I found this sutta very timely because we are now reading the Kevatta Sutta, which sets the standards of Buddhist Contemplatives (people who made a livelihood from the donations of the faithful). How about lay Buddhist? What qualities make a good lay Buddhist. The answer is in the Mahanama Sutta.
In what way is one a lay follower of Buddha?
Mahanama, inasmuch as one has gone to the Buddha for refuge, has gone to the Dhamma for refuge, has gone to the Sangha for refuge; in that way, Mahanama, one is a lay followerMahanama Sutta:
by Kumara Bhikkhu
In what way is one a virtuous lay Buddhist?
“Mahanama, inasmuch as a lay follower
1. abstains from destroying living beings;
2. abstains from taking what is not given;
3. abstains from sexual misconduct;
4. abstains from lying;
5. abstains from wine, liquor and intoxicants that are causes for heedlessness; in that way, Mahanama, a lay follower is virtuous.”Mahanama Sutta:
by Kumara Bhikkhu
In what way is one a selfish Buddhist?
Mahanama, inasmuch as a lay follower
- is possessed of faith himself, but rouses not others to possess faith;
- is possessed of virtue himself, but rouses not others to possess virtue;
- is possessed of charity himself, but rouses not others to possess charity;
- is himself desirous of meeting with monks, but rouses not others to meet with monks; (to learn Dharma from a qualified teacher. To understand the quality of a Buddhist monk, refer to my post on Kevatta Sutta)
- is himself desirous of hearing the true Dhamma, but rouses not others to hear the true Dhamma; (learning Dharma)
- is himself habitually mindful of the Dhamma that is heard, but rouses not others to be mindful of the Dhamma; (remembering the Dharma)
- has himself ascertained the meaning/benefit of the Dhamma that is heard, but rouses not others to ascertain the meaning/benefit; (Can only be achieved when we contemplate and examine the Dharma)
- having known the meaning/benefit, having known the Dhamma, is himself committed to the practice according to the Dhamma, but rouses not others to be committed to the practice according to the Dhamma
Besides becoming a Buddhist and living a virtuous life by following the five precepts, a lay Buddhist should also try to share the wisdom of Buddha with others. For example, if everyone on Earth practices non-violence, doesn’t that make the world a better place? It is therefore in the same spirit that we celebrate and encourage people to have wisdom, mindfulness, morality.
Personally, I think this is a Mahayana attitude. When we find a positive way of living, we should share it with others. That way, more people will benefit from it. Our Buddhist way of sharing the Buddha’s message is always through peaceful means. We do not rely on violence or force but seek to light up the wisdom in each person’s heart.
In summary, a good Buddhist must have taken refuge in the Triple Gems, observe the precepts and also encourage others to walk the path that leads to Ultimate Happiness.
May all be well and happy.