6 BUDDHIST APPROACH TO RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OF WEALTH FOR A PEACEFUL AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 19:09
by Ven. Yatalamatte Kusalananda Thero





BUDDHIST APPROACH TO RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OF WEALTH FOR A PEACEFUL AND SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY
 

by Ven. Yatalamatte Kusalananda Thero*






One of the major threats to peace and sustainability in the contemporary society is irresponsible production and undue consumption of wealth. Righteous wealth is welcome and poverty is not accepted in Buddhism. Collecting abundant wealth earned through unrighteous means is rejected. Good utility of wealth earned through right livelihood and straightforward effort and its responsible consumption is highly encouraged. Balance and moderate consumption of wealth earned through right livelihood (sammā ājīva) is encouraged. Absence of adequate wealth known as poverty is a suffering in the world for a person (householder) who enjoys sensuality (AN. 6.45 (3). WPB. p.914.). According to the Kuadanta Sutta (DN. 5, WPB. p. 135.), Cakkavattisīhanāda moral
decline occurs because of poverty and vices and crimes take place
destroying peaceful existence in the society. This is a pathetic reality
even in modern context. Therefore, the main objective of this paper is
to expose a Buddhist approach to responsible production (earning)
and consumption of wealth for a peaceful and sustainable society.

Kuadanta and Cakkavattisīhanāda Suttas reveal that social peace and equality are harmed due to moral decline committed through vices provoked by poverty (DN. 26, WPB. p. 403 ff.)


*. M.A. (UKEL)/ M.A. (BPU)/ PGD (PGIPBS)/ B.A. (PERA), Chief Abbot, Sri Pur-
waramaya, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka.
 


Overcoming of poverty should not be understood as the increase of wealth, more desires and wants which are to be satisfied by more consumables and luxuries. In this context, the significant difference between ones needs and wants should be recognized. Needs – four requisites (food, clothes, shelter and medicine) should be fulfilled and wants should be limited and reduced as they are insatiable and boundless and the continuous satisfaction of wants or desires will bring intense and destructive sufferings, miseries, etc. to individual, family, society, environment and the world.

According to Buddhism, poverty involves suffering which causes destruction of equality and peace in the society. As a philosophy of living which advocates the elimination of suffering, Buddhism does not appreciate poverty. As the Ia Sutta (AN. 6.45 (3). WPB. p.914)
reveals, poverty is suffering in the world for a householer. Getting
into debt is suffering in the world for a poor person who partakes
of sensuality. The decline of moral qualities propelled by poverty
is suffering to the entire society. Buddhism values detachment
towards material goods and commends contented life (santussako),
few duties (appkicco) light or simple living (sallahukavutti), easy
to support (subharo) as mentioned in the Karaīya Metta Sutta, (Sn. 1.8) fewness of wishes, having less wants or fewness of desires (appicchatā) (AN. 114 (8), WPB. p. 987) as a virtue and balanced
living (samajīvikatā) (AN. 8.54 (4), WPB. p. 1194). Poverty is the non-possession of the basic material requirements for leading a decent life free from hunger, malnutrition, disease, bad health, loss of shelter, absence of other preliminary facilities for standard living, etc. Buddhism recognizes the significance of the fulfillment of the minimum material needs for a decent living even in the context of the aspirants of its higher spiritual goal. For instance, the four requisites for one who has renounced the worldly life are
  1. food sufficient to alleviate hunger and maintain good health,
  2. clothing to protect the body and to be socially decent, (iii)
shelter for protection from rain, winds, etc. and for the undisturbed
engagement with mind development and (iv) medicine sufficient
to maintain health care, cure and prevent illnesses. As the Andha
Sutta mentions, some persons are like the completely blind (andho)
since they do not have the vision to improve their material wealth
not yet acquired and increase wealth already acquired and also do
 


not have the vision to lead morally raised life knowing wholesome and unwholesome qualities, blameworthy and blameless qualities, inferior and superior qualities and dark and bright qualities. Some are like the one-eyed (ekacakkhu) since they have the vision to improve their wealth not yet acquired and increase wealth already acquired but they do not see the necessity to lead a morally raised life knowing wholesome and unwholesome qualities, blameworthy and blameless qualities, inferior and superior qualities and dark and bright qualities. Those who are two-eyed (dvicakkhu) are likened to have the vision to improve both (AN. 3.29 WPB. p. 224.). Only the increase or improvement of material conditions is not encouraged in Buddhism and a causal relationship exists between material poverty and ethical or social deterioration as the Cakkavattisīhanāda Suttas exposes. Thus, poverty, from this point of view does not involve the absence of an abundance of goods that stimulates the insatiable greed of man.
  1. GREATEST  WEALTH

According to the teaching of the Buddha, the greatest wealth is   contentment   (santuṭṭhiparamaṃ    dhana)   (Dhp.   Ch.15.
V.204. p.177). The Ānaya Sutta (AN. 4.62 (2). WPB. p. 452 –
453.) introduces the four kinds of bliss that can be attained by a
householder in the proper season and on the proper occasions such
as the bliss of having wealth, the bliss of making use of wealth, the
bliss of debtlessness and the bliss of blamelessness. Thus, the wealth
earned righteously is admired and poverty is not at all encouraged
in the four types of bliss. Even the survival of the Buddhist
Dispensation and contribution to spiritual life is dependent on
good support from the people. Therefore, poverty, according to
Buddhist teachings, is the absence of material necessities that obstruct
a decent living endowed with light living (sallavukavutti) and balanced
living (samajīvikatā) through right livelihood (sammā ājīva).
  1. ECONOMIC ORDER OF SOCIETY

Economic order of society is essential for restoration of a sustainable society. Material scarcity is seen as a key source of conflict that harms equality and peace. According to the Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta (DN. 26, WPB. p. 395 ff.) and the Kūadanta Sutta (DN. 5.
 


WPB. p. 133 ff.), the roots of conflicts lie not only in individual consciousness but also exist in the very structure of society that encourages those roots to grow. These Suttas point out that when the economic order of society is of inequality, injustice and vicious economic disparities; a substantial section of the community is reduced to poverty and people rebel against such social order and as a result peaceful existence in the society is harmed. According to the Kūadanta Sutta, the failure on the part of the ruler to look
after the essential needs of the people drive the people who are
deprived of their needs to resort to crime and rebellion against the
governance (state). The imposition of penalties to deal with such
a situation does not produce the desired results. According to the
Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta (DN. 26, WPB. p.395 ff.), any social order
that does not address the problem of economic poverty creates
conditions for social unrest resulting eventually in the total decline
of the moral standards of society causing a lot of social issues, and
the end result of it could be disastrous riots or wars. This Sutta
points out how successive wheel turning monarchs” prevented
social problems by following the sage maxim whosoever in your
kingdom is poor, wealth should be given.” Ultimately there came
a king who disregarded this advice and let poverty continue (DN.
26, WPB p.398.). This illustrates that, though the ruler provides
rightful shelter, protection and defense, he fails to give money to
the poor and provide a means of right living which creates wealth
for the poor. Then, in that society, poverty increases creating a
violent context. A poor man intentionally takes from others what
has not been given. When the man is brought to the ruler, the ruler
gives the man money because he has stolen since he cannot make
a living. The ruler hopes that the man will set up a business and
lead a stable life without resorting to crime (DN. 26. WPB. p.399.).
But this did not happen. Hearing that the ruler (state) gives money
to thieves, more and more people resorted to stealing in order to
get assistance from the ruler. When the ruler hears that some steal
because he gives money to thieves, he revises his policy and begins
punishing thieves with death. However, to avoid being reported to
the ruler, thieves begin to carry swords, kill people whose property
they steal and launched murderous assaults on villages, towns and
cities and indulged in highway robbery and violent murder. Once
 


they got accustomed to this kind of violence resulting in killing, deliberate lying, evil speech, adultery, incest, covetousness and hatred, false opinions, lack of respect for parents, clan elders and the religious causing deterioration in all social norms.
  1. CAUSAL RELATIONS BETWEEN WEALTH AND MORALLY SUSTAINABLE  SOCIETY

The Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta elucidates this factor in causal origination thus. When wealth is not given to the poor or unequally distributed, poverty comes into being; because poverty increases, theft occurs; because theft increases, weaponry increases; because weaponry increases, murder occurs; because murder increases, the beingsvitality decreases, etc. when violent conditions lead to decrease in life span: When people live for ten years, the ten courses of moral conduct will completely disappear and the ten courses of evil will prevail exceedingly. The idea of good(kusala) will not exist. Men will not recognize women as mother,mothers sister,teachers wife, etc. (DN. 26, WPB. p. 401.) Thus, the world will become thoroughly promiscuous (immoral) like goats and sheep, fowl and pigs, dogs and jackals. Among them, fierce enmity will prevail one for another, fierce hatred, fierce anger and thoughts of killing, mother against child and child against mother, father against child and child against father, brother against brother, brother against sister, just as the hunter feels hatred for the beast he stalks. There will be a seven-day period of war, when people will see each other as animals; sharp swords will appear in their hands and they will murder each other, each thinking This is an animal’ (DN. 26, WPB. p. 402.). When economic deprivation is eradicated, peace, equality, happiness and coexistence are established and this leads to restore a peaceful sustainable society. According to the above event mentioned in the Sutta, wealth and resources to support trade, agriculture and other occupations should be distributed and proper salaries should be paid to those engaged in occupations adequate to lead good life and this will eradicate material disparities and vices caused by them and bring about social equality, peace and happiness which are qualities for a sustainable  society.
 
 
  1. ETHICAL INFLUENCE ON CONSUMPTION AND PROTECTION OF WEALTH

According to Buddhist teachings, the causes of loss of wealth can basically be cited in the Kuadanta Sutta, Cakkavattisīhanāda Sutta, Narati Sutta, Vyagghapajja Sutta, Sigālovāda Sutta, Parābhava
Sutta,  etc.  As  revealed  in  the  Vyagghapajja  Sutta,  the  wealth
amassed has four sources of destruction – immoral conduct (i)
Debauchery, (ii) Drunkenness, (iii) Gambling and (iv) Friendship,
companionship and intimacy with evil-doers (AN. 8.54 (4). WPB.
p. 1195.). Among the twelve causes of unsuccessful man exposed
in the Parābhava Sutta, certain immoral causes that conduce to
decline, loss and destruction of wealth can be taken. For instance,
(1) averseness to Dhamma, (2) preference to wicked persons and
averseness to virtuous persons, (3) fondness of sleep, fondness of
company, being indolent, lazy and irritable, (4) ungrateful to old
parents, (5) deception a brahman or ascetic or any other mendicant
by falsehood, (6) enjoyment of luxuries alone, (7) being proud of
birth, of wealth or clan, and despising of ones own kinsmen, (8)
being a rake, a drunkard, a gambler and squandering all one earns,
(9) Not being contented with ones own wife and being with harlots
and the wives of others, (10) Being past ones youth, taking a young
wife and to be unable to sleep for jealousy of her, (11) placing
in authority a woman addicted to drinking and squandering
or a man of a like behavior, (12) being of noble birth, with
vast ambition and of slender means and craving for rulership
(Sn. 1.6. PTS. p.13 ff.). This type of immoral conduct directly
or indirectly causes destruction of wealth. The Six Channels
of Dissipation of Wealth elaborated in the Sigālovāda Sutta (DN. 31. WPB. p. 461.) are (i) Indulgence in intoxicants, (ii) Sauntering in streets at unseemly hours which, (iii) Frequenting
theatrical shows, (iv) Indulgence in gambling, (v) Association with evil companions and (vi) Addiction to idleness.

Implications can be drawn from the Ugga Sutta (AN. 7.7 WPB. p. 1001 – 1002.) that loss of oneproperty to the Five Enemies – water or flood, fire or conflagrations, thieves, tyrants or bad leaders and unloved heirs like bad sons and daughters may cause poverty.
 
 
  1. STABILITY AND RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION & CONSUMPTION OF WEALTH

As the Vyagghapajja Sutta  reveals  a  householder  knowing his income and expenses should lead a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus his income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income (AN. 8.54 (4). WPB. p. 1195). The four sources for the increase of amassed wealth through right livelihood or right living, namely:
(1) avoidance of debauchery, (2) avoidance of drunkenness, (3) non-indulgence in gambling, (4) friendship, companionship and intimacy with the good should be adopted to lead a simple and balanced life (AN. 8.54 (4). WPB. p. 1195). According to the above Sutta, a householder lives well in the present life when he is active in doing good, heedful and circumspective, equanimous in livelihood
and careful with his savings (AN. . 8.54 (4). WPB. p.1194) (uṭṭhā kammadheyyesu, appamatto vidhānavā; Samakappeti jīvika sambhataanurakkhati). Earning of wealth righteously and right uses of wealth conduce to balanced living. As the Sigālovāda Sutta illustrates, the Buddha gives instructions to the young householder,
Sigālaka on how wealth is earned righteously and the four ways to spend ones wealth by a wise man endowed with virtue in order to lead a fruitful, wholesome and balanced life. They are explicated through similes thus. The wise one who is endowed with virtue will shine like a beacon-fire. He gathers wealth like a bee gathering honey or like ants piling up their hill (paito sīlasampanno jala
aggīva bhāsati, Bhoge saharamānassa, bhamarasseva iyato; Bho
sannicayayanti, vammikovupayati.) (DN. 31. WPB. p. 466.). The
four ways to spend wealth mean that wealth can be divided into
four portions (Catudhā vibhaje bhoge, sa ve mittāni ganthati). He
enjoys one portion of wealth, with two portions he manages his
work or profession or business (investment), the fourth portion is
to be deposited to be used in times of misfortune and the last part
for fulfilling obligations (Ekena bhoge bhuñjeyya, dvīhi kammaṃ payojaye;Catutthañca nidpeyya, āpadāsu bhavissatī ti) (DN. 31. WPB. p. 466.). The right uses of wealth that has been righteously
obtained are also conducive to  balanced  living  according  to the  Pattakamma  Sutta  (AN.  4.61  (1).  WPB.  p.  449.)  Wealth
 


should be used for dependents, for overcoming misfortunes, for giving donations and for making the five offerings or oblations
to kin, guests, the departed, kings and the gods – this has been recommended by the virtuous who live spiritually (AN. 4.61 (1).
WPB. p. 451.) (Bhuttā bhogā bhatā bhaccā, vitiā āpadāsu me; uddhaggā dakkhiā dinnā, atho pañcabakatā; upaṭṭhitā sīlavanto, sñatā brahamacārayo).
  1. POSSESSION OF ABUNDANT WEALTH & DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH

As the Aputtaka Sutta (SN. 3 .19. PTS. S i 89) shows that the Buddha says that when a person of no integrity acquires abundant wealth, he does not provide for his own pleasure and satisfaction, or for the pleasure and satisfaction of his parents, his wife and children; his slaves, servants, and assistants; his friends. He does not offer priests and contemplatives. When his wealth is not properly put to use, kings make off with it, or thieves make off with it, or fire burns it, or water sweeps it away, or hateful heirs make off with it. Thus, his wealth, not properly put to use, goes to waste and not to any good use. The Buddha further says that when a person of integrity acquires lavish wealth, he provides for his own pleasure and satisfaction, for the pleasure and satisfaction of his parents, his wife and children; his slaves, servants, and assistants; and his friends. He offers priests and contemplatives offerings. When his wealth is properly put to use, kings do not make off with it, thieves do not make off with it, fire does not burn it, water does not sweep it away, and hateful heirs do not make off with it. Thus his wealth, properly put to use, goes to a good use and not to waste. The Appaka Sutta affirms that few are those people in the world who, when acquiring bountiful wealth, do not become intoxicated and heedless, do not become greedy for sensual pleasures, and do not mistreat other beings. Many more are those who, when acquiring bountiful wealth, become intoxicated and heedless, become greedy for sensual pleasures, and mistreat other beings (SN. 6 (6). WPB. p. 169.).

The Buddha, in the Vyagghapajja Sutta, instructs rich householders how to preserve and increase their prosperity and how to avoid loss of wealth. Wealth alone, however, does not make a complete man or a harmonious society. Possession of wealth often
 


multiplies mans desires, and he is ever in the pursuit of amassing more wealth and power. This unrestrained craving, however, leaves him dissatisfied and hampers his inner growth. It creates conflict and disharmony in society through the resentment of the underprivileged who feel themselves exploited by the effects of unrestrained craving. Therefore, the Buddha advises householders to gain material welfare with four essential conditions for spiritual welfare: confidence in the Buddhas enlightenment, virtue, liberality and wisdom. These four will instill in man a sense of higher values. He will then not only pursue his own material concern, but also be aware of his duty toward society. To mention only one of the implications: a wisely and generously employed liberality will reduce tensions and conflicts in society. Thus, the observing of these conditions of material and spiritual welfare will make for an ideal citizen in an ideal society. Some wholesome factors that develop wealth earning through righteous business and trading can be shown according to the Sigālovāda Sutta. For instance, a factory owner, businessmaor any entrepreneur who is engaged in wealth earning businesshould perform certain ethical obligations towards the employeerecruited in his business process. Simultaneously, employees and servants of all ranks engaged in work under employers should alsperform certain ethical obligations towards their masters. This willead to increase in production, wealth, wages, stability of production and wealth as well as satisfaction and mutual confidence paving wafor no strikes or such disturbances (DN. 31. WPB. p. 468).
  1. RIGHTEOUS WEALTH FOR PEACEFUL LIVING

The right uses of wealth that has been righteously obtained are also conducive to balanced living according to the Pattakamma Sutta (AN. 4.61 (1). WPB. p. 449ff). Wealth should be used for dependents, for overcoming misfortunes, for giving donations and for making the five offerings – to kin, guests, the departed, kings and the gods – this has been recommended by the virtuous who live spiritually (Bhuttā bhogā bhatā bhaccā, vitiā āpadāsu me, uddhaggā
dakkhiā  dinnā,  atho  pañcabakatā,  upaṭṭhitā  sīlavanto,  saññatā
brahamacārayo) (AN. 4.61 (1). WPB. p. 450ff). The Vyagghapajja
Sutta exposes four conditions that conduce to worldly progress
and development of wealth – (i) the accomplishment of persistent
 


effort (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), (ii) the accomplishment of watchfulness (ārakkha-sampadā), (iii) Good friendship (kalyāamittatā) and
(iv) Balanced livelihood (sama-jīvikatā) (AN. 8.54 (4), WPB. p.
1194). The same concept is elucidated in the Pattakamma Sutta
(AN. 4.61 (1). WPB. p. 449ff). According to the accomplishment of
persistent effort (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), a householder by whatsoever activity earns his living, whether by farming, by trading, by rearing cattle, by archery, by service under the king, or by any other kind of
craft — at that he becomes skillful and is not lazy. He is endowed with the power of discernment as to the proper ways and means; he is able to carry out and allocate duties. As per the accomplishment of watchfulness (ārakkha-sampadā), a householder whatsoever wealth is in possession of, obtained by dint of effort, collected by strength of arm, by the sweat of his brow, justly acquired by right means by guarding and watching so that kings would not seize it, thieves would not steal it, fire would not burn it, water would not carry it away, nor ill-disposed heirs remove it. According to Balanced livelihood (sama-jīvikatā), a householder knowing his income and expenses leads a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus his income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income. A householder with a large income were to lead a wretched life, there would be those who say this person will die like a starveling.
  1. RIGHTEOUS WEALTH AND HAPPINESS

Adiya Sutta deals with benefits to be obtained from wealth. The Buddha talked about five benefits and satisfaction that can be obtained from righteously earned wealth to Anāthapiṇḍika, the
householder (AN. 5.41 (1). WPB. p. 665). The wealth should be
earned and gained righteously through his efforts and enterprise,
amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through
the sweat of his brow. Such wealth provides him with pleasure and
satisfaction. He can maintain that pleasure rightly. He provides his
parents with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure
rightly. He provides his children, his wife, his slaves, servants and
assistants with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure
rightly. The Pattakamma Sutta also exposes some significant factors
in this regard (AN. 4.61 (1). WPB. p. 449 – 452). The Ānaya Sutta
 


introduces the four kinds of bliss that can be attained in the proper season, on the proper occasions, by a householder – (i) the bliss of having wealth (atthisukha), (ii) the bliss of making use of wealth (bhogasukha), (iii) the bliss of debtlessness (ānayasukha) and (iv)
the bliss of blamelessness (anavajjasukha) (AN. 4.62 (2). WPB. p.
452 – 453).
  1. CONCLUSION

Irresponsible productions and unrighteous wealth and absence of adequate wealth, wealth earned through wrong livelihood and irresponsible consumption of wealth destroy health, environment, peace and harmony in the society. A Buddhist approach with universally applicable teachings to restore responsible, humanistic, environmental friendly and wholesome production (righteous earning) based on right livelihood and responsible consumption of wealth should be adopted for the restoration of a peaceful and sustainable society.

 

ABBREVIATIONS

AN:        Aguttara Nikāya
Dhp:        Dhammapada
DN:        Dīgha Nikāya
MN: Majjhima Nikāya PTS:  Pali Text Society SN:         Sayutta Nikāya
Sp:      Suttanipāta / SuttaNipāta
WPB:      Wisdom Publication, Boston



 

References


Bodhi, Bhikkhu, (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, A New Translation of the Sayutta Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

           (2012), The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Aguttara Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

Narada Thera, (2000), The Dhammapada, Pāli Text & Translation with Stories in Brief & Notes, 4th Edition 2544 – 2000., Buddhist Cultural Centre, Anderson Road, Nedimala, Dehiwala, Sri Lanka.

Norman, K. R. (1984), The Group of Discourses (SuttaNipāta) Vol. 1, with alternative translations by I. B. Horner and Walpola Rahula, The Pali Text Society, London.

Rhys Davids, T. W. and C. A. F., (1977), Dialogues of the Buddha, Translated, Part III, Vol. IV. Fourth Edition, Pali Text Society, London.

Walshe, Maurice, (2012), The Long Discourses of the Buddha, A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya, Translated from the Pāli, Wisdom Publications. Boston, USA.

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