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Is the notion of being content with what one receives a hindrance to

Being content, satisfied with what one receives is a primary tenet of the Buddhist teachings. This has
been an important piece of advice prevalent among Buddhists. At the same time, some argue that this
concept of contentment tends to cause a negative impact in a society. They base their arguments on the
following points;
01. When people get used to find happiness in what they already have, then, they do not persevere
to achieve goals any further
02. People get used to live on meager earnings to satisfy their basic needs on a day to day basis and
tend to spend the rest of the day unproductively.
03. People tend to stay away from work for a few days after the payday
04. People do not attempt to find work outside their regular residential areas
05. People do not attempt to improve their career skills to further qualify for employability in
different fields.
Also, there is another group who quotes the Buddhist terms such as yata labha santuthti,
appakicca, sallahukauthti to indicate that the Buddhas intention was to direct followers on the
supramundane (lokuttara) path as ordained disciples rather than encouraging followers to practice
as laymen. According to them, laymen with family obligations, laymen who are employed are not
capable of following the path. This perspective, again, implies that being content with what one
has does not apply to laymen and it is a hindrance to the forward march of a society.
In these circumstances, we need to find answers to a few important questions.
01. Does a Concept such as yata labha santuthti make a society lethargic?
02. Could some of the Buddhist teachings be confined for the benefit of clerics?
03. Could any of the Buddhist teachings be considered harmful to a society?
Buddhism is a philosophy which could generate Five Spiritual Powers (panca bala dhamma), viz; Faith
(saddha) Effort (viriya) Mindfulness ( sati) Concentration (samadhi) Wisdom (panna) in the mind of an
individual for a favorable life. Buddhism does not make a society lethargic by any means. It promotes a
life filled with wisdom and intellect.
The notion that being content with what one has makes a society lethargic has evolved due to the lack
of understanding of the real meaning of this notion. When we analyze this notion in depth, it becomes
evident that being content with what one has does not imply an act of regressing or retreating once an
individual receives something he desires. In reality, it is a concept that promotes effort and
perseverance in an individual.
We are on a path of perseverance at all times in order to achieve success in life. As youngsters, we
attend school. As adults, we work to earn a living. We stay engaged in various activities to ensure
success in life. Success in life cannot be achieved at once. It takes time and happens in stages. Success is
analogues to a beehive that is made by bees in stages over a considerable period of time; a mound built
by termites in stages over a period of time. Similarly, a persevering person may not reap benefits in
proportion to his attempts instantaneously. Results may take a long period of time or immediate results

may be minimal. What should be the prudent thing to do at this stage? To be disappointed over minimal
results; to express anger over minimal results; or proceed with what has doing while being content with
minimal outcome for the moment? This is where the Buddhist teaching comes to our rescue. In terms of
yata labha santutti (be content with what one receives), one could find satisfaction with the minimal
outcome at all times and one continues to persevere for expected outcome further. One never despair
as a result of minimal outcome at hand if one follows concept of yata labha santutti.
An individual who digs pits in the hope of finding precious gem stones may not stop looking for gems if
he finds invaluable stones at first. He perseveres until he finds precious stones one day to his entire
satisfaction. He becomes content with invaluable stones he find during his initial attempts. When we
reflect on these examples, we could see that the concept of yata labha santutti always enables one to
make an unfavorable situation to a favorable situation; unsatisfactory situation to a satisfactory
situation. Ultimate Buddhist philosophy is incorporated in the approach to these situations. Situations
liable for creating misery are transformed to favorable situations with the aid of the Buddhist concept
yata labha santutti. One should be able to commit a meritorious deed even though the situation
permits an unwholesome deed. When a situation is liable to create aversion (lobha), one should be able
to deal with that situation without entertaining any aversion. One should be able to stay detached in the
presence of a greed-prone situation (lobha). When a situation is liable to create impatience, one should
be able to deal with it with patience. This is the way for a life filled with intellect.
When an individual is not capable of being content with what he receives, those situations invariably
generate angry frames of mind in this individual. The mind filled with anger results in inflaming the mind
and the physical body. This would cause mental and physical fatigue and prevent the individual from
persevering further because his focus would, now, be on getting rid of his mental and physical fatigue,
rather than proceeding with more vigor. Once a person becomes acquainted with being content with
what he receives, he is able act calmly at all times and persevere further with vigor.
This is true in respect of clerics as well. The life of a cleric is aimed at attaining spiritual advancement
through meditation and other religious practices. The cleric needs to be content with whatever outcome
he gains during respective stages on his spiritual practice. If he tends to think that, I did not attain a
samadhi (concentration) yet. When will I gain a jhana (absorption), then, his spiritual practices would
be a failure due to his confused mentality with regard to hasty outcome.
So, the teachings of Buddhism apply to laymen and clerics equally. It is not confined to a certain section
of a society. It is aimed at freeing beings from suffering. Buddhist teachings bring happiness to all

Based on the writings by Kotte Devananda Thero