A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Money is not the root of all evil

The Buddha taught us to be diligent in earning a living in a wholesome profession. He did not say “Blessed are the poor” as Jesus did. However he cautioned us to spend our money wisely, to benefit our families and all other beings. We are to make sure our family’s needs are taken care of, then to help others and to support your beliefs institutions. Today I am going to put forward my view, as a discussion point. As usual it is up to you to decide what is right for your situation. In writing this it forces me to re-evaluate my own thinking, and perhaps make corrections.

Our family’s needs include a place to live, good food, clean water, clothing, and personal items. Up until the last year I would have included an automobile as a necessity, but have found that you can get along without owning one. If you live in a small village with everything within walking distance, or a major centre with good public transit, perhaps you only need the use of a private vehicle once or twice a month. A rental or a car sharing program would be a viable alternative in this case. Considering the amount of resources needed to produce a single automobile, it is also better for the environment, than having one sitting unused in the garage most of the week. Also more walking and cycling will help you avoid that middle aged bulge. A place to live, is one where many in the west think bigger is better. A childless couple do not need a 6000 square foot house with a five car garage, this is to flaunt what we can have, not provide what we need. I am not saying that they should downsize to an efficiency apartment. Good food should be fresh, good quality and healthy. As a Buddhist who has taken the five precepts, it should also not cause other beings to suffer, so vegetarian or vegan are the choices. We should try to eat as much locally produced foods as possible, allowing for some from other regions, for variety, and seasonal allowances. If you still eat meat, you should avoid purchasing that obtained through methods that reduce biodiversity, or endanger a species. A problem in North America is the import of the snakehead fish from Asia. This voracious predator has no natural enemies here and has been released into the wild, causing decimating results to local ecosystems. Certain types of tuna are being overfished causing them to be placed on the endangered species list, and yet the demand still exists to where illegal fishing nets thousands of dollars per pound.  Clean water is a scarce resource and unfortunately becoming scarcer. The excessive application of pesticides and fertilizers has resulted in the contamination of many rivers and streams. The amount of chemical waste allowed by law, and illegal dumping of these products have turned some rivers into flowing sewers, incapable of supporting life, and hazardous to drink or even bathe in. Unfortunately some cities in the world, such as Vancouver, Canada,  still allow raw sewage to flow into the rivers, lakes and oceans, while other cities such as Edmonton, Canada not only have tertiary treatment for sewage, they are in the process of implementing primary treatment of the storm water systems. We need to ensure that what we put back into the local water systems is at least as pure as what we take out in the first place. Clothing and personal items are they of good quality that will last or are they of the disposable type. When your shaving, do you use a razor where the blade is sharpened, or if using a safety style is it one that you keep the handle and replace the blade cartridge. Using a disposable razor where after a few uses you throw everything including the handle away is the worst use of our limited resources, however it is the most profitable for the manufacturer. When we replace an item such as a mobile phone, is it because the old one no longer works, or because the new phone has a feature that we really need, or is it because we want the latest must have status symbol? Also the Buddha instructed that a husband should provide his wife fine clothes and jewelry, but this was to be items of lasting value.

After we have taken care of our families needs and provided some luxury to make life more enjoyable, we are to look after the beings around us. I have written several previous entries about the need to help in a wholesome fashion, and to avoid doing harm under the guise of doing a good deed. Giving drug addicted beggars cash which is used for their next fix is not helping; rather it is prolonging their addiction. Instead a donation to a soup kitchen, shelter or even walking with them to a café or street food vendor and buying them a meal, is a wholesome way of reaching out. If you can’t afford to help out in this manner, there are many charities or agencies that reach out to these people, who could always use another pair of helping hands.

Lastly there is the supporting of the institutions that support your faith. Some faiths mandate that you give a tithe (10% of your income), others do not set a fixed amount. Supporting is a way of ensuring that the next generation has access to the same knowledge that you were blessed with. Many of these Churches, Temples and Wats also do more than just hold regular services and train new clergy or members of the Sangha. By sharing you gain an immediate benefit, and also a long term benefit, which is according to your faith.

So money is not the root of evil, rather the mind is, just as all evil originates there. Money is neutral, it is the choices that we make are either wholesome or unwholesome. If you wish to still blame money, look at stories about bartering, where food was used to purchase unwholesome things.

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