Five silas

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The five silas or pancasila ( Pali pañcasīla , skt. पञ्चशील, IAST pañcaśīla ) denote the basic rules of practice (pali sikkhāpada ) for the development of morality (pali sīla ) in Buddhism .

The Silas are practical summaries of exercise resolutions for the development of the virtue section of the Noble Eightfold Path (right speech, action and way of life) and to be understood as an object of mindfulness in daily constant behavior. Compliance with silas or rules of conduct is initially based on trust ( saddha ), gained from gross insight into the benefits of the behavior, with regard to cause and effect ( karma ) and promotes the freedom of conscience , which is necessary for attaining appropriate concentration and insight. At the same time, adherence to Silas protects against injuries to others and oneself and contributes to harmony in the environment and in everyday life.

Virtue is the basis of Buddhist practice in all traditions as part of the Eightfold Path and is essential to a successful and serious path.

As a rule, the adoption of the five rules of exercise behavior as the basis of the practice takes refuge in the Buddha , Dhamma and Sangha and is requested from an initiate ( bhikkhu or bhikkhuni ) or at least from a virtuous and instructed person. Lay followers seeking serious refuge in the Buddha's path will at least undertake the five basic rules of conduct. People who want to devote themselves to meditation in addition to a moderate life usually get by with the eight silas. Those who, as laypeople, lead an almost monastic life, adhere to the ten rules of conduct of a novice ( Samana or Samaneri ). Buddhist monks or nuns adhere to 150 to 227 rules (311 rules for bhikkhunis), depending on tradition and degree of initiation, which, in addition to pure virtue behavior, also include rules of manners to maintain the reputation of the monastic Sangha.

Five silas

The formal acceptance of the five precepts (Pali: pañca-sila ) takes place through the verbal or at least mental repetition of the individual rules. The formula for the plan to observe these rules of practice falls after the inquiry and taking refuge (here from the Theravada tradition in Pali):

  • I adhere to the rule of abstinence from taking life.
  • I take the rule of refraining from stealing (accept what is not given).
  • I follow the practice rule of abstaining from sexual misconduct.
  • I adhere to the practice rule of abstaining from lying (speaking falsehood ).
  • I take on the rule of practice of refraining from accepting intoxicating substances that lead to unscrupulousness.

These simple rules are applicable to every person, regardless of their age, in their field of perception and, of course, depend on the individual's development of consciousness. Even if there are numerous comments and interpretations on this, they remain as simple and demanding as they are.

Eight silas

The eight precepts (Pali: atthangasila ) are observed by trusting lay followers on the weekly Buddhist Uposatha fasting days. On these days the lay community gathers in the monasteries or viharas to seek refuge and a renewal of the precepts. Where these moon phase-dependent observance days are maintained, the lay followers meet the evening before and spend the night with Dhamma talks or meditation as well as the preparations and work in the monasteries to support the monk or nun community. People who dedicate themselves to a meditative life and whose way of life is accordingly, or people who undergo a meditation retreat, take these rules as a constant accompaniment in their everyday life.

They add three more rules to the five silas:

  • I follow the exercise rule of abstaining from eating at forbidden times (after noon between the highest point of the sun and sunrise ).
  • I adhere to the practice rule of refraining from dancing, singing, attending music, going to entertainment, wearing jewelry, using fragrances, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
  • I follow the exercise rule of refraining from lying on high and lush couches.

In the course of a meditation retreat, the practice rule of abstaining from sexual misconduct is expanded or exchanged for a chaste life:

  • I adhere to the practice rule of abstaining from sexual acts.

Ten silas

The ten precepts (Pali: dasasila ) for novices ( Samaneras ) have similar content . They add one more to the eight precepts (the seventh rule is separated into two rules):

  • I accept the practice rule of refraining from gold and currency.

Precepts of the monks and nuns

Distinctions between lay practice and monastic rules

The Buddhist path is a steadily increasing stepped path of training (Anupubbi-Sikkha) and so the increase in the strictness of the rules of conduct is always in agreement with the corresponding way of life, the corresponding livelihood and depending on what the individual person is willing to give up for their practice . While a lay person can still live in harmony in a sexual relationship and will make progress, for monks and nuns it is a complete taboo and the smallest offense is reason enough to be excluded from the monastic community.


  • Buswell, Robert E., ed. (2004). Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Precepts). Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-865718-7 , pp. 673-675.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh : The five pillars of wisdom. Love, mindfulness and insight - the Buddhist way for the western person (= Knaur 87012 Mens sana ). Full paperback edition. Droemer Knaur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-426-87012-6 .
  • Lily de Silva . Radical Therapy - Buddhist Precepts in the Modern World (English) online Bodhi Leaves No. 123 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1991) online
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi Going for Refuge & Taking the Precepts (English), The Wheel Publication No. 282/284 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society , 1981) online

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Five precepts with excerpts from suttas
  2. ^ Formal Requests, Taking five Precepts - Chanting Guide Dhammayut Orden
  3. The Eight Precepts
  4. ^ The Bhikkhus' Rules: A Guide for Laypeople. Retrieved February 11, 2020 .
  5. pdf-file: Methuna Sutta - The Discourse on Unification, The Seven Fetters of Sexuality, translation and explanation by Piya Tan
  6. literally: silver; The Pali word for silver was always used for payment or consideration and even today silver is used in Southeast Asia when speaking of wages
  7. See Ud 5.5 u. MN 70 in Dhamma, A Gradual Path
  8. Pārājika 1; Buddhist Monastic Code I, Chapter 4 by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (English)