Buddhist Economics on Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy!

What makes people happy?

This question takes us to the heart of the difference between free market economics and Buddhist economics, which have fundamentally difference assumptions about human nature. According to Buddhist economics, human nature is generous and altruistic, even as it also cares about itself. People’s suffering comes from their own mental states that cause them to desire more and more. The Dalai Lama tells us that our feelings of not having enough and wanting more do not arise from the inherent desirability of the objects we seek, but from our own mental illusions. In Buddhist economics, we end suffering by changing our states of mind—we become happy by caring for others and living a meaningful life.
Free market economics rests on the very different assumption that human nature is self-centered and people care only about themselves as they push ahead to maximize their incomes and fancy lifestyles. According to this approach, buying and consuming—new shoes or a new video game—make you happy. Yet soon you grow tired of the shoes, become disappointed with the game, and are shopping again. In this endless cycle of desire, people are left wanting more without ever finding lasting satisfaction. Free market economics is not showing us how to live meaningful lives in a sustainable world, nor is it offering solutions to our concerns about wars, inequality, and global warming.

Buddhist economics provides a path for being happy in our daily life. “Practice compassion” replaces “More is better,” as we move from a “Closetful” to a “Mindful” way of living. Buddhist economics also guides governments in how to restructure the global economy to create well-being for all in a healthy environment. “Everyone’s well-being is connected” replaces “Maximize your own position,” and “The welfare of humans and Nature is interdependent” replaces “Pollution is a social cost that can be ignored.”

British Professor Layard, who is a co-author of the important book The Origins of Happiness, writes, “The evidence shows that the things that matter most for our happiness and for our misery are our social relationships and our mental and physical health. This demands a new role for the state – not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.”

The reality that having more money and buying more stuff is not the road to happiness has been studied for decades, and yet our society still keeps us on the treadmill. Buddhist economics show us how together we can live balanced meaningful lives and heal the earth. There’s no time to lose!

“One interesting thing about greed is that although the underlying motive is to seek satisfaction, the irony is that even after obtaining the object of your desire, you are still not satisfied.” —Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness (p. 95)

Here’s more: www.nytimes.com/2016/07/26/your-money/more-money-more-success-more-stuff-dont-count-on-more-happiness.html?ref=your-money).

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