While Buddhism is certainly not a pessimistic religion, the way that it is taught in many places often does give people that impression. Doing a broad reading of the suttas, however, one gets a feeling that the Buddha did spend much more time showing us how to be happy.
The Dighajanu sutta is an example of the Buddha’s teaching on how lay people can achieve happiness in this life (and the next). This sutta clearly shows that the Buddha wants us to take responsibility for our lives and be an active participant in creating our own positive future.
Another point to note is that while money is not the source of our happiness, knowing the means to make righteous wealth and earning an honest living does contributes to our happiness and well-being.
It is interesting to note that many people today would go to temples to pray to the Buddha, hoping that we could earn his favor, thus getting his “supernatural” help in our pursuit for wealth. Yet during the Buddha’s time, when he is still with us in flesh and blood, he offer none of that. Instead, the Buddha would tell us that it is in fact up to us – encouraging us to work hard and work smart and maintain a balanced lifestyle in order to slowly build up our wealth.
“There are these four qualities… that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in this life…. a lay person, by whatever occupation he makes his living is clever and untiring at it, (a) endowed with discrimination in its techniques, enough to arrange and carry it out… (b) has righteous wealth… he manages to protect it through vigilance… (c) spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue… (d) knowing the income and outflow of his wealth, maintains a livelihood in tune, neither a spendthrift nor a penny-pincher..
There are these four qualities that lead to a lay person’s happiness and well-being in lives to come… (a) is convinced of the Tathagata’s Awakening… (b) abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from illicit sexual conduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness… (c) his awareness cleansed of the stain of miserliness, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms… (d) discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of dukkha…”