CHAPTER 16 Right Livelihood
(from "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" by Thich Nhat Hanh)
To practice Right Livelihood, you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion.
Right Livelihood is earning a living without needing to transgress any of the Five Mindfulness Trainings.
1) Not dealing in arms, in the slave trade, the meat trade, the sale of alcohol, drugs, or poisons; or making prophecies or telling fortunes.
2) A job that involves killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or selling drugs or alcohol is not Right Livelihood.
(If keeping secret belongs to lying, there may be no business without lying.)
Cf. The Five Mindfulness Trainings
(1) Reverence For Life
(2) True Happiness
(3) True Love
(4) Loving Speech and Deep Listening
(5) Nourishment and Healing
So many modern industries are harmful to humans and nature, even food production.
1) Bringing awareness to every moment, we try to have a vocation that is beneficial to humans, animals, plants, and the earth, or at least minimally harmful.
(Services as monks and nuns at Plum Village may be beneficial to the whole cosmos. "at least minimally harmful" must be the appropriate target for all business-related vocations.)
2) If it happens that our work involves harming life, we should try to find another job. If someone has a profession that causes living beings to suffer and oppresses others, it will infect their own consciousness
3) Any work of art is, to a large extent, a product of the collective consciousness. Therefore, the individual artist needs to practice mindfulness so that his or her work of art helps those who touch it practice right attention.
1) Right Livelihood is not just a personal matter. It is our collective karma. Right Livelihood is a collective matter. The livelihood of each person affects everyone else.
(We need to be careful not to consume toxic products which create wrong livelihood, or negative collective karma.)
2) We cannot succeed at having a Right Livelihood one hundred percent, but we can resolve to go in the direction of compassion and reducing suffering. And we can resolve to help create a society in which there is more Right Livelihood and less wrong livelihood.
To practice Right Livelihood means to practice Right Mindfulness. Practicing according to the Mindfulness Trainings, we see that when we speak, act, or earn our living, we do it with Right Mindfulness.
* All companies are greedy because they are not non-profit organizations, so we can't practice Right Livelihood there.
* Only if every CEO attains enlightenment, s/he can offer chances to practice Right Livelihood to employees.
* Understanding Right Livelihood as a notion is easy but practicing Right Livelihood is very difficult.
* In order to deal with our afflictions at work, we need to master mindfulness.
Thích Nhất Hạnh