The primary aim of Buddhism is to achieve emancipation from Samsāric existence by realizing Nirvana. For this the practice of meditation was recommended by the Buddha. Therefore, Buddhism is mainly meant for those who have given up all worldly possessions and attachments and become recluses (Sramanas). Buddha was not interested very much in secular affairs like economics and polity.
Lay community’s aspiration was different from that of monks. They did not want to realize Nirvana in this life but to have a material success, happy life, economic development, family management and so forth in this life and in the life to come. When they visited the Buddha they indicated their household problems and wanted to have some advices conducive to material development rather than that of spiritual. In this respect Buddha preached many sutras to them in the form ethics. The contents of these sutras can be called the Buddhist philosophy of economic management and material success.
Buddha was not against happiness derived from the economic prosperity and material success by lay community. He advised lay people positively to find right livelihoods, make money righteously and make use of the wealth usefully. In the management of one’s earnings, Buddha advised householders to divide income into four parts and set aside one fourth of earnings as savings to make use of in emergencies. And also Buddha advised people to be wise and strategic in the management of income and expenditure. He emphatically said that expenditure should not exceed the income.
Sigālovāda sutra explains many ways of dissipation of wealth due to overindulgence in drinking, gambling, frequenting streets, music, singing and idleness. In order to safeguard one’s wealth one has to get rid of these vices. In the management of one’s economy, Buddha has pointed out four important management principles: diligence (utthānasampadā), safeguarding what has been earned (ārakkhasampadā), association with good companions and friends (kalyānamittatā) and balancing of income and expenditure (samajīvikatā).