There is a lack of historiography in ancient Indian literature. But the tradition of writing history in Pali literature existed long before, it is known by study. Information about the social, cultural, geographical, historical and economic life of ancient India is revealed through Pali literature.


Aggañña Sutta mentions that the work of farming has started first. Similarly, some part of agricultural production was given to the king. Pali literature is also proven helpful to understand how the tax system started. It is known from the Kasi Bhārdvāja Sutta that the economic condition of the farmer was often good.

Animal Husbandry:

Other than farming, people also used to do animal husbandry for their livelihood. Animal husbandry was also a good source of income, it shows from   Dhaniya Sutta. The purchase and sale of animals was also prevalent. Similarly, Meat sale was also a means of livelihood, its information is obtained from the Dhammapada Atthakatha.

Different professional fields :

Different professional fields are mentioned in Samaññaphala Sutta. The following occupations are described in this Sutta.-elephant trainers, horse trainers, charioteers, archers, standard bearers, camp marshals, commandos, high-royal officers, front line soldiers,  bull- warriors, military heroes, mail-clad warriors, domestic slaves, confectioners, barbers, bath attendants, cooks, garland-makers, laundrymen, weavers, basket-makers, potters, statisticians, accountants, etc. This Sutta is very important for understanding the economic life of Buddha Period..

Brahmajāl Sutta also mentions various occupations prevalent in the Buddha period. Due to lack of propaganda worthy of knowledge, people were indulging in superstition, hence ‘Tiracchanavijjāya micchājivena jivitam kappenti’(earn their living by a wrong means of livelihood), was also prevalent.

Medical field:

Medical service was also a means of livelihood. It is known from Jīvakavatthu of Vinayapitaka that medical education was imparted at takshashila. Surgery is also mentioned in Vinayapitaka and Brahmajāl Sutta. This shows that, the medical field was very advanced even during the Buddha period.

Trade and commerce:

 Information about trade and commerce of the sixth century BC is also obtained by Pali literature. National trade was practiced in the Buddha period, it is known from the Apannaka Jātaka. Trade relations were also established in India and other nations. The trade of India and Baveru nation is mentioned in the Bāveru Jataka. In the book ‘Buddhist India’, the nation of Baveru has been identified with Babylon. In the Rajayatan Katha of Vinayapitaka , two merchants Tapassu and Bhallika, who came from the country of Ukkalā, are mentioned, Who gave Buddha the first meal after attaining enlightenment. Myanmar has such an ancient belief that Buddhism first entered this country by these two merchants.

In ancient India, there was a practice of both national and international trade, which is known by the Pali literature.

Buddha’s thoughts about livelihood:

In the Sammā Ajivo (Right livelihood) of the Ariya Atthangika Magga (Noble Eightfold Path), the Buddha reveals thoughts related to livelihood. Buddha has said to achieve livelihood while instilling moral values. Buddha says one should earn a livelihood through hard work and worthy work. Others are harmed, such work should not earn money, such as arms trade, cattle trade, meat trade, alcohol trade and poisons trade. In the Sigālovāda Sutta, Buddha has suggested to earn money in a harmless way.

Caste-based occupation was prevalent during the Buddha era. In Vāsettha Sutta Buddha, while denying the caste system prevailing at that time, gave more priority to the person’s kamma.
Buddha has given instructions to householders in the Sigālovāda Sutta about how to make proper appropriation of wealth. Householders should divide the money into four parts. One part should be used for his needs, two parts should be spent on business and the fourth part should be kept for future. Buddha has also suggested to identify good and bad friends in this Sutta. A bad friend damages your wealth and a good friend helps you in increasing your wealth.

India was prosperous during the Buddha period; it is known from the study of Pali literature. The thoughts regarding the acquisition of wealth of Buddha are full of moral values, which are the guide for the formation of good family, society, country and the world.




One thought on “Buddhist Economy”

  1. Very nice ! Nilima madam has rightly pointed out the important Sutta. The information about tread and commerce of ancient India is vital. Congratulations 👌👌👌

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