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Chapter 19: Disciples & Precepts

One morning when the Buddha went out to beg, he encountered a young man named Shànshēng 善生, who was dripping wet, and who was bowing to the directions and worshipping and scattering grain.

Although the Buddha was enlightened, he was still just as curious as he had been when he was Prince Xīdá-duō, and he hurried to ask the young man why he was doing this. Shànshēng explained he was fulfilling his father's last wish and carrying out worship to avoid any bad forces harming the family.

The Buddha praised his filiality, but told him that his procedure was flawed.

"Although your father told you to honor the directions, what he meant was to bow to the east in honor of those who are kind to you, and especially your parents; to bow to the south to honor your teachers; to the west, your wife and children; to the north to honor all your relatives and friends; and upwards to the heavens to honor all of the religious teachers. And when you worship downwards, it is to do honor to all the animals.

And then he taught Shànshēng five principles for living, which became known as the "Five Precepts" (wǔjiè 五戒):

  1. Abstain from killing (bù shā shēng 不杀生)
  2. Abstain from theft (bù tōudào 不偷盗)
  3. Abstain from lewdness (bù xiéyín 不邪淫)邪淫
  4. Abstain from lies (bù wàngyǔ 不妄语)
  5. Abstain from intoxicants (bù yǐn mázuìpǐn 不饮麻醉品)

The Buddha told Shànshēng to work hard and make money, but not to be greedy or extravagant with it. It should be divided into four parts:

  1. One part to support his household.
  2. One part to develop his business.
  3. One part to help the needy.
  4. One part to save against a day of bad fortune.

Shànshēng listened to all of this, and he honored the Buddha and asked to become his follower. And then he began to worship in the six directions as the Buddha had taught him.

While the Buddha was living near the town of Wángshè, he learned that another visiting teacher named Shān-shéyé 删阇耶 dwelt in the region, who had a couple of hundred followers with him. Among them were two --named Yōubō-shìshā 优波室沙 and Jūlǜ-tuó 拘律陀. They were both able and accomplished, but both were dissatisfied with Shān-shéyé's teaching about avoiding suffering and sought something more profound.

One morning Yōubō-shìshā was walking along the road towards the town of Wángshè and chanced to pass one of the Buddha's followers, one of those who had left their families and traveled as mendicants with the Buddha. He was out walking with his begging bowl. The mendicant looked so serene and so dignified that Yōubō-shìshā was instantly attracted to him. It was obvious that he was the student of a very great master.

Yōubō-shìshā followed him, and when he caught up with him asked him who the master was that had led him to leave his family to study the way to avoid suffering. He hoped that perhaps this was the teacher that he and his friend Jūlǜ-tuó were seeking. The man who had left his family told him that his master was the Buddha, but that he said he had not been a follower of the Buddha for very long and couldn't give many details.

However he described in broad terms the teaching of the Buddha about how to avoid life and death. Yōubō-shìshā was very excited, and as soon as he finished talking with the man who had left his family, he hurried to tell Jūlǜ-tuó.

Yōubō-shìshā was radiant when he found Jūlǜ-tuó, and Jūlǜ-tuó could immediately see that something wonderful had happened. Yōubō-shìshā told him about his encounter with the bǐqiū, and the way to escape life and death. In the end the two went to see the Buddha and asked his permission to leave their families and join him. In the end, they too became luóhàn. Indeed, because they were so very competent, they became the Buddha's most important assistants, and they are known today by their religious names Shè-lìfú 舍利弗 and Mùjiān-lián 目犍连.

The bǐqiū who met them and told them about the Buddha was Ēshuō-shì 阿说示.

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