Happiness from Giving: Quantitative Investigation of Thai Buddhists

Abstract: According to Buddhist teachings, giving without condition leads to a higher level of happiness. Even though there are a number of studies examining factors that determine happiness, none quantitatively examine happiness from the perspective of a “giving” relationship. Using a household dataset from Thailand, where Buddhism is the main religion, this paper suggests that religious and nonreligious giving leads to a higher happiness level than not giving at all. Moreover, for nonreligious giving, it is found that charitable giving in terms of money and goods gives a donor more happiness than does volunteer work, but that both types of giving enhance one’s happiness. Religious giving (offering food and dedicating other offerings to Buddhist monks) is also found to increase happiness, more so for respondents who regularly give for religious purposes. In particular, regularly giving to monks leads to the highest happiness level, perhaps since Buddhism permeates Thai society and dedicating offerings to monks is believed to provide great merit. In addition, when making offerings to monks, donors usually do it randomly, at a temple, which suggests that making merit at a temple also leads to higher level of happiness.