Has the Buddhist revolution begun? This Wall Street Journal headline, “U. S. Superrich Vow to Share Wealth” gives hope that perhaps the revolution has begun. Buddhism doesn’t have a patent on generosity and none of these philanthropists has cited Buddhist reasons for doing so, but doing so certainly embraces the virtue of dana (generosity). Nevertheless, these bodhisattvas are seeking to make a difference.
One strategy to enforce generosity is through taxation. According to Timothey Geitner this woudl be bad for the economy. For people to give voluntarily because it is the right thing to do rather than because they are mandated to do so seems to make more sense. It also gives these individuals the ability to direct where there funds go and whom they should benefit, rather than going into government coffers to pay for whatever the government deems appropriate (and that seems rather always and lately on defense spending.
Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle donated $46.9 million to his medical foundation, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, donated $175 million to USC’s film school, Barron Hilton, son of hotelier Conrad Hilton, will donate $1.2 billion to the Conrad H. Hilton Foundation, Peter Peterson, co-founder of Blackstone Group, will donate $1 billion to the foundation bearing his name, and Patrick Soon-Shiong, CEO of Abraxes BioScience, donated $65 to Saint John’s Health Center Foundation. The effort towards such giving has been spearheaded by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates. They have convinced 38 other such mega-wealthy to do as they have pledged. The goal that Buffet is aiming for is setting an example for others, not through coercion but through admiration and inspiration.
Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg puts it this way, “Making a difference in people’s lives – and seeing it with your own eyes – is perhaps the most satisfying thing you’ll ever do. If you want to fully enjoy life – give. And if you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the single best thing – by far – is to support organizations that will create a better world for them and their children. Long term, they will benefit more from your philanthropy than from your will. I believe the philanthropic contributions I’m now making are as much gifts to my children as they are to the recipient organizations.”