Title- The Three Abstinences (Samma-vaca, Samma-kammanta, Samma-ajiva)




When one is studying the three virati-cetasikas, one should first possess the knowledge of ten duccaritas (evil conducts).



The ten evil conducts may be categorized into two groups, i.e., those concerned with one’s livelihood and those which are not. For instance, killing in order to rob, to assassinate a person because one is paid to do so, or to earn one’s living as a hunter or a fisherman, and such like, are evil deeds which are concerned with earning a livelihood. Taking life due to anger or hatred is duccarita not related to livelihood. Likewise all other evil deeds can be divided into two classes.



Appearing as false witness in a court, advocating for unjust causes, earning income by telling tales and fables as a narrator, etc., are unwholesome deeds related to livelihood. False speech, verbal rudeness, making up false statements, etc., with no hope of acquiring anything are vaci-duccarita not related to livelihood.






Abstinences (Viratis)



Abstainence from kaya-duccarita (evil conduct in deed) and vaci-duccarita (evil conduct in speech) is called virati (Abstainence). If you refrain from telling falsehood even though you have chance to lie, it is samma-vaca-virati if it (telling falsehood) is not related to livelihood, but it is samma-ajiva-virati if it is related to livelihood.



The abstention from killing even if you get the chance is samma-kammanta-virati if it is not related to livelihood. But if the killing is concerned with livelihood, it is samma-ajiva-virati.






Other Good Deeds Not Belonging to the Class of Virati



In life there also are other good deeds which are not of the nature of the three abstinences mentioned above. They are kusala (good actions) not associated with these virati-cetasikas. Such deeds as saying good words without the occasion for abstinence, reciting Pali formula for observance of precepts such as Panatipata veramanisikkhapadam samadiyami, etc., could be called samma-vaca (good speech). They form wholesome cetanas. Alms-giving, paying homage to the Buddha, listening to the Dhamma, etc., without the occasion for abstinence could be called samma-kammanta (good deeds).  Such good deeds are wholesome cetanas. Traditional occupations such as trade and commerce without the occasion for abstinence could be called samma-ajiva (good livelihood). But in all these cases, as there is no abstinence involved, the good speech, etc., cannot be called virati-cetasika. They should be known as just kusals-cetasikas.






Virati in Three Actions



There are three practical aspects of each of the three viratis mentioned above. They are samadana-virati, sampatta-virati, and samuccheda-virati. The first, samadana-virati is abstinence by means of observing sila (precepts). If you get a chance to kill a cow but spare it because you have taken the precept of abstention from killing, you gain samadana-virati merit.



Once there was a layman, who after taking precepts from a bhikkhu, went to the fields to search for his lost cow. While he was ascending a hillock, a big python entwined his leg.



As he was about to kill the snake with his sword, he remembered he had taken sila (precepts) from his teacher, and so he did not harm the snake. Due to the power of sila, the snake let him free and went away. This is the story of samadana-virati because abstinence was made because the man had taken the precepts. Thus abstinence at the time of taking precepts or after doing so amounts to samadana-virati. {samadana=observance of precepts; virati=abstinence from evil}.



Incidental abstinence is classified as sampatta-virati. For example, in ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka), a lay devotee named Cakkana was tending to his sick mother whose physician recommended the fresh meat of a rabbit as a cure. So the layman went in search of a rabbit. He caught a small one in a paddy field and was about to kill it when he suddenly felt pity for the timid animal and set it free. Back home he told his sick mother the incident and then made a solemn utterance; “Ever since I came to know what was right and what was wrong, I had never taken the life of any living being with a will to do so”. Due to this noble, solemn truth, his mother recovered from her ailment. In this incident, the layman had not observed any sila beforehand. But at the time he caught the rabbit, instant compassion made him refrain from killing. This is a case of sampatta-virati. {Sampatta=from incidental wrong doing; virati=abstinence}.



The abstinence that is associated with Magga-citta (Path-consciousness) is called samuccheda-virati (abstention by way of total eradication of latent defilements), because when Magga-citta is attained, the abstention at that moment is for the sake of total cutting off mental defilements. {Samuccheda=by way of totally cutting the latent mental defilements; virati=abstention}



In this way, each basic virati-cetasika is further divided in to three sub-classes.








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