Economics in Buddhism.
By Ven.Galle Udita Maha Thero.
The Cause of Needs and Difficult Life
Unlike olden days, money is an essential factor of human beings to survive today. People in the Stone Age era never thought of money. Neither hunters nor shepherds thought of money. All those people had a few needs and they were happy with what they could get. In the beginning food was prominent among other needs. People wore leaves to cover their naked bodies. They lived in the caves and on or under the trees. They found their own medicines for their ailments. There were no barriers for those people to travel from place to place or to find lodgings to stay temporary or permanently.
As time passed by, clothing and food of people changed to different varieties. Then they exchanged one variety to another with others according to their needs. Problem of permanent shelter arose when shepherd era was disappeared. As they began to stay one place they increased their attachment and selfishness. In Agganna Sutta Buddha says that first people who came to New Sphere from Brahma World had very easy life. The plants bore fruits in the same day after people plucked grains from them in the morning. Those grains also were very soft and sweet. They did not have husks and could be eaten instantly.
But those beings increased more craving and began to collect more and more. Hence, being unfair to others whom live with them. Eventually natural facilities disappeared. And their life became harder and harder. They had to cultivate and eat. The need of a ruler also arose, as properties were not shared evenly. The beings that mentioned in the Agganna Sutta also were one family with equality in the beginning but later as their desire improved sexual difference was visible. Then some males with curiosity looked at opposite sex for long that they began to hug and had sex openly. Others looked down this action questioning them how could commit such immoral actions towards the members of same group. Anyway this was the beginning of a family and they found shelter for the first time to enjoy their mundane pleasures. (Agganna Sutta - Deega Nikaya)
The Difference of Past and Presence
There is a great difference between the long past and the presence. Today people have a lot of needs. Many products have improved their needs. Science and technology have given them a lot of hopes. As population increased many problems, conflicts, debates and arguments also came into exist. The society is immensely complicated. It is not easy to control by rulers consoling people with different views with their various needs. Buddha has mentioned that when human knowledge is greatly improved many problems would arise in the society. Now most of the things are in organized forms unlike in the past. The various natures of human beings have become a complexity of everything. Evolution of knowledge has contributed more for the variety.
The Basic Needs of Human Beings
Although society has been changed with the time the basic needs of people are the same as Buddha mentioned. Clothes, food, shelter and medicine are the basic needs of human beings. In the Vinaya, Buddha has advised monks to depend on these requisites and to use them very mindfully for a goal of ending all sufferings. Those four also are common property of monks. They have to share with other monks without any discrimination. They have to satisfy themselves with what they receive from devotees and shouldn't bother over not gaining those requisites as they could be contended with very few needs that could be found with a little effort of themselves.
Contentment with Few Needs and Adapting with The Time.
Once Greek Philosopher Socrates said that happiness could be achieved only by limiting the needs of man. Buddha being contemporary Master in six century BC emphasized on few needs especially for recluses. Therefore monks did not worry over requisites. Buddha also advised people to offer alms to virtuous monks as it could cause a lot of happiness for laymen. When laymen do not offer food to them they may go for collecting alms from house to house with their alms bowls.
This has been practised, which also help poor people to follow charity for their future benefit as miserliness is regarded as the cause of poverty. When robes are not received, monks may find out cloths thrown away by people and clean and dye them by themselves to use. If there is no temple to stay they may stay under trees as shelter. When they do not have medicinal drinks they may make medicines by themselves using gall nuts and cow urine.
As time has changed, monks also not may able to follow as same as before. Those who do not know the way of practice of monks, collecting of alms is regarded as very mean and also as begging but monks never ask people to give for them. It is a misconception. Therefore in certain countries, where monks are not allowed to collect alms and also look down for doing so . Even if they allowed it in modern day, it is not easy to collect alms. As people live in flats, closed doors with doubts and fear for security reasons. Unless monks live in undeveloped or Buddhist countries like Thailand, Burma or Sri Lanka.
People also are busy with their own activities. They do not find enough time to care monks all the time unlike before. Due to social and security reasons today monks are not allowed to stay under trees too in developed countries. Therefore monks life also has been changed today. They also have to find new ways to survive and follow the teaching. They have adapted certain ways without breaching precepts according to the environment that they live.
Safer Society and Happy Family
Monks and layman are not same. The laymen have more responsibilities and duties than the monks. Their whole life depends on economical factors today. They have to earn a living as they depend on themselves unlike monks. Therefore Buddha advises in a different way to layman. A layman must follow five principles for morality, which comprises with abandoning killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and drinking liquor (including taking intoxicants) that could cause disorder of mind and body. These moral deeds contribute not only for the well-being of oneself but also of the society. The society is very safe when no body is committing any of those immoral practices. Peace and harmony would prevail in the society. No one has fear in the mind as each and every person keeps the confidence among him or her. Laymen are not supposed to live like monks, as they have to lead a married life. But they should not go to extremes in enjoying life. Today many families have broken up due to the doubts between husband and wife or extra marital affairs by either one or both parties. Therefore mutual strong love and confidence between husband and wife is very essential for the stability of the family.
Ethics in Buddhist Economics and The Purpose of Wealth
Buddha has preached thirty-eight blessing factors for the laymen to follow in Mangala Sutta. Laymen must acquire knowledge and skills to work. He should associate with good friends and find out good place to live. He should look after old parents wife and children, and care of relatives, and friends, make offerings to those deserve of offerings; he should abstain from drinking liquor (taking intoxicants) and all evil deeds and depend on right means and follow charity, moral teaching and improve wisdom.
In Parabhava Sutta Buddha points out all the downfall factors for the layman to know so that he could avoid them for his own benefit. He should not be lazy, talking too much with crowd, and indulged in slumber. He should not be involved in gambling, debauchery and drinking in wasting money; he should not cheat religious people such as monks or any other mendicant. He should not speak lies for whatever gain. He should not marry a woman of vast difference in age. And he should not expect power in a country having a little of wealth. In his responsible movements, a person whose habit is to drink and enjoy should not be kept. He should be satisfied with his own wife without visiting prostitutes for sexual pleasures.
Being proud of birth, wealth, or clan if a person despises his own kinsmen, the downfall will occur to him. Being rich he should not neglect supporting parents and sharing his wealth with others. He should not dislike virtuous religious masters and their good teachings.
Material Gains do not make Human Dignity
In Vasala Sutta Buddha also points out the factors that disgrace human dignity. The layman who does regard his status has to stop committing of those disgracing factors. He should have compassion to unfortunate beings; He should not run away from moneylenders denying loan, he has borrowed. He should not condemn or beat wife, parents and relatives. Being proud of having money, due to race or caste he should not look down others. He should not rob or destroy the wealth of others and he must avoid killing wayfarers for a trifle gain.
He should not cover the truth replying in witness due to partiality or for any selfish gain. Trying to conceal evil deeds is not proper by one. As others welcome us when visiting them we also have to welcome them. We should be shame and afraid of committing evils as human beings. Buddha in this Vasala Sutta emphasizes on the wholesome activities and discourages the person to do mean deeds. Buddha refuses the idea that one becomes a higher or lower by birth, but He proclaims that the person is higher or lower according to the deeds performed by him.
Abuse of Knowledge
But today people respect not for the qualities but for money. To some, money is like God. A big house, a brand new car, decides the dignity of the person rather than good qualities. In a party drinking is a must because the status of the person has to be maintained. Some argue that they cannot abandon drinking because of their business gains. Betting for the winner in the bull fighting, wrestling or boxing is significant where money is concerned but good qualities are less significant as they haven't any economical value. By mass media advertisements are made to attract the users for products without considering any abusive effects of them. Today information technology is very advanced that all can share knowledge in a short of time and the vast world has become very tiny under this atmosphere. But in spite of good that can achieve through them some abuse it for man's destruction.
Science and technology have done a tremendous service in saving the life of people but they also are being abused for the calamity of human being that handle it wrongly. A wise man knows how to use a razor knife but it is very dangerous when a monkey handles it. Once a man who learned to use the bow an arrow practised his shooting on an Arahant . With his fooliness, he had abused his knowledge of shooting, by killing an Arahant, which led him to be born in the hell to suffer a long period of time in the circle of existence. (Dhammapada)
How to Achieve Happiness?
In Viyaggapajjha Sutta Buddha addressed the householder Koliyan Dhigajanu replying his question how to get happiness by a layman and showed him four factors for the happiness here and four factors for the happiness hereafter. Endowment of endeavor, endowment of watchfulness, endowment of good companionship and balanced livelihood lead to the happiness in this life. The wealth has to be protected from fire, flood, theft and government. The confidence in the Triple Gem, morality, charity and wisdom guide the person for happiness in the next world.
How to Save Money and Achieve Prosperity?
As in Viyaggapajjha Sutta, Buddha in Sigalovada Sutta, preached the young man Sigala, who obeyed father's advice after his death, that householder should not be lazy and he should work hard. Six channels of wasting wealth are explained in the Sutta as drinking, loitering in unseasonable hours, frequenting in places of amusements, gambling, association with evil companions, and indolence.
Good company is very significant where one's wellbeing is concerned. Evil friends bring misery in this life and next life of the person. Whole teaching does depend on the true friendship according to Buddha. Nothing can be achieved without the help of true friends who guide the person to the right track.
Human being always does not have good time because his life has been formed with the good and bad karmic force created in the numerous past births. Therefore Eight Worldly contingencies namely gain, loss, defame, fame, blame, praise, sorrow, and happiness follow after the man time to time. The man has to bear up these worldly conditions, as they are unavoidable in human world. Life is always confronted with problems; therefore assistance of true friends is essential. If not people may go astray with confusing and worried mentality. Here, religion also contributes very much for man to find a way to gain the peace of mind.
The money hardly earned must be utilized well and the householder must know how to keep money for future use and how to improve it for the benefit of him and others. With regard to it, Buddha advises to layman to divide his income into four quarters and invest two quarters for the growth of income while depositing one quarter for the future and utilizing the other quarter for daily expenditure. This advice of Buddha is very suitable even for modern society for their safety, happiness, protection and prosperity. They may not have to borrow money from moneylenders and pay high interests which may be a big burden and very stressful for life. Buddha also advised layman not to transgress the truth because of desire, ill-will, fear and ignorance. By transgressing the truth with those four evil tendencies the householder would decline like the descending moon. He would prosper like the waxing moon when is not partial to desire, ill-will, fear, and ignorance according to Buddha. (Sigalovada Sutta - Deega Nikaya)
The cause of crime and misery
The vice is rife when people have problems due to the poverty according to Cakkawatti Seehanada Sutta. The rulers must help unfortunate and poor people for their survival. Misleading perspectives could also cause increasing of crimes according to this Sutta. The wealth is not only for the enjoyments of senses of beings but also for the wellbeing of the society. Once the king Kosala reported to Buddha that a millionaire died leaving all his wealth behind.
Then Buddha commented that wealth should be utilized wisely for the benefit of wife and children, relatives and friends. The foolish make his own misery with the craving for wealth as it happened to another millionaire named Ananda whose attachment was so great to wealth that he advised his son Mulasiri to not give anything to anyone as wealth would decline. He himself too hid his wealth under ground without giving to anyone. And that who was born as a lame beggar who was abandoned by his family itself. (Dhammapada-Balavagga)
How does a Householder Enjoy the Wealth?
Merchant Anathapindika was advised by the Buddha that householder must enjoy four kinds of happiness. Ownership of wealth is the first category. The person is very happy having a land, a house. A vehicle, and whatever other properties due to his rightly earned wealth. Secondly the person must enjoy the wealth for his own needs.
Happiness is experienced when his mind reminds him that the things he used are not caused by evil earning but by rightly earning with his own effort. Third is the happiness enjoyed without being indebted to anyone as he survives with his own wealth. His mind is lighter as he does not have to borrow or pay interests to anyone. The fourth happiness is more important than others as it conditions through unblamable deeds. The people who commit evil cannot be happy, as their mind is restless and filled with defilements. Therefore who do good deeds, wholesome deeds are happy not only in this very life but also hereafter.
Economics is a Part of Life and the Contentment is the Greatest Wealth
On the view of Buddhism the man must have one eye to see the way of happiness in this life and one eye to see the way of happiness in the next life. Those who do not see both ways are like blinds. And the person who may see the happiness in this world only is awake in one eye and blind in one eye as mentioned in Anguttara Nikaya. Buddhism is for living people and for the happiness of mankind. It is a way of life and it can be applied in our daily life
In Buddhism mental factors are more important than physical factors because it is mind that directs all matters relevant behaviour including economy. A person is not able to do anything if mind stands still. The bahaviour of us decides by our mentality. The mind and material phenomenon combine to form a life and to activate visibly. Mind is a natural energy which has a link from the past birth .It has no substances but it flows in a state of flux. The man has taken this mental force wrongly as God-given soul or permanent entity but it is one of the cosmic orders, which function naturally. The man does foster it with his mental, verbal and physical deeds. Everything is conditioned and nothing arises without causes. Our actions are the reactions of mental deeds.
Therefore all plans come from mind and mental improvement acquiring knowledge through five senses. Therefore mind must be alert in doing things. Happiness and unhappiness depend on the mental qualities. According to Dhammapada, contentment is the greatest wealth because, if the man cannot be satisfied with what he can get, he has to suffer. All sufferings are caused with the attachment, illwill, and illusion on the point of Buddhism. People commit all kinds of evils due to defilements in the mind. Referring to this, right view is essential to understand things correctly.
Modern Economics and The Buddha's Advice
In the first sermon, Buddha has explained Noble Eight paths, which is called Middle Way. In that contents Buddha recommends right livelihood to followers. This right livelihood comprises with abandoning evil trades called trade of living beings, trade of flesh of beings, trade of poison and trade of intoxicant drinks and drugs. Under the modern economics, productivity, consumption and distribution play an important roll. The repercussion of consumption is insignificant. But we can see the evil effects of certain kinds of products, consumption and distribution.
Arms trade has violated the peace and harmony in the countries. All those trades have caused a lot of damages for not only to individual but also to whole society. Mr.E.F.Schumacher has tried to integrate Buddhist teaching with modern economics for the first time using this concept of right livelihood in his book "Small is Beautiful". If we are going to supply all demands, which unsatisfied human mind, is seeking for, the world will be in a mess. Therefore modern economics must follow certain ethics considering man's well being rather than trying to make profits and amusements.
Correct Way of Using Wealth
Hundred millions are suffering in the world without food according to the reports of UN development Programme. But billions of dollars are spent on weapons and nuclear testing in the countries. Many suffer from malnutrition due to the lack of proper food while some rich are wasting a lot of food. Why not we help all those suffering mass with our contributions? The purpose of wealth is to help others according to Buddha. The wealth we accumulate cannot be taken to next world. All the properties, all belongings have to be left when a person leaves this world.
The wealth is no use if it is not utilized for the family, relatives, society, country, religion and nation. Householder must perform five sacrifices towards others with his wealth in the view of Buddhism. Giving to relatives, welcoming of guests, offering to ancestors, offering to monks and giving to government. These are the benefits of rightly earned wealth.
Purity Depends on Moral Deeds
The being is purified not with material things. But with wholesome actions, knowledge, practice of teaching and higher morals. As sensible people we know that Ganga or any other river water cannot wash away our sins.
Our sins must be washed away by ourselves cultivating morality, concentration and wisdom. This is called ending of karmic force and it is the Ultimate Goal of Buddhists. On whatever reason it is not advisable to commit evils. (Dhammapada)
Animal Nature in the Human Mind
Happiness, which we achieve through material things, is not permanent and therefore it does not last long. When we are not able to get our material needs or our wises do not come through we are sad and worry. If it is so we have to find out a way for everlasting peace and happiness. Our life is also an evolution. This birth is evolved to another birth according to the type we lead this life. Although we are physically human beings here mentally can be spirit or animal or deity.
If we practise qualities of real human beings it is sure we can be human beings again or else we may become animals due to animal nature in the mind or ghosts due to such qualities we follow here. Some people are very stingy that they even do not eat well or dress well but just keep more and more money secretly. They do not share their wealth with families or fellow citizens So how can they become human beings again unless become spirits to guard their wealth again in the next life? Knowing this we should practise charity.
According to Buddha a householder must follow four qualities which constitute charity, pleasant speech, constructive activities, and equality in dealing with associates. (Sigalovada Sutta) A true friend is endowed with four qualities, which comprise of confidence in the true religious masters, practice of morality, charity and wisdom. (Wyaggapajja Sutta)
True happiness could be achieved only through practice of wholesome qualities, which are conducive to have a noble birth. As life is a circle of existence, the wholesome energy obtained through wholesome activities brings happiness for the doer for many births as human being or deity according to Buddhism. Not only that, this accumulation of merit helps the person to end up his all sufferings at the end when reducing unwholesome forces through mind. Eradication of desire, illwill and ignorance is called deliverance in Buddhism, which brings the everlasting happiness to the follower. This happiness is totally super-mundane and spiritual and also is focussed through wisdom only.
Wish or Desire?
To live in this world, wealth is very essential. So everyone has to work for money as society depends on economics but we should not respect wealth regarding like the God. Trying to get wealth through right means is not wrong. It is not craving but the determination or wish to achieve the goal. Competition can be bad if it is directed by ulterior motives. But it is very helpful and effective concerning success and progress where motive is good and correct. The man who has no selfish attachment to wealth is able to do a lot of things to the society with his wealth accumulated with his own effort or inherited through family.
Ven. Udita Maha Thero
Buddha Vihara Society