Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New society from the ashes of the old (sutra)

Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Narada Thera (trans.), Buddhist Publ. Society, Dighajanu Sutta: "Conditions for Social and Spiritual Wealth" (AN 8.54)
Towering Buddha monument in Theravada Thailand (happySUN
"See the candle burning low. [It's] the new world rising from the shambles of the old."
"The Rover," Led Zeppelin

Translator's note: In this discourse, the Buddha instructs rich householders on how to preserve and increase their wealth and how to avoid harm to their prosperity. Wealth alone, however, does not complete a person nor make for a harmonious society. Great wealth all too often multiplies our desires and sends us spinning in pursuit of senselessly amassing more and more wealth and power. Our unrestrained craving leaves us deeply dissatisfied, stifling inner growth, and more often than not dealing with regrets. Craving creates conflict and societal disharmony -- inspiring the resentment of the underprivileged who become aware that they are exploited by the effects of others growing rich at their expense. The Buddha, therefore, follows up his advice on great material wealth with four essential conditions for spiritual wealth: confidence (in the teacher's enlightenment), virtue, liberality, and wisdom. These four instill in a person a sense of values. We then not only pursue our material concerns but also become aware of our duty (obligation, dharma) toward society. One implication of a liberality informed by wisdom and generosity is that it reduces tensions and conflicts in society. So observing the Buddha's enlightened advice on the necessary and sufficient conditions for material and spiritual welfare makes for an ideal citizen in an ideal society.

Phan Tao Temple, Thailand (arztsamui/flickr)
Thus have I heard. Once the Exalted One was dwelling among the Koliyans in a market town named Kakkarapatta.
  • [The Koliyans were the rivals of the Buddha's family, the Sakyans. But Queen Maha Maya, the Buddha's mother, belonged to the Koliyan clan, whereas his father, King Suddhodana, belonged to the Sakyan clan.]
Then Dighajanu [a banker, “long-kneed”], a Koliyan, approached the Exalted One, saluted him, sat respectfully to one side, and asked:

"Venerable sir, we are laypeople enjoying worldly pleasures. We lead a life focused on spouse and children. We use sandalwood of Kasi [a fragrant cosmetic from Varanasi]. We deck ourselves with garlands, perfumes, and creams. We use gold and silver [money and trade]. To us and those like us, O venerable sir, let the Exalted One teach the Dharma, teach those things that lead to wealth and happiness in this life and to wealth and happiness in the next life."

Conditions of Worldly Progress
Ancient alabaster Buddha in Sukhothai, Thailand (Ted Richardson/
"Vyagghapajja [Dighajanu's family name, literally, "Tiger's Path" so called because his ancestors were born on a forest path infested with tigers], four conditions conduce to a householder's wealth and happiness in this very life. What are the four?

"The accomplishment (attainment) of: (1) persistent effort (diligence), (2) watchfulness (vigilance), (3) noble friendship, and (4) right/balanced livelihood (defined below).

"What is the accomplishment of persistent effort?

"Herein [within this Dharma and Discipline], Vyagghapajja, by whatever activity a householder earns a living -- whether by farming, trading, rearing cattle [for milk], archery, royal service, or by any other kind of craft -- at that one becomes skillful and is not lazy. One is endowed with the power of discernment (wisdom) as to the proper ways and means. One is able to carry out and delegate (duties). This is called the accomplishment of persistent effort.

"What is the accomplishment of watchfulness?

"Herein, Vyagghapajja, whatever wealth a householder is in possession of, obtained by dint of effort, collected by strength of arm, by sweat of brow, justly acquired by right means -- such one cultivates well by guarding and watching so that rulers do not seize it, thieves not steal it, fire not burn it, water not carry it away, nor ill-disposed heirs preemptively remove it. This is the accomplishment of watchfulness.

Golden Buddha under the enlightenment tree in a magnificent hall (t3cnica/
"What is noble friendship?

"Herein, Vyagghapajja, in whatever village or market town a householder dwells, one associates, converses, engages in discussions with householders or householders' children, whether young and highly cultured or old and highly cultured, full of confidence [verifiable-faith based on knowledge rather than any kind of blind-faith], full of virtue, full of generosity, full of wisdom.

"One acts in accordance with the confidence of the confident, with the virtue of the virtuous, with the generosity of the generous, with the wisdom of the wise. This is called noble friendship.

"What is right/balanced livelihood?

"Herein, Vyagghapajja, a householder knowing the measure of both income and expenses leads a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that thus one's income will stand in excess of expenses and not expenses in excess of income.

"If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall."
- American saying on personal finances
"Just as a goldsmith [tuladharo, literally, a “carrier of the scales”] or a goldsmith's apprentice knows, on holding up a balance, that by so much it has tilted down or by so much it has tilted up, even so a householder, knowing one's income and expenses, leads a balanced life. One is neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that in this way income will stand in excess of expenses and not expenses in excess of income.

"If, Vyagghapajja, a householder with little income were to lead an extravagant life, there would be those who say -- 'This person enjoys property like one who eats wood-apple.' [The Commentary explains that one who wants to eat wood-apple shakes the tree, with the result that many fruits fall but only a few are eaten, with a much greater number going to waste]. If, Vyagghapajja, a householder with a large income were to lead a miserly life, there would be those who say, 'This person will die like a starveling.'

Losing Money
"The wealth thus amassed, Vyagghapajja, has four sources of destruction:

"(1) Debauchery, (2) drunkenness, (3) gambling, (4) or friendship, companionship, and intimacy with wrongdoers.
  • [The Buddha defines "false friendship" in the Sigalovada Sutra (DN 31: A Brief Code of Buddhist Ethics) -- four foes in the guise of friends, who take things, make fake promises, flatter, and encourage ruin, all of which the Buddha details.]
"Just as in the case of a great tank with four inlets and outlets, if a person should close the inlets and open the outlets, and there should be inadequate rainfall, decrease of water is to be expected in that tank rather than an increase. Even so, there are four sources for the destruction of amassed wealth -- debauchery, drunkenness, gambling, and friendship, companionship, and intimacy with wrongdoers.

Making Money
"There are four sources for the increase of amassed wealth: (1) avoiding debauchery, (2) avoiding drunkenness, (3) non-indulgence in gambling, (4) friendship, companionship, and intimacy with the good-doers.

"Just as in the case of a great tank with four inlets and four outlets, if a person were to open the inlets and close the outlets, and there should also be adequate rainfall, an increase in water is certainly to be expected rather than a decrease. Even so, these four conditions are the sources of increase of amassed wealth.

"These four conditions, Vyagghapajja, are conducive to a householder's wealth and happiness in this very life.

Conditions of Spiritual Progress
Monumental statue with the Moon as the Buddha's aura (happySUN/
"Four conditions, Vyagghapajja, conduce to a householder's wealth and happiness in the next life. What are the four?

"The accomplishment: of confidence, virtue, charity, and wisdom.
"What is the accomplishment of confidence?

"Herein a householder is possessed of confidence, believing in the enlightenment of the Wayfarer (Tathagata): Thus, indeed, is that Blessed One: pure, fully enlightened, endowed with liberating knowledge and conduct, well-gone, knower of worlds, incomparable teacher of persons to be tamed, teacher of devas and humans, all-knowing [able to apply his mind to know anything], and blessed. This is called the accomplishment of confidence.
"What is the accomplishment of virtue?

"Herein a householder abstains from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and from intoxicants that cause infatuation and heedlessness [lead one to heedlessly ignore the preceding four precepts]. This is called the accomplishment of virtue.
"What is the accomplishment of generosity?

"Herein a householder dwells at home with a heart free from the stain of greed (avarice), devoted to generosity, open-handed, delighting in charity, attending to the needy, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called the accomplishment of generosity.

"What is the accomplishment of wisdom?

"Herein a householder is wise: One is endowed with wisdom that understands the arising and cessation (of the Five Aggregates of existence); one is possessed of the noble penetrating insight that leads to the destruction of suffering. [This suggests that one is a noble disciple, that is, a progressively enlightened householder such as a stream enterer or once returner.] This is called the accomplishment of wisdom.

"These four conditions, Vyagghapajja, conduce to a householder's wealth and happiness in the next life."

Energetic and heedful in every task,
Wisely administering wealth,
One lives a balanced life,
Protecting the wealth one has amassed.
Endowed with confidence and virtue too,
Generous and free of avarice;
One ever works to clear the path
That leads to wealth in future lives.
Thus to the layperson full of trust,
In one rightly called enlightened,
These eight conditions have been told
Which now and after lead to bliss.

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