Gábor Kovács Business Ethics Center Corvinus University of Budapest
Sustainability and Buddhism* paper presented at the "Sustainability: People, Planet & Prosperity" conference Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Shillong, November 9-11, 2011
There are three main characteristics of each worldly phenomenon according to the Buddhist philosophy. These are: (i) impermanence; (ii) suffering; and (iii) non-self. Everything has its origination, (its existence or sustenance) and its cessation. The clinging to the sustenance of phenomena is a kind of suffering in Buddhism – it is not praised, especially if it is connected with worldly material things. Sustainable development for a Buddhist is rather an inner spiritual quality which has to be realized by ongoing practice of virtues, wisdom and meditation. The “unlimited growth” myth of the profit-led Western culture was collapsed finally in the middle of the 20th century. From that time, the conception of “sustainable development” has taken over its place. It makes a barrier for the globalized economy as it defines duties and aims for economic agents. Nevertheless, the conception of sustainable development can’t be interpreted from a Buddhist point of view on a clearly economic or material plain of existence, as it is interpreted by modern economic and political institutions. The appropriate wellbeing ensured by a decent material background is only the basis of a sustainable inner development – an ongoing spiritual perfection towards the eradication of suffering. ----------------* Gábor Kovács' participation at the conference was sponzored by the research project of the Corvinus University of Budapest "Társadalmi Megújulás Operatív Program" TÁMOP-4-2.1.B09/1/KMR-2010-0005
The decent material background is a necessity for sustainable inner development. To achieve this, the Buddhist economic practice, which is based on the virtues and the philosophy of the teachings of the Buddha is suitable. It aims the (i) minimization of suffering; (ii) the simplification of desires; (iii) the practicing of non-violence; (iv) genuine care; and (v) generosity. The practice of the Buddhist economic strategy involves sustainability in the strict sense as a byproduct, as it works in each plain of existence (on individual, social and environmental level) towards the realization of non-harming. According to Buddhism, sustainability doesn’t mean sustainable development in the modern sense. Rather it is the ensuring of the appropriate material wellbeing, the accomplishment of non-harming in economic activities, and the realization of the inner freedom from suffering.
“Whatever IS will be WAS” (Bhikkhu Ñānamoli).
1. Introduction – a brief history of sustainable development The natural science-led Western culture had believed in the myth of limitless growth until the middle of the 20th century. The establishment of this credo could be dated back to the age of enlightenment at the 1600’s. Detachment of humankind from nature, increasing industrial and technological development had been taking place by the evolution of the prevailing scientificmaterialist philosophy. The notion of limitless economic growth had fitted well into the “unlimited growth” myth of the profit-led Western world. In the 20th century numerous cracks had appeared on the wall of this myth. The first significant event was the publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962 [Carson, R., (2002)]. In her famous book Rachel Carson brought together research on toxicology and ecology to suggest that agricultural pesticides and the products of chemical industry are linked to damage animal species, human health, and destroying whole ecosystems. Silent Spring has drawn the attention on the importance of the holistic view that was lacking from the contemporary reductionist approach of scientific materialism. In 1972 the Club of Rome has published its controversial “The Limits to Growth” report [Meadows, D. H., et al., (1972)]. In their fundamental book Donella and Dennis Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William Behrens articulated the expected consequences of limitless growth in an earth-like limited environment. The report was written in strict scientific language. It examined five basic factors that limit growth on this planet – population, agricultural
production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution –, and contained an analysis of trends and their influences which were pointing towards potential world crisis. It was concluded that political, economic and social changes were necessary and inevitable – and resulted in diverse verdicts from all around the world. The next step in replacing the credo of limitless growth was the releasing of the “World Conservation Strategy” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1980. In its section “Towards Sustainable Development” a new international development strategy was articulated to address inequities and habitat destructions [World…, (1980)]. In 1984 the International Conference on Environment and Economics held by the OECD concluded that environment and economics should be mutually reinforcing. These achievements helped to shape the report of the Brundtland Commission “Our Common Future” in 1987, that weaves together social, economic, cultural, and environmental issues World Commission on Environment and Development [Report…, (1987)]. It was the first place in its second section where the concept of sustainable development was mentioned, as it introduced, defined and popularized the term: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: −
the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs. [Report…, (1987)].
From this time on the conception of sustainable development and its realization has been developing and refining. Its theory and practice were evolved in various areas and although there are experts and scientists who criticize its fundamental notion and feasibility, its issues are appearing in numerous agendas from the fields of politics to economics.1 The most important cornerstones in its development process were the establishment of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in 1990; the arrangement of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) – better known as The Earth Summit – in 1992; the first meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in 1993; the launch of Dow Jones Sustainability Indices in 1999; the arrangement of World Summit on Sustainable
The concept of sustainable development has numerous critiques and criticists. Although this subject is very crucial, it doesn’t pertain to the field of the present paper.
Development which was held in Johannesburg, marking 10 years since the UNCED in 2002; and the formulation of Green Economy ideas at the end of the 2000’s [Creech, H., (2010)]. In spite of the growing significance of sustainable development today we are still experiencing the effects of the exclusive scientific-material philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries, and trying to determine possible alternatives that realize sustainability. Sustainable development means technological and economic advancement which takes into account the interests of the needy and the present and future generations. This conception isn’t exceeding the prevalent paradigm of our age, and as we experience, it can’t solve the ever increasing problems of today’s modern world. A useful tool for defining the barriers and the opportunities of economic growth can be the adaptation of Buddhist thought to this subject – merging the prevailing Western philosophy with the ancient, but useful Eastern wisdom of Buddhism and with the practice of Buddhist economics. In doing so a short look will be taken at the relevant basic conceptions of Buddhism, and how impermanence, sustainable development can be interpreted by its tenets.
1. The basic characteristics of Buddhism There are more than 2500 years have gone since the age of the Buddha. His teachings have syncretic characteristics, which resulted in numerous interpretations in various regions and made it easy for Buddhism to disperse through the Asian continent. In the modern era Buddhism has been introduced and spread all around the world, and finally in the 20th century the teaching of the Buddha was getting popular in various forms both in Western and Eastern countries [Skilton, A. T., (1994)]. In the heart of the Buddha’s teachings there is the notion of the Three Signs of Being, which describes that every phenomenon in the experiential world is conditioned and shares three fundamental characteristics: (i) impermanence or transience, (ii) unsatisfactoriness or painfulness, and (iii) containing no permanent or unchanging self. The importance of these conceptions is crucial as it appears several times along the Pali Canon, in the collection of the sacred texts of Buddhism. Its main occurrences and interpretations are collected by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli [The Three…, (2008)]. The Three Sings of Being constitutes the foundation of the theory and practice of Buddhism. The most important of them from the standpoint of this investigation is the first characteristic: impermanence or transience. The Three Signs of Being are universal properties which are found in all things that exist in the phenomenal world. According to the teachings there is not even one of them which is not subjected to ongoing change. Nothing is everlasting, unchanging, permanent or stable. The Buddhist doctrine of impermanence is extended to include everything, including consciousness,
which is usually taken to be permanent both in the spiritual traditions of the West and the East, as an eternal soul or as one of its qualities [The Three…, (2008)]. This assertion is not a metaphysical enquiry, but a judgment arrived at by investigation and analysis. The fact of impermanence means that reality is never static. As all phenomena come into existence by previous conditions, they contain the inevitability of coming to an end. As soon as there is a beginning at that moment there begins also an ending [Brabant-Smith, R., (1989)]. Theodor Ippolitovich Stcherbatsky, a Russian orientalist of the 20th century was examining the basic teachings of the Buddha in his famous book “The Central Conception of Buddhism”. He described that the concept of impermanence had been evolving through the ages by the development of Buddhist philosophy. There were sects in the tradition that defined impermanence by three-segment of momentariness: origination, subsistence and cessation. Others were determining it by four-segment of momentariness: origination, existence, decay and extinction.2 A moment was defined as the time during which the three or four characteristics accomplish their operation. Nevertheless different schools of the tradition interpreted the characteristic of impermanence in various ways, they didn’t deny its importance and central role in the Buddha’s teachings [Stcherbatsky, T., (1983)]. In summary the permanence of phenomenal existence can’t be interpreted as it is interpreted in the modern Western culture.3 According to Buddhism permanence doesn’t exist at all, and that is the reason why clinging to worldly phenomena is meaningless. Impermanence is the very core of the Buddha’s teachings, and also the basis for the other two characteristics of existence. The second Sign of Being is unsatisfactoriness or painfulness. As it was mentioned above it is a logical corollary arising from the law of universal impermanence. The impermanent nature of phenomena leads to one indubitable conclusion: “…as everything is impermanent, it cannot be made the basis of permanent happiness” [The Three…, (2008) p. 26]. As all phenomena arising and passing away, it leads to the conclusion that by their nature they can’t be the basis for a satisfactory experience. As the source of happiness is also impermanent, it can’t result in an everlasting good feeling – like any other phenomenon, happiness in itself is also transient. In short, whatever is impermanent is unsatisfactory [Brabant-Smith, R., (1989)]. As indicative of a general characteristic of phenomena, the term unsatisfactoriness in a narrower sense is identical
The interpretation of momentariness derived from the concept of impermanence can be found in the canons of the different Buddhist sects in question. In his book „The Central Conception of Buddhism” Theodor Stcherbatsky introduced these sects, analyzed their interpretations of impermanence, and the philosophical consequences of their thought. 3 The concept of eternal impermanence was also articulated in the history of Western philosophy and modern science. William James, Bertrand Russel, Alfred North Whitehead, Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger had been all contributing to the development of this notion, but also Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and the modern field theory have significant influences on the development of the Western concept of impermanence.
with pain, suffering, misery, sorrow; and in its wider sense it includes deeper ideas such as imperfection, unrest and conflict. The third Sign of Being is non-self or insubstantiality. The unsatisfactory nature of phenomena leads to an important conclusion: if everything is characterized by unsatisfactoriness, than nothing can be identified as self or as a permanent soul [The Three…, (2008)]. This point differentiates Buddhism from every other significant spiritual tradition, in which there is a kind of typical soul-like eternal entity. The third characteristic shows that between its arising and cessation a thing hasn’t got any static phase. The doctrine of insubstantiality is also a crucial teaching in Buddhism. Its importance is shown as the very second sermon of the Buddha was the examination of the characteristics of non-self.4 Although man is disposed to see an ’I’ or a self in phenomena which seemingly permanent (it could be his body, his feelings, his states of consciousness, etc.), but, subjected to the law of impermanence, none of them is able to contain a stable self. The concept of existence can only be understood if these three fundamental signs are comprehended not only logically, but in confrontation with one’s own experience. By the cultivation of the Buddhist meditation practice one sees things as they really are and not as they appear to be, which means seeing the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and no-self nature of all things. The concept of sustainable development covers a process in which an ongoing economic and technological advancement is being sustained. According to the teaching of impermanence the aim of sustainable development can’t be accomplished as the Buddhist worldview doesn’t admit the necessary permanence which is implied in its notion. As every phenomenon is subjected to decay and cessation, the sustainability of development can’t be implemented. Hereafter according to the teaching of Buddhism the consequences of clinging to the aim of development – and the consequences of attachment in general – will be introduced.
2. The conception of suffering or unsatisfactoriness Based on the Three Signs of Being the central doctrine of Buddhism is eventually The Four Noble Truth, which was articulated in the Buddha’s first sermon.5 The First Noble Truth is that every phenomenon is inadequate, unsatisfactory and its nature is suffering. The Buddha declared that numerous accompaniment of life are painful: birth, ageing, sickness and death are all suffering. To be together with the unwanted or to be detached from loved ones is also painful. It 4
Anatta-lakkhana Sutta. On-line at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.nymo.html, checked: 12.08.2011. 5 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011.
is also suffering if one’s desires are not fulfilled. All of the enumerated features are universals, thus everybody shares them. Furthermore the first characteristics (birth, ageing, sickness and death) are more universal as they characterize all sentient beings. This logic leads to the central role and the importance of Buddhist sympathy towards every living being, as each of them shares the same fateful characteristics. Because of their false knowledge, people perceive the Three Sign of Being incorrectly, which also leads to suffering. As Piyadassi Thera cites from the Buddhist Canon: Now, when a man is caught up in these illusions he perceives, thinks, and views incorrectly: He perceives permanence in the impermanent; satisfactoriness in the unsatisfactory (ease and happiness in suffering); self in what is not self (a soul in the soulless); beauty in the repulsive. He thinks and views in the same erroneous manner [The Three…, (2008) p. 7].
The Second Noble Truth describes the origination of unsatisfactoriness. It states that suffering has its origin in a general human characteristic, the ignorance-leaded, unchecked craving for the ephemeral phenomena of the impermanent world. Attachment or clinging to the illusion of phenomenal permanence is suffering – especially if it is connected with worldly material wants. As Piyadassi Thera emphasizes: The people of the world today mark the changing nature of life. Although they see it, they do not keep it in mind and act with dispassionate discernment… They cherish the belief that it is possible to discover a way of happiness in this very change, to find a centre of security in this circle of impermanence. They imagine that although the world is uncertain they can make it certain and give it a solid basis, and so the unrelenting struggle for worldly improvement goes on with persevering effort and futile enthusiasm [The Three…, (2008) pp. 9–10].
Sustenance is the preservation of a particular state. It is motivated by the longing for the constancy of good feelings and the absence of bad feelings. Worldly things which are connected to sensual pleasures are the most evanescent amongst all. Therefore the conception of sustainable development can’t be interpreted as a process, which doesn’t result in suffering from a Buddhist point of view on a clearly technical or material plain of existence, as it is interpreted by modern economic and political institutions. If one is clinging to the realization of sustainable development, and pegging away at economic and technological development, than the result will be suffering.
3. The interpretation of sustainability and sustainable development in Buddhism The first and foremost goal of Buddhism is the final cessation of suffering. This credo was summarized by the Buddha in numerous places along the Canon as: “Both formerly and now, monks, I declare only suffering and the cessation of suffering”6. The Third Noble Truth declares that this goal can be realized, because unsatisfactoriness can be ceased. Furthermore it leads to the Fourth Nobel Truth, which enunciates that The Noble Eightfold Path is the way to the eradication of suffering. This path, some may know as the Middle Way refers to right behavior that leads to the full cessation of unsatisfactoriness. Its eight divisions could be grouped into three parts: (i) Wisdom (which is including the first two stages of the Noble Eightfold Path – Right View and Right Decision); (ii) Virtues (which is including the third, fourth and fifth stages – Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood7); and (iii) Concentration (the last three stages of the Noble Eightfold Path – Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration). The Threefold Practice, which is identical with The Noble Eightfold Path, is a tool of purifying the human character. Buddhist lifestyle aims to improve these three synergistic abilities to perfection by ongoing practice, which is identical to the eradication of suffering. The practice of virtues helps the meditation practice, which results in wisdom and the further perfection of virtues. In the course of the ongoing perfection of the three abilities a development process is taking shape, but this is just a by-product of the goal of suffering-eradication, not a direct aim, which must be attained. This development process is an inner spiritual advancement, which is sustained by ongoing practice of The Noble Eightfold Path, and has a central role in the Buddhist way of liberation from unsatisfactoriness. The last words of the Buddha was also pointing towards the importance of this inner development, as he emphasized: “Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness”.8
Alagaddupama Sutta. On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011. Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta: On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.063.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011. Kaccayanagotta Sutta. On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011. Anuradha Sutta. On-line: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.086.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011. Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011. 7 The fifth segment of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Livelihood, which is referred by Ernst Friedrich Schumacher as the basic evidence of the existence of Buddhist economics. It was his starting point in his famous book “Small is Beautiful” in the articulation of the theory of Buddhist economics [Schumacher, E. F., (1973)]. 8 Maha-parinibbana Sutta. On-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.5-6.than.html, checked: 12.08.2011.
As it is also articulated ensuring the necessary material background is very important for spiritual development. As Venerable Payutto emphasizes based on the basic teachings of the Buddhist Canon, there are four requisites, four basic needs for human beings, which must be satisfied before one’s spiritual development can be achieved. These are: (i) appropriate amount of nourishment; (ii) appropriate dwelling-place; (iii) appropriate clothing; and (iv) appropriate medicine in needs [Payutto, Ven. P. A., (1994)]. In summary the conception of development can be found in the teachings of the Buddha, but with three main differences as it is interpreted in our modern age according to the notion of sustainable development: 1. The development process is interpreted solely in an inner, spiritual plane of existence (exclusive material development is not praised and not important above a moderate, necessary level for one’s inner advancement). 2. The development process is not a direct goal in itself, but the by-product of the purification of the human character, which is the pursuit of the Threefold Practice for the cessation of suffering. 3. The development is not sustainable, rather is sustained as a byproduct of ongoing practice. Applying appropriate economic activities is crucial to obtain the four basic needs of human beings, which is necessary for Buddhist spiritual development towards the eradication of unsatisfactoriness.
4. The emergence of Buddhist economics A sharp distinction must be made between the monastic life of monks and nuns, and the daily life of laity in the Buddhist tradition.9 The upmost goals of both groups are the same as it was mentioned above: the final cessation of suffering, or at least the alleviation of it in the greatest possible extent. According to the original teaching of the Buddha, monastic life is the only appropriate way for achieving the full cessation of suffering, for awakening, and for the realization of Nirvana. But economic actions can’t be interpreted in monastic life as the monks
The Buddha was instructing both the monastic order and his lay followers in consonance with right behavior and right lifestyle. From a modern perspective the latter can be defined as the Buddha’s economic and social view – from which a vibrant theory of economics and society can be drawn [Wee, V., (2001)].
and nuns are mendicants and are leading a life which is fed by the donations of the laity. They are fully dependent on the lay followers of Buddhism.10 The lifestyle of the laity also allows a life lack of unsatisfactoriness. The Threefold Practice amended by the Five Precepts11 orders rightness and permits ongoing spiritual development. Following the Virtues for lay people means the realization of non-harming in their daily lifes – which includes their economic activities as well. It is articulated that the Buddha had preached economic and social well-being for the laity. Social justice and honestly-earned decent wellbeing is the basis for further personal spiritual perfection. P. A. Payutto emphasizes according to the teachings that a decent well-being is indispensable for spiritual perfection [Payutto, Ven. P. A., (1994)]. It means that the basic needs of human beings must be met, and they must be satisfied exclusively by proper, non-harming labor. Thus appropriate well-being ensured honest work is not just the necessary basis, but also a necessity for sustainable inner development – an ongoing spiritual perfection towards the eradication of suffering.12 Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, a German-born English economist was the first who mentioned Buddhist economics as a remarkable alternative of orthodox Western economics [Schumacher, E. F., (1973)]. Its time coincided with the collapse of limitless growth conception, and its theory has evolved along with the advancement of sustainable development theory. As numerous authors affirmed Buddhist economics is able to be the alternative of the traditional paradigm of Western economics. Its distinguishing axioms are: 1. According to the third Sign of Being the starting point of Buddhist economics is non-self in opposition with the Western basic paradigm of self-interested individual. 2. According to the upmost aim of Buddhism the main goal of Buddhist economics is the reduction of suffering by fulfilling non-harming business activities, not profitmaximization as it is in Western economics. 3. According to the ongoing practice of the Noble Eightfold Path a developing cognitive consciousness makes the background of economic actions rather than rationality and rational choice theory.
Some latter Chinese and Japanese Mahayana schools had been following the plough. They had been making feudalistic agricultural activities, but only for self-preservation and as a kind of spiritual development, not for trading at the market or for making profit. 11 The Five Precepts are the refraining from: harming, taking what is not given, sexual misconduct, false speech, and taking intoxicants. 12 As it is mentioned by P. A. Payutto, there is a parable in the Buddhist scriptures about a shepherd, who wasn’t taught until his hunger wasn’t satisfied as, according to the Buddha, hunger is the greatest hindrance in accomplishing spiritual development.
4. Based on sympathy the main motivator of actions in economic relationships is cooperation rather than exquisite competition. [Payutto, Ven. P. A., (1994) & Puntasen, A., (2007) & Zsolnai, L., (2007) & Zsolnai, L., (2011)]. As Laszlo Zsolnai emphasizes the main characteristics of Buddhist economics is confirmed by various fields of modern science [Zsolnai, L., (2007) & Zsolnai, L., (2008)]. In summary Buddhist economics builds up its theories on a clearly different paradigm as Western economics. It draws an adverse picture of human beings as is drawn by the homo-oeconomicus model of neoclassical economics. The development of its theories was speeding up in the last few years. As it was evolved to a scholarship in the early 2000â€™s it has become significant both in east and west amongst scientists, economists, and Buddhist followers. Economic activities are indispensable for the alleviation of suffering as they provide the basic necessities for human beings to be able to devote themselves for an ongoing spiritual development. According to the philosophy of Buddhism sustainability and the realization of sustainable development in economic sense must be the consequence of non-harming economic activities rather than their fundamental goal. However from Buddhist point of view technological and economic developments are not necessities for the realization of economicsâ€™ purposes: securing the basic needs of people. Thus a sharp distinction must be made between the conception of sustainable development and sustainability. The latter is more important than the former from the point of Buddhist economics. The fundamental goal in spiritual sense is still the final cessation of suffering or unsatisfactoriness. Economic sustainability is a byproduct of Buddhist economic practice, which allows an inner sustainable spiritual development for people concerned, and furthermore accomplishes the goals of the modern conception of sustainable development mentioned in the introduction, as it satisfies the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Furthermore as Richard Welford emphasizes it contributes to the preservation and the restoration of environment [Welford, R., (2006)].
5. The practice of Buddhist economics and the realization of sustainability Nowadays the foremost goal of modern economic institutions, big or small firms or multi- and transnational corporations in the framework of neoclassical economic paradigm is still profitmaximization, which is in numerous cases undermines the realization of sustainable development. As it can be experienced the main goal of economics is in conflict with the notion of sustainable development. This is an antagonistic opposition, which canâ€™t be easily dissolved. Contrary to this Buddhist economics works in a sharply different framework: in a paradigm
which aims the alleviation of unsatisfactoriness. Its practice is based on non-self, on the reduction of suffering, on an ongoing development of consciousness, and on cooperation. Thus sustainability is interpreted differently in Buddhist economics. It can be achieved as a byproduct or the consequence of the foremost aim by doing non-harming businesses on the three plane of human existence, as P. A. Payutto emphasizes, on the individual, social and environmental planes [Payutto, Ven. P. A., (1994)]. As Laszlo Zsolnai summarizes in the concept of Buddhist economics strategy, there are five basic characteristics of business activities which can be referred as â€œBuddhistâ€?. These are: 1. Minimization of suffering: is the main principle of Buddhist economics, which is extended to all sentient beings beyond humanity. A project is worthy to be undertaken if it reduces the suffering of all stakeholders. Zsolnai refers to the prospect theory of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky that underpins the relevance and importance of lossreduction and loss-sensitivity. 2. Simplification of desires: Western economics is based on the cultivation of desires as profit motive requires ever-increasing demands. The Buddhist strategy is the opposite of this as it recommends moderation in consumption amended by ongoing meditation, which results in higher level of satisfaction than ongoing pursuit of happiness. Zsolnai refers to psychological researches, which point towards that materialistic valueorientation is undermining real well-being, and auto-projection by which people seek satisfaction is a loser-strategy. Furthermore it is obvious from the field of economics that overpayment of employees in much of the times contribute to counterproductive outcomes. 3. Practice of non-violence: is identical to the reduction of the influence of market to an adaptable level. As for Buddhism non-violence is the guiding principle in solving social problems, market is just a mere necessity for assuring basic needs of the society, not the tool of problem-solving as it is in the Western economic framework. As Zsolnai states, achieving sustainability and non-violence requires the introduction of small-scale, locally adaptable, culturally diverse market systems. 4. Genuine care: is the opposite of traditional instrumental use. It means the realization of genuine responsibility and the employment of sympathy in business cases. The critique of instrumentalism can be approached from a philosophic point as Zsolnai quotes Martin Heidegger, but furthermore, according to Robert Frank, caring organizations can achieve five distinct benefits, that canâ€™t be achieved by profitmaximizing corporations, as they are always rewarded by their stakeholders in economic terms.
5. Generosity: is the genuine consideration of the interest of others. It has its own place in Western economics, but up until the point that harms the actor’s own interest. The relevance of genuine generosity is underpinned by psychological experiments which confirm the theory of homo-reciprocants in opposition with homo-oeconomicus. It assumes that human beings are behaving generously even in their own expense as they always give more than they get, whether it is good or bad [Zsolnai, L., (2007) & Zsolnai, L., (2008)]. According to the mentioned five principles it is clear that Buddhist economic strategy is the opposite of the Western economic system as it is a minimizing framework. The notion of minimization is in sharp contradiction with the traditional all-embracing maximization of neoclassical Western economics. Buddhist economics practice can be employed by anyone regardless his or her religious background as it is not a dogmatic system, but a strategy which aims the realization of the supreme goal of Buddhism along its five basic principles [Zsolnai, L., (2007) & Zsolnai, L., (2008)]. From this interpretation it is clearly discernible what P. A. Payutto emphasized in his book, Buddhist Economics – A Middle Way for the Marketplace: “In fact, one needn't be a Buddhist or an economist to practice Buddhist economics” [Payutto, Ven. P. A., (1994)]. According to this view an economic action mustn’t be prejudged by the personality of the actor, or by the size or the name of the corporation, but must be judged by the effects and consequences of business activities [Nelson, J., (2006) & Nelson, J., (2011)]. In summary every business model can be designated Buddhist, that fits in this economic strategy. As Laszlo Zsolnai mentions the models of Community Supported Agriculture, Eco-Tourism, Slow-Movement, Ethical Banking, and Ethical Fashion are all examples for the realization of the theory of Buddhist economics in practice [Zsolnai, L., (2008)]. The realization of Buddhist economic strategy along these five characteristics involves sustainability in the strict Western sense as a significant byproduct, as it works in each plain of existence (on individual, social and environmental level) towards the cessation of unsatisfactoriness by realization of non-harming. Furthermore these activities are contributing to and allow the realization of the Buddhist concept of sustainable spiritual development – as they assuring the basis for inner individual advancement.
Conclusions As the report of the Brundtland Commission suggested the foremost goal of today’s economics should be the achieving of sustainable development within the boundaries of the neoclassical economic framework, that implies the necessity of material-technological development, which
stems from the prevailing paradigm of modern economics. These two goals are incompatible and difficult to reconciliate. Sustainable development on the plane of materialism is also an oxymoron in Buddhist interpretation. The realization of ongoing development is unimplementable as every worldly phenomenon is impermanent and the further clinging to it always results in unsatisfactoriness and suffering. In opposition with the prevailing Western paradigm Buddhist economic strategy realize material sustainability as it is defined in “Our Common Future” report of the Brundtland Commission as a byproduct of business activities. According to its basic teachings sustainability doesn’t mean sustainable development in Buddhist sense. Rather it is the ensuring of the appropriate material wellbeing, the accomplishment of non-harming in economic activities, and the realization of the inner freedom. Thus economic and technological development is a byproduct and stems from the foremost Buddhist goal of full cessation of suffering. Buddhist economics has the same goal as has Buddhism, and realizes sustainability in the modern sense without necessary clinging to development, and supports sustainable spiritual development.
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