In the past, Buddhism has often been represented as an exclusively
other-worldly religion, a doctrine directed solely to a transcendental
goal without any concern for this world other than its abandonment.
Some say the only authentic way to follow the teaching of
the Buddha is to renounce the world, become a monk, and
retire to a forest in order to practice meditation. In the
view of these writers Buddha does not offer any teaching that
is of relevance to a person in the world for resolving difficulties
of the social, economic and political life.
These views reflect serious misunderstandings. We have stressed
in this course that the ultimate aim of the Buddha's teaching
underline the transcending of the world. On this point
there can be no hedging or compromise, nor is there any need
in the world is not unrelated to our spiritual quest
but can become part of the path which leads to awakening.
Nevertheless, while the Buddha teaches that the transcendence
of the world is the ultimate goal, he treats this goal in relation
to the totality of human life in all its manifold aspects,
as one of the three types of benefits of the Dhamma.
For every aspect of human life is connected to the other aspects;
no aspect can be treated in isolation from the whole. Life
in the world is not unrelated to our spiritual quest but can
become part of the path which leads to awakening.
In this lesson we explore some of the ways the Dhamma, in
addition to influencing personal well-being, promotes economic
andsocial justice and harmonious relations between people.
In the world, overcoming the world
The Dhamma has dimensions of depth and breadth.
In its dimension of depth, the Dhamma leads to the overcoming
of the world.
In its dimension of breadth, it embraces all
facets of human existence and shows how all these different
sides of human life can be transformed, elevated and
ennobled — and finally absorbed into the comprehensive
path leading to liberation.
A doctrine for monks & nuns, a doctrine for laymen & laywomen
Well-being: the foundation for spiritual development
Because seeking material or economic welfare alone degrades
the potential value of human life, the Buddha teaches that
the economic and social stability that come from the application
of this teaching should serve as the foundation for higher
But while economic and social benefits are of secondary value,
they are nevertheless indispensable for the practice of the
path. In order to practice the Dhamma properly a secure material
foundation, a peaceful and beneficent government, and
a free society are required. Therefore material well-being
and the pursuit of the spiritual goal are mutually supportive.
Although Theravada Buddhism is often portrayed as a self-centered
doctrine, the Buddha teaches that there are two types of good
that we have to take into account — one's own good
and the good of others — and that there are four types of people:
The person concerned with neither his own good nor the
good of others. It is said such a person is like a stick
which on one side is burning and on the other side is smeared
The person concerned with the good of others but not his
The person who is concerned with his own good but not with
the good of others
The person who is concerned with both his own good and
the good of others. This person is said is like purifed cream
It is the fourth type of person the Buddha prounces the
just as from a cow milk is begot, from milk curd,
from curd butter, from butter ghee, from ghee the
cream of ghee and the cream of ghee is the foremost.
In the same manner, householder, of these ten enjoying
sensuality and evident in the world, the one enjoying
sensuality earning money righteously and considerately
and with the money enjoying sensuality and sharing
it with others doing merit, partaking it, not enslaved
not bound not swooned, wisely seeing the danger
and the escape from it, is the chief, foremost
and the noble.
Reflection preceeds action Again and again the
Buddha teaches that you should always reflect before acting,
while acting and after acting on one's own benefit and the
benefit of others. These two ends both justify action. Both
must be balanced and taken into account.
The Buddha also says that concern for the welfare
of others has to be tempered by the recognition that we can
only benefit others truly to the extent that we have benefited
ourselve, to the extent that we have established ourselves
on fimr ground.