How to explain importance of sila?

How can i explain the importance of sila to someone in a logical way without alluding to faith in the Buddha’s teaching?


With the golden rule:

All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.


Maybe consider the consequences of acting unskillfully and causing harm, particularly the effect on one’s own state of mind?


Without even visiting karma, one might understand that the weight and character of choices somehow define a life. One might say, you are what you do; what are you making with your life?

Additionally, many people suffer from loneliness. One might say, you have to live with yourself, for your entire life; what sort of person are you spending the rest of your life with?

Just some ideas.


Practice Sila yourself.


Thank you for the replies. :anjal:

I think i found what i was looking for. Thanks to @tonysharp

Here is how i would explain it.

Its a matter of threat and error management or more strongly
disaster prevention.
The attitude should be of a general who is in charge of a countries defence.

  1. The principal; actions have consequences can be seen to be true, at least in this life. ‘Steal’, you will go to jail. ‘Lie’, people will lose there trust in you and so on. Now, sila is a defence shield against that. some people say its 'ok’to tell a small lie or have little drink etc. This is like leaving a small gap in the defence shield. It is possible that a clever enemy might find a way to exploit that gap. Also murphy’s law come to mind.

  2. Unbroken sila leads to self satisfaction. Self satisfaction to self confidence.

  3. If it is the case actions bear consequences in future lives. sila is a insurance policy against that.

  4. Death can be faced without fear.


It is important that we understand the difference between Sila and the Silabbathapramasa.


Forcing oneself to keep sila ‘just because someone said so’ is very close to ‘adherence to rites and rituals- ‘silabbataparamasa’.


Forcing one self to keep sila is like, trying to keep a beach ball under water.

Understanding why? one should keep sila is like, willingly taking a bitter medicine for a sickness.

Have no other choice but to take good medicine for health and wellbeing.

cant understand your statement. can you elaborate?

It’s possible to feel good about having health insurance, or driving safely according to the road rules, or education. There’s an element of sacrifice that is initially required but the positive outcome is far greater and lasts much longer than the initial investment in time and energy. Keeping Sila effortlessly, for life is like this. It’s done through understanding rather than forcing oneself.


I guess, as you keep taking the medicine one develops a immunity for the sickness.

Interestingly, sila also means “nature”. As you keep practicing it becomes your nature. bitter medicine is no longer required.

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I prefer a computer programming simile - it’s about focusing on the long term benefit of keeping the Sila vs the short term benefit from breaking it. Making that shift is important. One must see the drawbacks including emotional fallout, effects on all parties, and effects on your samsaric journey including karmic ‘come-back’- the latter, only if you believe in it. Then take all this ‘learning’ and use it each time you are about to ‘break’ a precept to reinforce that learning so it becomes part of your behaviour, naturally.

When someone puts it into place like this, it begins to happen effortlessly so much so that one begins to notice that they didn’t break a precept, when they would have done so in the past. It’s like a software bug has been made right- the computer program runs smooth after this. This, and not using ‘forced sankhara’ to ‘keep’ Sila is ‘aarya khantha sila’, AFAIK and is conducive to samadhi. Having said that even forced sila, sila based on blind faith is better than doing wrong deeds in action and speech (text).

With metta


Taking medicine is similar to Silabbataparamasa.
Stay healthy so you do not require medicine is similare to eliminating Silabbataparamasa.

While sila is beneficial and healing, i don’t see it as bitter medicine! It is sweet nourishment which improves life.

Maybe… an acquired taste? :wink:

Sila tho is pleasant imo, if one eliminates the poisons which make existence itself unpleasant.


I disagree with saying that to try to convince a person because it ignores a fact that bad things happen to good people. To say that “you are what you do” is too simplistic. It’s almost Calvinistic: I am rich because I worked hard; you are poor because you are lazy, which is too naive a view. We live in an intertwined world where the actions of others can adversely impact us and define what we are despite our best efforts to do good.

To the original poster, it can be hard to justify sila without pontificating. Such is a flaw with any religion/philosophy. So you better have some solid, logical, air-tight, cogent reasons to explain why you believe in what you believe in, and more importantly, why you do what you do. Do you do only because you were told to do so? That’s not convincing. Do you do only because it was written in some archaic scriptures? Nope, not convincing. Do you do certain things because some dead man purportedly said so? Even tenuous. You get my point.


Yes sir , i get your drift.

Now, i am my own man. I dont like to sign off my inteligence to any body. But Buddha himself said " Be an island unto your self". This single statement is enough for me to lend ear.

What about you , Do you dare to take a side or are you on the fence?

lol no, it does not ignore it; it does not explicitly mention that, but i will offer you some of my thoughts on that. Yes, bad things fall on all (as do good things), and “deserving” imo is a almost useless concept. :slight_smile: i think rebirth and kamma may explain some of it, but also the environment in which our sentience occurs. That enironment has entropy, mortality, a neutral non anthropomorphic Randomness, and our conditionings to have unreasonable expectations; these (as examples) all can have effects which are not pleasant.

“Fairness” imo does not exist. A very difficult truth for me to accept in this life.

But when i said, “One might say, you are what you do; what are you making with your life?” it was a positive question , not a judgement; your (or my or anyone’s) wealth or lack of it is much less interesting or relevant imo than what choices are you making, what intentions are you practicing, what sort of person are you creating (and is that a conscious process)? Freedom is right there, and imo sila is almost an ultimate form of self expression…

The actions of others can influence us, yes; but imo these can never define what we are; in whatever circumstance, the important choices remain available; to me, the important choices are in the mind.

This, i disagree with. I don’t think one needs a black belt in philosophy or a legalistic mind to make moral decisions; it doesn’t seem to be the way lives work! (Well, it does not seem to be how this life, or the lives observed during this life, work.)

:slight_smile: May you, and i, and all beings be happy, peaceful, and free. May everyone have all the requisites for such living; but maybe those requisites are ultimately found in the mind, rather than in anything material…

Just some thoughts, friend. :slight_smile:

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One may always point to the reasoning or rationale the Buddha offered us to assess ourserlves what is worth or not cultivating, as found in AN10.94, MN114, AN3.78, AN9.6, MN70, MN88:

When undertaking certain observances, unskillful qualities grow while skillful qualities decline. I say that you shouldn’t undertake those observances. When undertaking certain observances, unskillful qualities decline while skillful qualities grow. I say that you should undertake those observances.
When trying certain efforts, unskillful qualities grow while skillful qualities decline. I say that you shouldn’t try those efforts. When trying certain efforts, unskillful qualities decline while skillful qualities grow. I say that you should try those efforts.
When giving up certain things, unskillful qualities grow while skillful qualities decline. I say that you shouldn’t give up those things. When giving up certain things, unskillful qualities decline while skillful qualities grow. I say that you should give up those things.