Should Buddhists play the lottery?

Daniel Chan, of the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society, thinks so, and he’s planning to for this week’s record $90 million Oz Lotto draw.

Rod Meade Sperry
29 June 2009

Daniel Chan, secretary of the Australian Chinese Buddhist Society, thinks so, and he’s planning to do just that, for this week’s record $90 million Oz Lotto draw.

“Well, why not?” he’s told Australia’s The Age. “It’s a truckload of cash.”

He’s got a point, but then, so does the thorn of a rose. Because while the money raised from such a lottery can be helpful to a state, local, or (in this case) national government—and goodness knows a Buddhist society could do wondrous things with even a fraction of the money that came with the winning numbers—it’s maybe not quite the kind of activity that the Buddha would have supported.

As Bhikkhu Rahula Basnagoda writes in his 2008 book The Buddha’s Teachings on Prosperity: At Home, At Work, In the World:

The Buddha did not encourage his lay community to wait for a sudden fortune, a windfall such as a modern lottery win; and neither did he tolerate quick and easy money through whatever means. Instead, he helped his disciples to strive methodically and to establish themselves in life ‘just as ants build up their anthill.’

And yet, as Bhikkhu Basnagoda also recounts in the book, the Buddha preached upaya vimamsa:

Upaya means ‘strategic approach,’ or, functionally, ‘thinking out of the box,’ as opposed to the commonly accepted way of trying something. Vimamsa has several meanings, such as ‘examination’ and ‘testing. Together as a technique for succeeding in lay life, upaya vimamsa means ‘strategic investigation of new means of improvement in professional and business fields—a technique that may well be called ‘innovation.’

Rod Meade Sperry. Photo by Megumi Yoshida, 2024

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar), and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.