One of the main force of Buddhism is the lay followers. When there is no longer anyone interested in the message of Buddha, Buddhism will be slowly forgotten and lost.
On the other hand, the monastic community is a living legacy of how Buddha lived; because they honour and uphold the lifestyle set down by Sakyamuni Buddha for the monastic order. By observing the precepts of a monk or nun and living a life of austerity and spiritual training, they are respected by the lay followers. A good layman recognise such noble quality of the monastic order and support them by offering them living requisites.
(I inserted links to well written articles on the topic above)
In our modern world, we are privileged with easy access to information. Various sutra and teachings can be obtained from books and the internet. However, the people in ancient world does not have that privilege. So how did Buddhism spread and remained till today?
I believe the lay community also have a strong role to play in spreading the teachings of Buddha. I think the lay Buddhist influence others by living the teaching. That means they put what they learn into practice. They become part of Dharma.
When we become part of what Dharma represents by living and practicing Dharma, then the guy next door is bound to notice. Our relatives and family is bound to notice. They will notice and feel the quality of Dharma. They will witness the Dharma for themselves.
So what is it that a lay buddhist demonstrate?
I believe, it is the aura of
- disciplined simplicity in their approach to life with no sense of superiority that I am holier than you (Precepts)
- Mindfulness of their behaviour and speech so that they bring benefit and joy to themselves and others (Mindfulness)
- Ability to understand and accept life’s reality such as life’s imperfection and impermanence (Wisdom)
- Demonstrating a reduced EGO
- Trying their best to practice and promote generosity, letting things go (i.e. not being calculative but forgiving), diligence in life (spiritual or temporal) , enthusiastic in spiritual and temporal, patience & tolerance, trustworthiness and truthful, compassion and loving kindness, all inclusiveness , etc.
Personally, it is number 4. that attracted me to Buddhism.
Before I became a Buddhist, I asked Buddhist teachers if I can back out of Buddhism if I find it unsuitable for me later. All of them had this amused look and said “Of course!” Perhaps it is my Karma but when I was trying to decide which religion suits me, only Buddhist teachers assured me with openness that it is ok to back out at anytime.
Buddha or his disciples are not interested in building a huge empire or membership. They are only concerned about teaching all beings in the universe to co-exist with wisdom and how to gain enlightenment.
When asked if Buddhism is the only path that leads to Enlightenment, the Buddha said that enlightenment can be achieved as long as the noble eightfold path is being taught.
Therefore, a good layman must try their best to live in accordance to the Buddha’s teaching (relating to lay follower) and be part of that living legacy. That way, people associating with us will be convinced of the Dharma’s benefit.
- Be willing to share the Buddha Dharma and
- acknowledge that we are still imperfect.
We do not have to be saints before sharing the Buddha’s message about
- wisdom and non-superstition,
- loving kindness and compassion
- Social responsibility etc.