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INTEREPRETING “RIGHT LIVELIHOOD”:
Understanding and Practice in
Contemporary Thailand
NISSARA HORAYANGURA
[email protected]
Work and Happiness
Work - the bulk of daily life
 Work as means of selfactualization (reflect values and
aspirations)
 Work as means of selfdevelopment
 Work as part of spiritual practice

Right Livelihood and the
Buddhist Path to Happiness
Right Livelihood - Part of Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path
Morality (Sila)
Right Speech (samma-vaca)
Right Action (samma-kammanta)
Right Livelihood (samma ajiva)
Mental Discipline (Samadhi)
Right Effort (samma-vayama)
Right Mindfulness (samma-sati)
Right Concentration (sammasamadhi)
Wisdom (Panna)
Right View (samma-ditthi)
Right Intention (samma-sankappa)
Inner Outer
Transformation
(on Individual and
Social Levels)
Inner
Transformation
Inner
Transformation
Interpreting “Right Livelihood”


How is “Right Livelihood”
understood?
How is “Right Livelihood” actually
practiced?


Choice of job
Design of work lifestyle
…by people seriously committed to
spiritual (Buddhist) practice (Thai:
“Phu Patibat Tham”)

(8 case-studies of Bangkokians)
Avoiding Wrong Livelihood
Five Prohibited Trades in Buddhism





Weapons
Living beings
Meat
Intoxicants
Poison
Unethical jobs


Jobs that cause suffering to others
Jobs that involve breaking of 5 precepts
Avoiding Wrong Livelihood
Expanding interpretation of Wrong Livelihood
“No trade in intoxicants” = No restaurants selling
alcohol in shopping mall?
“No lying” = No journalism?
“No stealing” = No corruption? So no working in
business at all?
“No causing suffering” = No inciting consumerism?
(e.g. advertising/marketing/retailing jobs)
From “Not Wrong” to “Right”
Livelihood



Among “Not Wrong” livelihoods,
are some more “Right” than
others?
Are some incompatible with
committed spiritual practice?
Or are some especially
supportive of committed spiritual
practice?
From “Not Wrong” to “Right”
Livelihood

What is truly “Right”?

Not “Right” in simple moralistic
sense

But “Right” in holistic sense
Nourish body as well as mind
 Benefit self as well as others

Right Intention
in a Right Livelihood

Crucial deciding factor between
wrong/not wrong and not wrong/right

Question is not strictly what job but
how job is done (with what intention)
Right Intention:
 Do no harm (Harmlessness)
 Not for the money (Renunciation)
 Service (Goodwill)

Spiritual Development and
Service to Others






Mutually complementary objectives
Objective in work derives from
objective in life
Spiritual spin to self-development
and service to others
Compassion – Social consciousness
How: Work according to dhammic
principles
What: Work in jobs directly related to
spirituality (at least part-time,
preferably full-time)
Spiritual Development and
Service to Others

How: Work mindfully and
according to dhammic principles


e.g. Brahmavihara 4 and
Iddhipada 4
“Work is dhamma practice.”
(“Kan Tham Ngan Kue Kan
Patibat Tham”)
- Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Spiritual Development and
Service to Others



What: Work in jobs directly related to
spirituality (at least part-time,
preferably full-time)
Jobs that allow one to be “close to
dhamma” eg learn and practice
dhamma
Jobs that involve service


Spreading dhamma/ helping others in
spiritual development
Not only monetary donations but also
social action through work
Examples of Right Livelihood

Spirituality Directly Incorporated






Writer of dhamma books
Dhamma teacher
Coordinator of spirituality-related projects
Volunteer at retreat Center
Mental health counselor
Spirituality Indirectly Incorporated



Publishing firm publishes dhamma books
Hotel offers “meditation retreat” package
Professor incorporates dhamma into teaching
Difficulties in
Practicing Right Livelihood




“Worldly Work” vs. “Dhamma
Work”
Not enough time or money
Family expectations (e.g. to
work in the family business)
Doing “Dhamma Work” in not so
dhammic way
Right Livelihood and the
Socio-Economic System

Social conscience, but limited
understanding of structural suffering




Little questioning of how jobs are entangled in
socio-eco system (e.g. leads to uneven distrib of
income, exploits workers, ravages environment)
Little consideration of how jobs can help reform
socio-eco system
“Spreading dhamma” at individual, not
societal level
Further expansion of interpretation of
“Right Livelihood” to include societal
dimension is possible (necessary)
Suggestions

Dhamma practitioners – spread dhamma at broader
level/ contribute to re-spiritualizing society. Use
professional skills creatively to serve society

Monks/Dhamma teachers - teach about RL more
explicitly, including societal dimension.

Employers – find ways to incorporate/allow for some
spiritual development on the job or provide paid leave to
do it

Self-development workshops, self-reflection/evaluation,
dialogue

Schools - Counsel students on RL/spiritual
considerations in choosing careers

Media – Highlight issues of RL and society
Thank You