A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Happiness is greater than Wealth Part I

Buddha told us that to attain great wealth is to attain great responsibility. In his teachings we are told to provide adequately for our families, to support the Sangha, and to help those less fortunate than ourselves. In the Abhidhamma teaching we learn of the ten defilements.

  1. greed
  2. hate
  3. delusion
  4. conceit
  5. wrong      views
  6. doubt
  7. torpor
  8. restlessness
  9. shamelessness
  10. recklessness

Webster’s defines greed as: a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed. In the western world the love of money has caused many people to be unhappy with what they have. For some no matter how much they have, it is never enough. This attachment to money has lead to suicides when people have lost their fortunes, in plain terms, loving money more than life. Every year here in Canada we see an article that covers giving to Charities, by Province. It is interesting that the poorest areas give the highest percentage of their income. Those who have the least are more willing to share. The obsession of gaining ever greater quantities of wealth and items of status is a road that leads to even more suffering. How people do you know that are not only trying to keep pace with their neighbors, but to do better than their neighbors. Over 30 years ago I first heard the song “Back to the Basics of Love” by Waylon Jennings, which included the lines:

We’ve been so busy keepin’ up with the Jones
Four car garage and we’re still building on”.

Does this line strike a familiar chord with you? Please do not think I am saying we should be poor. The Buddha taught that we should earn a living in a right occupation. In marriage a wife is to be a good steward of the family resources. A husband is recommended to buy his wife jewellery or fine clothing. We are to prepare in case of a natural disaster. We are also taught that happiness is not dependant on our net worth of property. Wealth is to be considered a tool, to help us accomplish provide for ourselves, our family, and neighbours and to do good works. Bill Gates along with his wife setup The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 1994. Today the charity has assets of over 33 billion US dollars. The three global areas it seeks to aid are healthcare, education and eliminating extreme poverty. Warren Buffet was looking to do something similar with his fortune, after examining the Gates Foundation’s model; he decided instead to join forces with it. Rather than listing projects here, I will suggest you look it up on Wikipedia.org for an up to date snapshot. The article there also lists some of the criticisms towards the foundation. One of the main criticisms has been that the foundation has a mandated end to its existence. This was done so that others will step in, and not allow a bureaucracy to develop whose main function is to keep their jobs. Others complain that the Foundation overpays its staff making it hard for others to attract talent. On a more realistic level for the rest of us, how do we give some portion of what we have been blessed back to help others? Over the next several days I am going to pose some discussion points, there is no right answer; rather they are to make you think about your own choices. To make us consider are we making the right choice, or the easy choice, perhaps they are one and the same. Will let you ponder that till tomorrow.


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