What would the preacher of abstinence say to a man who finds happiness in nothing but luxury?
Since the Buddha attained nirvana, he spent his life teaching a path that brought nirvana – by giving up all attachments. Not having any attachments of the mind, body, or the consciousness is not an easy task. The fact that many gurus claim to have attained it today, continues to be a matter of investigation.
Thus, the Buddha understood that peace is only internal for those, who recognise that peace is a self manufactured feeling. For the ones who do not look at emotions this way, would cling to their attachments. But it can not be possible that everyone that clings on to attachments will be submerged in misery.
We get this answer in a narration of when a capitalist/industrialist of that era, named Dighajanu went up to the Buddha and after seeking his blessing, asked him a question.
Dighajanu stated that he enjoyed his luxuries. He revelled having multiple wives, and felt pride being able to provide for them. He said he’s earned and bought multiple homes, and sees it as a status symbol. Getting dressed every morning he loves smearing sandalwood scent on his body, and being adorned by jewels, garlands, and garments of silk.
By this time, the Buddha knows he is not here to find light on the path of nirvana. He continues to detail his daily entertainments to the Buddha, by sharing how he lives with sensualities and not away from them. Dighajanu said that he liked being crowded by his family and children. He asked ‘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?’
In short, Dighajanu said – this is who I am, now tell me if is there a way to happiness, for desire loving people like me. The Buddha replied by saying what could possibly be called management advice today. He asked Dighajanu to invest his wealth wisely. He asked him to protect it from corrupt Kings, and undeserving heirs.
Since lay people do not commit their lives to abstinence, they must find their luxuries in their relationships and invest in admirable friendship. He asks Dighajanu to stay in harmony with his community, and be generous with those who do not have enough. The money earned, must be spent wisely. A lay person with much wealth, must not be a miser or a spendthrift. He asks Dighajanu to refrain from four drains on one’s store of wealth: debauchery in sex; debauchery in drink; debauchery in gambling; and evil friendship, evil companionship, evil camaraderie.
When you understand this answer of the Buddha, you realise it is not only absintence and simplicity that can draw happiness into one’s mind. Happiness could result from different aspects from different people. But as long it is not harming another person, your medium of happiness could be wealth or jewels. The means of procurement, ways of spending, and maintenance of a livelihood in a community driven way is what the Buddha asks for.
The Buddha meeting a capitalist did not make either of them adopt each other’s ways. Happiness isn’t acquired by chanting Om, or meditating, or earning money. It is a result of seeing happiness by yourself, in whatever you have placed that happiness. If you placed happiness in yourself, or in wealth and comfort, there is nothing wrong with you. As humans we look for comfort in many pre-constructed systems of society.
Thus, the Buddha and Dighajanu realise that re-looking at our own actions can help us find clarity in the path to happiness. It helps us find better ways, to do our daily deeds.