[copyright] The Theosophical Publishing House, 1887; 1967, The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras 20, India; Wheaton, Ill., U.S.A. and London, England
The Golden Rules of Buddhism
Compiled by H.S. Olcott
[This online edition has been slightly edited. The notes have been moved so that they come straight after the quote they belong to instead of at the bottom of the page, as there are no pages in HTML-documents. The many details about the publication have been moved to the back, whereas they were listed in the beginning in the original edition. Numbers between brackets signify the page the information directly above was on in the printed edition of 1967. For clarity's sake I've added horizontal lines after each quote and source. - Editor Buddha's World]
THE too prevalent ignorance among even adult
Sinhalese Buddhists of the ethical code of their religion heads me to
little compilation. Similar moral precepts exist by hundreds in
Buddhist Scriptures; where, also, all the present quotations will
be found in the places indicated. They should be committed to
and practised by parents and taught to their children, especially when
the latter are being educated under anti-Buddhistic influences.
Orientalists and other impartial persons admit that no religion in the world contains a more sublime system of moral rules than Buddhism, but if we wish this to become known to Buddhist children, we adult Buddhists must take the task upon ourselves. Many a Buddhist boy has beet "converted " to Christianity, or otherwise brought to despise his ancestral religion, from ignorance of its merits.
- H. S. O.
17th November, 1887
Vinaya Texts..........DAVIDS AND OLDENBERG
Buddhist Literature in China........BEAL
Catena of Buddhist Scriptures.........BEAL
Buddhist Birth Stories.........FAUSBOLL AND DAVIDS
Legend of Gaudama.........BIGANDET
Chinese Buddhism ..........EDKINS
Kalpa Sutra and Nava Tattva.....STEVENSON
Buddha and Early Buddhism.............LILLIE
Sutta Nipata..........SIR COOMARA SWAMY
Romantic History of Buddha.............BEAL
Twelve Japanese Buddhist Sects.........B. NANJIO
My Buddhist Catechism was compiled from the same excellent translations.
The Golden Rules of Buddhism
Merits and Demerits
LET him [the householder] not destroy, or cause to
be destroyed, any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do
so.* Let him refrain from even hurting any creature,** both those
that are strong, and those that tremble in the world.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 19)
* One who buys butcher's meat or poultry violates this gatha. For, by paying the butcher for meat he has killed, the buyer shares his sin by "sanctioning" his act.
** An inaccurate expression, adopted from Christian writers. A "creature" is something created (by God), but Buddhists regard all living organisms as evolved by the process of natural law.
then knowing [the law] should refrain
from stealing anything at any place; should not cause another to
anything,  should not consent to the acts of those who steal
should avoid every kind of theft.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 20)
A wise man
should avoid unchastity as if it were a
burning pit of live coals. One who is not able to live in a state
celibacy should not commit adultery.*
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 21)
* The history of all monastic establishments shows that there are persons temperamentally unfit for celibate life, and whose lapses bring great scandal upon their orders. The Sangha has not escaped this misery, offenders having been noted even in our Lord's own time. Yet the general blamelessness of Buddhist monks has been acknowledged even by clerical opponents. A true regard to the honour of the Sangha should prompt senior priests to insist upon the relinquishment of the robe by such as are not sexually self-masterful. "It is better to marry than burn", says St. Paul.
Four things does a reckless man
obtain who covets
his neighbour's wife - a bad reputation; an uncomfortable
bed; thirdly, punishment; lastly, future torment.
(Dhammapada, v. 309)
Of all the lusts and desires, there is none so
powerful as sexual inclination. This is so strong that there is
no other worth speaking of beyond it. . . . Lust and desire, in respect
of a man, are
like a person who takes a lighted torch and runs with it against the
(Sutra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 198)
When one is come to a royal assembly
official inquiry], he should not tell lies to anyone, or cause any to
or consent to the acts of those who tell lies; he should avoid
kind of untruth.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 22)
The householder who
delights in the Law should not
indulge in intoxicating drinks [or stupefying drugs], should not cause
others to drink, should not sanction the acts of those who drink,*
knowing that it
results in insanity.
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 23)
* Then no Buddhist can without grievous sin
become an arrack renter, or seller, or drinker.
He who destroys
who speaks untruth, who takes in this world what is not given him, who
takes another man's wife, and the man who gives himself up to drinking
intoxicating liquors: he, even in this world, digs up his own
(Dhammapada, vv. 246, 247)
The ignorant commit sins in
drunkenness, and also make others drink. You should avoid
this: it is the cause of demerit, insanity and ignorance - though
it be pleasing to the
(Dhammika Sutta, v. 24)
The fields are damaged by weeds,
passion; therefore a gift bestowed on the passionless brings
(Dhammapada, v. 356)
The virtuous man is happy in this
world, and he is
happy in the next; he is happy in both.
 He is happy when he thinks of the good he has done; he is still more happy when going in the good path.
(Dhammapada, v. 18)
What ought to be done is neglected, what ought not
to be done is done; the sins of unruly, thoughtless people are
(Dhammapada, v. 292)
Let each man make
himself as he teaches others to
be; he who is well subdued may subdue [others]; one's own
is difficult to subdue.
(Dhammapada, v. 159)
Whoever, being asked
for what is good, teaches what
is not good, [and] advises [another] concealing something from him,
know him to be a Vasala.*
(Vasala Sutta, v. 11)
* A slave.
Hatred is never
quenched by hatred: hatred
ceases by [showing] love; this is an old rule.
(Dhammapada, v. 5)
Let a man overcome anger by love, evil by good, the
greedy by liberality, the liar by truth.
(Dhammapada, v. 223)
Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are
spoken to, will answer thee in the same way.
(Dhammapada, v. 133)
Cut down the whole forest of lust, not one
tree. When thou hast cut down every tree and every shrub, then
thou wilt be free.
(Dhammapada, v. 283)
Not nakedness, not
matted hair, not dirt, not
fasting, not lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting
can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires.
(Dhammapada, v. 141)
If a man becomes fat and a great eater, if he is
sleepy and rolls himself about, that fool, like a hog fed on slops, is
born again and again.
(Dhammapada, v. 325)
The avaricious go not
to the world of the gods
[devas], for the fool commends not charity.
(Udanavarga, x. v. 2)
He who holds back rising anger like a rolling
chariot, him I call a real driver; other people are but holders
of the reins.
(Dhammapada, v. 222)
A wicked man who reproaches a
virtuous one, is like
one who looks up and spits at the sky; the spittle soils not the
sky, but comes back and defiles his own person. So again, he is
one who flings dirt at another when wind is contrary; the dirt
but return on him who threw it. The virtuous man cannot be hurt,
the  misery that the other would inflict comes back on himself.
(Sutra of the 42 Sections, Beal's Catena, p. 193)
The fool who is
angered and who thinks to triumph by using abusive language, is always
vanquished by him whose words are patient.
(Udanavarga, xx, v. 14)
The fault of others
is easily perceived, but that of oneself is difficult to
perceive; the faults of others one lays open as much as possible,
but one's own fault
one hides, as a cheat hides the bad die from the gambler.
If a man looks after the faults of others, and is always inclined to detract, his own weakness will grow.
(Dhammapada, vv. 252, 253)
What is called
or "Tribe", in the world, arises from usage only. It is adopted
and there by common consent.  It comes from long and uninterrupted
and from the false belief of the ignorant.
(Vasettha Sutta, vv. 55, 56)
Whatever man is
of his caste, is proud of his wealth, is proud of his family [and]
despises his relations, that [man] is a cause of suffering loss.
(Parabhava Sutta, v. 14)
obstinacy, bigotry, deception, envy, self-praise, disparaging others,
highmindedness [conceit?], evil communications, these constitute
uncleanness; not verily the eating of flesh.
Neither abstinence from fish or flesh, nor going naked, nor the shaving of the head, nor matted hair, nor dirt, etc., etc., etc., will cleanse a man not free from delusions.*
(Amagandha Sutta, vv. 7,11)
* The meaning of the Teacher is here so obvious that I cannot understand how this Sutta could have ever been cited as authority for buying and eating butcher's meat. Nothing herein lessens the force of the positive instruction in the Dhammika Sutta (v. ante) to abstain both from destroying, causing to be destroyed, or sanctioning the acts of those who destroy the life of any being. I know a large and increasing number of Sinhalese indulge in meat-eating, and quiet their consciences by quoting the above gathas; and I have listened with amusement to the sophistical argument that the sin of the killing is with the butcher and not with his sanctioning and abetting customer. Still, I must hold to my opinion until the problematical future time when black shall be proved white.
Associates and Friends
He who walks in the company of fools, suffers a long way; company with fools, as with an enemy, is always painful; company with the wise is pleasure, like meeting with kinsfolk. (Dhammapada, v. 207)
Therefore one ought to follow the
intelligent, the learned, the much-enduring, the dutiful; one
ought to follow
a good and wise man as the moon follows the path of the stars.
(Dhammapada, v. 208) .
Good people shine from afar like the snowy mountains
[the Himalayas]; bad people are not seen, like arrows shot at
(Dhammapada, v. 304)
If a traveler does not meet with one
who is his
better, or equal, let him firmly keep his solitary journey; there
is no companionship with a fool.
(Dhammapada, v. 61)
If any intelligent
person be associated for even one
moment with a wise man, he will soon perceive the fact.
(Dhammapada, v. 65)