Virtue through aspiration or acceptance?

I was wondering if the sutras have recommendations on the most efficient way to develop Sila. When I accept myself and my behavior I naturally have contentment, but it would seem like that’s not the proper way to overcome small imperfections such as sensory pleasures including intoxicants, meat, entertainments, etc. it’s been interesting experimenting with willpower and acceptance. I know Ajahn Brahm mentions wisdom power, but isn’t acceptance the same thing?


The Ādhipateyyasutta offers three ways, though without singling out any one of the three as being superior to the other two. Which of the three will prove the most efficient is, I suspect, something that will vary from one person to another.


Wow. Thanks for posting this. I have misunderstood DN33.

Three ways of putting something in charge:
putting oneself, the world, or the teaching in charge

#3 does seem more productive, however, since I’ve already tried #1 and #2.


Perhaps another way to develop Sila is to contemplate on Asvada (gratification), Adinava (danger) and Nissarana (Nibbana) of any activity.
That is to see the drawbacks of our action and how to escape them.

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im not sure of those words you mention. are they related to hiri and ottapa?

it is interesting to see that we cannot hide from ourselves and others’ views of us. also to reestablish our faith in the deathless. that’s what I get from the sutta. maybe i’ll have to put it on my wall to contantly reflect on these truths. thx

Yes hiri and ottappa is seen those Adinava.
I am not sure which Sutta this come from.

supposedly for the first twenty years of Buddha’s dispensation there were no vinaya rules. How then did those wise people conduct them selves?
The following might give an idea.

Following what system
What vow, what conduct,
May I do what I need to do for myself,
Without harming anyone else?

The faculties of human beings
Can lead to both welfare and harm.
Unguarded they lead to harm;
Guarded they lead to welfare.

By protecting the faculties,
Taking care of the faculties,
I can do what I need to do for myself
Without harming anyone else.

If your eye wanders
Among sights without check,
Not seeing the danger,
You’re not freed from suffering.

If your ear wanders
Among sounds without check,
Not seeing the danger,
You’re not freed from suffering.

If, not seeing the escape,
You indulge in smell,
You’re not freed from suffering,
Being infatuated by smells.

Recollecting the sour,
And the sweet and the bitter,
Captivated by craving for taste,
You don’t understand the heart.

Recollecting lovely
And pleasurable touches,
Full of desire, you experience
Many kinds of suffering because of lust.

Unable to protect
The mind from such mental phenomena,
Suffering follows them,
Because of all five.


Still another way.

What do you think, Rāhula? What is the purpose of a mirror?”

“It’s for reflection, sir.”

“In the same way, deeds of body, speech, and mind should be done only after repeated reflection.

When you want to act with the body, you should reflect on that same deed: ‘Does this act with the body that I want to do lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both? Is it unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result?’ If, while reflecting in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I want to do leads to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result.



For training with the rules a common phrase used in the suttas.

Train yourselves, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults.

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Virtue can be established by thinking about the drawbacks of not being virtuous. Since it is possible to keep the 5 precepts without suppressing oneself (ariyakanthasila) the drawbacks must be greater than the rewards of breaking precepts. Contemplating the drawbacks after, while and before one is about to break precepts, its possible to change bad habits.

In society people remain virtuous even when not practicing the path, and when their cravings and aversions are telling them to do otherwise, -when the individual has fear of the law, social disapproval, one’s conscience, ethical codes of conduct at work, etc. This is more hirit-otappa IMO.

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Practically speaking, what I’ve found particularly useful is the notion of ‘restraint’ ( samvara ) as a key to sīla, as in “guarding” the faculties in lankaputra’s citation.

This first came to my attention from reading the 1st Chapter of Mahasi Sayadaw’s “Vipassana Treatise” (aka “Manual of Insight”), where he goes into developing morality in great detail, for both monastics and lay people. (Yes, he makes extensive use of commentaries, and the Visuddhimagga , but his understanding is also deeply rooted in the sutta -s.)

This notion was then reinforced by a short talk from Thanissaro Bhikkhu, where he suggests that the whole of the path can be thought of in terms of restraint – restraining what comes in (guarding the sense doors), and restraining what goes out (bodily, verbal, mental actions).

Practical in the sense that it’s relatively simple to practice systematically pausing, taking a moment before re-actively entertaining input or engaging in output to exercise heed-fullness – possibly then also reflecting on pluses/minuses, as others have noted here above.

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Essential as without a break there would not be an option to think rationally about the act.

Can this habit of ‘restraint’ become repression and then be externalised so monastics create an inflexible approach to life in general?

Yes. And it can also not. It strikes me that either is a possibility IMO


What is hirit-otappa? Google is not helping

The Buddha advocated not mortifying. Because of the repression issue I have added “not moritfying” to SCV search examples. Thank you for bringing this up.

Fear and dread of consequences for unrestrained behavior

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Not sure :thinking: but try hiri otappa. :woman_facepalming:

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Thank you both. I have added “conscience and prudence” as a suggested SCV query. The Hirīottappasutta appears in the results.