Articles

Noble Laypeople – part 1

Do you know that lay people played an important role in Buddhism?

This series of posts will shed some light. Let’s see what Buddha had to say about his exemplary lay followers first.

The foremost of my lay disciples in first going for refuge are the merchants Tapussa and Bhallika.

They are the 1st lay disciples of Buddha. They were traveling merchants who met Buddha shortly after His Enlightenment and were the 1st to take refuge in Buddha and the Dharma. (There was no Sangha then)

Foremost, as a donor, is the householder Sudatta Anāthapiṇḍika.

He was a billionaire and philanthropist who donated the Jeta grove and built the Jetavana monastery for Buddha. Jeta grove belonged to Prince Jeta and Anathapindika asked the Prince to quote a price for it. I imagined Prince Jeta was kinda pissed by this rich guy’s request. So Prince Jeta said he would sell the land for the price that is equivalent to the number of gold pieces required to cover the land!” And Anathapindika took the challenge! That’s why Jetavana Monastery ended up being the pricest monastery.

Foremost, who teach the Dharma well, is the householder Citta Macchikāsaṇḍika.

The sharing of wisdom or Dharma is not exclusively reserved for the monks and nuns. As we can see here, lay disciples also play an important role in spreading the Buddha’s words to the world. Citta was able to understand the Dharma clearly and explain it to others properly. By doing so, he converted 500 householders and brought them to the Buddha all at once.

Foremost, who attracts a congregation by the four ways of being inclusive, is Hatthaka Āḷavaka.

This householder is mentioned in the Alavaka Sutta that was just shared. He was celebrated for his ability to maintain a cohesive community numbering more than a thousand. I guess we can call him a skilled collaborator and organiser in our modern terms.

Foremost, who donates fine alms, is Mahānāma Sakka.

This man was steadfast in providing food for the monastic community. Since the monks and nuns are devoting all their time to Dharma practice, they do not have any income or means to buy food. One of our Buddhist lay duties is to sponsor and feed the monastic community.

Foremost, who donates nice agreeable requisites, is the householder Ugga of Vesālī.

As mentioned previously, monks and nuns depend on the charity of others to survive. Besides food, they also have needs for requisites such as medicine, clothing, water, etc. However, monks and nuns also have strict rules to live a life of austerity. Thus, not all gifts are appropriate for them. As lay disciples, it is our duty to only gift appropriate items.

Foremost, who attends to the Saṅgha, is the householder Uggata of Hatthi Village.

This refers to his steadfast respect for the monastic community and attending to their needs. Uggata attended to their needs without discriminating whether it is a respectable senior monk or a junior monk with only a few good qualities.

Foremost, who has experiential confidence, is Sūrambaṭṭha.

Surambattha was approached by Mara (A powerful deity who opposes Buddha) who was disguised as Buddha. He saw through Mara’s disguise and was not confused by Mara’s ruse.

Foremost, who has confidence and faith, is Jīvaka Komārabhacca.

Jivaka is the personal doctor of Buddha and his confidence and faith in Buddhism were unshakeable. He was confident of its benefit and efficaciousness for everyone, including very bad people. In this instance, he brought an evil person back to the Noble path

Foremost, who is close and intimate, is the householder Nakulapitu.

Nakulapitu treated Buddha and His sangha like his own family.

That’s all for now. How many of the above qualities do we have? Let’s learn from their stories.

May all be well and happy.

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