It is said that when we offer monetary donations to the triple gems, we will be wealthy in our future lives. Likewise, when we observe the 8 Precepts for a day, we will be guaranteed a rebirth in the happy realms. It seems to me that going through such a mindset seems to be cultivating the greed in us, and that we are doing a conditional exchange with the Buddha. Is this acceptable?
I had the same query in my mind: wouldn’t it be a form of greed if the main motivation is to seek wealth and happiness when I do these good deeds?
However, I think it is a matter of stages (次第).
I am at a stage now where I need such motivations (like desire for a better life) to keep me practising Buddhism - this is as opposed to not being aware of Buddhism and Karma and going about my own way.
With more learning and guidance from my Teachers, I will hope to reduce and eventually eradicate such impure motivations. My main driving force to practise Buddhism then will be compassion for all sentient beings (菩提心).
Whether acceptable or not really depends on the definition of “greed” mentioned here. If it means “covetousness” as in the ten paths of non-virtuous actions, then desiring for a rebirth in happy realms is not this type of “greed” as “covetousness” means desiring to make the wealth or property of another person’s yours.
If “greed” here means “attachment” as in one of the afflictions that cause cyclic existence, then it is not something that we can eliminate just by not wishing for anything in return when we do spiritual practice or virtuous acts. “Attachment” as an affliction can only be eliminate through attaining the wisdom that realises emptiness.
But in order to attain that wisdom, we need to learn the Buddha’s teachings on the Perfection of Wisdom. In order to learn the Buddha’s teachings, we need a human rebirth of leisure and opportunity. So, when we wish for a rebirth in the happy realms through observing the 8 precepts, we should really view this as intermediate step in the quest for this ultimate goal of either liberation from cyclic existence or attaining Buddhahood. Otherwise, it will eventually only end up as “Plight over 3 lifetimes (三世怨)”.
Thinking that we should do spiritual practice without wishing for anything in return is a wrong view. It will not led us to the ultimate goals above which is the only real way to end the affliction of “attachment”. It will not provide us an objective to sustain our practice, and will cause us to give up easily or divert from our ultimate goal whenever obstacle arise.
Instead, we should make use of this affliction of “attachment” to motivate us to persevere on the path in the face of all difficulties so that one day we will attain the perfection of wisdom that truly ends the affliction. How do we do this? Instead of desiring for objects that will cause us to remain in cyclic existence, we constantly contemplate the faults of cyclic existence and the benefits of liberation and buddhahood in order to switch our objects of desire to liberation and Buddhahood.