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Little desire and contentment with a little gain

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little desire and contentment with a little gain 少欲知足 (Jpn shoyoku-chisoku )


A virtue that monks should possess.

This concept is expressed variously in English as "contentment while desiring little," "wanting little and being content," "desiring little and knowing satisfaction," etc.

It means to have few personal desires and to be satisfied or content with what one has. Buddhist scriptures condemn monks who are desirous of worldly fame and profit and attached to worldly pleasures.

The Mahaparinirvana Sutra reads: "After I Shakyamuni Buddha have passed away... there will be monks who will give the appearance of abiding by the rules of monastic discipline.

But they will scarcely ever read or recite the sutras, and instead will crave all kinds of food and drink to nourish their bodies.... Though they wear the clothes of a monk, they will go about searching for alms like so many huntsmen who, narrowing their eyes, stalk softly. They will be like a cat on the prowl for mice. And they will constantly reiterate these words, 'I have attained arhatship!'... Outwardly they will seem to be wise and good, but within they will harbor greed and jealousy....

They are not true monks—they merely have the appearance of monks. Consumed by their erroneous views, they slander the correct teaching." The "Encouraging Devotion" (thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra describes monks who pretend to be sages but are greedy. It says, "Greedy for profit and support, they will preach the Law to white-robed laymen and will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers.

These men with evil in their hearts, constantly thinking of worldly affairs,..." Nichiren (1222-1282) wrote: "A good teacher is a priest who is free from any fault in secular affairs, who never fawns upon others even in the slightest, who desires and is satisfied with little, and who is compassionate; a priest who reads and upholds the Lotus Sutra precisely as it teaches and also encourages and leads others to embrace it. Such a priest the Buddha has praised among all priests as the finest teacher of the Law" (880).

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