Most Buddhists have always been and continue to be laypersons and householders. These verses from the Numerical Collection of discourses paint a picture of a householder who is both refuge and support for an entire family unit or of a community. Of course these days such a person might just as soon be a woman as a man, or might even be an organization or a group. In either case it is the shelter provided by faith and virtue that enables the family to flourish. Its members are protected from the unwholesomeness of the world like a grove of trees is sheltered by the mountain from harsh winter winds.
Faith, or confidence in the truth of the teachings, allows access to the nurture and guidance of the Buddha’s wisdom, while virtue is both a foundation upon which a life of practice can be built and a shield against the potentially dire consequences of immoral activities. As the Buddha has often suggested, one’s true safely only comes from a network of relationships that have been carefully and respectfully cultivated. And as he has further said and demonstrated, a life of virtue can serve a much larger good than merely one’s own when it is shared with one’s companions on the path.