DN10.1. The Entire Spectrum of Ethics

Subha Sutta ("With Subha")

“But what was that noble spectrum of ethics that the Buddha praised?”

“Student, it’s when a Realized One arises in the world, perfected, a fully awakened Buddha, accomplished in knowledge and conduct, holy, knower of the world, supreme guide for those who wish to train, teacher of gods and humans, awakened, blessed. He has realized with his own insight this world—with its gods, Māras and Brahmās, this population with its ascetics and brahmins, gods and humans—and he makes it known to others. He teaches Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And he reveals a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure. A householder hears that teaching, or a householder’s child, or someone reborn in some clan. They gain faith in the Realized One, and reflect: ‘Living in a house is cramped and dirty, but the life of one gone forth is wide open. It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell. Why don’t I shave off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’ After some time they give up a large or small fortune, and a large or small family circle. They shave off hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness. Once they’ve gone forth, they live restrained in the monastic code, conducting themselves well and seeking alms in suitable places. Seeing danger in the slightest fault, they keep the rules they’ve undertaken. They act skillfully by body and speech. They’re purified in livelihood and accomplished in ethical conduct. They guard the sense doors, have mindfulness and situational awareness, and are content.

And how is a mendicant accomplished in ethics? It’s when a mendicant gives up killing living creatures. They renounce the rod and the sword. They’re scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings. … This pertains to their ethics.

There are some ascetics and brahmins who, while enjoying food given in faith, still earn a living by unworthy branches of knowledge, by wrong livelihood. This includes rites for propitiation, for granting wishes, for ghosts, for the earth, for rain, for property settlement, and for preparing and consecrating house sites, and rites involving rinsing and bathing, and oblations. It also includes administering emetics, purgatives, expectorants, and phlegmagogues; administering ear-oils, eye restoratives, nasal medicine, ointments, and counter-ointments; surgery with needle and scalpel, treating children, prescribing root medicines, and binding on herbs. They refrain from such unworthy branches of knowledge, such wrong livelihood. … This pertains to their ethics.

A mendicant thus accomplished in ethics sees no danger in any quarter in regards to their ethical restraint. It’s like a king who has defeated his enemies. He sees no danger from his foes in any quarter. A mendicant thus accomplished in ethics sees no danger in any quarter in regards to their ethical restraint. When they have this entire spectrum of noble ethics, they experience a blameless happiness inside themselves. That’s how a mendicant is accomplished in ethics.

This is that noble spectrum of ethics that the Buddha praised. But there is still more to be done.”

“It’s incredible, Master Ānanda, it’s amazing, This noble spectrum of ethics is complete, not lacking anything! Such a complete spectrum of ethics cannot be seen among the other ascetics and brahmins. Were other ascetics and brahmins to see such a complete spectrum of noble ethics in themselves, they’d be delighted with just that much: ‘At this point it’s enough; at this point our work is done. We’ve reached the goal of our ascetic life. There is nothing more to be done.’ And yet you say: ‘But there is still more to be done.’

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