"The Rule of Sufficiency"

Post date: Jan 23, 2011 4:33:38 PM

"If we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves." -Dalai Lama

In my second class at IBC (http://ibc.ac.th), "Buddhism and Society", one of the required readings is an excellent collection of essays by the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi called Facing the Future, available here: http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/facingfuture.pdf

Partway through his second essay "A Buddhist Model for Economic and Social Development" he introduces a new economic principle which he titles "The Rule of Sufficiency" which he defines as knowing that enough is enough. He further explains:

"The rule of sufficiency is both a policy of mental hygiene contributing to psychological balance and a policy of ecological wisdom contributing to the preservation of the natural environment. In both respects the rule promotes a sound economy in the literal meaning of the word: "home management", the judicious ordering of our internal home of mind and our external home, the natural world."

The more I think on this, the more I agree and become outraged at those who endeavor to achieve extreme wealth; wealth that they have no possible chance of utilizing in their lifetimes. For what purpose? What about the millions around the world who live in poverty? What happened to building a community and supporting one another? Sure, growing ones wealth is a guaranteed freedom in the United States and elsewhere around the world, but just because we can, doesn't mean we should.

Some recent news about billionaires starting to commit their wealth to charitable projects (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703493504576007982500939482.html?mod=djemalertNEWS) gives us a glimmer of hope, but this needs to be cultivated much more widely. As the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% grows and grows, our world becomes darker.

"Our economy is big enough already, far too big, and our technologies too smart, too powerful, and too much fraught with moral risk for beings as fallible as ourselves. What we need most of all is streamlining and downsizing: cutting down on weapons production, on industries dedicated to wasteful luxuries, on conspicuous consumption as the engine that drives the economy. Instead we need qualitative improvements to make our technologies more humble and humane, more benign towards the total biosphere. And above all we need greater stress on economic justice and social equity, so that no one need be deprived of a fair standard of living."

Who's with me and Venerable Bhikku Bodhi?