Uposatha Vows in the Suttas and Deepening Lay Practice

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I have been reading up on lay followers in the EBTs and I naturally found a strong emphasis on keeping the 5 precepts and faith/confidence in the Triple Gem and encouragement in meditation. I’ve found only two examples so far of practice deeper than this foundation. There are two examples of deepening practice I’ve found so far:

  • Gavesī (AN 5.180) who had confidence in Buddha Kassapa, and then undertook the 5 Precepts, then the celibacy, and then not eating after noon, and then ordaining as a monk.

  • Ghaṭīkāra (MN 81) In Buddha Kassapa’s mentions that he undertook the Triple Gem, and the 5 Precepts. It goes on repeat those factors and add that Ghaṭīkāra understood the 4 Noble Truths, ate one time a day, and was celibate. It then adds that he doesn’t take money, gold, or gems, and then adds that he doesn’t dig into the earth.

The growth makes sense to me in that you gain confidence in the Triple Gem, you decide to deepen your practice with the 5 Precepts, but then the next factor for lay people is only two additional qualities eating at the right time and celibacy. I don’t know of any other suttas that show a deepening training beyond the 5 Precepts unless you get to the practice of Uposatha vows during sabbath days like in the Dhammika Sutta where the 8 Precepts are: celibacy, eating at the right time, not wearing perfume, and sleeping on a mat.

The Dhammika Sutta is definitely special to the Uposatha Days, and the Gavesī and Ghaṭīkāra Suttas appear to show that these two followers didn’t habitually sleep on a mat or not wear perfume. Is it assumed in the sutta that they slept on a mat and avoided perfume? Do the 8 Precepts show up in other places besides the Uposatha Vagga and Dhammika Sutta where it only encourages their use during the Uposatha days?


What do you mean? Every single person who went forth was a lay person! How much deeper do you want?! :wink:

Okay, serious face… :grin:

If you mean just on observance days, AN3.70 makes it pretty explicit. One of the things I really enjoy about this sutta is that it points to not only doing particular practices, but also reflecting on them—as I see it, reflecting well on simple undertakings can offer far greater depth than adopting a variety of activities, austerities and so on without reflection.

Speaking to the point about extending the eight precepts beyond the observance days, one thing I find particularly neat about the contemplation given in AN3.70 is that although it’s clearly talking about practices being performed on uposatha days, it doesn’t take that much mental labour for one engaged in such reflection to broaden things out.

Having the idea that the discussion being opened here is perhaps more oriented to identifying distinct undertakings, this may be a little on the tangential side, but I figure I may as well give quick mention to AN6.16. It’s an utterly charming sutta about an “ordinary” housewife who is a stream-enterer. Amongst other things, I find it so lovely because of its simplicity.


This seems like the natural answer to how it’s extended beyond Uposatha days. Thank you!

I love these kinds of suttas. I find them inspiring in their simplicity too.