A Manual of the Dhamma

Should One Criticise Shameless and Immoral Monks?

    “When a person, knowing a monk to be shameless or immoral, speaks ill of him or condemns him, either directly or indirectly, does he attract the ten evil results?1 By doing so, is he free from evil or not?”

Those who slander or condemn others with harsh words commit serious evil only if a Buddha, Pacceka Buddha or Noble One are objects of their condemnation. In the Dhammapada it says:

    “Whoever offends a blameless man, pure and guiltless,
    upon that very fool, the evil recoils
    like fine dust thrown against the wind.” (Dhp. v 125)

The blameless, pure persons are of three types: Omniscient Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas, and Noble Ones. So abusing or slandering them attracts serious evil consequences for the speaker. Abusing or slandering ordinary persons does not bring any of the ten serious results since their qualities are different.

Nevertheless, one does get a fault by accusing others as immoral since this is one form of abuse. If one abuses others or condemns them with harsh criticism, one is not free from fault. One becomes associated with evil and error. Even if one blames or slanders an immoral monk, knowing him to be such a one, one is not free from fault. Every word spoken in condemnation amounts to unwholesome speech (pharusavācā).

In their question the laymen have mentioned that there will be cases when others know for certain that others are immoral, and they may utter disparaging words to suppress this type of monk. However, it is very difficult to know for sure whether a monk is immoral or not. There are profound and subtle points of Vinaya that should be considered. In cases dealing with offences of defeat before the Sangha’s courts, the monastic judges find great difficulties, and must consider numerous aspects to deliver a correct judgement. Even monks learned in Vinaya find it difficult to pronounce a monk as immoral in such legal cases.

The five Vinaya books and their commentaries give numerous guidelines to ensure that an innocent monk will escape wrong judgements. When a case of defeat appears before the courts, Vinaya judges must hear and examine the words of both parties very carefully. If the charges are false, they must declare a monk to be innocent. They must not say they are guilty if there is any reasonable doubt. Suspicion is no substitute for proof. In the courts, suspects are adjudged innocent in the absence of convincing proof.

In pronouncing judgement, the monastic judges are enjoined to seek mitigating or extenuating circumstances for an accused monk. Only when these factors are lacking, must they pronounce the decision of ‘defeated.’ Then a monk definitely becomes immoral according to the Vinaya rules. Three judges must separately study the case, examining the witnesses and the evidence. If one judge cannot find extenuating or mitigating circumstances to clear an offence of defeat, he must send the accused to another judge for further examination. The second judge, if he finds only guilty factors, must not pronounce him guilty, but must send him to a third judge. The aim is to find factors of innocence and extenuating circumstances because the judgement of defeat calls for grave responsibility on their part. The accused, if guilty of defeat, has broken the highest law of the courts. So such cases entail grave responsibilities for all involved. If the judges find no extenuating circumstances, they should asked the accused to stay in a quiet place to practise calm and insight meditation. They should then ask about the state of mind of the accused. Emotional disturbances, if any, should be calmed by meditation. After this practice, the judge must praise this moral deed of the monk with kind words and release him for further moral conduct. All should rejoice in this work of moral calm or the effort of concentration.

The decision of defeat is both subtle and difficult. Even after close examination, Vinaya experts find many borderline cases that they are unable to decide clearly. To burden a monk with an offence of defeat and thereby assign to him the status of an immoral monk is a grave act. So judges are reluctant to make unequivocal declarations. Why? If they pass judgement on a defeated monk correctly they escape blame and grave evil, but if they declare an undefeated monk to be defeated, they destroy the millions of precepts maintained by the accused. Even a shameless one still retains these remaining training rules. So the judges commit a grave offence themselves.

However, the judges escape a grave evil in declaring a monk to be innocent of defeat, in good faith, though the monk has indeed committed this offence. If the judges think that a monk is not guilty of the charges, they must pass judgement accordingly. In good faith and honesty, they must declare what they believe after careful examination. This procedure is described clearly in the Vinaya commentary.

So a monk or lay person who accuses a monk of defeat, burdens himself with the gravest responsibility and serious consequences. If a monk commits an offence of defeat, he becomes immoral. So to speak ill of him in terms such as “immoral” or “defeated” is like bearing the whole earth upon one’s head. By condemning a monk as immoral, one is making a serious charge against him and taking a grave responsibility for oneself too. Therefore such accusations and slander should be controlled by mindfulness.

The seriousness of such an accusation or condemnation will be apparent from the following case. Whether one abuses or slanders a truly defeated monk, a shameless monk, or a scrupulous monk, one gets the unwholesome deed called “pharusavācā kammapathā.” This evil deed leads to rebirth in one of the four lower realms. Speaking harsh words with anger against the above three classes of monks will lead one to the lower realms in the next life.

If a person speaks harshly and angrily not only to condemn the monks just mentioned, but intending to drive them out of the Sangha, his evil is of the gravest kind. Technically he is charging, abusing, accusing with the aim of assigning immoral status to them. It is graver than a mere act of abusing. The important point is this: to accuse someone as immoral amounts to taking a grave responsibility for oneself.

For further clarification the cases of Kondadhāna Thera2 and Cittahatthaka Thera should be considered.

The Story of Kondadhāna Thera

During the dispensation of Kassapa Buddha, Kondadhāna Thera was born as a tree spirit. To test the friendship of two friendly monks he transformed himself into a beautiful woman and created suspicion between them. When one of the monks went into a grove to answer the call of nature, the woman accompanied him and came out together. When the other monk saw this, he got angry and suspicious. So he left his friend because he judged him to be immoral. When the Uposatha ceremony had to be performed, the friend refused to conduct it together with the alleged immoral monk. Even when the accused monk protested his innocence, his friend did not believe him. He said that he saw the beautiful woman coming out of the grove with him.

Thereupon the tree spirit, seeing the seriousness of his misdeed, appeared before the two friends and explained his conduct. The spirit’s aim was merely to test the strength of their friendship, but the effects were dire. Disunity arose between the two friends and one accused the other of an offence of defeat.

When the tree spirit died he was reborn in hell and suffered for his evil kamma. So to accuse a scrupulous monk as immoral, gives a result as bad as the five heinous crimes, the worst evils one can commit.

The Buddha said:

“Monks, these two individuals, if they do not correct themselves, will certainly suffer in hell as surely as one who carries a burden to his house, puts it down. Which two? One who claims to be a monk, though he is not, and one who accuses an innocent monk of an offence of defeat.” (Itivuttaka, Āpāyika Sutta).

Such a false accusation, being very serious, brings certain suffering in hell for the accuser, just as a burden carried on one’s head, will certainly be put down when one reaches one’s house. One who maintains a wrong view, and one who unjustly accuses an innocent monk of defeat will, after death, fall into hell. Unless the wrong view is renounced, a person will suffer in hell. Likewise, if one does not ask for forgiveness from a monk one has unjustly accused of defeat, one will fall into hell.

Note that in this context the term “sīlavanta” refers to both a scrupulous monk and a shameless monk. If a monk is not immoral, here he is classified as a moral monk, that is, the same as a scrupulous monk at the time of Gotama Buddha. The tree spirit became a monk in the time of the Buddha, but due to his past misdeed, wherever he travelled, a woman always accompanied him. Although he did not see this shadowing woman following after him, others saw her. So people became suspicious, abusing him as immoral repeatedly. He finally reached Arahantship, but the resultant bad kamma had to be paid off until he attained parinibbāna. This case can be studied in detail in the Dhammapada and Anguttaranikāya Commentaries.

The key point to note is that the tree spirit had no intention to stigmatise or to attach fault. His aim was merely to test the bond of friendship. He had no anger against the monk. Yet the results for his evil deed were serious, bringing evil results in his succeeding lives. His evil deed in this case was that of presenting a scrupulous monk as immoral.

The Story of Cittahattha Thera

Another case concerns Cittahattha Thera.3 During the time of Kassapa Buddha there were two monks. One wished to return to lay life, but the other restrained his companion saying that being a monk was a rare opportunity. Later, however, he thought that if his friend disrobed he would get his requisites. So he persuaded his friend to return to lay life in every conceivable way until his friend renounced monkhood. When he became a monk in the dispensation of the Buddha Gotama, due to his evil deeds, he suffered shame by returning to lay life seven times, and the people blamed him. Hence his kammic results were grave indeed (see the Dhammapada Commentary for details).

The point to note here is that mere persuasion to forsake monkhood caused a monk, in the time of the Gotama Buddha, to suffer humiliation due to his capricious behaviour. His evil act was praising the status of a lay life to encourage a monk to leave the Sangha. Thus one can understand the weight attached to being a member of the Sangha. No one should speak to a novice or monk in praise of returning to lay life. One should not even urge one’s sons and grandsons to leave the Sangha if they become novices or monks. One should not speak in favour of lay life.

Many lessons can be learnt. Blaming or accusing a scrupulous monk with evil intent, charging him with immorality, etc., are deeds that bring serious bad results in the present and future. The Buddha’s dispensation and Vinaya are unique and powerful. So one suffers greatly by living outside the dispensation for many thousands of lives. Moreover, even if one attains monkhood, one has to bear the burden of shame and difficulties. One should note the basic and consequential effects too.

Abusing or accusing a monk with charges of defeat means the evil deed of abusive speech. This evil deed is similar to holding firm heretical views, and has serious effects. One will suffer in various ways throughout a series of lives.

There is a supplementary question to this one, “If one blames, criticises, or condemns a monk either directly or indirectly, what results will one get?”

There are two ways in which the blameworthy actions of a person can be stated: directly to the individual concerned, or regarding facts of a general natural in impersonal terms.

Blaming Individuals Directly

In the matter of blaming an individual directly, there are two ways: speaking directly to the person concerned, or speaking indirectly. Such blame or accusation, whether direct or indirect, brings fault to oneself if one has the intention to harm or attack others. One therefore obtains demerit in either case. So in criticising or blaming, one must avoid slander and other harmful speech, such as disparaging others and praising oneself. If the mind is free from anger, malice, jealousy, and divisiveness, and if the criticism is based on mutual benefits, one can blame others. In making remarks, oneself and others should be treated impartially. Honest criticism must be made within these guidelines.

If these factors are present in one’s criticism of others, one is free from fault and evil. Moreover, one is following the instruction of the Buddha which says: “He praises the praiseworthy. He blames the blameworthy.”

So it is commendable if the good factors are present in the mind and if the facts are correct.

Criticising in General Terms

To criticise in general terms, without reference to anyone in particular, is exposing of faults. One must attack or criticise unwholesome states only, such as greed, hatred, or delusion. In this correct way of criticism the four right efforts should be cultivated.

  1. The effort to prevent unarisen unwholesome states.
  2. The effort to eradicate arisen unwholesome states.
  3. The effort to arouse unarisen wholesome states.
  4. The effort to develop arisen wholesome states.

Unwholesome states that may arise in oneself in the future are called “unarisen unwholesome states.” Future evil that may be committed by oneself must be prevented with one’s own moral effort. Evil deeds one has already done are “arisen unwholesome states.” Among the ten unwholesome deeds, killing is mentioned, but this relates to killing of sentient beings generally. The discourses of the Buddha specifically mention five heinous acts (pañcānantariya kamma), such as killing one’s own father or mother, which are the gravest evils with immediate consequences.

In this infinite round of rebirth, existences in which an ordinary person knows the true Dhamma are very few. One must undergo many lives in which ignorance and delusion predominate. The lives in which an ordinary person holds wrong views are innumerable. So the evil act of killing can be done many times even within a single lifetime, let alone the number of such acts in countless previous lives. If a person commits one heinous unwholesome deed in the present life, it will give definite results in hell. The misdeeds done in countless past lives will then give their results too.

In this present life, too, many persons have committed acts of killing several times while young, which will be clear to each individual. Others have done past misdeeds of killing though they refrain from killing in this present life. Most people have done evil deeds such as killing in both the past and present lives.

Personality view opens the way to commit evils of the gravest kind, such as killing one’s father or mother, or harming the Buddha. If one still believes in a soul, and entertains doubts about the Three Gems, in future existences one might kill one’s mother or father, getting the gravest evil and the worst result. So besides killing living beings, there may be heinous misdeeds too. If a detailed analysis is made of one’s own various misdeeds, one cannot safely declare that there is a cessation of the act of killing, in the matter of ordinary or extraordinary types. If a person does not kill any sentient being today, he may commit this evil tomorrow, next month, next year, or next life. So please ponder like this: “Due to wrong view and doubt I could certainly kill my mother or father, cause schism in the Sangha, harm the Buddha, or kill Arahants.”

This is, of course, the “unarisen evil” mentioned above. Future evil deeds and past or present evil deeds are classified as “unarisen evil” and “arisen evil” respectively.

Why does a person perpetrate these various types of evil, pertaining to the past, present, and future? It is due to the existence of personality view. With this wrong view one will certainly do small and great evil. What is personality view? It is the belief that one’s own five aggregates are a soul, a person, a self, or an entity. This sense of “I” gives rise to the worst kammas. Both arisen and unarisen unwholesome kammas will not lose their power if personality view still exists. They are bound to increase due to wrong understanding of the nature of the five aggregates. So if circumstances are favourable, one will commit various crimes, great or small, propelled by wrong view. When personality view is eradicated, all past evil deeds and their potential results are destroyed totally. Countless evil actions cease. The ten evil deeds and the five heinous crimes are based on personality view. Personality view is their leader. Evil deeds are its followers, and its consequences.

Can one entertain any hope of cessation of evils or deliverance? If one encounters the Buddha’s dispensation in this life and practises insight meditation, one is delivered from personality view, root and branch. All past evils are wiped away, and countless effects of past evil that were due to mature also cease. Total eradication of evil is possible in this dispensation only because correct methods have been given. Human beings possess the rarest chance to overcome this appalling predicament. During this dispensation, good and rare chances are available for the destruction of countless new evils that are bound to arise in the future. All latent evils are uprooted by mindfulness as taught by the Buddha. If these methods and rare opportunities exist, it is called the Buddha’s dispensation. The dispensation is said to disappear when such opportunities no longer exist. Everyone should note that if death occurs today and life continues in an existence where these opportunities don’t exist, the dispensation disappears today. In this case the opportunities of this dispensation are lost as soon as one dies.

This rare opportunity and grave danger should be appreciated by everyone. Moral dread, together with farsighted trepidation (samvega), must be cultivated while one is alive and the dispensation still prevails. One must practise concentration and insight daily with great urgency. To get rid of personality view and doubt is the noblest aim in life according to the teaching of the Buddha. Morality and insight practice are essential to eradicate mental defilements and evil deeds. When one practises morality and insight meditation, mental purity and skilful deeds arise. By these means one obtains the four great moral efforts. Wholesome deeds, both arisen and unarisen, must be done in this present life.

The Essence of the Tipitaka

There are only three essential points in the three Pitakas:

  1. The higher training in morality (adhisīlasikkhā).
  2. The higher training in concentration (adhicittasikkhā).
  3. The higher training in wisdom (adhipaññāsikkhā).

The essence of the teaching means morality, concentration, and wisdom. Keeping the five, eight, or ten precepts is called morality. Concentration means neighbourhood concentration (upacāra samādhi), and absorption concentration (appanā samādhi). Wisdom means insight knowledge (vipassanā-ñāna), path knowledge (magga-ñāna), and fruition knowledge (phala-ñāna).

Among these three essential practices, morality is of the arisen type because it is already done or presently kept. However, concentration and wisdom belong to the unarisen type of wholesome states. Although many people practise concentration such as recollection of the virtues of the Buddha (Buddhānussati), or mindfulness of the body (kāyagatā sati), they usually reach only the initial stage with the aim of getting merit. Their efforts are not sincere, not mature, so not even neighbourhood concentration is attained. The firm type of concentration necessary for liberation is still an unarisen wholesome deed. Many Buddhists count their rosaries chanting suttas, or reciting “anicca, dukkha, anatta,” but they fail to win insight knowledge. Although they accumulate merit, their insight knowledge is a sham as it cannot eradicate the perception of and belief in a person, a being, a self, or a soul. They fail to gain insight into psychophysical phenomena, or ultimate truths. Genuine insight, which means the complete, well-developed stage, is not attained by slack effort and weak wisdom. Therefore their wisdom is also of the unarisen wholesome type.

Even in the matter of morality, which has been classified as already arisen, many can retain it only for short periods, so they achieve only temporary morality. They fail to reach the full, stable stage called “samuccheda sīla — morality by cutting off defilements.” Only when one obtains stable moral conduct can one safely be said to be a truly moral person.

Regarding the precept of refraining from killing, most attain only momentary morality. The majority of people, if they observe the five precepts or this single one, achieve good conduct for a short period like a flash of lightning in the darkness. They get this moral achievement several times, but they lose it several times too. So their morality shows the characteristic of instability.

This is true. In countless past lives the attainment of momentary morality by restraint from killing has occurred frequently. One achieved the status of a moral person in many past lives. Yet these achievements in morality, being temporary, do not give real security and complete safety. This type of temporary moral conduct is superficial and unreliable. For example, today one may possess moral conduct, but tomorrow one may become shameless and immoral due to breaking a precept. Morality is achieved for one month only to be lost in the next. This uncertainty applies after death to. In this life one may be scrupulous, but in the next life one may be shameless. So a scrupulous monk, a good man, a moral person in this life may become a robber, a murderer, a thief, a hunter, or a wicked person in the next.

Even famous saints who have attained jhana, and can fly in the air with their psychic powers, may become robbers, murderers, thieves, hunters, or wicked persons in their next lives. Though they encounter this rare dispensation, they fail to appreciate the significance of the unique opportunities now available. If they remain satisfied with temporary morality, they will be reborn as ghosts, animals, robbers, murderers, etc. They will suffer in hell due to the fallibility of their moral conduct, which is the characteristic of temporary morality.

This fallible, temporary morality is available even outside the Buddha’s dispensation. It exists naturally just like the world and its environment. It is common everywhere, and at all times. It even exists in other universes where no Buddhas ever arise, where the Buddha’s teaching can never be heard. In countless universes, many human beings, deities, and brahmas live without the benefit of the Buddha’s teaching. Yet they achieve the status of human beings, deities and brahmas as a result of this temporary morality. However, their moral conduct is impermanent, so they can fall down in moral status. The important point is that this common, temporary morality cannot be classed as true morality, which is available only during the Buddha’s dispensation. Temporary morality is not the true dispensation. Only the unique morality called “samuccheda sīla — morality by cutting off defilements” is the true, stable morality belonging to the Buddha’s dispensation. It means infallible morality, genuine morality.

The Folly of Ignorant Persons

Common, superficial, and temporary morality must not be overvalued, since it is unstable, and not genuine. To illustrate, the folly of ignorant persons may be cited. Those with mystic powers are very rare, it is hard to meet such a person even once in a lifetime. Once, an ignorant, foolish person met such an adept, and was granted a boon. He asked for the purgative medicine that is commonly available in every household. Thus he lost his precious opportunity to get rare, precious things.

One day a foolish villager met Sakka, the king of the gods. When Sakka granted him a boon, the foolish man asked for a match and a matchbox that would light fire immediately. Sakka gave him these things, but matches are common things in the world. The man received nothing of any value.

In Ava, during the sixteenth century, a king, while hunting, met a powerful adept who granted him a request. So the king asked for a nymph so that he could enjoy the greatest sensual pleasures. He achieved his desire, but the enjoyment of sensual pleasure is commonplace. Moreover, the king got lost and the nymph disappeared. He got his satisfaction only once and then died in the forest with a deranged mind, longing for the nymph.

The above stories clearly show that this rare chance must be grasped with knowledge and wisdom so that it is advantageous. When the Buddha has appeared and his very rare dispensation still exists, a disciple must not rest content with common and inferior temporary morality, which is unreliable. A wise person must strive for the rare and precious stable morality, which is priceless and unique. Those who think too highly of momentary and unstable morality are like those foolish persons who asked for common things when granted a boon. The defect of temporary morality must be appreciated.

What is Stable Morality?

The moral conduct that culminates in the attainment of path consciousness is called stable morality. Morality is a supporting condition for the path. With the attainment of the path, morality becomes stable and irreversible. From this time onwards, a person will not kill any sentient being, great or small, under any circumstances. He or she always maintains morality with steadfast confidence and wisdom. The precept to abstain from killing living beings becomes stable, so he or she is totally free from suffering in lower realms. In future lives too he or she will never be shameless or immoral. The Noble One is firmly established in natural morality and natural goodness, so can never become a robber, a murderer, a hunter, or a thief. A Noble One cannot be reborn in hell, as an animal, hungry ghost, or demon. Due to stable morality, a Noble One avoids these inferior existences. These are the power and benefit of stable morality, which is only achievable in this dispensation.

This stable morality becomes known only when a Buddha appears in the world for the unique benefit and welfare of all, and remains only during the Buddha’s dispensation. It is the essence of the Omniscient Buddha’s teaching, so those who claim to follow the Buddha’s teaching, whether they are lay persons or monks, must emulate this rare type of morality. Only stable morality is worthy of respect. One should not rest content with temporary morality nor should one emulate it. Why not? Even those who keep the millions of bhikkhus’ precepts, still live under the sway of temporary morality if they fail to attain the path. Even very pious and venerable monks also suffer from the effects of temporary morality. Sooner or later, they will become robbers, murderers thieves, liars, etc. Moreover, possessors of temporary morality will have to suffer in hell. These so-called holy men are not so much different to others regarding their destinies. All of them value and maintain temporary morality. All of them are fallible, and all are subject to life’s vicissitudes due to loss of their morality.

Therefore a disciple of the Buddha, while this unique dispensation still exists, should appreciate the defect of the commonplace arisen wholesome deed of refraining from killing, which means temporary morality. One should not be satisfied with this state of affairs as it lacks any genuine or lasting value. Common morality is like a piece of sodium in water, it flares brightly for a moment, then dies instantly. What each person urgently needs is the unique, stable morality so that true, secure moral purity will be established. The real taking of refuge is in stable morality. Everyone has a duty to transcend the unreliable temporary restraint, and to eradicate the possibility of becoming shameless or immoral due to the bad roots in the heart. To attain stable morality one must make great efforts so that complete liberation from shamelessness and immorality is gained in this life.

Nowadays good moral conduct is only momentary. Everywhere, good people observe the five precepts and some good monks train themselves in the millions of Pātimokkha rules. Both these householders’ and monks’ moral conduct are just temporary morality. However if they develop wisdom to achieve stable morality, they get a wholesome deed that has never arisen before. Each precept can be classed as “temporary” or “stable.” So one should reflect deeply on the true nature of the good deeds that have already arisen in oneself.

The Most Urgent Task

Today, every ordinary person possesses the five mental hindrances to a great extent. Due to their power, many people break rules of discipline and universal moral principles, as they did in the past. These are symptoms of modern times. The majority of Buddhists, though believers who acknowledge the importance of insight, still maintain the hindrances in their hearts. Even most Dhamma teachers, though they teach the true Dhamma regarding life’s three characteristics, cannot eradicate these five hindrances completely. Defilements still arise in their hearts, so they lack insight into impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self. The only way to overcome these moral failures and inherent weaknesses, is to practise concentration (samatha) according to the teaching of the Buddha. With this mental discipline, the wavering mind and distracting thoughts are inhibited. Then the mind can be turned towards insight practice, which reveals the universal characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.

The troublesome mental hindrances should be suppressed by means of kasina meditation, contemplation on the foulness of the body, or some other meditation. This moral effort to suppress evil thoughts is called concentration or tranquillity (samatha). Tranquillity of mind fixed on a single object is the goal at this stage of mental development. The next stage aims to penetrate the true nature of the five groups of existence, or the mind and body. This wisdom can see the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and insubstantial nature of existence with insight.

These two features, concentration and wisdom, exist while the Buddha’s dispensation lasts. This practice and its goal help all devotees to get rid of personality view — the persistent belief in a soul, the dogma of self-view, self-centredness, base egoism. All ordinary persons, since they still believe in a soul or self, are under the influence of ignorance and craving. By destroying this wrong-view of a permanent self, one also destroys, in due course, all ignorance and craving. As long as self-view remains in the heart, one cannot completely escape from the stigma of being shameless and immoral. Though one attains morality, one can maintain it only for a short duration due to self-view. One fails to attain stable, natural morality due to this wrong-view. This failure to attain natural and stable morality is to be feared. Those who, without right view, attain morality and goodness, will certainly kill an Arahant in future lives, or commit the gravest evils such as killing their mother or father. Moreover, due to self-view they will change their faith in various ways, accepting eternalistic or nihilistic views. The universal ways of most ordinary persons are like this. They cannot safely say that they will always refrain from killing. Their mental processes remain wide open to various types of good and evil kamma. Both tendencies exist in every ordinary person who is not a Noble One, and has not realised the Four Noble Truths.

Therefore the most urgent task for everyone is to strive for the final liberation from shamelessness and immorality, to attain stable and natural morality. Starting from this present life during the Buddha’s dispensation one must arouse the unarisen wholesome deeds of concentration and insight with fresh, vigorous moral effort.

This section explains the nature and case of unarisen wholesome deeds. Here ends the ways to practice the four great moral efforts (sammāppadhana).

If one wishes to blame or to criticise shameless or immoral monks in impersonal terms, one must speak within the meaning of the four great moral efforts.

The correct way to blame a bad monk is as follows:

When one sees or hears about a shameless or immoral monk, one must see beyond the personal features to the unwholesome states in the ultimate sense such as greed, anger, or delusion. Due to the appearance of shamelessness and immorality such unwholesome states are seen or heard about. If one considers carefully, blame should be put only on these unwholesome states, as shown in the commentary. The correct method of blaming is to blame shamelessness and immorality only in general terms. Attacks must be made on the existence of the root cause of evil, not on the persons who commit evil.

Attack Only Unwholesome States

One should blame and criticise unwholesome states as follows: greed is shameful, filthy, wicked, degrading, coarse, and unskilful. Greed causes only trouble and so is shameful. In the next existence it will cause one to suffer in hell. Such criticisms must focus on unwholesome states only. Shamelessness and immorality certainly deserve to be criticised, by all means.

The next method must be applied to oneself in relation to others’ mistakes. Reflection on one’s own mind must be made as follows: “I have thousands of such unwholesome kammic seeds from countless past lives and also in this life. I am not altogether free from shamelessness and immorality. Even if I accumulate wholesome deeds sometimes, if I become self-satisfied, I will have to endure the results of countless past evil deeds, which will certainly produce their effects in the four lower realms. In past lives I have surely done various evils that will bear fruit now or hereafter.” Such reflection on arisen evil is a duty for all.

The next procedure is as follows: “This person has done evil due to the power and influence of greed, hatred, and delusion, and has become shameless or immoral. He is very weak due to these evil forces. Why does anyone commit evil? Because one retains the root of all evil — self-view, which always accompanies evil deeds, shameless deeds, and immoral deeds. It is self-view that gives rise to all these evil things for ordinary persons. So the real culprits are greed, hatred, and delusion, headed by self-view. Such latent evils still exist in me, and will bear fruit sooner or later, so I am in the same boat as shameless, wicked, and immoral persons. If I am satisfied with temporary morality, the tendency towards evil will make me shameless or immoral tomorrow, next week, next month, or in the next life. These evils will affect me again, and I may kill my mother or my father in the future due to self-view. This is the way to reflect on unarisen evil in oneself.

The third correct procedure for consideration is as follows: “Why has this monk, who previously maintained morality, now fallen into immorality? He was self-satisfied as a good monk with temporary morality, and failed to develop it to the stable stage. This was the cause of his moral downfall. Temporary moral achievement is not reliable. This type of morality soon disappears like a firework display. I must strive to achieve stable morality. This is my greatest duty.” Such considerations must be made daily by everyone.

The fourth procedure for consideration is this: “This monk, while moral, rested content with it and failed to practise concentration and insight as taught by the Buddha. So this good, scrupulous monk still accepted self-view, which made him commit evil, great and small. Although he was good before, later he did bad things, becoming immoral. Likewise, if I am satisfied with temporary morality and fail to practise concentration and insight, this pernicious self-view will make me do all sorts of evil in the coming days, months, years, and lives. I will surely become just like this immoral monk. Self-view must be eradicated by wisdom. In these ways one must consider the wholesome states not yet arisen. If these considerations are made, one is partially following the practice of four right efforts.

The evils of being an ordinary person are too numerous to count, so innumerable dangers exist too. Seeing the evils and dangers of an ordinary person, a far-sighted person gets moral dread and a sense of urgency. His mind always inclines towards concentration and insight meditation to overcome moral weaknesses, whenever he sees the faults of others. He uses these facts for self-examination and self-reform, and strives earnestly to eradicate these defects in himself. So everything helps him to obtain earnestness and spurs him to action. This superior way of self-reform through far-sighted trepidation is the way of noble persons like bodhisattas, sages, and all civilized persons. This is the ancient, noble way of self-analysis.

This path to deliverance is excellent. All bodhisattas, in their final lives, have to see an old man, a sick man, and a dead man as universal signs for all. This gives them a sense of urgency and spurs them to renounce the world. This noble renunciation is possible because they apply these hard realities to themselves and reflect on them wisely. So they obtain great dread of worldly existence, for the world is full of terror, which can be revealed by insight.

The case of Venerable Revata thera illustrates this point very well. Revata, the youngest brother of Venerable Sāriputta, was persuaded by his parents and relatives to marry young to avoid becoming a monk. When the marriage ceremony was about to begin, Revata was told to pay homage to the elders. The old people blessed him with the customary words of “long life.” When young Revata saw an old, decrepit lady, he experienced moral fear as he knew he must meet this fate too. He applied the hard facts of life to himself based upon the suffering of others. Gaining far-sighted trepidation, he renounced the world and became a monk.

Likewise, whenever one sees others’ faults, one should apply them to oneself to create moral dread and a sense of urgency. By following these impersonal methods of criticism and blame, when one hears about or meets shameless or immoral monks, one practises the four great moral efforts with attendant benefits.

The Dhamma Samvega Method of Blaming

We have given guidelines for correct criticism of shameless or immoral persons without personal references. Here we will also mention the way of blaming even with personal attacks. In this method one can even mention names when making condemnation, but two factors must accompany this type of blaming with personal reference. One is that a person speaking ill of others by name must possess the attitude called “Dhamma samvega.” The other mental attitude is called “Moral fear.” These attitudes, fear of unwholesomeness and moral fear, will free a person from faults when he condemns others by name.

An example will clarify this point. If a mother sees her son playing with foul things such as excrement, she will instantly run after him to remove these dirty things from his body. While she hates excrement on the body of her son, she still loves him and kisses his cheeks several times. She only washes away the foul things from his body by touching them and throwing them out. Although touching excrement is not praiseworthy, out of love and compassion, she does it. Although she throws away the excrement, she does not throw away her son. She washes his body, because she hates foul things only, not her son.

Likewise, if one sees or hears about anyone doing evil deeds one must think thus, “My relatives have foul, impure things on their bodies, they are defiled by filth. How pitiable they are. Due to delusion they are eating excrement and are contaminated with foul things.” Such loving, helpful thoughts arise in a good person. All human beings are brothers and sisters even when they do great or small evils. So a critic who see others’ serious crimes must reprove the immoral acts without hatred. With compassion he must help others to remove their faults if possible. If all one’s efforts are futile, one must cultivate compassion or equanimity, as a mother, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to rescue her son from a well, shows compassion and equanimity until the end.

Similarly, a teacher or a friend must instruct, guide, and train a wayward pupil or a bad monk with great compassion and wisdom. After several attempts fail to produce positive results, compassion is the best course, then equanimity at last. The important point is that anger, resentment, ill-will, or remorse must not be allowed to intrude. One must reprove the evil acts, or unwholesome states only. One should condemn bad actions without personal grudge, without hatred. In this way a critical teacher or a righteous lay person will obtain wholesome kamma in scolding, admonishing, or reproving others, even with personal references. Unwholesome motives are absent in following this method of direct criticism. One should not get angry because of others’ evil deeds. This explains the correct way of wise condemnation, which must be made skilfully.



  1. This refers to verses 137-140 of the Dhammapada, not verse 125 quoted here. The ten evil results are: severe pain, loss of wealth, bodily injury, serious illness, madness, oppression by the king, a serious accusation, loss of relatives, destruction of property, or fire will burn his house. (ed.)
  2. Dhammapada Commentary to verses 133-134.
  3. Dhammapada Commentary to verses 38-39.

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