By Prayudh Pyutto
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Additional resources for Buddist Economics
Whatever is consumed must firstly be reflected upon wisely. This principle is not restricted to monastics; it applies to all Buddhists. We should reflect intelligently on food-that the true purpose of eating is not for fun, for indulgence or the fascination of taste. We reflect that it is inappropriate to eat things just because they are expensive and fashion- able. We shouldn't eat extravagantly and wastefully. We should eat so as to sustain our lives, for the health of the body, in order to eradicate painful feelings of hunger that have arisen and to prevent new ones (from overeating) arising.
Thus if I make a table and chair at my monastery and then use it myself, economically speaking, I have not produced anything. A professional comedian goes on the stage and tells jokes. He relaxes the audience and gives them a good time. This is taken to be economically productive because money changes hands. However, someone working in an office, who is of a very cheerful disposition, always saying and doing things to cheer and refresh those around them, so that their work-mates are free of tension (and feel no need to go and see a professional comedian), is not considered to have produced anything.
Economics does not consider whether or not human well-being is adversely affected by that consumption. Buddhism agrees with the basic concept of consumption but adds that human well-being must be augmented by the satisfaction of a demand. Consumption must have quality of life as its aim. This is the difference of perspective. Work and working. 'Work' and 'working' are also terms that are understood in different ways by conventional and Buddhist economics, and once more the difference is related to the two kinds of desire.