- Buddhist Economics
- Limitations of Economic Theory in the Industrial Age
- (1) Specialization
- (2) Not free of ethics, but inattentive to them
- (3) Unable to be a science, but wanting to be one
- (4) Lack of clarity in its understanding of human nature
- — (a) Want
- — (b) Consumption
- — (c) Work and working
- — (d) Competition & Cooperation
- — (e) Contentment and Consumerism
- The Major Characteristics of Buddhist Economics
- (1) Middle-way economics: realization of true well-being
- (2) Not harming oneself or others
- Appendix: General Principles of Buddhist Economics (Middle-way Economics)
- 1. Wise Consumption
- 2. Freedom from Self-harm and from Oppression of Others
- 3. Economy as a Support
- 4. Harmony with Human Nature
- 5. Integration with the Unity of Nature
- Origin of this Book
- Translator’s Foreword
5. Integration with the Unity of Nature
This subject of an integration with the unity of nature covers a wide range of material, and has been touched upon in some of the earlier passages of this book. Here, I will attempt to present an outline of this subject.
Essentially, Buddhism holds the view that all things exist and proceed within an interrelated natural system.
Even those subjective matters within the domain of the mind, e.g. thought and imagination, and those matters pertaining to social activities, which in today’s academic circles are not necessarily considered aspects of nature or of pure science, and are thus distinguished as separate branches of study, e.g. the humanities and sociology, are in Buddhism viewed as natural phenomena, only at another level of complexity.
It is imperative that one recognizes and gains an insight into how such psychological and social factors exist as interrelated causes and conditions, and are linked to other aspects of nature within a unified system.
If there is a lack of insight into this truth, human academic knowledge will split off into separate specialized disciplines, and each one of these disciplines will end up defective and wanting. This can be seen in some branches of science which only study physical aspects of nature, without taking any account of related factors. As a consequence, the understanding of the physical world is sometimes inadequate and unclear.
From what has been said so far one can summarize Buddhist economics as holistic, integrated with other academic disciplines and human activities.
The link revealing that human individuals and human society are part of an interconnected natural system lies within people themselves, i.e.:
Human beings are an aspect of nature, although they possess unique attributes.
There are many such unique attributes, but the ones that are most important are intention (cetanā) and intelligence (paññā; in some cases, or at some levels, this word encompasses ‘wisdom,’ ‘insight’ and even the knowledge of awakening— bodhiñāṇa—but these are all facets of intelligence). All of these unique attributes are aspects of nature.
The world of human beings, or human society, is generated from these unique attributes, which exist in a causal relationship with other factors inherent in the overall interconnected natural system.
For the diverse branches of knowledge to be integrated and to truly solve people’s myriad problems, and for human creative endeavour to reach its goal, people must first understand their own unique attributes and recognize how they fit into the interconnected set of conditions (paccayākāra) inherent in nature.
Economic activity is a part or component of this holistic conditional system.
Economics as a discipline needs to discern the conditionality of economic activity within this interconnected system at two levels or pertaining to two domains:
1. The interrelationship between economics and other human social activities and affairs, e.g. popular values, traditions, ethics, state of public health, politics, and education. (Up till now, the study of politics has been given much attention, but many other aspects of human activity have been overlooked.) In this way economic activity will be assimilated into an increasingly joyous and free state of life.
2. The interrelationship between economics and the three chief factors pertaining to human existence: a person’s individual life, the society, and the natural environment. In other words, economics needs to promote healthy, happy lives for individuals in a peaceful society surrounded by a pleasant and refreshing environment. This will lead to true, lasting progress and development.
It is imperative that economics helps to integrate and coordinate the various factors in these interrelated systems to bring about balance and to achieve true success. This is the chief premise and maxim of what is called middle-way economics.