Golden Rules of Buddhism
COMPILED BY H. S. OLCOTT
ADYAR PAMPHLETS - Nº 85
(First printed as a pamphlet in 1887; Second edition, 1891;Third edition, 1902)
THEOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING HOUSE
Adyar, Madras, India
November 27, 1887
I HAVE read Colonel Olcott's compilation of moral precepts from the
Buddhist Scriptures, and recommend the same as a book of instruction
for Buddhist youth.
H. Sumangala, High Priest
The too prevalent ignorance among even adult Sinhalese Buddhists of
the ethical code of their religion leads me to issue this little
compilation. Similar moral precepts exist by hundreds in the
Buddhist Scriptures; where, also, all the present quotations will be
found in the places indicated. They should be committed to memory
and practised by parents and taught to their children, especially
when the latter are being educated under anti-Buddhistic
Orientalists and other impartial persons admit that no
religion in the world contains a more sublime system of moral rules
than Buddhism, but if we wish this to become known to Buddhist
children, we adult Buddhists must take the task upon ourselves. Many
a Buddhist boy has been "converted"; to Christianity, or
otherwise brought to despise his ancestral religion, from ignorance
of its merits.
H. S. O.
17th November, 1887.
VINAYA TEXTS ...........................
Davids and Oldenberg
BUDDHIST LITERATURE IN CHINA ...... Beal
CATENA OP BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES ... Beal
BUDDHAGHOSHA'S PARABLES ..........
BUDDHIST BIRTH STORIES ..............
Fausboll and Davids
LEGEND OF GAUDAMA ..................
CHINESE BUDDHISM .....................
KALPA SŪTRA AND NAVA TATTVA .....
BUDDHA AND EARLY BUDDHISM .......
SUTTA NIPĀTA ...........................
Sir Coomara Swamy
NĀGĀNANDA ............................. Boyd
KUSA JĀTAKAS .......................... Steele
ROMANTIC HISTORY OF BUDDHA ......
TWELVE JAPANESE BUDDHIST SECTS . B. Nanjio
My BUDDHIST CATECHISM was compiled from the same excellent
Let him [the householder] not destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any
life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so.(1) Let him
refrain from even hurting any creature,(2) both those that are strong,
and those that tremble in the world.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 19)
(1) One who bays butcher's meat or
poultry violates this gāthā. For by paying the butcher for meat he
has killed, the buyer shares his sin by "sanctioning"
(2) An inaccurate expression, adopted from Christian writers. A "creature"
is something created(by God), but Buddhists regard all living
organisms as evolved by due process of natural law.
A disciple then knowing [the Law] should refrain from stealing
anything at any place; should not cause another to steal anything,
should not consent to the acts of those who steal anything, should
avoid every kind of theft.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 20)
A wise man should avoid unchastity as if it were a burning pit of
live coals. One who is not able to live in a state of celibacy
should not commit adultery.(3)
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 21)
(3) The history of all monastic establishments shows that there are
persons temperamentally unfit for celibate life, and whose lapses
bring great scandal upon their orders. The Saugha has not escaped this misery, offenders having been noted even
in our Lord's own time. Yet the general blamelessness of Buddhist
monks has been acknowledged even by clerical opponents. A true
regard to the honour of the Sangha should prompt senior priests to
insist upon the relinquishment of the robe by such as are not
sexually self-masterful. "It is better to marry than burn", says St.
Four things does a reckless man obtain who covets his neighbour's
wife ―a bad reputation; an uncomfortable bed; thirdly, punishment;
lastly, future torment.
(Dhammapada, v. 309)
Of all the lusts and desires, there is none so powerful as sexual
inclination. This is so strong that there is no other worth speaking
of beyond it. ... Lust and desire, in respect of a man, are like a
person who takes a lighted torch and runs with it against the wind.
(Sutra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 198)
When one is come to a royal assembly [i.e., any official inquiry],
he should not tell lies to anyone, or cause any to tell lies, or
consent to the acts of those who tell lies; he should avoid every
kind of untruth.
(Dhammika Sutta, c. 22)
The householder who delights in the Law should not indulge in
intoxicating drinks [or stupefying drugs], should not cause others
to drink, should not sanction the acts of those who drink(4), knowing that it
results in insanity.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 23)
(4) Then no Buddhist can without grievous sin become an arrack
renter, or seller, or drinker.
He who destroys life, who speaks untruth, who takes in this world
what is not given him, who takes another man's wife, and the man who
gives himself up to drinking intoxicating liquors; he, even in this
world, digs up his own root.
(Dhammapada, v. 246, 247)
The ignorant commit sins in consequence of drunkenness, and also
make others drink. You should avoid this: it is the cause of
demerit, insanity and ignorance ―though it be pleasing to the
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 24)
The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind by passion; therefore a
gift bestowed on the passionless brings great reward.
(Dhammapada, v. 356)
The virtuous man is happy in this world, and he is happy in the
next; he is happy in both. He is happy when he thinks of the good he
has done; he is still more happy when going in the good path.
(Dhammapada, v. 18)
What ought to be done is neglected, what ought not to be done is
done; the sins of unruly, thought less people are always increasing.
(Dhammapada, v. 292)
Let each man make himself as he teaches
others to be; he who is well subdued may subdue [others]; one s own
self is difficult to subdue.
(Dhammapada, v. 159)
Whoever, being asked for what is good, teaches what is not good,
[and] advises [another], concealing something from him, know him to
be a Vasala.(5)
(Vasala Sutta, v, 11)
(5) A slave.
Hatred is never quenched by hatred; hatred ceases by [showing] love;
this is an old rule.
(Dhammapada, v. 5)
Let a man overcome anger by love, evil by good, the greedy by
liberality, the liar by truth.
(Dhammapada, v. 223)
Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are spoken to will answer
thee in the same way.
(Dhammapada, v. 133)
Cut down the whole forest of lust, not the tree. When thou hast cut
down every tree and every shrub, then thou wilt be free.
(Dhammapada, v. 283)
Not nakedness, not platted hair, not dirt, not fasting, nor lying
on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting motionless, can
purify a mortal who has not overcome desires.
(Dhammapada, v. 141)
If a man becomes fat and a great eater, if he is sleepy
and rolls himself about, that fool, like a hog fed on slops, is born
again and again.
(Dhammapada, v. 325)
The avaricious go not to the world of the gods [devas], for the fool
commends not charity.
(Udānararya, x, v. 2)
He who holds back rising anger like a rolling chariot, him I call a
real driver; other people are but holders of the reins.
(Dhammapada, v. 222)
A wicked man who reproaches a virtuous one, is like one who looks up
and spits at the sky; the spittle soils not the sky, but comes back
and defiles his own person. So again, he is like one who flings dirt
at another when wind is contrary; the dirt does but return on him
who threw it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt, the misery that the
inflict comes back on himself.
(Sutra of the 42 Sections, Beal s Catena, p. 193)
The fool who is angered and who thinks to triumph by using abusive
language, is always vanquished by him whose words are patient.
(Udanavarga, xx, v. 14)
The fault of others is easily perceived, but that of oneself is
difficult to perceive; the faults of others one lays open as much as
possible, but one s own fault one hides, as a cheat hides the bad
die from the gambler.
If a man looks after the faults of others, and
is al ways inclined to detract, his own weakness will grow.
(Dhammapada, v. 252, 253)
What is called "Name" or "Tribe," in the world,
arises from usage only. It is adopted here and there by common
It comes from long and uninterrupted usage, and from the
false belief of the ignorant.
(Vāsettha Sutta, v. 55, 56)
Whatever man is proud of his caste, is proud of his wealth, is proud
of his family [and] despises his relations, that [man] is a cause of
(Parabhava Sutta, v. 14)
Anger, drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry, deception, envy,
self-praise, disparaging others, high-mindedness [conceit?], evil
communications, these constitute uncleanness; not verily the eating
Neither abstinence from fish or flesh, nor going naked,
nor the shaving of the head, nor matted hair, nor dirt, etc., etc.,
etc., will cleanse a man not free from delusions.(6)
(Āmagandka Sutta, v.. 7, 11)
The meaning of the Teacher is here so obvious that I cannot
understand how this Sutta could have ever been cited as authority
for buying and eating butcher s meat. Nothing herein lessens the
force of the positive instruction in the Dhammika Sutta (v.
to abstain both from destroying, causing to be destroyed, or
sanctioning the acts of those who destroy the life of any being. I
know a large and increasing number of Sinhalese indulge in meat-eating, and quiet their consciences by quoting the above
gāthās: and I have listened with amusement to the sophistical
argument that the sin of the killing is with the butcher and not
with his sanctioning and abetting customer. Still, I must hold to my
opinion until the problematical future time when black shall be
He who walks in the company of fools, suffers a long way; company
with fools, as with an enemy, is always painful; company with the
wise is pleasure like meeting with kinsfolk.
(Dhammapada, v. 207)
Therefore one ought to follow the wise, the intelligent, the
learned, the much-enduring, the dutiful, one ought to follow a good
and wise man as the moon follows the path of the stars.
(Dhammapada, v. 208)
Good people shine from afar like the snowy mountains [the
Himalayas]; bad people are not seen, like arrows shot at night.
(Dhammapada, v. 304)
If a traveller does not meet with one who is his better, or equal,
let him firmly keep his solitary journey; there is no companionship
with a fool.
(Dhammapada, v. 61)
If any intelligent person be associated for even one moment with a
wise man, he will soon perceive the fact.
(Dhammapada, v. 65)
Teachers and Children
1. Restrain their children from vice.
2. Train them in virtue.
3. Have them taught arts and sciences.
4. Provide them with suitable wives or husbands.
5. Give them an inheritance. The child should say :
1. I will support them who supported me.
2. I will perform family duties incumbent upon them.
3. I will guard their property.
4. 1 will make myself worthy to be their heir.
5. When they are gone I will honour their memory.
Happy in this world is he who honours his father, so likewise he who
honours his mother is happy.
(Udānararya, xxx, v. 23)
The succouring of mother and father, the cherish ing of child and
wife, and the following of a lawful calling, this is the greatest
(Mahāmangala Sutta, v. 5)
Whoever, being able [to do so], does not support his. feeble and
aged mother or father, know him as a Vasala.(7)
Whoever strikes, or
abuses by words, his mother, father, brother, sister, or
mother-in-law, know him as a Vasala.
(Vasala Sutta, v. 9, 10)
(7) A slave.
Extensive knowledge and science, well regulated discipline and well
spoken speech, this is the greatest blessing.
(Mahāmangala Sutta , v. 4)
The world exists by cause; all things exist by cause; all
beings are bound by cause, [even] as the rolling cart-wheel by the
pin of an axle-tree.
(Vāsettha Sutta, v. 61)
From whomsoever a man learns the Law, he should worship him, even as
the gods worship Indra. The learned man, being thus honoured, his
mind pleased with [his disciple], makes the Law more manifest.
(Nāvā Sutta, v. 1)
There exists no spot on the earth, or in the sky, or in the sea,
neither is there any in the mountain-clefts, where an [evil] deed
does not bring trouble [to the doer].(8)
(Udānavarga, ix, v. 5)
(8) A man can never escape punishment for evil Karma,
nor can any one deprive him of the reward of his good Karma. A
Buddhist friend asks me to here recall the case of the robber
Angulimāla, who, becoming converted by Lord Buddha, attained the
state of Arhat. But this does not alter the principle here stated.
Angulimāla, s Karma was to be, first a robber, and then a saint.
The evil-doer suffers in this world, and he suffers in the next; he
suffers in both. He suffers when he thinks of the evil he has done;
he suffers more when going on the evil path.
(Dhammapada, v. 17)
Surely an evil deed does not turn on a sudden like milk [curdling];
it is like fire smouldering in the ashes, which burns the fool. . .
. An evil deed kills
not instantly, as does a sword, but it follows the evil doer [even]
into the next world.
(Udānavarga, ix, v. 16, 17)
All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is
founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man
speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a
shadow that never leaves him.
(Dhammapada, v. 2}
The Rahat(9) is able to fly through the air, change his appearance,
fix the years of his life, shake heaven and earth.
(Sūtra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 191)
(9) Adept, or Mahātmā.
Matanga, the Doctor of the Law, having before this arrived at the
condition of a Rahat, forthwith, by his miraculous power, ascended
up into space and there exhibited himself, undergoing various
spiritual changes, e.g., flying, walking, sitting, sleeping and so
on. Hereupon was a rain of precious flowers, so that the feelings of
the beholders were deeply moved, etc.
(Ming Ti pen niu chouen. Beal's trans.)
Lord Buddha's aunt, Mahāprajāpati, and five other holy women, who
lived according to the rules, "walked on the water as on dry
land; others, leaving the ground, walked in the air, or sat, or lay
down, or stood still all in the same element.
Fire and water were seen flowing from the right side of some, and
from the left side of others. In others it was seen issuing from
(Edkins' Chinese Buddhism, p. 49)
(10) Bishop Bigandet, in his Legend of Gaudama, and Rev. S. Beal, in his
Catena of Buddhist
Scriptures, give many data with respect to the powers (iddhi)
attained by Rahats (adepts, or "Mahātmās").
At a great assembly of the gods, Buddha, thinking that it would be
better if his discourse was delivered to them in the form of a
dialogue, and finding that the gods were backward to join in the
dialogue, created a duplicate of himself,(11) who, standing before him,
put the questions which Gotaraa has answered in the
Sammāparibbājanīya Sutta. (See translation by Sir Coomara Swamy).
(11) Or, as
expressed in modern scientific language, "projected his own
double, or astral body ". An aged priest in the Southern
Province of Ceylon kindly gave me a small silver toy representing
this phenomenon. It is called Samparana. (For an account of the
wonders, see Bigandet's Legend of Gaudama, Vol. I.)
There are four kinds of priests; not a fifth, O Chunda! Whoever has
crossed all his doubts, is freed from the dart (of sorrow), attached
to Nibbāna, divested of greediness, the guide of all the world and
the gods, such an one the Buddhas call Maggajina [the victorious
wayfarer] . Whoever, knowing here the best as the best, preaches and
discourses extensively on it; him [the
Buddhas] declare to be the doubt-cutting sage, who is freed from
desire, the second of priests, Maggadesī [who teaches the way].
Whoever lives in the paths which are taught [as] the Paths of the
Law, well trained, possessed of a good memory, him they call the
third priest, Maggajīvī [who follows the blameless paths].
putting on the garb of well conducted men,(12) [yet rushes] forward [to
acquire different objects], and brings disgrace on families, [and
being] forward, hypocritical, ill-trained, babbling, walks in the
garden of good men, is a Maggadūsī [who defiles the way].
(12) The robes of the Buddhist monk.
Whoever, not being a sanctified person, pretends to be a saint, he
indeed is the lowest Vasala,(13) the thief in all worlds, including
that of Brahma.
(Vasala Sutta, v. 20)
(13) A slave.
A priest fond of quarrelling ―hemmed in by the attributes of
ignorance, understands not the advice [given by others], nor the Law
preached by Buddha;
Led away by ignorance, he knows not that quarrel
ling is injurious to those whose hearts are practised in religion,
and that it is sinful, [and] a road to hell.
Such a priest, going to
hell, flits [thence] from womb to womb,(14) from darkness to darkness,
[and] certainly meets with affliction.
(Dhammachariya Sutta, v. 3, 4, 5)
(14) In constant rebirths.
Of old there were only three diseases [viz.], desire, want of food,
decay. Owing to the killing of cattle there sprang ninety-eight
diseases. This old sin of injuring [living beings] has come down [to
this day]. Innocent cows are killed. Priests have fallen off from
their virtues. Thus this old [and] mean act is despised by the wise.
Men despise a priest in whom such vice is found.
(Brāhmanadhammika Sutta, v. 29, 30, 31)
Some fortify themselves for controversy. We praise not those
small-minded persons; temptations from here and there are made to
cling to them and they certainly send their minds very far away when
engaged in it.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 15)
The priest who, like one who seeks flowers on fig-trees, has not
found any more good in repeated births, gives up Orapara,(15) as a
snake [casts off its] decayed, old skin. The priest in whose heart
there are no feelings of anger [and] who likewise has gone past
merit and demerit, gives up Orapara, etc.
(Uraga Sutta, v. 5, 6)
(15) i.e., destroys that, yearning for life in the
body which results in rebirth.
Many men whose shoulders are covered with the orange robes are
ill-conditioned and unrestrained; such evil-doers by their evil
deeds go to hell.
(Dhammapada, v. 307)
He whose head is shaven, and
who wears the saffron-coloured robe, but who seeks only for food, drink, clothes, and bedding, is his [own] greatest enemy.
(Udānavarga, xiii, v. 14)
He who smites will be smitten; he who shows rancour will find
rancour; so likewise from reviling comes reviling, and to him who is
angered comes anger.
(Udānararga, xiv, v. 3)
Those foolish priests who know not the holy law, though this life be
brief, in the foolishness of their hearts they give themselves to
(Udānavarga, xiv, v. 4)
"He abused me, he reviled me, he beat me, he subdued me";
he who keeps this in his mind, and who feels resentment, will find
(Dhammapada, xiv, v. 4)
Like a beautiful flower full of colour but without scent, are the
fine but fruitless words of him who does not act accordingly.
(Dhammapada, v. 51)
One is the road that leads to Wealth, another the road that leads to
(Dhammapada, v. 75)
If a man consorting with me [Buddha] does not conform his life to my
commandments, what benefit will ten thousand precepts be to him?
(Sūtra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 202)
Better it would be that a man should eat a lump of flaming iron
than that one who is unrestrained and who has broken his vows should
live on the charity of the land.
(Udānavarga, ix, r. 2)
If thou hast done evil deeds, or if thou wouldst do them, thou
mayest arise and run where er thou wilt, but thou canst not free
thyself of thy suffering.
(Udānavarga, ix, r. 4)
The thoughtless man, even if he can recite many gāthās, but is not a
doer of the law, has no part in the priesthood, but is like a
cowherd counting the cows of others.
(Dhammapada, v. 19)
Who is the good man? The religious man only is good. Who is the
great man? He who is strongest in the exercise of patience. He who
patiently endures injury, and maintains a blameless life he is a man
(Sūtra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 196.)
When a fire is placed under a pot, and the water within it made to
boil, then whoever looks down upon it will see no shadow of himself.
So the three poisons (covetousness, anger, delusion), and the five
obscurities (envy, passion, sloth, vacillation, unbelief) which
embrace it, effectually prevent one attaining supreme reason.
(Sūtra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 196)
A man who is under the influence of religious principle may be
compared to a single warrior opposed to ten thousand in a fight.
(Sūtra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 200)
If one man conquer in battle a thousand times thousand men, and if
another conquer himself, he is the greatest of conquerors.
(Dhammapada, v. 103)
By oneself evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is
left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong
to oneself, no one can purify another.
(Dhammapada, v. 165)
Self is the lord of self: who else could be the lord ? With self
well subdued, a man finds a master such as few can find.
(Dhammapada, v. 160)
That priest whose [ideas of] omens, meteors, dreams and signs are
destroyed, and who is released from [a belief in] the evil
consequences of omens, conducts himself well in the world. That
priest who, not quarrelling in word, thought, or deed, [and] knowing
the Law well looks forward to Nirvana, conducts himself well in the
(Sammāparibbājanīya Sutta, v. 2, 7)
Kinsfolk, friends, and lovers salute a man who has been long away,
and returns from afar. In like manner his good works receive him who
has done good, and has gone from this world to the other; as kinsmen
receive a friend on his return.
(Dhammapada, v. 219, 220)
Even a good man sees evil days, as long as his good deed is not
ripened; but when his good deed has ripened, then does the good man
see happy days.
(Dhammapada, v. 120)
In fit time, observe kindness, impartiality, mercy, freedom from
sin, delight at the prosperity of others; unopposed to the whole
world, let one walk alone like the rhinoceros.
(Khaggavisāna Sutta, v. 39)
If a man's thoughts are not dissipated, if his mind is not
perplexed, if he has ceased to think of good and evil, then there is
no fear for him while he is watchful.
(Dhainmapada, v. 39)
Procrastination is [moral] defilement, continued procrastination is
defilement. By non-procrastination [punctuality] and knowledge, root
out your darts [of sin] .
(Utthāna Sutta, v. 4)
Printed by Rao Saheb G. Subbayya Chetty, at the Vasanta Press.
Published by Theosophical Publishing House, Aclyar, Madras.