Dhammika Sutta

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The Dhammika Sutta is part of the Sutta Nipata(Sn 2.14).[1] In this sutta, the Buddha instructs a lay disciple named Dhammika on rules for monks and on the "layman's rule[s] of conduct" (gahatthavatta).[2]

Dhammika asks of virtue[edit]

In the sutta,[3] Dhammika, along with 500 other lay followers (Pali: pancahi upasake-satehi), approaches the Buddha and his monks (Pali: bhikkhavo) and Dhammika asks the Buddha how should a disciple (Pali: sāvako) be virtuous (Pali: sādhu) — both a disciple who has gone from home to homeless (Pali: agārā anagārameti) and a disciple from a household (Pali: agārino ... panupāsakāse). Dhammika then proceeds to extol the Buddha's compassion and wisdom.[4]

Monastic virtue[edit]

In response to Dhammika's question, the Buddha first addresses his monks and advises them as follows:

  • do alms rounds at the appropriate time
  • be rid of interest in the five senses
  • return from alms rounds, sit alone and turn inward
  • do not slander or blame others or seek out disputation
  • care for your food, dwelling and robes but do not become attached to them

Lay virtue[edit]

The Buddha notes that a householder's obligations prevent a householder from fully pursuing a monk's path.[5] Thus, the Buddha articulates "the layman's duty" (Pali: gahatthavatta), what are essentially the Five Precepts, as follows:

  • Do not kill or hurt living things or incite others to kill
  • Avoid taking what is not given or inciting others to do so
  • Observe celibacy or at least do not have sex with another's wife
  • Do not lie or incite others to lie
  • Do not drink or incite others to drink intoxicants

For the Uposatha, the Buddha extols the practice of the Eight Precepts, which involve the aforementioned Five Precepts (with celibacy alone identified for the third precept) and the following three precepts added:

  • Do not eat at inappropriate times (traditionally meaning, one meal before noon)
  • Do not wear garlands or perfumes
  • Sleep at floor level

The Buddha further stated that, when celebrating the Uposatha, with a purified heart (Pali: pasanna citto) and rejoicing mind (Pali: anumodamāno), the wise (Pali: viññu) share their food and drink with monks of the Sangha.

In the sutta's last verse, the Buddha advises that, if a lay person supports their parents and engages in fair trading, they will be reborn among self-radiant devas.

Lay Theravada Practices: For a Fortunate Rebirth

FAITH (Saddhā) GIVING (Dāna) VIRTUE (Sīla) MIND (Bhāvanā) DISCERNMENT (Paññā)

Buddha ·
Dhamma · Sangha

Charity ·

5 Precepts ·
8 Precepts

Mettā ·

4 Noble Truths ·
3 Characteristics

Based on: Dighajanu Sutta, Velama Sutta, Dhammika Sutta.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PTS Pali = Sn 376-378, 383-404
  2. ^ PTS (1921-25), p. 247.
  3. ^ A Pali version of this sutta is available at www.metta.lk (undated[b]). English translations of this sutta include Ireland (1983a) and www.metta.lk (undated[a]).
  4. ^ Ireland (1983b) points out that Dhammika's elaborate veneration of the Buddha is an important part of this sutta insomuch that it models "faith" while the rest of the sutta discusses "moral discipline." These two endeavors — faith and discipline — Ireland states, "are the basic requisites for making further progress on the Buddhist path."
  5. ^ Ireland (1983b) compares the Buddha's comment here to the Buddha's last verse in the "Muni Sutta" ("The Sage," Sn 1.12) which Ireland translates as: "As a peacock never approaches the swiftness of a swan, so a householder cannot imitate a bhikkhu, a hermit meditating in the forest."