Noble Eightfold Path

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Noble Eightfold Path

Postby NDat » Fri Sep 09, 2011 7:52 pm

I am new to Theravada Buddhism, and I am not a English speaker, so please bear with me. My questions are:

1. Noble Eightfold Path is the path to liberation. To end suffering, we will need to practice this Noble Eightfold Path. However, the mindfulness practice in Satipatthana Sutta is also the direct path to liberation. What is the link between these two? How could Noble Eightfold path or mindfulness lead us to end of suffering?

2. We practice meditation to develop the awareness (as I understand) to see thing the way it is. Where is this awareness in the Noble Eightfold Path (Right Mindfulness/Right Concentration)? Can we end suffering by practicing meditation only?

Thanks
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby Dhammakid » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:03 pm

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel, NDat! :hello:

I hope you find your stay on the forum informative as well as inspiring.

The Noble Eightfold Path is commonly broken down into three parts: virtue, concentration and wisdom. Concentration actually makes up the last two of the eight, and therefore represent the culmination of the path leading towards liberation. The Satipatthana Sutta lays out the practice of mindfulness that leads towards directed concentration and insight. In this light, the sutta teaches the latter stages of the Eightfold Path.

One cannot achieve complete liberation through mindfulness alone. In the Theravada tradition, the path is presented as gradual in accordance with the Buddha's teachings in the suttas. The practitioner gradually develops generosity, compassion, renunciation, dispassion and meditation, all leading up to liberation. Meditation practice - especially the jhanas - are increasingly difficult for a practitioner not versed in generosity and renunciation. For a person refusing to work towards giving up self-views, meditation is difficult for them as well. One needs all of the teachings (or at least all of the main ones) to reach liberation. All parts of the path reinforce each other.

Think of the eight parts of the path as stepping stones, or maybe ladder rungs. Each one is a step towards the end, and there is no skipping a step.

:anjali:
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby Nicro » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:06 pm

Yes, you need to develop the entire path. All of them help the others.

I'm not sure if I find the ladder analogy good though; all the factors are developed together not one by one.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:16 pm

Greetings,

NDat wrote:However, the mindfulness practice in Satipatthana Sutta is also the direct path to liberation. What is the link between these two?

Samma sati (right mindfulness) is one of the eight components of the Noble Eightfold Path.

There is no Noble Onefold Path.

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: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby NDat » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:01 am

Thanks for your explanations. However, I am still a little bit confused.
If Satipatthana Sutta teaches Mindfulness and Concentration only, then it may not be the direct path to liberation because we still need other steps in the Eightfold Path (Right Speech, Right Action ...). I have a feeling that this mindfulness practice is to develop the awareness that will help us to achieve Right View in the Noble Eightfold Path. When we encounter an event in our life, with Right View our intentions will be right. With right view, and right intention we will speak rightly. With right view, right intention, right speech, then we will act properly. With right view, intention, speech, action, we will then find ourselves living in a pleasurable livelihood. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, we will find ourselves doing more wholesome actions than unwholesome ones. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort we will fill and focus our mind into wholesome thoughts. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness we will be able to concentrate on a proper wholesome thought that will benefit to the current event. (This is my own novice understanding. I see the Dharma wheel rolling that way. It seems like I try to make sense the claim that Satipatthana Sutta is the direct path to liberation! Be free to correct me.). I feel that when I do not have awareness to the way things really are, I always react to whatever comes to my life, and many times they created so many problems. When I have some awareness, I can hold myself off the reactions and response to the situation better. With awareness only, there is no self (personality) in the thought/view. When there is no self, there is no like or dislike. When there is no like or dislike, there is no craving, and we are walking the middle way, and with the understanding of the four noble truths, we will obtain Right View and the dharma wheel will roll by itself.
It sounds too good to be true, so I am looking for some advice that could pointing me the errors in my thinking.
Thanks all for your help.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby appicchato » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:32 am

Nicro wrote:I'm not sure if I find the ladder analogy good though; all the factors are developed together not one by one.


I agree with you somewhat...although when I expressed this here some time back I was 'corrected' by several that it (N8P) does indeed begin (not just numerically) with 'Right View (#1)...it has led to my leaning in that direction...

Be well...
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby santa100 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 12:46 am

Satipatthana Sutta has a direct relationship to N8P. How much one is able to conduct oneself with Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, etc...is directly dependent on how much awareness or mindfulness one's able to develop while practicing Satipatthana. So if one finds that he/she still occasionally making mistake in term of Right Speech, or Right Action, etc.. then obviously one's Mindfulness of the Four Establishments still needs to be strengthen. So, in that way, Satipatthana could be seen as the direct path to the realization of Nibbana.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby NDat » Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:27 am

Another point I'd like to make is if you read my above explanation of the eight fold path, you will see that each sub-sequence step in the Noble Eight Fold path is folded onto the previous ones when the wheel is rolling. Is that the reason that we call it Eight Fold Path or just my delusion? I see the path is rolling and folding by itself. All we need to do is to develop awareness and sila (moral) to cultivate wholesome thoughts and actions. If we could obtain pure awareness to replace our normal thinking process (thinking = awareness + personality), then there is no more self (personality). Without self, compassion will arise, generosity will arise boundlessly. It seems like the teaching is so simple. The difficult part is to put it in practice.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Sep 10, 2011 11:40 pm

appicchato wrote:
Nicro wrote:I'm not sure if I find the ladder analogy good though; all the factors are developed together not one by one.


I agree with you somewhat...although when I expressed this here some time back I was 'corrected' by several that it (N8P) does indeed begin (not just numerically) with 'Right View (#1)...it has led to my leaning in that direction...

Be well...

I like the spiral staircase analogy, myself: not quite 'developing all the factors together', not quite 'straight up a ladder'.

:meditate:
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby nameless » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:27 am

NDat wrote:Thanks for your explanations. However, I am still a little bit confused.
If Satipatthana Sutta teaches Mindfulness and Concentration only, then it may not be the direct path to liberation because we still need other steps in the Eightfold Path (Right Speech, Right Action ...). I have a feeling that this mindfulness practice is to develop the awareness that will help us to achieve Right View in the Noble Eightfold Path. When we encounter an event in our life, with Right View our intentions will be right. With right view, and right intention we will speak rightly. With right view, right intention, right speech, then we will act properly. With right view, intention, speech, action, we will then find ourselves living in a pleasurable livelihood. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, we will find ourselves doing more wholesome actions than unwholesome ones. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort we will fill and focus our mind into wholesome thoughts. With right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness we will be able to concentrate on a proper wholesome thought that will benefit to the current event. (This is my own novice understanding. I see the Dharma wheel rolling that way. It seems like I try to make sense the claim that Satipatthana Sutta is the direct path to liberation! Be free to correct me.). I feel that when I do not have awareness to the way things really are, I always react to whatever comes to my life, and many times they created so many problems. When I have some awareness, I can hold myself off the reactions and response to the situation better. With awareness only, there is no self (personality) in the thought/view. When there is no self, there is no like or dislike. When there is no like or dislike, there is no craving, and we are walking the middle way, and with the understanding of the four noble truths, we will obtain Right View and the dharma wheel will roll by itself.
It sounds too good to be true, so I am looking for some advice that could pointing me the errors in my thinking.
Thanks all for your help.


It's not actually a sequential process. For example, right action, speech and livelihood, based on how you are conditioned, some people might find it easy to have right action but not right speech (it is probably easier to refrain from stealing, killing and sexual misconduct than from idle chatter in modern society, for example). Or depending on how your life has turned out, you might find yourself already in right livelihood when you discover the path, or you might be trapped in wrong livelihood with no practical way out at the moment.

Mindfulness is not just wholesome thoughts, as you present in your sequence. It seems to refer to the four frames of reference as outlined in the satipatthana.
"And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves... the mind in & of itself... mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness.

We need it to be aware of what is going on as it goes on, so that we don't engage in speech, actions, view etc. that is not right.

So in a sense each part helps other parts grow. If you have right view, you know the value of developing mindfulness; if you have right mindfulness you are better able to maintain right view etc. Action, speech and livelihood are parts of sila, if you have sila then it is easier to develop concentration and mindfulness.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby NDat » Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:30 pm

Thanks for your insights. However as you said " some people might find it easy to have right action but not right speech (it is probably easier to refrain from stealing, killing and sexual misconduct than from idle chatter in modern society, for example)." I think we do not have right speech because we do have have right view. Right View as I understand is the pure awareness and wisdom without any personal opinion (personality). With right view in this sense, we will not engage in wrong speech.
"Mindfulness is not just wholesome thoughts, as you present in your sequence. It seems to refer to the four frames of reference as outlined in the satipatthana. ". I think the four frames of references in the satipatthana is the practice that will lead to pure awareness and wisdom. With the pure awareness and wisdom, then we will get right mindfulness.
I seems to me that Right view is the driver of this Dharma wheel. The key is how we understand right view. To me, Right View is pure awareness + understand of 4NT. Pure awareness have no opinion (personality/self).
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby Nicro » Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:17 am

But in order to have right view you have to have some measure of right mindfulness to even realize how right view is "right". In to have any mindfulness you need concentration and vice-versa.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby NDat » Mon Sep 12, 2011 7:53 pm

In my opinion, we do not need to realize “how right view is right”. All we need is to be aware and accept. I will try to make an example to clarify my point. However, it is hard to make a point in a short example, so please bear with me and ignore my bad English.
First, let me explain what I think about awareness? To make it simple, let’s take this example:
Mr. A and Mr.B see a classic car parked on the street.
1.First, Both Mr. A, and Mr.B see a car -> It’s a car. (awareness – no opinion, like or dislike yet!)
2.Mr. A is a classic car lover, so Mr. A adds his personality (self) into the event, so his view has become -> It’s a nice car.
3.Mr. B is NOT a classical car lover, so Mr. B adds his personality into the event, so his view has become -> It’s an ugly car.
We can see that in awareness only, there is no like, dislike or opinion. (It’s a car)
Now, let’s make another simple example to see how we could get right view, and how the Noble Eightfold Path works in our daily lives.
Mr. A went home after work. He is hungry. When he gets home he saw his wife is on the phone, and there is no food on the table.
In situation A:
1.Mr. A sees his wife is on the phone and there is no food on the table (awareness).
2.Mr. A remembers that his wife sometimes chatted with her friends for long hours and did not prepare dinner for the family. (personality/self/opinion)
3.Mr. A now believes that his wife is irresponsible. (View)
4.Mr. A thinks that he should correct his wife, and let her know that he is not please with her action (Intention)
5.So, Mr. A angrily tells his wife that “You are irresponsible! You should … you should …” (Speech)
6.Mr. A angrily throws his stuffs on the table and walk away (action)
7.Mr. A and Mrs. A now do not talk to each other. Mr. A moves to his friend house. Mrs. A is yelling and complaining Mr. A to anyone she could reach. Their lives are miserable now (livelihood)
8.Mr. A and Mrs. A now are focusing to degrade each other. Mr. A starts drinking, smoking more and does not want to do any work. Mrs. A trashes the house, stops eating… (effort)
9.Mr. A fills his mind all the bad things that he thinks Mrs. A could have. She is like this, she always do like this … She never … Mrs. A also fills her mind with all the bad things that she thinks Mr. A could have. He is like this … He never (Mindfulness)
10.Mr. A is now focusing on how to get divorce. Mrs. A is focusing on how to make Mr. A as bad as possible (Concentration).
We can see the result is “suffering”.
Now in situation B:
1.Mr. A sees his wife is on the phone and there is no food on the table (awareness).
2.Even though Mr. A is hungry, he understands life is dukkha (1NT). He will not always be able to get what he wants (acceptance). He is aware that his wife is busy on the phone, and there is no food on the table, and he is OK with what he sees (Right View)
3.He thinks that he may need to get some foods for the dinner because his wife is busy and he is hungry (Right Intention)
4.He tells his wife “Hi honey, I am going to buy some foods now. What do you want to have for dinner?” (Right Speech)
5.His wife stops the phone, and tells him that he does not need to do so, because she already bought some, but her mom just got into an accident and she is helping to coordinate the help. Mr. A helps Mrs. A coordinate the help for her mom, and they have dinner after they finished the phone calls(Right Action)
6.Mrs. A is appreciate Mr. A’s understanding, she loves him more than before. They both are happy(Right livelihood)
7.Mr. A helps to clean up after the dinner while Mrs. A is preparing foods for her mom. (Right effort)
8.Mr. A fills his mind with what he can do to help Mrs.A and her mom. He thought himself “I should come home earlier, maybe I could take some days off …” (Right Mindfulness)
9.Mr. A now focuses on how to help his wife while she is busy with her mom. (Right Concentration)
We could see that with awareness and understand 4NT, Mr. A will get right view and the Dharma wheel will roll by itself. Mr. A may have to do more works, but he is not suffering. He is happy and willing to do so (Compassion, generosity).
In this short, simple example, it is hard to cover all aspects. The less “self” we have, the more “right” the view will be. We do not need to know if the view is “right” or not. We only need to make sure there is no self (opinion, like, dislike) in the view. That’s why N8P is the middle way and it will end the suffering.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby nameless » Sun Sep 25, 2011 4:14 pm

What you describe is indeed a skilful way to deal with things. On the other hand, the 8fold path refers to specific things, see here, and not to the typical meaning of the word. So action for example, doesn't refer to looking at all kinds of action and evaluating if they are right or wrong, but rather, specifically to not killing stealing or committing sexual misconduct. Livelihood refers to one's job, etc. I think this is an important distinction; otherwise, if we merely evaluate things on our own terms, our opinions, likes and dislikes inevitably interfere with our judgment. For example, you depict situation A as the 'bad' situation and B as the 'good' situation because you like certain ways of life (e.g. harmony) and dislike arguments, and have opinions about how couples should act towards each other. In this situation it works because it is quite clear that fighting causes suffering, but a lot of situations are less clear cut.

I also don't think it 'rolls by itself'. It takes a lot, when faced with a situation that would typically result in one reacting unskillfully, to go against one's normal habits and act skilfully instead. Just observe for yourself, next time you are angry/upset/scared/suffering, just observe if just having right view causes everything to 'roll by itself' and end the suffering (of course, if you can, good for you).

We do need to know if our view is right. At the very least, through observing the causes and effects of the things that go on in our life, we can slowly guide ourselves towards right view.

While right view probably involves less self, it is not automatically true that less self equals to right view.

It is also not an accurate image that as you progressively 'lessen' the self, your view will progressively become 'more' right. Right view is in accordance with the knowledge of the 4NT, not about self-ness. Some people might say that self-view is part of suffering and hence part of the 4NT and hence related to right view, but if we assume that's true it is still only part of the 4NT, so saying that "only" having no self is important is still inadequate.

Finally, how would you, as you say, "make sure there is no self"? And why do you think it is a goal to strive for? Does non-self involve only no opinion, likes or dislikes? No need to answer as I believe I don't know enough to comment on your answers or provide better ones, but I think they are things worth pondering about.
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Re: Noble Eightfold Path

Postby Cilla » Wed Sep 28, 2011 11:02 am

Hi there. I'm new here and pretty new to buddhism but i've been reading a lot and i feel a lot of your problem has to do with some misinterpretations of possibly the language itself or otherwise, what the different folds of the eightfold paths are about.

I notice your idea of what awareness is not quite correct. I think you are using the word awareness when perceive might be a better word. Awareness is not just to observe, to see, something. Its bigger than than that. To be aware includes understanding, indeed, to have a correct understanding. Awareness in buddhism, as i understand it, is largely about self-awareness. AT least that's where it matters most - ie to understand yourself. And this you learn from meditation and mindfulness. To be aware of things whether its in yourself or some external situation is to have an accurate understanding of what is going on whether its something going on in your own personal experience ie why you are feeling angry, or in an external experience, ie whether those two people on the other side of the shouting at each are actually engaged in an argument, are rehearsing a play or just mucking about. To be aware is to know and to understand. But it is "to know" and "to understand" what you are perceiving correctly, without your own projections, opinions, biases and so forth. I wonder if that's at all clear.

I think i've just said the same thing about five times there. :thinking:

Then i think you are confused about right view. I have this definition of right view and it works for me.

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truths. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through [or to see through things?], to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.


So as i understand it, right view is the buddha's world view. It's the big buddhist picture. This big picture is something we are aiming to acquire through our knowledge of buddhist teachings - which is easy, and also to know it through our experience which is more difficult. So we know cognitively what the right view is because we can read that paragraph above and understand what it says. The task is to acquire the right view and internalise it through our experience as practicing buddhists. So that in the end you will have the view of the world as the buddha had pretty much.

Back to your original questions...
To end suffering, we will need to practice this Noble Eightfold Path. However, the mindfulness practice in Satipatthana Sutta is also the direct path to liberation. What is the link between these two? How could Noble Eightfold path or mindfulness lead us to end of suffering?


I have to admit i don't know what satipatthana is but maybe my answer will help anyway since i understand what the eightfold path is. Is your question how does the 8fp lead to the end of suffering or how does mindfulness lead to the end of suffering. Well as has been said, mindfulness is one part of the eight folds of the path. Do you really understand what mindfulness is, I wonder?

AGain i will quote you what i have about right mindfulness.
7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.


ACtually you might not grasp that since english is not your first language so i will put it more simply. Its about interpretation of what we perceive. To interpret things incorrectly is not to be mindful. To not be aware of what we perceive (ie the thoughts that come up in our minds as we go about things) is to not be mindful. To be aware of all the thoughts that come up is to be mindful. To realise we interpret what we perceive is mindful. We interpret everything - that's what is meant by conceptualising in the above. Often, very very often, things are incorrectly interpreted. With mindfulness practice, and with guidance, we can learn first to be aware of what is going on in our heads and then to interpret it correctly or even not to interpret things at all. Sometimes its enough just to notice them - ie it might be enough to notice that we are starting to feel a bit agitated, or to notice that we are frustrated but we may choose not to do anything about those feelings and might choose not to look into them at the time. But i sometimes wonder if not interpreting things at all is even possible when you are actively engaged with other people because things happen so quickly. The example you gave or Mr A and Mr B are good examples of people misinterpreting and correctly interpreting the situations. So yes, awareness is correct perception and correct interpretation.

Do you have a mindfulness practice in your meditation. There is a book that explains how to go about it very very clearly. Its called Mindfulness in Plain English and its excellent. GEt hold of a copy if you haven't heard of it.

2. We practice meditation to develop the awareness (as I understand) to see thing the way it is. Where is this awareness in the Noble Eightfold Path (Right Mindfulness/Right Concentration)? Can we end suffering by practicing meditation only


Yes awareness is developed through meditiation - both mindfulness and concentration but especially mindfulness.Also i think just knowing the eightfold path can help with awareness. To realise that we have the option to think wholesome thoughts is awareness. KNowing this means that we can develop habits of thinking that are more wholesome than unwholesome. If you only practice mindfulness and concentration meditation adn don't practice mindfulness as you go about your daily life and you don't follow the other paths right intention, right speech etc, you won't - according to the buddha - be able to end suffering. I find it a bit of an odd question actually. It is possible to be correctly aware and mindful all the time but to ignore doing the right thing. If you don't do the right thing, or use right speech you will cause suffering for others. If you use harsh words at people, if you steal, if have bad intentions you will cause suffering. Its easy. So you need right intentions and mindfulness and concentration meditation are practices to help you develop habits of mind that will bring about right intentions, right speech and right effort.

I understand to get the most out of insight meditation which is mindfulness, you first need to develop a good practice of concentration type meditation.

If you haven't yet understood how the 8fold path can lead to the end of suffering, i really recommend you read one or two biographies of the buddha. I have read two both of which i have got a lot out of. One is Buddha by Karen Armstrong. The other is The End of Suffering by Pankaj Mishra. In this second book he has two chapters in the middle which explain really well (if you pay attention) the whole business of the buddha's philosopy. Armstrongs book is all over a better telling of the buddha's story but it doesn't go into so much detail of this eightfold path as i recall. I recommend you read them both. Armstrong deals very well with the subject of attachment and craving.

The whole purpose of the eightfold path is to learn how to give up craving because that is the source of suffering. All the aspects of the eightfold path will help you end craving. Once you can give up craving, you will be enlightened. Pretty much so anyway.

One more thing, right livelihood is this (see quote) not what you seem to think it is.
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
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