Abstract of paper presented at the 2nd WFB World Buddhist Business Forum,23-24 December, 2011, Taipei, Taiwan.An Empowering Merit-based Buddhist Economy – the Asoke Practice in Thailand Bong C.L. MalaysiaThis paper presents observations on a model of a vibrant merit-based Buddhist economygenerated through right livelihood as practised by the Asoke Buddhist community ofThailand. The Asoke community was founded by Venerable Bodhiraksa more than thirtyyears ago. It now has at least nine well-established major centres and many smallercommunities spread throughout Thailand. Its rapid yet sustainable growth as a socio-economically successful independent and upright community that serves humanity, nurturesand replenishes rather than selfishly exploits man, resources and nature as seen intraditional economy is based on their advocacy and practice of a return to Buddhist way oflife, the purpose and goal of which is spiritual liberation. This contrasts sharply with what iscommonly occurring now, in which the pursuit or goal of life is the mindless accumulation ofmaterial wealth as top priority above everything else, and in the process man destroys theenvironment and loses the meaning and direction of life so that a society of social illsprevails and dominates, where greed feeds on more greed, where aversion burns ever sostrongly, and delusions are so blinding. Countries are invaded, hundreds of thousands oflives can be sacrificed, millions more lives put in misery, nature and environment mercilesslydestroyed just because some deluding and greedy groups of people want control of certainresources. Lately one sees financial crisis hitting one country after another, one region afteranother. Obviously there is something fundamentally wrong that drives this world and itseconomy. This ‘something’ can be traced to the three poisons taught in Buddhism, greed(lobha), aversion (dosa) and delusion (moha). The endless and mindless pursuit andaccumulation of material wealth without giving back is not only unsustainable butdestructive to mind and body.A return to the Buddhist way of life, the goal of which is attainment of liberation as thepriority is one way of treating this ill world. An economy that is built based on Buddhistteachings and values can thrive sustainably for the well-being of humanity, nature andenvironment and where win-win situation prevails for everyone and everything else. TheAsoke model of merit-based economy that supports the primary goal of spiritual pursuit ofattaining liberation from saṁsāra shows that such economy is workable and achievable. TheSrisa Asoke model as an example of this merit-based Buddhist economy is presented here.Through their practice of right livelihood, abundance is created. Through generosity ofsharing this abundance without seeking returns, merits are accumulated in support of theirpursuit of spiritual life. From their generosity of sharing their produce and technologicalinnovations freely, people and communities benefit and are empowered to achieve financialindependence and contribute further to expand the size and influence of an economy built
on wholesomeness of hearts and goodwill. Through rippling effect of this practice, a specialniche market for products and services produced based on wholesome spirit (ethics),generosity and appreciation of humanity and environment has been created and is graduallyand surely expanding.