What the Buddha Might Say to Bill Gates.

Via Ed & Deb Shapiro
on Jun 4, 2013
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Bill Gates by Tristan Nitot

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” ~  Buddha

Bill Gates is a rare breed. He defies what most billionaires appear to be: trapped in the hoarding of money with a large dose of poverty mind. While most people are obsessed with getting money, Gates wants to give it away.

By the time he was 32, Gates was a billionaire; in May this year he was declared the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $72 billion. He stopped working at Microsoft five years ago in order to focus on using that money to make the world a better place. He and his wife founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with investor Warren Buffet. The primary aims of the foundation are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. To begin, Gates is committed to ending polio by 2018, with tuberculosis and malaria to follow.

Although, obviously, few of us have money to spare like Gates or Buffet, and it is easy to applaud them while feeling useless ourselves, it doesn’t mean we can’t give or help another in need, using whatever means we have.

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity. ~ Buddha

We were in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, in northern India, attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings. It was crowded, cold, and very uncomfortable sitting close together on mats on a concrete floor. Deb was longing to go back to our hotel room so she could meditate quietly on her own when the Dalai Lama start talking about the dangers of solitary peace. He spoke of how tempting it can be to want to be on our own, but how easily this can disengage us from the reality around us. That it is vital to be in communication, engaged in giving, sharing and caring for each other.

Wise spiritual teachers from all traditions have taught how the path of service is the most important of all, as it means we are less self-obsessed; through caring for others we can step out of indulgence and into big-heartedness, releasing any sense of separateness.

Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue. ~ Buddha

The generosity Gates is sharing is not the stuff many rich people are made of. It can be very difficult to give when you have so much, as it incites tremendous fear of loss. We only have to look at the upper 1% of this country to see how greed and selfishness rule the day, as they hide their money in off shore accounts, avoid paying fair taxes, and have little time for the poor or needy.

When we feel uncomfortable with generosity we get stuck in our limitations and fear. When we appreciate the joy of kindness our life is transformed. We can both give and receive. Such egoless moments are exquisite!

We may think we have little to offer but whether it is a few pennies or a whole bankroll, a cup of tea or a banquet is irrelevant—it is the act of giving itself that is important. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, although life changes are inevitable we can initiate personal change so that we rise to the challenge and become a bigger and better person as a result. As Mahatma Gandhi also said, “Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.”

Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have! ~ W. Clement Stone

As one of our teachers, Sri Swami Satchidananda taught: “Who is the most selfish person? It is the one who is most selfless! Why? Because by being selfless, you will always retain your happiness. A selfish person can never be really happy. So to be happier, be more selfless!”

I slept and dreamt that life was joy

I awoke and saw that life was service

I acted and behold, service was joy.  ~ Rabindranath Tagore



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Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Ed & Deb Shapiro

Ed & Deb Shapiro are the authors of new The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness & Meditation. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have six meditation CDs. See more at their website.


24 Responses to “What the Buddha Might Say to Bill Gates.”

  1. Padma Kadag says:

    The first two "Buddha" quotes do not sound Buddhist and according to fakebuddhaquotes.com they are not. The third quote does not sound authentic. I do not understand this willingness to use false Buddha quotes. Surely this cannot be good for you or those to whom you write these articles for.
    "Wise spiritual teachers from all traditions have taught how the path of service is the most important of all…"I understand your point but if you were to replace "service" with compassion or bodhicitta then I could have agreed with your quote or if this is what you mean by service. Service is beneficial in any capacity. If we understand service to mean charity as in the sense of Bill Gates or Mother Teresa, according to the major schools of Vajrayana Buddhism, this is second to realization of the nature of mind which in that moment liberates all mother sentient beings. This is illustrated by Shantideva in the Bodhicaryavatara when he talks about in a world of thorns it would be futile to cover the entire world with leather when you can cover the bottom of one's own feet in leather.

  2. ed shapiro says:

    Padma Kadag – We can have no idea what Buddha said or didn't say 2600 years ago. All that matters is the intent to Awaken & help others as in the Mahayana Path.

  3. Yoga Muse says:

    Bill Gates is using his money to (forcibly in some cases) vaccinate children in poor countries. Do your research before you decide he's a saint. Threatening and coercing the poor and powerless is something the Buddha would never do!!

  4. Mr.Science says:

    Not to mention the massive shares the Bill and MELINDA Gates foundation owns in Monsanto. (you know, to save the world)
    I wonder, If no one knows what the Buddha said 2600 years ago, why are you quoting, possibly misquoting him? And why would you presume to have an idea of what he would say to anyone in modern times?
    This whole series is like WWJD for Buddhists who want to justify their own confused agenda.

  5. Nunh says:

    I think you mean well.

  6. LRR says:

    yoga muse – I have a friend who hold medical degree from Yale – she is using her gift to help aid those who need it most….funded by the Gates foundation – I think that is pretty darn 'saint-full' and remember that it is far better to DO GOOD than to do nothing.

  7. Padma Kadag says:

    Nunh…I think they mean well also. But I also believe that using quotes which are falsely said by the Buddha, and frankly do not sound Buddhist, in an article which is supposed to be from a Buddhist perspective is nonsense.

  8. Laughable says:

    Well put, Mr. Science. I have hope that the author of this meant well, but yeah, Bill Gates is also a huge reason Monsanto is so successful. The man knows computers and how to create products that destroy the planet.. not much else it seems. I don’t know what Buddha would say to that.

  9. ed shapiro says:

    Mr. Science come out of your mind & into your heart – have compassion – have metta for all beings

    May all beings be happy & free from suffering!

    Much metta,

    Jygme Powa (Ed Shapiro)

  10. ed shapiro says:

    Yoga Muse – your message is not very yogic –
    anger is like a match that can burn down a whole forest!
    We are ALL just human beings – Saints get headaches – Buddha died a terrible death – we all get sick & die – what you wish for others you are wishing for yourself!
    Wish all beings well – your enemy is your friend as you learn patience & compassion!
    Joy in Yoga,
    Swami Brahmananda (Ed Shapiro)

  11. ed shapiro says:


  12. Padma Kadag says:

    Interesting perspective

  13. Padma Kadag says:

    Waylon…at what point does a self described "mindful" blog become one that is promoting wrong view via false Buddha and master quotes? How do you reconcile? Do you feel that you can censor out false Buddha quotes and still keep your "mindful" good looks? Or is it easier to censor entire comments which rightfully point out that 99% of the quotes by Shakyamuni Buddha on your mindful blog are false? What do you say Dharma Brat?

  14. ed shapiro says:

    ISMS are now WASIMS

    Buddha means to WAKE UP to see clearly to be free of all doctrine – you are still stuck in what is & what is not Buddhist, what is or what is not Buddhist teachings – rather than waking up to what is real for you. Come out of your head & into your heart! When we sat with His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence in India he held our hands & never spoke about Buddhism – he spoke to us with love & compassion.

    May all beings be happy & free from suffering!

    Much metta,

    Jygme Powa (Ed Shapiro)

  15. ed shapiro says:

    Padma – no one will ever know what the Buddha actually said – all that matters is if the quote helps someone, whether the Buddha said it or not!

  16. ed shapiro says:

    Padma Kadag – Better to practice what the Buddha taught than to be concerned that every word is seemingly correct!

    Om mane padme hum

  17. Padma Kadag says:

    Then you can obviousy ask how can one practice if: 1) "we don't know what the buddha said", 2) "we can have no idea what the Buddha said" 3) It doesnt matter what the Buddha said. Your plea to me to "Come out of your head & into your heart!" is an interesting judgement on your part. It very much matters that your Buddha quotes are not from the Buddha or any canon of the Buddha…but more importantly…the quotes you use do not represent buddhist awareness or shall I say authentic awareness from any of the schools of Buddhism. Surely if all we needed to do was to "open our hearts" thre never would have been any need for the Buddha to awaken. I appreciate your blessings you received directy from HH The Dalai Lama. But my concern is a simple one regarding quotes of the Buddha which are false and misrepresent the lineage of my teachers. It has nothing to do with how authentic my practice is or your practice is.Crack open the Kangyur or the Tengyur or any commentary by any of the great buddhist masters and find authentic quotes which support your ideas.

  18. Padma Kadag says:

    My friend, both you and I are stuck in samsara. "To be free of all doctrine" is not the meaning of "buddha". If your definition of doctrine is to be enslaved by some arbitrary dogma then maybe you are right. But we do have doctrine taught by authentic teachers which will lead us to Buddhahood in one life time. The same enlightenment as the Buddha Shakyamuni. As holders of this path we have taken vows to uphod the teachings we receive from our teachers and their doctrine is the foundation of the dharma….so the doctrine is important. The words matter until they aid in bringing us to buddhahood.

  19. ed shapiro says:

    much metta!
    many tashi delegs!

  20. lauraplumb says:

    So I just wanted to say that I appreciated the article, and the reminder that the Golden Rule pervades and perdures.

  21. Padma Kadag says:

    many many Tashi Deleks!!!!

  22. ed shapiro says:

    words and teachings will never lead to Buddha 'Awakening' they will lead you to the door but only you can open that door!

  23. ed shapiro says:

    many thanks lauraplumb it was fun writing it – joyfully, Ed

  24. ed shapiro says:

    words and teachings will never lead to Buddha 'Awakening' they will lead you to the door but only you can open that door!