A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Happiness is greater than Wealth Part IV

Buddha talked about money or wealth a fair bit. He praised wealth and money, when it was used for the proper reasons. It was about how you obtained this wealth. Was it through a profession that was harmless to other beings? Then what did you do with this wealth after you obtained it. One of the Buddha’s earliest followers was Pasenadi, a rich king, who told the Buddha about a miser who had died in the kingdom without any will. Did he not have family, or a cause he supported was asked, as well the question of perhaps he had just forgotten to write one. The story tells us this miser lived on a diet of left over rice husks, made into a porridge or gruel. When he traveled it was by cart, one that was in poor condition. The Buddha responded”It is like a lake of crystal clear, cool, delicious water. Beautiful, surrounded by good shores, but it lies in a savage region. No one can drink from it or bathe in it, or make any use of it at all. Such are the riches of a miser”. The Buddha also uses the lake to illustrate a generous man in regards to wealth. “He is like that beautiful lake, I spoke of, but now it lies near a village or town where people can draw water from it, bathe in it, and use it for any other purpose. His riches go to enjoyment, not to waste”.

The Buddha told us first see to the needs of our families. Then next give them some pleasures. Then give pleasures to our friends and neighbors. Make offerings to the local temple. He gave us the middle path, where we do not abandon all possessions like a monk or nun, nor do we try to be the one with the most wealth. This applies today in the same ways that it did when the Buddha first taught these lessons. In the book “The Wealthiest Man in Babylon” much the same message about proper uses of money is given to us.

Craving is the cause of much of the pain that wealth leads to. Our craving for status or for stimulation of the mind and body through outside sources, only leads to a feeling of being unsatisfied after the initial enjoyment. By pleasure the Buddha did not mean the use of intoxicants that dulled the mind, or sensual pleasures that were not part of a committed relationship. Some cultures have allowed men to have as many wives as he can financially support. Call them minor wife, second wife, or whichever term, they do not allow the man to truly bond with his wife. There are groups that claim to be following a God’s direction when one man may have ten or more wives, many taken as a wife barely weeks after she became a woman from a girl. Many women have escaped from these so called marriages, and most countries disallow the practice. After getting out of these situations, some will tell of having a daughter, who fourteen or fifteen years later became a wife to the same male. This delusion of being powerful from having many wives and fathering many children, only ensures that many sentient beings are never given the potential to achieve their own happiness.

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