The leader of a Buddhist community is generally referred to as a ‘teacher’. He or she will have led the life of a Buddhist for some time, be knowledgeable about the scriptures and have an in-depth understanding of the Buddha's teachings. A teacher is usually regarded as being further along the Buddhist path than their pupils or disciples. The teacher is a well-respected member of any Buddhist community.
The Buddhist teacher will use his or her knowledge to support others in their efforts to follow Buddhist teachings. Buddhist monks are seen as leaders, teachers and exemplary followers of the Buddha, and will often be supported by the lay community through contributions of money and a wide range of other resources, including food and clothing, accommodation and transport.
Buddhists also look to the life of the Buddha himself as a source of authority. They may read one of the traditional biographies of him, or read his sermons, suttas, to help them to understand his teachings. For example, in the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha is speaking to the people of Kalama about deciding which religious scriptures are true. The stories contained in the Jataka Tales are also used to help understand the virtues of the Buddha and also how to deal with more complex ethical situations. These stories tell stories about the Buddha in his previous lives.