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21 03 2012 LESSON 557 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And Practice UNIVERSITY And BUDDHIST GOOD NEWS LETTER Through Dhammapada Verse 109 Ayuvaddhanakumara VatthuSaluting Venerables Yields Four Benefits
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21 03 2012 LESSON 557 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research And  Practice UNIVERSITY And  BUDDHIST GOOD NEWS LETTER Through Dhammapada
Verse 109 Ayuvaddhanakumara Vatthu
Saluting Venerables Yields Four Benefits



Practice a Sutta a Day Keeps Dukkha Away



84000 Khandas divided into 275250 as to the
stanzas of the original text and into 361550
divided  into 2547 banawaras containing 737000 stanzas and 29368000
separate letters

Awakeness Practices

All 84,000 Khandas As
Found in the Pali Suttas

the are 84,000 Dharma Doors - 84,000 ways to get Awakeness. Maybe so;
certainly the Buddha taught a large number of practices that lead to
Awakeness. This web page attempts to catalogue those found in the Pali Suttas
(DN, MN, SN, AN, Ud & Sn 
1). There are 3 sections:

The discourses of Buddha
are divided into 84,000, as to separate addresses. The division includes all
that was spoken by Buddha.”I received from Buddha,” said Ananda, “82,000
Khandas, and  from the priests 2000; these are 84,000 Khandas maintained
by me.” They are divided into 275,250, as to the stanzas of the original text,
and into 361,550, as to the stanzas of the commentary. All the discourses
including both those of Buddha and those of the commentator, are divided 
into 2,547 banawaras, containing 737,000 stanzas, and 29,368,000 separate


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Environmental Studies

109. Saluting Venerables Yields Four Benefits

For one of respectful nature
who ever the elders honours,
long life and beauty, joy and strength,
these qualities increase.

Explanation: If a person is in the habit of constantly honouring
and respecting those who are developed and mature, their lives improve in four
ways. Their life span soon increases. Their complexion becomes clearer. Their
good health

Verse 109
Ayuvaddhanakumara Vatthu

niccam vuddhapacayino
cattaro dhamma vaddhanti
ayu vanno sukham balam.

Verse 109: For one who always respects and honours those who are
older and more virtuous, four benefits, viz., longevity, beauty, happiness and
strength, will increase.

The Story of Ayuvaddhanakumara

While residing in a village monastery near Dighalanghika, the
Buddha uttered Verse (109) of this book, with reference to Ayuvaddhanakumara.

Once, there were two hermits who fixed together practising
religious austerities (tapacaranam) for forty eight years. Later, one of
the two left the hermit life and got married. After a son was born, the family
visited the old hermit and paid obeisance to him. To the parents the hermit
said, “May you live long,” but he said nothing to the child. The
parents were puzzled and asked the hermit the reason for his silence. The
hermit told them that the child would live only seven more days and that he did
not know how to prevent his death, but Gotama Buddha might know how to do it.

So the parents took the child to the Buddha; when they paid
obeisance to the Buddha, he also said, “May you live long” to the
parents only and not to the child. The Buddha also predicted the impending
death of the child. To prevent his death, the parents were told to build a
pavilion at the entrance to the house, and put the child on a couch in the
pavilion. Then some bhikkhus were sent there to recite the parittas* for
seven days. On the seventh day the Buddha himself came to that pavilion; the
devas from all over the universe also came. At that time the ogre Avaruddhaka
was at the entrance, waiting for a chance to take the child away. But as more
powerful devas arrived the ogre had to step back and make room for them so that
he had to stay at a place two yojanas away from the child. That whole night,
recitation of parittas continued, thus protecting the child. The next day, the
child was taken up from the couch and made to pay obeisance to the Buddha. This
time, the Buddha said, “May you live long” to the child. When
asked how long the child would live, the Buddha replied that he would live up
to one hundred and twenty years. So the child was named Ayuvaddhana.

When the child grew up, he went about the country with a company
of five hundred fellow devotees. One day, they came to the Jetavana monastery,
and the bhikkhus, recognizing him, asked the Buddha, “For beings, is there
any means of gaining longevity?” To this question the Buddha answered,
By respecting and honouring the elders and those who are wise and
virtuous, one would gain not only longevity, but also beauty, happiness and

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

109: For one who always respects and honours those who are older and more
virtuous, four benefits, viz., longevity, beauty, happiness and strength,
will increase.

At the end of the discourse, Ayuvaddhana and his five hundred
companions attained Sotapatti Fruition.

religious stanzas that are usually recited for protection against harmful

03 2012

2. On Good and Evil
    The problem of good
and evil

    The meaning of kusala
and akusala

    Kusala and akusala
as catalysts for each other

    Gauging good and bad

        Primary factors
        Secondary factors


On Good and Evil



The problem of good and evil

Because kamma is directly
concerned with good and evil, any discussion of kamma must also include a
discussion of good and evil. Standards for defining good and evil are, however,
not without their problems. What is “good,” and how is it so? What is
it that we call “evil,” and how is that so? These problems are in
fact a matter of language. In the Buddha’s teaching, which is based on the Pali
language, the meaning becomes much clearer, as will presently be demonstrated.

English words “good” and “evil” have very broad meanings,
particularly the word “good,” which is much more widely used than
“evil.” A virtuous and moral person is said to be good; delicious
food might be called “good” food; a block of wood which happens to be
useful might be called a “good” block of wood. Moreover, something
which is good to one person might not be good to many others. Looked at from
one angle, a certain thing may be good, but not from another. Behavior which is
considered good in one area, district or society might be considered bad in

seems from these examples that there is some disparity. It might be necessary
to consider the word “good” from different viewpoints, such as good
in a hedonistic sense, good in an artistic sense, good in an economic sense,
and so on. The reason for this disparity is a matter of values. The words “good”
and “evil” can be used in many different value systems in English,
which makes their meanings very broad.

    In our
study of good and evil the following points should be borne in mind:

    (a) Our
study will be from the perspective of the law of kamma, thus we will be using
the specialized terms kusala
and akusala or skillful and
unskillful, which have very precise meanings.

Kusala and akusala, in terms of Buddhist ethics, are qualities of the law of
kamma, thus our study of them is keyed to this context, not as a set of social
values as is commonly used for the words “good” and “evil.”

    (c) As
discussed in Chapter One, the operation of the law of kamma is related to other
laws. Specifically, insofar as the inner life of the individual is concerned, kammaniyama
interacts with psychological laws (cittaniyama), while externally it is related
to Social Preference.


The meaning of kusala and akusala

Although kusala and
akusala are sometimes translated as “good” and “evil,” this
may be misleading. Things which are kusala may not always be considered good,
while some things may be akusala and yet not generally considered to be evil.
Depression, melancholy, sloth and distraction, for example, although akusala,
are not usually considered to be “evil” as we know it in English. In
the same vein, some forms of kusala, such as calmness of body and mind, may not
readily come into the general understanding of the English word

and akusala are conditions which arise in the mind, producing results initially
in the mind, and from there to external actions and physical features. The
meanings of kusala and akusala therefore stress the state, the contents and the
events of mind as their basis.

can be rendered generally as “intelligent, skillful, contented,
beneficial, good,” or “that which removes affliction.” Akusala
is defined in the opposite way, as in “unintelligent,”
“unskillful” and so on.

following are four connotations of kusala derived from the Commentaries:

    1. Arogya: free of illness, a mind that is healthy;
mental states which contain those conditions or factors which support mental
health and produce an untroubled and stable mind.

    2. Anavajja: unstained; factors
which render the mind clean and clear, not stained or murky.

    3. Kosalasambhuta: based on wisdom
or intelligence; mental states which are based on knowledge and understanding
of truth. This is supported by the teaching which states that kusala conditions
have yoniso-manasikara, clear
thinking, as forerunner.

    4. Sukhavipaka: rewarded by
well-being. Kusala is a condition which produces contentment. When kusala
conditions arise in the mind, there is naturally a sense of well-being, without
the need for any external influence. Just as when one is strong and healthy (aroga), freshly bathed (anavajja), and in a safe and
comfortable place (kosalasambhuta),
a sense of well-being naturally follows.

meaning of akusala should be understood in just the opposite way from above: as
the mind that is unhealthy, harmful, based on ignorance, and resulting in
suffering. In brief, it refers to those conditions which cause the mind to
degenerate both in quality and efficiency, unlike kusala, which promotes the
quality and efficiency of the mind.

order to further clarify these concepts, it might be useful to look at the
descriptions of the attributes of a good mind, one that is healthy and
trouble-free, found in the Commentaries, and then to consider whether kusala
conditions do indeed induce the mind to be this way, and if so, how. We could
then consider whether akusala conditions deprive the mind of such states, and
how they do this.

easy reference, the various characteristics of kusala found in the Commentaries
can be compiled into groups, as follows:

    1. Firm: resolute, stable,
unmoving, undistracted.

    2. Pure and clean: unstained,
immaculate, bright.

    3. Clear and free: unrestricted,
free, exalted, boundless.

    4. Fit for work: pliant, light,
fluent, patient.

    5. Calm and content: relaxed,
serene, satisfied.

looked at the qualities of a healthy mind, we can now consider the qualities
which are known as kusala and akusala, assessing to see how they affect the
quality of the mind.

examples of kusala conditions are: sati,
mindfulness or recollection, the ability to maintain the attention with
whatever object or duty the mind is engaged; metta,
goodwill; non-greed, absence of desire and attachment (including altruistic
thoughts); wisdom, clear understanding of the way things are; calm, relaxation
and peace; kusalachanda, zeal
or contentment with the good; a desire to know and act in accordance with the
truth; and gladness at the good fortune of others.

there is goodwill, the mind is naturally happy, cheerful, and clear. This is a
condition which is beneficial to the psyche, supporting the quality and
efficiency of the mind. Goodwill is therefore kusala. Sati enables the attention
to be with whatever the mind is involved or engaged, recollecting the proper
course of action, helping to prevent akusala conditions from arising, and thus
enabling the mind to work more effectively. Sati is therefore kusala.

    Examples of akusala conditions are: sexual desire; ill will;
sloth and torpor; restlessness and anxiety; doubt[
a], anger, jealousy, and

Jealousy makes the mind spiteful and oppressive, clearly damaging the quality
and health of the mind. Therefore it is akusala. Anger stirs up the mind in
such a way that rapidly affects even the health of the body, and thus is
clearly akusala. Sensual desire confuses and obsesses the mind. This is also

established an understanding of the words kusala and akusala, we are now ready
to understand good and bad kamma, or kusala kamma and akusala kamma. As has
been already mentioned, intention is the heart of kamma. Thus, an intention
which contains kusala conditions is skillful, and an intention which contains
akusala conditions is unskillful. When those skillful or unskillful intentions
are acted on through the body, speech or mind, they are known as skillful and
unskillful kamma through body, speech and mind respectively, or, alternatively,
bodily kamma, verbal kamma and mental kamma which are skillful and unskillful
as the case may be


Kusala and akusala as catalysts
for each other

An act of faith or
generosity, moral purity, or even an experience of insight during meditation,
which are all kusala conditions, can precipitate the arising of conceit, pride
and arrogance. Conceit and pride are akusala conditions. This situation is
known as “kusala acting as an agent for akusala.” Meditation practice
can lead to highly concentrated states of mind (kusala), which in turn can lead
to attachment (akusala). The development of thoughts of goodwill and
benevolence to others (kusala), can, in the presence of a desirable object,
precipitate the arising of lust (akusala). These are examples of kusala acting
as an agent for akusala.

Sometimes moral or meditation practice (kusala) can be based on a desire to be
reborn in heaven (akusala). A child’s good behavior (kusala) can be based on a
desire to show off to its elders (akusala); a student’s zeal in learning
(kusala) can stem from ambition (akusala); anger (akusala), seen in the light
of its harmful effects, can lead to wise reflection and forgiveness (kusala);
the fear of death (akusala) can encourage introspection (kusala): these are all
examples of akusala as an agent for kusala.

example: the parents of a teenage boy warn their son that his friends are a bad
influence on him, but he takes no notice and is lured into drug addiction. On
realizing his situation, he is at first angered and depressed, then,
remembering his parents’ warnings, he is moved by their compassion (akusala as
an agent for kusala), but this in turn merely aggravates his own self-hatred
(kusala as an agent for akusala).

changes from kusala to akusala, or akusala to kusala, occur so rapidly that the
untrained mind is rarely able to see them.


Gauging good and bad kamma

It has been mentioned that
the law of kamma has a very intimate relationship with both psychological laws
and Social Preference. This very similarity can easily create
misunderstandings. The law of kamma is so closely related to psychological laws
that they seem to be one and the same thing, but there is a clear dividing line
between the two, and that is intention. This is the essence and motivating
force of the law of kamma and is that which gives the law of kamma its distinct
niche among the other niyama or laws. Cittaniyama, on the other hand, governs
all mental activity, including the unintentional.

intention, through the law of kamma, has its own role distinct from the other
niyama, giving rise to the illusion that human beings are independent of the
natural world. Intention must rely on the mechanics of cittaniyama in order to
function, and the process of creating kamma must operate within the parameters
of cittaniyama.

an analogy of a man driving a motor boat, the “driver” is intention,
which is the domain of the law of kamma, whereas the whole of the boat engine
is comparable to the mental factors, which are functions of cittaniyama. The
driver must depend on the boat engine. However, for the “boat engine”
to lead the “boat,” that is, for the mind to lead life and the body,
in any direction, is entirely at the discretion of the “driver,”
intention. The driver depends on and makes use of the boat, but also takes
responsibility for the welfare of both boat and engine. In the same way, the
law of kamma depends on and makes use of cittaniyama, and also accepts
responsibility for the welfare of life, including both the body and the mind.

is not much confusion about this relationship between the law of kamma and
cittaniyama, mainly because these are not things in which the average person
takes much interest. The issue that creates the most confusion is the
relationship between the law of kamma and Social Preference, and this confusion
creates ambiguity in regard to the nature of good and evil.

often hear people say that good and evil are human or social inventions. An
action in one society, time or place, may be regarded as good, but in another
time and place regarded as bad. Some actions may be acceptable to one society,
but not to another. For example, some religions teach that to kill animals for
food is not bad, while others teach that to harm beings of any kind is never
good. Some societies hold that a child should show respect to its elders, and
that to argue with them is bad manners, while others hold that respect is not
dependent on age, and that all people should have the right to express their

    To say
that good and evil are matters of human preference and social decree is true to
some extent. Even so, the good and evil of Social Preference do not affect or
upset the workings of the law of kamma in any way, and should not be confused
with it. “Good” and “evil” as social conventions should be
recognized as Social Preference. As for “good” and “evil,”
or more correctly, kusala and akusala, as qualities of the law of kamma, these
should be recognized as attributes of the law of kamma. Even though the two are
related they are in fact separate, and have very clear distinctions.

which is at once the relationship, and the point of distinction, between this
natural law and the Social Preference is intention, or will. As to how this is
so, let us now consider.

terms of the law of kamma, the conventions of society may be divided into two

    1. Those which have no direct relationship to
kusala and akusala.

    2. Those which are related to kusala and akusala.

    Those conventions which have no direct relationship
to kusala and akusala
are the accepted values or agreements
which are established by society for a specific social function, such as to
enable people to live together harmoniously. They may indeed be instruments for
creating social harmony, or they may not. They may indeed be useful to society
or they may in fact be harmful. All this depends on whether or not those
conventions are established with sufficient understanding and wisdom, and whether
or not the authority who established them is acting with pure intention.

    These kinds of conventions may take many forms, such as
traditions, customs or laws. “Good” and “evil” in this
respect are strictly matters of Social Preference. They may change in many
ways, but their changes are not functions of the law of kamma, and must not be
confused with it. If a person disobeys these conventions and is punished by
society, that is also a matter of Social Preference, not the law of kamma.[b]

    Now, let us consider an area in which these social conventions may
overlap with the law of kamma, such as when a member of a society refuses to
conform to one of its conventions, or infringes on it.[c] In so doing, that
person will be acting on a certain intention. This intention is the first step
in, and is therefore a concern of, the law of kamma. In many societies there
will be an attempt to search out this intention for ascertaining the quality of
the action. That is again a concern of Social Preference, indicating that that
particular society knows how to utilize the law of kamma. This consideration of
intention by society is not, however, in itself a function of the law of kamma.
(That is, it is not a foregone conclusion — illegal behavior is not always
punished. However, whether actions are punished or not they are kamma in the
sense that they are volitional actions and will bring results.)

    As for
the particular role of the law of kamma, regardless of whether society
investigates the intention or not, or even whether society is aware of the
infringement, the law of kamma functions immediately the action occurs, and the
process of fruition has already been set in motion.

speaking, the deciding factor in the law of kamma is whether the intention is
kusala or akusala. In most cases, not to conform with any Social Preference can
only be said to constitute no intentional infringement when society agrees to
abandon or to reform that convention. Only then will there be no violation of
the public agreement.

can be illustrated by a simple example. Suppose two people decide to live
together. In order to render their lives together as smooth and as convenient
as possible, they agree to establish a set of regulations: although working in
different places and returning from work at different times, they decide to
have the evening meal together. As it would be impractical to wait for each
other indefinitely, they agree that each of them should not eat before seven
pm. Of those two people, one likes cats and doesn’t like dogs, while the other
likes dogs and doesn’t like cats. For mutual well-being, they agree not to bring
any pets at all into the house.

agreed on these regulations, if either of those two people acts in
contradiction to them, there is a case of intentional infringement, and kamma
arises, good or bad according to the intention that instigated it, even though
eating food before seven pm., or bringing pets into a house, are not in
themselves good or evil. Another couple might even establish regulations which
are directly opposite to these. And in the event that one of those people
eventually considers their regulations to be no longer beneficial, they should
discuss the matter together and come to an agreement. Only then would any
intentional nonconformity on that person’s part be free of kammic result. This
is the distinction between “good” and “evil,” and
“right” and “wrong,” as changing social conventions, as
opposed to the unchanging properties of the law of kamma, kusala and akusala.

    The conventions which are related to kusala and
akusala in the law of kamma
are those conventions which are either
skillful or unskillful. Society may or may not make these regulations with a
clear understanding of kusala and akusala, but the process of the law of kamma
continues along its natural course regardless. It does not change along with
those social conventions.

example, a society might consider it acceptable to take intoxicants and
addictive drugs. Extreme emotions may be encouraged, and the citizens may be
incited to compete aggressively in order to spur economic growth. Or it might
be generally believed that to kill people of other societies, or, on a lesser
scale, to kill animals, is not blameworthy.

are examples where the good and evil of Social Preference and kusala and
akusala are at odds with each other: unskillful conditions are socially
preferred and “good” from a social perspective is “bad”
from a moral one. Looked at from a social perspective, those conventions or
attitudes may cause both positive and negative results. For example, although a
life of tension and high competitiveness may cause a high suicide rate, an
unusually large amount of mental and social problems, heart disease and so on,
that society may experience rapid material progress. Thus, social problems can
often be traced down to the law of kamma, in the values condoned and encouraged
by society.

Preference and the law of kamma are separate and distinct. The fruits of kamma
proceed according to their own law, independent of any social conventions which
are at odds with it as mentioned above. However, because the convention and the
law are related, correct practice in regard to the law of kamma, that is,
actions that are kusala, might still give rise to problems on the social level.
For example, an abstainer living in a society which favors intoxicating drugs
receives the fruits of kamma dictated by the law of kamma — he doesn’t
experience the loss of health and mental clarity due to intoxicating drugs –
but in the context of Social Preference, as opposed to the law of kamma, he may
be ridiculed and scorned. And even within the law of kamma there may arise
problems from his intentional opposition to this Social Preference, in the form
of mental stress, more or less depending on his wisdom and ability to let go of
social reactions.

progressive society with wise administrators uses the experience accumulated
from previous generations in laying down the conventions and laws of society.
These become the good and evil of Social Preference, and ideally they should
correlate with the kusala and akusala of kammaniyama. The ability to establish
conventions in conformity with the law of kamma would seem to be a sound gauge
for determining the true extent of a society’s progress or civilization.

    In this
context, when it is necessary to appraise any convention as good or evil, it
would best be considered from two levels. Firstly, in terms of Social
Preference, by determining whether or not it has a beneficial result to
society. Secondly, in terms of the law of kamma, by determining whether or not
it is kusala, beneficial to mental well-being.

conventions, even though maintained by societies for long periods of time, are
in fact not at all useful to them, even from the point of view of Social
Preference, let alone from the point of view of the law of kamma. Such
conventions should be abandoned, and it may be necessary for an exceptional
being with pure heart to point out their fault.

    In the
case of a convention which is seen to be helpful to society and to human
progress, but which is not in conformity with the kusala of the law of kamma,
such as one which enhances material progress at the expense of the quality of
life, it might be worth considering whether the people of that society have not
gone astray and mistaken that which is harmful as being beneficial. A truly
beneficial custom should conform with both Social Preference and the law of
kamma. In other words, it should be beneficial to both the individual and
society as a whole, and beneficial on both the material and psychic levels.

    In this
regard we can take a lesson from the situation of society in the present time.
Human beings, holding the view that wealth of material possessions is the path
to true happiness, have proceeded to throw their energies into material
development. The harmful effects of many of our attempts at material progress
are only now becoming apparent. Even though society appears to be prosperous,
we have created many new physical dangers, and social and environmental
problems threaten us on a global scale. Just as material progress should not be
destructive to the physical body, social progress should not be destructive to
the clarity of the mind.

    The Buddha gave a set of reflections on kusala and akusala for
assessing the nature of good and evil on a practical level, encouraging
reflection on both the good and evil within (conscience), and the teachings of
wise beings (these two being the foundation of conscience and modesty).[d] Thirdly, he recommended
pondering the fruits of actions, both individually and on a social basis.
Because the nature of kusala and akusala may not always be clear, the Buddha
advised adhering to religious and ethical teachings, and, if such teachings are
not clear enough, to look at the results of actions, even if only from a social

most people, these three bases for reflection (i.e., individually, socially,
and from the accepted teachings of wise beings) can be used to assess behavior
on a number of different levels, ensuring that their actions are as circumspect
as possible.

the criteria for assessing good and evil are: in the context of whether an
action is kamma or not, to take intention as the deciding factor; and in the
context of whether that kamma is good or evil, to consider the matter against
the following principles:


Primary Factors


Secondary Factors

Considering whether one’s actions are censurable to oneself or not

Considering the quality of one’s actions in terms of wise teachings.

Considering the results of those actions:
a. towards oneself
b. towards others.

    It is
possible to classify these standards in a different way, if we first clarify
two points. Firstly, looking at actions either in terms of their roots, or as
skillful and unskillful in themselves, are essentially the same thing.
Secondly, in regard to approval or censure by the wise, we can say that such wise
opinions are generally preserved in religions, conventions and laws. Even
though these conventions are not always wise, and thus any practice which
conflicts with them is not necessarily unskillful, still it can be said that
such cases are the exception rather than the rule.

    We are
now ready to summarize our standards for good and evil, or good and bad kamma,
both strictly according to the law of kamma and also in relation to Social
Preference, both on an intrinsically moral level and on a socially prescribed

    1. In
terms of direct benefit or harm: are these actions in themselves beneficial? Do
they contribute to the quality of life? Do they cause kusala and akusala
conditions to increase or wane?

    2. In
terms of beneficial or harmful consequences: are the effects of these actions
harmful or beneficial to oneself?

    3. In
terms of benefit or harm to society: are they harmful to others, or helpful to

    4. In
terms of conscience, the natural human reflexive capacity: will those actions
be censurable to oneself or not?

    5. In
terms of social standards: what is the position of actions in relation to those
religious conventions, traditions, social institutions and laws which are based
on wise reflection (as opposed to those which are simply superstitious or
mistaken beliefs)?


Prior to addressing the
question of the results of kamma in the next chapter, it would be pertinent to
consider some of the points described above in the light of the Pali Canon.


“What are skillful (kusala)
conditions? They are the three roots of skillfulness — non-greed, non-aversion
and non-delusion; feelings, perceptions, proliferations and consciousness which
contain those roots of skillfulness; bodily kamma, verbal kamma and mental
kamma which have those roots as their base: these are skillful conditions.

“What are unskillful
(akusala) conditions? They are the three roots of unskillfulness — greed,
aversion and delusion — and all the defilements which arise from them;
feelings, perceptions, proliferations and consciousness which contain those
roots of unskillfulness; bodily kamma, verbal kamma and mental kamma which have
those roots of unskillfulness as a foundation: these are unskillful

*  *  *

“There are two kinds
of danger, the overt danger and the covert danger.

“What are the ‘overt
dangers’? These are such things as lions, tigers, panthers, bears, leopards,
wolves … bandits … eye diseases, ear diseases, nose diseases … cold,
heat, hunger, thirst, defecation, urination, contact with gadflies, mosquitoes,
wind, sun, and crawling animals: these are called ‘overt dangers.’

“What are the ‘covert
dangers’? They are bad bodily actions, bad verbal actions, bad mental actions;
the hindrances of sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and
doubt; greed, aversion and delusion; anger, vengeance, spite, arrogance,
jealousy, meanness, deception, boastfulness, stubbornness, contention, pride,
scornfulness, delusion, heedlessness; the defilements, the bad habits; the
confusion; the lust; the agitation; all thoughts that are unskillful: these are
the ‘covert dangers.’

“They are called
‘dangers’ for what reason? They are called dangers in that they overwhelm, in
that they cause decline, in that they are a shelter.

“Why are they called
dangers in that they overwhelm? Because those dangers suppress, constrict,
overcome, oppress, harass and crush …

“Why are they called
dangers in that they cause decline? Because those dangers bring about the
decline of skillful conditions …

“Why are they called
dangers in that they are a shelter? Because base, unskillful conditions are
born from those things and take shelter within them, just as an animal which
lives in a hole takes shelter in a hole, a water animal takes shelter in water,
or a tree-dwelling animal takes shelter in trees .. “[13]

*  *  *

“When greed, aversion
and delusion arise within his mind, they destroy the evil doer, just as the
bamboo flower signals the ruin of the bamboo plant …”[14]

*  *  *

“See here, Your
Majesty. These three things arise in the world not for welfare or benefit, but
for woe, for discomfort. What are those three? They are greed, aversion and
delusion …”[15]

*  *  *

“Monks, there are
these three roots of unskillfulness. What are the three? They are the
greed-root, the aversion-root and the delusion-root of unskillfulness …

“Greed itself is
unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of greed, through action,
speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power of greed, sunk in
greed, whose mind is distorted by greed, causes trouble for others by striking
them, imprisoning them, crushing them, decrying them, and banishing them,
thinking, ‘I am powerful, I am mighty.’ That is also unskillful. These many
kinds of coarse, unskillful conditions, arising from greed, having greed as
their cause, having greed as their source, having greed as condition, persecute
the evil doer.

“Hatred itself is
unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of hatred, through action,
speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power of hatred … causes
trouble for others … that is also unskillful. These many kinds of coarse,
unskillful conditions persecute the evil doer …

“Delusion itself is
unskillful; whatever kamma is created on account of delusion, through action,
speech or thought, is also unskillful. One in the power of delusion causes
trouble for others … that is also unskillful. These many kinds of unskillful
conditions persecute the evil doer in this way.

“One who is thus
caught up, whose mind is thus infected, in the coarse, unskillful conditions
born of greed, hatred and delusion, experiences suffering, stress, agitation
and anxiety in this present time. At death, at the breaking up of the body, he
can expect a woeful bourn, just like a tree which is completely entwined with a
banyan creeper comes to ruin, to destruction, to decline, to dissolution …

“Monks! There are
these three roots of skillfulness. What are the three? They are the non-greed
root, the non-aversion root and the non-delusion root …”[16]

*  *  *

“Monks! There are
three root causes of kamma. What are the three? They are greed … hatred …
delusion …

“Whatever kamma is
performed out of greed … hatred … delusion, is born from greed … hatred
… delusion, has greed … hatred … delusion as its root and as its cause,
that kamma is unskillful, that kamma is harmful, that kamma has suffering as a
result, that kamma brings about the creation of more kamma, not the cessation
of kamma.

“Monks! There are
these three root causes of kamma. What are the three? They are non-greed …
non-hatred … non-delusion …

“Whatever kamma is
performed out of non-greed … non-hatred … non-delusion, is born of
non-greed … non-hatred … non-delusion, has non-greed … non-hatred …
non-delusion as its root and its cause, that kamma is skillful, that kamma is
not harmful, that kamma has happiness as a result, that kamma brings about the
cessation of kamma, not the creation of more kamma …”[17]

*  *  *

“Listen, Kalamas.
When you know for yourselves that these things are unskillful, these things are
harmful, these things are censured by the wise, these things, if acted upon,
will bring about what is neither beneficial nor conducive to welfare, but will
cause suffering, then you should abandon them.”

“Kalamas, how do you
consider this matter? Do greed … hatred … delusion in a person, bring about
benefit or non-benefit?”

(Answer: Non-benefit,
Venerable Sir.)

“One who is desirous
… is angry … is deluded; who is overwhelmed by greed … hatred …
delusion, whose mind is thus distorted, as a result resorts to murder, to
theft, to adultery, to lying, and encourages others to do so. This is for their
non-benefit and non-welfare for a long time to come.”

(Answer: That is true,
Venerable Sir.)

“Kalamas, how say
you, are those things skillful or unskillful?”

(Answer: They are
unskillful, Venerable Sir.)

“Are they harmful or
not harmful?”

(Answer: Harmful,
Venerable Sir.)

“Praised by the wise,
or censured?”

(Answer: Censured by the
wise, Venerable Sir.)

“If these things are
acted upon, will they bring about harm and suffering, or not? What do you

(Answer: When put into
practice, these things bring about harm and suffering, this is our view on this

“In that case,
Kalamas, when I said, ‘Come, Kalamas, do not believe simply because a belief
has been adhered to for generations … nor simply because this man is your
teacher, or is revered by you, but when you know for yourselves that these
things are unskillful, then you should abandon those things,’ it is on account
of this that I thus spoke.”[18]

*  *  *

The following passage is
from an exchange between King Pasenadi of Kosala and the Venerable Ananda. It
is a series of questions and answers relating to the nature of good and evil,
from which it can be seen that Venerable Ananda makes use of all the standards
mentioned above.

King: Venerable Sir, when foolish,
unintelligent people, not carefully considering, speak in praise or blame of
others, I do not take their words seriously. As for pundits, the wise and
astute, who carefully consider before praising or criticizing, I give weight to
their words. Venerable Ananda, which kinds of bodily actions, verbal actions
and mental actions would, on reflection, be censured by wise ascetics and

Ananda: They are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are unskillful, Your Majesty.

King: What are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are unskillful?

Ananda: They are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are harmful.

King: What are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are harmful?

Ananda: They are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are oppressive.

King: What are those actions of body
… speech … mind that are oppressive?

Ananda: They are those actions of body
… speech … mind which result in suffering.

King: What are those actions of body
… speech … mind which result in suffering?

Ananda: Those actions of body … speech
… mind which serve to torment oneself, to torment others, or to torment both;
which bring about an increase in unskillful conditions and a decrease of
skillful conditions; Your Majesty, just these kinds of actions of body …
speech … mind are censured by wise ascetics and Brahmins.

Following that, Venerable
Ananda answered the King’s questions about skillful conditions in the same way,
summarizing with:

“Those actions of
body … speech … mind which result in happiness, that is, those actions
which do not serve to torment oneself, to torment others, nor to torment both;
which bring about a decrease in unskillful conditions and an increase in
skillful conditions; Your Majesty, just these kinds of actions of body …
speech … mind are not censured by wise ascetics and Brahmins.”[19]

*  *  *

“One in the power of
greed and desire … hatred and resentment … delusion … with mind thus
distorted … does not know as it is what is useful to oneself … what is
useful to others … what is useful to both sides. Having abandoned desire …
aversion … delusion, one knows clearly what is useful to oneself … useful
to others … useful to both.”[20]

*  *  *

“Bad kamma is like
freshly squeezed milk — it takes time to sour. Bad kamma follows and burns the
evil doer just like hot coals buried in ash.”[21]

*  *  *

“One who previously
made bad kamma, but who reforms and creates good kamma, brightens the world
like the moon appearing from behind a cloud.”[22]

*  *  *

“To make good kamma
is like having a good friend at your side.”[23]

*  *  *

“Ananda! For those bad
actions through body, speech and mind, which are discouraged by me, the
following consequences can be expected: one is blameworthy to oneself; the
wise, on careful consideration, find one censurable; a bad reputation spreads;
one dies confused; and at death, on the breaking up of the body, one goes to
the woeful states, the nether realms, hell …

“Ananda! For those
good actions through body, speech and mind recommended by me, the following
rewards can be expected: one is not blameworthy to oneself; the wise, after
careful consideration, find one praiseworthy; a good reputation spreads; one
dies unconfused; and at death, on the breaking up of the body, one attains to a
pleasant realm, to heaven …”[24]

*  *  *

“Monks, abandon
unskillful conditions. Unskillful conditions can be abandoned. If it were
impossible to abandon unskillful conditions, I would not tell you to do so …
but because unskillful conditions can be abandoned, thus do I tell you …
Moreover, if the abandoning of those unskillful conditions was not conducive to
welfare, but to suffering, I would not say, ‘Monks, abandon unskillful
conditions,’ but because the abandoning of these unskillful conditions is
conducive to benefit and happiness, so I say, ‘Monks, abandon unskillful

“Monks, cultivate
skillful conditions. Skillful conditions can be cultivated. If it were
impossible to cultivate skillful conditions, I would not tell you to do so …
but because skillful conditions can be cultivated, thus do I tell you …
Moreover, if the cultivation of those skillful conditions was not conducive to
welfare, but to suffering, I would not tell you to cultivate skillful
conditions, but because the cultivation of skillful conditions is conducive to
welfare and to happiness, thus do I say, ‘Monks, cultivate skillful

*  *  *

“Monks, there are
those things which should be abandoned with the body, not the speech; there are
those things which should be abandoned with the speech, not the body; there are
those things which should be abandoned neither with the body, nor speech, but must
be clearly seen with wisdom (in the mind) and then abandoned.

“What are those
things which should be abandoned with the body, not through speech? Herein, a
monk in this Dhamma-Vinaya incurs transgressions through the body. His wise
companions in the Dhamma, having considered the matter, say to him: ‘Venerable
Friend, you have incurred these offenses. It would be well if you were to
abandon this wrong bodily behavior and cultivate good bodily behavior.’ Having
been so instructed by those wise companions, he abandons those wrong bodily
actions and cultivates good ones. This is a condition which should be abandoned
by body, not by speech.

“What are the things
which should be abandoned through speech, not through the body? Herein, a monk
in this Dhamma-Vinaya incurs some transgressions through speech. His wise
companions in the Dhamma, having considered the matter, say to him: ‘Venerable
Friend, you have incurred these offenses of speech. It would be well if you
were to relinquish this wrong speech and cultivate good speech.’ Having been so
instructed by those wise companions, he abandons that wrong speech and
cultivates good speech. This is a condition which should be abandoned by
speech, not by body.

“What are the things
which should be abandoned neither by body nor speech, but which should be
clearly understood with wisdom and then abandoned? They are greed … hatred
… delusion … anger … vindictiveness … spite … arrogance … meanness.
These things should be abandoned neither by the body or speech, but should be
clearly understood with wisdom and then abandoned.”[26]


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a. These first five qualities are
called the Five Hindrances (nivarana),
so named because they are obstacles to the successful development of meditation
or a clear mind. [Back
to text

b. Examples of such conventions are
social codes of dress: before entering a Buddhist temple in Thailand, for
example, it is appropriate to remove shoes and hat, whereas to enter a
Christian church it is often required to wear both. [Back to text]

c. – such as by refusing to remove
one’s shoes in a Buddhist temple or to wear a hat in a Christian church. [Back to text]

d. Hiri:
sense of shame; ottappa: fear
of wrong doing. [Back
to text

21 03 2012

Chapter Two
The Buddhist
View of Human Nature

From Conflict
to Harmony

and the Two Kinds of Desire

Ethical Considerations
in Economic Activity

Chapter Two



The Awakened One with Awareness View of Human Nature

According to the teachings of The Awakened One with Awareness,
human beings are born in a state of ignorance. Ignorance is lack of knowledge,
and it is this lack of knowledge that causes problems in life. That human
beings are born with ignorance, and are troubled by it right from birth, is
obvious when observing the plight of a newborn baby, who cannot talk, look for
food or even feed itself.

    Ignorance is a real
limitation in life; it is a burden, a problem. In The Awakened One with Awareness concept
this burden is called dukkha
or suffering. Because human beings are born with ignorance, they do not really
know how to conduct their lives. Without the guidance of knowledge or wisdom,
they simply follow their desires, struggling at the directives of craving to
stay alive in a hostile world. In The
Awakened One with Awareness concept
this blind craving is
called tanha.

    Tanha means craving,
ambition, restlessness, or thirst. It arises dependent on feeling and is rooted
in ignorance. Whenever a sensation of any kind is experienced, be it pleasing
or displeasing — such as a beautiful or ugly sight, or a pleasant or
unpleasant sound — it is followed by a feeling, either pleasant, unpleasant or
neutral. Tanha arises in correspondence with the feeling: if the feeling is
pleasant, there will be a desire to hold onto it; if the feeling is unpleasant,
there will be a desire to escape from or destroy it; if the feeling is neutral,
there will be a subtle kind of attachment to it. These reactions are automatic,
they do not require any conscious intention or any special knowledge or
understanding. (On the contrary, if some reflection does interrupt the process
at any time, tanha may be intercepted, and the process rechanneled into a new

    Because tanha
so closely follows feeling, it tends to seek out objects which will provide
pleasant feelings, which are basically the six kinds of pleasant sense objects:
sights, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily feelings and mental objects. The most
prominent of these are the first five, known as the five sense pleasures. The
six sense objects, and particularly the five sense pleasures, are the objects
that tanha seeks out and fixes onto. In this context, our definition of tanha
might be expanded on thus: tanha is the craving for sense objects which provide
pleasant feeling, or craving for sense pleasures. In brief, tanha could be
called wanting to have or wanting to obtain.

    The way tanha works can
been seen in the basic need for food. The biological purpose of eating is to
nourish the body, to provide it with strength and well-being. Supplanted over
this biological need is the desire for enjoyment, for delicious tastes. This is
tanha. At times, the desire of tanha may be at odds with well-being, and may
even be detrimental to the quality of life. If we are overwhelmed by tanha when
we eat, rather than eating for the purpose of nourishing the body and providing
it with well-being, we eat for the experience of the pleasant taste. This kind
of eating knows no end and can lead to problems in both body and mind. The food
may be delicious, but we may end up suffering from indigestion or obesity. On a
wider scale, the social costs of overconsumption, such as depletion of natural
resources and costs incurred by health care, not to mention crime, corruption
and wars, are enormous.

    Modern economics and The Awakened One with
Awareness concept
both agree that
mankind has unlimited wants. As the
The Awakened One with Awareness said, “There is no river like craving.”
[Dh.186] Rivers can sometimes fill their banks, but the wants of human beings
can never be filled. Even if money were to fall from the skies like rain, man’s
sensual desires would not be satisfied. [Dh.251] The
The Awakened One with
also said that even
if one could magically transform one single mountain into two mountains of
solid gold it would still not provide complete and lasting satisfaction to one
person. [S.I.117] There are numerous teachings in the
The Awakened One with
Awareness concept
tradition describing
the unlimited nature of human want. Here I would like to relate a story that
appears in the Jataka Tales. [J.II.310]

    In the far and ancient
past there lived a king called Mandhatu. He was a very powerful ruler, an
emperor who is known in legend for having lived a very long life. Mandhatu had
all the classic requisites of an emperor; he was an exceptional human being who
had everything that anyone could wish for: he was a prince for 84,000 years,
then the heir apparent for 84,000 years, and then emperor for 84,000 years.

    One day, after having
been emperor for 84,000 years, King Mandhatu started to show signs of boredom.
The great wealth that he possessed was no longer enough to satisfy him. The
King’s courtiers saw that something was wrong and asked what was ailing His
Majesty. He replied, “The wealth and pleasure I enjoy here is trifling.
Tell me, is there anywhere superior to this?” “Heaven, Your
Majesty,” the courtiers replied. Now, one of the King’s treasures was the cakkaratana, a magic wheel that could
transport him anywhere he wished to go. So King Mandhatu used it to take him to
the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. The Four Great Kings came out to welcome
him in person, and on learning of his desire, invited him to take over the
whole of their heavenly realm.

    King Mandhatu
ruled over the Heaven of the Four Great Kings for a very long time, until one
day he began to feel bored again. It was no longer enough, the pleasure that
could be derived from the wealth and delights of that realm could satisfy him
no more. He conferred with his attendants and was informed of the superior
enjoyments of the Tavatimsa Heaven realm. So King Mandhatu picked up his magic
wheel and ascended to the Tavatimsa Heaven, where he was greeted by its ruler,
Lord Indra, who promptly made him a gift of half of his kingdom.

    King Mandhatu ruled over
the Tavatimsa Heaven with Lord Indra for another very long time, until Lord
Indra came to the end of the merit that had sustained him in his high station,
and was replaced by a new Lord Indra. The new Lord Indra ruled on until he too
reached the end of his life-span. In all, thirty-six Lord Indras came and went,
while King Mandhatu carried on enjoying the pleasures of his position.

    Then, finally, he began
to feel dissatisfied — half of heaven was not enough, he wanted to rule over
all of it. So King Mandhatu began to plot to kill Lord Indra and depose him.
But it is impossible for a human being to kill Lord Indra, because humans
cannot kill heavenly beings, and so his wish went unfulfilled. King Mandhatu’s
inability to satisfy this craving began to rot the very root of his being, and
caused the aging process to begin.

    Suddenly he fell out of
Tavatimsa Heaven, down to earth, where he landed in an orchard with a
resounding thump. When the workers in the orchard saw that a great king had
arrived, some set off to inform the Palace, and others improvised a makeshift
throne for him to sit on. By now King Mandhatu was on the verge of death. The
Royal Family came out to see and asked if he had any last words. King Mandhatu
proclaimed his greatness. He told them of the great power and wealth he had
possessed on earth and in heaven, but then finally admitted that his desires
remained unfulfilled.

    There the story of King
Mandhatu ends. It shows how
The Awakened One with Awareness concept shares with economics the view that the wants of
humanity are endless.


From Conflict to Harmony

In the struggle to feed their blind and
endless desires, people do not clearly perceive what is of true benefit and
what is harmful in life. They do not know what leads to true well-being and
what leads away from it. With minds blinded by ignorance, people can only
strive to feed their desires.
In this striving they sometimes create that which is of
benefit, and sometimes destroy it. If they do create some well-being, it is
usually only incidental to their main objective, but in most cases the things
obtained through tanha harm the quality of life.

    As they struggle against
each other and the world around them to fulfill their selfish desires, human
beings live in conflict with themselves, with their societies and with the
natural environment. There is a conflict of interests; a life guided by
ignorance is full of conflict and disharmony.

    If this were
all there is to human nature, and all that needed to be taken into
consideration in economic matters, then we human beings would not be much
different from the animals, and perhaps even worse because of our special
talent for pursuing activities which are detrimental to well-being.
Fortunately, there is more to human nature than this. The Awakened One with Awareness concept states that human beings are naturally endowed with a
special aptitude for development. While The Awakened One with Awareness concept accepts the fact that it is natural for people to have
cravings for things, it also recognizes the human desire for quality of life or
well-being, the desire for self improvement and goodness. Problems arise when
life is lived from ignorance and at the direction of craving. Problems can be
solved by acquiring knowledge. Human development thus hinges on the development
of knowledge. In The
Awakened One with Awareness concept

we call this kind of knowledge pañña,

    When ignorance is
replaced with wisdom, it is possible to distinguish between what is of true
benefit and what is not. With wisdom, desires will naturally be for that which
is truly beneficial. In
The Awakened One with Awareness concept, this desire for true well-being is called dhammachanda (desire for that which is
right), kusalachanda (desire
for that which is skillful), or in short, chanda.

    The objective of chanda
is dhamma or kusaladhamma, truth and goodness. Truth
and goodness must be obtained through effort, and so chanda leads to action, as
opposed to tanha, which leads to seeking. Chanda arises from intelligent
reflection (yoniso-manasikara),
as opposed to tanha, which is part of the habitual stream of ignorant

    To summarize

is directed toward
feeling; it leads to seeking of objects which pander to self interests and is
supported and nourished by ignorance.

is directed toward
benefit, it leads to effort and action, and is founded on intelligent

    As wisdom is developed,
chanda becomes more dominant, while the blind craving of tanha loses its
strength. By training and developing ourselves, we live less and less at the
directives of ignorance and tanha and more and more under the guidance of
wisdom and chanda This leads to a more skillful life, and a much better and
more fruitful relationship with the things around us.

    With wisdom and chanda we
no longer see life as a conflict of interests. Instead, we strive to harmonize
our own interests with those of society and nature. The conflict of interests
becomes a harmony of interests. This is because we understand that, in the end,
a truly beneficial life is only possible when the individual, society and the
environment serve each other. If there is conflict between any of these
spheres, the result will be problems for all.


Ethics and the Two Kinds of Desire

As we have seen, The Awakened One with
Awareness concept
recognizes two
different kinds of wanting: (1) tanha, the desire for pleasure objects; and (2)
chanda, the desire for well-being. Tanha is based on ignorance, while chanda is
based on wisdom and is thus part of the process of solving problems.

    Tanha and chanda both
lead to satisfaction, but of different kinds. Using the example of eating,
people who are driven by tanha will seek to satisfy the blind craving for
sensual pleasure which, in this case, is the desire for pleasant taste. Here,
satisfaction results from experiencing the flavor of the food. But when guided
by chanda, desires are directed to realizing well-being. We are not compelled
to overeat or to eat the kinds of foods that will make us sick simply because
they taste good. Instead, we eat to satisfy hunger and nourish the body. Here
satisfaction results from the assurance of well-being provided by the act of
eating. We enjoy our food, but not in such a way that leads to remorse.

    Chanda leads to effort
and action based on intelligence and clear thinking. By contrast, tanha leads
to blind seeking based on ignorance. Both of these internal desires motivate
behavior, but with very different ethical consequences. In Buddhism the ethical
value of behavior can be judged by whether it is motivated (overtly) by tanha
or chanda and (on a deeper level) by ignorance or wisdom. When it comes to
judging the ethical value of economic behavior, we must determine what kind of
mental state is motivating it. When greed (tanha) is driving economic
decisions, behavior tends to be morally unskillful, but when desire for
well-being (chanda) is guiding them, economic behavior will be morally
skillful. By judging economic behavior in this way, we see how mental states,
moral behavior and economic activity are linked in the cause and effect stream.

    From the The Awakened One with
Awareness concept
point of view,
economic activity should be a means to a good and noble life. Production,
consumption and other economic activities are not ends in themselves; they are
means, and the end to which they must lead is the development of well-being
within the individual, within society and within the environment.

    Contrary to the
misconception that The
Awakened One with Awareness concept

is only for renunciants, The Awakened Ones with Awareness  recognize that
acquiring wealth is one of life’s fundamental activities, and the
The Awakened One with Awareness gave many teachings on the proper way to acquire wealth.
But he always stressed that the purpose of wealth is to facilitate the
development of highest human potential. In Buddhism there are said to be three
goals in life: the initial, medium, and ultimate goals. The The Awakened One with Awareness concept initial goal is reasonable material comfort and economic
security. Material security, however, is only a foundation for the two higher,
more abstract goals — mental well-being and inner freedom.

    The major part of our
lives is taken up with economic activities. If economics is to have any real
part to play in the resolution of human problems, then all economic activities
– production, consumption, work and spending — must contribute to well-being
and help realize the potential for a good and noble life. It is something that
we are capable of doing. The essence of
The Awakened One with
Awareness concept
economics lies here,
in ensuring that economic activity enhances the quality of our lives.


Ethical Considerations in Economic Activity

A fundamental principle of modern economics
states that people will only agree to part with something when they can replace
it with something that affords them equal or more satisfaction. But this
principle only considers the satisfaction that comes from owning material
goods. Sometimes we can experience a sense of satisfaction by parting with
something without getting anything tangible in return, as when parents give
their children gifts: because of the love they feel for their children, they
feel a more rewarding sense of satisfaction than if they had received something
in return. If human beings could expand their love to all other people, rather
than confining it to their own families, then they might be able to part with
things without receiving anything in return, and experience more satisfaction
in doing so. This satisfaction comes not from a desire to obtain things to make
ourselves happy (tanha), but from a desire for the well-being of others

    Another economic
principle states that the value of goods is determined by demand. This
principle is classically illustrated by the story of two men shipwrecked on a
desert island: one has a sack of rice and the other a hundred gold necklaces.
Ordinarily, a single gold necklace would be enough, more than enough, to buy a
whole sack of rice. But now the two men find themselves stranded on an island
with no means of escape and no guarantee of rescue. The value of the goods
changes. Now the person with the rice might demand all one hundred gold
necklaces for a mere portion of the rice, or he might refuse to make the
exchange at all.

    However the question of
ethics does not come into this discussion. Economists may assert that economics
only concerns itself with demand, not its ethical quality, but in fact ethical
considerations do affect demand. In the example of the two shipwrecked men,
there are other possibilities besides trade. The man with the gold necklaces
might steal some of the rice while the owner is not watching, or he might just
kill him in order to get the whole sack. On the other
hand, the two men might become friends and
help each other out, sharing the rice until it’s all gone, so that there is no
need for any buying or selling at all.

    In real life, it could
happen in any of these ways. Factors such as personal morality or emotions such
as greed and fear can and do affect economic outcome. A demand that does not
stop at violence or theft will have different results from one that recognizes
moral restraints.

    One way to
evaluate the ethical quality of economic activity is to look at the effects it
has on three levels: on the individual consumer, on society and on the
environment. Let us return to the example of the bottle of whiskey and the
Chinese dinner. It is obvious that, though their market prices may be the same,
their economic costs are not equal. The bottle of whiskey may damage the
consumer’s health, forcing him to spend money on medical treatment. The
distillery which produced the whiskey may have released foul-smelling fumes
into the air. This pollution has economic repercussions, forcing the government
to spend resources on cleaning the environment. Moreover, one who drinks and
suffers from a hangover on the job will work less efficiently, or he might get
drunk and crash his car, incurring more economic costs. Then there are
detrimental social effects: drinking can contribute to crime, which has very
high costs for society.

ethical questions, they all have economic ramifications. They imply the
necessity of looking at economic costs on a much wider scale than at present –
not just in terms of market prices. There is now a trend towards including
environmental costs in economic calculations. Some economists even include them
in the cost of a finished product. But this is not enough. In the case of the
bottle of whiskey, apart from the environmental costs, there are also the
social, moral, and health costs — inefficient production, auto accidents,
liver disease, crime — all of which have economic implications.[

    A second way to evaluate
the ethical quality of economic activity is to determine which kind of desire
is at its root. The most unethical economic activities are those that feed
tanha while undermining well-being. Trade in tobacco, drugs, and prostitution
are examples of detrimental economic activities geared solely toward satisfying
a craving for pleasure.

    The more people are
driven by tanha the more they destroy their true well-being. This principle
applies not only to the obvious vices, but to all economic activities. Thus, in
decisions dealing with consumption, production, and the use of technology, we
must learn how to distinguish between the two kinds of desire and make our choices



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