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HIGH PROFILE OF THE MIGHTY GREAT MIND
Make me PM
Write Down on the Wall was Dr. Ambedkar’s Sign !
Two Thousand Nine !
Will Be Mine !
Now is all that you have!
By voting for BSP, the Nation you save!
2008 Bahen Mayawati the UttarPradesh Chief Minister !
IN 326 BC, eight years after he set out to conquer
the world, Alexander reached India. Given to extreme cruelty throughout
his long campaign eastward from Macedonia, he showed signs of rapid
mental decay as he got closer to the Indian plains. He killed one of
his closest commanders with his own hands during a drunken quarrel.
When the historian Callisthenes (a nephew of Aristotle) refused to
abase himself, Alexander had him imprisoned and probably murdered.
one day in northwest India he came across some ascetics, probably
followers of the Buddha, who had lived in the country east of the
Ganges roughly two centuries previously. According to the Greek
historian Arrian, the ascetics beat their feet on the ground as
Alexander passed. When asked what this meant, they replied that
Alexander, for all his conquests, occupied no more ground than that
covered by the soles of his two feet. Like everyone else, he, too, was
mortal, “except that you are ambitious and reckless, traversing such a
vast span of land, so remote from your home, enduring troubles and
inflicting them upon others.”
Alexander has attracted the
attention of chroniclers from Plutarch to Oliver Stone, who have often
praised him as the cosmopolitan bearer of a great civilization. But
much less has been written about the much more extraordinary reign of
the Indian emperor Ashoka (304-232 BC), who was almost lost to history
until amateur British scholars in the 19th century deciphered the
imperial edicts he had engraved on rocks and stone and iron pillars
Born only 30 years after Alexander embarked on his
improbably successful invasion of Asia, Ashoka was not only the first
great ruler to reject the glory of violent conquest, but also the first
to apply the teachings of the Buddha to politics and governance. As
H.G. Wells put it in his “Short History of the World” (1922), “Amidst
the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of
history . . . the name of Ashoka shines, and shines almost alone.”
textbooks in India today describe how Ashoka converted to Buddhism
after an especially bloody campaign and proclaimed a state policy based
on compassion, nonviolence and tolerance — Buddhist ideas that would
spread across Asia, from China to Indonesia to Japan, in the next two
millennia. But Ashoka seems to have been only partly successful in
combining Buddhism with statecraft. Buddhists in the centuries since
have not always been immune to the corruptions of political power and
ideology, and it remains unclear today whether the Dalai Lama’s
admirable commitment to nonviolence makes him an effective political
campaigner for Tibetan independence from Chinese rule.
as debate over the proper relationship between church and state rages
in various places around the globe, the examples of Ashoka and the
Dalai Lama, among others, suggest that Buddhism, with its absence of
dogma and emphasis on dialogue and nonviolence, offers an ethical basis
for both governance and political protest in large pluralistic
communities, and that it may be more immune to theocratic zeal than
most other major religions. . . .The Buddha himself was no political
theorist. Unlike Plato, he seems neither to have given much advice to
the major rulers of his time nor to have criticized the political
systems they presided over. But his lack of theoretical passion was due
to a wider and deeper political experience. In his travels across
northern India, the Buddha seems to have known more political forms –
republics, monarchies, and then, just before his death, empire — than
Plato, who was familiar only with the polis. He preferred to
address the question of what constitutes the ruler’s right to rule,
what made the exercise of his power legitimate. Unlike the theorists of
ancient India who claimed divine sanction for kingship, the Buddha, who
was an agnostic, did not find the ruler’s legitimacy in some
transcendent realm. The king was originally a human being like any
other, who had been exalted by human beings and by his own actions, and
who had more duties than rights.
As the many stories about the ideal king and
government in the Jataka Tales, a compendium of Buddhist stories,
attest, righteousness served as the only proper basis for the ruler’s
authority. His realm had to be free of oppression and hospitable to all
classes of society, townsmen as well as villagers, religious teachers
as well as birds and beasts. Another Buddhist text, the Kutudanta
Sutra, even outlined a social and economic ethic, which resembles the
program for a liberal capitalist welfare state: subsidies of food and
seed-corn to farmers, adequate wages and food to people in government
services, and investment capital to merchants and tradesmen.
was not ideally placed to be a Buddhist Keynesian. His grandfather,
Chandragupta Maurya, had like Alexander won his vast empire, which at
its height stretched from central India to parts of what is now
Pakistan and Afghanistan, through military strength and skill. To wield
absolute, centralized power from his capital, Pataliputra (now Patna in
the state of Bihar), Chandragupta maintained a large army and built up
a ruthlessly efficient bureaucracy and spy network. Peace still eluded
his empire by the time Ashoka took over around 269 BC.
constantly demands fresh resources, and generates new enemies, which
means more conquests and suppressions. Following this imperative, in
the ninth year of his reign, Ashoka attacked the state of Kalinga, now
Orissa on the eastern coast of India, possibly looking for a sea route
It was during the conquest of Kalinga that Ashoka
confronted for the first time the human devastation of war. According
to the most famous of Ashoka’s edicts, some 150,000 people were
deported, and 100,000 killed in the successful battles for Kalinga.
This edict declared, “When an independent country is conquered . . .
those who dwell there . . . all suffer violence, murder, and separation
from their loved ones. Even those who are fortunate to have escaped and
whose love is undiminished suffer from the misfortunes of their
friends, acquaintances, colleagues and relatives.”
for the fate of ordinary lives caught up in war was rare in ancient
India. The epic “Mahabharata” records a violence that is chillingly
impersonal: the deaths of hundreds of thousands of nameless people, all
deemed expendable by men pursuing power. But Ashoka could see how war
brings about the “participation of all men in suffering.” His
contrition, as expressed in the edicts, was profound.
a hundredth or a thousandth part of those who suffered in Kalinga were
to be killed, to die, or to be taken captive, it would be very grievous
to [Ashoka] . . . [who] desires safety, self-control, justice, and
happiness for all beings . . . [and] considers that the greatest of all
victories is the victory of dharma [law].”
In his edicts, Ashoka made imperative the practice
of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, and nonviolence in
his administration. He claimed to set “no store by fame or glory.” As
the first pillar edict put it, “This world and the other are hard to
gain without great love of righteousness, great self-examination, great
obedience, and great circumspection, great effort.” He relaxed the
severe restrictions on travel and occupation introduced by his
grandfather. His edicts advocated concord and courteous dialogue
between religions and communities. He planted trees, dug wells, and
constructed rest houses for travelers. He told his officials to attend
closely to the sufferings and joys of his subjects, particularly the
However, as Romila Thapar, the leading historian of ancient
India, has pointed out, Ashoka did not convert immediately to Buddhism
after the conquest of Kalinga. Nor did he renounce empire and become a
monk, as some Buddhist texts claim. Buddhism, which was still one of
many religious and philosophical sects in India, did not even become
the official religion. Ashoka came to the Buddha’s teachings gradually,
over two and half years, as he said in one of his inscriptions, and
then he applied them selectively.
While Ashoka’s dharma had
much in common with the virtuous conduct that the Buddha preached, it
was mostly his own invention — a way of requiring the state to
incarnate a higher morality that would appeal equally to, and thus
unite, the multi-religious, multicultural subjects of his vast empire.
Indeed, Ashoka himself was only partly faithful to Buddhist teachings
and couldn’t have been otherwise while holding down an empire. He did
not abolish capital punishment, or reduce his army, or grant his
subject peoples greater autonomy by federalizing his empire. In fact,
he instituted a new centralized bureaucracy, dharma-mahamatras (”officers of dharma“), to supervise his Buddhist reforms.
unlikely that the Buddha, though himself born to the ruling class,
would have approved of an imperial bureaucracy in his name. He
preferred small political communities, such as the republic his father
occasionally led, in which all members shared the power of decision
making. But, in his lifetime, he witnessed the emergence of large
impersonal states and saw how they exposed many people to a sense of
powerlessness and insecurity. He hoped that the Buddhist sangha,
or monastic order, would base itself near urban centers and help give
many newly uprooted people there a sense of spiritual community and
The Buddha’s ideals of self-examination, austerity,
and compassion look naive and unpersuasive when compared to the
dominant political institutions and ideologies of the modern, secular
era — the heavily armed nation-states and hyper-competitive globalized
economies committed to the endless growth of human desires. Indeed,
Buddhists themselves have often betrayed the Buddha’s teachings while
straying into the realm of modern realpolitik. In early 20th
century Japan and in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and `90s, many Buddhist
monks succumbed to the lure of modern nationalism and militarism. At
the same time, Mahatma Gandhi, though not himself a Buddhist, gave
fresh relevance to the principles of nonviolence and dialogue, and has
inspired in our own time such Buddhist campaigners against tyranny as
the Dalai Lama, Aung San Su Kyi of Myanmar, and Maha-Ghosananda of
It may be that the Buddha’s agnostic and undogmatic
worldview accommodates more easily than the revealed religions the
plurality of human belief and discourse found in the world. Preoccupied
with individual ethics in everyday life, it breeds a suspicion of
abstract political projects. Certainly, in exhorting both himself and
his subjects to moral discipline and effort, Ashoka proves, in
retrospect, to have been much more pragmatic than the sentimental
humanitarians of modern times who believe that democracy and freedom
can be imposed by force.
Perhaps Ashoka could only be a noble
failure in trying to apply the Buddha’s ideas to such an essentially
un-Buddhistic entity as empire. He himself may have been aware of his.
“It is hard to do good,” he admitted in one of his edicts. And it was
also easy, he knew, to grow blind to the consequences of one’s actions.
Today, as we witness the great violence and chaos caused by those
claiming to be good men fighting evil, Ashoka’s self-doubt can only
“One only notices one’s good deeds, thinking, `I
have done good,”‘ he observed, “but on the other hand one does not
notice one’s wicked deeds, thinking `I have done evil,’ or `This is
indeed a sin.’ Now, to be aware of this is something really difficult.”
Mishra’s new book, from which portions of this article are adapted, is
“An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World” (Farrar, Straus and
candidate, Ms. Mayawati, aspirant of the coveted post, is
playing the hard ball. Proving her jealous critics wrong, Her adamant refusal to lead the
formation and power claim of Third Front has confused her silent
admirers even though her strident supporters remain unperturbed by it.
BSP’s stint of successful electoral strategies and political tactics in
this decade under the leadership of Mayawati makes it difficult to
question wisdom of her decisions. Her judgment is driven by many
aggressive approach to make a dent into S.P.’s Muslim support base, will prove successful, and spell a doom on Mulayam-Amar duo. The Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath-Brahmin-Muslim equation is undefeatable in U.P that can gift BSP
more than 75 seats in the state.
The First Noble Truth
THE EXISTENCE OF IMPERMANENCE
The Second Noble Truth
THE ARISING OF SUFFERING BECAUSE OF CRAVING
Craving sensory stimulation, craving existence, and craving non-existence
The Third Noble Truth
THE CESSATION OF SUFFERING
You can end eternal suffering by ending the craving that leads to the
The Fourth Noble Truth
THE MIDDLE WAY, or THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
So how do you end eternal craving? Just live by the ideals
ultimate sensory pleasure, or the pursuit of utter self-denial. Click
This precept can be thought of as the thorough knowledge and understanding
of the Four
Noble Truths as a whole. It’s the kind of understanding that comes
through personal experience. That
means that it doesn’t matter if you read ten books on Buddhism and can recite
things from memory. You need to feel it and know it in your bones. This
to the knowledge, contemplation of the knowledge, and regular practice of
the “spiritual exercises”. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes you a long
time to come to understand Right
the inside out. At the same time, that’s not an excuse to slack off. Right
a facet of
Right Thought is a facet of wisdom (Right
Understanding is another). Selfless renunciation,
detachment, love and nonviolence, these thoughts are extended
to all beings.
When this is lacking, however, as in such as thoughts based on selfish desire,
hatred and violence, it is a sign that one is lacking in wisdom.
Don’t tell lies. Don’t be catty, malicious, vicious, slanderous
or libelous in your conversation. Don’t delight in salacious rumor-mongering.
Why? Because these things bring about disharmony in your relationships with
people. When you speak in these ways with others rather than truthfully and
down-to-earth, it sets up a relationship between you and other people that’s
based on untruths. You may be in control of these untruths at first, but eventually,
they take on a life of their own, and you’ll start to get caught in your own
web of deception and mean-spiritedness. Stay away from harsh and malicious
Foaming at the mouth is to be avoided. Speak carefully and appropriately. Ethical
conduct is based on Right Speech.
This precept is similar to Christianity’s Ten Commandments. Right
Action tells people not to kill, not to steal, to be honest, and
intercourse (though I would say that
varies from culture to culture–and here’s a link
about what the 14th Dalai Lama has said about homosexuality).
Ethical conduct is rooted in Right
And as with true ethical conduct, it takes the development of a kind of
“moral compass” to know what constitutes Right Action.
But basically, it means not to do things that you know cause suffering for
yourself or others.
This precept basically directs people not to make money through harming
others. For example, typical Buddhist careers would probably not include
arms dealers, crystal
Right Livelihood is a facet of ethical conduct.
It takes a lot of persistence to prevent unharmonious states
of mind from coming to be. Right Effort is a Mental Discipline
and it involves persisting in your efforts to live your life in keeping with
the ideals of the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way).
be too rough on yourself when you catch yourself having messed up somehow.
Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and then gently but firmly set
yourself back in the right direction. Practice makes poifect!
You should be ever aware of what your body is doing, what you sense and feel,
and what your mind is thinking about. You should attempt to be detached from
these things, however. Merely notice them as they happen, and don’t get all caught
up in, say, that fantasy you love to replay in your head whenever you smell watermelon-scented
body lotion. Right Mindfulness is a mental discipline.
This precept points to the various modes of meditation and also other practices
used to strengthen mental discipline. A very common practice is “Noticing
One’s Breath”, in which, sitting comfortably with your back upright,
you notice your breath as it goes in and out, in and out. You also come
that your mind is a nonstop whirlwind of disjoint thought, and with continued
meditation the mind tends to calm down and clear up.
It’s been said that
the main thing that the Buddha introduced to the spiritual practices
of his day was the practice of Vipassana meditation (or noticing-the-breath-meditation)
in order to bring about enlightenment.
You are now enlightened! Just kidding. Now go meditate.
Buddhist teachings on economics are scattered throughout the
Scriptures among teachings on other subjects. A teaching on
mental training, for example, may include guidelines for economic
activity, because in real life these things are all interconnected.
Thus, if we want to find the Buddhist teachings on economics,
we must extract them from teachings on other subjects.
Although the Buddha never specifically taught about the subject
of economics, teachings about the four requisites — food, clothing,
shelter and medicine — occur throughout the Pali Canon. In
essence, all of the teachings concerning the four requisites
are teachings on economics.
Books of Discipline for the Monastic Order stipulate the attitude
and conduct Buddhist monks and nuns are to adopt toward the
four requisites. As mendicants, monks and nuns depend entirely
on donations for their material needs. The Discipline lays down
guidelines for a blameless life that is worthy of the support
of the laity. A life dedicated to Dhamma study, meditation and
teaching is Right Livelihood for monks and nuns.
The Discipline also contains standards and regulations for ensuring
that the four requisites, once supplied to the Order, will be
consumed in peace and harmony rather than contention and strife.
Buddhist monks are forbidden from demanding special food or
requisites. A monk must be content with little. In this passage,
the Buddha instructs monks on the proper attitudes toward the
monk in this Teaching and Discipline is one content with whatever
robes he is given and praises contentment with whatever robes
are given. He does not greedily seek robes in unscrupulous
ways. If he does not obtain a robe, he is not vexed; if he
obtains a robe, he is not attached, not enamored of it and
not pleased over it. He uses that robe with full awareness
of its benefits and its dangers. He has wisdom which frees
him from attachment. Moreover, he does not exalt himself or
disparage others on account of his contentment with whatever
robes are offered. Any monk who is diligent, ardent, not given
to laziness, who is fully aware and recollected in contentment
with robes, is said to be stationed in the time-honored lineage.
a monk is content with whatever alms food he is given …
a monk is content with whatever dwellings he is given …
a monk is one who delights in developing skillful qualities
and praises their development; he delights in abandoning unskillful
qualities and praises their abandoning; he does not exalt
himself nor disparage others on account of his delighting
in skillful qualities and praising their development, nor
on account of his abandoning of unskillful qualities and praising
their abandoning. A monk who is diligent, ardent, not given
to laziness, but fully aware and recollected in such development
(bhavana) and abandoning (pahana) is said
to be stationed in the time-honored lineage. [A.II.27]
This passage shows the relationship between contentment with
material possessions and effort — material requisites are used
as foundation for human development.
The monastic discipline exemplifies a life-style which makes
use of the least possible amount of material goods. This is
partly for practical reasons, to enable the Order to live in
a way that does not overtax the community, and partly so that
the monks can devote as much of their time and energy as possible
in the study, practice and teaching of the Dhamma. It also enables
them to live a live that is as independent of the social mainstream
as possible, so that their livelihood is not all geared to any
socially valued gain. All Buddhist monks, be they Arahants
(completely enlightened beings) or newly ordained monks, live
their lives according to this same basic principle of a minimal
amount of material possessions and an optimum of devotion to
To live happily without an abundance of material possession,
monks rely on sila, morality or good conduct. Note
that each of the four types of good conduct mentioned below
[Vism.16; Comp.212] calls upon another spiritual quality to
of behavior (patimokkha samvara sila) means to live
within the restraint of the Monastic Code of Discipline (Patimokkha);
to refrain from that which is forbidden, and to practice according
to that which is specified, to diligently follow in all the
training rules. This kind of sila is perfected through
of the senses (indriya samvara sila) is accomplished
by guarding over the mind so as not to let unskillful conditions,
such as like, dislike, attachment or aversion, overwhelm it
when experiencing any of the six kinds of sense impressions:
sight, sound, smell, taste, sensation in the body or thought
in the mind. This kind of sila is perfected through
sati, mindfulness or recollection.
of livelihood (ajiva parisuddhi sila) demands that
one conduct one’s livelihood honestly, avoiding ways of livelihood
that are wrong. For a monk, this includes not bragging about
superhuman attainments, such as meditation accomplishments
or stages of enlightenment, or asking for special food when
one is not sick; refraining from extortion, such as putting
on a display of austerity to impress people into giving offerings;
not fawning or sweet talking supporters; not hinting or making
signs to get householders to make offerings; not threatening
them or bullying them into making offerings; and not bartering
with them, such as in giving something little and expecting
much in exchange. This kind of sila, or purity, is
perfected through viriya, effort.
connected with requisites (paccaya sannisita sila)
means using the four requisites with circumspection, with
an awareness of their true use and value, rather than using
them out of desire. At meal time, this means eating food for
the sake of good health, so that one is able to live comfortably
enough to practice the Dhamma conveniently, not eating to
indulge in the sensual pleasure of eating. This kind of
sila is perfected through pañña, wisdom.
much of the Buddha’s teachings were directed towards monks,
there is no indication anywhere in the Scriptures that the Buddha
wanted householders to live like monks. Nor is there any indication
that the Buddha wanted everybody to become monks and nuns. In
establishing the order of monks and nuns, the Buddha created
an independent community as an example of righteousness, and
community that could nourish society with the Dhamma and provide
a refuge for those who wished to live a life dedicated to Dhamma
Within this community there are both formal members and true
members. The formal members are those who are ordained into
the Buddhist Order as monks and nuns and who live super-imposed,
as it were, onto normal “householder society.” The
truly free members, however, are those of Noble Order, both
ordained and householders, who have experienced transcendent
insight and are scattered throughout the regular society of
While the teachings in the Books of Discipline can be applied
to the lives of householders, they are more directly related
to monks. The monastic life is designed to be comfortable even
when the four requisites are in low supply. In this regard,
monks and nuns serve as living examples that life can be happy
and fulfilling even when the four requisites are not plentiful.
Most lay people, however, see the four requisites as basis on
which to build more wealth and comfort. While householders may
seem to require more material goods than monks and nuns because
of their demanding responsibilities, such as raising children
and running a business, the fact remains that all of life’s
basic needs can be met by the four requisites.
Practical teachings on economic matters for householders are
contained in the Books of Discourses, or Suttas. The Suttas
recount the advice the Buddha gave to various people in various
stations throughout his life. In the Suttas, the Buddha stresses
four areas in which householders may relate skillfully to wealth
Acquisition — Wealth should not be acquired by exploitation,
but through effort and intelligent action; it should be acquired
in a morally sound way.
Safekeeping — Wealth should be saved and protected as an investment
for the further development of livelihood and as an insurance
against future adversity. When accumulated wealth exceeds these
two needs, it may be used for creating social benefit by supporting
Use — Wealth should be put to the following uses: (1) to support
oneself and one’s family; (2) to support the interests of fellowship
and social harmony, such as in receiving guests, or in activities
of one’s friends or relatives; (3) to support good works, such
as community welfare projects.
Mental attitude — Wealth should not become an obsession, a
cause for worry and anxiety. It should rather be related to
with an understanding of its true benefits and limitations,
and dealt with in a way that leads to personal development.
The Buddha praised only those wealthy people who have obtained
their wealth through their own honest labor and used it wisely,
to beneficial ends. That is, the Buddha praised the quality
of goodness and benefit more than wealth itself. The common
tendency (in Thailand) to praise people simply because they
are rich, based on the belief that their riches are a result
of accumulated merit from previous lives, without due consideration
of the factors from the present life, contradicts the teachings
of Buddhism on two counts: Firstly, it does not exemplify the
Buddha’s example of praising goodness above wealth; secondly
it does not make use of reasoned consideration of the entire
range of factors involved.
The present life is much more immediate and as such must be
afforded more importance. Previous kamma determines
the conditions of one’s birth, including physical attributes,
talents, intelligence and certain personality traits. While
it is said to be a determining factor for people who are born
into wealthy families, the Buddha did not consider birth into
a wealthy family as such to be worthy of praise, and Buddhism
does not place much importance on birth station. The Buddha
might praise the good kamma which enabled a person
to attain such a favorable birth, but since their birth into
a wealthy station is the fruition of good past kamma,
such people have been duly rewarded and it is not necessary
to praise them further.
A favorable birth is said to be a good capital foundation which
affords some people better opportunities than others. As for
the unfolding of the present life, the results of previous kamma
stop at birth, and a new beginning is made. A good “capital
foundation” can easily degenerate. If it is used with care
and intelligence it will lead to benefit for all concerned,
but if one is deluded by one’s capital foundation, or favorable
situation, one will use it in a way that not only wastes one’s
valuable opportunities, but leads to harm for all concerned.
The important question for Buddhism is how people use their
initial capital. The Buddha did not praise or criticize wealth;
he was concerned with actions.
According to the Buddhist teachings, wealth should be used for
the purpose of helping others; it should support a life of good
conduct and human development. According to this principle,
when wealth arises for one person, the whole of society benefits,
and although it belongs to one person, it is just as if it belonged
to the whole community. A wealthy person who uses wealth in
this manner is likened to a fertile field in which rice grows
abundantly for the benefit of all. Such people generate great
benefit for those around them. Without them, the wealth they
create would not come to be, and neither would the benefit resulting
from it. Guided by generosity, these people feel moved to represent
the whole of society, and in return they gain the respect and
trust of the community to use their wealth for beneficial purposes.
The Buddha taught that a householder who shares his wealth with
others is following the path of the Noble Ones:
you have little, give little; if you own a middling amount,
give a middling amount; if you have much, give much. It is
not fitting not to give at all. Kosiya, I say to you, ‘Share
your wealth, use it. Tread the path of the noble ones. One
who eats alone eats not happily.” [J.V.382]
Some people adhere to the daily practice of not eating until
they have given something to others. This practice was adopted
by a reformed miser in the time of the Buddha, who said, “As
long as I have not first given to others each day, I will not
even drink water.” [J.V.393-411]
When the wealth of a virtuous person grows, other people stand
to gain. But the wealth of a mean person grows at the expense
of misery for those around him. People who get richer and richer
while society degenerates and poverty spreads are using their
wealth wrongly. Such wealth does not fulfill its true function.
It is only a matter of time before something breaks down —
either the rich, or the society, or both, must go. The community
may strip the wealthy of their privileges and redistribute the
wealth in the hands of new “stewards,” for better
or for worse. If people use wealth wrongly, it ceases to be
a benefit and becomes a bane, destroying human dignity, individual
welfare and the community.
Buddhism stress that our relationship with wealth be guided
by wisdom and a clear understanding of its true value and limitations.
We should not be burdened or enslaved by it. Rather, we should
be masters of our wealth and use it in ways that are beneficial
to others. Wealth should be used to create benefit in society,
rather than contention and strife. It should be spent in ways
that relieve problems and lead to happiness rather than to tension,
suffering and mental disorder.
Here is a passage from the Scriptures illustrating the proper
Buddhist attitude to wealth:
there are these three groups of people in this world. What
are the three? They are the blind, the one-eyed, and the two-eyed.
is the blind person? There are some in this world who do not
have the vision which leads to acquisition of wealth or to
the increase of wealth already gained. Moreover, they do not
have the vision which enables them to know what is skillful
and what is unskillful … what is blameworthy and what is
not … what is coarse and what is refined … good and evil.
This is what I mean by one who is blind.
who is the one-eyed person? Some people in this world have
the vision which leads to the acquisition of wealth, or to
the increase of wealth already obtained, but they do not have
the vision that enables them to know what is skillful and
what is not … what is blameworthy and what is not … what
is coarse and what is refined … good and evil. This I call
a one-eyed person.
who is the two-eyed person? Some people in this world possess
both the vision that enables them to acquire wealth and to
capitalize on it, and the vision that enables them to know
what is skillful and what is not … what is blameworthy and
what is not … what is coarse and what is refined … good
and evil. This I call one with two eyes …
who is blind is hounded by misfortune on two counts: he has
no wealth, and he performs no good works. The second kind
of the person, the one-eyed, looks about for wealth irrespective
of whether it is right or wrong. It may be obtained through
theft, cheating, or fraud. He enjoys pleasures of the sense
obtained from his ability to acquire wealth, but as a result
he goes to hell. The one eyed person suffers according to
two eyed person is a fine human being, one who shares out
a portion of the wealth obtained through his diligent labor.
He has noble thoughts, a resolute mind, and attains to a good
bourn, free of suffering. Avoid the blind and the one-eyed,
and associate with the two-eyed.” [A.I.128]
Buddha said “poverty is suffering in this world.”
Here he speaks to the use of wealthy by governments. Poverty
and want, like greed (to which they are closely related) contribute
to crime and social discontent. [D.III.65, 70] Buddhism maintains
that it is the duty of the government or the administrators
of a country to see to the needs of those who are in want and
to strive to banish poverty from the land. At the very least,
honest work should be available to all people, trade and commerce
should be encouraged, capital should be organized and industries
monitored to guard against dishonest or exploitive practices.
By this criteria, the absence of poverty is a better gauge of
government’s success than the presence of millionaires.
It is often asked which economic or political system is most
compatible with Buddhism. Buddhism does not answer such a question
directly. One might say Buddhism would endorse whatever system
is most compatible with it, but economic and political systems
are a question of method, and methods, according to Buddhism,
should be attuned to time and place.
What is the purpose of a government’s wealth? Essentially, a
government’s wealth is for the purpose of supporting and organizing
its citizens’ lives in the most efficient and beneficial way
possible. Wealth enables us to practice and to attain progressively
higher levels of well-being. Wealth should support the community
in such a way that people who live in it conduct good lives
and are motivated to a higher good.
A political or economic system that uses wealth to these ends
is compatible with Buddhism (subject to the stipulation that
it is a voluntary or free system rather than an authoritarian
one). Specific systems are simply methods dependent on time
and place, and can vary accordingly. For example, when the Buddha
established the Order of monks as a specialized community, he
set up rules limiting a monk’s personal possessions. Most requisites
were to be regarded as communal property of the Order.
The Buddha gave different teachings regarding wealth for householders
or worldly society. In his day, there were two main political
systems in India: some parts of the country were ruled by absolute
monarchies, others were ruled by republican states. The Buddha
gave separate teachings for each. This is characteristic of
his teachings. Buddhism is not a religion of ideals and philosophy,
but a religion of practice. The Buddha made his teaching applicable
to the real life of the people in the society of the time.
If the Buddha had waited until he had designed a perfect society
before he taught, he would have fallen into idealism and romanticism.
Since the perfect society will always be a “hoped-for”
society, the Buddha gave teachings that could be put to effect
in the present time, or, in his words, “those truths which
are truly useful.”
For the monarchies, the Buddha taught the
duties of a Wheel-Turning Emperor, exhorting rulers to use their
absolute power as a tool for generating benefit in the community
rather than a tool for seeking personal happiness. For the republican
states, he taught the aparihaniyadhamma
— principles and methods for encouraging social harmony and
preventing decline. In their separate ways, both these teaching
show how a people can live happily under different political
When the absolute monarchy reached its highest perfection in
India, the Emperor Ashoka used these Buddhist principles to
govern his empire. He wrote in the Edicts, “His Highness,
Priyadassi, loved by the devas, does not see rank or glory as
being of much merit, except if that rank or glory is used to
realize the following aim: ‘Both now and in the future, may
the people listen to my teaching and practice according to the
principles of Dhamma.’” [Ashokan Edict No.10]
The ideal society is not one in which all people occupy the
same station; such a society is in fact not possible. The ideal
society is one in which human beings, training themselves in
mind and intellect, although possessing differences, are nevertheless
striving for the same objectives. Even though they are different
they live together harmoniously. At the same time, it is a society
which has a noble choice, a noble way out, for those so inclined,
in the form of a religious life. (Even in the society of the
future Buddha, Sri Ariya Metteyya, where everyone is said to
be equal, there is still to be found the division of monks and
While absolute equality is impossible, governments should ensure
that the four requisites are distributed so all citizens have
enough to live on comfortably and can find honest work. Moreover,
the economic system in general should lead to a harmonious community
rather than to contention and strife, and material possessions
used as a base for beneficial human development rather than
as an end in themselves.
In one Sutta, the Buddha admonishes the Universal
Emperor to apportion some of his wealth to the poor. The emperor
is told to watch over his subjects and prevent abject poverty
from arising. Here we see that ethical economic
management for a ruler or governor is determined by the absence
of poverty in his domain, rather than by a surplus of wealth
in his coffers or in the hands of a select portion of the population.
When this basic standard is met, the teachings do not prohibit
the accumulation of wealth or stipulate that it should be distributed
With an understanding of the Buddhist perspective on social
practice, those involved in such matters can debate which system
is not compatible with Buddhism. Or they may opt to devise a
new, more effective system. This might be the best alternative.
However, it is a matter of practical application which is beyond
the scope of this book.
Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the Buddha’s more esoteric teaching.
While the Abhidhamma does not directly address economics, it
does have a strong indirect connection because it analyses the
mind and its constituents in minute detail. These mental factors
are the root of all human behavior, including, of course, economic
activity. Negative mental constituents such as greed, aversion,
delusion and pride motivate economic activity as do the positive
constituents such as non-greed, non-aversion and non-delusion,
faith, generosity, and goodwill. In this respect, the Abhidhamma
is a study of economics on its most fundamental level.
In a similar connection, the more esoteric practices of Buddhism,
meditation in particular, relate indirectly but fundamentally
to economics. Through meditation and mental training, we come
to witness the stream of causes and conditions that begin as
mental conditions and lead to economic activity. With this insight,
we can investigate our mental process and make sound ethical
judgments. Meditation helps us to see how ethical and unethical
behavior are the natural consequence of the mental conditions
which motivate them. Individual people, classes, races and nationalities
are neither intrinsically good nor evil. It is rather our mental
qualities that guide our behavior toward the ethical and the
unethical. Greed, hatred and delusion drive us to unethical
acts. Wisdom and a desire for true well-being guide us to ethical
behavior and a good life.
With meditation, we gain perspective on our motivations: we
sharpen our awareness and strengthen free will. Thus, when it
comes to making economic decisions, decision about our livelihood
and consumption, we can better resist compulsions driven by
fear, craving, and pride and choose instead a moral course that
aims at true well-being. In this way, we begin to see how mental
factors form the basis of all economic matters, and we realize
that the development of this kind of mental discernment leads
the way to true economic and human development.
Perhaps more importantly, through meditation training it is
possible to realize a higher kind of happiness — inner peace,
the independent kind of happiness. When we have the ability
to find peace within ourselves we can use wealth, which is no
longer necessary for our own happiness, freely for the social
following Sutta offers teachings on livelihood for a householder
with an emphasis on the benefits that arise from right livelihood.
At one time, the Brahmin Ujjaya went to visit the Buddha to
ask his advice on how to gain prosperity through right livelihood.
The Buddha answered by explaining the conditions that would
lead to happiness in the present and in the future:
these four conditions lead to happiness and benefit in the
present. They are, industriousness, watchfulness, good company
and balanced livelihood.
what is the endowment of industriousness (utthanasampada)?
A son of good family supports himself through diligent effort.
Be it through farming, commerce, raising livestock, a military
career, or the arts, he is diligent, he applies himself, and
he is skilled. He is not lazy in his work, but clever, interested.
He knows how to manage his work, he is able and responsible:
this is called endowment of industriousness.
what is the endowment of watchfulness (arakkhasampada)?
A son of good family has wealth, the fruit of his own sweat
and labor, rightly obtained by him. He applies himself to
protecting that wealth, thinking, ‘How can I prevent this
wealth from being confiscated by the King, stolen by thieves,
burnt from fire, swept away from floods or appropriated by
unfavored relatives?’ This is called the endowment of watchfulness.
what is good company (kalyanamittata)? Herein, a
son of good family, residing in a town or village, befriends,
has discourse with, and seek advice from, those householders,
sons of householders, young people who are mature and older
people who are venerable, who are possessed of faith, morality,
generosity, and wisdom. He studies and emulates the faith
of those with faith; he studies and emulates the morality
of those with morality; he studies and emulates the generosity
of those who are generous; he studies and emulates the wisdom
of those who are wise. This is to have good company.
what is balanced livelihood (samajivita)? A son of
good family supports himself in moderation, neither extravagantly
nor stintingly. He knows the causes of increase and decrease
of wealth, he knows which undertakings will yield an income
higher than the expenditure rather than the expenditure exceeding
the income. Like a person weighing things on a scale, he knows
the balance either way … If this young man had only a small
income but lived extravagantly, it could be said of him that
he consumed his wealth as if it were peanuts. If he had a
large income but used it stintingly, it could be said of him
that he will die like a pauper. But because he supports himself
in moderation, it is said that he has balanced livelihood.
the wealth rightly gained in this way has four pathways of
decline. They are to be given to debauchery, drink, gambling,
and association with evil friends. It is like a large reservoir
with four channels going into it and four channels going out
opened up, and the rain does not fall in due season, that
large reservoir can be expected only to decrease, not to increase
wealth so gained rightly has four pathways of prosperity.
They are to refrain from debauchery, drink and gambling, and
to associate with good friends, to be drawn to good people.
It is like a large reservoir with four channels leading into
it and four channels leading out. If the channels leading
into it are opened up, and the channels leading out are closed
off, and rain falls in due season, it can be expected that
for this reservoir there will be only increase, not decrease
… Brahmin, these four conditions are for the happiness and
benefit of a young man in the present moment.” [A.IV.241]
The Buddha then went on to describe four conditions which lead
to happiness and benefit in the future. In short, they are to
possess the spiritual qualities of faith, morality, generosity
following teaching was given to the merchant Anathapindika.
It is known simply as the four kinds of happiness for a householder:
householder, these four kinds of happiness are appropriate
for one who leads the household life and enjoys the pleasures
of the senses. They are the happiness of ownership, the happiness
of enjoyment, the happiness of freedom from debt, and the
happiness of blamelessness.
is the happiness of ownership (atthisukha)? A son
of good family possesses wealth that has been obtained by
his own diligent labor, acquired through the strength of his
own arms and the sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired,
rightly gained. He experiences pleasure, he experiences happiness,
thinking, ‘I possess this wealth that has been obtained by
my own diligent labor, acquired through the strength of my
own arms and the sweat of my own brow, rightly acquired, rightly
gained.’ This is the happiness of ownership.
what is the happiness of enjoyment (bhogasukha)?
Herein, a son of good family consumes, puts to use, and derives
benefit from the wealth that has been obtained by his own
diligent labor, acquired through the strength of his own arms
and the sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained.
He experiences pleasure, he experiences happiness, thinking,
‘Through this wealth that has been obtained by my own diligent
labor, acquired through the strength of my own arms and the
sweat of my own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, I
have derived benefit and performed good works.’ This is called
the happiness of enjoyment.
what is the happiness of freedom from debt (ananasukha)?
Herein, a son of good family owes no debt, be it great or
small, to anyone at all. He experiences pleasure and happiness,
reflecting. ‘I owe no debts, be they great or small, to anyone
at all.’ This is called the happiness of freedom from debt.
what is the happiness of blamelessness (anavajjasukha)?
Herein, a noble disciple is possessed of blameless bodily
actions, blameless speech, and blameless thoughts. He experiences
pleasure and happiness, thinking, ‘I am possessed of blameless
bodily actions, blameless speech, and blameless thoughts.’
This is called the happiness of blamelessness.
he realizes the happiness of being free from debt, he is in
a position to appreciate the happiness of owning possessions.
As he uses his possessions, he experiences the happiness of
enjoyment. Clearly seeing this, the wise man, comparing the
first three kinds of happiness with the last, sees that they
are not worth a sixteenth part of the happiness that arises
from blameless behavior.” [A.II.69]
this passage, the Buddha explains to the merchant Anathapindika
some of the benefits that can arise from wealth. Since the teachings
are specific to an earlier time, the reader is advised to glean
the gist of them and apply it to the modern day:
householder, there are five uses to which wealth can be put.
the wealth that has been obtained by his own diligent labor,
acquired through the strength of his own arms and the sweat
of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, the noble
disciple supports himself comfortably, sufficiently, he applies
himself to seeing to his own happiness in rightful ways. He
supports his father and mother … wife and children, servants
and workers comfortably, to a sufficiency, applying himself
to their needs and their happiness as is proper. This is the
first benefit to obtained from wealth.
with the wealth that has been obtained by his own diligent
labor, acquired through the strength of his own arms and the
sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, the
noble disciple supports his friends and associates comfortably,
to a sufficiency, taking an interest in their happiness as
is proper. This is the second benefit to be derived from wealth.
with the wealth that has been obtained by his own diligent
labor, acquired through the strength of his own arms and the
sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, the
noble disciple protects his wealth from the dangers of confiscation
by kings, theft, fire, flood, and appropriation by unfavored
relatives. He sees to his own security. This is the third
benefit to be derived from wealth.
with the wealth that has been obtained by his own diligent
labor, acquired through the strength of his own arms and the
sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, the
noble disciple makes the five kinds of sacrifice. They are:
to relatives (supporting relatives); to visitors (receiving
guests); to ancestors (offerings made in the name of ancestors);
to the king (for taxes and public works); and to the gods
(that is, he supports religion). This is another benefit to
be derived from wealth.
with the wealth that has been obtained by his own diligent
labor, acquired through the strength of his own arms and the
sweat of his own brow, rightly acquired, rightly gained, the
noble disciple makes offerings which are of the highest merit,
which are conducive to mental well-being, happiness and heaven,
to religious mendicants, those who live devoted to heedfulness,
are established in patience and gentleness, are trained, calmed,
and cooled of defilements. This is the fifth benefit to be
obtained from wealth.
there are these five benefits to be obtained from wealth.
If wealth is used by a noble disciple in such a way that these
five benefits are fulfilled, and if it should then become
spent, that noble disciple can reflect thus: ‘Whatever benefit
is to be obtained from wealth, I have obtained. Now my wealth
is spent.’ That noble disciple experiences no distress on
that account. And if, after that noble disciple has used his
wealth to provide these five benefits, that wealth should
increase, that noble disciple reflects thus: ‘Whatever benefit
is to be obtained from my wealth I have already obtained.
And now my wealth has increased.’ That noble disciple is also
not distressed on that account; he is distressed in neither
Buddha taught that basic material needs must be met before spiritual
development can begin. The following story [Dh.A.III.262] illustrates
how hunger is both a cause of physical suffering and an obstacle
to spiritual progress:
One morning while the Buddha was residing in the Jetavana monastery
near the city of Savatthi, he sensed with his psychic powers
that the spiritual faculties of a certain poor peasant living
near the city of Alavi were mature enough for him to understand
the teaching, and that he was ripe for enlightenment. So, later
that morning, the Buddha set off walking to Alavi, some 30 yojanas
(about 48 km) away.
The inhabitants of Alavi held the Buddha in great respect, and
on his arrival warmly welcomed him. Eventually a place was prepared
for everyone to gather together and listen to a discourse. However,
as the Buddha’s particular purpose in going to Alavi was to
enlighten this one poor peasant, he waited for him to arrive
before starting to talk.
The peasant heard the news of the Buddha’s visit and, since
he had been interested in the Buddha’s teaching for some time,
he decided to go to listen to the discourse. But it so happened
that one of his cows had just disappeared and he wondered whether
he should go and listen to the Buddha first and look for his
cow afterwards, or to look for the cow first. He decided that
he should look for the cow first and quickly set off into the
forest to search for it. Eventually the peasant found his cow
and drove it back to the herd, but by the time everything was
as it should be, he was very tired. The peasant thought to himself,
“Time is getting on, if I go back home first it will take
up even more time. I’ll just go straight into the city to listen
to the Buddha’s discourse.” Having made up his mind, the
poor peasant started walking into Alavi. By the time he arrived
at the place set up for the talk, he was exhausted and very
When the Buddha saw the peasant’s condition, he asked the city
elders to arrange some food for the poor man, and only when
the peasant had eaten his fill and was refreshed did the Buddha
start to teach. While listening to the discourse the peasant
realized the fruit of ‘Stream Entry,’ the first stage of enlightenment.
The Buddha had fulfilled his purpose in traveling to Alavi.
After the talk was over, the Buddha bade farewell to the people
of Alavi and set off back to the Jetavana monastery. During
the walk back, the monks who were accompanying him started to
discuss the day’s events: “What was that all about? The
Lord didn’t quite seem himself today. I wonder why he got them
to arrange food for the peasant like that, before he would agree
to give his discourse.”
The Buddha, knowing the subject of the monks’ discussion, turned
back towards them and started to explain his reason, saying,
“When people are overwhelmed and in pain through suffering,
they are incapable of understanding religious teaching.”
The Buddha went on to sat that hunger is the most severe of
all illnesses and that conditioned phenomena provide the basis
for the most ingrained suffering. Only when one understands
these truths will one realize the supreme happiness of Nibbana.
Buddhism considers economics to be of great significance —
this is demonstrated by the Buddha having the peasant eat something
before teaching him. Economists might differ as to whether the
Buddha’s investment of a 45 kilometer walk was worth the enlightenment
of one single person, but the point is that not only is Right
Livelihood one of the factors of the Eightfold Path, but that
hungry people cannot appreciate the Dhamma. Although consumption
and economic wealth are important, they are not goals in themselves,
but are merely the foundations for human development and the
enhancement of the quality of life. They allow us to realize
the profound: after eating, the peasant listened to Dhamma and
became enlightened. Buddhist economics ensures that the creation
of wealth leads to a life in which people can develop their
potentials and increase in goodness. Quality of life, rather
than wealth for its own sake, is the goal.