Buddhism is the world’s fourth largest religion. Roughly six to seven percent of the world’s population practices Buddhism. However, contemporary Buddhist ideologies may help to shed light on how human beings perceive poverty. Created by Buddha some 2,500 years ago, Buddhist practice involves the recognition of the physical and psychological causes of suffering in the world and the need to accept and confront such suffering.
Poverty, as ordinarily understood, consists in the non-possession of the basic material requirements for leading a decent life free from hunger, malnutrition and disease. Though often considered to be a state of unmet material wants, the elimination of poverty in the material sense is only one kind of poverty. Poverty can also exist in the psychological sense, and Buddhist thought states that this dimension of poverty may be more harmful than the material state. Yet, because Buddhism views all things as possessing no essential nature, “poverty” as it is commonly understood in todays world needs to be fully assessed and understood.
Buddha, once said that poverty “is a cause of suffering in the world. So from a modern Buddhist point of view the elimination of poverty needs to be demonstrated by the establishment of a society free of crime, social tensions, wars and conflicts where people can live in harmony, friendship and peace.
Suffering, which ties together the different ideologies of Buddhism, is therefore significant in poverty. While some may not agree with the more theological aspects of Buddhist teachings, characteristics of Buddhist thought are applicable to attaining a better understanding of how poverty affects the hundreds of million who suffer from it. Let us all understand and embrace what this world needs mentally, physically and with the spirit of humanity.
Peace and Love, Jim