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Upāsaka ( Sanskrit , Pali upāsaka , female upāsikā ), literally “sitting there”, is a lay Buddhist devotee who, through taking refuge in three places (Skt. Triśaraṇa ), professes and vows to keep the five Śīlas .

According to early Buddhist teachings, the laity are still a long way from their ultimate goal, salvation, because they are not ready to give up their worldly life with its pleasures. But above all, by practicing the virtue of generosity (Sanskrit, Pali Dāna ) , they can accumulate religious merit (Sanskrit puṇya ), which enables them to be rebirthed for further progress on the path to Nirvāṇa .

In Theravāda, lay people care for the material well-being of monks and nuns by offering food, clothing, processions and the like as gifts.

In the Mahāyāna , laypeople are given greater importance because they are no longer denied the possibility of attaining salvation. In some sūtras the laypeople are equated with monks, and in Vimalakīrtinirdeśa even a layperson teaches all great disciples of the Buddha. The ideal figure of the Mahāyāna, the Bodhisattva , can also be a layperson.

In Vajrayana , a special development of Mahayana, lay practitioners (so-called yogis ) are even more important. Many of the tantras of Vajrayana were originally not taught by monks but by lay practitioners. In Vajrayana it is important to integrate the whole reality of life into the Buddhist path, so in the end it is not decisive whether one is a monk or a layman.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Nyānatiloka writes in the Buddhist dictionary (Verlag Beyerlein & Steinschulte 1999, ISBN 3-931095-09-6 ): Upāsaka, literally 'sitting by', is called someone who has taken refuge with confidence in the Buddha, his teachings and the noble group of disciples ( Anguttara-Nikāya VIII. 25)
  2. Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-15786-3 , p. 941
  3. Swearer, Donald K. (1970). Lay Buddhism and the Buddhist Revival in Ceylon, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 38 (3), 264