Buddhism for Man in Society

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 4:59 AM


This religion can be practised either in society or in seclusion.

There are some who believe that Buddhism is so lofty and sublime a system that it cannot bepractised by ordinary men and women in the workaday world. These same people think that onehas to retire to a monastery or to some quiet place if one desires to be a true Buddhist.

This is a sad misconception that comes from a lack of understanding of the Buddha. Somepeople jump to such conclusions after casually reading or hearing something about Buddhism.Some people form their impression of Buddhism after reading articles or books that give only apartial or lopsided view of Buddhism. The authors of such articles and books have only a limitedunderstanding of the Buddha's Teaching. His Teaching is not meant only for monks inmonastries. The Teaching is also for ordinary men and women living at home with their families.The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddhist way of life that is intended for all people. This way oflife is offered to all mankind without any distinction.

The vast majority of people in the world cannot become monks or retire into caves or forests.However noble and pure Buddhism may be, it would be useless to the masses if they could notfollow it in their daily life in the modern world. But if you understand the spirit of Buddhismcorrectly, you can surely follow and practise it while living the life of an ordinary man.There may be some who find it easier and more convenient to accept Buddhism by living in aremote place; in other words, by cutting themselves off from the society of others. Yet, otherpeople may find that this kind of retirement dulls and depresses their whole being both physicallyand mentally, and that it may therefore not be conducive to the development of their spiritual andintellectual life.

True renunciation does not mean running away physically from the world. Sariputta, the chiefdisciple of the Buddha, said that one man might live in a forest devoting himself to asceticpractices, might be full of impure thoughts and 'defilements'. Another might live in a village or atown, , practising no ascetic discipline, but his mind might be pure, and free from " defilements".'Of these two' said Sariputta, ' the one who lives a pure life in the village or town is definitely farsuperior to, and greater than, the one who lives in the forest (Majjhima Nikaya)The common belief that to follow the Buddha's Teaching one has to retire from a normal familylife is a misconception. It is really an unconscious defence against practising it. There arenumerous references in Buddhist literature to men and women living ordinary, normal family liveswho successfully practised what the Buddha taught and realized Nibbana. Vacchagotta theWanderer, once asked the Buddha straightforldly whether there were laymen and womenleading the family life who followed His Teaching successfully and attained the high spiritualstates. The Buddha categorically stated that there were many laymen and women leading thefamily life who had followed His Teaching successfully and attained the high spiritual states.

It may be agreeable for certain people to live a retired life in a quiet place away from noise anddisturbances. But it is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism livingamong fellow beings, helping them and offering service to them. It may perhaps be useful insome cases for a man to live in retirement for a time in order to improve his mind and character,as a preliminary to moral, spiritual and intellectual training, to be strong enough to come out laterand help others. But if a man lives all his life in solitude, thinking only of his own happiness andsalvation, without caring for his fellowmen, this surely is not in keeping with the Buddha'sTeaching which is based on love, compassion and service to others.

One might now ask, 'If a man can follow Buddhism while living the life of an ordinary man, whywas the Sangha, the Order of Monks, established by the Buddha? The Order providesopportunity for those who are willing to devote their lives not only to their own spiritual andintellectual development, but also to the service of others. An ordinary layman with a familycannot be expected to devote his whole life to the service of others, whereas a Monk, who hasno family responsibilities or any other worldly ties, is in a position to devote his life 'for the goodof the many. (Dr. Walpola Rahula)

And what is this 'good' that many can benefit from? The monk cannot give material comfort to alayman, but he can provide spiritual guidance to those who are troubled by worldly, familyemotional problems and so on. The monk devotes his life to the pursuit of knowledge of theDhamma as taught by the Buddha. He explains the Teaching in simplified form to the untutoredlayman. And if the layman is well educated, he is there to discuss the deeper aspects of theteaching so that both can gain intellectually from the discussion.

In Buddhist countries, monks are largely responsible for the education of the young. As a resultof their contribution, Buddhist countries have populations which are literate and well-versed inspiritual values. Monks also comfort those who are bereaved and emotionally upset byexplaining how all mankind is subject to similar disturbances.

In turn, the layman is expected to look after the material well-being of the monk who does notgain income to provide himself with food, shelter, medicine and clothing. In common Buddhistpractice, it is considered meritorious for a layman to contribute to the health of a monk becauseby so doing he makes it possible for the monk to continue to minister to the spiritual needs of thepeople and for his mental purity.


[Source: www.lanka.net]

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1 Comment

Reply Hanzze
8:08 AM on October 6, 2011 
Thanks for sharing this. The Buddha taught also to layman, but we need to accept, that the highest aims are very difficult to attain in layman's live. As a layman one needs to have a lot of patient with one self.

There is one thing in the text, which could be understood wrong easily. Bhikkhus are to here to provide people with Dhamma. So there is no deal Dhamma for the needs of a monk.
Dhamma must be given freely without strings. If it is made in that way, it is natural, that the Sangha would went corrupt.
Bhikkus are worthy for alms and gifts, because of there virtue. One who had stopped to kill, to take what is not given... to be involved in wordy live and out of compassion he does not fight for his needs, he just take that what is sharable and given freely out of compassion.

If he would take the food as a return for Dhamma teaching, it would be natural, that he needs to teach what people like to hear, but not the Dhamma.

A teaching of Dhamma (if it is made in the right way) is a pure gift without any string and given freely, not as a return for food, shelter, robes and medicine. It is important to keep the Bhikkhu Sangha really free according the Dhamma.

If a monk does not teach, it would have its reason. But still he is worthy for alms as he lives a peaceful life and keeps precepts seriously.