskrit fragments. However, the text is valuable insofar as it confirms the identity of Vasubandhu as author of the Abhidharmakośakārikā.


In Buddhism, an anagārika (Pali, 'homeless one', [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkə]; f. anagārikā [əˈnəɡɑːrɪkɑː]) is a person who has given up most or all of their worldly possessions and responsibilities to commit full-time to Buddhist practice. It is a midway status between a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni (fully ordained monastics) and laypersons. An anagārika takes the Eight Precepts, and might remain in this state for life.

Anagārikas usually wear white clothes or robes, depending on the tradition they follow. Some traditions have special ordination ceremonies for anagārikas, while others simply take the eight precepts with a special intention.

Given the lack of full ordination for women in modern Theravada Buddhism, women who wish to renounce live as anagārikās under names such as maechi in Thailand, thilashin in Myanmar, and dasa sil mata in Sri Lanka. In Vajrayana Buddhism, many nuns are technically anagārikās or śrāmaṇerikās (novitiates).

Buddhism in Venezuela

Buddhism in Venezuela is practiced by over 52,000 people (roughly 0.2% of the population). The Buddhist community is made up mainly of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans.

Most identify with the Mahayana tradition, reflecting the religious heritage of their emigrant countries.

However, in the mid-1990s Keun-Tshen Goba (né Ezequiel Hernandez Urdaneta), together with Jigme Rinzen, founded a meditation center using the Shambhala Training method.

There are Buddhist centers in Caracas, Maracay, Mérida, Puerto Ordáz, San Felipe, and Valencia.

Buddhist pilgrimage sites

The most important places of pilgrimage in Buddhism are located in the Gangetic plains of Northern India and Southern Nepal, in the area between New Delhi and Rajgir. This is the area where Gautama Buddha lived and taught, and the main sites connected to his life are now important places of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus. However, many countries that are or were predominantly Buddhist have shrines and places which can be visited as a pilgrimage.

Buddhist temple

A Buddhist temple is the place of worship for Buddhists, the followers of Buddhism. They include the structures called vihara, chaitya stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha. Traditional Buddhist temples are designed to inspire inner and outer peace. Its structure and architecture varies from region to region. Usually, the temple consists not only of its buildings, but also the surrounding environment. The Buddhist temples are designed to symbolize 5 elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Wisdom.

Householder (Buddhism)

In English translations of Buddhist texts, householder denotes a variety of terms. Most broadly, it refers to any layperson, and most narrowly, to a wealthy and prestigious familial patriarch. In contemporary Buddhist communities, householder is often used synonymously with laity, or non-monastics.

The Buddhist notion of householder is often contrasted with that of wandering ascetics (Pali: Pāḷi: samaṇa; Sanskrit: śramaṇa) and monastics (bhikkhu and bhikkhuni), who would not live (for extended periods) in a normal house and who would pursue freedom from attachments to houses and families.

Upāsakas and upāsikās, also called śrāvakas and śrāvikās - are householders and other laypersons who take refuge in the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the teachings and the community) and practice the Five Precepts. In southeast Asian communities, lay disciples also give alms to monks on their daily rounds and observe weekly uposatha days. In Buddhist thought, the cultivation of ethical conduct and dāna or "almsgiving" will themselves refine consciousness to such a level that rebirth in one of the lower heavens is likely even if there is no further "Noble" Buddhist practice (connected with the Supramundane goal of Nibbana, "Unbinding"). This level of attainment is viewed as a proper aim for laypersons.In some traditional Buddhist societies, such as in Myanmar and Thailand, people transition between householder and monk and back to householder with regularity and celebration as in the practice of shinbyu among the Bamar people. One of the evolving features of Buddhism in the West is the increasing dissolution of the traditional distinction between monastics and laity.

For all the diversity of Buddhist practices in the West, general trends in the recent transformations of Buddhist practice ... can be identified. These include an erosion of the distinction between professional and lay Buddhists; a decentralization of doctrinal authority; a diminished role for Buddhist monastics; an increasing spirit of egalitarianism; greater leadership roles for women; greater social activism; and, in many cases, an increasing emphasis on the psychological, as opposed to the purely religious, nature of practice.

Kuri (kitchen)

A kuri (庫裏, lit. warehouse behind) or kuin (庫院, lit. warehouse hall) is the kitchen of a Zen monastery, typically located behind the butsuden (or, Buddha Hall). Historically the kuri was a kitchen which prepared meals only for the abbot and his guests, though in modern Japan it now functions as the kitchen and administrative office for the entire monastery.

List of Buddhas

This is a list of historical, contemporary, and legendary figures which at least one school of Buddhism considers to be a Buddha and which have an article on Wikipedia:




Amitābha, principal Buddha of Pure Land Buddhism




Dīpankara Buddha

Five Tathagatas

Gautama Buddha


Kassapa Buddha

Koṇāgamana Buddha



Nichiren Daishonin, Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law (Nikko Lineage)

Padumuttara Buddha




Sumedha Buddha


Tonpa Shenrab

Vairocana, embodiment of the Dharmakaya



Yeshe Tsogyal

List of suttas

Suttas from the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon.

List of Digha Nikaya suttas

List of Majjhima Nikaya suttas

List of Samyutta Nikaya suttas

List of Anguttara Nikaya suttas

List of Khuddaka Nikaya suttas

Offering (Buddhism)

In Buddhism, symbolic offerings are made to the Triple Gem, giving rise to contemplative gratitude and inspiration. Typical material offerings involve simple objects such as a lit candle or oil lamp, burning incense, flowers, food, fruit, water or drinks.Within the traditional Buddhist framework of karma and rebirth, offerings lead to the accumulation of merit, which leads to:

a better rebirth in the cycle of birth and death (Pali: vattagamini-kusala)

progress towards release from suffering (Pali: vivattagamini-kusala).These offerings often act as preparation for meditation.

Pagoda festival

Pagoda festivals (Burmese: ဘုရားပွဲ; paya pwe) are regular festivals found throughout Burma (Myanmar) that commemorate major events in pagoda's history, including the founding of a pagoda and the crowning of the pagoda's hti (umbrella). Pagoda festivals are dictated by the Burmese religious calendar and often are held several days at a time. Major events in a pagoda festival typically do not coincide with Uposatha (Buddhist Sabbath) days, during which devout Buddhists observe the Eight Precepts. The majority of pagoda festivals are held during the dry season, from the months of Tazaungmon (November) to Tabaung (March).More well-known pagoda festivals often attract pilgrims from throughout the country.

Pagoda festivals are similar in nature to agricultural shows (country fairs) or carnivals, and form a significant important part of cultural life, particularly in the countryside. During pagoda festivals, temporary bazaars (including food stalls and merchandise stands), entertainment venues (including anyeint dramas, yoke the performances, lethwei matches, and arcades) are set up in the vicinity of the pagoda.


A precept (from the Latin: præcipere, to teach) is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.


Pūrṇa Maitrāyanīputra (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa Mantānīputta, Chinese: 富楼那弥多罗尼子; pinyin: fùlóunàmíduōluónízǐ), also simply known as Pūrṇa (Sanskrit; Pali: Puṇṇa), was an arhat and one of the ten principal disciples of Gautama Buddha.

Refuge (Buddhism)

Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels or Triple Gem (also known as the "Three Refuges").

The Three Jewels are:

the Buddha, the fully enlightened one

The Dharma, the teachings expounded by the Buddha

The Sangha, the monastic order of Buddhism that practice Dharmas.Refuge is common to all major schools of Buddhism. Pali texts employ the Brahmanical motif of a group of three refuges, as found in Rig Veda 9.97.47, Rig Veda 6.46.9 and Chandogya Upanishad 2.22.3-4.


Rinpoche, also spelled Rimboche and Rinboku (Tibetan: རིན་པོ་ཆེ་, Wylie: rin po che, THL: Rinpoché, ZYPY: Rinboqê), is an honorific term used in the Tibetan language. It literally means "precious one", and may be used to refer to a person, place, or thing--like the words "gem" or "jewel" (Sanskrit Ratna).

The word consists of rin(value) and po(nominative suffix) and chen(big).

The word is used in the context of Tibetan Buddhism as a way of showing respect when addressing those recognized as reincarnated, older, respected, notable, learned and/or an accomplished Lamas or teachers of the Dharma. It is also used as an honorific for abbots of monasteries.


The Uposatha (Sanskrit: Upavasatha) is a Buddhist day of observance, in existence from the Buddha's time (600 BCE), and still being kept today in Buddhist countries. The Buddha taught that the Uposatha day is for "the cleansing of the defiled mind," resulting in inner calm and joy. On this day, both lay and ordained members of the sangha intensify their practice, deepen their knowledge and express communal commitment through millennia-old acts of lay-monastic reciprocity. On these days, the lay followers make a conscious effort to keep the Five Precepts or (as the tradition suggests) the eight precepts. It is a day for practicing the Buddha's teachings and meditation.

Upāsaka and Upāsikā

Upāsaka (masculine) or Upāsikā (feminine) are from the Sanskrit and Pāli words for "attendant". This is the title of followers of Buddhism (or, historically, of Gautama Buddha) who are not monks, nuns, or novice monastics in a Buddhist order, and who undertake certain vows. In modern times they have a connotation of dedicated piety that is best suggested by terms such as "lay devotee" or "devout lay follower".

Zhu Bajie

Zhu Bajie (Chinese: 猪八戒; pinyin: Zhū Bājiè), also named Zhu Wuneng, is one of the three helpers of Tang Sanzang and a major character of the novel Journey to the West. Zhu means "swine", and Bajie means "eight precepts". Buddhist scholars consider that both expressions are related to "Śīla pāramitā". In many English versions of the story, Zhu Bajie is called "Pigsy" or "Pig".

Zhu Bajie is a complex and developed character in the novel. He looks like a terrible monster, part human and part pig, who often gets himself and his companions into trouble through his laziness, gluttony, and propensity for lusting after pretty women. He is jealous of Sun Wukong and always tries to bring him down.

His Buddhist name "Zhu Wuneng", given by Bodhisattva Guanyin, means "pig (reincarnated) who is aware of ability," or "pig who rises to power", a reference to the fact that he values himself so much as to forget his own grisly appearance. Tang Sanzang gave him the nickname Bājiè which means "eight restraints, or eight commandments" to remind him of his Buddhist diet.

In the original Chinese novel, he is often called dāizi (呆子), meaning "idiot". Sun Wukong, Tang Sanzang and even the author consistently refers to him as "the idiot" over the course of the story. Bodhisattvas and other heavenly beings usually refer to him as "Heavenly Tumbleweed", his former name when he was a heavenly marshal.

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