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 coming from afar. Yasa approached and exclaimed: "Alas, what distress! What tribulations!"
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."
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 near him. 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 shamed.
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?"
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 three-fold formula of refuge.
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 life."
Then Yasa looked at the Blessed One, who said: "Should Yasa return to the world and enjoy the pleasures of a worldly life as he did before?" 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, O Lord, consent to take his meal with me together with Yasa as his attendant?" 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 in him." 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 the Buddha.
Now there were four friends of Yasa belonging to the wealthy families of Benares. Their names were Vimala, Subahu, Punnaji, and Gavampati.
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.
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.