What is right Livelihood?

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What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Mon Mar 25, 2013 10:16 am

I am reading a book titled “The art of living” by S.N. Goenka. Page 61,He says:
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Thus any livelihood that requires killing :( , whether of human beings or of animals, is clearly not right livelihood.

But even if the killing is done by others and one simply deals in the parts of slaughtered animals. their skins, flesh, bones and so on , still this is not right livelihood.
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I do not agree with the sentences which are high lighted in black. This seems to be extreme. As a lay person it will be impossible for me to work in a restaurant or a supermarket etc.

What are your thoughts and understanding?
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:31 am

This is what the Vaṇijjā Sutta says:
7. Vaṇijjāsuttaṃ

177. “Pañcimā, bhikkhave, vaṇijjā upāsakena akaraṇīyā. Katamā pañca? Satthavaṇijjā, sattavaṇijjā, maṃsavaṇijjā, majjavaṇijjā, visavaṇijjā — imā kho, bhikkhave, pañca vaṇijjā upāsakena akaraṇīyā”ti. Sattamaṃ.

This is what the Commentary says:
Sattame vaṇijjāti vāṇijakammāni. Upāsakenāti tisaraṇagatena. Satthavaṇijjāti āvudhabhaṇḍaṃ kāretvā tassa vikkayo. sattavaṇijjāti manussavikkayo. Maṃsavaṇijjāti sūkaramigādayo posetvā tesaṃ vikkayo. Majjavaṇijjāti yaṃkiñci majjaṃ kāretvā tassa vikkayo. Visavaṇijjāti visaṃ kāretvā tassa vikkayo. Iti sabbampi imaṃ vaṇijjaṃ neva attanā kātuṃ, na pare samādapetvā kāretuṃ vaṭṭati.

A quick and free translation:

In the seventh sutta, "trading" means the work of buying and selling. A lay disciple means one who has taken the three refuges. Trading in weapons means, having made weapons one sells them. Trading in beings means, selling human beings. Trading in flesh means having raised pigs or deer, etc., one sells them. Trading in intoxicants means, having made intoxicants, one sells them. Trading in poisons means, having made poisons, one sells them. Thus, all of these trades, one should neither do oneself, nor order others to do them.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:41 am

Maṃsavaṇijjāti sūkaramigādayo posetvā tesaṃ vikkayo.
Trading in meat means, having raised pigs or deer, etc., he sells them.

In my opinion this would include any kind of living-being sold for its meat or hide, but not if sold for other purposes, e.g. oxen for pulling carts, horses for riding, or dogs for pets or work.

Working in a shop or supermarket that sells meat is not included. Why? Because the staff are not selling the meat, they are only filling shelves, or working on the checkout. The supermarket owners or shop-keepers are the ones who are buying the meat for resale. Likewise, if one is asked to work on the wine counter, and is serving customers who ask for wine, spirits, or beer, then one is not "trading in intoxicants."

However, if one is working on a commission, or if one owns a corner shop that sells intoxicants or meat, then one is trading in and profiting from the sale of intoxicants or meat.

I think what Goenka says is right. The farmer who raises the livestock, the slaughterman who kills it, and the trader who purchases the animal products are all profiting from trade in meat (maṃsavaṇijjā).

However, it goes too far to say that checkout staff, or stockroom and delivery staff are trading in meat (or intoxicants).
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Mon Mar 25, 2013 11:43 am

Ven Pesala
Could you translate the commentory for me? :)
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Mojo » Mon Mar 25, 2013 1:29 pm

What about the person who cooks the meat in a restaurant or a hospital?
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:28 pm

Mojo wrote:What about the person who cooks the meat in a restaurant or a hospital?


I believe the same principle applies as noted in Ven. Pesala's post. It is not killing; it is just cooking and preparing food from an order placed by others.

I am a vegetarian but if I take friends or family out to a restaurant and even if I am paying, I don't place restrictions on what they can order or not order; it is their choice. Buddhism is 'Middle Way' not fanatical or dogmatic.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Mojo » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:55 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Mojo wrote:What about the person who cooks the meat in a restaurant or a hospital?


I believe the same principle applies as noted in Ven. Pesala's post. It is not killing; it is just cooking and preparing food from an order placed by others.

I am a vegetarian but if I take friends or family out to a restaurant and even if I am paying, I don't place restrictions on what they can order or not order; it is their choice. Buddhism is 'Middle Way' not fanatical or dogmatic.


Thank you David.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:28 am

Ven Pesala/ David

I need further clarification. In McDonalds they purchase chicken and cook it and sell. Compare this to a fish and chip shop run by a small business man.
Can you explain who is doing the wrong lively hood? Are both,small businessman or nither?
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:06 am

SarathW wrote:Ven Pesala/ David

I need further clarification. In McDonalds they purchase chicken and cook it and sell. Compare this to a fish and chip shop run by a small business man.
Can you explain who is doing the wrong lively hood? Are both,small businessman or nither?

If you work for McDonalds you are not trading in flesh, you are serving customers. The owners are the one's who profit from trading in flesh. It would be the same if you worked in a small Fish and Chip shop, cooking or serving the customers. However, if you owned and ran the business yourself it would be a wrong livelihood.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Wed Mar 27, 2013 1:16 am

Ven Pesala
Thanks. Mc Donald is owned by thousand of shareholders, super funds, governments etc. This is not a practical solution and discriminate the poor small business person trying to look after his family.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:24 am

SarathW wrote:Ven Pesala
Thanks. Mc Donald is owned by thousand of shareholders, super funds, governments etc. This is not a practical solution and discriminate the poor small business person trying to look after his family.

Whether one runs a small business or a large one is not the point. If one trades in flesh its a wrong livelihood from the Buddhist point of view.

Anyone wealthy enough to buy shares can choose to invest in ethical businesses that don't trade in flesh, intoxicants, or weapons. The ordinary pension fund owner need not be concerned with that.

A worker who works for McDonalds is not earning a wrong livelihood if he or she is just serving customers, cooking burgers, or doing the accounts. He or she may be blamed for having a wrong livelihood if he or she is negotiating deals with farmers to provide the meat that goes into the burgers.

No Evil Without Bad Intention
A classic example from the Dhammapada is the case of a woman who was a Stream-winner, who was married to a hunter. Every day, she would fetch his weapons and traps for him when he set out to go hunting, and every day she would cook the meat that her husband brought home for the family's meals. The Buddha declared her to be blameless as she was doing the right thing by obeying her husband's instructions. She was not urging him to kill, nor approving of it.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby manas » Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:46 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Maṃsavaṇijjāti sūkaramigādayo posetvā tesaṃ vikkayo.
Trading in meat means, having raised pigs or deer, etc., he sells them.

In my opinion this would include any kind of living-being sold for its meat or hide, but not if sold for other purposes, e.g. oxen for pulling carts, horses for riding, or dogs for pets or work.

Working in a shop or supermarket that sells meat is not included. Why? Because the staff are not selling the meat, they are only filling shelves, or working on the checkout. The supermarket owners or shop-keepers are the ones who are buying the meat for resale. Likewise, if one is asked to work on the wine counter, and is serving customers who ask for wine, spirits, or beer, then one is not "trading in intoxicants."

However, if one is working on a commission, or if one owns a corner shop that sells intoxicants or meat, then one is trading in and profiting from the sale of intoxicants or meat.

I think what Goenka says is right. The farmer who raises the livestock, the slaughterman who kills it, and the trader who purchases the animal products are all profiting from trade in meat (maṃsavaṇijjā).

However, it goes too far to say that checkout staff, or stockroom and delivery staff are trading in meat (or intoxicants).


Thank you Bhante for that detailed explanation. I've never seen it explained so thoroughly before.

It is interesting to see how there are reasons grounded in the Dhamma, for every detail of the Vinaya (that is how I am perceiving it). And so it appears to me that they are closely interrelated and support each other, which is why we need to be attentive to both (is that correct?).

Kind regards :anjali:
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:27 am

Ven Pesala
Thanks. I am still missing or do not understand some thing here.

It is impossible to run a business now days without having goods made from animal parts. Our shoes, cloths (even monks silk robes), food (ice cream), medicine. (fish oil), fertilizer (blood and born) are all contain some form of animal body parts. Even in medical field, animal and human body parts are used for body reconstructions.

I buy meat from the corner store and consume them. If I tell the owner of the shop that he is not having a right lively hood, he will call me a hypocrite!
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Kamran » Sun May 19, 2013 4:17 am

SarathW wrote:I buy meat from the corner store and consume them. If I tell the owner of the shop that he is not having a right lively hood, he will call me a hypocrite!


That would be funny :jumping:

Reminds me of below sutta:


Is the holy life lived under the Blessed One for the sake of purity in terms of virtue?

No, my friend.

For the sake of what, then, my friend, is the holy life lived under the Blessed One?

The holy life is lived under the Blessed One, my friend, for the sake of total Unbinding through lack of clinging.



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... html#fnt-3
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun May 19, 2013 5:15 am

SarathW wrote:Ven Pesala
Thanks. I am still missing or do not understand some thing here.

Yes, you are.
SarathW wrote:I buy meat from the corner store and consume them. If I tell the owner of the shop that he is not having a right livelihood, he will call me a hypocrite!

He might, but he would be wrong, unless you also earn your livelihood by selling meat.

It would not be right to offer that advice, unless asked, and even if asked directly one should offer advice in a non-critical way. See, for example, how the Buddha breaks the bad news to Talaputa, the comedian or actor in the Talaputa Sutta.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby binocular » Sun May 19, 2013 2:14 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:No Evil Without Bad Intention

In that case, a server or cook at McDonalds who wishes "Oh, if only our shop would sell enough hamurgers today so that we reach the quota as directed by the management, so that they don't close the shop and I won't lose my job" - this is an intention to trade and to profit from selling meat, even if an indirect one, as in such circumstances, it is a logically necessary inference that in order for the person to keep their job, (enough) meat must be sold.

Similar would be the case for such a person to desire a raise.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby fivebells » Sun May 19, 2013 4:24 pm

From a practical perspective, right livelihood is any way of providing for yourself which you cannot currently anticipate causing you enough drama to disturb your meditation practice. Whether a given job is right livelihood may change as your practice progresses.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun May 19, 2013 11:42 pm

Greetings bhante,

Thank you for your informative contributions to this topic.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Thu Jun 13, 2013 4:19 am

This is going to be a very hard one on my progress in the path. Our family is engaged in restaurant business.
Naturally we cook meat and sell them. It is so hard now days to find a business without animal by products.
I gave a hard copy of this discussion to the monk in my temple. He said that I am in right livelyhood as far as animal are not killed to my order.
So if I just by meat from the super market and cook them and sell, then I am in right livelihood.

I am still not sure of what my position is!
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jun 13, 2013 4:55 am

One should look at what the Commentary actually says:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Maṃsavaṇijjāti sūkaramigādayo posetvā tesaṃ vikkayo.
Trading in meat means, having raised pigs or deer, etc., he sells them.


If that is right, then what Goenka says (in black) does go too far. Trading in flesh, according to the Commentary, means trading in animals for slaughter, whether one raises them oneself, or buys them from the farmer and sells them to the slaughter-house.

However, what the Commentary says does not extend to buying meat from the slaughterhouse or the supermarket.

A householder who purchases meat from the shops is not guilty of breaking the first precept unless buying from a market stall that kills live poultry, sea-food, etc., to order. The same applies to a restaurateur who purchases meat for resale in his restaurant.

This topic is an emotive one, and the crux of the debate between vegetarians/vegans and meat-eaters. The fact is that no one can eat meat or fish unless killing is done by someone. However, unless one instigates that killing in some way, there is no kamma of killing living-beings.

The rule for monks is that the meat is allowable unless it is "Seen, heard, or suspected that the animal was killed to provide meat for the Sangha." If the animal was killed by the owner to sell the meat, or to use it himself, then if someone buys it or if the owner cooks it and donates to the Sangha, the meat is allowable.

In four ways one kills living-beings:
  1. One does it with one's own hand
  2. One urges another to do it. The vegetarians say that merely by purchasing meat, that one is urging others to kill. This goes too far. The one who kills is motivated by the desire to profit, and has already killed the animal. If one person doesn't buy it, someone else will.
  3. One condones it, i.e. permits it to occur when one has the right to prevent it, e.g. one owns a fish pond, and allows others to catch the fish. If they do it without one's permission, then one does not condone it even if one makes no special effort to prevent them.
  4. One approves of it.
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