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Sufficiency Economy and the Middle Path in Buddhism

3 March 2015
The Sufficiency Economy philosophy, initiated by His Majesty the King, begins with moderation, which reflects the "middle path in Buddhism.

The middle path is described as a way of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.

It is a principle based on moderation, reasonableness, and self-awareness. Together with inner peace, it guides everyone to the solutions of all problems and crises in life. In the broadest sense, the middle path refers to the correct view of life that the Buddha teaches and to the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others.

Sufficiency Economy promotes the middle path, which is more relevant today than ever, at a time when people are facing numerous global challenges, particularly stemming from various forms of extremism, whether it is political conflict, the attempt or aspiration to attain economic growth, or the question of living together in multicultural societies.

Conventional economics is built around the idea of peoples self-interest; that people try to maximize their own benefits, including consumption; and that the market sorts out the resulting conflicts in an even-handed way.

From a Buddhist perspective, this makes no sense. There is no evidence that maximizing consumption beyond a certain point results in an increase in happiness. Indeed wealth tends to bring anxiety. The competition to acquire even more leads to conflict, as well as wasting finite resources. There is also no evidence that the market is even-handed in setting competition, so the result tends to include inequality, exploitation, and unhappiness.

Understanding this background in Buddhist thought gives another layer of depth to the key concepts of the Sufficiency Economy moderation, reasonableness, and self immunity.

Moderation conveys the idea of a middle way between want and extravagance. The reasonableness in the Sufficiency Economy is unlike the "rationality of people who may pursue their self-interests to maximize their benefits. It is the ability to identify a goal that is moderate and optimal rather than extreme, as well as the ability to appreciate how the pursuit of that goal will impact on others. Pursuing self-interest is not reasonable, because it can result in conflict rather than happiness.

Self-immunity means having built-in resilience and the ability to withstand shocks, to adjust to external change, and to cope with events that are unpredictable or uncontrollable. It implies a foundation of self-reliance, as well as self-discipline.

The Sufficiency Economy philosophy blends very well with Buddhist principles.

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