The eight precepts

I jave searched the index and can not find any direction in understanding exactly what the eight precepts are.
Are there suttas or other texts to help me?

  • AN 8.41—this is a short version
  • AN 8.42—this is a longer version
  • AN 3.70—this is a very long version

In the Buddha’s days laypeople usually didn’t keep the eight precepts permanently, but only on the uposatha days (full moon, new moon, waxing and waning moon, i.e. one day a week).


Thank you once again Sabbamitta!!
I will read tonight

Hi, Bhante. I was wondering whether you can share with us any suttas and/or vinaya texts that confirm laypeople in the Buddha’s days usually kept eight precepts one day a week?

I am sorry but I recall that according to the Uposathakkhandaka, the number of Uposatha days are three days every half-month (cātuddase pannarase aṭṭhamiyā ca pakkhassa).

Thank you in advance.

I have read all three. Is it the case that the short version is only missing the “poetry”? This seems to me to be the case, all of the pertinent information is in the short version, or am i missing something?
I only eat one meal a day, unless you count a cup of coffee in the morning and i am planning on doing away with it soon. I eat my meal in the evening, is there a reason why it is said that this is “the wrong time”?

I am sorry, but I don’t remember where I have read this. In any case, in modern Sangha calendars like for example the Thai forest Sangha calendar there are always the full moon, new moon, waxing and waning moon days marked, so I concluded (wrongly??) that these are the practice days for the laypeople; while the monastics have their Sangha meetings on the full and new moon days.

Perhaps someone else can help out.

In any case my main point was not so much the exact days, but the fact that the eight precepts were not kept permanently, but only on uposatha days.

Well the “long” version (AN 8.42) also explains in detail the benefits of the practice, and then adds some verses indeed.

As far as I remember the Buddha mentions health reasons on one side, and the other thing is that he didn’t want the mendicants to bother laypeople in the evening. Looking for Suttas, I can’t find what I have in mind at the moment, just one thing perhaps:

Once it so happened that I wandered for alms in the dark of the night. A woman washing a pot saw me by a flash of lightning. Startled, she cried out, ‘Bloody hell! A goblin’s upon me!’

Note that in India, the “dark of the night” starts already at around 6:00 p.m. In Europe where I have grown up it can be much later in summer.

But you are not a mendicant, so you can have your meal at the time that’s most convenient for you.


You have helped me much sabbamitta!!
I think that almost all of the answers i recieved on these posts have boiled down to common sense, but it is much better to be safe rather than sorry. I appreciate your knowledge in all of these matters.

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While I must admit that I’m very much tempted to take your word for it, Bhante (the stipulation that the one meal must be before noon does make things quite inconvenient for the modern householder), can we get some further confirmation of this? Perhaps a few of the theras would care to chime in, or, if possible, we could locate some historical precedent for this? Perhaps it’s unnecessarily clinging to sīlabbata to go about it this way, nevertheless, I prefer to take time and, if anything, to err on the side of caution.

Thank you.

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Well this is of course not exactly the eight precepts. But as I said above, at the Buddha’s time laypeople usually didn’t keep the eight precepts permanently, but only on uposatha days. For the rest of the time they followed five precepts, and the stricter ones did it “with celibacy as the fifth”.

For example:

AN8.21:4.10: Right there I went for refuge to the Buddha, his teaching, and the Saṅgha. And I undertook the five training rules with celibacy as the fifth.

Wherever the Buddha talks about eight precepts for laypeople, it’s always as an uposatha practice. At least I am not aware of a counterexample.

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