Texts from the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka

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Foundation of Buddhist ethics

These two passages from the Tipitaka from the Veḷudvāreyyasutta and the Theragatha respectibly express in the most succint way the essence of Buddhist ethics – pointing to the “Golden Rule” on one hand and on the other the example of motherly love.  Read more


Vaseţţha Sutta

The Vaseţţha Sutta states that human beings are equal. In this sutta from the Majjhima Nikāya (also from the Sutta Nipāta) the Buddha refutes the brahminical idea that one is a Brahmin  by birth. The Buddha explains this by pointing to the fact that human beings areone species. Human beings do not have different kinds of bodies as have different kinds of animals. What make human beings different from each other are only their actions. Being a Brahmin has nothing to do with birth. The true Brahmin is the person who has got rid of the impurities of the mind. Read more


Suddhika Sutta

In this sutta the Buddha declares that all human beings are equally capable of reaching the highest stage of spiritual perfection. Here he explicitly denounce the brahminical idea that those belonging to the “lowest” strata of indian society were less endowed with spiritual capacity. Read More


Kakacupama Sutta

In this sutta we find a very strong statement by the Buddha on how important it is to love every human being – even the most wicked and cruel ones. The emphasis on right motivation as integral to right action is one of the hallmarks of Buddhism. How is this to be applied in relation to adversaries threatening the very existence of Buddhism? Read More


Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta

In this sutta the Buddha declares that the ideal ruler (cakkavatti) should rule in accordance with the universal moral law (Dhamma). Thus there is a universal  principle of righteousness and justice that should be applied in governing a country. In the application of this principle one can see interesting parallels with the principles of Human Rights as they have been articulated in the declarations of the United Nations. Read More


Ambaṭṭha Sutta

In this sutta emphasizing again the fact that human beings are fundamentally equal the Buddha declares that ideas such as caste (jāti)[i]or clan (gotta) as well as ideas of being (socially) superior or inferior are incompatible with truly following his Teachings – referred to here as practice (caraṇa) and wisdom (vijjā. Only by abandoning such ideas can liberation be achieved. Read More



In this sutta the Buddha gives a story of how society evolved with the people at one point electing a ruler to maintain law and order in society. Interestingly the reason given for this is that economic inequalities developed and became causes for conflicts and violence. The ruler is referred to as Mahā Sammata which the text explains as “chosen by the whole people” thus suggesting the concept of democracy. Read More



This passage give expression to the universality of Buddhism. The Buddha exhorted the first monks who had achieved enlightenment (arahattā) to share the truth they had realized with others. The word used bahujana meaning “people in general” and loka meaning “the world”. This meaning comes out clearly in the reference to devamanussā meaning “gods and humans” referring to humanity and those beyond. Read More