The Art of Lay Life
Lay Practice is consistently contrasted with Monastic Practice in the ancient Buddhist texts, throughout Buddhist history, and in all Buddhist countries and almost all traditions in Asia. Segmenting the religious community into a monastic and a lay component is a peculiarity of Buddhism, along with some sects of Hinduism and certain Christian sects. In the West we generally do not appreciate how deeply embedded this is in virtually all Buddhist societies in Asia, though we generally are aware that the Buddha and his closest disciples were monastics and that most of his teachings were given to monastics. Is this bifurcation necessary, or even desirable in the democratic West?
The core of Buddhist practice, what really distinguishes Buddhism from other religious practices, is the Noble Eightfold Path. Notably, the Eightfold Noble Path makes no distinction between Lay and Monastic, each is fully capable of observing all eight noble steps and neither is exempt from following all eight noble steps in the attainment of the highest goal. So, what is it that makes Lay Practice different from Monastic Practice?