Meditative Absorption and Finance

Verse 92 affirms, “Even though suffering in me does not cause distress in the bodies of others, I should nevertheless find their suffering intolerable because of the affection I have for myself.” Since coming home due to coronavirus, I have dramatically increased my stake in the stock market, and since the lows, I have experienced healthy growth. However, the appreciation in value of my portfolio surely comes at the cost of the decrease in value of other’s portfolios. Though I am happy at the success I have had, people who have invested at much higher prices are suffering. Their portfolios have lost so much value, and here I am, happy that mine is increasing. My actions and the verses seem at odds. I am happy, though that happiness, once analyzed, is at the cost of others.

If understood carefully, though, every action, to some extent, is at the cost of another human being. Every promotion, every job offer, every increase in portfolio value, all come at the expense of another. Finance in general is a subject that has plenty winners and losers. While one benefits, another suffers. This pandemic has separated the winners from the losers. Certain people have lost their jobs while others have been fortunate to keep their jobs. Unemployment is expected to rise to 13% by June, and it is important to understand the consequences that micro-benefits have on the macro-economy as a whole. While personal growth is to be expected and appreciated, it must not come at the helm of deliberate attacks on those less fortunate; suffering is inevitable in this economy, but we should strive not to directly cause it in others.

Understanding Self and Others

One of the quotes that really stood out to me was the following: “All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others.” (8.129) Often, I have found myself wondering what else I can do to make myself happier while at the same time finding something that would allow me to make those around me happier. Time and time again, I have realized that my happiness is tied to helping others, to fulfilling their happiness. In a sense, I desire to make others happy, with the side effect of satisfying my own happiness. It can seem a bit chaotic at first, and to an extent it kind of is, though I have learned to manage my happiness and not rely on others to fulfill my own happiness. If personal happiness is dependent upon the happiness of others, then suffering will surely prevail when others are nowhere to be found.

Covid-19 has forced me out of my natural habitat, surrounded by loving and caring friends that always bring something new to the day’s activities. Without them, I suffered, though even an electronic connection has helped me during this pandemic. I suffer not because I a, isolated from friends, but because I am attached to the idea of my personal happiness that has resulted from attachment to friends. I realize it is selfish and destructive. This time has certainly done wonders for self-reflection, and many of the Buddha’s dharmas on suffering have held true. Though it may sound dark, perhaps we should detach ourselves from the world as we knew it and evolve to this situation we are facing. Perhaps after relinquishing our obsessive desire to return to pre-covid times we can finally move past the disease and get it under control.