Saturday, August 7, 2010

4 Steps to Buddhist Money Management

(JRaptor/Flickr.com)

Expenses that eat 50 percent of income
In these recessionary times, financial tips are flowing fast and furious about how to save money and stick to a budget. Facing a sea of information many people are asking, "Where do I start?" For most of us, five areas of spending will consume over 50% of the money we earn during our lifetime, so that's the best place to begin. The five areas are: home, car, children, education, and retirement. Here's what you need to know about each: More>>

"The wise and virtuous shine like a blazing fire. One who acquires wealth in harmless ways, like a bee that gathers nectar without harming the flowers, riches quickly mount up for that person like ant hill's stunning growth."

Anthills in warm parts of the world, moist and forested, appear overnight, leaving one to wonder how it happened so fast. Diligence and consistency are the keys. Our anthills are tiny by comparison, so we may miss the allusion the Buddha's audience would have surely understood.

Four Steps to "Buddhist" money management
Wisdom Quarterly
The Buddha addressed an amazing diversity of subjects in his 45 years of making known the Dharma. Philosophers focus on the imponderables he dismissed as not useful in gaining enlightenment and liberation. They would still like to debate those issues which, whether the answer would be this way or the opposite, would be harmful and retard progress. Others are not aware of all the things he did talk about.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (in his taped lectures on the Middle Length Discourses) marvels at how detailed and relevant the Buddha was when asked mundane things. His answers addressed not only monastic issues for the preservation of the Sangha and therefore the Dharma, but also ordinary lay life. The Sigalovada Sutra is a lengthy storehouse of information and advice for living a prosperous life in the world. (Scholars believe that this discourse is actually an amalgamation of many sutras woven as advice to one lay person).

There we find advice to householders on money, friendship, sex, drinking, working, saving, popularity, family responsibilities, and so on. The advice on money boils down to this: One should divide one's wealth or earnings (since the Buddha's audience asking about these things was often often the merchant class) into four equal divisions:

With wealth acquired in this [harmless] way, a layperson fit for household life in four portions divides such wealth: thus will one friendship win:
  1. The first portion is used for one's wants.
  2. The second portion is spent on business needs.*
  3. The third portion is also spent on producing more wealth.
  4. The fourth portion goes into savings for times of need.
  • *inventory, paying employees, advertising, insurance, taxes, and so on

Golden Buddha in Thailand (Flickr.com/LMerano)

The Great Discourse on Mindfulness (Maha Sattipatthana Sutra, DN 22; MN 10) can be summarized into 14 meditative exercises leading to enlightenment within seven years. Coincidentally, a summary of the Advice to Householders (Sigalovada Sutra, DN 31, named after the young Sigala who was asking for the advice) also boils down to 14 things (duties or dharmas) to do:

"Young householder, insofar as a lay disciple
  • eradicates the four vices in conduct
  • avoids four forms of unskillful karma
  • does not pursue the six channels for dissipating wealth

such a person, by avoiding these 14 harmful things, honors and protects all the directions [a metaphor for the six primary social obligations we have when living in society]. And one sets upon the way leading to success in both places: One is favored in this world and in the world beyond. One lives well here and now and goes on to be reborn happily!"

A wise and noble disciple, whose aspirations are higher than worldly and heavenly success, reaches for nirvana and is thereby completely liberated from having to worry about rebirths or any further suffering.

1 comment:

jennifer castillo said...

Great advice. Thank you Lord Buddha