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VR1 (WE ARE ONE ) +VE NEWS-ONLINE TRAINING ON PRECEPTS AND TRADE-78-Wealth is lost nothing is lost
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Buddhists often tend to disregard economics completely, because
the monastic way of life idealized by Buddhism is economically very
minimalist. Such neglect of comment concerning economic values is not
warranted, however, because the Buddhist scriptures are in fact rich with
advice from the Buddha regarding sound economic values — and they are applicable
to monastic and lay lifestyles alike. 

The availability of teachings, is not, however, the only reason
Buddhists should take an interest in economics. Of all the reasons for
compiling a treatise in Buddhist economics, the most pressing reason
Buddhists have to sit up and take notice of economic issues is because if we
don’t, abuse of economic principles will continue to escalate conflict in the
world. The whole history of our planet from ancient times until now has been
punctuated by wars — whether they be world wars or more localized ones –
and as Buddhists see it, the outbreak of war can usually be traced back to
financial strife, or else problems of the abuse of economic knowledge.
However, once war breaks out, the nature of the problem is often distorted to
make it look as if it is a problem of religious or ethnic conflict.

In the West we are accustomed to feeling a sense of relief when we
hear that the economy is booming — however, we sometimes fail to realize
what those economic figures actually reflect in terms of quality of life.
Ironically, all it takes for a country to be considered economically strong
is for its economic figures to look good. If every household in a certain
country or society were wealthy, of course that country or society would have
good economic figures to show for itself. In Thailand, however, the majority
of the population are economically poor. It is only a small minority of
population who are wealthy — thus, how can Thailand possibly be considered
economically strong? If you want to have an accurate picture of the economy
of any country, you have to take a long hard look at the wealth of the
majority — not just at the collective figures. It is the economic status of
the majority which most accurately reflects the true economic state of that
country or society.

Economic values in Buddhism are concerned with quality of life.
But in Buddhism we define quality of life not only in terms of material
comfort, but also in terms of mental wellbeing and ultimately liberation of the
mind from negative latent tendencies. Thus, value is put on sometimes quite
abstract qualities. As in the words of the Buddhist nun, Kuhn Yay Ratana
Upasika Chandra Khonnokyoong who founded Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand:

“with a well-trained group of
people in front of me ready to work for good in society, I fell that I am
already a multimillionnaire — because even if I were to have ten million, I
could still not guarantee being able to train up such a group.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the
Buddha never prohibited wealth — but he did prohibit poverty. Happiness
appropriate to a householder (A.ii.69) includes ownership [atthisukha],
enjoyment [bhogasukha], freedom from debt [ananasukha] and
blamelessness [anavajjasukha]. Buddhism praises contentment [santu.t.thi]
and limited desires [appicchata] but not poverty. What is important as
a Buddhist, however, in the economic process, whether one is earning, saving
or using money, is that one should never compromise one’s principles. Once
wealthy, as a Buddhist one should use one’s wealth in a way that supports a
wholesome aim in life — not to fritter away money away aimlessly or in a way
that leads to further proliferation of defilements of greed, hatred or
delusion in the mind. It is not to say that riches cannot buy happiness –
but riches used aimlessly may create more damage than good. Riches, if they
are to bring happiness, must be applied to support the emergence of higher
spiritual values — especially virtues and virtuous people — which according
Buddhist economics have more value than anyone can put a price on.

Originally this book was intended to deal solely with Buddhist
Economics, however after the warlike events of 11 September 2001, the present
author would like to extend the scope of this book to show how the build-up
of economic tensions can be blamed for these sort of incidents.



The Economic Hidden Agenda behind
every war


“When one nation’s army turns its guns on another, far from
starting a war, they are the products of a war started long ago through
economic exploitation.”


The abuse of economic knowledge has
beset our interactions with the economy all the way from earning, to saving
and expenditure — every step of the economic process being vulnerable to
those who respect no ethical guidelines. In spite of this, western economics
seems to turn a blind eye to ethical issues surrounding the economic process.
Ethical issues are often intentionally overlooked under the pretext of being
‘objective’ — but alas, this leaves the door open to all sorts of economic
exploitation — and even though opponants might never be threatened with
knives or guns, the positioning that goes on behind the scenes of the world
economy is no less cruel than out-and-out aggression. Economic exploitation
in the present day has proliferated to the point that entire populations of
countries are forced into compromises that leaves them strait-jacketed with
regard to the appropriation of their own finances. This is the reality of
economic ‘colonization’ in many countries of the world even at this very
moment — and Thailand is just one of many countries that seems to have
become an economic plaything to more dominant superpowers.

In response to obvious injustice, it is hard to deny that
understanding of economics attuned to ethical values must start by addressing
two issues: 

  • the scrupulousness of how
    wealth is accrued  
  • the scrupulousness of those
    who accrue it

The seriousness of economic
exploitation, of course depends on how far people are prepared to go to
achieve their economic ends. Are they to kill each other or does their
conscience cause them to stop short of this merely at indirect (political or
diplomatic) pressure? In brief, it can be said that when resources are
acquired, hoarded or used unscrupulously, it soon leads to conflict and chaos
throughout the world. Insignificant incidences of exploitation gradually
exacerbate the burden of bitterness which eventually stops short at nothing
less than armed conflict.

The Economics of

Having recognized the implications of economic exploitation (even without
knowing who is taking advantage of whom) we can start to appreciate that the
web of economic exploitation has become so complex that it is difficult to
know a beginning or an end of it. When one nation’s army turns its guns on
another, far from starting a war, they are the products of a war started long
ago through economic exploitation. In the absence of any ethical guidelines,
when any means seems justified by economic ends, it is no surprise that the
conflicts continue to escalate — violence has indeed proliferated to a point
where it is difficult to see how we personally can do anything to
ameliorate the situation, without remedies of a similarly large scale.

Condoning unethical economic practices is to kindle the flames of
war on our planet. Wars like the Crusades, lasted for longer than a century
— and upon first sight they might seem to have been nothing more than a
religious war between Christians and Moslems, however, if examined in more
depth, they turn out to have been the result of badly organized economic
policy admixed with incompatability of beliefs. If you look beneath the
surface of any other religious war which has broken out in history, you will
always find a hidden agenda of economic advantage behind the conflict. It is
only with the admixture of other elements that turns the conflict into a war.
If it wasn’t for economic difficulties, in spite of differences of belief,
why should different groups want to interrupt ‘business as usual’? However,
any day economic progress becomes obstructed and a political tinder box
doesn’t emerge spontaneously, it is not usually long before ethnic and
religious differences will provide the necessary spark. To the uninitiated,
of course it looks like a war motivated by ethnic or religious conflict . . .

Even the battle for
Ayutthaya had economic roots

Even the most famous invasion of Thailand in 1564 when the (then) capital of
Ayutthaya was sacked by the Burmese is popularly believed to have been a
fight over ‘royal white elephants’. The first invasion took place in the
reign of King Maha Chakrap’at. At that time the region of Ayutthaya, extended
as far south as Rangsit and the present site of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The
populace were renowned for elephant husbandry — especially elephants for use
in royal service — and several of these included the legendary ‘white
elephants’. According to eye-witness accounts, even as recently as fifty
years ago, there was still a large shallow pond in front of Wat Phra
Dhammakaya, which previously was used as a watering hole for the elephants of
the vicinity. At that time, although the whole area was densely forested, the
presence of herds of elephants made the area of strategic importance, because
as well as being the royal ‘chargers’, trained elephants were the most
indefatiguable ‘machines of war’ (equivalent to the modern-day tanks).

The news of the abundance of elephants reached the ears of King
Bayinnaung of Burma, who sent an emissary to ask for a pair of ‘white
elephants’ for himself in 1563.



In Southeast Asia, white elephants are held in very high regard because
they are believed to be the bodhisatva (a future Buddha in the making)
–however, because of residual bad karma from previous lives, instead of
taking human birth, the bodhisatva takes birth in one of the most elevated
forms of animal life, indicated by the rare ‘whiteness’ of an elephant. The
people of old had the belief that any country possessing such an elephant
would prosper, as the charm of the the beast would call the rain to fall
according to season.


Of course Thailand would never agree to part with any white
elephants — and that was known full well in advance by King Bayinnaung. He
knew that when the refusal came, he would have an excuse to go to war with
Thailand. When a battle ensued in 1564, it turned out that it was the Thais
who lost on their home ground as a result of their lack of strategy and
unity. That is the popular history of the outbreak of war. However, in
reality it would be crazy for any king to risk the life and limb of large
numbers of his subjects just out of the whim of acquiring an elephant. There
ought to be more substantial reasons for the war breaking out in those times.

Much later the present author came across the description of a
historical document found in about 1987 by Professors Prasert na Nakorn and
Sukit Nimmanmain. It was a letter describing how the Lanna Kingdom had used
to trade with Burma in silver, gold, herbs (especially alloe, cinnamon and
spices), lac and honey. According to the document Lanna changed its policy on
trade and started trading with Ayutthaya instead of Burma. Originally Burma
had no interest in the spice trade, but when Europe started trading in spices
through India, it saw its chance to dominate the market. Burma had become a
wealthy middle man for spices traded between Lanna and the Europeans in

Ayutthaya, however, was also a spice trading centre — but its
prices were lower than those of Burma. It was no real difficulty for the
trading ships from Europe to round the peninsular at Singapore to trade with
Thailand instead of Burma. Within a relatively short period of time, all the
Lanna traders decided to supply Ayutthaya instead of Burma. In addition, to
take their merchandise to Ayutthaya was easier than taking it to Burma
because it was all downstream. Thus Ayutthaya could be a cheaper middleman
than Burma and this was the real reason for the conflict that grew up between
Burma and Thailand. This is why King Bayinnaung (and King Tabinshwehti before
him) wanted to sack Ayutthaya — and the white elephant was only an excuse –
but he got lucky in the ensuing war and conquered Siam. Thus the reason for
the first invasion of Ayutthaya was for economic reasons.

The second fall of Ayutthaya in 1569 was partly revenge for the
rebel Sett’at’irat’s subsequent counterattack against Burma in 1566 but
analysed more deeply, Burma could only sack Ayutthaya a second time because
the Thais were competing amongst themselves for economic power and at that
time, towards the end of the Ayutthaya dynasty, vice had become very
widespread in the old capital. Even the king was up to his neck in ‘roads to
ruin’. Wherever there is economic prosperity to excess, as we shall discover
later in this book, there will be an upsurge various sorts of vice and

In conclusion, we can say that Buddhist economics and western
economics diverge whenever economic advantage is used as a reason to justify
conflict. In Buddhism economics, economic advantage is not seen as adequate
means to justify ignoble ends.

Having identified the real roots of world conflict, it is no
longer useful to look for who to blame. To look for scapegoats is
really only an admission of our own inadequecies or laziness to recognize our
own part in the problem. It would be more appropriate that we start to study
the ethical issues surrounding economics as outlined in the remainder of this
book while doing our personal best to be most scrupulous in all respects.

Scrupulous macroeconomics on the level of national policy has to
be built on the foundation of scrupulous on the individual (microeconomic)
level. Economics on both levels are dealt with in the remainder of this book.



The Distinguishing features of
Buddhist Economics


“Don’t eat just because you feel like it 
– eat when you feel hungry . . .”


There are many points of similarity
and difference between Western Economics and Buddhist Economics. What the two
have in common is in their recognition of three stages in the economic
process. However, in the detail of each of the three stages, we find
significant divergence: 

  • acquisition of wealth:
    While Western Economics recognizes acquisition as important, it gives virtually
    no guidelines for the ethical limits of scrupulous acquisition –
    especially concerning livelihood. Anything that doesn’t break the Law is
    seen as fair play. Unfortunately, the Law is a very rough and ready
    indicator of ethical behaviour. In the olden days where morality was a
    part of common sense, the Law might have been seen to offer sufficient
    guidelines, however, in the present day, that can no longer be said to
    be true. When the way people acquire their wealth is no more ethical
    than the way animals hunt their prey, that is the point where humans
    become prepared to kill each other for their wealth — even if people
    still have sufficient conscience not to kill each other overtly for
    wealth, it doesn’t mean they won’t attempt to do so covertly by economic
    exploitation — where direct killing means setting about each other with
    weapons and indirect killing means pressurizing, cheating and exploiting
    others by various means.
  • conservation of wealth:
    Having acquired wealth surplus to one’s needs, the remainder needs to be
    stored or shared. Animals will tend to hoard as much as they can without
    any consideration of ethical fairness. If you watch any African wildlife
    documentary you will see how in the dry season the big cats don’t have
    to go out hunting, but sculk by the watering hole, dominating that
    scarce resource, so that they can prey on anything that comes to drink
    there. The big cat will get both water to drink and easy meat just by
    staying close to the watering hole. This is the way animals hoard their
    requisites — without any consideration of ethicality. How do people
    measure up to these animal ways? As we all know, some acquire wealth
    scrupulously — while others disregard ethicality completely or
    partially. Hoarding wealth in a way that disregards ethicality includes
    limiting the supply of resources to the point that others risk death
    because of the lack of these things in the marketplace. In the present
    day, this often happens — for example when oil-producing countries
    limit the supply of their produce to force the prices up — to the
    degree that their potential customers must suffer. In such a case
    Buddhists would no longer agree with Western economics that such
    hoarding is ethically justified and would favour the sale of such
    products at a moderate price. It is frightening to consider what would
    happen if the food producing countries were to start hoarding their
    products — there would be dire consequences for the rest of the world.
  • employment of weath for benefit or to
    satisfy desires:
    When spending, Buddhist economics again
    diverges from Western Economics, because it advocates spending one’s
  • in moderation: ‘Moderation’
    is the keyword when it comes to the beneficial deployment of wealth.
    Moderation in spending depends largely on a person’s ability to
    distinguish between need and want. Necessary wealth can be broken down
    into the Four Requisites of clothing, food, shelter and medicine.
    Buddhists define ‘need’ as clothing enough to protect oneself from heat
    and cold, food to stave off hunger, shelter to protect us from the
    elements and medical care to treat us when we are ill (as mentioned in
    the verses of the Buddhist monk’s recollection [M.i.10, Nd.496]). If
    one is clear in one’s mind what constitutes a ‘need’, one will see consumption
    for what it really is — that is, merely a means to an end. If we
    confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’, however, as encouraged by modern
    marketing forces, we will err into regarding consumption as an end in
    itself. However because people have the tendency never to know enough
    of a good thing, ‘need’ has given way to ‘want’. When people want
    anything they can get their hands on, their ethical considerations tend
    to be forgotten. The Buddha would see moderation as an antidote for
    consumption to excess and would say that moderation in fact contributes
    to economic wellbeing. Most people are most interested in how high
    their income is. However, more important still is how much you are left
    with at the end of the month. In the olden days, they used to say “Don’t
    just eat because you feel like it — eat when you are hungry
    . . .” — because we can feel like eating twenty-four hours
    a day! If there was nothing more to moderation than appetite, then we
    would need to be no more intelligent than a cow which chews cud at one
    end and drops cowpats from the other. It is not the income which counts
    but how much is left after the expenses. The secret of having something
    left is to expend only in case of need (not want). However, because
    people know no moderation in their consumption, resources become scarce
    and there is not much remaining difference between how such people make
    their living and how scavenging birds fight over their carrion.
    However, moderate consumption is hardly something supported by Western
  • only in order to give
    the greatest possible amount of true happiness for all:

    Consider how much the world could be improved if all the money
    squandered worldwide on gambling, drugs and prostitution were
    redirected into feeding the hungry, giving basic education or
    instilling virtue in the hearts of our planet’s citizens? Even if not
    all the money were to be redirected — maybe just 5-10%, our world
    would be a much more attractive place to live in! Unfortunately,
    because such a large amount of money has been sunk into businesses
    involved with vice, our whole world has become inundated with the
    contingent social problems — and consequently, the opportunity to
    encourage virtue in society diminishes with every passing year.

BOX 2: Diighajaa.nu Sutta

Origin of Principles for Buddhist
Economic Practice

Principles of Buddhist Economic practice are derived from a scriptural
source called the Diighajaanu Sutta (A.iv.281ff.) — and are repeated in
the Ujjaya Sutta (A.iv.285-9). The former Sutta was given in response to
the questions of a householder called Diighajaa.nu who was not short on
wealth but failed to apply what he had to achieve any satisfaction in his
life. Diighajaa.nu was a man who inhabited Kakkarapatta in Ko.liya — and
the people of that town referred to themselves as Byagghapajjans. He asked
Buddha two questions: 

  • How to find happiness in
    the present lifetime  
  • How to find happiness in
    the next lifetime.  

His questions are
particularly pertinent to the subject of this book because Diighajaa.nu requested
principles of practice applicable to economics for the household life
(rather than the monastic one). The answers the Buddha gave were formulated
as the ‘four principles of finding happiness in the present lifetime’ [di.t.t.hadhammikattha-sa.mvattanika
] (enlarged upon in Chapter 3) and the ‘four principles of
finding happiness in the lifetime to come’ [samparaayikattha
sa.mvattanika dhamma
] (enlarged upon in Chapter 4).



Buddhist Micro-economics for the

“It’s not what you earn that counts — but how much you have left
over at the end of the month . . .”


The Buddha gave a total of four principles of economic practice
for finding happiness in the present lifetime [di.t.t.hadhammikattha-sa.mvattanika
] (A.iv.281): 

  1. Diligent acquisition
    [u.t.thaanasampadaa]: Diligent acquisition means skilfulness in
    the acquisition of wealth. Diligent acquisition refers to the habits of
    a person who works hard for their living — in contrast to those who are
    too lazy to make the effort. It also refers to the patience needed for
    people to work together as a team and the wisdom to recognize the work
    left undone — being able to perform, organize and administer the work
    as required. The most important feature of this first stage of the economic
    process can be summarized as acquiring wealth in an ethical way. As
    Buddhists we would say that taking advantage of others economically, in
    whatever form, is unethical acquisition of wealth. Particular
    forms of livelihood which the Buddha advised us to avoid in this respect
    are the five sorts of Unwholesome Livelihood [micchaa va.nijjaa]
    (A.iii.207) mentioned below:
  1. trading in weapons:
    The weapon trade is a major source of income for every superpower of
    the world. It is only normal that those who supply weapons will be on
    the receiving end of hatred from the victims of the destruction caused
    by the weapons they have sold. Selling weapons is the starting point of
    a long chain of negative karmic consequences. Weapons have had a part
    in every violent catastrophe occurring worldwide over the years — and
    it is not our place here to say who is right or wrong — but no-one can
    deny the magnitude of the death toll coming from armed conflict. Not
    selling weapons means refraining from any sort of trade in instruments
    for destroying life, whether it be guns, knives or even hunting
    equipment like traps or bait. Anything used for killing people or
    animals are considered weapons for the purposes of Unwholesome
    Livelihood. Even without physically harming a person, maltreatment can
    cause resentment which lasts across lifetimes — thus, it is up to all
    of us to check our own aggression without waiting for prodding from
    others . . .
  2. trading in people:
    Trading in people is also making profit out of the suffering of others.
    It formerly meant trading in slaves, but nowadays has come to include
    child labour, wage-slaves and prostitution;
  3. selling live animals to the
    Selling live animals to the
    slaughterhouse is taking a profit from the suffering of animals in a
    way that leads inevitably to their death;
  4. trading in alcohol or intoxicants: Trading
    in alcohol and intoxicants including non-medicinal drugs such as
  5. trading in poison: Trading
    in poison means selling poison such as insecticide or rat-poison. The
    Buddha advised us not to sell such agents because otherwise their
    retribution will find its way back to us. Even though when we sell the
    poison it has not yet caused any harm, but as soon as it is used it has
    the same potency as already mentioned for weapons. If only we were to
    follow the Buddha’s advice more widely we wouldn’t have to waste our
    time in the present day for so much campaigning for biologically grown

It is not to say that
there are no more than these five ways of unwholesomely earning a living –
but these are the main ones. Thus if you would like to know where to start
looking for ways to reduce the amount of conflict in the world, the present
author’s advice would be to start by minimizing your involvement with Unwholesome
Livelihood. The Buddha taught that any person who lapses into Unwholesome
Livelihood will eventually attract a heavy burden of negative karma for
themselves. Other ways of making money which involve economic exploitation in
various ways can also be included as unwholesome livelihood, such as criminal
activities, or for example:

    • Making one’s living out of interest:
      The present author’s still remembers when he was a child, his mother
      always maintained, “In our household and our family we have never
      liked living off the interest earned from the money we lend to
      others.” She explained, “It is making a living out of the
      suffering of people who are incompetent in managing their own finances.
      If they were really competent in their financial management, they
      wouldn’t have to come borrowing money from the likes of us! Those who
      are financially careless would rather borrow at a high interest rate
      than go without — which would indicate that they don’t have much idea
      about the effective way to earn, save and use their finances. If you
      get too involved with these sort of people, it will just lead you to
      unnecessary frustration. If you really want to help such people, then
      just give the money to them without strings attached. It is not
      worthwhile to extend the mutual agony of having to be paid back for the
      interest on a loan.”
  1. Careful conservation
    [aarakkhasampadaa]: Careful conservation means skilfulness in the
    saving of wealth. Having earned wealth by the sweat of one’s brow in a
    scrupulous way, a person should take good care of their wealth, not
    allowing it to be eroded away by unjust taxation, theft, natural
    disaster or unintended inheritants. As for unwholesome conservation of
    wealth — this refers to excessive hoarding or stockpiling as mentioned
    above. Furthermore, when saving up one’s wealth — one should not allow
    doing so to bring us into conflict with those around us. Good reasons to
    put money on the side, according to Buddhist principles (A.iii.45) are
    in case of emergency such as repairing the consequences of fire, flood,
    excess taxation, theft or exhortion by malevolent relatives! You have to
    consider carefully, however what form you ought to save your money in.
    Of course the best way to conserve your wealth is as transcendental
    wealth or merit (see self-sacrifice of Chapter 4) — because in such a
    form it is beyond the touch of interest rates and it will appreciate
    with the passing of the years — thus saving in the form of
    transcendental wealth is really the most skilful way of conserving one’s
  2. Having virtuous friends
    [kalyaa.namittata]: Having virtuous friends means surrounding
    yourself with a network of virtuous friends in all areas of your life.
    The sort of friends one should cultivate are those endowed with faith [saddha],
    self-discipline [siila], self-sacrifice [caaga] and wisdom
    [pa~n~naa]. Apart from facilitating our cultivation of wisdom, it
    will also strengthen the network of good friends of which we are a part.
    Such networking is particularly relevant to teamwork because when one
    earns one’s living, one does not usually do so alone — whether it be
    working in the same office as one’s colleagues or cooperating in an
    international network. The most important attribute of teamwork is that
    the team members must have a similarly high level of scrupulousness in
    their work dealings and a similarly high level of faith in spiritual
    teachings. Furthermore, everyone in the team should have a similarly
    high level of self-sacrifice, dedicated to the collective good –
    thereby avoiding the dangers of networking with those who are overcome
    by their own selfishness. The Buddha taught that worldly wealth is
    exhausted in a moment — but the value of training other people to be
    virtuous never knows an end. The importance of this virtue is emphasized
    over and over again by the Buddha — who especially in the context of
    economics, taught that simply acquiring, storing and using wealth is not
    good enough. We have to build up a network of good people to work with
    too, before we get round to using our wealth — the way we use our
    wealth should be in cooperation with such good friends, if we really
    want happiness and prosperity in life.The Buddha emphasized that when
    one is earning one’s living, one should try to avoid associating
    with those who break the Precepts — no matter whether they be young or
    old. If not only the Precepts, but also their faith in Buddhism is
    lacking, then that is all the more reason to avoid associating with
    them. It is as if we are selective about channelling our resources –
    devoting our resources to encourage the proliferation of virtuous people
    in our society. Those who encourage virtue in their co-workers at the
    same time they earn their living will never have to complain at a later
    date of being ’stabbed in the back’ by their colleagues. You have no-one
    else but yourself to blame if your employees are left incompetent,
    unable to work as a team or unable to delegate — you cannot just expect
    competent people to rain down on you from the sky! You have to build on
    your employees competency by training them yourself. At the same time
    you need to continue to train yourself — seeing what virtues you can
    pick up from those more experienced than yourself — in this way, you
    will soon produce a network of good co-workers for yourself.
  3. Living within your means
    [samajiivitaa]: Living within your means means skilfulness in
    spending. Those who realize the ease with which wealth can come and go,
    should lead their life in a way that is appropriate to their means –
    not being extravagent but at the same time, not too spendthrift either!
    When we talk of generosity [daana] in this context we mean giving
    those things which are surplus to our needs. Some people might doubt as
    to how much they really need or might be unable to distinguish between
    ‘need’ and ‘want’ and hence the Buddha gave guidance about how
    householders should budget their earnings so that their generosity is
    neither reluctant nor a burden on the family expenditure. The Buddha
    taught (Aadiya Sutta A.iii.45 [36/93]) that the family budget should be
    divided into five. He did not say that each part should be 20% of your
    earnings, but he taught that you should budget for each of these sorts
    of expenditure. As for the “working capital” which you have
    built up for yourself, the Buddha taught in the Si”ngalovaada Sutta
    (D.iii.180ff.) that you should apply one-quarter of your earnings for
    your immediate needs, one-half should be reinvested in your business and
    the remaining quarter should be saved in case of emergency. It is up to
    each individual to decide how much of their income to use as
    “working capital” and how much to use for generosity. If you
    budget in this way, you will be able to practise generosity, giving
    neither too much nor too little. The fivefold division of one’s funds
    mentioned above should be as follows:
    1. one part to support the
      immediate needs of yourself, your parents, your children, spouse,
    2. one part to extend
      generosity towards your friends
    3. one part to be saved in
      case of emergency (as already mentioned above)
    4. one part which should be
      used for five sorts of dedication  
    1. for
      one’s extended family  
    2. for
    3. for
      dedicating merit for the departed  
    4. for
    5. for
      dedicating merit to the things that you believe in according to your
      local custom (e.g.ascetics, animals, physical forces and elements,
      lower deities or higher deities depending on your culture)
  1. one part to extend support
    to well-practising monks and ascetics 

  2. In the old days they used to compare an extravagent person with a low income
    to the owner of a fig-tree who shakes the tree so that all the figs fall off,
    but who picks up only a few of them to eat. At the other extreme, a person
    with a good income who is not generous with their wealth will die in
    hardship out of keeping with their social status. Steering the middle way
    between stinginess and extravagence in a way appropriate to your level of
    income is said to be living within your means. Aside of the main five forms
    of Unwholesome Livelihood (mentioned above) which cause deterioration
    of wealth, there are another four sorts of behaviour, known as the ‘Four
    Roads to Ruin’ which if we can avoid them, will also help to protect our
    hard-earned income:

      1. womanizing;  
      2. drinking
      3. gambling;  
      4. associating with bad

      In conclusion, for anyone to remain
      scrupulous after wholesomely acquiring and saving their wealth, it is
      necessary to build up a network of good people [kalyaa.namitta] around
      themselves first, before they come to spending their hard-earned wealth.
      Habitually associating with good friends will cause one to expend with
      reflection as to true benefit, and thereby use one’s wealth solely for things
      which help in cultivating faith, keeping one’s precepts purely, practising
      self-sacrifice and cultivating wisdom in keeping with the guidance of the
      Buddha for happiness in lives to come (see next chapter).

      Thus, throughout one’s life one should earn one’s living
      carefully according to the four principles of happiness in the present
      lifetime — never compromising one’s Buddhist scrupulousness — and the same
      goes for saving one’s wealth. At the same time one needs to develop
      those around one as a protective fence or network of good friends. Surrounded
      by virtuous people, the tendency for our mind to be tempted by unethical
      compromises will be significantly reduced — and the interactions we have
      with our fellow workers will be for mutual encouragement of further good

      Metaphor of the reservoir

      The four economic principles for happiness in the present lifetime can be
      compared to four channels of water which supply a pool. The Four Roads to
      Ruin can be compared to four outlets from the pool. If we close the inlets
      and open the outlets, in the absence of rain, the pool will soon become
      completely dry. There will certainly be no increase in the water level. On
      the contrary, if one opens all four of the inlets by conducting oneself in
      keeping with the Buddhist economic principles, while closing the outlets by
      avoiding all four roads to ruin, before long the pool will be full or even
      overflowing. Thus, whether we are speaking economically on a personal level
      or on national level, it is vital to seal up the four possible outlets from
      our economic prosperity — by not womanizing, drinking alcohol or gambling –
      and by associating with good friends. These are the basics of Buddhist
      microeconomics for the present lifetime — economics that you won’t find
      described anywhere else in the world. If you heed the Buddha’s words on
      economics and put them in to practice you will have prosperity in your
      future, never falling upon hard times.



      Buddhist Microeconomics for the

      “If beings knew . . . the result of giving and sharing, they would
      not eat without having given nor would they allow the stain of meanness to
      obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last
      morsel, their last mouthful, they would not enjoy eating without having
      shared it . . .”

      It. 26


      In the Buddhist microeconomics of the
      previous chapter, in fact we have spoken about only the profane category of
      happiness due to us from following the Buddha’s economic principles — i.e.
      the happiness we can expect in the present lifetime. Our Buddhist ancestors
      saw each person’s life as a sort of business which could run at a profit or
      at a loss. For those interested only in worldly wealth, but who ignored
      spiritual values, their business was seen to trade only in worldly wealth.
      However those who consecrated time for spiritual practice saw their profit
      and loss in terms of merit and demerit — which were the way to
      transcendental wealth. If you are not born human it is going to be difficult
      to deal in merit. An angel, even though considered fortunate in birth, in
      fact still has difficulty in accruing merit. If one is born in the nether
      realms such as hell, the animal realm, as hungry ghosts or as Titans, then it
      is all the more difficult to ‘deal in merit’. It is only in the human realm
      that we have the possibility to accumulate merit for ourselves. This is why
      the wise were wont to ask the Buddha two questions whenever they had the
      opportunity to meet with Him, in the same way as Diighajaa.nu Byagghapajja
      who wanted to know what he should do for his happiness and benefit both
      in this lifetime and the next. The four practices [byagghapajjadhamma]
      enumerated by the Buddha in response to Diighajaa.nu’s second question, which
      are for happiness in the hereafter are as follows [samparaayikattha
      sa.mvattanika dhamma
      ] (A.iv.284): 

      1. faithfulness
        [saddhasampadaa]: Faithfulness is something that arises in a person
        when they have confidence (rather than blind-belief) in the wisdom and
        enlightenment of the Buddha. The benefit of having such faith in the
        Lord Buddha is that one is prepared to practise in his footsteps. Faith
        is thus no insignificant virtue for a person to have, because it will
        literally illuminate the mind from within. In general, any person who
        isn’t overly bent on wickedness has a little brightness in their heart
        — but it tends to be fleeting like distant lightning over the horizon
        or the glimmer of a firefly. Sometimes we have a flash of inspiration in
        our mind and we’d like to follow the thought further to its conclusion,
        but because of lack of continuity we are unable to follow the train of
        thought to completion. If only we had a little faith in mind to give a
        continuous level of brightnessin the mind, we would be able to follow
        our inspiration through to its logical conclusion — e.g. to realize
        that the Law of Karma is reasonable, that those who do good actions
        receive good returns on their action, that those who do evil actions
        will get evil retribution — allowing one to find the proper pathway in
        life for oneself. No-one should ever underestimate faith because it
        means that the mind is sufficiently illuminated to understand about the
        enlightenment of the Lord Buddha — to a degree that the causes and
        effects of any issue begin to become clear to one — that merit and
        demerit are no longer a myth or a mystery to one — and one gains the
        precursory discretion or ‘benefit of the doubt’ to discern the
        difference between appropriate and inappropriate, heaven and hell. When
        one’s mind is sufficiently illuminated to understand these issues, one
        will trust in the truth of the wisdom of the Buddha’s enlightenment –
        banishing the doubt and suspicion from one’s mind, and making one ready
        to practise in the Buddha’s footsteps. Even if one possesses faith
        alone, already one has a chance to protect oneself from falling
        into the nether realms — but the trouble with having faith alone is
        that it may not be very steadfast. For the cultivation of faith, one
        needs invest enough time, money and effort in one’s spiritual activities
        so that one’s faith can be developed into wisdom. Economically speaking,
        this justifies the expense of going to listen to Dhamma teachings in
        order to consolidate one’s level of faith in the Triple Gem.
      2. self-discipline
        [siilasampadaa]: By self-discipline, we mean at least the ability
        to keep all five of the Precepts — all the way from restraining oneself
        from taking the life of living beings, to restraining oneself from
        drinking alcohol. Apart from restraining ourselves from the behaviours
        prohibited by the Five Precepts, we must work on our mind too to uproot
        even the latent tendencies that make us want to break the Precepts in the
        first place. The reason we have to be so strict with ourselves is that
        one’s mind is filled with faith and has sufficient inner brightness to
        see the connections between causes and effects, we will start to be
        self-motivated to be more strict with ourselves. From an economic point
        of view, in cultivating self-discipline you need to find the time to go
        to the temple to keep the Precepts purely — rather than labouring under
        the misapprehension that extra salary will bring happiness both in this
        lifetime and the next;
      3. self-sacrifice
        [caagasampada]: A person is endowed with self-sacrifice when they
        are free of any further stinginess in their mind — someone who takes
        pleasure in giving. Such people, apart from having self-discipline and
        faith, can also be said to be skilled in saving up their wealth
        — but they choose not to save it up in this this world as material
        wealth, but as transcendental wealth for the next. They know that
        if they try to hoard what they have in this world, before long it will
        be nibbled away by unjust taxation, by thieves, fire, flood or uninvited
        inheritants. Some grandchildren who cannot wait for death of a wealthy
        grandparent might even conspire to murder them in order to receive a
        legacy before its due! Buying shares is no real security, because even
        the value of shares can sometimes collapse. Buying dollars or gold
        offers no real security either, because the market might slump at any
        time. However, if you transform material wealth into merit by giving it
        away, it will be wealth that will stay with you from one lifetime to the
        next — and without fear that the value of your assets will deteriorate
        — they will know only increase! Wherever there are those who practice
        self-sacrifice, there will never be a danger of economic exploitation –
        on the contrary, when self-sacrifice is abundant, everyone’s financial
        status will improve, both giver and recipient alike. This is why
        self-sacrifice is so important in laying the foundation of happiness for
        lifetimes to come. For self-sacrifice, you need do divide up an
        appropriate proportion of your wealth (as mentioned already in the
        section on skilful deployment of wealth
        ) for giving in charity to
        save as transcendental wealth for next lifetime. If we share
        wholeheartedly with others, in turn they will want to share with us –
        and this will save one from finding oneself on the breadline, or living
        from hand to mouth, with a job that destroys our health.
      4. wisdom [pa~n~naasampadaa]:
        Sometimes the word ‘wisdom’ is bandied about without real consideration
        of its true meaning. In Buddhism, the word means ‘penetrative insight
        into the vicissitudes of the psycho-physical constituents [khanda]
        and into the arising and decay of all things’. Knowledge of other
        things, for example engineering or computing, could hardly be considered
        wisdom according to the Buddhist definition. True wisdom means knowing
        every facet of the constant change taking place in our bodily make-up –
        knowing that there is birth, old-age, sickness and death, decay and
        destruction as in the words ‘arising, continuity and decay’. Even though
        a person might have several doctorates under their belt, if their
        knowledge cannot keep up with the working of the bodily make-up, it is
        still incomplete knowledge — and knowledge which is not completely pure
        because it still potentially harmful. Wisdom allows you to uproot the
        last of the defilements in your mind. True wisdom is not only reflection
        on a matter, but reflection in a way that you can see the arising and
        the decay of that thing. This sort of wisdom is indeed noble
        wisdom because it helps us to uproot the last of the defilements in the
        mind and can thus bring us, by the proper means, to an end of suffering.
        The importance of wisdom is that it shines forth like light which drives
        away the darkness that prevents us from seeing the reality of the world.
        Wisdom also functions like a spade which one can use to dig up the
        deepest roots of a poisonous weed — in this case the poisonous
        defilements which pollute the mind. Thus, economically speaking, we have
        to be self-disciplined in the use of our wealth to give ourselves
        sufficient freedom to use one’s time for meditation practice and Dhamma
        study to give rise to a constantly higher level of wisdom within

      Of the four practices, the most
      important precursor of transcendental wealth is faith. Faith is
      something we have often heard about, but often misunderstood — so in our
      studies of the practices for happiness in the hereafter, we should start on
      the right foot by making sure we understand the concept of faith. With a
      correct understanding of faith, it will start to become clear how the the
      Buddha could teach that ‘each time faith arises for someone, in the end it
      will lead to wisdom.’ 

      Anyone who works diligently and is
      not reckless with their earnings, who knows how to earn their living in an
      appropriate way, while at the same time having faith, self-discipline, who is
      helpful to those in need (giving an amount to them which is appropriate),
      whose mind is free of stinginess, who cultivates continuously the path to
      happiness in the hereafter (rather than doing virtuous deeds sporadically or
      according to whim) — making such good deeds habitual. Thus, faith,
      self-discipline, self-sacrifice and wisdom are the microeconomic practices
      recommended by the Buddha for happiness in lives to come.



      Buddhist Microeconomics at the
      Ultimate Level 


      “The problem is not with the irresistable things of the
      world, but the desires in the human mind. In the absence of a desiring
      observer, the beautiful things of the world never caused harm to anyone.
      Thus recognizing the real root of the problem, the wise should make
      immediate efforts to avoid all elation with the beautiful things of the


      When looking for Buddhist economic principles to take us beyond
      the material comfort and economic security of Chapter 3 and the mental
      wellbeing of Chapter 4, to attain inner freedom (especially from the
      defilement of grasping in the mind). What becomes important is economic
      values and practices which lead to the uprooting of sense-pleasure from the
      mind. Before looking at microeconomics at the ultimate level, it is first
      necessary to examine the meaning of the word ’sensuality’.

      Sense pleasure means indulgence of the things that are attractive
      to the senses and it can be broken down into two components:

      1. Sense-side sensuality [kilesakama]: the
        emotion of desiring something which is a defilement existing in the mind
        and which forces the mind to grasp after things and desire for things
        without end with the defilements of grasping [raaga] and greed [lobha]
        as two examples of its products;
      2. Object-side sensuality
        means physical objects that are attractive to us — images, sounds,
        textures, smells and tastes which are attractive to the corresponding
        sense. An attractive image might mean a beautiful flower or a sparkling
        diamond. An attractive sound might be that of pleasant music, a pleasant
        voice, birdsong or the sound of a waterfall and nature. A pleasant smell
        might be the scent of perfume or the aroma of food. A pleasant taste
        might mean anything one finds tasty, whether it be sweet or sour, salty
        or oily which one prefers. Something pleasant to the touch [photabba]
        might be anything that which when it comes into physical contact with
        one’s body is soft or pleasant. 

      Sense objects have sometimes been
      compared to an unignited match head. The mental components of desire are like
      the striker on a matchbox. Only when sensual objects and their mental
      components come into contact with one another do we run the risk of becoming
      slave to our desires. In any case, it should be understood that the sensually
      tempting things of the world are not the reason for greed — they are only
      part of the story. The sensual grasping comes from the minds of men. Without
      the grasping in the human mind the attractive things of the world never
      caused any harm to anyone. Once knowing the danger that lies with the sensual
      grasping in the mind, the wise do their best to eradicate all trace of
      sensual grasping from the mind.

      Practically speaking, to eradicate grasping from the mind, one
      must follow the advice the Buddha gave to Bahiya Daaruciiriya

      “When you see an object, be
      conscious of just the visible object (without being entranced thereby); when
      you hear a sound, be conscious of just the sound; when you smell or taste or
      touch something, be conscious of just the smell, the taste or the touch; and
      when you think of anything, be conscious of just that mind-object.”

      By doing this, one’s mind will always
      be without object-side sensuality [kaamavatthu]. By not being
      entranced by a perception, the sense-side sensuality has no chance to flare
      up. The opposite would be the case if one becomes elated by the pleasing
      things one senses, becoming entranced thereby and allowing the emotion of
      grasping to hijack the ethical discretion of your mind.

      The Harm of Sensuality

      It follows that those whose mind is heavily under the influence of sensual
      grasping and craving for sensual pleasures will soon have reasons to take advantage
      of themselves or others or both.

      For those whose mind is overrun with grasping, killing, stealing,
      sexually molesting others and lying is not very far away. However, if our
      mind is free of sensual grasping, there will be no harmful thoughts to generate
      harmful speech or actions for us. This is the reason why the Buddha taught
      monks and laypeople alike:

      “You should cut down the forest
      of sensuality in the mind — whether it be a large forest or a small forest
      you should make sure none remains. Verily, I do say that sense-side
      sensuality is as a forest and object-side sensuality is like the trees.”

      When everyone is overrun with the
      defilements of greed the whole of the time, it causes people to seek
      endlessly for happiness from sensual objects — this is why such people are
      referred to as ‘consumers of sense pleasure’ [kaamabhogii]. In such a
      search there is a never-ending work to do — whether it be acquisition,
      conservation or spending of wealth throughout one’s life.


      BOX 3: Kaamabhogii Sutta
      (A.v.176, S.iv.331)

      The Kaamabhogii Sutta tells us about the ten varieties of ’supposedly’
      wealthy people [kaamabhogii] — in so far as they deserve praise or blame.


      1. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money by unscrupulous means (i.e.
        acquire wealth by wrong livelihood) and having acquired it derive no
        enjoyment from it, not do they disburse it for the benefit of others
        nor donate it for a meritorious cause. Such an attitude to wealth
        cannot be said to be smart — and on the contrary burdens them with
        worse demerit.
      2. Consumers
        of sense pleasure who acquire money by unscrupulous means, but who
        derive enjoyment from it, but who don’t disburse it for the benefit of
        others or donate it for meritorious causes. Such an attitude to wealth
        is not smart in the acquisition and not particularly smart in the
        spending — especially in the conservation of wealth, it is definitely
        not smart;
      3. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money by unscrupulous means, but who
        derive enjoyment from their wealth, disburse their wealth for others,
        donating it for meritorious causes too;
      4. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire wealth by a mixture of scrupulous and
        unscrupulous means (wealth in this case might be acquired partly
        honestly by a salary, but the rest might come from bribes — i.e. both
        right and wrong livelihood) — but who derive no enjoyment from their
        wealth, don’t disburse their wealth for others and don’t donate it for
        meritorious causes. Such an attitude to wealth may or may not be smart
        in the acquisition and is definitely not smart in the spending and
      5. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire wealth by a mixture of scrupulous and
        unscrupulous means, who derive enjoyment from it, but fail to disburse
        it for the benefit of others or to donate it for meritorious causes.
        Such an attitude to wealth may or may not be smart in the acquisition,
        is reasonably smart in the spending, but not in the saving;
      6. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire wealth by a mixture of scrupulous and
        unscrupulous means, who derive enjoyment from it and disburse it for
        the benefit of others and also donate it for meritorious causes. Such
        an attitude to wealth may or may not be smart in the acquisition, but
        which is smart in the usage and the saving;
      7. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money solely by scrupulous means (solely
        by right livelihood) but who derive no enjoyment from their wealth and
        neither disburse their wealth for the benefit of others nor donate it
        for meritorious causes. Such an attitude to wealth can be considered
        smart in the acquisition but not smart in the usage or the saving;
      8. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money solely by scrupulous means, who
        derive enjoyment from their wealth and but do not disburse their
        wealth for the benefit of others nor donate it for meritorious causes.
        Such an attitude to wealth can be considered smart in the acquisition
        and usage but not smart in the saving;
      9. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money solely by scrupulous means, who
        derive enjoyment from their wealth and also do disburse their wealth
        for the benefit of others and donate it for meritorious causes.
        However in spite of all their good actions, the people of these
        categories remain blind to the harmfulness of sense-pleasure — they
        lack the wisdom to be motivated to renounce sense-pleasure. Such an
        attitude to wealth can be considered smart in the acquisition, the
        usage and the saving, but because such people lack insight into the
        harmfulness of sense pleasure, they lack the power to liberate
        themselves from the clutches of the defilements of sense-pleasure –
        because they haven’t had the chance to associate sufficiently with the
      10. Consumers
        of sense-pleasure who acquire money solely by scrupulous means, who
        derive pleasure from their wealth, who disburse their wealth for
        others and donate it for meritorious causes. In addition, those of
        this category are no longer blind to the harmfulness of sense-pleasure
        — thus they have the wisdom to want to escape from the cycle of
        existence [sa.msara] and this wisdom will allow them to
        renounce attachment to the use of the wealth. Such an attitude to
        wealth can be considered smart in the acquisition, the usage and the
        saving and furthermore allows one to overcome oneís defilements,
        ultimately to enter upon Nirvana.  

      This classification
      offers a very complete model of how development of the mind can fit in with
      economic progress. The Buddha taught the Kaamabhogii Sutta to
      Anaathapi.n.dika. Anaathapi.n.dika was the Savatthii-based banker who was
      the sponsor for the building of Buddhism’s first temple at the Jetavana
      Grove — but he was moreover renowned for his wisdom. By teaching the
      Kaamabhogii Sutta to Anaathapi.n.dika, it was as if the Buddha intended to
      appreciate Anaathapi.n.dika for his belonging to the tenth category.


      From the Kaamabhogii Sutta, it can thus be concluded that the
      Buddha enumerated ten different sorts of attitude subscribed to by people as
      shown in the following table:


      Ten Attitudes to Wealth [kaamabhogii]




      insight into harm of sense pleasure

      for self

      for others

      for meritorious work


      wholly unscrupulous

      derives no pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly unscrupulous

      derives pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly unscrupulous

      derives pleasure from wealth

      shares with others

      does donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      parially unscrupulous, partially

      derives no pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      parially unscrupulous, partially

      derives pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      parially unscrupulous, partially

      derives pleasure from wealth

      shares with others

      does donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly scrupulous

      derives no pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly scrupulous

      derives pleasure from wealth

      doesn’t share with others

      doesn’t donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly scrupulous

      derives pleasure from wealth

      shares with others

      does donate

      blind to harm of sense pleasure


      wholly scrupulous

      derives pleasure from wealth

      shares with others

      does donate

      has insight into the harm of sense pleasure

      If a person can acquire their wealth solely by scrupulous means, and if they
      can manage to derive pleasure from that wealth, while at the same time
      disbursing their wealth for others and donating it for meritorious work, and
      also having the insight to see the harm of sense-desire and the importance of
      extricating oneself from it, this is the crème-de-la-crème of the ten



      Ideals and Goals in Buddhist

      “Anyone with faith, leading to truthfulness, training without end,
      patience and self-sacrifice, will gain supreme wealth for themselves
      because they avoid sorrow in lives to come”


      Threefold Goals in
      Buddhist Economics

      Having studied the economic practices applicable to happiness in this
      lifetime and the next, in this chapter we shall look at the goals of
      such practice — because without such goals clearly in mind, it is unlikely
      that anyone will have the patience to put the forgoing principles into

      Buddhist microeconomics are designed to work on three levels
      (these determine the true value of any economic activity): 

      1. the purely materialist level
        (material comfort & economic security)  
      2. the material/spiritual level
        (mental wellbeing)  
      3. the purely spiritual level
        (inner freedom)  

      To deal with each level in turn:

      The Purely Materialist level

      Practice on the purely materialist level corresponds to the first question
      from the Diighajaa.nu Sutta (see Box 2) concerning happiness in the present
      lifetime. When one’s only aim in life is to find immediate material
      convenience for oneself, so that we can avoid hardship, the Buddha’s teaching
      can be summarized by the acronym ‘U-A-Ka-Sa’, namely:



      u.t.thaanasampadaa or diligent acquisition



      aarakkhasampadaa or conservation



      kalyaa.namittata or having good friends



      samajiivita or living within one’s means


      The aim on this level, which we must
      not lose sight of is standing on our own two feet instead of being a burden
      on society — achieving by scrupulous means a moderate degree of material
      comfort and economic security for oneself and one’s family. The most
      important guiding principle in accumulating wealth for oneself is to avoid
      the bad karma of taking advantage of others.

      The Material/Spiritual level

      Practice on the material/spiritual level corresponds to the second question
      from the Diighajaa.nu Sutta (see Box 2) concerning happiness in lifetimes to
      come. The Buddha’s teaching on this level can be summarized by the acronym
      ‘Sa-Sii-Caa-Pa’, namely:



      saddhaa or faith



      siila or self-discipline



      caaga or self-sacrifice



      pa~n~naa or wisdom


      The aim on this level, which we must not lose sight of are:

      • making faith and the four Gharavasadhamma
        The Buddha taught that if one is to avoid
        sorrow in the worlds to comeone must have the character habits of
        truthfulness [sacca], training oneself without end [dama],
        patience [di.thi] and self-sacrifice [caaga] — all these
        with ‘faith’ [saddha] as their precursor. Indeed it is this group of
        four virtues which is another key factor in the understanding of
        Buddhist economics. Anyone who has these qualities will amass supreme
        wealth for themselves because they will avoid sorrow in lives to come –
        also gaining the possibility to enter upon heaven. Any householder with
        faith, who avails themselves of these four virtues has found for
        themselves the most supreme and effective path in life. Any person who
        develops U-A-Ka-Sa and Sa-Si-Ca-Pa will avail themselves of the habits
        expounded in the Gharavasadhamma — i.e. they will have the habits of
        truthfulness, develops the mselves without end, is patient and knows
        self-sacrifice, will attain success both in this lifetime and the next.
        The identifying feature which tells us that a person is endowed with the
        Four Virtues of a householder is that they lead their lives according to
        the principles of happiness in this lifetime (U-A-Ka-Sa) and happiness
        in the next lifetime (Sa-Si-Ca-Pa) too.
      • expanding the mind: One’s
        ability to give is a very important economic value for Buddhists
        — because it has a direct influence on our quality of mind. Buddhist
        economics advocates giving limitlessly because apart from expanding the
        mind, transcendental wealth accrued will be limitless. This is in
        contrast to some people or even animals for whom generosity is limited
        in its scope. No matter how many offspring animals have, they will bring
        all of them up without qualms — but if anyone else’s offspring should
        stray into their territory, they will be attacked or hunted down. Thus
        the loving kindness of an animal would seem to extend no further than
        that animal’s own progeny — its generosity has its boundaries — and
        the same seems to be the case whether its cats, dogs, chickens or crows.
        It is like some teachers who hold back from teaching certain things they
        know — or from teaching those who don’t pay. Some don’t ask for a fee
        for their teaching — their students don’t have to pay anything — but
        they will accept students, but they will accept students only from their
        own tribe or clan. Even if potential students have money to spend, if
        they belong to another tribe or language, such teachers will refuse to
        teach them. All these instances of those who don’t help as much as they
        could are examples of compassion with limits. Even the compassion of
        temple-goers can have its limits. Some find they are able to spread
        loving kindness to their own family, or to those who have done them
        favours in the past — but outside these groups they feel at a loss to
        spread their compassion. More compassionate people spread their loving
        kindness to the whole world without exception and the karmic fruits of
        such compassion are so much broader. In everyday life, many people we
        meet with are honest, but narrow-minded. Their virtues might extend only
        within their own household. Their tenderness and mercy is reserved only
        for their own family. However, they may be ready to cheat those external
        to their own family — feeling that strangers are ‘fair game’. As
        described in the Kaamabhogii Sutta (see Box 3), their motives are a
        mixture of scrupulous and unscrupulous, and the unscrupulous part
        applies solely to those other than their nearest and dearest. Such
        people make good leaders for a household, but such an attitude will
        create problems if they ever become a village councillor or mayor –
        because they are unable to share happiness with others outside their own
        family. Some people manage to expand the scope of their mind to
        encompass their whole village — such people deserve to make a good
        mayor but will create problems whenever they manage to work their way up
        to the provincial council. They will work only for the prosperity of
        their own village and leave the problems of the rest of the province
        unsolved. Some people make good provincial governors but if they ever
        work their way up to the ministry, they may start to create problems if
        they cannot expand their mind accordingly. If they fail to be aware of
        the needs of the whole country and curry favour only with those of their
        own province, their staff or their canvassers, they will fail to fulfil
        the position of responsibility they have attained. In the case that
        compassion is limited, miraculous powers one accrues will also be
        territory-limited. Thus the scope of awareness and compassion differs
        from one person to the next — but according to Buddhist economics it is
        important that we practice compassion limitlessly with the aim of
        expanding the mind thereby.

      BOX 4: Aa.lavaka Sutta

      The aims in Buddhist economics are derived from the Aa.lavaka Sutta.
      This Sutta consists of the answers given by the Buddha to thirteen
      questions of asked by a man-eating ogre [yakkha] called Aa.lavaka.

      1. What possession is the supreme pride of
        all men?
        : The Buddha replied that faith [saddha]
        is the possession which brings men supreme pride. The Buddha started
        with faith because (as mentioned earlier in the context of
        happiness in lives to come
        ) it is the initial brightness in the
        mind which will give us sufficient continuous illumination on a
        subject of Dhamma to allow us to practice it until we can understand
        it through our reasoning.
      2. What practice brings man supreme
        : The
        Buddha replied that the practice of virtue [???] can bring us
        real happiness. Our modern neglect of virtue and good character are
        relatively recent, being traceable back to the work of Kant who was
        the first to ‘invent’ happiness as distinct from virtue.
      3. Which is the taste supreme amongst all
        other tastes?
        : The Buddha answered that sincerety [sacca]
        is king amongst the flavours — and this will be all too apparent to
        anyone who has been deceived or who has been victim to back-stabbing
        or ingratitude.
      4. What do the wise praise as making one’s
        life supreme? :
        The Buddha answered that it is ‘wise
        living’ that is praised by the wise as supreme (the value of wisdom
        being as mentioned earlier in the context of happiness in lives to
      5. How can a person get to the other side
        (literally ‘to cross the pool’)? : The Buddha answered that people can
        get to the other side through faith. In the Buddha’s meaning the pool
        or ‘the ocean’ means the ‘cycle of existence’ [samsara]. He
        answered that faith [saddha] will be the quality to get one
        there, because faith in the authenticity of the Buddha’s enlightenment
        gives the perseverence to struggle against the defilements in order to
        enter upon Nirvana in the same way that the Buddha did.
      6. How can a person cross the ocean?
        : The Buddha replied that it is non-recklessness that will help us
        cross the ocean.
      7. How can one go beyond suffering?
        : The Buddha replied that suffering should be overcome by striving.
      8. How can one become pure?
        : The Buddha replied that one can become pure by one’s wisdom.
      9. How can one avail oneself of wealth?
        The Buddha answered that those who choose a suitable job, are skilled
        at what they do and who are diligent rather than lazy, will manage to
        amass wealth for themselves.
      10. How can one avail oneself of honour?
        The Buddha said that honour accrues to those who are honest. Even
        politicians who want to make their way to the top should never take
        the ‘easy way out’ of going back on their electoral promises. All it
        takes is for politicians to do as they promise and every one of their
        words will take on a built-in power to accomplish. By this simple
        policy, within a very short time, any such politician will soon be
        able to become the praise of the nation.
      11. How can one avail oneself of friends?
        The Buddha answered that the bonds of friendship can be secured by
        one’s generosity. If all we can think about is getting the most for
        ourselves, without sharing anything with others, no-one will want to
        be our friend . However, if you are the sort of person who rushes to
        make a present of whatever you receive, you will soon be surrounded by
      12. How can one develop wisdom?
        The Buddha replied that one can attain wisdom by having faith in the
        virtues that led the arahants to attain Nirvana, by avoiding
        recklessness, being thorough and listening carefully to teachings. In
        brief, if you want to attain wisdom, you need to start by listening
        carefully to teachings — however, even before you listen to a
        teaching, you need to start having a heart of faith. Any person who
        thus accepts the teaching of the arahants (i.e. is endowed with faith)
        with the intention of entering upon Nirvana, cannot be considered
        reckless. If such a person listens thoroughly to those teachings, they
        will avail themselves of wisdom. The whole process must start with
        faith. Without faith, one doesn’t even take the first step in the
        right direction. There is no wisdom without faith as its precursor.
        However, once one has faith, the other virtues like non-recklessness,
        thoroughness and good listening will bring forth wisdom.
      13. How can one avoid sorrow when leaving
        this world for the next?
        Apparently the ogre was
        also afraid of falling into hell because the next question he was to
        ask the Buddha was how one can avoid sorrow when leaving this world
        for the next. The ogre would like to earn a place in heaven for
        himself, but had not yet found the right path. The Buddha taught that
        if one is to avoid sorrow in the worlds to comeone must
        • truthfulness
        • training
          oneself without end [dama]  
        • patience
        • self-sacrifice

      For our purposes in
      the analysis of Buddhist economics, the most important answers are those to
      questions 1, 5 and 13.


      BOX 5: Some background on ogres

      In Buddhist cosmology, ogres [yakkha] come in several

      • Half-angelic ogres:
        the first category of ogres are half-man, half-angel and therefore
        belong to the lowest rung of the fortunate realms [sugati-bhuumi].
        Some can float in the air and keep the Precepts, meditating in
        earnest. Some are possessed of mental powers, but only partially –
        sometimes being visible to the human eye, sometimes invisible. They
        are half-material, half-ethereal, but are still considered part of the
        ‘fortunate realms’.
      • Fallen-angel ogres:
        second category of ogres are a little malevolent — liking to eat live
        human or animal flesh — therefore their precepts are not intact, but
        they may nonetheless have mental powers.
      • Physical-bodied ogres:
        the third category of ogres are not even able to float in the air.
        They have a material body like a human, but are able to change their
        appearance. They eat the same sort of food as humans, but some are
        ferocious while others keep the Precepts.  

      Aa.lavaka belonged to
      the category of ‘fallen-angel’ ogres. He could float in the air because at
      the time when he was still a human, he had performed a mixture of
      meritorious and demeritorious deeds. Through the power of the merit, he
      gained the ability ot float in the air at will, along with various other
      miraculous powers — however the powers would work only within the
      boundaries of his own territory.


      The Purely Spiritual level

      The purely spiritual level is not dealt with in the Diighajaa.nu Sutta. His
      questions covered only the lower two levels. The question remains of what
      sort of economics one needs if one wants to reach beyond the heaven realms to
      Nirvana and a complete end of all defilements. In the answers of the Buddha,
      He has already used the word ‘ariya‘ or ‘transcendental’ several times
      — especially in the last virtue of the second set of practices for happiness
      in lives to come — where wisdom. The aim on this level, which we must not
      lose sight of is to bring oneself to an end of defilements.


      The Economical Mandala of

      In the present day, educationalists and theoreticians alike need to produce
      graphics to help them to plan the economy for the years ahead. However,
      charts and graphics are not something that are an innovation for our
      generation — because ever since ancient times, Thai Buddhists have had a way
      of modelling economics as follows:

      They would summarized the practices on the level of a purely
      material goal in the form of a mandala to make it look a little more
      sacred. In the old days, when monks went to give a house an inaugural
      blessing, they used to mark such a diagram above the door. Sometimes the monk
      would not write the abbreviations in Thai, but in the Khom language of the
      old scriptures. In the beginning everyone would know the meaning of the
      abbreviations on the door lintel. Later generations changed the Khom
      characters to Thai characters for ease of comprehension. 

      They added a second layer of economic abbreviations around the
      original in order to denote practice on the level of a material/spiritual
      goal as follows:

      Usually the invited monk would write the mandala in flour
      mixed with water — but unfortunately in most cases, the monk would just
      write the mandala and return to the temple without explaining its
      meaning. Thus the owner of the house in later generations had no idea of the
      Buddhist economic principles encapsulated therein. They didn’t know the
      meaning and assumed that the mandala was sacred in itself — so once
      the monk had returned, they felt relieved that they had already done their
      duty as a good Buddhist and went back to playing poker in the assumption that
      they would soon be rich.

      This mandala so far gives only practices for economic aims
      on the material and material/spiritual levels. If you want to go all the way
      and have an economic aim that will take you to Nirvana, you need to add the
      Noble Eightfold Path to each of the eight corners of the mandala as
      illustrated in the diagram below:

      . . . where the abbreviations have
      the following meanings:



      Sammaa Di.t.thii or Right View



      Sammaa Sa.nkappa or Right Intention



      Sammaa Vaacaa or Right Speech



      Sammaa Kammanta or Right Action



      Sammaa Aajiiva or Right Livelihood



      Sammaa Vayaamaa or Right Effort



      Sammaa Sati or Right Mindfulness



      Sammaa Samaadhi or Right Concentration


      Because the people of old found the mandala
      so important, but feared that it would be lost, they made mandalas of
      it on cloth — making the famous ‘yantra‘ cloths found throughout
      Thailand. Later finding that even the ‘yantra‘ cloths were not very
      long-lasting, they engraved the pattern on plates of gold, silver or other
      metals. Later, with the wish to be able to take the teaching around with
      them, they made miniatures in on small metal rolls and made necklaces out of

      These were skilful means of ancient Thai Buddhists who tried to
      integrate Buddhist teachings into everyday life on every level — especially
      so as not to get carried away with madness for material wealth, and in order
      to focus instead on cultivating spiritual values. Practising one’s
      livelihood, according to the principles of Buddhism would immediately grasp
      that, one’s duty as a Buddhist was to avoid one’s livelihood being the reason
      for accumulating demerit in one’s life. With such principles in mind, even
      though it might be a great temptation to make a quick profit from
      unscrupulous practices, if one knew that it involved the Wrong Livelihood
      prohibited by the Buddha, one would rather sacrifice one’s life than to do

      In conclusion, you can say that Buddhist economics teaches us to
      interact economically in life without abandoning one’s Dhamma principles.



      Principles of Buddhist Macroeconomics



      “As for those at the top — even if they have a hundred
      million or a thousand billion, they are still in poverty — but their
      poverty differs from that of the grassroots poor because instead of being
      poor from a lack of resources, they are poor because they never know


      All of what we have spoken about up
      until now has concerned our personal economic habits — otherwise known as
      Buddhist Microeconomics. However, the Buddha also gave economic guidelines
      applicable on the national or global level — something we can perhaps call
      ‘Buddhist Macroeconomics’. We find such guidelines in the Kuu.tada.n.ta Sutta
      (see Box 6) for economics on this level. The Buddha distinguished two level
      of socio-economic groups in society: 

      Both the groups above and below have one thing in common — in
      that they feel poor. For the group below it is not just a feeling
      of poverty — they are poor because they live from hand to mouth, on
      the breadline often, struggling to make ends meet — no matter whether they
      are farmers, labourers or clerical workers. Shop-keepers and traders have to
      put themselves in debt to get the stock they need to open shop. Clerks tend
      to be treated unjustly and have a pitiable wage. All these groups are poor
      because of a real lack of wealth.


      BOX 6: Kuu.tadanta Sutta

      In the Kuu.tadanta Sutta (D.i.127ff.) the Buddha is asked what sort of
      sacrifice should be performed in order that it should be efficacious. In
      those days in India, sacrifices would usually entail the ritual killing of
      large numbers of live animals and the destruction of much plant life. In
      answer to this enquiry, the Buddha spoke of the ‘perfect sacrifice’
      performed in the days of yore by King Mahaa Vijitaavii, which caused no
      regrets to animal or human life at any stage. Part of the ’sacrifice’
      involved the co-operation of the upper crust of the king’s subjects but the
      sacrifice was in fact help given to those on the lower rungs. The Buddha
      thus distinguished two levels of socioeconomic groups in society:

      • those
        at the top 
      • politicians 
      • senior
        civil servants 
      • academics 
      • major
        businessmen and bankers
    1. those
      at the grassroots 
      • farmers
        and labourers 
      • shop-keepers
        and traders 
      • clerks
        and low-ranking civil-servants 

      He taught that any
      government or benefactor wishing to make the perfect sacrifice of benefit
      both to themselves and to society at large needed to take heed of the four
      upper groups and give to the three lower levels.


      As for those at the top — even if they have a hundred million or
      a thousand million, they still feel poor — but their poverty is different
      from those of the grassroots because the reason they feel poor is that their
      desires are insatiable.

      The majority of people in any country belong to the grassroots –
      usually 80-90% — that is usually the figure for people in any country who
      lack adequate wealth. As for those on top, although they are not very
      numerous, their every move has some impact on the government and might even
      cause a change of government in some cases. Those at the top are few but
      wield a lot of power.

      Government Investment

      In the olden days, economic problems on a national scale would be solved by
      making concessions to those at the top. However, no matter how many
      concessions the government may make to such figures, it is never enough for
      them. Unfortunately, when such giants make a fuss, their voice is loud. Even
      though those below are more numerous, their ability to protest is reduced
      because they are struggling even to keep their head above water — and can
      afford to set aside no time to protest. Thus the government tends to protect
      its skin by giving concessions to those at the top. However, even if you were
      to give them a hundred million, it would hardly be enough (It is hardly
      enough for a good night out in Las Vegas). Thus helping at the top just keeps
      the giants quiet without satisfying them — and meanwhile the grassroots
      continue to die an undignified death.

      If we turn to look at what advice the Buddha gave for government
      investment, we find that He supported allocation of funds to those at the
      grassroots — but with one important condition — that the recipients should
      be carefully selected. If handouts are given indiscriminately, you may find
      that the more impatient would rather kill the golden goose than wait for its

      Thus when giving concessions or help to those at the grassroots,
      you should look to see which people are virtuous (i.e. manage to keep the
      Five Precepts and are established in Right Livelihood) but who lack the
      capital or technology. They should be those who are diligent and have
      attained success at a certain level — such people should be selected to
      receive concessions. Helping such people will also be an example for others
      to follow — by helping in such a way you will find that your investment
      doesn’t immediately disappear as it would if helping the people at the top.

      These are principles which it was easier to follow in the olden
      days. A king would set out a ‘talent scout’ who would look for people of real
      virtue deserving to be helped by the king. By helping such people, exemplars
      of virtue would shine forth in the kingdom. Sometimes it might be traders of
      exceptional virtue who lacked capital or honest civil servants who had been
      mistreated or had received insufficient salary. However, the most important
      was always to select those who were virtuous. Having helped such people,
      there should be follow-up — to see how such people had responded to the
      help. Before long there would be could get down to work, before long the
      products of their work would start to become apparent. At that point, it
      would be appropriate to involve some of the giants in order to help in the
      marketing and other high level strategies.

      However, in the present day it is difficult for anyone to accept
      that one person might be more worthy than another of help merely on the
      observations of a ‘talent scout’. The talent scout might be partial. Thus in
      the present day it is usually more convenient for people to work as a
      committee to look after allocation of local budgets. Even this arrangement
      might not be failsafe, however, because some local councils are less honest
      than others. This is why our society has developed the system of democracy [lokaadhipateyya]
      (with all its faults) in place of the Buddha’s ideal system of government [dhammaadhipateyya]
      (D.iii.220, A.i.147) where virtue alone and not the majority vote is the
      deciding factor in government.

      There is still the risk, however, that the money might easily
      disappear when invested at the grassroots — but if the government afraid to
      invest, they might never have the chance to train the ‘new blood’ in
      responsibility. If they take the money and still fail you, maybe you should
      just consider the lost capital as a the cost of ‘tuition’ in responsibility.

      In the case the government cannot afford to risk losing money by
      helping at the grassroots, they should bring in some of those at the top,
      such as the local M.P. or the local head of the civil service or academics to
      help set up systems and procedures for those who are less knowledgeable. The
      trouble with many working at the grassroots level is that they don’t have the
      knowledge of administration or any idea of how to set up systems in order to
      work efficiently when starting out. If those at the top ‘put their man in’ to
      help at the start-up of new enterprises and help by following up progress in
      the initial months — concerning the accounts, legal matters, and
      accountability they can help to create a feeling of collective ownership of a
      project (because if it is a success it will benefit everybody in the locality).
      Accountants should help to teach the recipients of the investment how to
      regulate their finances — because otherwise, if the money invested should
      disappear because good accounts have not been kept, who can be blamed?

      When encouraging businessmen at the top to get involved with
      investments in the grassroots, sometimes there will be something in it too
      for the big businesses, sometimes not — but irrespective, as fellow
      countrymen, they ought to feel proud that they are doing something for
      the nation — even if it is only considered part of the company’s budget for
      ‘good works’. As for the government, there is always a risk that the
      investment will be lost — but in any case it is better than investing at the
      top because in that way it would be lost for sure.

      This is a problem of how investment in the lower sector can help
      society to develop. Of course, no-one can expect 100% return with such
      investments — but at the very least will upgrade the ability of the bottom
      rungs of society to take responsibility for their own future. Success depends
      on the follow-up and the degree of co-operation between all involved –
      co-operating to develop members of society with truthfulness, the inspiration
      to develop themselves without end, patience and self-sacrifice — the Virtues
      of the Householder mentioned in the previous section — struggling against
      all the things that prevent our society from having a fair economy.

      Cleaning Up Society

      Even on a national level, it is the ‘roads to ruin’ which do most damage to a
      fair economy. If roads to ruin must continue to exist in society, then they
      should be zone-restricted and with clear opening hours so as not to encourage
      them to spread throughout society indiscriminately. Better than that, however
      is to try to eradicate the ‘roads to ruin’ completely from our society –
      something which can only ever happen if there is co-operation on all levels.




      Riches ruin only the foolish, 
      not those in quest of the Beyond.
      By craving for riches the witless man,
      ruins himself as well as other



      This book has dealt with the problems of the world through the
      eyes of Buddhist Economics. Usually such matters are not the domain of
      expertise of a monk such as the present author — but when economics become
      such an implicit part of everyone’s life, even monks cannot afford not to
      have a standpoint — however, where monks do become involved in such matters,
      it should be in a way suitable for a monk . . . that is, to try to gain
      insight into the reality of economics and waking people up to that reality,
      helping to train-up virtuous people and encouraging Buddhists truly to pursue
      Perfections in the footsteps of the Buddha — spreading the wisdom of
      Buddhism far and wide, while helping to forge an amenable homeground [pa.tiruupadesa]
      for Buddhism. It is the hope of the present author that by clarifying
      Buddhist principles relating to economics on the three levels of aim in life,
      it will be easier for Buddhist in conscience to know where compromises can be
      made and where compromises would be unscrupulous. What sort of wealth is
      worthwhile and what sorts undermine the fabric of society. It is also the
      present author’s hope that readers will start to grasp that from the point of
      view of Buddhism it is not just money or economic figures per se that matters
      in economics — but happiness on three levels of aim in life. Often things
      other than money can better bring happiness and from the Buddhist economic
      viewpoint we would say that the virtues mentioned in this book that bring
      mental wellbeing or inner freedom are more valuable than money can buy — and
      so economically priceless.

      is lost nothing is lost

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