The Sutra on Having Moral Discipline

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In The Sutra on Having Moral Discipline (Skt. Śīlasaṃyuktasutra; Tib. ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་ཡང་དག་པར་ལྡན་པའི་མདོ།, Wyl. tshul khrims yang dag par ldan pa’i mdo), which takes place at Prince Jeta’s Grove in Shravasti, the Buddha teaches his sangha about the benefits of having moral discipline (Skt. śīla; Tib. tsultrim) and the importance of guarding it. It is difficult, he says, to obtain a human life and encounter the teachings of a Buddha, let alone to then take monastic vows and maintain moral discipline. But unlike just losing that one human life, which comes and then inevitably is gone, the consequences of failing in moral discipline are grave and experienced over billions of lifetimes. The Buddha continues in verse, praising moral discipline and its necessity as a foundation for engaging in the Dharma and attaining nirvana. He concludes his discourse with a reflection on the folly of pursuing fleeting worldly enjoyments.

The Buddha is only in the presence of monks, and he only instructs them on how to attain nirvana and the higher realms, rather than buddhahood. As the Buddha is addressing the monastic congregation, it can be assumed that the topic of moral discipline here pertains to maintaining the vows of a fully ordained monk, and indeed he refers to taking monastic vows as if it were a given for his audience.

This is not designated a Mahayana sutra and does not address any explicitly Mahayana subjects.[1]


There was no known Sanskrit original of this sutra available until recently, when a manuscript containing a collection of twenty sutras was found in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Bhikṣuṇī Vinītā published a critical edition and English translation of this collection in the series Sanskrit Texts from the Autonomous Region (2010).

Tibetan Translation

The Tibetan translation of this sutra can be found in the General Sutra section of the Tibetan Dergé Kangyur, Toh 303.

  • English translations:
  • Thubten Kalzang Rinpoche, Bhikkhu Nagasena, and Bhikkhu Khantipalo published by the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in 1973
  • Nālandā Translation Committee, in The Rites of Poṣadha(2001).


  1. 84000 Translating the Words of the Buddha.