Noble Laypeople – part 2

Foremost, who taught the Dharma well, was 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.

The role of lay people in the propagation of Buddhism

The title of a male layperson is called Upasaka (in Pali) pronounced as Woo_pa_sa_ka. This is adopted into Chinese as 優婆塞. The female equivalent is Upasika and in Chinese it is 优婆夷.

Thus, a male Buddhist can be addressed as Upasaka John and a female, Upasika Mary. However, before we go around calling ourselves Upasaka and Upasika, let us understand what this title entails. Otherwise, we might unintentionally become a charlatan,

Needless to say, an Upasaka or Upasika must have taken refuge in the Triple Gems. He/she observes the 5 precepts (minimum) and is intended in becoming enlightened. Although they live a householder’s life, they are serious in their practice of eliminating their cravings/desires, hates/aversions, and ignorance. In that manner, they live a life of simplicity and austerity; and are not attached to the pursuit of social entertainment. It is almost living like a monk/nun except that they still go to work and live together with their family. In addition to observing the precepts, they also adhere to teachings such as the Sigālovāda Sutta as primary guidelines for their daily affairs. Spare times are devoted to meditations and religious practices. In ancient times, Upasaka and Upasika wore white outfits to mark their “Semi” renunciation of household life. It is a practical way of communicating to others that they do not engage in frivolous social activities such as social drinking, visiting entertainment venues, etc. They are morally upright and are respected by their community. In Chinese Buddhism, Upasaka and Upasika adhere to a strict vegetarian diet too.

The above knowledge is to help us understand the way of life led by Buddha’s noble lay disciples and how we may aspire to emulate them.

In this post, we examine the role of Dharma propagation for a lay Buddhist.

One of the simplest ways we may participate in Dharma propagation is to donate and help sponsor the printing of Dharma publications for free distribution. That way, more people can read about Buddha’s teachings for free. Alternatively, we can gift dharma books to those who are interested to learn more.

Here’s a link to a very good book for beginners.

In addition to that, we can share our knowledge with others when the opportunity arises. However, it is important that we only share authentic Dharma. If we are not too sure, then we can always introduce people to Buddhist societies and Buddhist teachers, or recommend a book. In the case of Citta Macchikāsaṇḍika, he introduced Buddhism to his fellow townsman by summarising the Dharma clearly. Then he brought them to meet Buddha.

“Should a devoted mother wish to encourage her beloved only son in a proper way, she may tell him: ’Try to become like the Upāsaka Citta, my dear, and like Hatthaka, the upāsaka from Āḷavi.’” These two, Citta and Hatthaka, Bhikkhus, are models and guiding standards to my lay disciples. The mother may then continue: ’But if you should decide for the monkhood, my dear, then try to imitate Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna.’ These two, Sāriputta and Mahāmoggallāna, Bhikkhus, are models and guiding standards for my ordained Bhikkhus (SN 11:23). ”

As can be seen above, Upasaka Citta Macchikāsaṇḍika was an exemplary lay disciple of Buddha. Below is a pdf for your further reading to learn more about Citta Macchikāsaṇḍika’s wisdom.

The sharing of Dharma is not done with an intention of winning converts.

Instead, we do it with a pure intention to share an enlightened way of living. That intention arose from goodwill and compassion because we hope mankind can learn to live peacefully with one another, and with nature.

Last but not least, and usually forgotten by many, is that living our life in accordance with Dharma is also a form of sharing.

Being Buddhists, we have to try our best to live a praise-worthy life ourselves and be a good example for others. Otherwise, how do we convince others that Dharma leads to an enlightened way of living? For example, how can we encourage non-violence when our actions and speech are full of violence? Likewise, how can we call ourselves Buddhists if we ill-treat our subordinates at work badly or are horrible parents or horrible children?

I hope you are as inspired as me after learning about lay disciples like Citta Macchikāsaṇḍika.

May all be well and happy.

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