Right Livelihood

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

Right Livelihood

Postby Tyler » Wed May 09, 2012 5:39 am

Hey Dhamma Wheel,
I have been doing some thinking about right livelihood recently and what everyone's role is in it. We all seem to contribute to wrong livelihood for someone in someway somehow. What do you think our responsibility is when money leaves our hands? For instance, many jobs offer 401k plans that invest in companies that are doing harm to people. Are we responsible as mindful Buddhists for accepting such plans knowing we are making our retirement off these things? Some companies allow you to put money into other types of funds but all of them dont. Should we be expected to leave our jobs because we don't like who our employers invest in? I know the rules are abstract, but where do you drawl the line?

Is it wrong livelihood to work in a store that sells intoxicants?
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 09, 2012 5:46 am

Greetings Tyler,

Tyler wrote:I know the rules are abstract, but where do you drawl the line?

I would suggest for the most part, you're over-complicating it, and by doing so, causing needless worry, guilt and consternation.

Tyler wrote:Is it wrong livelihood to work in a store that sells intoxicants?

Now that's a worthwhile question to ask, though the more relevant question (from a N8P perspective) would be whether you yourself are required to sell intoxicants.

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: Right Livelihood

Postby Kim OHara » Wed May 09, 2012 6:12 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tyler,

Tyler wrote:I know the rules are abstract, but where do you drawl the line?

I would suggest for the most part, you're over-complicating it, and by doing so, causing needless worry, guilt and consternation.

Agreed.
All the rules - the precepts - are guidelines, advice or suggestions, not legalistic rules. We should do the best we can to make them real in our lives, use them to help us make choices, but not fuss too much about details.
Common sense should be enough to tell us which is the better of two choices in the light of the rules.

:namaste:
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Tyler » Wed May 09, 2012 9:14 am

You are both right. As Kim said, the precepts are not legalistic, thats why I am curious about where certain members draw the line. I will admit that the example about the 401k plan was something that happened with me. After graduating from college I took a job with a retirement plan and the guy selling the options to me was really excited. He was trying to pump me up about having the best retirement since I am starting young and all and then he showed me the companies he wanted me to invest in. The plan he wanted me to choose was one in which I'd be investing in a company that built bombs. I know it was only a few cents a check but having the mindful knowledge that such a thing was a part of my retirement wasnt for me. Funny thing is that the company pretty much folded shortly after that so I never had to pick anyway.

Recently I began work at a convenience store. Its fun. I get to meet a lot of people and its a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness. There are a lot of regular customers so it's great to get the practice with names, faces, products, etc. The thing is, most of those customers come in for intoxicants. So here is Buddhist me selling booze, cigs, and liquor to people. I was wondering what you all would think from a Buddhist perspective about someone selling these items to people and where/when you have felt you would draw the line personally based on the way you interpret the precepts and N8P.

:)
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Kim OHara » Wed May 09, 2012 10:00 am

Okay, Tyler, that clarifies the question a bit ...
One example: our equivalent of your 401k allows us some flexibility about how our money is invested and I chose the 'socially responsible' option (which excludes e.g. bomb-makers in favour of e.g. renewable energy companies) even though the returns were expected to be slightly lower.
Re livelihood: I have been a teacher for years and have been happy about the fact that it is Right Livelihood. If I had to do something else, I would try to get work which does no harm and, if possible, does some good - I would apply for a gardening job ahead of a pest exterminator's job, for instance. But the hungrier I got, the less picky I would be. Again, it comes down to the fact that we do the best we can with the opportunities on offer.

:namaste:
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed May 09, 2012 10:17 am

Its wrong livelihood for a Buddhist to sell intoxicants (majjavaṇijjā)Vaṇijja Sutta.

However, if you work in a conveience store are you profitting from the sale of alchohol? I doubt it — though you might be on a commission or might be encouraged by the boss to sell more. Its a gray area and one that's quite hard to avoid in western societies. The shop-keeper who profits by selling alcohol is the one who is following a wrong livelihood, not all of his employees, though they might also easily get involved in the unwholesome kamma if they are not very mindful.
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed May 09, 2012 3:44 pm

Tyler wrote:We all seem to contribute to wrong livelihood for someone in someway somehow. What do you think our responsibility is when money leaves our hands?


That is a good point. It is difficult, if not impossible to have work that is not in somehow related to something not totally perfect or wholesome. For example, we may work for a company and the company may be doing many good things, but also some not so good things. Our job assignment might even be wholesome, but if we are contributing to the company with good work, how responsible are we for the other not so good things? Even in government service or in paying our taxes, are we responsible even in some indirect way for the actions of our government, wars, etc.?

I think it is the intention that matters and as long as we are not directly involved in the unwholesome things or profiting from them, then we are okay.
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Tyler » Fri May 11, 2012 1:42 am

Yeah, it really opens up a very interesting discussion for me. I know a lot of people are not as willing to really look at what the company they work for does necessarily and it probably hurts me in the long run in terms of finances since I can't help but consider intentions. I have always wondered what a legitimate drug dealer might think or a prostitute. I have oftentimes heard this excuse that people are going to do it or get it from some place anyway so why not from them. In a lot of ways such a response could be a truth in no separation that we might want to block out. Even so I don't want to perpetuate these things but its hard because when contemplating this stuff I realize that I am just a node in a web of all kinds of good and bad. I am bad somewhere down the line for so much and good just the same. I can do something bad and create a chain reaction that results in some wakefulness/mindfulness for someone else or I could do something good that just leaves a warm feeling. There are a lot of possibilities. All I know is that any secular life where actions and words are used there is some cause and effect that does good and bad. Many of us draw the line at intention but even so it can't be binary. That line goes all over the place and becomes more or less salient based on where we feel we sit or the knowledge that we have of what we are doing. It could be looked at in so many ways.
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Cittasanto » Fri May 11, 2012 5:57 am

Hi Tyler,
have you thought of an ethical plan?
I know there are some policies and groups who, for all purposes, choose to inverst in companies who are ethical, i.e. no arms dealers, only fair trade...
you may be able to get a plan from such a company, or start investing in such a company oneself?

you don't have to agree with everything a company does, and you can direct yourself in another direction within the company, when possible, and this may have more of an effect than ignoring the company completely.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Re: Right Livelihood

Postby Tyler » Thu May 17, 2012 6:42 am

Cittasanto wrote:Hi Tyler,
have you thought of an ethical plan?
I know there are some policies and groups who, for all purposes, choose to inverst in companies who are ethical, i.e. no arms dealers, only fair trade...
you may be able to get a plan from such a company, or start investing in such a company oneself?

you don't have to agree with everything a company does, and you can direct yourself in another direction within the company, when possible, and this may have more of an effect than ignoring the company completely.


I agree. I will explore this option next time I am employed by someone offering 401ks
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