What is wealth? It is something which makes our living easy and comfortable. We know that Buddhism is a way of living. Though the main objective of Buddhism is to show the way to ultimate happiness, nirvana, it does not neglect householders and their secular happiness. Therefore, scholars say that the word ‘asceticism’ is not an appropriate term to denote Buddhism. For your understanding, today we are going to discuss the Buddhist perspective on wealth.
The Buddha said that ‘poverty’ is a suffering for householders and being in debt due to poverty is a misery for them. Poor person hardly lives happily with his family and kinsmen. The one who is stricken by poverty unable to make ends meet and therefore, he may not perform his social duties and responsibilities properly. Poverty could persuade him to do wrong things to get money. This person may tempt to steal first and then to do robberies and finally he becomes a criminal. By the judicial law he is condemned as a criminal. People consider him as a notorious and untrustworthy guy. In religious perspective he may be considered as a person with lack of morality.
Some people misunderstand that wealth is a trouble or an obstacle to run a righteous life. They consider wealth as a poison or a poisonous snake, which may attack people unexpectedly. Yes, it could be true when it is used in a wrong manner. Millionaires become bankrupts and vice versa. This is not a problem of wealth but a problem created by wrong usage. Poison should not be touched with a wounded hand and a snake should not be caught from its coil or tail. In this manner different things should be handled in different ways; so as money. Wealth is essential for all householders but not for recluses. One of the best examples is Anathapindika, the Buddha’s benefactor was a banker. Being a Setthi (billionaire), he had a happy, meaningful and righteous family life. There were many other rich people in the time of the Buddha who attained spiritual levels of the path of sainthood. Setthi of Rajagaha (parents of Yasa), Lady Visakha and many other rich male and female devotees followed the Dhanmma properly. They even built up monasteries for the Buddha and his disciples. Kings such as Suddhodana, Kosala, Bimbisara were very good followers of the Buddha. Therefore, we can say that greediness, stinginess and wrong life style such as debauchery are the causes for corruptions but not wealth.
How to Earn Money? - The Buddhist Perspective
Though money is necessary for us but black money or dirty money which is earned in wrong ways is rejected in Buddhism. Buddhism always advocates wealth should be obtained through righteous ways with right effort. The wealth which is earned through correct ways can be even used for benefits of many and for one’s spiritual cultivation as well. The Anana Sutta provides details how to earn money and be happy with the wealth one obtained in correct ways."Householder, in this world, there is rightfully earned wealth with right effort. This wealth is obtained through one’s own hands with dripping sweat". (Anguttara Nikaya II).
The advice given in the Anana Sutta is extremely important regarding earning money. Some people look for easy money through wrong means and unlawful ways. Any kind of wrongful or unlawful earning is not recognized as proper earning in Buddhism. There are five ways of wrong earning according to early Buddhist scriptures. The Buddha taught these five types of businesses should be abandoned by an upasaka or a Buddhist. They are given as follows.
i. Satthavanijja - Business dealing with weapons
ii. Sattavanijja - Business dealing with selling living beings including slaves
iii. Mamsavanijja - Business dealing with meat
iv. Majjavanijja - Business dealing with liquor/ drugs and any kind of intoxicants
v. Visavanijja - Business dealing with poisons
Apart from these five, if there are any kinds of wrongful and unlawful means and ways of earnings, all sort of those incomes are not welcome in Buddhism. Buddhist economy goes with human qualities, values and virtues. Buddhism always emphasizes on social values such as harmony, loving-kindness, peace and human dignity. Where there is no these values, there occur lots of problems, which caused to social degradation. Selling weapons, for instance, is not a good business because weapons are used for killing animals and human beings. In the modern world weapon business is one of the top businesses and every country spends lot of money buying and maintaining weapons. Poor countries are suffering and lots of people are dying of hunger but rich countries are wasting billions of money over weapons. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are a big threat to the whole world. For instance, nuclear weapons can burn the whole world within a few seconds.
Producing and selling poisons for destructing life is also a prohibited business in Buddhism. Any kind of killing is not justifiable in Buddhism. Selling animals for meat and selling slaves for slavery are also not justifiable. Every being loves its life. Therefore, what Buddhism advocates is ensure and protect the life of all beings. People are merciless and kill animals in brutal manner just for consuming. Slavery was a common thing in ancient world but it is prohibited in the modern world. The Buddha saved several slave boys and girls and helped them to free from slavery and even some of them entered the Buddhist Order. Slave girls like Punna and Rajjumala and a scavenger boy Sunita were freed from slavery because of Buddhas’s great compassion (Mahakaruna).
Because of drugs numerous problems occur in the society. In the Sigalovada Sutta, six types of bad consequences are given as a result of indulging in intoxicants or drugs. They are:
i. Loss of wealth
ii. Increase of quarrels
iii. Susceptibility to disease
iv. Earning an evil reputation
v. Shameless exposure of body
vi. Weakening of intellect
Drug smuggling is a big menace almost in every country. Many people are being killed because of drugs smuggling. How many people are dying, being subject to various sicknesses in every moment? Nemoerous problems occur due to drug adiction. Therefore, it is very clear why the Buddha has condemned such kind of business as unethical and wrong means of livelihood.
While doing business, one should refrain from cheating the customers. Today in the modern world ‘black market’ has been spread everywhere like a virus. People are being cheated in many ways. By manufacturing, producing and selling low quality products, unhealthy food and counterfeit goods, business world cheats the customers inhumanely. The Buddha mentioned that the following three cheatings should be avoided in right business.
i. Tulakuta – Wrong scalingii. Kamsakuta – Counterfeiting; specially, in gold and other metal works.
iii. Manaakuta – Wrong measurements
When we pay attention on the above mentioned facts, one thing is clear. Not only in the modern world but also in ancient time, dating back to 2500 years, the ‘art of cheating’ in businesses would have been a common problem.
The Lakkhana Sutta of Dighanikaya explains that the Buddha got beautiful even teeth as a result of refraining from wrong scaling, making counterfeit items and wrong measurements in his past lives. The moral given here is extremely important. One may get crooked teeth as a bad kamma of cheating others in business in their past lives. Therefore, no sweet smile is possible for them. The Tulakuta Sutta explains that there are only a small number of people who live in this world refraining from wrong scaling, making counterfeit items and wrong measurements. The majority follows those wrongful ways.
Besides doing business, there are different types of jobs found in the Buddhist scriptures. They can be categorized as follows.i. Agriculture - kasikamma
ii. Cattle-breeding – gorakkha
iii. Archery – issattha
iv. State service - rajaporisa and
v. Other technical and skillful jobs - sippannatara
The various skillful occupations of the fifth category can be seen in the Pli canon. Among them;
i. Acariya – teachers
ii. Rathakara – chariot makers
iii. Malakara – garland makers
iv. Kumbhakara – pottery workers
v. Lekhaka – secretarial
vi. Suvannaara – goldsmiths
vii. Naccaka – dancers
viii. Gayaka – singers
ix. Vadaka – musicians
x. Nesada – hunters
xi. Pupphachaddaka – scavengers and so on.
-To be Cont. -