TO BE AN INNER MILLIONAIRE
September 10, 1962
The search for inner wealth is much
the same as the search for outer wealth. In searching for outer wealth, intelligent
people have no problems: They can find it easily. But stupid people have lots
of difficulties. Look around and you'll see that poor people are many, while
rich people are few. This shows that stupid people are many, while intelligent
people are few, which is why there are more poor people than rich people.
In the search for inner wealth -- virtue and goodness -- the same holds true: It depends more on ingenuity than on any other factor. If we're stupid, then even if we sit right at the hem of the Buddha's robe or the robe of one of his Noble Disciples, the only result we'll get will be our own stupidity. To gain ingenuity or virtue from the Buddha or his Noble Disciples is very difficult for a stupid person, because inner wealth depends on ingenuity and intelligence. If we have no ingenuity, we won't be able to find any inner wealth to provide happiness and ease for the heart.
External wealth is something we're all familiar with. Money, material goods, living things, and things without life: All of these things are counted as wealth. They are said to belong to whoever has rights over them. The same holds true with the virtue and goodness we call merit. If unintelligent people search for merit and try to develop virtue and goodness like the people around them, the results will depend on their ingenuity and stupidity. If they have little ingenuity, they'll gain little merit.
As for those of us who have ordained in the Buddha's religion, our aim is to develop ourselves so as to gain release from suffering and stress, just like a person who aims single-mindedly at being a millionaire.
People in the world have basically three sorts of attitudes. The first sort: Some people are born in the midst of poverty and deprivation because their parents are ignorant, with no wealth at their disposal. They make their living by begging. When they wake up in the morning, they go begging from house to house, street to street, sometimes getting enough to eat, sometimes not. Their children fall into the same 'kamma current'. That's the kind of potential they've developed, so they have to be born to impoverished parents of that sort. They just don't have it in them to think of being millionaires like those in the world of the wealthy. The parents to whom they are born act as a mould, so they are lazy and ignorant like their parents. They live in suffering with their parents and go out begging with them, sometimes eating their fill, sometimes not.
But this is still better than other sorts of people. Some parents are not only poor, but also earn their living by thievery and robbery. Whatever they get to feed their children, they tell their children what it is and where it came from. The children get this sort of education from their parents and grow up nourished by impure things -- things gained through dishonesty, thievery, and robbery -- so when they grow up, they don't have to think of looking for work or for any education at the age when they should be looking for learning, because they've already received their education from their parents: education in stealing, cheating, thievery and robbery, laziness and crookedness. This is because their parents have acted as blackboards covered with writing: their actions and the manners of their every movement. Every child born to them receives training in how to act, to speak, and to think. Everything is thus an education from the parents, because the writing and teachings are all there on the blackboard of the parents. Laziness, dishonesty, deceit, thievery: Every branch of evil is there in the writing on the blackboard. The children learn to read, to draw, to write, all from their parents, and fill themselves with the sort of knowledge that has the world up in flames. As they begin to grow up, they take over their parents' duties by pilfering this and that, until they gradually become hoodlums, creating trouble for society at large. This is one of the major fires burning away at society without stop. The reasons that people can be so destructive on a large scale like this can come either from their parents, from their own innate character, or from associating with evil, dishonest people. This is the sort of attitude found in people of one sort.
The second sort of people have the attitude that even though they won't be millionaires, they will still have enough to eat and to use like people in general, and that they will be good citizens like the rest of society so that they can maintain a decent reputation. People of this sort are relatively hard-working and rarely lazy. They have enough possessions to get by on a level with the general run of good citizens. When they have children, the children take their parents as examples, as writing on the blackboard from which they learn their work, their behavior, and all their manners. Once they gain this knowledge from their parents, they put it to use and become good citizens themselves, with enough wealth to get by without hardships, able to keep up with the world so that they don't lose face or cause their families any shame. They can relate to the rest of society with confidence and without being a disgrace to their relatives or to society in general. They behave in line with their ideals until they become good citizens with enough wealth to keep themselves out of poverty. These are the attitudes of the second sort of people.
The third sort of people have attitudes that differ from those of the first two sorts in that they're determined, no matter what, to possess more wealth than anyone else in the world. They are headed in this direction from the very beginning because they have earned the opportunity to be born in families rich in virtue and material wealth. They learn ingenuity and industriousness from their parents, because their parents work hard at commerce and devote themselves fully to all their business activities. Whatever the parents do, the children will have to see. Whatever the parents say with regard to their work inside or outside the home, near or far, the children -- who are students by nature -- will have to listen and take it to heart, because the children are not only students, but also their parents' closest and most trusted helpers. The parents can't overlook them. Eventually they become the supervisors of the parents' workers inside and outside the home and in all the businesses set up by their parents. In all of the activities for which the parents are responsible, the children will have to be students and workers, at the same time keeping an eye and an ear out to observe and contemplate what is going on around them. All activities, whether in the area of the world, such as commerce, or in the area of the Dhamma -- such as maintaining the precepts, chanting, and meditating -- are things the children will have to study and pick up from their parents.
Thus parents shouldn't be complacent in their good and bad activities, acting as they like and thinking that the children won't be able to pick things up from them. This sort of attitude is not at all fitting, because the way people treat and mistreat the religion and the nation's institutions comes from what they learn as children. Don't think that it comes from anywhere else, for no one has ever put old people in school.
We should thus realize that children begin learning the principles of nature step by step from the day they are born until their parents send them for formal schooling. The principles of nature are everywhere, so that anyone who is interested -- child or adult -- can study them at any time, unlike formal studies and book learning, which come into being at some times and change or disappear at others. For this reason, parents are the most influential mould for their children in the way they look after them, give them love and affection, and provide their education, both in the principles of nature and in the basic subjects that the children should pick up from them. This is because all children come ready to learn from the adults and the other children around them. Whether they will be good children or bad depends on the knowledge they pick up from around them. When this is stored up in their hearts, it will exert pressure on their behavior, making it good or bad, as we see all around us. This comes mainly from what they learn of the principles of nature, which are rarely taught in school, but which people pick up more quickly than anything that school-teachers teach.
Thus parents and teachers should give special attention to every child for whom they are responsible. Even when parents put their children to work, helping with the buying and selling at home, the children are learning the livelihood of buying and selling from their parents -- picking up, along the way, their parents' strong and weak points. We can see this from the way children pick up the parents' religion. However good or bad, right or wrong the religion may be -- even if it's worshipping spirits -- the children are bound to pick up their parents' beliefs and practices. If the parents cherish moral virtue, the children will follow their example, cherishing moral virtue and following the practices of their parents.
This third sort of person is thus very industrious and hard-working, and so reaps better and more outstanding results than the other two sorts.
When we classify people in this way, we can see that people of the first sort are the laziest and most ignorant. At the same time, they make themselves disreputable and objects of the scorn of good people in general. People of the second sort are fairly hard-working and fairly well-off, while those of the third sort are determined to be wealthier than the rest of the world and at the same time are very hard-working because, since they have set their sights high, they can't just sit around doing nothing. They are very persevering and very persistent in their work, going all out to find ways to earn wealth, devoting themselves to their efforts and to being ingenious, circumspect, and uncomplacent in all their activities. People of this sort, even if they don't become millionaires, are important and deserve to be set up as good examples for the people of the nation at large.
We monks fall into the same three sorts. The first sort includes those who are ordained only in name, only as a ceremony, who don't aim for the Dhamma, for reasonability, or for what's good or right. They aim simply at living an easy life because they don't have to work hard like lay people. Once ordained, they become very lazy and very well-known for quarreling with their fellow monks. Instead of gaining merit from being ordained, as most people might think, they end up filling themselves and those around them with suffering and evil.
The second sort of monk aims at what is reasonable. If he can manage to gain release from suffering, that's what he wants. He believes that there is merit and so he wants it. He believes that there is evil, so he wants really to understand good and evil. He is fairly hard-working and intelligent. He follows the teachings of the Dhamma and Vinaya well and so doesn't offend his fellow monks. He is interested in studying and diligently practicing the threefold training of virtue, concentration, and discernment. He takes instruction easily, has faith in the principles of the Dhamma and Vinaya, is intent on his duties, and believes in what is reasonable.
The third sort of monk becomes ordained out of a true sense of faith and conviction. Even if he may not have had much of an education from any teachers in the beginning, once he has become ordained and gains instruction from his teachers or from the texts that give a variety of reasons showing how to act so as to head toward evil and how to strive so as to head toward the good, he immediately takes it as a lesson for training himself. The more he studies from his teachers, the stronger his faith and conviction grow, to the point where he develops a firm, single-minded determination to gain release from suffering and stress. Whether sitting, standing, walking, or lying down, he doesn't flag in his determination. He is always firmly intent on gaining release from suffering and stress. He's very persistent and hard-working. Whatever he does, he does with his full heart, aiming at reason, aiming at the Dhamma.
This third sort of monk is the uncomplacent sort. He observes the precepts for the sake of real purity and observes them with great care. He is uncomplacent both in training his mind in concentration and in giving rise to discernment. He is intent on training the basic mindfulness and discernment he already has as an ordinary run-of-the-mill person, so that they become more and more capable, step by step, making them the sort of mindfulness and discernment that can keep abreast of his every action until they become super-mindfulness and super-discernment, capable of shedding all defilements and mental effluents from the heart. He thus becomes one of the amazing people of the religion, earning the homage and respect of people at large.
In the area of the world there are
three sorts of people, and in the area of the Dhamma there are three sorts of
monks. Which of the three are we going to choose to be? When we come right down
to it, each of these three types refers to each of us, because we can make ourselves
into any of them, making them appear within us -- because these three types
are simply for the purpose of comparison. When we refer them to ourselves, we
can be any of the three. We can be the type who makes himself vile and lazy,
with no interest in the practice of the Dhamma, with no value at all; or we
can make ourselves into the second or third sort. It all depends on how our
likes and desires will affect our attitudes in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Whichever type we want to be, we should adapt our thoughts, words, and deeds
to fit the type. The affairs of that sort of person will then become our own
affairs, because none of these sorts lies beyond us. We can change our behavior
to fit in with any of the three. If we are going to be the third sort of person,
then no matter what, we are sure to release ourselves from suffering and stress
someday in the future or in this very lifetime.
So be uncomplacent in all your activities, mindful of your efforts and actions, and discerning with regard to your affairs at all times. Don't let the activities of your thoughts, words, and deeds go straying down the wrong path. Try to train your mindfulness and discernment to stay involved with your activities at all times. To safeguard these sorts of things isn't as difficult as safeguarding external wealth, because inner wealth stays with us, which makes it possible to safeguard it.