Content of adinnādāna

Saleyyaka sutta MN 41

Adinnādānaṃ pahāya adinnādānā paṭivirato hoti. Yaṃ taṃ parassa para­vit­tūpaka­ra­ṇaṃ, gāmagataṃ vā araññagataṃ vā, taṃ nādinnaṃ they­ya­saṅ­khā­taṃ ādātā hoti.

Abandoning the taking of what is not given, he abstains from taking what is not given; he does not take by way of theft the wealth and property of others in the village or in the forest.

if the precept of non-stealing literal meaning is refraining from taking what is not given, should it be understood not only as non-stealing, i.e. non-taking objects known to have owners, but just as literally as non-taking anything which isn’t willfully given to oneself regardless of the object’s ownership by anybody?
such understanding would extend the precept applicability to objects being found lying around unclaimed

the mention of wilderness, where it’s hardly or not always possible to establish ownership of an object, in the description of adinnādāna in the sutta quotation kind of supports this understanding of its purview


I’m not sure how the treatment of arañña supports this idea. It is explicit in the Vinaya that anything that is ownerless does not constitute a basis for adinnādāna.

Even for monastics, for whom the penalties for this rule are very severe, it is fine to simply pick things up and use them if they are discarded as rubbish, or ownerless in the forest. This is the basis of one of the most cherished of monastic traditions, the use of paṁsakula cloth, which is used to cover corpses.

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with overtly discarded objects it’s clear, ownership of anything one finds in a garbage dump is with high degree of certainty waived

wilderness is not an area where people normally would keep their property due to lack of safety, and so it’s easier to deem objects found there as ownerless and collect them, when in fact they can be forgotten, carelessly left unguarded or lost, therefore i think that specific mention of wilderness is there to underscore that even such objects are not to be collected unless explicitly offered

Except there are lots of valuables in a wilderness: wood for example, which would by default be ownerless in the Buddha’s day.

It’s still a live problem: who really owns natural resources? Norway decided that they belong to the people, and now they have a sovereign wealth fund worth nearly a trillion dollars. Australia decided that they belong to the magnates, and now Queensland, one of the largest coal exporters in the world, expects to add as much to the public purse from car licences as from coal exports.


you take the issue to a global level, i was mainly concerned with the mundane application of the precept, since after all not everyday we as individuals claim ownership of natural resources and pieces of land, waters or airspace, basically it’s not OUR kammical problem

did the Buddha discuss the criteria for establishment of ownership? maybe in Vinaya
or didn’t he show interest in mundane matters at this level of abstraction?

a banknote found in a street is 100% not discarded, only that its last possessor cannot be known, so i think pocketing it is adinnadana

Dear Bhante and LXNDR,

Just want to share this as it may have a bearing on this discussion. I’ve lost and found money many times. The last time I found money was a $10 bill in the parking lot. I find it as good fortune for me. But that is nature of things here. Sometimes we gain, sometimes we lose.

And yes, I spent that money on myself without guilt. Not on useless things but on food. Now one time, as I was playing with my son in the neighborhood playground we saw a homeless man. I had a $20 dollar bill with me. I was going to use that to buy food but then I felt that it served that person better. So I took my son, handed him the bill and ushered him to give it to the man. A good lesson for me and son. I often hand out money whenever I can to homeless begging for money at traffic intersections.

Before I became a Buddhist, losing money by accident was upsetting :grin: . But now, I realize that it’s bound to be lost anyway because 1) I use it for something I need or 2) I lose it by accident. It’s something I can’t hold on to forever. Even if I lose money on the ground, it won’t go to waste as it will benefit someone else. Repeatedly, the monastics urge us to practice mudita, so why not rejoice at the loss of money and look at it the other way around? It’s dana :smiley: Oh, and a person looses say their credit cards, and someone uses it before the owner realize its loss, they are covered by their banks so it’s still a win for the owner :grinning:

But I do acknowledge though that losing money may be hard on someone really in dire situations. Sincerely, may all beings not be deprived of the good fortunes they have attained.

with añjali and mettā,