Placer Buddhist Church

3192 Boyington RoadPenryn, CA. 95663(916) 652-6139
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A Dharma Message by Rev. Matthew Hamasaki

March 2021

There is an age-old expression that goes, “money can’t buy you happiness.” The spirit behind such a message (as I understand it) is explained in another expression that the “best things in life are free” or that the things in life that are the most meaningful aren’t possessions that you can buy or cash that you can amass. However, as human beings do, this notion has constantly been challenged and, in 2010, a study found that more money meant more happiness – until a certain point; specifically, an annual income of $75,000. The rationalization of this was that if you make enough money to satisfy your basic needs, any money made after that would just be to help their happiness if they took the time to specifically reflect on it. Intriguingly, more recently this year a scholar named Matthew A. Killingsworth, PhD put together a study on happiness based off an app that tracked happiness at various points in time. This data was then cross-referenced with the user’s income and the results were that there was a positive correlation that did not plateau at $75,000 – in fact, it did not plateau at all! More money meant more happiness, even for the vastly wealthy.

As Buddhists, one would think that we would subscribe to the idea that “money can’t buy you happiness” since we teach about non-attachment to evanescent pleasures. But, looking closer at the reality of life, I believe the question is more complicated than that. Going back to the historical Buddha, he was able to give up everything and live essentially as a wandering beggar because it was socially acceptable. He was able to get enough food to eat because it was the social norm for people to give charity to ascetics and thus did not have to worry about where his next meal would come from or where he would stay. This aspect of Buddhism changed when it moved to China as the beggar was not a norm in the social order. Thus, in order to maintain their existence, they created monasteries that could house the monks, and they adopted vegetarianism which would allow them to make their own food without killing any animals. Even still, as time progressed, we begin to see reliance on donations in monetary form even though that too was not part of Buddha’s time.

Fast forward to today, where Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is for those who cannot live the lifestyle of either a wanderer or a monk. We are regular people. We have regular jobs. And we need money to survive. But at what point will we be satisfied? In my opinion, the results from the 2021 scholarly article can be interpreted in two ways: that the people in the United States have changed to the point that no amount of money will satisfy them, or that the plateau has grown so exponentially high that we can no longer see it. Honestly, I don’t think people have changed that much in a great deal of time, and so the option that I am left with is the latter, which, said in another way, is that people nowadays cannot get what they need to live comfortably based on the amount of money they are currently making. This can be attributed to a multitude of factors: stagnant wages, inflation, rising housing costs, etc., but what does it mean to us as Buddhists?

I think it speaks to the vital part of the Eightfold Noble Path of “Right Livelihood.” When people think of their livelihood, they think of their job and what they do there. This is not an incorrect understanding, but I believe we can take it further to see “livelihood” as the collective livelihood of everyone in our community, in our society. What are we doing to ensure that every sentient being has enough to live? As Buddhists, it is our responsibility to, at the very least, keep this idea in mind and to think about what we can do to look further than our self-centered nature and try to help all people live healthily and happily.

In Gassho,

Rev. Matt

The Placer Buddhist Church is located at 3192 Boyington Road in Penryn California, County of Placer. It is located at the scenic base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains just off Interstate 80. It is approximately half way between San Francisco and Reno, Nevada.

The Church was founded in 1902 in the small foothills town of Penryn. The original church was near the center of town approximately 3 miles from its current location. The church moved to its current location in approximately 1963. The church is well known in the community for the annual food bazaar which is always held on the 4th weekend of September. The annual food bazaar started in 1964, just after the church moved to the new location.

The church supports many organizations such as the Placer Buddhist Women’s Association (PBWA), Young Buddhist Association (YBA), Sierra Bonsai Club, Dharma School, and Placer Ume Taiko Groups. The church also holds various classes during the week including calligraphy, flower arranging, Tai Chi, Obon dancing and exercise classes. See the church calendar for class times.