Monday, September 12, 2011

The Stock Market, Buddhism, and Right Livelihood


NYSE VOLATILE IN WAKE OF EUROPE CREDIT CRISIS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks indexes opened lower on Monday as fears of a credit rating downgrade of French banks and the lack of a solution to Greece's debt problem heightened concerns about the euro zone's debt crisis.
Concerns that the credit crisis in Europe may threaten to spill over into U.S. banks have been pressuring Wall Street for several months, sending shares of major banks to their historical lows in recent weeks.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 116.97 points, or 1.06 percent, at 10,875.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 11.59 points, or 1.00 percent, at 1,142.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 21.14 points, or 0.86 percent, at 2,446.85.

The Practical Buddhist Responds:

In the Buddha’s time, 2500 years ago, there was no stock market. If you wanted to practice Right Livelihood (number five of the Eightfold Path), you did work that didn’t hurt anyone, and if possible avoided jobs like butcher, tanner, and soldier.
Today Right Livelihood means responsible work that respects others and the planet.  It means using only a fair share of what the earth provides, in a way that is good for all involved.
Short-term investing is zero-sum. If you win, someone is losing. Because of the costs associated with day trading and speculation, the odds are like blackjack and roulette: they don’t favor the player.  The Practical Buddhist will have to think long and hard about short-term speculation in the market as a way of earning a living. The Buddhist might also consider avoiding investments in tobacco and weapons and repressive governments.

Long-term investments might be another matter.  From ancient times monasteries were endowed with lands and held them for centuries, relying on profits from the crops.  Today responsible corporations (including religious ones) provide pensions for employees, the funds invested long-term in various equities.

There is a delightful article by Jonathan Herson on Investing Like a Buddhist Monk that relies not only on the Buddha but on Warren Buffet and Peter Lynch. I’ve put it up as a permanent page. Click on “Buddhism and Investing” above.

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