Right livelihood and music

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Right livelihood and music

Postby Vakkali » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:52 am

Hi everybody!

I was hoping I could get some of your thoughts on a something that has been troubling me since I decided to sincerely practice the Buddhadhamma.

According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation of the Vanijja Sutta, there are five kinds of business a layperson shouldn't engage in: business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poision. As somebody about to begin a career in music, I won't be participating in any of those things. However, in the Talaputa Sutta, the Buddha seems to have a low opinion of professional entertainers, because they excite passion, aversion, and delusion in their audience. Even though the Buddha is technically only talking about actors, I can't help but feel that the same thing applies to singers, instrumentalists, etc. Are professional musicians engaging in a form of wrong livelihood? The last thing I want to do is impede the spiritual progress of others simply because I enjoy music, and because I take pleasure in performing.

Additionally, I have trouble keeping the Eight Precepts on observance days. Practicing and listening, which are essential to good musicianship, seem to constitute a breach of the seventh precept. I thought maybe it wouldn't be a problem, since what most other people do for entertainment and distraction I do for work, but that seems like a really big stretch. Maybe the frustration I'm experiencing is just a manifestation of my attachment to sensual pleasure. What do you think? I would especially appreciate the input of a member of the sangha, if any happen to come across this.

Sincerely,
Vakkali
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby cooran » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:21 am

Hello Vakkali,

The posts and links listed in this thread may be of assistance:
buddhist at a work
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=10342&start=0

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:00 am

There have been a few earlier threads on this topic. I haven't got time to look just now - sorry - but searching for "music OR musician livelihood" within domain "dhammawheel.com" should find them.

:namaste:
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby santa100 » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:06 pm

The kind of message in your music is what matters. Music could invoke un-healthy emotions through inappropriate lyrics, topics, and subjects; or it could bring about great inspirations through wholesome messages. It'd be a wholesome livelihood if you could bring about positive changes to people's live through the message of your music..
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby nameless » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:55 pm

It's not wrong livelihood I suppose because first of all, it's not listed as such.

If you look at the Talaputa Sutta, note that the Buddha did not actively preach non-engagement in such practices. In fact, he declined to talk about it when asked, and only relented when Talaputa asked repeatedly (I've read somewhere he didn't decline to answer any question if asked three times).

If you look at things in the modern context, where we are flooded with entertainment, your performing is not going to impede spiritual progress more so than any other of the entertainment already out there; if you don't perform your potential fans would just listen/watch/play something else. On the other hand if you have a good message it might cause more good than harm.
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby Vakkali » Fri Nov 18, 2011 4:24 pm

Thank you for all of your helpful responses. I found of the other threads a couple of you mentioned after posting; I apologize for bringing up something that has clearly been thoroughly discussed multiple times. I also seem to remember that one commentary mentions a layperson and professional acrobat who achieved Awakening during a performance. I'm not sure which commentary this comes from, and I can't remember what it was that pushed him "over the edge," as it were.
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Re: Right livelihood and music

Postby chownah » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:54 am

Vakkali,
Some people view the list which the Buddha gave for livlihoods to not engage in as being just a general guideline which only mentions some more obvious ones......I think a bigger lesson being taught is that one should examine ones own livlihood to determine if it is right or not....it could be that for some being a musician is right livlihood and for some it is not....I guess.....
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