Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dharma Economics

"While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. Buddhism is the Middle Way and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence.

For the modern economist [and consumer] this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. "

--E.F. Shumacher, Small Is Beautiful

I admit that my recipe for economic "success" is quite different than the advice you'll get from most.

Bookstores are filled with books about making money and getting rich. But they all come with certain basic philosophical assumptions-- mainly that MORE money is always better and the key to "success" is to be rich.

Even books that I recommend, such as The 4-Hour Workweek or Your Portable Empire, have an underlying philosophy of "getting rich". All of these writers are firmly centered in mainstream capitalist thinking.

My philosophy is essentially that of a Buddhist economist. While others speak of "success" and "wealth", my concern is liberation. And when I speak of liberation, I mean financial liberation, physical liberation, emotional liberation, mental liberation,.. and ultimately spiritual liberation. However, at this time in my life, I'm only qualified to give advice about financial and physical liberation (and somewhat on emotional and mental :)

Its important to understand the profound difference between seeking wealth and seeking liberation. Mainstream financial advice is always focused on more, more, more.

However, my starting point is always less, less, less. Simplicity is the core of my approach to financial liberation. Learn to need less, and you automatically become freer. Learn to need a smaller and cheaper living space. Learn to need a smaller and cheaper car... or better yet, a motorcycle,... or still better, no vehicle at all. Learn to need fewer gadgets. Learn to need fewer and less expensive clothes.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. This is the core of my "method". Before you worry about building a micro-business, before you worry about debt elimination, before you worry about working fewer hours or making more money-- Simplify every aspect of your life--- persistently, continuously, relentlessly. Pare away all that is unnecessary, distracting, and fashionable. Go to work on your cravings.

This is the basis for liberation. Without doing this, you'll always be a slave... no matter how much money you have-- because you'll always need more.... and thus will always remain a slave to work and economics.

On the other hand, if you simplify drastically-- you'll find that financial liberation is much easier than you thought. You'll find that you can work much less and live much more. You'll find that escaping your job and boss (part-time or permanently) is much easier than you thought. You'll find that eliminating debt is much easier than you thought.

You'll find that you are much less stressed about money. You'll find that you have many more options in life. You'll find it easier to save, easier to travel, easier to do those things you always put off doing.

Simplicity is the starting point, the center, the foundation, and the ending point. It is the key to your financial (and physical, and emotional) liberation.


Steve Sherlock said...

Well said! Keep at being simple. Have a most happy new year!

Anonymous said...

I had a long comment written out and just deleted it to *simply* say that I am inspired by your writing and also live by the same mantra -- if only family and friends stuck in the system could understand...

Aaron said...

I agree completely. I am what freinds call a minimalist, basically I only own a computer, a few changes of clothes, and a 20 year old car. That is literally it. I can pack up and move out in 10 minutes. Many people consider me weird for it, but they cannot understand that my time is literally money, and needing less, I have more time for what I want to do. I am also attending college, without a job, and literally living on about 7k a year or less, and dont feel broke, its all about self discipline, something most people lack nowadays.