The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)
When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!
Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to business (work):
Good and Evil
The evil-doer mourns in this world, and he mourns in the next; he mourns in both. He mourns and suffers when he sees the evil of his own work. (Dhammapada 15)
The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work. (Dhammapada 16)
Let a man avoid evil deeds, as a merchant, if he has few companions and carries much wealth, avoids a dangerous road; as a man who loves life avoids poison. (Dhammapada 123)
In like manner his good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other;–as kinsmen receive a friend on his return. (Dhammapada 220)
If an occasion arises, friends are pleasant; enjoyment is pleasant, whatever be the cause; a good work is pleasant in the hour of death; the giving up of all grief is pleasant. (Dhammapada 331)
Work Hard and Be Wise
Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt enter into the heavenly world of the elect (Ariya). (Dhammapada 236)
Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay. (Dhammapada 238)
In some of these verses, the Buddha is talking about good works or deeds, as opposed to working, as in a business. However, one may extrapolate the concepts and apply them to a person’s work ethic, even though he is not specifically talking about work in the sense of business or commerce.
He espouses working hard, being diligent, and avoiding evil deeds. He contrasts the evil or purity in one’s work. He states that a good work is pleasant to reflect on at the time of one’s death, and describes the benefit of it in the afterlife.
Consider these proverbs of Solomon:
From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12:14, NIV)
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23, NIV)
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Proverbs 22:29, NIV)
Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (Proverbs 24:27, NIV)
Abundant Food or Fantasies
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. (Proverbs 12:11, NIV)
Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19, NIV)
The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on. (Proverbs 16:26, NIV)
One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9, NIV)
The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. (Proverbs 21:25, NIV)
Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. (Proverbs 12:24, NIV)
And these passages from Ecclesiastes:
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, NIV)
So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 2:20-23, NIV)
Don’t Anger God
Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? (Ecclesiastes 5:6, NIV)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV)
Two Are Better Than One
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, 12, NIV)
Find Joy and Satisfaction
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? (Ecclesiastes 3:22, NIV)
The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, NIV)
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NIV)
While the Buddha mostly focused on good and evil, and working hard, Solomon covered more topics with regards to working. Solomon believed that working hard results in rewards: financial or as in an abundance of food, and in being recognized and promoted by the authorities (e.g., bosses, kings, etc.). He stressed prioritizing work, first by taking care of your fields (having a steady supply of food), then building your home, and taking care of other needs. He made the distinction between working hard to provide for your needs, as opposed to chasing after fantasies and ending up in poverty. He also talked about hunger as a motivation for hard work.
Solomon denounced sloth and cautioned that it can lead to forced labor and death. He compared a sluggard to one who destroys. In Ecclesiastes, he bemoaned that even though he took delight in his labor, he said that it was all meaningless (a vapor) in the end. He cautioned not angering God, or He would destroy the works of your hands. Solomon espoused working hard during this lifetime as there is no work in the afterlife. Solomon believed that two working together are better than one working alone, and he outlined the ways in which they can help one another and have a “good return for their labor.” Lastly, he encouraged finding joy and satisfaction in your work.