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Wednesday wisdom - Needs v/s Wants

The Samaññaphala Sutta (The Fruit of Contemplative/ homeless Life), from Digha Nikāya (The long discourses of the Buddha), the story goes as follows

Once King Ajātasattu of Magadha asks the Buddha, “Can you lord, point out the benefit of a contemplative life here and now.”

The Buddha states the benefits of a contemplative life here and now with the elaborate sutta (salient features and benefits of leading a contemplative life are given below)

  • A man having restrained in body, speech, and thought in solitude earns respect than even a king or any other person of high stature.

  • This man is content with basic clothes (robes for monk) to cover his body, food for nutrition (not to entertain our taste buds), lodging, and medicines. A monk is content with what he has. Just as the bird with wings flies hither and thither, burdened by nothing but its wings, so he is satisfied.

  • Preaches the dhamma (law of nature). Follows the nature, do not abuse nature. Hence nature also takes care of him.

  • A person who is perfected in morality in virtue, sees no danger from any side, He experiences a blameless bliss that comes from maintaining this Ariyan morality.

  • The person is mindful and aware and hence is better able to understand the way of life and can deal with chaos.

  • A person who guards his sense doors (senses here, eyes – vision, ears- sound, nose – smell, tongue – taste, and body – touch), is not in control of the sense doors but controls the sense doors.

  • The person takes no loan taken to satisfy his wants. And hence can live a life in peace.

  • Insight knowledge – That we live in ignorance (avijjā) and that everything is subject to change. He understands this not at just an intellectual level but also with experience.

This sutta plays an important role especially in today’s turbulent times. If we now understand the difference between need and want, we can reap immense benefits.

We live in a world of materialism, brands, luxury, consumerism, spending habits, and status. Whatever is happening in the world today, has given us a fair chance to revisit our spending habits and patterns, and seriously think of our needs and wants. What may be a need for one maybe want for others and vice versa. To know if a particular thing is a need or a want, one needs to be ‘brutally honest’. Does this mean we need to embrace minimalism? Not necessary, just be cautious. We are the choices we make. Now is the time to introspect, how we want to spend our time and hard-earned money. Or do we still want to continue with our want based behavior, is for us to decide.

Needs vs wants - Ready reckoner
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