How to behave as a lay person?
There were, and there still are, lay people that are Aryas [having attained one of the four stages of Nibbana]. I say quite often that the Buddha did not only teach a kind of sitting meditation practice. He taught a way of life and when he was in northern India at that time, it was a very specific context; bodhisattvas need a very specific environment to come down, to do their thing and to take their final birth. At that time, there were very conducive conditions, very conducive environment and for spiritual growth, for the spiritual practice. This is a way of life that he was teaching to a lot of monks. At that time it was fairly normal to become a monk, or to dedicate their lives to this kind of practice. There were also countless virtuous lay people, and still are today, that are practicing. What it comes down to is, that it is an all-the-time practice, this is a life practice, this is how to be happy. It is how to be happy and wise all the time. To understand the Buddha’s teaching, is to understand all these tools that he gave. He explained how the mind works, and how to develop the mind, and how to develop discernment and wisdom. To understand what states are wholesome, and what states are unwholesome. Greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, envy, all these things cause us so much suffering in the first place. They cause so much difficulty, so much tension. Just to let them go, we can then experience Nibbana and Release, here and now. Nibbana simply means the letting go of, the blowing out, the cooling down.
See, there were lazy monks too and they didn’t make a lot of progress. And there were diligent laypeople who made a lot of progress. If you choose to dedicate your life to it, well, that’s that much more that you get. If you practice generosity, the mind is not clinging, the mind is always giving, the mind is liberated in the first place. When a generous mind is a liberated mind, then the virtues are strong, they’re established, you’re protected by your own virtue, and this is very uplifting for the mind.
This might not be in one or two days, but the people that have been practicing this for a long time, they know the power of virtue.
Looking back five years ago, ten years ago; I have not hurt consciously any living beings; I have not told any lies; I have not hurt anybody sexually; I have not spoken behind anyone’s back or anything. This is just very wonderful, and this is really uplifting. As we practice that, as we are devoted to that, then we align with the Dhamma. We straighten our view, we align with the Dhamma.
However committed we are to this, is how much progress we will make, and that depends on you. If someone chooses to go to the movie theater and watch a big movie, very noisy, and eat popcorn, that’s great, sure. But if that person chooses instead to practice for two hours, and to develop their mind, to sharpen their mind and make their mind bright and beautiful, that will follow them everywhere. Whatever they’re going to do then, they’re going to be happy. This is our choice, this is everyone’s choice.
In so many ways the Buddha told the disadvantages of sensual pleasures. We do as much as we can, and especially in the lay life, there’s so many things. But this is out of compassion to people. The Buddha was saying: Be careful, this is not where the true happiness lies, this is where you will be tricked. When we put our happiness into this, then we invest our happiness into something that can be taken away at any time. It is not reliable; we don’t know whether causes and conditions will support that for a long time.
The Buddha always praised the advantage, the benefit of letting go the sensual pleasures, and enjoying the bliss of mental development – bhavana – and the higher mind. However anybody wants to partake in this, that’s everybody’s choice. We align with as much of the Dhamma as we can.