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Author Topic: Question about Buddhism
javelin
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What's the viewpoint on personal wealth?
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Cytania
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Bhuddha himself was one of the richest people in the world of his time but he gave it all up to follow the spiritual path.

Bhuddhism does not have an anti-commercial streak as strong as Jesus's throwing the merchants out the temple but it does emphasise that the material holds one back from the spiritual. Bhuddhist monks/priests are meant to live an asthetic life with few luxuries/distractions.

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tonylovern
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personal wealth exists as richness of experience rather than collection of material items. er maybe.
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Adam Masterman
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Material wealth? Basically its considered the result of past karma,and so its not entirely under one's immediate control (contrasting the American myth of a material meritocracy, though in the long term(many lifetimes) I guess you could interpret this as a meritocracy). More important from a Buddhist point of view is our attitude towards wealth, which is non-attatchment. It comes, thats fine, it goes, thats fine. Seeing it as a potential source of happiness or fulfillment is a disasterous error.

Funny anecdote: Marpa was an 11th century tibetan who traveled to India to learn from the great sage Naropa. Having had a very positive experience studying with Naropa previously, Marpa was suprised to find Naropa coldly inquiring how much gold Marpa had brought to pay for the teachings. Marpa gave him a bunch of gold dust, saving only enough to pay for his trip home, but Naropa claimed it wasn't enough. Finally Marpa relented and gave him all the gold dust. Naropa immediately started laughing and, to Marpa's horror, began throwing fist-fulls of gold dust around the tent. When he saw the consternation on Marpa's face, he responeded "What do I care for gold? The whole world is gold for me!". This is remembered as a moment of great realization for Marpa (who incidentally is my e-mail namesake).

All that said, there is a big emphasis in my tradition on a sense of spiritual wealth. The practice is to consider oneself as having the enormous wealth of buddha nature (tathagathagarba), an inexhaustable treasure of happiness and contentment that we can share with others, endlessly. My teacher calls it waging a war on poverty, from the angle of intention; meaning considering poverty a mentality that we need to overcome, first individually and then collectively. Ultimately, we each have inside ourselves the source of perfect enlightenment. What else could we possibly want? What else even compares? From this point of view, materiality has more to do with providing necessities and supporting life than with any sense of wealth.

And of course, all of that is the specific understanding of one practitioner from one tradition. The basic ideas are pretty consistant, but different schools have very different expositions. A Theravadin might talk about wealth being a trap, mainly because it is so easy to become attatched to wealth and consider it relevant to our peace and happiness. Most Mahayana schools are more neutral, though a common idea is that being poor creates a life with fewer hassles. And, of course, every Buddhist monk or nun in any school takes a lifelong vow of poverty.

Adam

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javelin
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Thanks [Smile]
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Adam Masterman
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Just curious? (just curious) [Wink]

Adam

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javelin
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A friend of mine is investigating, and while I have more than a passing familiarity with the religion, I haven't studied it seriously. When my friend mentioned something about marrying "a wealthy Buddhist", my mind went "How does THAT work?" - I mean, clearly, "being wealthy" wouldn't be a goal, but I was wondering if it was discouraged.

At some point, I hope to explore Buddhism more closely.

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Adam Masterman
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I wouldn't mind being a wealthy Buddhist. [Big Grin]

Adam

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cperry
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
Material wealth? Basically its considered the result of past karma,and so its not entirely under one's immediate control (contrasting the American myth of a material meritocracy, though in the long term(many lifetimes)

So (advertising my gross ignorance here), how do we get really reprehensible but really wealthy people? (Paris Hilton comes to mind.)

Is it something like this: live good for many lives, until you get to be rich, then lose all your good karma being corrupted by your reward wealth so you have to start over as a slug , etc., ad nauseum?

(yes, I know I know nothing about this and probably misinterpreted everything!)

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Adam Masterman
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Karma is a difficult topic in Buddhism, because most of us are familiar with the more traditional Hindu idea of karma: if we do good, the good things happen, and vis versa. The buddhist understanding is... subtler.


Karma, the word, means "action", i.e. doing something,mentally, verbally or physically. It has the added dimesnsion of implying intentionality: we do something on purpose. Even accidents are the result of deciding not to be mindful. So we are always doing things and creating karma. This creates an effect, always, the principle being that nothing happens in a vacuum. So we are doing things always, and thus continually creating potential effects from those actions. If we live for many lifetimes, those effects may not be felt in this lifetime, but they will be felt eventually.

Where the Buddhist understanding of karma becomes unique is when we understand that good and bad actions are both relative, and thus both non-virtuous. This is a really difficult concept, I'll try my best. We are all fundamentally deluded. We imagine ouselves to be a solid self, seperate from the world. When we act on this delusion, we re-enforce it for ourselves. This is called fundamental dualism. A "good" action which is done to re-enforce the ego is still an action that re-enforces the ego. It may produce a pleasurable result, but that pleasure will be tinged with suffering, and it will further bind us to the delusion of self. In this way, all karma is seen as undisirable from the point of view of a Buddhist. "Good" karma,for a Buddhist,isn't karma that leads to material wealth, worldly success, longevity, fame, prosperity, a big family or any other worldly aim. For Buddhists, virtuous karma is any action which diminishes the delusion of ego, and opens one up to reality. This often looks very undesirable to non-Buddhists, but that it the point of view.

When we look at people like Paris Hilton, do we really imagine that their lives are better? I don't for a second. If we spent a week in their situation, we would probably find them plagued by greed and obsession, with little inner peace, harmony or contentment. The only reason they provoke envy is due to the deluded idea that material wealth is a source of happiness. If we can see that delusion as a delusion, then we can loose the envy that plagues us in this moment, and be that much more carefree and happy.

This:


quote:
Is it something like this: live good for many lives, until you get to be rich, then lose all your good karma being corrupted by your reward wealth so you have to start over as a slug , etc., ad nauseum?

is actully a fairly good description of the situation. Its a totality that keeps us forever suffering, so in that sense its all bad, the whole process. However, upon reflection, we may find that we were quite happy and content when we acted virtuously, and quite miserable when we started to "spend" all that positive karma. In this way, we could use the situation as instructive in the benefits of benevolence. When we question why benevolence is preferable, we will begin to understand the doctine of selflessness, and end up on a path towards real freedom and happiness. Be careful though, this line of thought could get you a shaved head and red robes in a hurry. [Wink]

Adam

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javelin
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Buddhism is about escaping the karmic wheel, isn't it?

If so, that may be the short summary:

The karmic wheel goes round and round, you sometimes are at the top, and you are sometimes at the bottom. Buddhism gives you a way off so you can stop the motion sickness.

[Big Grin]

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Adam Masterman
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perfect!

Adam

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