The Buddha On Hoarding Wealth
July 25, 2012 34 Comments
Obtaining wealth in immoral ways and using it to harmful ends are two evils associated with wealth. A third is hoarding wealth — refusing to either share one’s wealth or put it to good use. In this story, the Buddha recounts the evils of miserliness:
Once, King Pasenadi of Kosala visited the Buddha. The King told the Buddha that a rich old miser had recently died leaving no heir to his huge fortune, and the King had gone to oversee the transfer of the miser’s wealth into the kingdom’s treasury.
King Pasenadi described the amount of wealth he had to haul away: eight million gold coins, not to mention the silver ones, which were innumerable. And, he said, when the old miser was alive he had lived on broken rice and vinegar, dressed in three coarse cloths sewn together, used a broken-down chariot for transport and shaded himself with a sunshade made of leaves.
The Buddha remarked:”That is how it is, Your Majesty. The foolish man, obtaining fine requisites, supports neither himself nor his dependents, his father and mother, wife and children, his servants and employees, his friends and associates, in comfort. He does not make offerings, which are of great fruit, and which are conducive to mental well-being, happiness and heaven to religious mendicants.
That wealth unconsumed and unused by him is confiscated by Kings, stolen by thieves, burnt by fire, swept aside by floods, or inherited by unfavored relatives. His wealth, accumulated and not used, disappears to no purpose.
His wealth is like a forest pool, clear, cool and fresh, with good approaches and shady setting, in a forest of ogres. No-one can drink, bathe in or make use of that water.
“As for the wise man, having obtained fine requisites, he supports himself, his mother and father, his wife and children, his servants and employees, and his friends and associates comfortably, sufficiently. He makes offerings, which are of great fruit, and which are conducive to mental well-being, happiness and heaven to religious mendicants.
The wealth that he has so rightly used is not confiscated by Kings, thieves cannot steal it, fire cannot burn it, floods cannot carry it away, unfavored relatives cannot appropriate it. The wealth rightly used by him is put to use, it does not disappear in vain.
His wealth is like a forest pool not far from a village or town, with cool, clear, fresh water, good approaches and shady setting. People can freely drink of that water, carry it away, bathe in it, or use it as they please.
“The evil person, obtaining wealth, neither uses it nor lets others use it, like a forest pool in a haunted forest — the water cannot be drunk and nobody dares to use it. The wise man, obtaining wealth, both uses it and puts it to use. Such a person is exemplary, he supports his relatives and is blameless. He attains to heaven.”
“Your Majesty, those people who, having obtained vast wealth, are not intoxicated by it, are not led into heedlessness and reckless indulgence which endangers others, are very rare in this world. Those who, having obtained much wealth, are intoxicated by it, led into heedlessness and reckless indulgence which endangers others, are truly of far greater number.”
Elsewhere in the Buddhist scriptures, the miserly person is likened to a bird called the “mayhaka” bird, which lives in the fig tree. While all the other birds flock to the tree and eat its fruits, all the mayhaka bird can do is stand there calling out “mayham, mayham” (“mine, mine”).