Buddha Weekly: Buddhist Practices, Mindfulness, Meditation

Benefits obtained from wealth for householders: Adiya Sutta — righteously obtained and righteously used, wealth is not negative karma as long as “I have done what will not lead to future distress”

Many people misinterpret Buddhist beliefs, associating money or wealth as a source of attachment or negativity — particularly focusing on the ideal of renuciation. For the non-monastic — for the devout householder Buddhist — wealth is not itself a negative. In fact, in Adiya Sutta (Pali Sutta, Sanskrit Sutra) Buddha, the Blessed One” explains the positive uses — the five benefits of wealth. Indeed, it is difficult to help others without resources, money and wealth, in a meaningful way.

 

According to Sutra, accumulating wealth is not a negative act for householders — as long as the wealth is used righteously, for example to help others, and is obtained without hurting others.

 

Being an ethical milllionaire or billionaire is nothing to be ashamed of in Buddhism — in today’s world, billionaires create vast foundations that help millions of people — but the reverse is, of course true; the unethical building of wealth, where the accumulation of millions or billions hurt others, it is, of course, very negative karma. Of course, clearly the pursuit of money can become such an attraction it becomes attachment, so clearly right conduct, right action, righteous investing is important. Equally important is use of wealth.

Buddha summarized how wealth can be positive:

‘My wealth has been enjoyed,
my dependents supported,
protected from calamities by me.
I have given supreme offerings
and performed the five oblations.
I have provided for the virtuous,
the restrained,
followers of the holy life.
For whatever aim a wise householder
would desire wealth,
that aim I have attained.
I have done what will not lead to future distress.’
When this is recollected by a mortal,
a person established in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,
he is praised in this life
and, after death, rejoices in heaven.

Like most other worldly things, it is not the object of attachment that is “negative” it is only the attachment itself that is negative. If one can righteously accumulate wealth, use it righteously, without clinging or attaching to the wealth, it is not in itself downfall.

 

Traditional offering bowls in Thailand temple, where golden coins fill each bowl. Wealth itself is not a negative in Buddhism, but the wealth has to be righteously obtained and righteously used.

 

Both attachment and aversion are to be avoided — attachment to wealth, or aversion to poverty — but the actual accumulation and positive use of wealth is by no means harmful. Certainly, if one becomes absorbed with wealth, greedy about wealth, and accumulates wealth improperly or unethically, then it’s clearly harmful. But, Buddha made it clear there are five positive benefits for a householder to accumulate wealth in a virtuous way: ethically, without harm to others, without depriving others.

 

Adiya Sutta

Benefits to be Obtained From Wealth

Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Then Anathapindika the householder went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there the Blessed One said to him: “There are these five benefits that can be obtained from wealth. Which five?

“There is the case where the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts and enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — provides himself with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly. He provides his mother and father with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly. He provides his children, his wife, his slaves, servants, and assistants with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly. This is the first benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts and enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — provides his friends and associates with pleasure and satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly. This is the second benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts and enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — wards off from calamities coming from fire, flood, kings, thieves, or hateful heirs, and keeps himself safe. This is the third benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts and enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — performs the five oblations: to relatives, guests, the dead, kings, and devas. This is the fourth benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones — using the wealth earned through his efforts and enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained — institutes offerings of supreme aim, heavenly, resulting in happiness, leading to heaven, given to priests and contemplatives who abstain from intoxication and heedlessness, who endure all things with patience and humility, each taming himself, each restraining himself, each taking himself to Unbinding. This is the fifth benefit that can be obtained from wealth.

“If it so happens that, when a disciple of the noble ones obtains these five benefits from wealth, his wealth goes to depletion, the thought occurs to him, ‘Even though my wealth has gone to depletion, I have obtained the five benefits that can be obtained from wealth,’ and he feels no remorse. If it so happens that, when a disciple of the noble ones obtains these five benefits from wealth, his wealth increases, the thought occurs to him, ‘I have obtained the five benefits that can be obtained from wealth, and my wealth has increased,’ and he feels no remorse. So he feels no remorse in either case.”

‘My wealth has been enjoyed,
my dependents supported,
protected from calamities by me.
I have given supreme offerings
and performed the five oblations.
I have provided for the virtuous,
the restrained,
followers of the holy life.
For whatever aim a wise householder
would desire wealth,
that aim I have attained.
I have done what will not lead to future distress.’
When this is recollected by a mortal,
a person established in the Dhamma of the Noble Ones,
he is praised in this life
and, after death, rejoices in heaven.

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Lee Kane, Editor

Author | Buddha Weekly

Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.

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