7 Moral Principles of Buddhism Money: “It’s a Matter of Mental Economy”


“The mind precedes all mental states. The spirit is their leader; they are all worked by the mind. If with an unclean spirit a person speaks or acts, suffering follows – like the wheel that follows the ox’s foot. The mind precedes all mental states. The spirit is their leader; they are all worked by the mind. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts, happiness follows him – like his shadow that never goes away. With these two verses begins the Dhammapada – perhaps one of the most widely read Buddhist scriptures.

With over 520 million adherents, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world. Originally an Indian religion, Buddhism spread and took on the character of many of its host cultures … from the saffron robes of Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka and India, to the Mahayana traditions of China and Korea, Zen Buddhism in Japan, or Tantric Buddhism in Tibet.

Buddhism arose from Hinduism in the same way that Christianity arose from Judaism.

It all started with the life and teachings of a prince of the Sakya clan, Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism is a different religion from many others in that its central concern is not divinity, but humanity.

It is a religion about thought and thought – rather than mind and emotion.

Buddhism has entered pop culture, with popular little Buddha statues of various types adorning the gardens of people who may or may not know nothing about religion – and practicing Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike find enormous value in them. teachings and practices that the Buddha and various Boddhisattvas (like Buddhas but who stay to help the rest of us), brought into the world.

Buddhism may not seem like an obvious source of principles for personal finance at all – with its detachment from materialism, its focus on meditation and chanting, and its extinction of desire (kamma) in humans … but i I was surprised to find out how much Buddhism could be for the layman. In thought, life and money.

It’s a matter of mental economy

Some modern interpreters see Buddhism less as a religion than as a series of mental disciplines and moral ideas. The basic scriptures of Buddhism – greatly developed by later schools but still considered authoritative by most Buddhists – are known as the “Three Baskets.” While Sanksrit was the Latin of its day in the Indian subcontinent, the original scriptures of Buddhism were written in Pali (the language of the people). The Three Baskets are also known as Canon Pali. These are the Sutta (written Sutra in Sanskrit) – a collection of the wise sayings of the Buddha, the Vinaya – which sets out the rules for monks and nuns, and the Abhidhamma (Abhidharma in Sansskirt) – which many consider to be a manual of psychology as much as an exposition of doctrinal ideas.

The Buddhist journey is not for salvation but for enlightenment. He sees humans as inherently suffering (dukkha) in a wheel of birth and rebirth (samsara), due to ignorance. He prescribes mindfulness, calm reflection, right perception and non-violence as a remedy for this suffering. He teaches that each individual can, through meditation and reflection, see the truth of things and be free from the pain and suffering caused by incorrect thoughts and perceptions. The goal is not to please Buddha, but to become a Buddha.

The process can be summed up in the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation. This moral code is sometimes viewed by Western students as similar to the Ten Commandments – but it is less of a set of rules and more of a set of important areas to be explored further with regularity and fervor. The ‘right point of view’, for example, is not a single definite point of view that the believer is to regard as correct and follow, but a resolution of the practitioner to investigate – and to constantly strive to find the right one. point of view for itself, testing, exploring and contemplating deeply.

Seen in its correct context, Buddhism then not only influences correct financial decision making, but can provide a fundamental system for a moral financial approach in the first place.

Those interested in learning more about Buddhism can choose from a wide range of potential sources, each strongly influenced by the particular expression of Buddhism, be it Theravada, Pure Land, Tibetan or Zen. A good source is the book Buddhism, by Christmas Humphreys. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but it provides a thorough and neutral discussion of religion and its principles. Paul Carus’ Gospel of the Buddha was written in a style to make Buddhism accessible to a new Western audience. Another informative source, although slightly more technical, is David Brazier’s Zen Therapy, which explores Buddhist psychology as it is found in Abhidharma.

7 moral principles of Buddhism money

Have the right mindset

Thinking before you do something is usually good advice, but perhaps a conspicuous consumer culture can learn a double lesson from just one lesson. In Buddhism, it all starts in and with the mind. The application of thinking, and foresight in particular, is a skill of crucial importance in the correct allocation of resources or when making purchases. Automatic and thoughtless spending is likely to lead to tears. When the Buddha attempted an ascetic existence, he heard a song teaching that “the reed that does not bend, breaks”. This left him with a powerful lesson and allowed him to progress. Buddhism does not teach fanatic devotion to discipline… it advises moderation in all things.

Cause and effect

Have you ever heard the joke about the Buddhist monk who ordered pizza? “Make me one with everything. It’s not very funny, but those who are smiling understand that Buddhism has a great appreciation for the interdependence of things. What happens in one place affects another. What one person does has an impact on others. Thoughtful, compassionate actions, executed calmly, are much more likely to have positive consequences. Thought leads to action, action to consequences. The consequences, in turn, can provoke thoughts. Stop the thought, reflect on where it leads – and do the same with actions. This will improve the results.


Another bad joke: have you heard of the Buddhist vacuum cleaner? It comes without attachments. Buddhism views reality itself as a phenomenon – and like all phenomena, it is born, grows, decays and dies. Feeding your ego with valuable goods is unlikely to have any long-term positive effects. That dream house, that dream car, that dream boat and that designer outfit won’t last any longer. There is a difference between “cost” and “value” – and by being calm and detached the Buddhist is prevented from making many costly mistakes. You are not your thing. You are also not defined by them. You are not your baggage, your blockages, your situation, your network or even your ideology. These are just simple phenomena … and giving them the right place in the scheme of things is important if you want to break free from vicious circles.


Giving alms to the poor and supporting monks and nuns in Buddhist cultures is an individual and collective responsibility. The Buddhist community – known as the “sangha” – and all who make up the sangha should try to alleviate suffering where and when they can. Material possessions are of little value … money itself is a thoughtless entity. The importance of sentient beings, and the practice of benevolent love lies with whoever chooses the Middle Way. The Pali word is mettā; this translates, in equal measure, into benevolence, goodwill, friendship, friendliness and an active interest in the well-being of others.

Minimalism and frugality

‘Gain is illusion, loss is enlightenment.’ Many see Buddhism as a constructive process. That is, you go on a journey and gradually add wisdom until you reach enlightenment. This linear process is not exact, in the Buddhist sense of the term, which includes life and the universe in a more cyclical, circular way. There are several parables that describe enlightenment as the exact opposite process. Success, happiness, and insight do not depend on acquiring anything, but rather losing what covers or obscures the underlying purity or hinders the natural flow of things. In a consumerist culture, you are what you own, and what you own truly belongs to you. Buddhism advises a lifestyle that is sparse, uncluttered, and devoid of unnecessary distractions.

Individual responsibility

We are all born in endless cycles of painful births and rebirths – until we put an end to them ourselves. Regardless of the circumstances of our birth, Buddhism describes this as our karma. You were born with certain advantages and disadvantages. You were born in a time, place and social setting – which can be a source of various advantages or disadvantages. However, Buddhism at least tries to make sure that, whether your circumstances are positive or negative, they are not sources of continuous error. Blame, in Buddhism, can never be put on others. All responsibility ultimately rests with “me”.


I put “me” in quotes for a reason: because Buddhism’s most radical religious concept – its game-changing idea, if you will – is that of anatman. The Hindu religion, in which the Buddha spent his formative years, teaches the concept of the soul, also called the Overself, or Atman. Buddhism proposes the opposite: No Soul, No Self, No Ego. Atman’s very negation: Anatman. Selfish and selfish behavior makes no sense in such an epistemology. Be kind, be calm, and see where you can help ease the suffering, and you would be on your way to becoming wiser, smarter, and happier – according to Buddhist principles.