Purification of Virtue (Sīla-visuddhi) (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2021-03-16

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Purification of Virtue: It is the purification of verbal and bodily actions.

Nibbāna element is free from all defilement or impurities. So, it is called purity—visuddhi. The practice to realize this purity is the path— i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path (magga). Nibbāna nature is intrinsic purity. Therefore, to arrive there, these seven processes are the ways of purification. So, there are seven stages for it.

To purify oneself from the unwholesome dhammas which soil the virtues (sīla). Bodily and verbal unwholesome actions become purified is purity in virtues (sīla-visuddhi). Some defilement (kilesa) has to be purified with virtues. It is purifying with sīla or purification by sīla. What are called virtues? There are quite a few kinds of them, such as five precepts, eight precepts, ten precepts, etc.

The mental volition motivates oneself to abstain from related unwholesome dhammas, is sīla. Not only volition, but the function of abstaining itself is also sīla. As an example, someone encounters a situation for telling a lie, but he does not commit it. Controlling oneself from doing unwholesome things is also sīla. Restraint is a virtue and called saṁvara sīla. Restraining of the senses is preventing the unwholesome dhammas coming in.

This is practicing with sati (mindfulness). Always one has to be alert with mindfulness. Most people think or know as abstaining from doing wrongs is sīla. This is virati sīla. All volitional motivations are sīla. It needs to understand the foundation of sīla. So, that one can look after it. For example, in the five precepts, the first one is abstaining from taking life. Knowing that much is not enough. It must like a fence stops the cows to come in.

Undertaking the practice of virtues or other things cannot do it in a relaxed way. It must do with great effort or ardently (ātāpī). For different reasons and causes, people are stopping their undertaking of sīla. This is limited sīla. There are levels of sīla; such as give up one’s life for sīla or protecting one’s sīla with life, trainee’s sīla (sotāpanna, once-returner and non-returner) and asekkha’s sīla (the arahant). Virtues (sīla) are the root of wisdom (paññā).

Dhammas are enriching the stability of sīla. These are indriya saṁvara sīla—restraining of the senses, this is the exercising with sati.

  1. Connection with the mind; right livelihood (sammā-ājīva);
  2. Reflection on the four requisites, i.e. robes, food, dwelling and medicine;
  3. Tolerating, such as cold, heat, hunger, thirst, touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, reptiles, ill-spoken, etc.,
  4. Avoiding things and matters which can affect sīla, etc.

Therefore, sīla is like the root of a tree. Very important for mundane and supramundane matters. Sīla can be easily spoiled. To make it strong and stable needs the power of samādhi to support it. This is the second stage of purity.

revised on 2021-03-16; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36990#p36990 (posted on 2019-11-22)

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According to the translator— Ven. Uttamo's words, this is strictly for free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma—Dhamma Dāna. You may re-format, reprint, translate, and redistribute this work in any medium.

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