Materialism and Buddhism

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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Materialism and Buddhism

Postby CharlesV » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:53 am

Hello all, first time posting here :smile:

I have a question, I was reading Alan Watts' book yesterday at Barnes and Noble, and I'm quite interested in Buddhism. My question has to do with luxury items, specifically exotic cars. Would you guys (and gals) frown on ownership of such items. Bear in mind that I am quite the philanthropist as well (about 30% of my income.)

I wouldn't say that I'm "spoiled" by such items, I've been able to afford the items in question for well over 5 years, but I just now started collecting them.

What is your take?

With regards, Charles.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Mon Nov 07, 2011 3:19 am

Last edited by Lhug-Pa on Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby wisdom » Mon Nov 07, 2011 4:23 am

Buddhism usually encourages lay people who want to support Buddhism to donate to local Buddhist groups, or help support monks through donations. Your wealth is the fruits of your karma so its yours to do with what you want, yet the fruits of our karma do not only have one way in which they may be used. How we use the fruits of our karma will greatly determine the nature of our future harvests. No Buddhist would condemn you for collecting cars as a Buddhist will understand the causes that make you want to collect cars with compassion. They might even enjoy going for a spin in one!

From my personal view and in my personal opinion material wealth is only useful if its used to help other people. Money = resources, and the more of it we have, the less of it others have. If I were handed 100 million dollars, I would 10 ten million for myself so I would never have to work again, and use the other 90 million to help others. If I were you, I would consider how the wealth can be used to benefit yourself in the study of Dharma. With the kind of wealth you apparently have (and if you think its not wealth it is, anyone who can collect sports cars is wealthy) you could really devote yourself to the study of Buddhism. You could pay for schooling to learn Tibetan language and Buddhist history, you could buy any books you need, and most importantly you can buy time to devote to the study and meditation, you can pay for the retreats which are all expensive and require money to attend. So your wealth represents also a great opportunity to do good by yourself, and in doing so you will do good for others eventually anyways because when you realize the Dharma your compassion will redirect your desires. On some level your wealth represents an opportunity for you to transform your own life, let alone the lives of others.

Or you could just give me like 30k and I can go on a three year retreat! :broke: :lol:

Also keep in mind its worse to waste money than invest it. At least a car is just money in a solid form. You can recoup it later if you want and have a change of heart or mind. You can't do this with money you waste, its gone forever.


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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Nov 07, 2011 5:32 am

Opinions on this as apparent vary..

So I will speak only for myself. If I did indulge myself in such a fashion(lived other than simply)...I would shorten my lifespan.
I am human by virtue of certain things, in the main by compassionate effect. Human is that result.
If I conduct myself with a predominance of self indulgence which is not compassion I then reduce cause to be human and as effect...shorten my life span.

We have pretty much set lifespans when we come into this world(by my take), as a function of karma. We can influence them a bit not a large bit but a bit.
More comassionate action longer life.
WE may still be destined in a karmic way to get hit by a car and die before we reach old age...but that car may hit us at age of 32 as opposed to 30 with a more self indulgent lifestyle.
Giving 30% of a salary certainly also serves this purpose, but living not indulgently also serves that purpose.
So one may get hit by that car at 34 as opposed to 32 if one did both(as per example for illustration the extension would be a variable depending upon the particular of karmic effects, life is extended but the actual is unknown so complex it is).

As I am entirely selfish with my lifespan since I find this human life of great use...I take all means to push it as far as it may go.
We can generally we do not know we can by such things.
So no self indulgence for me, and I also give to charity, I still do a bit of service,and fulfilly my karmic obligations of a compassionate sort with family . I like fine cars and could buy several....but human lifespan this is important to my spiritual progress even if no selfindulgence, expands it by a day or could be that day or so that I accomplish great things or at the least one more day of being very very happy.

....I would trade easily a car or other thing to live even a day or two more, ..I expect even Steve Jobs would have if he could have.

Perhaps car is more important to you than a bit longer to if that is your car.
Poor choice by my take, but good choice if that is what you desire.
KNow that going in though....self indulgence..will shorten a lifespan. It is a fact as much as anything may be called a fact by my take.

In Tibetan buddhism and some other sorts.... peoples will find animals due to be slaughtered and buy them and then release them, saving them from slaughter.
This is for compassionate intent and specifically to enhance lifespan in most considerations. So that is different but the same principal applies...we may to a bit influcence this life spans length. Self indulgence decreases it.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby LastLegend » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:48 am

You should give some to the hungry, sick, and poor. Or you can give me some and I will donate some to the hungry, sick, and poor. :jumping:

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:49 am

Hi Charles.

I would say, continue on your path. Obviously giving is not alien to you, and this is a very good thing. If nothing else changes, by the end of your life you will have benefitted many, accumulating much good karma.

But things will change, they always do. Some become wealthier, others poorer. Regardless of how things turn out, you can set your sails towards enlightenment. If you continue to accumulate the causes and conditions of enlightenment, the greater goal will come to pass.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby plwk » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:39 pm

I would think of these...

a. Do I own these things or do these things own me?

b. Motivation for accumulation?
To benefit self only? To benefit others only? To neither benefit self nor others? To both benefit self and others?

c. Rejoice in my own good karma that due to causes and conditions, I have this opportunity of learning gratitude from this level of ease and blessings.
Rejoice in having the precious opportunity to practice generosity & creating Dharmic affinities with sentient beings.

d. Contentment. Is 'less' necessarily 'more'? If one always thinks one has nothing, one will still be discontented even if one has everything.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby conebeckham » Mon Nov 07, 2011 5:26 pm

"It is not things, but your attachment to them, that binds you in Samsara."


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Kyosan » Mon Nov 07, 2011 6:46 pm

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby KathyLauren » Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:40 pm

Having nice stuff is neither good nor bad. It's just stuff. If you acquired it by dishonest or exploitative means, that would be bad, but the stuff itself is just stuff.

Being attached to stuff, nice or otherwise, will cause you suffering. That is neither good nor bad. It's just suffering. However, when you are suffering, you will wish you weren't. (That's the definition of suffering.) The way to stop it or prevent it in the first place is to let go of the attachments.

Om mani padme hum

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Thug4lyfe » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:12 am

You make money and be rich like Steve Jobs! Although once you get there, you should be more like Bill Gates, donate most of it to me!!!!


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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby muni » Tue Nov 08, 2011 9:16 am

Buddha sat on the grass, others as well.

Nothing needed. What a joy!


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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Thug4lyfe » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:12 pm

well... there is the Jetavana, Anathapindika’s Park. Which was donated by Prince of Sravasti, who was touched by Anathapindika's generous donations of gold.

Not to mention all the donations, protections provided by all the devote kings, Brahmins, eldars and ordinary citizens.

Gonna walk right through that door, High heels on a hardwood floor
They all coming back for more, it's a party tonight (hey, hey)
Get it up and do it right this time, never gonna stop till the beat is mine
Come 'round if you're so inclined, it's a party tonight

Where my girls go, gon' be a good show
Hey girl, you go gon' - gon' - gon' make dat money
Body's insane, now go make it rain
Hey girl, you go gon' - gon' - gon' make dat money

Where my girls at? Make your heels clap
Where my girls at? Make your heels clap
Click clack - click clack uh! Everybody, everybody do you hear that
Click clack - click clack uh! That's sound of a slingback

Lemme get another track DJ, all the brothers wanna eat this cake
Lemme show you how to instigate a party tonight
Lemme hear your Jimmy Choo's! Louboutin, what you gonna do?
My Manolo Blahnik's gonna party tonight

Peanut butter head, kiss my grits
Yo Moma's in the kitchen but her oven on the fritz
Yo Daddy's in jail raising hell
And yo sister's on the corner selling something for sale
Something for sale, something for sale
Yo sister's on the corner something something for sale

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby alwayson » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:26 pm

Your avatar is ridiculously creepy.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Thug4lyfe » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:24 pm

ha ha, I actually agree!

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby muni » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:40 am

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Asabandha » Tue Nov 29, 2011 1:25 pm

To the OP:

There is no reason that you should feel like owning nice things is inherently wrong and makes you "less Buddhist". It is true that if you pursue the path you will find yourself with no need for possessions that are extravagant, etc. because you will have realized that true happiness does not depend on such things and can in fact be hindered by them, but that is a long way off and the point of Buddhism is not to be a penniless beggar. The point is to attain freedom from suffering and share that freedom with as many sentient beings as possible. To that end, wealth can be helpful so long as one does not succumb to greed (Although it sounds like you're doing well here). It is wonderful that you generously dedicate a large portion of your income to philanthropy. Generosity is one of the six perfections of the bodhisattva (Akin to a Buddhist saint in this sense of the word), so you are well on your way. :) The beauty of Buddhism is that it teaches us to be generous not just with money, but also with time, with smiles, with love. Most of all with loving-kindness, compassion and joy. Generosity in those respects is of the utmost value. So keep being generous and do not feel like your lifestyle precludes you from being a Buddhist.

Edit: You can start practicing right away with your philanthropic donations. When you donate, say this either out loud or silently three times...

I dedicate the merit of this offering to the liberation of all beings from suffering,
And to the efforts of the buddhas of the ten directions and the three times
May all beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all beings never be separated from happiness and its causes,
May all beings experience endless joy and swift liberation

This is not a prayer in the theistic sense. The point of this exercise is to direct all of ones personal energy to the wholesome act being done and make very clear the intention for doing it. Eventually as you practice you will come to understand that when you utter words such as these, your personal energy is aligned with and amplified by innumerable sentient beings throughout the many realms who share your motivation and wishes. You will start to experience and tap into that incredible energy, and that will start to be the energy with which your generosity is dedicated.

This sort of giving, with dedication, is very meritorious and is sure to help you attain enlightenment and benefit countless beings.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:53 pm

Well there you go.......advocating for a simple living and me personally I may now have to buy a new car, discarding my 91 toyota with 170kmiles.
Traveling to arizona regularly many hundreds of miles and snow and being a distance from town and wilderness roads during other season.......

but :smile: I may be not only poorer as result but living shorter(by my take)....ah whats a mother to do :crying:
But also as they say....I have in part wasted this life in mundane pursuit whose to say I will not waste a afterlife or other life in this same fashion.

so for now at least perhaps it is as it must be....always partially wasting things. No completely pure things found in samsara. Truthful things yes, pure things no....
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:13 pm

Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Dharma Atma » Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:43 pm

In this case, it's very useful to remember that we can't avoid the day of death.
We will surely die, without exceptions. And we'll be surely unable to take even our underwear with us. Nothing to take.
So, the attachement to things is merely ephemere. Desire to things is illusive.

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