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Threefold Training

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Translations of
Englishthreefold training, three trainings, three disciplines
Sanskritत्रिशिक्षा (triśikṣā)
(Pinyin: sān xué)
(Rōmaji: sangaku)
(RR: samhak)
(Wylie: lhag-pa’i bslab-pa gsum)
(RTGS: traisikkha)
Vietnamesetam học
Glossary of Buddhism

The Buddha identified the threefold training (Sanskrit: triśikṣā; Pali: tisikkhā; or simply śikṣā or sikkhā)[1] as training in:

  • higher virtue (Pali adhisīla-sikkhā, Skt. adhiśīlaśikṣa)
  • higher mind (Pali adhicitta-sikkhā, Skt. samādhiśikṣa)
  • higher wisdom (Pali adhipaññā-sikkhā, Skt. prajñāśikṣa)

In the Pali Canon[edit]

According to Theravada canonical texts, pursuing this training leads to the abandonment of lust, hatred, and delusion.[2] One who is fully accomplished in this training attains Nirvana.[3]

In the Anguttara Nikaya, training in "higher virtue" includes following the Patimokkha, training in "higher mind" (sometimes simply referred to as "concentration") includes entering and dwelling in the four jhanas, and training in "higher wisdom" includes directly perceiving the Four Noble Truths or knowledge of destruction of the taints. [4]

In several canonical discourses, a more "gradual" instruction (anupubbikathā) is provided to receptive lay people (see also, gradual training). This latter instruction culminates in the teaching of the Four Noble Truths which in itself concludes with the Noble Eightfold Path, the constituents of which can be mapped to this threefold training (see below).

Similarity to threefold partition of the Noble Eightfold Path[edit]

The Buddha's threefold training is similar to the threefold grouping of the Noble Eightfold Path articulated by Bhikkhuni Dhammadinna in Culavedalla Sutta ("The Shorter Set of Questions-And-Answers Discourse," MN 44): virtue (sīlakkhandha), concentration (samādhikkhandha), wisdom (paññākkhandha ).[5] These three-part schemes simplify and organize the Eightfold Path as follows:

Threefold Partition Eightfold Path Method of Practice
VIRTUE Right Speech Five Precepts
Right Action
Right Livelihood
MIND Right Effort Dwelling in the four jhanas (meditation)
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration
WISDOM Right View Knowing Four Noble Truths
Right Intention


The threefold training is also part of the bodhisattva path of the Mahayana. Nagarjuna refers to it in his Letter to a Friend (Suhrllekha), verse 53:

"One should always train (shiksha) in superior discipline (adhishila), superior wisdom (adhiprajna) and superior mind (adhicitta)"[6]


  1. ^ See the Anguttara Nikaya Book of Threes' (Tikanipata) Monks chapter (Samanavagga). This chapter's suttas are alternately identified as AN 3:82 to 3:92. Of these suttas, the two most widely translated into English are AN 3:88 and 3:89, respectively referred to as "Sikkha (1)" and "Sikkha (2)" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and as "Dutiyasikkhasuttam" and "Tatiyasikkhasuttam" in the Sinhalese canon. English translations of these latter two suttas can be found in: Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), pp. 69-71; Thanissaro (1998a); and, Thanissaro (1998b). Also see, e.g., DN 16.4.3 (PTS D ii.123) (boldface added for emphasis):
    "Sīla samādhi paññā ca,

    vimutti ca anuttarā;
    Anubuddhā ime dhammā,
    gotamena yasassinā.

    Iti buddho abhiññāya,
    dhammamakkhāsi bhikkhuna;
    Dukkhassantakaro satthā,
    cakkhumā parinibbuto"ti.

    Translated by Vajira & Story (1998) (boldface added for emphasis) as:

    "Virtue, concentration, wisdom, and emancipation unsurpassed —

    These are the principles realized by Gotama the renowned;
    And, knowing them, he, the Buddha, to his monks has taught the Dhamma.
    He, the destroyer of suffering, the Master, the Seer, is at peace."

  2. ^ See AN 3:88 (Thanissaro, 1998a).
  3. ^ See AN 3.89 (Thanissaro, 1998b).
  4. ^ AN 3.85, AN 3.89, AN 3.90
  5. ^ Thanissaro (1998c).
  6. ^ Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend, Padmakara Translation Group, 2005, p. 47


  • Nyanaponika Thera and Bhikkhu Bodhi (trans. and ed.) (1999). Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press. ISBN 0-7425-0405-0.
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998a). AN 3.88: Sikkha Sutta - Trainings (1). Available on-line at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.088.than.html.
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998b). AN 3.89: Sikkha Sutta - Trainings (2). Available on-line at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.089.than.html.
  • Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1998c). MN 44: Culavedalla Sutta: The Shorter Set of Questions-and-Answers. Available on-line at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.044.than.html.

External links[edit]