In the Dīgha,jānu Sutta, accomplishment of diligence leads to the joy of ownership. Isn't "joy of ownership" just clinging onto one's wealth? What do other Buddhist schools say about this?

A possible equivalent to this in Kabbalah is Bread of Shame, defined as not earning what we receive, or in other terms, receiving without giving. Yehuda Berg states, "As the ancient kabbalists teach us, it is part of human nature and the nature of this world that no matter how much is given to us, as long as we are the ones who are receiving and not the ones who are giving, we will always feel Bread of Shame. We will always be the vessel and not the Creator. We will always feel powerless. We will always find someone to blame for our unhappiness." It is said to be the cause of all darkness in the world. Another Stack Exchange user, Ian Taylor, states that it "refers to the fact that unearned attainments are not rewarding the same way that things you work hard for are. Part of noble eightfold path is exerting effort to attaining enlightenment— i.e. YOU must work for it."

While the purpose of both teachings is a bit different, I think the Kabbalastic notion of "bread of shame" wants to make people less selfish by attributing the feeling of shame when just taking for the self alone whereas the Buddhist Sutta reveals how to find joy in one's wealth--both of which stress the importance of effort. But, isn't being stuck in the concept of receiving and giving just another way of saying "I" and "them" - a dualistic notion that shames others or yourself. Also, "working hard for something" is a concept: one can just claim to have worked hard for it, but in reality earning something is a reflection of cultural standard. Someone can work hard but not earn what they deem to be the equivalent of their work. Is that feeling wrong, or should one accept the "joy of ownership"? The concept of earning is only rewarding insofar as it feeds our pride vis-a-vis the notion of achievement, the idea that "I" earned it-- a form of spiritual egoism when enlightenment is "attained."

  • Perhaps there are not many people on this site who can answer a question about the Kabbalah. So you might like to reword this question (especially the title) to ask more specifically about what's said in the Dīgha,jānu Sutta -- unless the comparison is the only bit that interests you -- but the questions in the text (e.g. about "joy of ownership") seem to me to be stand-alone questions (that might be answered by someone who doesn't know the Kabbalah). – ChrisW Oct 22 '18 at 14:08
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    @ChrisW Done, I kept the remaining parts about Kabbalah, just in case someone is familiar with both teachings. – user29568 Oct 22 '18 at 14:32

Your basic premise is correct, that giving/receiving, achieving/earning/attaining and any joy that comes from these, are concepts based in duality. In Buddhism, these concepts belong to what's known as "the relative truth". And you are correct that from "the absolute truth"s perspective, these things are empty and contrived.

However, you should understand, that ultimately, the Enlightenment of the Buddha is awakening to One Reality of which the Relative and the Absolute truths are the two aspects. This awakening involves appreciation of both truths and understanding of how the two are connected as two ends of the same stick. So while in the absolute sense the notions of "attainment", "one who has attained", and "the others" are utterly false, these kinds of ideas are the necessary links connecting the absolute with the various subjective realms of the living beings.

As for the earned attainment vs. something that is given for free, the tradition is firm on this. Without earned attainment it is very hard to stay strong and emotionally stable, since one like that does not have an anchor of earned pride to hold on to when the world starts laying its trips of failure and guilt on you. It's very easy to get depressed when all you have is Emptiness and nothing to hold on to. The Buddha himself and countless teachers kept saying that earned attainment and earned pride is a phase one should master before letting it all go and proceeding on to the full groundlessness. Especially if one remains in close contact with society post-awakening, having a safety net of the earned pride to fall back to when things get rough is not a bad idea.

Of course, at some point one is supposed to get strong enough that such tricks should not be needed, but not until one can actually handle it without getting oneself and others in trouble on the relative level. Until then, Buddhism teachings creatively employ countless tricks that exploit this same basic principle of finding or creating (valid) reasons to congratulate oneself and to feel good in general.

If you think about the big picture, Buddhism defines Hell as a state of "everything is wrong", Samsara is a superset of worlds where things are wrong to various degrees, Heaven is a place where things are conditionally right (limited by time and scope), and Nirvana is a place where "everything is always just right". The goal of the game is to get from left to right. As you move your chip across the board, you learn to stop generating causes of "the wrong" and are trying to figure out a way for things to be right. It turns out that at the very end of the game, the only way to achieve victory is to let go of the notions of "right" and "wrong" and transcend the game altogether - but in order to get there and stabilize, you have to fix the coarser problems first, and that requires a sense of direction.

  • Insightful as always, it is interesting how your answers feel more like a reminder than a ground-breaking truth. I was wondering if you can link me to any writings on "earned pride," if you have any. – user29568 Oct 23 '18 at 8:49

How different is “joy of ownership” in the Dīgha,jānu Sutta from clinging onto one's wealth?

Actually the answer's already provided in the sutta itself. If one clings to one's wealth, s/he won't be able to have a balanced living, the necessary component to the joy of ownership:

"And what is balanced living? Here, a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures rather than the reverse.’ Just as an appraiser or his apprentice, holding up a scale, knows: ‘By so much it has dipped down, by so much it has gone up,’ so a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures [283] rather than the reverse.’

“If this clansman has a small income but lives luxuriously, others would say of him: ‘This clansman eats his wealth just like an eater of figs.’1751 But if he has a large income but lives sparingly, others would say of him: ‘This clansman may even starve himself.’1752 But it is called balanced living when a clansman knows his income and expenditures and leads a balanced life, neither too extravagant nor too frugal, [aware]: ‘In this way my income will exceed my expenditures rather than the reverse. ~~ AN 8.54 ~~


The sutta you chose is quite specific:

We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver. May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life, for our happiness & well-being in lives to come.

The Buddha gave advice applicable to (suitable for, helpful for) lay people, as well as (different) advice for monks.

You might like to read Did the Buddha teach the four noble truths to laypeople? -- or a book like this one.

Even so, note that the Buddha's advice ...

Being consummate in initiative, being consummate in vigilance, admirable friendship, and maintaining one’s livelihood in tune

... does not include, "clinging onto one's wealth" -- although, another sutta suggests being prudent with it:

By dividing wealth into four parts,
True friendships are bound;
One part should be enjoyed;
Two parts invested in business;
And the fourth set aside
Against future misfortunes.

Also other suttas (e.g. the Bhikkhuni Sutta, the Brahmana Sutta) suggests there are factors or motives (e.g. "conceit", and "desire") which may be helpful or even necessary on the way, although ultimately abandoned -- so, yes, it might look like a contradiction, but I don't think it's meant to be.

  • It is actually because of your link to the book that I posted this question, I looked into the first chapter online, but I wasn't able to find an ebook version of it. While it might not meant to be a contradiction, I just see how people can be lost in the idea and justify the status quo as acceptable just to attain "happiness." – user29568 Oct 23 '18 at 11:28
  • Yes it's a remarkable book. It is based on suttas but gives quite a different picture than you'd get from reading e.g. these suttas. You're right, I don't think it's an ebook. I don't have it: a neighbour lent me their copy. The "happiness" you mention may be "sukha" (see also other suttas mentioned in that Wikipedia article). Perhaps we're warned that it's impermanent even so? Something that is an aspect of Buddhism is "remembering virtue", finding ... – ChrisW Oct 23 '18 at 12:02
  • ... satisfaction in remembering the good you've done. And I think that the actions and mental states associated earning and spending wealth might count among "the good you've done" -- you're doing it to benefit other people, for example -- only you shoudn't imagine that wealth-related activities are the only form of goodness. – ChrisW Oct 23 '18 at 12:04
  • Have you read the Tao Te Ching? There is just a way of existence described there that is so natural. Somehow a book that was written centuries ago still applies today. Taoism is different from Buddhism, but there are parallels when looking at Zen Buddhism. – user29568 Oct 23 '18 at 16:24
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    Was it "virtue" that reminded you of that? Or dogs barking in the next village? :-) I had a Taoist Tai Chi teacher. Perhaps my favourite translation or version of it was Leguin's. – ChrisW Oct 23 '18 at 17:56

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