Five Trainings with Celibacy as the Fifth

In AN 8.22/MA 38, the Dutiyauggasutta/郁伽長者經, a layman mentions that he “undertook the training rules with celibacy as the fifth” (brahmacariyapañcamāni ca sikkhāpadāni samādiyiṁ/梵行為首,受持五戒). This is new to me. We hear of traditions of laypeople taking five precepts and eight on uposatha days, or possibly even eight as a long-term practice. But “five with celibacy as the fifth”?! And it doesn’t appear anywhere else in the discourses that I could find.

Does anyone have any other textual or anecdotal evidence for any such practice?


Yes, in Sutta Nipata 2.14, the Buddha recommends 5 precepts, with or without total celibacy.


Yes, thank you. And displayed as a viable option for householders right alongside the eight precepts, so there’s no confusion between the two.

Thank you @TheSynergist , but I’m not going to mark this as a solution just yet, because I want to leave the opportunity open for others who may have additional evidence.


To be clear, Snp 2.14 only enjoins 8 precepts on Uposatha days:

Kill not any being, what’s not given do not take,
neither be a liar nor addicted to drink,
and, let go of sex and the non-celibate life,
in the “wrong-time” for food, eat not in the night.

Neither necklaces display nor perfumes employ,
use the ground as a bed or sleep upon a mat:
these are the uposatha eight-factored vows
made known by the Buddha gone to dukkha’s end.

With devotion at heart the uposathas kept,
completely perfected in its eight parts,
on the fourteenth, the fifteenth, and the eighth days,
as well the days special in the moon’s half months.


Precisely. That’s my meaning. It is clear that laypeople have three options: five precepts, either with or without celibacy; and then eight on uposatha days. This seems to say eight precepts are strictly reserved for uposatha days; and, instead, five precepts with celibacy is actually what should be taken up for long-term (life-long?) lay practice.

I always thought that, if a layperson wanted to take up a more vigorous practice on a long-term basis, it would be taking up eight precepts. And I believe this is indeed the general trend among Theravadin populations–at least, that’s been what I’ve witnessed. Have you (or has anyone else who might be following this thread) ever heard of five precepts with celibacy being taken up by the laity anywhere? I’ve not.

Now that I think about it, on the other side, I don’t recall long-term eight precepts being undertaken in the discourses either.


I think this is what it is talking about in the Mahāvacchasutta

“Leaving aside Master Gotama, the monks, and the nuns, is there even a single layman disciple of Master Gotama—white-clothed and celibate—who, with the ending of the five lower fetters, is reborn spontaneously, to be extinguished there, not liable to return from that world?”

“There are not just one hundred such celibate laymen who are my disciples, Vaccha, or two or three or four or five hundred, but many more than that.”

I won’t quote the whole thing, but you can see the different types of disciples there. Those enjoying sensual pleasures are also white-clothed.


Yes, I agree with you, @knotty36. In the nikayas, 5 precepts + celibacy seems to be the celibate standard, rather than all 8 full time. I recently started a post about monastery workers that noted a similar thing. The closet I could find to full time 8-precept laity occur under past Buddhas: MN 81, where the Anagami potter Ghatikara only eats one meal a day, and AN 5.180, where a group of lay people under a past Buddha eat one meal a day and then end up ordaining.

8 precepts is hard. Not eating dinner and not using entertainment would probably cut most people off from a social life. Even 5 precepts + celibacy would be hard for most young people, which might be why one of the greatest anagami lay practitioners of the modern era, Dipa Ma, was already a widow in her mid 40s when she started practicing. In Ud 5.6, Ven. warns the aspiring monk Mahakaccana that “solitary meal, a solitary bed, and celibacy” are hard and that he should prepare for ordination by practicing Uposatha (again, not even full time 8 precepts).


Just out of curiosity, is five precept + celibacy really needed?

If it is a must, it seems contradictory to the story in Dhammapada X - 142 where Minister Santati of King Pasenadi indulge himself in liquor & women and maybe some killing (some translation say war), yet he can attained Arahantship upon hearing The Buddha after the dancer died.

Any comment on this?

In this Sutta it is not stated whether the celibate lay people are practicing 5 or 8 precepts. Or did I miss something it could be concluded from? But I think most people assume the Sutta talks about 8 precepts.

Years ago, I asked a nun—without knowing any of these Suttas; without knowing too much of the Suttas at all—to take 5 precepts with celibacy included, but she refused, saying: “This is not a practice”. According to her, it had to be either 5 without celibacy, or 8. So I took the 5 (I didn’t feel prepared for 8 at that time), and added celibacy privately for me.

If I had been aware of either AN 8.22 or Snp 2.14, I had insisted a bit more …


Hmm. Not 100% sure. Perhaps the commentaries give details. Since the next option is this:

“Leaving aside Master Gotama, the monks, the nuns, the celibate laymen, the laymen enjoying sensual pleasures, and the celibate laywomen, is there even a single laywoman disciple of Master Gotama—white-clothed, enjoying sensual pleasures, following instructions, and responding to advice—who has gone beyond doubt, got rid of indecision, and lives self-assured and independent of others regarding the Teacher’s instruction?”

I tended to assume the minimum. If the Buddha wanted to indicate that they were following 8 he could have. But he just says celebrate. Both types of lay people are wearing white. So that doesn’t indicate 8 precepts.


Wow! I looked, but I didn’t see any thread with a like topic. And so coincidental with the timing too!

Thank you for this. I had seen it before; but meditating on it in the present context brings about a different effect.

The discourses seem to show that it’s a personal choice: 5, 5+, 8, or anything in between. In fact, we don’t even know if the examples @TheSynergist cited (MN 81 and AN 5.180) were even a “full” eight precepts in the way we know them today (which are really nine, anyway: i.e., the ten, with an allowance for touching money). And I think that liberty speaks to what @sabbamitta mentioned about her own situation.

Anyone know that Analayo article on the going forth of Maha Pajapati Gotami where he shows where it might be construed (i.e., nowhere near for sure) that there was was even an in-between level where one lived as a monastic in a home environment? I just think there was more fluidity before the religious body took shape.

If anyone feels comfortable sharing anything anecdotal, please feel free. I’ll just say that, nearing 50, celibacy doesn’t seem so alien anymore. (Of course, I’m celibate on uposatha days, and I’ve done 8 precepts for days, weeks, even a month or two. But I remember a poster on a thread long ago saying once that celibacy with an end in sight is FAAAR different than celibacy without one.) In any case, even when it’s just for a day and a night, my whole being is different.


I’m a little surprised to read this, it seems odd to be “discouraged” from celibacy by a monastic, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding and it was more about the formality of taking the precepts rather than the actual practice of celibacy?

It’s quite helpful to think about it as a natural progression, and to me it seems like the renunciate precepts all support each other…
the desire to maintain a regular social life naturally fades as one’s practice deepens, so there isn’t external pressure to consume entertainment or eat in the evenings… if one is celibate, there’s no need to adorn the body or have the type of bed that would comfortably accommodate another person.

For me, the Khaggavisana Sutta is where I found inspiration and support for practicing 8 precepts all the time, and I guess that’s because it’s somewhat uncharted and often quite solitary territory between living as a more typical layperson and being a monastic… I took a lot of comfort reading this thread and knowing others here are also exploring that territory:


Her main point was that the sort of practice that I wished to undertake didn’t “officially” exist. She didn’t say I shouldn’t practice celibacy, but didn’t want to confirm that I was now undertaking it—as is the case in these little ceremonies when lay people take precepts with monastics. I understand the monastic mainly to be a witness who confirms that the person is from now on, permanently or temporarily, practicing this particular set of precepts.

To me it felt rather disappointing at the time. It felt like I am doing something unorthodox, and I have to do it on my own responsibility, there is no support for it.

And when I recently came to AN 8.22 in my translation project, this was like a real revelation to me!


Ah, that makes sense, thank you Anagarika @sabbamitta. :pray:

That feeling of doing something unorthodox without formal validation and support is so understandable to me, it’s challenging feeling like one’s practice is naturally evolving in a way that seems skillful and appropriate but not finding a clear precedent for it. Thank you for sharing and for mentioning AN 8.22, I had not read it before and it’s very supportive! :pray:


Thinking about it now, perhaps the reason for the refusal was simply that there is no traditional chanting text available for such a case …


When one just doesn’t neatly fit into a ‘category’, I’ve always gone back to the basics with regards to practice. It is like the Elephants footprint, a cascading system, so I use the underpinning principles as a guide. (just a few as an example)
4 Noble Truths - exist universally (not even restricted to a particular Buddha)
4 Right efforts - should be the basis for all practice - precepts can be subsumed into them
Precepts - are there because of their effect > causality > especially the capacity to practice last 2 of 8fP
Opanayika - sequential progression - leading onward
Ehipassiko - see and reflect on cause and effect of one’s own practice, if it leads to good states then do it. eg if cellibacy results in better practice THAT is the reason to abstain from intimate relationships - no other reason really matters.

I think the bottom line is that the Buddha taught us a system for training that leads to escape from delusion/ignorance and hence suffering (in the here and now as well as an escape from Samsara/rebirth).

This system, based on causality, exists in it’s own right for anyone to take and apply as fully and completely as each person chooses.

The Rhinoceros sutta is one that has always been close to my heart and provided reassurance. When there is no opportunity to practice with a Noble Sangha, then that is the way to go.

And when all is said and done - it is the Practice that is important - no matter the conditions or conventions or anything else…

Extract from MN22 The simile with the snake -Alagaddupamasutta
Mendicants, I will teach you how the Dhamma is similar to a raft: it’s for crossing over, not for holding on. Listen and pay close attention, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” they replied. The Buddha said this:

“Suppose there was a person traveling along the road. They’d see a large deluge, whose near shore was dubious and perilous, while the far shore was a sanctuary free of peril. But there was no ferryboat or bridge for crossing over. They’d think, ‘Why don’t I gather grass, sticks, branches, and leaves and make a raft? Riding on the raft, and paddling with my hands and feet, I can safely reach the far shore.’ And so they’d do exactly that. And when they’d crossed over to the far shore, they’d think, ‘This raft has been very helpful to me. Riding on the raft, and paddling with my hands and feet, I have safely crossed over to the far shore. Why don’t I hoist it on my head or pick it up on my shoulder and go wherever I want?’

What do you think, mendicants? Would that person be doing what should be done with that raft?”

“No, sir.”

“And what, mendicants, should that person do with the raft? When they’d crossed over they should think, ‘This raft has been very helpful to me. … Why don’t I beach it on dry land or set it adrift on the water and go wherever I want?’ That’s what that person should do with the raft.

In the same way, I have taught how the teaching is similar to a raft: it’s for crossing over, not for holding on. By understanding the simile of the raft, you will even give up the teachings, let alone what is against the teachings.

Added: it is the conventions and conditions that are the bridge or ferryboat in the sutta. If you can’t get the red boat with twin engines and SatNav, take whatever boat… if there is no boat make one out of what comes to hand, sticks and leaves… the objective is to use it skillfully to get to the other side. Don’t give up just because your preferred model of boat isn’t docked at the riverside waiting to take you over. The Buddha, via the suttas, gives the instructions on how to construct the raft, all one has to do is follow them, and put the conditions in place. IMO the sutta quoted above shows this so beautifully.


Ha! Are you testing us Bhante… :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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I would like to participate in answering and giving directions. The only thing that piques my interest is the term you use “anecdotal evidence”. What do you mean by anecdote here?

the perfection of the five precepts is the 4th training. The 4th training is the perfection of the precepts, so that his morality is praised by the wise.