28th November 1999

Be happy, be content with what you have

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The second of the five pre cepts is, not taking that which is not given to you. This precept teaches one to be happy with what one has and what one receives, without being tempted by others' possessions and to live contentedly and free of covetousness.

Therefore, irrespective of where one is, if one takes something which does not belong to one, it falls within the category of taking what does not belong to you. If one takes something only with the desire to give it to the owner, it is not considered a theft. This could even be with the intention of safeguarding it.

However, to keep something in one's possession and to use it as one's own, could be considered robbery, because one is fully aware that it does not belong to one. Thus even if one uses others' possessions and directs them towards a charitable cause, the ability to rejoice in this good deed is indeed minimised by the knowledge that one has committed a wrong.

If a person possesses loving kindness and compassion such a person can never take the belongings of others because he who refrains from killing develops love towards others' which prevents him from causing sorrow to another being. The compassion of such a being also draws him to help others and inspires him to give up his possessions to cause the happiness of other beings. Seeing those beings he has helped, contented and comfortable makes him happy. This happy state is known as the meditation of 'muditha' (sympathetic joy).

The inherent happiness one receives from being kind to others is the highest joy one can receive in life. Unfortunately many among us do not possess the gift of being happy by observing the fortune or progress of another. This is because within such people loving kindness and compassion have been destroyed.

Not being able to bear the happiness of others, is known as jealousy. Jealous thoughts can destroy a person. Jealousy is a dangerous disease, and due to it, a person could do harm to himself and others. By jealousy being born in the mind, the person will become intolerant of another's resources. The root cause for people to insult others and look down upon them is jealousy.

In trade, some charge excessively with no consideration or respect for others' rights. Even though a certain product has a controlled price it is natural for this price to fluctuate. Though a common item in the market which has a reasonable price might at another moment become a rare commodity causing its price to go up, this is not because the value of the item increased but because of its scarcity. Such happenings cannot be prevented. It cannot be considered taking what is not given to you. But if someone engages in black marketing or cheats in weighing or gives goods which are of low quality, then it is fraud and a serious offence punishable by the law.

Today the taking of bribes is a common occurrence. This could be described in two ways. A person could show gratitude to another by giving him a present. If so this cannot be considered a bribe. Gratitude is a human quality. If someone has helped us, being thankful in return is a human way of acting. However, if to achieve something that one is not legally entitled to, one extends some temptation in the form of goods or money, that is a bribery.

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