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There are good points for lay followers too among counsels and regulations for monks.

The Gentle Middle Path consists much in avoiding extremes, and some of the rather extreme regulations for monks in ancient discourses, hardly apply nowadays, for conditions have changed. And extremist ways could prove hazardious. It should be better to live and cultivate oneself in sagacious freedom by good methods and teachings - and basic Buddhist teachings help a lot - than succumb as a monk in the wilderness or somewhere else. So it is could be fit to adhere to reasonable, sane enough limits. It depends in part on one's outer conditions, in part on one's limits and levels of health and proficiency too. It is best not to overstretch and then bend as a follower, but find a decent level of accomplishments. In the sutra, Buddha advocates the discipline necessary for good qualities to develop. So look for what could suit you and what you might handle with some success, or for greater success.

T. K.

From Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching Sutra

Buddha lay between the Twin Sala trees and was about to enter Nirvana in the middle of the night. All was quiet, without any sound. Then he spoke on the essentials of the Dharma.

"All of you monks should revere and honour the root of freedom [Buddha's great precepts].

It is like a poor person obtaining a treasure. It is your great teacher.

Those of you who uphold the pure precepts should not covet fields or buildings, or keep servants or raise animals; but stay far away from all kinds of agriculture and wealth. You should not cut down grass or trees, plow fields, or dig the earth either. Nor may you compound medicines, prophesize good and evil, observe the constellations, cast horoscopes by the waxing and waning of the moon, or compute astrological fortunes.

You should not act as envoys for mighty ones in the world. Nor should you become involved with making connections with high-ranking people, being condescending towards the lowly.

With an upright mind and proper mindfulness, do not conceal your faults to delude the multitudes, and know your limits.

The precepts are the root of proper freedom. By relying on these precepts, you will give rise to all dhyana concentrations. So uphold the pure precept. If a person is able to uphold the pure precepts, he will as a result be able to have good dharmas.

Wise people restrain the five sense organs [somewhat].

Hasten to control the mind [gently] and not allow it to run loose.

Monks, accept various kinds of food and drink as if you were taking medicine, and use them to cure hunger and thirst and to maintain the body. Receive peoples' offerings to put an end to distress, but do not seek to get too much and spoil their good hearts.

During the day, with a vigorous mind, cultivate the Dharma and don't allow the opportunity to be lost. At night, chant Sutras to make yourself well informed [and acquainted with them].

Always have a sense of shame. Those who have shame have good dharmas.

Be [adamantly] self-contained. Guard your mouth and not give rise to evil speech.

Patience is a virtue that the ascetic practices are unable to compare with.

Always guard against getting a heart of anger. Anger may be excusable in lay people, and in people who do not cultivate the Way, but for people who have come to cultivate the Way, it is not.

You have relinquished fine adornments and you carry the alms bowl to use in begging for your livelihood.

Arrogance and pride are not appropriate even among lay people, how much the less for a person who has left the home-life and entered the Way.

Thoughts of flattery are contradictory to the Way. So have a straightforward disposition of mind. Know that flattery is only deceit. People who have entered the Way should not flatter.

So have an upright mind, and take a straightforward disposition as your basis.

Know that people with many desires suffer much, whereas people who are free of seeking or longing, [should suffer less] trouble and have a peaceful [disposition], and can increase merit.

One who reduces his desires can realise Nirvana.

All of you, seek quiet happiness.

All the gods revere people who dwell in quietude.

All of you, be vigorous.

All of you! Seeking for a Good and Wise Advisor, or for a wholesome benefactor, does not compare with mindfulness. So constantly collect the thoughts in your mind to gain concentration. If you attain concentration your mind will not be scattered.

[True and solid] wisdom helps to to get free of great greed or attachment. So examine yourselves, and do not allow yourselves to have faults. In this way you can gain liberation within my Dharma [righteousness, proper way(s)]. The one with wisdom rides in a secure boat for crossing over the ocean of birth, old age, sickness, and death [To Awakening in bliss etc.].

Wisdom is also like a big bright lamp in the darkness of ignorance, a good medicine for those who are sick, and a sharp axe for cutting down afflictions. So increasingly benefit yourselves by learning, considering, and cultivating wisdom.

By illuminating wisdom one has clear understanding.

Bhikkhus, if you indulge in all sorts of idle discussions and frivolous debate, your mind will be scattered and you will not attain liberation. So quickly renounce scattered thoughts and idle discussions if you want to attain the happiness of still tranquility,

All of you should always be single-minded.

Practice the Teaching diligently whether you are in the mountains, in a desolate marsh, beneath a tree, or in a quiet dwelling - be mindful of the Dharma you have received and do not forget it. Always exert yourself and practice it vigorously.

When about to die, you don't want to have spent your life in vain.

I am like a good doctor who understands illnesses and prescribes medicines. Whether you take it or not is not the doctor's responsibility.

Moreover I am like a virtuous guide who points out a good road. If he that hears it does not walk down that road, it is not the guide's fault.

All of you - Do not harbour doubts and fail to clear them up."

Venerable Aniruddha then said to Buddha, "If one wants to destroy suffering, the cause of suffering must be destroyed."

Buddha wanted everyone in his assembly to be firm and secure, so he spoke again,

"A meeting without a separation can never be. Meetings necessarily have separations so do not harbor grief.

The Dharma for benefitting oneself and others is complete.

The world is truly dangerous and unstable; it is not reliable. All of you should always single-mindedly and diligently seek the way out of all the moving and unmoving dharmas of the world, for they are all decaying, unfixed appearances.

These are my very last instructions."

Translation into Chinese by Master Kumarajiva (CE 400)

Apply

Although the precepts above are designed for monks, some of the points may be rewarding for a lay person if they suit him or her all right in the present and foreseeable future:

  • Observe mindfulness.
  • Uphold the pure precepts.
  • Keep your hearts pure - as pure as can be. Meditation helps it.
  • Make yourself well acquainted with the key Sutras.
  • Flattery is not good for anyone.
  • Learn to concentrate the mind and train yourself to do it well.
  • Benefit yourself by cultivating understanding.
  • A noble life and noble ways of living should not be destroyed.

Proficiency in these avenues can be trained. Sound methods and key points or principles exist.

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From the Discourse at Catuma: Catuma Sutta

Once Buddha was living in the Aamalaki forest in Catuma. During exchanges this was said to win him over:

"Small plants die for want of water. The calf would be disturbed if not seeing its mother."

The comparison of the plants and the calf with teaching-hungry monks made Buddha address the Bhikkhus:

" Bhikkhus, four fears should be expected by one descending to water: Fear of, waves, crocodiles, whirl pools and alligators. Likewise, four fears should be expected by a person leaving the household to become a homeless monk: The fear of waves, fear of crocodiles, fear of whirlpools and fear of alligators. [Find your level or zone of comfortable accomplishments too.]

1. Fear of waves: Bhikkhus, you should go forward like this: you should bend your limbs and stretch you limbs. Some give up being homeless monks and become lay persons out of "fear for waves": through anger and aversion.

2. Fear of crocodiles: The householder who became a homeless monk, thinks, "I ate what I liked, and not what I disliked, Partook what I liked and not what I disliked. Drank what I liked and not what I disliked - at timely hours and at untimely hours. Then he gives up the monk's life and becomes a layman out of fear for crocodiles: that is, from greed and for food.

3. Fear for whirlpools: If mindfulness is not established and mental faculties are not protected, wishes and urges for sensual pleasures may reappear so strongly that he gives up the vagrant monk's life and becomes a layman out of fear for whirlpools - that is, for carnal pleasures.

4. Fear for alligators: is a basic desire to mate. To monks, fear for alligators is a synonym for women.

These are the four fears that should be expected by someone who goes forth as a homeless beggar-monk," said Buddha, and the gathered Bhikkhus (monks) delighted in the words of Buddha.

Apply?

Buddha speaks figuratively of obstacles to living as a homeless monk: they are anger and aversion; greed and the appetite; carnal pleasures; and sex desires. However,for a lay person it is not so strict; one may still get Enlightened, says Buddha somewhere, and that is not so bad, or what?

Granted that not everyone is cut out to be a monk or nun and wander about in the forests, a lay follower could gently apply the essential teachings anyway, and probably to great benefit.

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From the Gulissani Sutta

When Buddha was living in the bamboo grove in Rajagaha, his disciple Shariputra addressed the bhikkhus (monks), saying, "A Bhikkhu living with the community (sangha) should [in a proper way]:

  1. develop reverence and suaveness towards co-associates in the holy life
  2. develop dexterity in choosing seats
  3. be suave and should be a good friend
  4. protect his mental faculties
  5. know the right amount to partake food
  6. develop wakefulness
  7. remain with aroused effort
  8. be with established mindfulness
  9. develop concentration
  10. develop wisdom
  11. be yoked to the higher Teaching and Discipline
  12. be yoked to the peaceful immaterial releases
  13. be yoked to something above

Also, he should not mix with village families before and after meals; be haughty and talkative; or be noisy, with loose talk.

These observances are for forest dwelling bhikkhus as well as for those dwelling at the end of the village."

Apply

Any lay Buddhist may incorporate that among peers it usually helps to

  1. be suave and protect one's mental faculties;
  2. neither overeat nor eat too sparingly or eat unbalanced food or be unsettled;
  3. strive to develop robust mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom by suitable, convenient yoga methods;
  4. align to peaceful, high and solid teachings.

That agreed on, the question is "how" - for example how to protect one's dear mental faculties, how to concentrate, and how to discern to reach wisdom. There are ways and methods. The best allround help I have come across is deep meditation, in particular Transcendental Meditation, TM.

Contents


Extracts of Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching Sutra, Discourse at Catuma, Catuma, Literature  

One translation: Sutra on the Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching. Reportedly translated into Chinese by Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva of Yao Qin Dynasty (ca. AD. 400), provisional Translation into English by The Buddhist Text Translation Society, Dharma Realm Buddhist University, City Of Ten Thousand Buddhas, 1999.

Emphasis added by T.K.

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