silabbata-paramasa: almost everywhere translated as "attachment (clinging) to mere rules (rites) and rituals", the third fetter.
There is nothing in the Pali which corresponds to "mere". The use of it indicates that the translator has not understood.
silabbata = sila + bata (vata)
sila = morality = character, behaviour
vata = practice, custom, behaviour. cp Vedic vrata = vow
paramasa = attachment, clinging, misapprehension
Fetters are normally bonds which hold one down and have been put on us by someone else. In Buddhist psychology, fetters certainly hold us down but it is because we hold on to them. Like a man who is stuck at the bottom of the sea because he is holding on to a heavy anchor.
So really it means clinging to the practice of morality. The key word is "clinging". There is nothing wrong with morality including conventional codes of good conduct.
Think of it: all morality is practiced within the field of the sangsara. If you escape the sangsara, there is nowhere to practise morality, nor any need for the mental concepts of "morality" or "practicing".
As far as the practice of morality within the sangsara is concerned, you can't escape the sangsara unless your morality is perfect. If you visualise the universal octopus, the reason for this becomes obvious.
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