Yasa The Youth Of Benares
At that time there was in Benares a noble youth, Yasa by name,
the son of a wealthy merchant. Troubled in his mind about the
sorrows of the world, he secretly rose up in the night and stole
away to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One saw Yasa, the noble youth, coming from afar. And
Yasa approached and exclaimed: "Alas, what distress! What
The Blessed One said to Yasa: "Here is no distress; here are no
tribulations. Come to me and I will teach you the truth, and the
truth will dispel your sorrows."
And when Yasa, the noble youth, heard that there were neither
distress, nor tribulations, nor sorrows, his heart was comforted.
He went into the place where the Blessed One was, and sat down
Then the Blessed One preached about charity and morality. He
explained the vanity of the thought "I am"; the dangers of
desire, and the necessity of avoiding the evils of life in order
to walk on the path of deliverance.
Instead of disgust with the world, Yasa felt the cooling stream
of holy wisdom, and, having obtained the pure and spotless eye of
truth, he looked at his person, richly adorned with pearls and
precious stones, and his heart was filled with shame.
The Tathagata, knowing his inward thoughts, said:
"Though a person be ornamented with jewels, the heart may have
conquered the senses. The outward form does not constitute
religion or affect the mind. Thus the body of a samana may wear
an ascetic's garb while his mind is immersed in worldliness.
"A man that dwells in lonely woods and yet covets worldly
vanities, is a worldling, while the man in worldly garments may
let his heart soar high to heavenly thoughts.
"There is no distinction between the layman and the hermit, if
but both have banished the thought of self."
Seeing that Yasa was ready to enter upon the path, the Blessed
One said to him: "Follow me!" And Yasa joined the brotherhood,
and having put on a bhikkhu's robe, received the ordination.
While the Blessed One and Yasa were discussing the doctrine,
Yasa's father passed by in search of his son; and in passing he
asked the Blessed One: "Pray, Lord, hast thou seen Yasa, my son?"2
And the Buddha said to Yasa's father: "Come in, sir, thou wilt
find thy son"; and Yasa's father became full of joy and he
entered. He sat down near his son, but his eyes were holden and
he knew him not; and the Lord began to preach. And Yasa's father,
understanding the doctrine of the Blessed One, said:
"Glorious is the truth, O Lord! The Buddha, the Holy One, our
Master, sets up what has been overturned; he reveals what has
been hidden; he points out the way to the wanderer who has gone
astray; he lights a lamp in the darkness so that all who have
eyes to see can discern the things that surround them. I take
refuge in the Buddha, our Lord: I take refuge in the doctrine
revealed by him: I take refuge in the brotherhood which he has
founded. May the Blessed One receive me from this day forth while
my life lasts as a lay disciple who has taken refuge in him."
Yasa's father was the first lay-member who became the first lay
disciple of the Buddha by pronouncing the threefold formula of
When the wealthy merchant had taken refuge in the Buddha, his
eyes were opened and he saw his son sitting at his side in a
bhikkhu's robe. "My son, Yasa," he said, "thy mother is absorbed
in lamentation and grief. Return home and restore thy mother to
Then Yasa looked at the Blessed One, and the Blessed One said:
"Should Yasa return to the world and enjoy the pleasures of a
worldly life as he did before?"
And Yasa's father replied: "If Yasa, my son, finds it a gain to
stay with thee, let him stay. He has become delivered from the
bondage of worldliness."
When the Blessed One had cheered their hearts with words of truth
and righteousness, Yasa's father said: "May the Blessed One,
Lord, consent to take his meal with me together with Yasa as his
The Blessed One, having donned his robes, took his alms-bowl and
went with Yasa to the house of the rich merchant. When they had
arrived there, the mother and also the former wife of Yasa
saluted the Blessed One and sat down near him.
Then the Blessed One preached, and the women having understood
his doctrine, exclaimed: "Glorious is the truth, O Lord! We take
refuge in the Buddha, our Lord. We take refuge in the doctrine
revealed by him. We take refuge in the brotherhood which has been
founded by him. May the Blessed One receive us from this day
forth while our life lasts as lay disciples who have taken refuge
The mother and the wife of Yasa, the noble youth of Benares, were
the first women who became lay disciples and took their refuge in
Now there were four friends of Yasa belonging to the wealthy
families of Benares. Their names were Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji,
When Yasa's friends heard that Yasa had cut off his hair and put
on bhikkhu robes to give up the world and go forth into
homelessness, they thought: "Surely that cannot be a common
doctrine, that must be a noble renunciation of the world, if
Yasa, whom we know to be good and wise, has shaved his hair and
put on bhikkhu robes to give up the world and go forth into
And they went to Yasa, and Yasa addressed the Blessed One,
saying: "May the Blessed One administer exhortation and
instruction to these four friends of mine." And the Blessed One
preached to them, and Yasa's friends accepted the doctrine and
took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
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