[Summary: final blog on the topic of wealth and money, in advance of tomorrow’s talk on this subject. Having a small footprint.]
The Quakers have forty-two suggestions, known as ‘Advices and Queries’, which they draw inspiration from. Number forty-one goes like this:
Try to live simply. A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.
[Thanks Marcus for that quote]
While in the last couple of blogs it has been emphasised that money and wealth is not sinful or harmful in itself, being a meditator includes being “easy to keep”. The idea is that one should use as little as possible, and make as small an impact on others and the environment as can be sensibly managed. In modern terminology, you should have a small ecological and economical footprint. This makes sense really – if you are giving up sense desire as the primary source of happiness, you will naturally start to consume less. You use only what you need and what is sensible. To use another modern term, a Thai term, this is the basis of the Sufficiency Economy that His Majesty the King of Thailand has been promoting.
As a practise, one should examine carefully sense desire. Does it feel pleasant? Is it addictive? Is it covering some deeper anxiety? Is it just an escape? Pleasure from sense desire described as ‘fleeting’ and ‘of little benefit’ – is that true?
The Vipassana approach (aka Insight Meditation) is all about looking and learning. This is really a genius method. If you tell people to give up sense desires for the sake of enlightenment how many people would be willing to do so? And of those, how many would be able?
With Vipassana you are taking a close look at the way that desire works. Deliberately making the mind peaceful in meditation and comparing to the times when you are not peaceful. Watching the way sense desires work, how they arise and cease. Here you are being trusted to be your own God. There are no commandments, only recommendations. And by looking for yourself, you learn for yourself – without the need for clever philosophies or Holy scriptures. By looking at the nature of the mind systematically via mindfulness (and honesty, sincerity etc… ) sense desires start to lose their lustre. You need less and less, because you are no longer dependent on the pleasures of the senses, and old dependencies on intoxicants, food, environment, even sexual gratification start to fall away by themselves.
Does this mean adopting poverty and the giving up of wealth? Perhaps, for those who wish to ordain (still no guarantee …) but otherwise one thing becomes clear – you will have a lot more money than you used to, simply because you are happier with less, and do not need to spend so much. In this way, you do not really need to practise renunciation. Needs and desires naturally start to fall away like old toys. You never give up an old toy – just one day you play with it for the last time.
Religion’s role in promoting a ‘Sufficiency Ecoonmy’, or a small ecological footprint can be universal. The world needs to change, and to put an end to choking fumes and burning of hydrocarbons. Future generations will be amazed that we put up with the fossil fuel economy for so long, and the role religion can play in this is significant, as a mobilisation force, and as a teaching agent. FUSE – Faiths United for Sustainable Energy is one organisation that is attempting just this.
For our own contribution, through some contacts of Little Bangkok Sangha key member David Holmes, in the near future we might well have the opportunity to play our own small part in the global push for Sustainable Energy – and first up is some plans for a proof of concept VAW Turbine. There will be more on that as it develops …. [note to self ] lets just be careful it is not replacing one set of toys, with a set of bigger ones.
Hope you will all be at U Vamsa’s talk tomorrow on Wealth: a Buddhist Perspective.