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mathieu1978
19 May 16, 19:53
Hello,

I have another question, as a total Buddhist beginner (but very eager to learn) : what logical conclusions should the precepts of Buddhism have for us as concerns money?

For example, say I have 500 USD left each month after paying my rent, buying food, etc.
Shouldn't I try to find the best possible use of that left-over money to spread as much love and lower suffering?
In that case, the logical solution (to my beginner's eyes at least) would be to put those 500 USD on the most efficient NGO dealing with providing food/shelter/education to kids in developing countries. Those 500 USD could help literally dozens of kids and help lift them out of abject poverty.

What are your thoughts on this ?

I have a follow-up question. Wouldn't it be better/wiser to put the money where it can help the most (numerically) people, rather than, say, to help homeless people in my own (Western) country (where the 500 USD could help maybe 10 times less people, due to the much higher costs of living) ?

Thanks !

dagon
20 May 16, 02:26
Hi Mathieu

They are good questions and ones that we should never let go of regardless of where we think we are in our development. It is great that you are contemplating generosity coupled with wisdom.

It is useful to avoid the use of the term precepts in its wider meaning as it can lead to some confusion so I tend to think in terms of doctrines when we talk of Buddhist ethics. In the context of your questions (and often in daily life) I simplify the Buddhist precepts (5, 8 or 10) down to "Do no harm to others: do no harm to yourself". In this way the precepts guard us against unskilful and unwholesome thoughts, words and actions.

What you are talking about goes beyond the basic (5) precepts and represents progress in the development ethical conduct (sīla). Clearly the teachings relating to generosity identify the advantages, but also clearly state that it is the intention that governs the inward benefits. The difficulty that this creates is that seeking benefits reduces the benefits that will arise. Personally I think that any benefits received are best not considered at the time of the giving itself. However it is useful to reflect on at other times when we have a feel of ill will towards our selves and also to continue to nurture the development of generosity in our live / practise.

What the teachings do indicate is that giving should be made with discernment, in person and in season.

The advantage of giving in person is that it increases the involvement of the mind in the giving process thus increases the duration of wholesome mental states (and by extension reducing the opportunities for unwholesome states to arise). In addition the exposure to the suffering that you are seeking to address enhances your understanding of the suffering (dukkha) that is subject of the First Noble Truth.

The question about giving in person (in this day and age) is that often what we seek to give to is at a distance that would make it impossible to give hand to hand. My view is that we should give with discernment (research what we are giving to), that if we make each payment as a deliberate effort rather than automatic monthly payments.

The question that was raised about where to give can only be answered by yourself. What I would be considering is if there was alternative help available to those suffering. In the West there are often support mechanisms that are available. That is not to say that all are informed what supports are available. There is more chance that I will give someone on the street a business card to help them find the supports they need rather than hand over money. That is in part an issue of discernment based on the experiences that we have where that money is used by the person to hurt themselves (drugs and alcohol) to help. My preference is to make the monetary support available to the support agencies where the underlying issue are more likely to be addressed.

Please do not forget in you personal deliberations that generosity of you time and the attributes of the Brahma-vihara in your daily life is also of great value.

Generally speaking I give money overseas and time/effort in whatever country I am in at the time.

metta
dagon

Aloka
20 May 16, 03:51
What are your thoughts on this ?


I've never had any one fixed plan as far as giving money is concerned. I've always tried to donate something regularly to chosen charities (mostly for people in poor countries abroad and for endangered species of wildlife) when I've had enough money to spare after the bills have been paid.

I also prefer to give food and a (non alcoholic) drink to homeless people I pass by on the street who look very needy, rather than giving them money.

Some of the people I know who aren't Buddhists (or of any other religious beliefs) give regularly to various charity organisations and I think its inspirational in others if compassion and giving flows from the heart, rather than being actions done in order to gain personal "merit".

Giving can also take place through doing various kinds of voluntary work, if one doesn't have much money to spare, so I think only you can decide which approach is best for your personal circumstances.

:hands:

Neyya
20 May 16, 13:52
I am with Aloka- volunteering is a great way to serve others. There is an unexpected benefit that comes with volunteering-a healthy and elevate self esteem. It just feels good volunteering. Pick out a charity or two and make regular donations. Do the same with volunteering.

daverupa
20 May 16, 16:32
One way to begin might be AN 5.41 (http://https://suttacentral.net/en/an5.41). The five ways of utilizing money here revolve around (1) one's own lifestyle (2) and that of friends & family, (3) protection of funds, (4) 'oblations', and finally (5) donations to (heedful, unintoxicated) wanderers.

Points 1-3 seem to me fairly common priorities with money, while 4 and 5 look heavily dependent on culture. Now, notice the stanzas at the end of this Sutta:



“I’ve enjoyed wealth,supported my dependents,
and overcome adversities.
I have given an uplifting offering,
and performed the five oblations.


I have served the virtuous monks,
the self-controlled celibate ones.
“I have achieved whatever purpose
a wise person, dwelling at home,
might have in desiring wealth;
what I have done brings me no regret.”


Recollecting this, a mortal
remains firm in the noble Dhamma.
They praise him here in this life,
and after death he rejoices in heaven.

The underlined portions seem to be the point of those five utilizations: heaven as well as blamelessness/freedom from regret.

Finally, notice that the ultimate point of utilizing money is to support a recollection that sustains Dhamma practice. Worry about where to spend the money or how to maximize the people affected is a sure-fire way to miss the point.

Give money where you have confidence, and remember that you are to embody a holy example, not be a firehose of cash.

mathieu1978
26 May 16, 16:16
Hi Dagon,

Many thanks for this reply.
It has led me to volunteer 2 hours per week to talk by telephone to elderly people who live alone, in my own country.
I'm also going to try to find some place where they serve meals to poor people and see how I can help.
This will address in the "in person" aspect on things and is reasonable as far as time-investment (meaning it's something I can fit without causing hurt to my family by my absence).

Thanks :)
Mathieu

Sea Turtle
27 May 16, 16:45
Hi Dagon,

Many thanks for this reply.
It has led me to volunteer 2 hours per week to talk by telephone to elderly people who live alone, in my own country.
I'm also going to try to find some place where they serve meals to poor people and see how I can help.
This will address in the "in person" aspect on things and is reasonable as far as time-investment (meaning it's something I can fit without causing hurt to my family by my absence).

Thanks :)
Mathieu

That's wonderful and very inspiring! :hands: