The Sigalaka Sutra (Advice to Lay People)


Thus, I have heard. Once the Lord was staying at Rajagaha, at the Squirrel’s Feeding Place in the Bamboo Grove. And at that time, Sigalaka the householder’s son, having got up early and gone out of Rajagaha, was paying homage, with wet clothes and hair and with joined palms, to the different directions: to the east, the south, the west, the north, the nadir and the zenith.

Lord, my father, when he was dying, told me to do so. And so Lord, out of respect for my father’s words, which I revere, honor and hold secred, I got up early to pay sacred homage in this way to the six directions.

But householder’s son, that is not the right way to pay homage to the six directions according to the Ariyan discipline.


Well, Lord, how should one pay homage to the six directions according to the Ariyan discipline? It would be good if the Blessed Lord were to teach me the proper way to pay homage to the six directions, according to the Ariyan discipline.

Then listen carefully, pay attention and I will speak.
“Yes, Lord,” said Sigalaka.


What are the four defilements of action that are abandoned?

1) Taking life.

2) Taking what is not given.

3) Sexual misconduct.

4) Lying speech.


These are the four defilements of action that he abandons. Thus, the Lord spoke.

Taking life and stealing, lying,

Adultery, the wise reprove.


What are the four causes of evil from which he refrains? Evil action springs from attachment, it springs from ill-will, it springs from folly, it springs from fear. If the Ariyan disciple does not act out of attachment, ill-will, folly or fear, he will not do evil from any one of the the four causes. Thus, the Lord spoke.


And the Well-Farer having spoken, the Teacher added:


Desire and hatred, fear and folly

He who breaks the law through these

Loses all his fair reputation (merit)

Like the moon at waning-time.

Desire and hatred, fear and folly

He who never yields to these

Grows in goodness and merit.

Like the moon at waxing-time.




And which are the six ways of wasting one’s substance?

Here are the six ways of wasting one’s substance:

1) Addiction to strong drinks and sloth-producing drugs is one way of wasting one’s substance.

2) Haunting the streets at unfitting time.

3) Attending fairs.

4) Being addicted to gambling.

5) Keeping bad company.

6) Habitual idleness.



There are six dangers attached to addiction to strong drinks and sloth-producing drugs:

1) Present waste of money.

2) Increased quarrelling.

3) Liability to sickness.

4) Loss of good name.

5) Indecent exposure of one’s person.

6) Weakening of the intellect.



There are six dangers attached to haunting the streets at unfitting time.

1) One is Defenseless and without protection.

2) Wife and children are defenseless and without protection.

3) One’s property is defenseless and without protection.

4) One is suspected of crimes.

5) False reports are pinned on one.

6) One encounters all sorts of unpleasantness.

There are six dangers attached to frequenting fairs.

1) One is always thinking, where is there dancing?

2) Where is there sinning?

3) Where are they playing music?

4) Where are they reciting?

5) Where is there hand-clapping?

6) Where are the drums?

There are six dangers attached to gambling.

1) The winner makes enemies.

2) The loser bewails his loss.

3) One wastes one’s present wealth.

4) One’s word is not trusted in the assembly.

5) One is despised by one’s friends and companions.

6) One is not in demand for marriage. Because a gambler cannot afford to maintain a wife.

There are six dangers attached to keeping bad company.

1) The danger of gamblers.

2) The danger of any glutton.

3) The danger of the drunkard.

4) The danger of cheaters.

5) The danger of tricksters.

6) The danger of the bully.

There are six dangers attached to idleness.

1) Thinking it’s too cold, one does not work.

2) Thinking it’s too hot, one does not work.

3) Thinking it’s too early, one does not work.

4) Thinking it’s too late, one does not work.

5) Thinking I’m too hungry, one does not work.

6) Thinking I’m full, one does not work.

And the Well-Farer having spoken, He added:

Some are drinking-mates,

and some Profess their friendship to your face,

But those who are your friends in need,

They alone are friends indeed.


Sleeping late, adultery

Picking quarrels, doing harm,

Evil friends and stinginess,

These six things destroy a man.



He who goes with wicked friends

And spends his time in wicked deeds,

In this world and the next as well

That man will come to suffer woe.



Dicing, wenching, drinking too,

Dancing, singing, daylight sleep,

Untimely prowling, evil friends

And stinginess destroy a man.




He plays with dice and drinks strong drink

And goes with others’ well-loved wives.

He takes the lower, baser course,

And fades away like waning moon.



The drunkard, broke and destitute,

Ever thirsting as he drinks,

Like stone in water sinks in debt,

Soon bereft of all his kin.




He who spends his days in sleep,

And makes the night his waking time,

Ever drunk and lecherous,

Cannot keep a decent home.




Too cold! Too hot! Too late! They cry,

They are pushing all their work aside,

Till ever chance they might have had

Of doing good has slipped away.



But he who reckons cold and heat

As less than straws, and like a man

Undertakes the task in hand,

His joy will never grow the less.



Householder’s son, there are four types who can be seen as foes in friendly disguise.

1) The man who takes everything.

The man who takes everything, can be seen to be a false friend for four reasons:

- He takes everything.

- He wants a lot for very little.

- What he must do, he does out of fear.

- He seeks his own ends.

2) The great talker.

The great talker can be seen to be a false friend for four reasons:

- He talks of favours in the past.

- He talks of favours in the future.

- He mouths empty phrases of goodwill.

- When something needs to be done in the present, he pleads inability owing to some disaster.

3) The flatterer.

The flatterer can be seen to be a false friend for four reasons:

- He assents to bad actions.

- He dissents from good actions.

- He praises you to your face.

- He disparages you behind your back.


4) The fellow-spendthrift.

The fellow-spendthrift can be seen to be a false friend for four reasons:

- He is a companion when you indulge in strong drink.

- He is a companion when you haunt the streets at unfitting times.

- He is a companion when you frequent fairs.

- He is a companion when you indulge in gambling.



And the Well-farer having spoken, He added:


A friend who seeks what he can get,

The friend who talks but empty words,

The friend who merely flatters you,

The friend who is a fellow-wastrel:

These four are really foes, not friends.

The wise man, recognizing this,

Should hold himself aloof from them

As from some path of panic fear.

Householder’s son, there are four types who can be seen to be loyal friends.

1) The friend who is a helper.

The helpful friend can be seen to be a loyal friend in four ways:

- He looks after you when you are inattentive.

- He looks after your possessions when you are inattentive.

- He is a refuge when you are afraid.

- When some business is to be done he lets you have twice what you ask for.


2) The friend who is the same in happy and unhappy times.

The friend who is the same in happy and unhappy times can be seen to be a loyal friend in four ways:

- He tells you his secrets.

- He guards your secrets.

- He does not let you down in misfortune.

- He would even sacrifice his life for you.


3) The friend who pints out what is good for you.

The friend who points out what is good for you can be seen to be a loyal friend in four ways:

- He keeps you from wrongdoing.

- He supports you in doing good.

- He informs you of what you did not know.

- He points out the path to Heaven.

4) The friend who is sympathetic.

The sympathetic friend can be seen to be a loyal friend in four ways:

- He does not rejoice at your misfortune.

- He rejoices at your good fortune.

- He stops others who speaks against you.

- He commends others who speak in praise of you.



The Well-Farer having spoken, He added:


The friend who is a helper and

The friend in times both good and bad,

The friend who shows the way that’s right,

The friend who’s full of sympathy:




These four kinds of friends the wise

Should know at their true worth, and he

Should cherish them with care, just like

A mother with her dearest child.

The wise man trained and disciplined

Shines out like a beacon-fire.




He gathers wealth just as the bee

Gathers honey, and it grows

Like an ant-hill higher yet

With wealth so gained the layman can

Devote it to his people’s good.




He should divide his wealth in four

This will most advantage bring

One part he may enjoy at will,

Two parts he should put to work,

The fourth part he should set aside

As reserve in times of need.




How householder’s son, does the Ariyan disciple protect the six directions? These six things are to be regarded as the six directions:



1) The East denotes mother and father.

a) There are five ways in which a son should minister to his mother and father as the Eastern direction.

- He should think having been supported by them, I will support them.

- I will perform their duties for them.

- I will keep up the family tradition.

- I will be worthy of my heritage.

- After my parents’ deaths, I will distribute gifts on the their behalf.

b) There are five ways in which the parents, so ministered to by their son as Eastern direction, will reciprocate:

- They will restrain him from evil.


- They will support him in doing good.

- They will teach him some skill.

- They will find him a suitable wife.

- In due time, they will hand over his inheritance to him.

c) In this way the Eastern direction is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.



2) The South denotes teachers.

a) There are five ways in which pupils should minister to their teachers as the Southern direction:

- By rising to greet them.

- By serving them.

- By being attentive.

- By waiting on them.

- By mastering the skills they teach.



b) There are five ways in which their teachers, thus ministered to by their pupils as the Southern direction, will reciprocate:

- They will give thorough instruction.

- Make sure they have grasped what they should have duly grasped.

- Given them a thorough grounding in all skills.

- Recommend them to their friends and colleagues.

- Provide them with security in all directions.

c) In this way the Southern direction is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.


3) The West denotes wife and children.

a) There are five ways in which a husband should minister to his wife as the Western direction:

- By being respective to her

- By not disparaging her.

- By not being unfaithful to her.

- By giving authority to her.

- By providing her with adornments.

b) There are five ways in which a wife, thus ministered to by her husband as the Western direction, will reciprocate:

- By properly organizing her work.

- By being kind to the relatives.

- By not being unfaithful.

- By protecting husband’s property.

- By being skillful and diligent in all she has to do.

c) In this way the Western direction is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.


4) The North denotes friends and companions.

a) There are five ways in which a man should minister to his friends and companions as the Northern direction:

- By giving alms.

- By kindly words.

- By looking after their welfare.

- By treating them like himself.

- By keeping his words.

b) There are five ways in which friends and companions, thus administered to by a man as the Northern direction, will reciprocate:

- By looking after him when he is inattentive.

- By looking after his property when he is inattentive.

- By being a refuge when he is afraid.

- By not deserting him when he is in trouble.

- By showing concern for his children.

c) In this way the Northern direction is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.


5) The Nadir denotes servants and helpers.

a) There are five ways in which a master should minister to his servants and workpeople as the Nadir direction:

- By arranging their work according to their strength.

- By supplying them with food and wages.

- By looking after them when they are ill.

- By sharing special delicacies with them.

- By letting them off work at the right time.

b) There are five ways in which servants and workpeople, thus ministered to by their master as the Nadir, will reciprocate:

- They will get up before him.

- They will go to bed after him.

- Take only what they are given.

- Do their work properly.

- Be bearer of his praise and good repute.

c) In this way the Nadir is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.


6) The Zenith denotes ascetics and Brahmins.

a) There are five ways in which a man should minister to ascetics and Brahmins as the Zenith:

- By kindness in bodily deed.

- By kindness in speech.

- By kindness in thought.

- By keeping an open house for them.

- By supplying their bodily needs.

b) The ascetics and Brahmins , thus ministered to by him as the Zenith, will reciprocate in six ways:

- They will restrain him from evil.

- They will encourage him to do good.

- They will be benevolently compassionate toward him.

- They will teach him what he has not heard.

- They will help him purify what he has heard.

- They will point out to him the way to Heaven.

c) In this way the Zenith is covered, making it at peace and free from fear.


The Well-Farer having spoken, He added:


Mother, father are the East,

Teachers are the Southward point,

Wife and children are the West,

Friends and colleagues are the North.

Servants and workers are Below,

Ascetics and Brahmins are Above.



These directions all should be

Honoured by a clansman true.

He who’s wise and disciplined,

Kindly and intelligent,

Humble, free from pride,

Such a one may honour gain.



Early rising, scorning sloth,

Unshaken by adversity,

Of faultless conduct, ready wit,

Such a one may honour gain.



Making friends, and keeping them,

Welcoming, no stingy host,

A guide, philosopher and friend,

Such a one may honour gain.



Giving gifts and kindly speech,

A life well-spent for others’ good,

Even-handed in all things,

Impartial as each case demands:

These things make the world go round

Like the chariot’s axle-pin.

If such things did not exist,

No mother from her son would get

Any honour and respect,

Nor father either, as their due.

But since these qualities are held

By the wise in high esteem,

They are given prominence

And are rightly praised by all.



At these words, Sigalaka said to the Lord: “Excellent, Reverend Gotama, excellent! It is as if someone were to set up what had been knocked down, or to point out the way to one who had got lost or to bring an oil-lamp into a dark place, so that those with eyes could see what was there. Just so the Reverend Gotama has expounded the Dharma in various ways, May the reverend accept me as a lay-follower from this day forth as long as life shall last!