Click here return to the Hualin main page.

Click here return to the Hualin E-Journal Vol 2.2 Table of Contents page.


Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 2.2 (2019): 81–105;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhism and Business: South and East Asian Perspectives)

Download full text PDF


How to Make and Spend Money: Some Stories from Indian Classical Literature

Yale University

Abstract: This paper explores attitudes towards wealth and poverty in early and medieval Indian literature. While poverty is universally decried, stories and plays tell us that wealth brings with it its own problems. First of all, there is the initial problem: how does one acquire wealth? And then there is the question of what a person is to do with wealth once he has it. In answer to the first question, this paper discusses stories that suggest making money required a combination of luck and pluck. A person must recognize a good business opportunity and have the daring-do to seize it. The answer to the second question starts from a verse in the Pañcatantra, which tells us that a man’s wealth is not like his wife, to be kept all to himself, but like a public woman to be shared by all. Defining just who is meant by ‘all’ is the task of numerous religious texts.

Keywords: poverty, wealth, cleverness, avadanas, jatakas, jain prabandhas


About the Author: Phyllis Granoff is Lex Hixon Professor of World Religions at Yale University. A graduate of Harvard in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies and Fine Arts, she has written on early and medieval Indian religion, philosophy and art, and translated modern short stories from Bengali and Oriya into English. She served as editor of the Journal of Indian Philosophy for many years.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.