Digha Nikaya 31 - On Ahimsa as the means for worshiping the Six Directions

When Gotama was living near Rajagaha at the Squirrel's Feeding Place in the Bamboo Grove, a young householder named Sigalaka set out from the city in mourning: his father had just died. Gotama saw him on the road, raising his hands up, paying respect to the six directions (east, west, north, south, up and down). Gotama saw the young man was in mourning, and worshiping the six directions, and asked him, "why do you worship the directions in this way?"

The young man, distressed, explained that his father, on his deathbed, told him to worship the six directions.

Gotama said, "but this is not how you worship the six directions. Would you like me to explain the proper way of worshiping the six directions to you?" The young man was appreciative, and asked Gotama to teach him.

The Buddha said,

What are the six directions?Puratthima (East) is a word that also means "before, forward or in from the front, in the beginning." Parents are represented in the east, as they are our beginning. Dakkhina (South) also means right (as opposed to left): the right side, considered respectful, represents teachers. Pacchima (West) is where the sun sets, symbolizing the conclusion of one's life where one's wife and family are found, and the beginning of the next stage, the next Ashrama, the next manifestation of life. In a similar way, the Uttara (North) is superior or correct, outward-facing to the world of work and friends. Dhruva (downward) in the Atharva Veda 3.26 connotes commitment, intention, and mastery - Dhruva is the point directly underfoot, as servants and slaves are underfoot, so do we subjugate ourselves. Uparima (upward) represents the Brahmans and the higher duties.

This is how you worship the four lateral directions, how you worship in the four Ashramas: abandon the four conditions or causes for irrational behavior by refraining from causing harm (by adopting Ahimsa). This protects the path for conquering the remaining directions, for conquering the entire world: the devotee will have their feet firmly grounded in all directions, in this world and the next and the last. Upon the next manifestation, a good rebirth may be expected. These four conditions are abandoned by Ahimsa: harm of living beings, taking what is not given or sacrificed, sexual misconduct, and false speech. False speech is not meant to mean lies, but any harmful words.

Gotama then sang,

Harming living beings, taking what is not given
False speech, pursuing the love of one who loves another
These the wise do not praise.

How is this Ahimsa achieved? By abandoning desire, hatred, ignorance and fear.

The Buddha then sang again,

Desire, hatred, ignorance and fear
These transgress the Dharma
Whoever transgresses the Dharma comes to ruin
Like the moon in the waning fortnight

How is this abandonment achieved? Avoid intoxication, go to work and return home promptly and at the appropriate time, avoid habitual and unsacred pleasuring and parties, avoid compulsive gambling, avoid bad friendship, avoid laziness. Doing so prevents loss of wealth, quarreling, illness, disrepute, embarrassment, and weakened insight. Doing so prevents danger to one's self, one's family, and one's property, prevents being suspected of crimes, prevents rumors being spread, and many other miseries. Constantly seeking dancing, singing, music, stories, applause, drumming, game and entertainment results in madness. Compulsively gambling results in resentment, mourning over lost property, materialism, lost savings, disrepute, dishonor, the contempt of friends and family, loneliness, and loss of family and home. Bad company results in intoxication, addiction, dishonesty and criminality. Those who are lazy are easily prevented from success by cold, heat, earliness, lateness, opportunity, hunger, fullness, or any number of excuses; those who are lazy do not understand work is the means to success.

The Buddha then sang again,

Some are drinking buddies, some say "dear friend! dear friend!"
But whoever in hardship stands close by - that one is a true friend.
Sleeping late, adultery, hostility, meaninglessness
Harmful friends, utter stinginess - these destroy a person
Bad friends, bad companions, bad practices
Spending time in bad ways leads to ruin - now and later
Seduction, gambling, drinking, pleasuring
Sleeping by day, wandering around
Harmful friends, utter stinginess
These destroy a person
Those who play with dice, who drink spirits
Those who consort with lovers of others
Associating with the unesteemed
Come to ruin like the waning moon
Dragged by thirst from bar to bar
Singing into debt like a stone in water
Whoever is drunk, broke and destitute is bewildered!
When sleeping late becomes a habit
And night is seen as the time to rise
Then you are truly intoxicated - a home cannot be maintained!
Too cold, too hot, too late - waste your time
This misses opportunities.
Regard cold and heat as no more than a blade of grass
Do what needs to be done and happiness shall be no stranger.
These four enemies are disguised as friends:
The talker, the taker, the flatterer, the reckless companion

Whoever only takes, or asks for a lot while giving little, performing their duty out of fear, offering service to gain something - this is an enemy. Whoever reminds one of past generosity, promising future generosity, mouthing empty words of kindness and protesting personal misfortune when called to help - this is an enemy. Whoever supports both good and bad behavior indiscriminately, praising you to your face and insulting you behind your back - this is an enemy. Whoever accompanies you in drinking and intoxication, keeps you from home or work, who is always partying and pleasuring, ready to gamble - this is an enemy.

This is what the Buddha said.

But who is your friend? The one who helps, who endures in good and bad times, the mentor, the compassionate friend, the protector of your self, the protector of your wealth, the protector of what you hold dear, the refuge when you are afraid, the one who takes upon them tasks and provides double what is requested in need; the one who tells you secrets, who guards your secrets closely, the one who never abandons you, the one who will die for you or sustain injury for you; the one who restrains your wrongdoing or guides you to good action, telling you what you ought to know, showing you the path to happiness and success; the one who does not rejoice in your misfortune, who delights in your good fortune, who prevents others from speaking ill of you, and encouraging others to praise you for your good qualities. This is your friend.

This is what the Buddha said.

Know the six directions: your mother and father are the East. Your teachers are the South. Your spouse and family are the West. Your friends and colleagues are the North. Your workers, laborers and servants are beneath you. The Brahmans are above you. Knowing you are surrounded by friends results in your worshiping every direction.

Support your parents as they supported you, do your duty to them, maintain your family line and traditions, become worthy of inheritance, make sacrifices for your dead ancestors who no longer are able to sacrifice. Respect your parents by restraining yourself from wrongdoing, guide yourself toward good action, train in a profession, support a spouse, and prepare your children to assume your duties - and those of your ancestors.

Attend to your teacher's lessons, eagerly desire to learn, dutifully serve your teachers, receive instruction from them. Train in self-discipline, learn every branch of knowledge. Respect your teacher's teachers.

Honor your spouse by not disrespecting them, being faithful to them, sharing authority with them, giving gifts to them. Be well-organized, kindly disposed to your in-laws, your household workers, being faithful and loyal, dependable, looking after the household you share, skillful and diligent in all your duties.

Respect your friends and colleagues by generosity, kind words, acting for their welfare, by being impartial and honest with them. Protect them when they are vulnerable, protect their wealth and what they hold dear, be a refuge for them when they are afraid, do not abandon them in misfortune, honor your friendship with all their descendants.

Workers, laborers, and servants should be respected: allocate work according to their aptitude, provide fair wages and food, look after their sick, share in special treats, give reasonable time off from work. Be willing to start early and finish late when necessary, take only what is given, do work well, promote your shared good reputation.

Treat Brahmans with respect by kindness, generosity, hospitality, and providing for material needs. Restrain yourself from wrongdoing, guide your actions, think compassionately, do not ignore what you ought to know, clarify your knowledge, take the path to happiness.
In this way, all directions are conquered, and made peaceful and secure.