Ven. Balangoda Anandamaitreya
A talk given at Dharmavaijaya Vihara, in Los Angeles,
on 2nd October 1990
Some scholars who have read very little of Buddhist literature have stated that Buddhism is a religion meant only for persons that have renounced household life. Still others have tried to show it as a kind of pessimistic religion. Some others due to their prejudice or poor knowledge of Buddhism, have tried from their opinionatedness to prove that Buddhism is a kind of religion hostile to worldly progress.
But the unprejudiced and broad-minded scholars have honestly and openly praised it and declared its greatness and practicability for every stage of life. One of the great Pali scholars, the late Mrs. Rhys Davids has said in the introduction to the English translation of Sigalovada-suttanta in Digha-nikaya:
“This Suttanta is called the Vinaya of the Houseman. Hence… in one who practises what he has been taught in it, growth is to be looked for, and not decay, and truly we may say even now of this Vinaya, or the code of discipline, so fundamental are the human interests involved, so sane and wide is the wisdom that envisages them, that the utterances are as fresh and practically as binding today and here as they were then at Rajagaha. Happy would have been the village or the clan on the banks of the Ganges, where the people were full of the kindly spirit of fellow-feeling, the noble spirit of justice which breathes through these naïve and simple sayings. Not less happy would be the village, or the family on the banks of the Thames today, of which this could be said”.
This world is like a school in which there are beings of varied mental levels. A teacher uses toys and pictures and the like when he teaches the children of the kindergarten section. To the boys of the middle forms are taught lessons suitable to their standard. To the students of the highest forms are taught lessons dealing with higher subjects like higher mathematics etc.
The Lord Buddha saw the world as a school of many forms and gave his instructions suitable to the mental levels of his hearers.
One day a poor Brahmin came to the Lord Buddha and said “Master Gautama, I am a poor person and am going to a distant city seeking a job with a view to earn some wealth. Will you kindly give me some instruction in order to be successful in my job.” The Lord agreed and instructed him on the way to success in his works. Some time passed and the Brahmin returned as a man of riches.
On another occasion the Lord on his tour of service to the world arrived at a village called Veludvara-gama. The villagers came to him and said “Lord, we are householders following varied jobs for maintenance of our families, and thereby we are full of responsibilities. We have no time to devote to higher religious practices. We expect from you some instructions only for two things, to live our present life in peace and to be born into a happy state after death.”
The Lord saw their mental tendency and gave an instruction suiting their need.
Now let us see what the Lord has said concerning the accumulation of wealth.
One day the Lord addressed Anathapindika, one of his lay devotees, and said:
“Householder, there are five merits of earning wealth. What are the five?
A wealthy person can live a healthy, happy and long life supplying all his needs. This is the first merit of the wealth.
A wealthy person can look after his parents when they are sick or old or in need of his support. This is the second merit of the wealth.
A wealthy person can support his wife and children supplying all their needs, This is the third merit of the wealth.
A wealthy person can help his relatives, friends, servants and others. This is the fourth merit of the wealth.
There are recluses and priests who have given up household life and devoted their time for higher religious practices. As they depend on the support of the laity, a wealthy person could support them and become a sharer of their virtues which would conduce him to be born into a happy state after death. This is the fifth merit of wealth.”
In the Mangala Sutta the Lord has expounded 38 beatitudes out of which, to look after parents, is an important one which has been mentioned in the Sutta in his own words as “Mata-pitu-upatthanam”. The next one is “Putta-darassa sangaho” which means “To look after wife and children is a beatitude.”
“Natakananca sangaho” to treat relatives and friends is another beatitude.
In many a place the Lord has advised his followers of “Ubhayattha-patipada” to work for the well being both of oneself and of others.
According to some religions it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven. But according to Buddhism it is easier for a rich man to enter heaven, if he properly spends his wealth, fulfilling his duties. It is not wealth but miserliness and other wrong ways that obstruct the way to heaven. So the Lord Buddha said:
“Na ve kadariya – deva – lokam vajanti” which means “Certainly the miserly cannot go to heaven (whether they are rich or poor).”
The Lord praising the wealthy who are generous has said:
“Datva ca bhutva ca yathanubhavam Anindito saggamupeti thanam”
This means “The generous rich man gives or helps others and enjoys himself, too, and is praised here and will go to heaven after death.”
Now the question is “How should one earn wealth? What has the Lord said about it?”
In many a discourse like Ujjaya-Sutta, Vyagghapajja – Sutta, Sigalovada – Sutta, instructions for being successful in earning wealth, as expounded by the Lord, have been mentioned in detail.
One day Vyagghapajja the Koliyan asked the lord for some instruction concerning success in life here and hereafter. The Lord instructed him on how to be successful and happy in both the lives.
“To be successful in business and other affairs in this life, the Lord said, ‘a person should be endowed with four things’ namely Utthana-sampada, arakkha-sampada, kalyanamittata and samajivikata. Here the first one is utthana sampada which means ‘achievement of indefatigable effort.’ A businessman should be energetic and active. He should try to live closer to the nature, not fearing slight cold, slight heat, slight rain and the like. Sometimes he may fail in his effort, due to obstacles, but by that much he should not loose his courage. He should try over and over again. At last he will be successful. ‘At every step’, the Lord said, “he should be mindful, far-seeing and cautious.”
The second thing a businessman should be possessed of has been expounded by the word “arakkha-sampada” which means “the achievement of awareness”. This implies to be careful in not wasting what one earns. The Lord said that there were many ways which would bring decay to one’s wealth and therefore one should be careful and vigilant in keeping one’s wealth. Sometimes fire or flood and the like might consume his wealth. Sometimes one’s ill-disposed heirs would try to take away one’s wealth. If one falls into bad habits of gambling, debauchery in sex and drunkenness, before long one would be dragged down to poverty. One should be loyal to the government, otherwise one’s wealth would possibly be confiscated. As there are so many ways to a person’s degradation, he must be vigilant and very careful in not wasting his wealth.
The third thing an earner should be possessed of is “Kalyana – mittata” which means, to have good companions, who instruct, help and encourage him in carrying out his business. Suppose he could not find out good companions, then he should be careful not to fall into association with persons of evil ways. It is better to keep oneself to oneself and carry out one’s business alone.
“No ce labhetha nipakam sahayam… eko care khagga-visana-kappo” is the Lord’s advice, which means “If you could not find a good companion, go on alone like a unicorn, and never have contact with a bad companion.”
A person’s kind parents and relatives or teachers, monks, recluses or priests, whosoever are wise and compassionate, who hope his success are his good friends or companions.
The fourth point is “Samajivikata” which means ‘even or simple way of living’. A person who continues his business should spend his money very carefully. His expenditure should not exceed his income. A salesman who carries his scales, when he holds up the balance is watchful and sees that by so much it had dipped down or by so much it has tilted up. In the same way a person who follows any kind of business must be watchful so that his expenditure should not exceed his income, otherwise he would be unsuccessful in his effort. If a person with small income imitates thee ways of rich men of high income and tries to live on a grand scale, he will not be able to continue long the same way and fall into insolvency and his business will be a failure. Therefore the lord advised every earner to live his life as simple as possible. This does not mean that he should live meanly. If his income is great and if he lives meanly as a stingy person, his effort in earning wealth is useless. In his expending he should be neither too high nor two low. This is what the Lord has meant by ‘even way of living’.
In Sigalakovada-sutta (in Digha-nikaya), we see the Lord’s advice to youth Sigalaka with reference to using one’s income in the following stanza:
“Ekena bhoge bhunjeyya, dvihi kamman payojaye. Catutthm ca nidhapeyya, apadasu bhavissati.”
“Let him divide the income into four portions. Out of the four, one portion should be used for his daily expenses. Two portions should be used for the progression of his business. One portion should be deposited carefully for the use in future in the case of any failure or bankruptcy.”
The Lord has never praised poverty. He has said “Daliddiyam dukkham loke kamabhogino” which means “Poverty is an ordeal for a person living a household life who enjoys pleasures”.
Thus the Lord’s advice to householders was to try to earn wealth and to spend it in proper way and thus to live a useful life.
Speaking about the merchant who would be successful in this business the Lord said:
“A salesman should know the quality of goods he buys, he should know their price and the amount of profit he gains on the sale of those goods. He should be skilled in the art of buying and selling. He should be honest and trustworthy so that highly rich persons would deposit their money under his care.
On another occasion the Lord said that a trader should be active in his business throughout all the three parts of the daytime: morning, noon and afternoon and that if he be inactive and lazy he would not be successful.
There are some Persons, simple-living and contented with a little amount of income. They do not want to become rich as they like to live a simple life But if a person expects to do a great service, to help the people who are in need of his help, he should try to earn much wealth by right means, he should be virtuous and energetic. A real follower of the Lord, that expects to earn wealth, will certainly be a rich man before long, if he vigilantly follows the Lord’s instructions.
Once when the Lord visited the village Pataligama, he addressed his lay devotees and said that the really virtuous person was vigilant and energetic and thereby would be successful in his business and earn a great mass of wealth.
According to Buddhism, poverty may be a result either of a past Karma or of a present Karma or of the both. But most of such Karmas can be suppressed and overcome by wise and far-seeing steps one takes at present life.
“Atthekaccani pap-kammani payoga-sampatti-patibalhani”. “There are certain unwholesome karmas which can be suppressed and overcome by means of wise and strong steps taken in this life (Mahaniddesa). Most often it depends on the present situation that a past Karma good or bad rises up and finds opportunity to give its result. Therefore the effort that is made at present is the pre-eminant cause of a person’s progress or failure in the case of the majority of people. “Utthahatha ma pamadattha (get up, loiter not) is the Lord Buddha’s frequent advice to the world.
Let us see further what the Lord Buddha has said concerning wealth and other necessities of life.
“Brethren, these ten things desirable, pleasing and charming, are hard to achieve in this world. What are the ten” Wealth, brethren, is desirable, pleasing and charming, but hard to achieve in the world. Beauty…, health…, virtues…, holy religious life…, true friends…, erudition… wisdom… genuine Dhamma… to be born in heavens…, each of these things is desirable, pleasing and charming, but hard to achieve.”
“Brethren, to these ten things desirable, pleasing and charming and hard to achieve in the world, ten things are obstacles. What ten? Laziness and lack of activity is the obstacle to wealth. Lack of finery and lack of adornment are the obstacles to beauty. Following unhygienic ways is the obstacle to health. Association with persons of foul character is the obstacle to virtues. Unrestraint of senses is the obstacle to life of holy celibacy. Deceiving is the obstacle to friends. Lack of recitation and re-reading is the obstacle to erudition. Not to listen and not to ask question sis the obstacle to wisdom. Lack of practice and contemplation is the obstacle to achievement of true. Dhamma. Getting on to evil way is the obstacle to birth in heavens.”
A person who expects to achieve success either in the worldly or in the religious life should get out of and avoid these obstacles and follow the way of growth and success as follows:
The Lord said:
“Brethren, by increasing in ten growths the Aryan disciple (a noble lay follower of a Buddha) grows in the Aryan growth, takes hold of the essential, takes hold of the best for his person. What ten? He grows in landed property, in wealth and granary, children and wife in servants and workmen, in four-footed beasts (i.e. cattle and sheep); he grows in faith, and virtue, in erudition and in generosity and wisdom.”