Aren't Buddhists (with Buddhist I refer to an ideal Buddhist or Buddhists monk) actually not doing enough to prevent harm in this world?

So, Buddhists don't have any attachment to things and work towards reduction of suffering in the world. Given the focus and discipline dedicated Buddhist has, they could use this to become successful businessmen for example and use that money/power to help people. But many don't, they seem very passive from what I have read so far.

In a sense Buddhist not trying to accumulate money/power and use it to help people and change world, is hypocritical?

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    @Rico Interesting question. In one explanation of Bhagavad Gita (which is Hinduism, and Prince Gautama was Hindu Prince), the person said a we should do good action without worrying about results. Example was a wealthy, kind, generous King who lived ages ago who provided for his people, and protected them from attacking countries.
    – Rhonda
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 14:31
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    Hang on. What do you mean by "Buddhists"? You're making some very, very broad generalisations here on the basis of "reading" what? This question seem unfocussed and vague. Can you make it more specific? Can you give specific examples of what you mean? Which Buddhist are you referring to?
    – Jayarava
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 16:59
  • @Riko You may like to read my answer to another question at buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/10937/715
    – Buddho
    Commented Aug 22, 2015 at 6:01

5 Answers 5


Buddhist master, Ajahn Brahm, answered a similar question as follows in an interview with Rachael Kohn:

Rachael Kohn: I know that your message is often about happiness, and how the point of life...is all about changing one’s attitude, not really about changing the world. And yet you would know that that kind of an attitude can also be breeding a certain indifference to the world...Does Buddhism ever teach a resistance to things which are dangerous, which are bad, which are evil?

Ajahn Brahmavamso: Yes, we teach a resistance to anger, we teach a resistance to jealousies, we teach a resistance to stupidity. Those are the things which we should really be resisting, you know, the anger and the feelings of revenge, the hurt, the grief, the guilt inside of us, all those negative emotions which make our world. Those are the things which we want to resist, to understand, to overcome, by letting go.

In other words, Buddhists claim that harm in this world arises because of greed, hatred, and delusion; they seek to eliminate these sources of harm within themselves and to educate others so that they may do the same. So, on this view, Buddhists are addressing the root causes of suffering in themselves and others and helping people in this way--the most effective way. As the passage above implies, an ideal Buddhist is far from passive internally and, although she may appear to be so externally, one could argue that she is simply skillful/technical in her approach to the suffering of others.

In summary, Buddhists want to use wisdom, rather than money and power, to help others. According to them, this is the most effective way to do so, and the only way to get to the cause of the problem; using power and money to alleviate worldly problems can be a temporary, palliative solution at best. The Buddha often compared himself to a doctor, treating the causes of suffering rather than exclusively treating the symptoms.

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    Had to join this community just for the purpose of up-voting this. Very well put. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 18:48

Buddhist not trying to accumulate money/power and use it to help people and change world, is hypocritical?

Hypocrisy is defined as:

1. a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.


So, the above behaviour would only be considered hypocritical if the Buddhist in question actually pretended to possess intentions and behaviours relating to "accumulating money/power and using it to help people and change world". Some Buddhists actually do claim to possess such intentions; some are hypocritical, some are, in my experience, not, as they do actually "accumulate money/power and use it to help people and change world". I imagine the Dalai Lama would be a well-known example of the latter.

It is not hypocritical, for example, to "not hold any attachment", as you claim generally to be a quality of Buddhists, and yet not accumulate... etc.

It is also not hypocritical to "work towards reduction of suffering in the world" and yet still not accumulate... etc. Many Buddhists believe that the accumulation of money and (worldly) power are detrimental to one's ability to truly effect change.

Finally, many Buddhists have no interest in changing the world; they see the world as inherently unfixable, and strive simply to be free from its seductive pull. So, it is a straw person argument to suggest that all Buddhists are hypocrites for claiming to uphold a belief in changing the world while not acting on said belief. Many Buddhists hold no such belief, and many who do act upon it.


This is a very complex question. You start by positing an "ideal Buddhist", which cannot really exist by virtue of all Buddhists generally being human, thus flawed.

You are asking about how a Buddhist goes about reducing suffering in others - or put the other way, acting on the kindness and compassion that they practice will, hopefully, bring into being.

There are different "venues" in which this might take place. The majority of Buddhists, I would say, are ordinary people, not entrepreneurs. Thus, their kindness and compassion will flow to those they have immediate contact with. They may decide to help run a small meditation class, or may just resolve to be kinder to their kids. In the end, if as a result of their practice there is more kindness in the world, then this is a good thing.

Some people have a more entrepreneurial spirit, or perhaps have skills that might let them create organisations that improve the lives of a larger number of people. There are a number of Buddhist run charities, such as The Karuna Trust or Rokpa, charities set up by Buddhists to try and solve some of the world's problems. There are many more than these two examples.

In ancient times, an example to note is King Ashoka who, after realising the folly of his ways, used his influence to improve the lives of others.

But it is important not to discount the simple kindness of listening to a colleague who is struggling, or sharing with those interested some of the lessons learned through one's own practice. These also change the world.

As Buddhists, we must all seek to find the most effective means to act out that desire to make the world a better place, and the choices we make will each be very individual to our sensibilities, talents and circumstances.

  • This is not complex. What is complex: is to accept that: simplicity is not stupidity. It is intelligence, often. The point that you can improve the best, the closest one to you, where you have much power is... yourself. Change yourself. Improve yourself. As one particle amongst billions. But change it. Not to be a martyr, but to turn on a light.
    – Strukt
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 12:26

Paraphrasing Einstein, you can't solve a problem with the same paradigm that creates it. Just to put it in the context, you can't solve greed using wealth, and you can't solve desire using power. You can't "save the world" from suffering by the means that creates suffering.

From another perspective, the only way to lessen the suffering of the world is lessening your own suffering. Paraphrasing Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the world. If you seek wealth and power, you are just feeding the status quo.

And lastly, if you are able to transcend the common state of mind, you are far from passive. Although your personal revolution might be small in the face of all humanity and faint near powerful people, it is a great step in means of example and legacy.

I think Buddhism isn't about radical revolutions, but small incremental improvements.

  • good quote by Einstein.
    – user8619
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 6:04

The job of Buddhism is to teach the dharma and prove its truth by being a living example of it which involves many acts of social charity and offering comfort and hope to the lost and suffering souls of this world, Getting too wrapped up in being an institution out to save the world and right all its wrongs would corrupt it, History is full of people who caused untold suffering by imposing their " moral world view" to make the world a " better place" The value add of the Buddhist spiritual path is that it fixes you and makes you happier which translates into one less dangerous moron in the world, I mean who else are you ultimately responsible for,,,YOURSELF

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