Ever since visiting southeast Asia last year, I have been intrigued with Buddhism. It is one of the five largest religions in the world, with several different branches, called schools, existing within the religion. The teachings of the Buddha have evolved over time to become a practical guide for living a full and rewarding life. I am not Buddhist nor am I too interested in the religious aspect of it. However, I am interested in how I can live a better life by using the same principles.
The religion is based on ‘four noble truths’ which teach followers a systematic approach to life that enables them to experience a deep level of reality. Emphasis is placed on the importance of rational examination and logical reasoning. The Buddhist lifestyle is one of self discipline, self improvement, motivation, self empowerment and mindfulness. This is exactly how I want to live. All of these principles can also be applied to our own situations, even when it comes to managing our personal finances. Today I want to explore what Buddhism teaches us about personal finance.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and Personal Finance
- Life is suffering. To Buddhists, this means that the world is not perfect and neither are its inhabitants, so therefore we will have to suffer the pain of failure, disappointment and loss. These factors have to be accepted as a normal part of life.
When applied to personal finances, this first noble truth shows us that we need to be realistic about our money and be prepared to suffer the same disappointments, failures and losses. Financial planning is not an exact science and there will be losses and failures, not to mention disappointment. How we deal with these will determine the success or failure of our financial wellbeing.
- Cause of suffering. Buddhists are taught that the cause of suffering is attachment or the need to have possessions. The pursuit of money, property, fame, popularity etc. is believed to be the cause of all suffering in the world. We set ourselves up for disappointment because these things are transient and can easily be lost.
The lesson here in regards to our finances is that money, property and wealth can also be lost or can suffer loss of value. The acquisition of possessions is not the best way to become wealthy; these are just ‘things’ which we don’t really need and are not long-lasting.
- Cessation of suffering. Buddhists believe that the cessation of suffering is attainable. In other words, when we have identified why we are suffering, we are capable of stopping our suffering by applying the practical teachings of Buddha. The way to reach ‘Nirvana’, the place where there are no worries, is to remove all worldly desires.
To alleviate financial suffering, we need to realize that we don’t need so many possessions and we can spend less money on the acquisition of ‘things’. The money we save can then be used for something more lasting, like savings, education, investments etc.
- Path to the cessation of suffering. For Buddhists, there is an eight step path that they need to follow to achieve the cessation of suffering. These steps involve eight strategies for self improvement and are divided into categories like wisdom, mental development and ethical conduct. The steps include mindfulness to achieve perfection in such areas as what you say and do, generosity, ethical behavior, effort, patience and meditative concentration. These are ideals that every Buddhist strives to achieve.
These steps towards self improvement have practical application when we consider our personal finances. We also need to be ethical, patient, generous and watch what we say and do in this important area of our lives. To achieve success with finances we need to educate ourselves so that we can improve the management of our finances.
Buddhism is such a practical religion and its philosophies are certainly applicable to personal finance as well as other areas. Strengthen your financial position by applying the four noble truths to your finances and achieve your own version of ‘Nirvana’ with peace of mind and security.
So, are you going to start managing your finances like a Buddhist ?