The three factors of moral discipline are right speech, right action and right livelihood.

Right speech

Right speech involves abstaining from:

  • False speech

    Rather than lying one should make an effort to speak truthfully. (From the suttas>>>)
  • Slanderous speech

    Instead of making statements intended to divide or create enmity between people one should always speak words which promote friendship and harmony between people.
  • Harsh speech

    Instead of speech which is angry and bitter, which cuts into the hearts of others, one's speech should always be soft, gentle and affectionate.
  • Idle chatter and gossip

    Instead one should speak words which are meaningful, significant and purposeful.

These show the tremendous power locked up in the faculty of speech.

Right action

Right action is concerned with bodily action. It includes abstaining from:

  • destruction of life — abstaining from killing of other living beings, animals and all other sentient beings, e.g., hunting, fishing etc.
  • taking what is not given — stealing, cheating, exploiting others, gaining wealth by dishonest and illegal ways etc.
  • sexual misconduct — illicit types of sexual relations such as adultery, seduction, etc. (For those ordained as monks, the observance of celibacy.)

Although the principles of right speech and right action are worded negatively, some reflection will suggest that positive psychological factors of great power go along with abstinence.

For each of these negatively-worded abstinences we can find a positive virtue that has to be cultivated simultaneously. For example:

  • Abstaining from the taking of life implies a commitment to compassion, respecting the life of other beings.
  • Abstaining from stealing implies a commitment to honesty or respect for others' rights of ownership.
  • Abstaining from false speech implies a commitment to truth.

Right Livelihood

The Buddha teaches his disciples to avoid any occupation or job that causes harm and suffering to other living beings or any kind of work that leads to one's own inner deterioration. Instead the practitioner should earn a living in an honest, harmless and peaceful way.

While the specific occupations the Buddha mentions to avoid are relevant to his time, he teaches that his followers should avoid deceitfulness, hypocrisy, high pressure salesmanship, and trickery, or any kind of dishonest way of acquiring means of support.

These three factors — right speech, right action and right livelihood — deal with the outer conduct of life. The next three factors are concerned with the training of the mind.


The Noble Eightfold Path

3 of 4

Qualities of the Dharma
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The True Nature of Existence
  The Five Aggregates of Clinging
  Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta
  Dependent Arising
  Kamma, Nibbana and Rebirth


The Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha