Money (måla) is tokens made out of metal, paper or plastic representing value and which can be exchanged for goods and services. A barter economy operated during the Buddha’s time and there was no money, although punched-marked copper, gold and silver pieces (kahàpaõa and màsaka) and shells were used as a medium of exchange.
The Buddha forbid monks and nuns from even touching gold and silver and they were not allowed to engage in barter either (A.II,53), although very few Buddhist monks or nuns continue to follow this rule today. Lay people practising the ten Precepts on certain days will also not use gold, silver or money either. However, the Buddha was aware that by allowing us to acquire our needs satisfy our desires, give a sense of security and even win us the respect of others, money can be a means of happiness. Thus, he considered the pursuit of wealth to be a worthwhile and legitimate goal for lay people, the proviso of course being that it is ‘earned by hard work, by strength of arm and sweat of brow, honestly and lawfully’ (A.II,67). He recommended that the prudent person should balance their expenditure with their income (A.IV,281) and divide their money into four and use it for (1) basic needs, (2) miscellaneous expenses, (3) charity and (4) be put aside for future eventualities (A.III,46).
- ‘The Beginnings of Coinage in India,’ M.K.Dhavalikar in World Archaeology, 1975.