Sigālovāda Sutta

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Sigalovada Sutta is the 31st Sutta described in the Digha Nikaya ("Long Discourses of Buddha").[1] It is also known as the Sīgāla Sutta,[2] the Sīgālaka Sutta,[3] the Sigālovāda Sutta,[4] and the Sigālovāda Suttanta ("The Sigāla Homily").[5]

Buddhaghosa has referred to this sutta as "the Vinaya [Buddhist code of discipline] of the householder."[6] In modern times, Bhikkhu Bodhi has identified this sutta as the "most comprehensive Nikāya text" which pertains "to the happiness directly visible in this present life."[7]

Sutta summary[edit]

Sigala's honoring his father[edit]

The Sigalovada Sutta takes place when Buddha encountered a youth called Sigala in his morning stroll. The young man, in drenched attire, prostrated and worshipped the four compass directions (East, South, West, and North), plus the Earth (Down) and the Sky (Up). When asked by Buddha why he did so, the youth Sigala replied that he had been told by his late father to do so and he thought that it was right to uphold his father's wishes. Buddha then, based on Sigala's point of view, taught him how a noble one (Pali: ariya) should worship the Six directions.

Avoid evil ways[edit]

The Buddha first describes fourteen evil ways that should be avoided by a householder. The Buddha enumerates these evil ways to be avoided as:

  • the four defilements of action:[8]
  1. taking life (panatipata)
  2. stealing (adinnadana)
  3. sexual misconduct (kamesu micchacara)[9]
  4. lying (musavada)
  • the four causes of evil action:
  1. sensual desire (kama chanda)
  2. hate (dosa)
  3. ignorance (moha)
  4. fear (bhaya)
  • the six ways of squandering wealth:
  1. indulging in intoxicants
  2. wandering the streets at inappropriate times
  3. frequenting public spectacle
  4. compulsive gambling
  5. malevolent companionship
  6. habitual idleness

Choose true friends[edit]

The Buddha then elaborated on the importance of having and being a true friend, as he described what true friends are; and what true friends are not; and, how true friends will aid in attaining a blissful life.

Protect close relationships[edit]

Finally, returning to the topic of the six directions, the Buddha described the Four Compass Direction as : parents (East), teachers (South), spouse[10] (West), and friends and colleagues (North), and the two vertical directions as: ascetics (Up) and the Servants (Down). He elaborated on how to respect and support them, and how in turn the Six will return the kindness and support.

The householder's commitments and the reciprocal acts of those he honors, as identified by the Buddha, are represented below in accordance with the four directions on the horizontal plane (east, south, west and north):

commitments reciprocal acts
kind words
protect your wealth
provide shelter
honor your family
commitments reciprocal acts
honor her
respect her
share authority
provide gifts
organize duties
wise budgeting
commitments reciprocal acts
support them
fulfill their duties
honor traditions
deserve inheritance
honor their passing
restrain from evil
nurture goodness
teach skills
arrange marriage
provide inheritance
commitments reciprocal acts
rise to greet them
attend to them
eager receptivity
serve them
master their teaching
thoroughly instruct
ensure comprehension
provide well-roundedness
provide referrals
ensure safety
commitments reciprocal acts
apt work
just wages
health care
leave time
rise early
stay late
no stealing
work well

To the left are shown the householder's commitments to and the reciprocal acts of employees and servants (representing the nadir, below the practitioner's body).

To the right are shown the householder's commitments to and the reciprocal acts of religious guides (representing the zenith, above the practitioner's body).

commitments reciprocal acts
loving acts
loving speech
loving thoughts
material support
restrain from evil
nurture goodness
teach goodness

Contemporary commentaries[edit]

Bhikkhu Bodhi has contrasted the Buddha's responsibility-reciprocity statements[11] with modern-day social theory, stating:

"This practice of 'worshipping the six directions,' as explained by the Buddha, presupposes that society is sustained by a network of interlocking relationships that bring coherence to the social order when its members fulfill their reciprocal duties and responsibilities in a spirit of kindness, sympathy, and good will.... Thus, for Early Buddhism, the social stability and security necessary for human happiness and fulfillment are achieved, not through aggressive and potentially disruptive demands for 'rights' posed by competing groups, but by the renunciation of self-interest and the development of a sincere, large-hearted concern for the welfare of others and the good of the greater whole."[12]

See also[edit]

Related Suttas:


  1. ^ Complete English translations of this sutta include Kelly, Sawyer & Yareham (2005), Narada (1996) and Walshe (1995), pp. 461-69. Bodhi (2005), pp. 116-18, provides an excerpted English translation excluding the Buddha's teaching on the "fourteen evil ways" and on friends. A romanized Pali version of the complete sutta can be found at or in print at D.iii.180ff.
  2. ^ See the Sinhala SLTP edition available from "MettaNet" at and from "Bodhgaya News" at
  3. ^ Walshe (1995), p. 461, and Bodhi (2005), pp. 109, 118.
  4. ^ Bodhi (2005), p. 109. Also see the Burmese CSCD edition available from "VRI" at and the "World Tipitaka" edition at
  5. ^ Walshe (1995), p. 612, n. 972. Walshe notes that this alternate title was used by Rhys Davids.
  6. ^ This epithet, "the Vinaya of the Householder" (gihi-vinaya) is attributed to Buddhaghosa in Narada (1995). This epithet is also mentioned in Bodhi (2005), p. 109, Hinüber (2000), p. 31, and Law (1932-33), p. 85, n. 1, without being attributed.
  7. ^ Bodhi (2005), p. 109. Bodhi (2005), pp. 108-09, maintains that the Pali commentaries identify three benefits to the Buddha's teaching: (1) present-life happiness; (2) next-life happiness; and, (3) Nibbana. He goes on to write that Western Buddhist scholars have emphasized the third benefit while all three are needed to fairly represent the Buddha's teachings.
  8. ^ Note that these are the first four of the Five Precepts. The fifth precept (abstaining from the use of liquor, spirits or intoxicants causing heedlessness) is mentioned later in the sutta.
  9. ^ Soon after the initial verse identifying the four defilements, the four defilements are reiterated with "sexual misconduct" (kamesu micchacaro) being replaced by the more specific evil action of "adultery" (paradaragamananceva ).
  10. ^ In canonical Buddhism, "householder" refers to a male and thus, in terms of a marital relationship, this sutta directly addresses husbands. For a sutta directly addressing wives, see AN 8:49 (an English translation of which can be found in Bodhi, 2005, pp. 128-30).
  11. ^ The Buddha's characterizing social interaction in a responsibility-reciprocity sequence in a sense echoes his central phenomenological insight of Dependent Origination.
  12. ^ Bodhi (2005), pp. 109-10.


  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2005), In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-491-1.
  • Hinüber, Oskar von (2000). A Handbook on Pāli Literature. Berlin: de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016738-7.
  • Kelly, John, Sue Sawyer & Victoria Yareham (2005). DN 31, Sigalovada Sutta: The Buddha's Advice to Sigalaka. Available on-line at:
  • Law, Bimala Churn (1932–33), "Nirvana and Buddhist Laymen" in the Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 14, 1932-1933, pp. 80–86. Available on-line at:
  • Narada Thera (1995). Everyman's Ethics: Four Discourses of the Buddha. Available on-line at:
  • Narada Thera (trans.) (1996). DN 31, Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala, The Layperson's Code of Discipline. Available on-line at:
  • Walshe, Maurice (1995). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-103-3.