- Right Livelihood: The Ethics of Earning a Living
- The Boundless Benefit of Sharing Buddhism
- Zen Buddhism teaches us of the importance of living in the present
The core ethical code of Buddhism is known as the five precepts, and these are the distillation of its ethical principles. The Buddhist tradition acknowledges that life is complex and throws up many difficulties, and it does not suggest that there is a single course of action that will be right in all circumstances. Indeed, rather than speaking of actions being right or wrong, Buddhism speaks of the being skilful kusala or unskilful akusala. The Five Precepts 1. Not killing or causing harm to other living beings.
Right Livelihood: The Ethics of Earning a Living
This is the fundamental ethical principle for Buddhism, and all the other precepts are elaborations of this. The precept implies acting non-violently wherever possible, and many Buddhists are vegetarian for this reason. Not taking the not-given. All these can be seen as ways of taking the not given.
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Avoiding sexual misconduct. Over the centuries different Buddhist schools have interpreted this precept in many ways, but essentially it means not causing harm to oneself or others in the area of sexual activity.
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It includes avoiding breaking commitments in the area of sexual relations, and avoiding encouraging others to do the same. Avoiding false speech.
Speech is the crucial element in our relations with others, and yet language is a slippery medium, and we often deceive ourselves or others without even realising that this is what we are doing. Right Livelihood is, first, a way to earn a living without compromising the Precepts. It is a way of making a living that does no harm to others.
In the Vanijja Sutta this is from the Sutra-pitaka of the Tripitaka , the Buddha said, "A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.
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Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh wrote,. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others. Our vocation can nourish our understanding and compassion, or erode them. We should be awake to the consequences, far and near, of the way we earn our living. Our global economy complicates the precaution to do no harm to others.
For example, you may work in a department store that sells merchandise made with exploited labor. Or, perhaps there is merchandise that was made in a way that harms the environment. Even if your particular job doesn't require harmful or unethical action, perhaps you are doing business with someone who does. Some things you cannot know, of course, but are you still responsible somehow? But may he be the man who builds the cocktail lounge or cleans it? May he be the farmer who sells his grain to the brewer? Ming Zhen Shakya argues that any work that is honest and legal can be "Right Livelihood.
If you keep working in the department store, maybe someday you'll be a manager who can make ethical decisions about what merchandise is sold there. A person in any sort of job might be asked to be dishonest. You may work for an educational book publisher, which would seem to be a Right Livelihood.
Zen Buddhism teaches us of the importance of living in the present
But the owner of the company might expect you to boost profits by cheating the vendors—typesetters, freelance artists—and sometimes even the clients. Obviously, if you're being asked to cheat, or to fudge the truth about a product in order to sell it, there's a problem.
There is also honesty involved in being a conscientious employee who is diligent about his work and doesn't steal pencils out of the supply cabinet, even if everyone else does. Most jobs present endless practice opportunities.
We can be mindful of the tasks we do. We can be helpful and supportive of co-workers, practicing compassion and Right Speech in our communication. Sometimes jobs can be a real crucible of practice. Egos clash, buttons are pushed. You may find yourself working for someone who is just plain nasty. When do you stay and try to make the best of a bad situation?
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- Right Livelihood: The Ethics of Earning a Living!