The Buddha's Guide to Peace and Happiness
1. Basic Morality
2. Building and
    Managing Wealth
3. Protecting Assets
    and Wealth
4. False Friends
    and True Friends
5. Protecting
6. Qualities for

How to Accumulate Wealth
1. Material Wealth
    and Progress
2. Spiritual Wealth
    and Progress

How to Avoid Downfall
1. Material Downfall
2. Moral Downfall
3. Spiritual Downfall

A Life of Blessings
1. The Essential
2. The Supporting
3. The Personal
4. The Higher
5. The Supreme


The Buddha’s Guide to Peace and Happiness

The Sigalovada Sutta

5. Protecting Relationships

Six types of relationships to protect – The Six Directions

As we begin our lives, we are children brought up at home.
The East represents children and parents.

As youths, the next stage of our life is spent in school.
The South represents students and teachers.

As young adults, starting a family follows.
The West represents husbands and wives.

As grown-ups, we have our social lives.
The North represents friends and associates.

As breadwinners, we have our businesses and work.
The Nadir represents employers and employees.

As we mature in our lives, we seek higher goals.
The Zenith represents lay persons and spiritual teachers.


The Buddha graphically and very imaginatively depicted the various sets of relationships in society as the ‘Six Directions’ that should be protected.  Each direction represents a different social relationship where each party has reciprocal responsibilities towards the other.

Using the further symbolism of the four main cardinal directions, each one signifies a different stage that everyone goes through in life, from a child to an adult.  In addition, the Nadir or the downward direction, represents the down-to-earth reality of earning a living, and the Zenith or the upward direction, represents the higher spiritual life. 

In Buddhism, relationships should be reciprocal and not one-sided.  A spirit of generosity and considerate behaviour are necessary.  Thus by each person helping and being considerate to others, everyone in-turn benefits from this positive conduct.  In this way, all relationships in society are protected and the well-being of the community assured. 


Protecting the East – Children and Parents

How children should treat their parents
By supporting their parents when necessary [1]
By helping them in their business, at work, or in any other appropriate ways
By keeping the family together
By being worthy of their inheritance [2]
By doing charitable acts in memory of departed parents and relatives

How parents should treat their children
By restraining their children from doing wrong 

By encouraging them to do what is right [3]
By having them trained in a profession [4]
By helping or giving advice in the choice of a suitable marriage partner
By handing over their inheritance at a proper time [5] 

When children and parents treat each other in this way, the East is protected and the family made peaceful and secure.

Protecting the South – Students and Teachers

How students should treat their teachers
By showing their teachers proper respect
By attending to their needs
By personal service to them
By being eager to learn
By paying careful attention when being taught

How teachers should treat their students
By training their students to develop self-discipline
By teaching them so that they understand the lessons well
By giving them a well-balanced education
By introducing them to friends and colleagues [6]
By helping to ensure their safety and well-being

When students and teachers treat each other in this way, the South is protected and places of learning made peaceful and secure.

Protecting the West – Husbands and Wives

How a husband should treat his wife
By treating her with courtesy
By showing her respect [7]
By being faithful to her
By sharing authority of the household with her
By providing her with jewellery and gifts [8]

How a wife should treat her husband
By properly organizing the household
By being hospitable to in-laws, and treating household workers well [9]
By being faithful to him
By helping to preserve the family wealth [10]
By being skilful and diligent in her duties

When husbands and wives treat each other in this way, the West is protected and households made peaceful and secure.

Protecting the North – Friends and Associates

How one should treat friends and associates
By being generous and willing to share
By speaking with kind words
By being helpful
By being impartial and unbiased
By being sincere and honest

How friends and associates should treat each other
By taking care of each other when they are vulnerable
By protecting their property when they are vulnerable
By being a refuge in times of fear or danger
By not abandoning them in times of need
By respecting and showing consideration for their family

When friends and associates treat each other in this way, the North is protected and society made peaceful and secure.

Protecting the Nadir – Employers and Employees

How employers should treat their employees
By assigning their employees work according to their abilities
By paying them adequately for their work
By looking after their medical needs
By giving them special treats [11]
By allowing them leave and holidays [12]

How employees should treat their employers
By arriving early for work
By staying late when necessary
By taking only what is given
By doing their job well
By upholding and spreading the good reputation of their employer

When employees and employers treat each other in this way, the Nadir is protected and places of work made peaceful and secure.

Protecting the Zenith – Spiritual teachers and Lay followers

How lay followers should treat their spiritual teachers
By kind actions
By kind speech
By kind thoughts [13]
By keeping their house open to them
By providing them with material needs [14]

How spiritual teachers should treat their lay followers
By restraining them from doing wrong
By encouraging them to do what is right
By showing them compassion
By teaching them what they do not know
By clarifying what has been taught
By showing them the way and guiding them in spiritual practice [15]

When spiritual teachers and lay followers treat each other in this way, the Zenith is protected and spiritual places made peaceful and secure.

Parents are the East,
Teachers are the South,
Spouses are the West,
Friends and associates are the North.

Workers and employees are the Nadir,
Spiritual teachers are the Zenith.
These are the directions to be honoured
By one who would be fit to lead a good life.



[1]  This is the most basic duty of  children toward their parents.  To show gratitude for all the difficulties and expenses in bringing them up, they must provide for their parents when it is necessary, and take care of them in their old age.  According to the Buddha, the only way we can truly repay our parents is to teach and encourage them to practice the Dhamma.

[2]  This would mean good behaviour, loyalty, and children doing the best they can for the sake of their parents who have worked so hard to provide them with their inheritance, whether it is large or small.

[3]  Parents are the first teachers their children have and should actively guide them to not only avoid bad deeds, but also to encourage them to do good deeds.  There is no better way for parents to do this than by being good examples and role models for their children.

[4]  In the modern context, this duty means that parents should provide their children with at least a basic education.  For Buddhist parents, this should include some education in the Dhamma too.  Nowadays, many Buddhist parents overlook or ignore this responsibility, usually because they themselves do not have much knowledge in this area.  However, all Buddhist parents should not neglect this crucial duty of setting their children as early as possible on the right path.

[5]  This has practical and very serious implications especially today.  Many people are not adequately prepared for death and leave ambiguous wills, or even no wills at all.  This frequently results in the surviving family members fighting each other with much hatred and animosity over the estate of the deceased.  Parents should try to allocate as much of the inheritance as they can to their children while they are still alive, to prevent such disputes arising and ensure a smooth transition and handing over.

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[6]  This would mean that teachers should help their students by putting them in touch with their own connections.  By doing so their students will get to know the right people when furthering their studies, or when looking for jobs.  The Buddha, more than 2,500 years ago, already saw the importance of social networking!

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[7]  In a culture where males were very dominant and females usually treated as second-class citizens or worse, the Buddha advocated a change in mindset and attitudes towards women, promoting equality between partners.  It was good advice then, as it is now, that husbands should always treat their wives with courtesy and respect to maintain a loving and enduring relationship.  

[8]  In ancient India, before there were any banks, people usually put their savings and wealth into jewellery.  This jewellery was worn on the person and were often the only form of savings a wife had if her husband were to pass away.  Nowadays, this would mean that husbands should have sufficient insurance coverage for their wives and children in case of unexpected serious illness or death.  Apart from this very practical reason, all wives enjoy some jewellery and gifts from their husbands from time to time.

[9]  Household workers include domestic maids.  How significant this advice is nowadays, as we can see so many housewives being hauled to court for ill-treating their maids, resulting in shame and difficulties for their own families. 

[10]  Wives have a duty towards their husbands not to over-spend or waste hard earned money.  They should spend wisely and help to save whenever possible so as to preserve the family’s wealth.  Again, this is another example of the Buddha’s practical and timeless advice, relevant in his time as it is in ours.

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[11]  This may be taken nowadays to mean that employers should share their profits and success by giving out rewards and bonuses to employees when their businesses are doing well.  This builds up employee loyalty and is an incentive for them to continue their hard work, for the long-term good of their employers.

[12]  It is truly amazing for the Buddha to have included these points here as they were made more than 2,500 years ago when slavery was common, workers exploited and there were no such things as minimum wages or basic working conditions.  Only in the last century did trade unions obtain such rights for workers.

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[13]  This should not be taken to mean that kind actions, speech and thoughts should be practiced only towards spiritual teachers.  By performing these wholesome deeds towards all beings, lay followers are in fact repaying their teachers’ efforts by putting what has been learnt into practice, for their own benefit and that of others too.

[14]  This may be taken to mean that lay followers should extend their support to all virtuous spiritual teachers in general, and not have excessive devotion towards just one particular spiritual teacher or monk.  If the teacher is upright and imparts good teachings, then all is well.  However, the danger of being led astray arises if such partiality blinds one to improper or inaccurate teachings.  Also, if anything were to happen to that favourite teacher or monk, then the lay follower with such undue devotion may fall away from valuable and necessary spiritual guidance.   

[15]  In a Buddhist context, this would mean the practice of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, meditation, and other higher spiritual teachings and practices. 

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