In Buddhism, upasakas are lay devotees – normal people who follow many of the teachings of the Buddha, in order to attain better future lives in lieu of being able to attain enlightenment through taking vows in the current life.
Upasakas attempt to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the Three Jewels), and live their lives by the Five Precepts (rules governing living as a "good" person).
A parable of the conversation of King Milinda and the monk Nagasena explains why it is not better to take the easy route and always remain an upasaka: "If you send on a journey to a place that is three thousand leagues away a young and strong man on horseback, and provide him with all the necessary supplies ... will he be able to get there? ... Now, what if you were to send an old man there, riding a decrepit horse, without any provision, would he get there? ... To reach the Path by leaving one’s home – that is like the journey of the young, strong man; to reach the Path by remaining a householder, that is like the old man’s journey."