Noble Laypeople – part 3

Hatthaka Āḷavaka

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

This householder is mentioned in the Alavaka Sutta and it is good for us, as lay people to learn from him. 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.

One of the voluntary work that we (lay people) can do, is to help organise dharma events in a selfless manner. Even during the Buddha’s time, a huge congregation of people can prove to be logistically challenging. Ananda is well known for managing the monastic logistic and in this case Hatthaka Āḷavaka is famous for managing the lay people.

The following 4 qualities of Hatthaka Āḷavaka help to maintain harmonies amongst the large congregation of lay people. I believe this is very relevant for lay Buddhist leaders too and my post on this topic is here,

qualities to attract and keep a following
  1. by giving,
  2. by pleasant speech,
  3. by beneficent conduct,
  4. by impartiality

In Hatthaka Sutta (1), Buddha praised Hatthaka’s following qualities.

Hatthaka of Alavi is endowed with

conviction – Faith in the Triple Gems. In regards to faith in Dharma, it means we have that confidence in the path. For example, having faith that a “simple” technique like breathing meditation or chanting a short mantra or Buddha’s name can lead to enlightenment.

He is virtuous – Constantly engaged in good and virtuous deeds.

He has a sense of conscience – a sense of righteousness and fairness in the heart. Not willing to take advantage of others.

He has a sense of concern – caring about other’s physical and mental well-being

He is learned – knowledgeable in the Dharma

He is generous – practice charity

He is discerning – able to distinguish right from wrong, differentiate between dharma and non-dharma

He is modest – not proud and haughty.

In another sutta attributed to Hatthaka, Buddha discussed about having a good sleep at night with him. I guess this is very relevant for modern people like us. Many of us are plagued by insomnia due to secular stress. In this sutta, Buddha described how He always slept well even when the environment was harsh and this was because He had removed all afflictions that are caused by Craving, Hatred, and Ignorance. It is also in this sutta that we see how Hatthaka demonstrated a sense of concern as highlighted above.

Hatthaka was sensitive enough to note the change in weather and put himself in the situation; Then enquire Buddha if He is alright? Is Buddha comfortable? etc From this sutta, we should also learn that it is appropriate to extend our loving-kindness to enlightened people. And in this case, Buddha replied to state that He was not troubled by any of those external adversities.

While we (lay people) can expect the monastic community to lead an austere lifestyle, that doesn’t mean we should be mean and nasty. Although we shouldn’t offer luxuries to the Sangha, we should nonetheless make sure that basic requirements are met. For example, providing a heater in winter because otherwise, they might freeze to death? But offering air-conditioners in tropical countries where many poor families go by with one may raise some eyebrows.

Personally, we should want to offer the best to the Sangha but it should not be luxurious. Let’s say I have a lot of money (I don’t). And for example, I can easily afford a one-night stay at a luxurious hotel for a visiting monk and that room cost $500 a night. Then in accordance with the principle of proper offering, I should just spend $150 for basic accommodation for that monk. The balance of $350 should be donated to a charity in the name of that monk or donated to his monastery to be shared by his fellow monks, or donated to a charity or project that is associated with him. Make sense? I know, sometimes we want to splurge on someone we love and respect. But remember this, the Sangha has special discipline to follow and as lay people, we should not unwittingly create obstacle for their practice.

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