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Sunday, 15 May 2011





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Thoughts for the Sambuddhatva Jayanthi - 2600:

Buddha's teachings to lead a happy and successful life

The Buddha the enlightened one taught that to be born a human being is a difficult and a rare achievement for one, in his sojourn through sansara. The Buddha thus analysed every aspect of human life and preached the Dhamma to enable the human beings to lead a happy and a contended life and achieve the optimum advantage of being born a human being.

The most remarkable feature of the teachings of the Buddha which he did in the 6th Century B.C. is its similarity to modern teachings on these subjects and the relevance and applicability of the Dhamma in resolving the complex problems in modern life. This is perhaps the reason for the growing interest in Buddhism, all over the world.

Accordingly those who are of the view that Buddhism is concerned only with lofty ideals, high moral and philosophical thought and it ignores the social and economic welfare of people are wrong. The Buddha was concerned and interested in the happiness of the human beings.

However, he preached that happiness was not possible without leading a pure life based on moral and spiritual principles. But he understood that leading such a life was hard in unfavourable material and social conditions.

Buddhism does not consider material welfare as an end in itself. It is only a means to an end, which is a higher and a nobler end.

However, it is a means which is indispensable; indispensable in achieving a higher end for man's happiness. So, Buddhism recognizes the need of certain material conditions favourable to spiritual achievement.

Philosophical problems

The Buddha did not take life out of its social, economic and political aspects. His teachings on ethical, spiritual and philosophical problems are fairly well known.

But not much is known, particularly in the west about his teachings on social economic and political matters. Yet there are numerous discourseses dealing with these scattered throughout ancient Buddhist texts. To quote a few examples,

The Cakkavattisinhanadasutta of the Digha-nikaya clearly states that poverty is the cause of immorality and crimes such as thefts, falsehood, violence, hatred, cruelty etc. The kings in ancient times, like governments of today tried to suppress crime through punishment. The Kutadanta-sutta of the same Nikaya explains the futility of this course of action as a deterrent to crime.

Eradication of crime

Instead the Buddha preached that in order to eradicate crime, the economic condition of the people should be improved, seeds and other facilities should be provided to farmers to cultivate, capital should be provided for traders and those engaged in business; adequate wages should be paid to those who are employed.

When people are provided with opportunities for earning a sufficient income they will be contended, will have no fear or anxiety, and consequently the country will be peaceful and free from crime. Due to this reason, the Buddha preached to the lay persons to improve their economic condition.

However, this does not mean that the Buddha approved the hoarding of wealth with desire and attachment which is against his fundamental teachings, nor did he approve each and every way of earning one's livelihood.

There are certain trades like the production and sale of armaments which he condemned as a evil means of livelihood.

A man named Digajanu visited the Buddha and requested the Enlightened One to guide him along the path conducive to the happiness of layman in this world and hereafter. In response, the Buddha preached to him that there are a few things which are conducive to a man's happiness in this world. First - he should be skilled, efficient, earnest and energetic in whatever profession he is engaged, and he should know it well (utthana-Sampada).

Second, he should protect his income which he has thus earned righteously with the sweat of his brow (arakkha-sampada)

Third-he should have good friends (Kalyana-mitta) who are faithful, learned; virtuous, liberal and intelligent, who will help him along the right path aways from evil.

Fourth he should spend reasonably in proportion to his income, neither too much nor too little ie he should not hoard wealth avariciously, nor should he be extravagant - in other words he should live within his means (samajivikata).

Thereafter the Buddha expounded the four virtues conducive to a layman's happiness hereafter:

One-Saddha-he should have faith and confidence in moral, spiritual and intellectual values. Two: Sila, he should abstain from destroying and harming life, from stealing and cheating, from adultery, from falsehood, and from intoxicating drinks and drugs.

Three-Caga: he should practice charity, generosity, without attachment and craving for his wealth.

Four panna: he should develop wisdom which leads to the complete destruction of suffering, to the realization of Nirvana.


Sometimes the Buddha even went into details about saving money and spending it, as for instance, when he adviced the young Singala that he should spend one fourth of his income on his daily expenses, invest half in his business and put aside one fourth for an emergency.

The Buddha once preached to Anathapindika, one of his most devoted lay disciples who founded for him the celebrated Jetavana monastery at Savatti, that a layman who leads an ordinary family life has four kinds of happiness.

The first happiness is to enjoy economic security or sufficient wealth acquired by just and righteous means (atthi-sukha) the second is spending that wealth liberally on himself, his family, his friedns and relatives, and on meritorious deeds (bhoga-sukha); the third to be free from debts (anana sukha), the fourth happiness is to live a faultless, and a pure life without committing evil in thought, word or deed (anavajja sukha).

It must be noted here that three of these kinds are economic, and that the Buddha finally reminded Anathapindika that three of these kinds are economic and material.

Economic welfare

The Buddha finally reminded him that economic and material happiness "is not worth one sixteenth part" of the spiritual happiness arising out of a faultless and good life.

From the examples given above, one could realise that the Buddha considered economic welfare as a requisite for human happiness, but he did not recognise progress as real and true if it was only material, devoid of a spiritual and moral foundation.

While encouraging material progress Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented society.

The Buddha was just as clear on politics, on war and peace. It is too well-known that Buddhism advocates and preaches non-violence and peace as its universal message, and does not approve any kind of violence or destruction of life.

According to Buddhism there is nothing that can be called a "just war" - which is only a false term coined and put into circulation to justify and excuse hatred, cruelty, violence and massacre.

Who decide what is just or unjust? The mighty and the victorious are "just" and the weak and the defeated are "unjust". Buddhism does not accept this position.

"Sabba Papassa Akarnan Kusalassa Upasampada, Sachitta Pariyo Dapanam Etan Buddhana Sasanan."


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