Brothers and sisters in the Dhamma. People say we now live in an age of globalization. Then, we should ask what is globalized and what globalizes it? Broadly speaking, we may say that it is the world that has been globalized and it is information and communication technology that has made the world globalized. And to look deeper and to be more specific, the world means the human situation. When we look at the human situation, many people today seem to be rather pessimistic to say that there are so many problems prevailing over the world and these problems have been globalized to be global problems. Among these problems, the most predominant seems to be the economic problem. As it is obvious today, even almost all other major global problems in a final analysis can be traced to economic cause. Throughout the long period of time called ‘the modern age’, people have witnessed progress and prosperity that has been made possible by the central role of the trio, or the triad, science, technology and industry. The process of bringing about this progress and prosperity has come to be called “development”. This development process has, as its goal or objective, economic affluences consisting in material abundance. After some time, this development process has brought us to a life which has been affluent in developed or industrialized countries where people hope for happiness out of the consumption of material things. And after some time, this has led people to what consumerism is, and at last to what we call “consumer society”. People in this society seem to clone a view, something like a theory, that they can enjoy happiness out of the consumption of materials or through material pleasure or sensual pleasure. But before long, the consumption of material meets the consumption of natural resources which has gone to the extent of squandering natural resources. And this has led to the deterioration of natural resources evidenced in the depression of natural resources and the serious problem of pollution. Then, all the world faces environmental problems to the degree of almost making the world, the earth, an unfavorable place to live. As this problem is very serious, at last this process of development has come to be called “unsustainable development”. It means that the world or the people cannot go further in that direction of development. People who enjoy consumeristic happiness come to be frustrated. This means the consumeristic happiness is at last frustrated. But we witness not only the dead-end of the consumption on the part of the consumer but also the dead-end to the society and to nature or the natural environment. This means the three parties suffer from the same cause of the problem. Consumption, here meaning over-consumption, has led to conflicts among people between nations. It has caused environmental problems and also in the mind of the individual as mentioned earlier, the consumeristic happiness has been frustrated. As we cannot go further in this direction, we have to seek a solution and we try to set up a plan, or something like that, for what is called “sustainable development”. The sustainable development has been a term as came in to use long ago. I think about 2 or 3 decades since about after 1972 or so. After even 2 or 3 decades, the world has not advanced in the way of solving the problem and that is why we make effort at our best to seek a solution even in form of view or theory, or here in the teaching of the Buddha or Buddhism. Now we seek Buddhist economics. We hope that in some ways, we may find some answers to be a solution for this problem.
What is the cause of this problem? As I mentioned earlier, it is mainly the economic problem and this economic problem has been caused by the economic system. This means the current economic system at least cannot be reliable. There must be something wrong in this economic system. But what is wrong? It seems that their mistake can be traced to even a wrong understanding of human nature that might be the root cause of the problem in modern economics. For example, people look at human nature deeper into what is called “want or desire”. And they say human desire or human want is not limited; people have unlimited want or unlimited desire. As the resources, here natural resources, are scarce, we must be able to allocate these resources in order that people, in general, will be able to enjoy them. But after about a century or nearly 2 or 3 centuries now, after the industrial revolution, economics seems not to have achieved the goal of what we can call the overcoming of scarcity. Even worse, instead of overcoming scarcity, economics had led to the increase of insufficiency and at last to the dead-end of the development on the 2 parties. In the individual, as I mentioned before, people would like to enjoy happiness and hope that their happiness can be enjoyed through the consumption of material. But now we see the dead-end to that hope in that consumeristic happiness has been frustrated to the environmental problem and the social conflict. And now as the problem has the cause here, it is here that we can solve the problem. This means, if it is the wrong understanding of human nature, then we should analyze and discuss what is the right understanding of the human nature. According to Buddhism, at the first level, it is true that human desire or human want is unlimited. However, we say that there are 2 kinds of desire: the skillful desire and the unskillful one. The unskillful desire cannot be satisfied. It leads to what is called “dependent happiness”. We enjoy happiness through the satisfaction of desire but as this type of desire cannot be satisfied, it is unlimited. As it is unlimited, it cannot be satisfied. Then, the people cannot fulfill their happiness to this kind of satisfaction of desire, the consumption of the material. They enjoy what is called “consumeristic happiness” which is also dependent happiness. This happiness depends on the consumption of material, which entails the squandering of natural resources. Then, it leads to the environmental problem and not to speak of social conflict or conflict among people. This is the cause. It is the human that has caused of problem. It is the human who can solve the problem. We know the true human nature and we (should) deal with the way they seek happiness. Now as they have the first kind of desire that is skillful, we should develop and try to satisfy this kind of skillful desire. Then we can have what we call “independent happiness”. This means happiness that is independent of the material, and does not depends on the squandering of natural resources, and that will not lead to environment problems. If people have at least a degree of the independent happiness to balance their dependent happiness, we can lessen the environmental problem and the conflict among people. At last deepest in the mind of the people, the consumeristic happiness would not be frustrated because we can enjoy other kind of happiness at the same time. It is possible because it is in accordance with the human nature.
When people have developed this independent happiness, their happiness is not dependent even on their wealth. Then, wealth becomes something like a surplus that they can distribute for the benefit of their neighbor or for society. People who have independent happiness will let other people share happiness by enjoying their own wealth. This is teaching of Buddhism. What is very important? When we speak of independent happiness, we should think also of freedom. When economics and the process of unsustainable development have led people to depend on the consumption of material to be happy, to have dependent happiness, they unconsciously lose the fundamental freedom. We hope that economy, I mean effective economy, should lead people to enjoy freedom. But instead of freedom, economics and that process of unsustainable development have led people to the lack and loss of the fundamental freedom, the freedom at the basic level. We used to say that people should be free or enjoy freedom from hunger. That is okay but deeper what is freedom from hunger? We should be free even from the dominance of materiality. In order that we are free from dominance of materiality, we will be able to go forward to achieve some higher noble aim or noble goal of life in society. But as we see obviously in consumerism and a consumer’s society, people are infatuated with this kind of happiness and the consumption of material to the extent that they do not go forward to make endeavor to achieve higher a noble goal of life and society. This is the point that should be taken seriously -- the loss of freedom, the fundamental freedom of mankind. But now we come or fall even deeper under the influence of the material and in this way we cannot go further. Even the human civilization might come to an end if we cannot find a way out of it. And here when we come to look at the human nature, it is here that Buddhist economics starts. It is a starting point, the beginning of Buddhist economic. Buddhist economics takes the beginning at the right understanding of human nature.
Regarding the desire, we say that there are 2 kinds of desire as I mentioned earlier, skillful desire and the unskillful one. From these, we enjoy happiness through the satisfaction of the desire. When we satisfy our desire, whether it be skillful or unskillful, we enjoy happiness. But as we know only one desire, only one kind, unskillful one that is dependent on the consumption material and then we have only dependent happiness. Certainly, if we depend on the dependent happiness, our happiness depends in turn on the squandering of natural resources, and so on, to cause the environmental problems. As I mentioned earlier, that is the dead-end. Now we have to try another way. This is another process of development. It is the process of human development. At least, the process of human development should be in parallel or in pair with economic development. In reality, it is economic development that should be the foundation or the basis on which human development is founded, or from that we can start. If we go this way, first, people will enjoy independent happiness, at least to balance dependent happiness. Then, they can go further to fulfill human freedom. This kind of independent happiness and the fundamental freedom of human being can lead to the peaceful and happy co-existence for individual lives with society, their neighbor and the environment. This means we should have a good and happy life in the midst of beautiful and refreshing environment and in a peaceful society. This should be a goal. It is a common goal. This goal is here man-centered. This centers at a man, at a human being. We should have a good and happy life. Then, we go further to the environment in the midst of beautiful and refreshing environment. Then, we go further to the society, in a peaceful society. Then it is good for all the 3 parties. And what is good for the individual life should be good for society. What is good for individual life should be good for the environment. And what is good for society and for the environment should be good for the human being individually and for society and so on. Mutually helpful. We should go this way. It is this common goal of the 3 parties that is the concern of Buddhist economics. We think that Buddhist economics can lead us to achieve or realize this goal.
This is Buddhist economics in brief but there are some points that should be specially noted. First, human nature regarding the desire of people. We should make clear that there are 2 kinds of desire--the unskillful, the unlimited desire leading to the dependent happiness and the skillful desire which is limited leading to independent happiness. This is the first point. Second point, as the development of skillful desire can be achieved by the process of human development, we come to the second point what I call “human development”. That is a keyword “human development” because Buddhist economics is economics in which human development matters. Through the process of human development, we can enjoy what is called “independent happiness” which at the lowest degree. It is the starting point for us to go further to achieve freedom, to fulfill freedom for human being and that is real freedom, not freedom as it is now. We say we are free or we have freedom. We are free to go into the forest and cut down the trees. We say we have freedom. But unconsciously, they do not know that now they are not free. They are dependent. At least their happiness is dependent on the consumption of the trees. They fall under the influence of the materiality. We have to be clear about the meaning of the term “freedom” also. What we call freedom now may be something what we call “dependence”. For example, a boy, a girl or a kid who is addicted to a computer game, she or he might say “I’m free to play the game”. Oh sure! you are free, free all the time, free up to the point that your parents cannot endure. Free but now you do not realize that you are dependent on the game. You depend on it for your happiness. You are not free at all. You are under the influence of the game. You are not free; that is not freedom. Freedom is you can be free when you see that the game may cause you some trouble here and now or in the future, you should be able to stop. That means you are free. But even though you know it is not good, it is not right, it is dangerous but you cannot go away from it. Then, you are not free.
The third point is about wealth. Wealth is not denied in Buddhism. It is not discouraged. On the contrary, for lay people, wealth and the seeking a massive of wealth is encouraged in so far as the person deals with wealth in the rightful way in four respects. First, one should amass or seek wealth lawfully and not at the expense of one’s neighbor and nature. To repeat, not at the expense of one’s neighbor and nature. Secondly, wealth should be something like a surplus that one makes use of to make oneself happy, one’s family happy or people under one’s responsibility to be happy, and all people can do good deeds or meritoriously. Thirdly, one should be heedful in safeguarding it. Fourthly, one should have a right attitude towards wealth, i.e., to know the 2 natures of wealth as well as all things that they are subject to--impermanence, un-endurability and causes and conditions. One should be heedful in dealing with wealth and maintain spiritual freedom. As I said earlier, wealth would be something like surplus that will be not only for his own happiness but also for the happiness of fellow human beings and it will be for the good. That is a third point. And then we go for the fourth one. The fourth one is a common goal. As I mentioned early also, the common goal of having a good and happy life in the midst of beautiful and refreshing environment in a peaceful society. Then we should go on to the fifth one. As we have the common goal as the fourth point, we should make effort to realize that common goal for individual life or society and environment, and have the common process for human development for human being. And at the given moment, people are at different levels of development. Therefore, we have something which can be called “unity in diversity”. It means also that we should organize society to suit and to meet the needs of these people who are at different levels of development and not only to suit and to meet their needs and desire but also organize the social condition and environmental condition that will be favorable to their further development because human development is at the heart of this Buddhist economics. And then we go to the eighth point, we treat or we regard economics as a mean, not as an end. As a mean, what we call sufficiency economy can belong to Buddhist economics.
This means Buddhist economics is also sufficiency economics that implements sufficiency economy in so far as it meets three points or criteria. First, economics should not have consumption to meet the unlimited desire or want as its end or aim. Now we usually say that consumption is the end of economic process, but here we should have a change. Economic process should not have consumption to satisfy the unlimited want as its end. But now it should have instead as its end what is called here “sufficiency”. The economic process should lead to the end of achieving sufficiency. This is first criterion. Then the second, we should ask for what should it be sufficient. Should it be sufficient for the survival of human being? No, not just that. It should be sufficient or we achieve sufficiency for people to gain energy, to make endeavor, to go further to achieve or to realize higher noble aim or noble goal of life and society through the process of human development. In other words, we should achieve this sufficiency for human beings to join the process of human development towards the noble goal of life and society. Sufficiency, to repeat, is not for only the survival. In this way, sufficiency is a mean. When we speak of sufficient or sufficiency, we have to have it followed by the term for what, not just sufficient. Here it is sufficient for the energy to go into the process of human development.
Then the third one, we can say that the economic process itself comes to an end at the beginning of the process of human development. This means economic process ends into or ends to be the beginning of the process of human development. In this way, I think we can achieve what should be the goal for the humankind, i.e., to fulfill freedom, the real freedom at various levels. But at last we should realize the final freedom--to be truly free. As I mentioned earlier, we will enjoy a good and happy life amidst beautiful and refreshing environment in a peaceful society.
With this I think I should bring my talk to a conclusion. Thank you all. Let peace and happiness be to all.