Life of the Buddha

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(Part Two) 17. He Worshipped in All Directions

The Discourse on a Layperson’s Duties

One morning, the Buddha left the Bamboo Grove to go into Rajagaha. On his alms round he saw a young man called Sigala, dripping wet as though he had just taken a bath. Sigala was bowing down in each of the four directions — to the East, South, West and North. He was bowing to the sky above and to the ground beneath his feet. Seeing all this, the Buddha stopped and asked the young man what he was doing.

“This was my father’s last wish just before he died,” Sigala replied. “My father advised me to worship in all directions, to keep evil away from the four directions and from above and below.”

The Buddha thought about this and said, “It is the right thing to do, to keep the advice your father gave you as his last wish, but you must not take your father’s words literally. Your father did not intend that you should actually bow down in this way.” Then the Buddha explained the real meaning of worshipping in all directions:

“To worship the East really means to respect and honour your parents.
To worship the South means to respect and obey your teachers.
To worship the West means to be faithful and devoted to your wife.
To worship the North means to be pleasant and charitable to your friends, relatives and neighbours.
To worship the sky means to look after the material needs of religious persons such as the monks and ascetics.
To worship the earth means to be fair to your servants, giving them work according to their abilities, paying them fair wages, and providing them with medical care when they are sick.
It is by doing these things that one can keep away from evil.”

The Buddha also advised Sigala of four evils to avoid.

“There are four evils of conduct,” he said. “These should surely be avoided: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and telling lies.”

Still the Buddha talked with Sigala. “There are four evil motives which make people perform evil actions: partiality (or being biased and prejudiced), enmity, foolishness and fear.

“And finally, Sigala, you must avoid the six ways of wasting one’s wealth: drinking intoxicating drinks, roaming about the streets until late at night, spending too much time at fairs and thinking too much about entertainment, gambling, associating with evil friends, and being lazy.”

Young Sigala listened with respect to this advice and suddenly remembered that when his father was alive, he had often told him what a good teacher the Buddha was. Although the old man had tried to get Sigala to go and listen to the Buddha, Sigala had always given excuses that it was too troublesome, that he had no time, was too tired or he had no money to spend on the monks.

The young man confessed this to the Buddha and asked him to accept him as his follower. He promised that from now on, he would keep his father’s dying wish, but in the correct way as was taught to him by the Buddha.