What is right Livelihood?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby SarathW » Thu Jun 13, 2013 5:20 am

Ven Sir
Thank you for clarifying this for me again.
I oversighted your first comment.

“Trading in meat means, having raised pigs or deer, etc., he sells them.”

Now this is clear for me without any doubt.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby steinghan » Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:54 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:....
Working in a shop or supermarket that sells meat is not included. Why? Because the staff are not selling the meat, they are only filling shelves, or working on the checkout. The supermarket owners or shop-keepers are the ones who are buying the meat for resale. Likewise, if one is asked to work on the wine counter, and is serving customers who ask for wine, spirits, or beer, then one is not "trading in intoxicants."
...

The staff are, however making their living by working in a business trading in meat, intoxicants and perhaps even deadly rodent- and insect poisons. And the staff are not "only filling the shelves" - they are actively contributing to making the business possible. The importance of the staff shouldn't be neglected - no supermarket owner or shop-keeper could survive in business without staff to fill up the shelves, etc. - no staff no trade.

Surely, lots of people are in a position where they cannot be picky about jobs and it may be next to impossible (but only next to) for this or that particular person to find anything but lowlevel jobs in places trading in either of the five mentioned things. - Nevertheless, unless they are deliberately forced to work such said places - they have made a choice by themselves and they are participating in keeping the wheels of a business trading in meats, intoxicants and poison rolling on and on. For what reason? - To make a living, right? Thus, their chosen livelihood is based on the trading of said items as much as the chosen livelihood of the shop-owner.

While the staff may not be in breach of the 1. precept inasmuch as they are not intentionally urging the farmer to kill the cows - or even wishing for it - each individual lowlevel, low-earning member of the staff does contribute a tiny share to the whole meat trading business. I'm not saying he is a bad person and it would obviously not make any difference to the number of dead cows if he should quit his job - he'll soon be replaced - but, strictly speaking - isn't his chosen livelihood at least a little opposed to Buddha's advices on right livehood?
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:35 pm

steinghan wrote:Thus, their chosen livelihood is based on the trading of said items as much as the chosen livelihood of the shop-owner.

No. Their livelihood depends on doing their job responsibly and well. If they arrive on time, perform their duties well, and fulfil their duties to their employer, then they have right livelihood. If they don't, they may get dismissed, are lose pay.

The top management may have some responsibility for what gets sold in their stores, but the shop floor staff have none. Even if they work on the liquor counter, unless they are working on a commission, they are not earning a wrong livelihood.

There may well be better choices they could make, but as you know, most people don't have a choice — having no job is not an option if you have bills to pay and family members to care for. If you're single, then I guess you can always choose to be a monk or nun, but there are still right and wrong ways for monks and nuns to earn their livelihood. It is not easy to be perfectly scrupulous, whatever choices you make in life.

If you want choices, then study hard while young and choose the right profession, i.e. one that is conducive to the real welfare of others.

See my earlier reply in this thread about the Stream-winner married to a hunter.

As far as kamma is concerned, the buck stops here. If there is no intention to profit from trading in intoxicants or rat poisons, etc., it means there is no kamma involved with that improper trade.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jun 13, 2013 9:47 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
steinghan wrote:Thus, their chosen livelihood is based on the trading of said items as much as the chosen livelihood of the shop-owner.

No. Their livelihood depends on doing their job responsibly and well. If they arrive on time, perform their duties well, and fulfil their duties to their employer, then they have right livelihood. If they don't, they may get dismissed, are lose pay.

The top management may have some responsibility for what gets sold in their stores, but the shop floor staff have none. Even if they work on the liquor counter, unless they are working on a commission, they are not earning a wrong livelihood.

Just for some clarification, how about a butcher or fishmongers? Where the meat & fish is bought from those who slaughter/fish i.e., kill the animal?

I understand your point about a supermarket or groccers chain such as spar or tesco in the uk but I would like some clarification about shop floor staff in the specialist stores.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby binocular » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:15 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
steinghan wrote:Thus, their chosen livelihood is based on the trading of said items as much as the chosen livelihood of the shop-owner.

No. Their livelihood depends on doing their job responsibly and well. If they arrive on time, perform their duties well, and fulfil their duties to their employer, then they have right livelihood. If they don't, they may get dismissed, are lose pay.

The top management may have some responsibility for what gets sold in their stores, but the shop floor staff have none. Even if they work on the liquor counter, unless they are working on a commission, they are not earning a wrong livelihood.

There may well be better choices they could make, but as you know, most people don't have a choice — having no job is not an option if you have bills to pay and family members to care for. If you're single, then I guess you can always choose to be a monk or nun, but there are still right and wrong ways for monks and nuns to earn their livelihood. It is not easy to be perfectly scrupulous, whatever choices you make in life.

If you want choices, then study hard while young and choose the right profession, i.e. one that is conducive to the real welfare of others.

See my earlier reply in this thread about the Stream-winner married to a hunter.

As far as kamma is concerned, the buck stops here. If there is no intention to profit from trading in intoxicants or rat poisons, etc., it means there is no kamma involved with that improper trade.


I would still like a comment to my earlier comment:

binocular wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:No Evil Without Bad Intention

In that case, a server or cook at McDonalds who wishes "Oh, if only our shop would sell enough hamurgers today so that we reach the quota as directed by the management, so that they don't close the shop and I won't lose my job" - this is an intention to trade and to profit from selling meat, even if an indirect one, as in such circumstances, it is a logically necessary inference that in order for the person to keep their job, (enough) meat must be sold.

Similar would be the case for such a person to desire a raise.



If there is no intention to profit from trading in intoxicants or rat poisons, etc., it means there is no kamma involved with that improper trade.

Someone who works at a restaurant, even if they work as a cleaner, likely automatically has the intention to profit from whatever the restaurant business is, as long as the person' has the desire to keep their job and earn a living.
Which means having the intention to profit from trading in intoxicants or rat poisons, etc., if this is what the business is about.
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Re: What is right Livelihood?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jun 14, 2013 7:07 pm

Cittasanto wrote:I understand your point about a supermarket or groccers chain such as spar or tesco in the uk but I would like some clarification about shop floor staff in the specialist stores.

There's little point in repeating myself. Goenka takes the Pāli literally as "Trading in flesh," which is a correct translation of "maṃsavaṇijjā." However, the Commentary says that it specifically means raising animals and selling them for slaughter. One should not always take the Pāli text literally, but one should also take the context into account.

The Saint Goes Ungrieving.

Trading in intoxicants or weapons is a different case. You don't have to manufacture them, if you just trade in them, then its a wrong livelihood. However, the shop-worker is paid to serve customers, so unless they are working on a commission or urging customers to purchase alcohol or weapons, their intention is pure as the example of the hunter's wife shows. They are fulfilling their duty to their employer. A Buddhist should dutifully help his/her employer or husband/wife/parents, unless told to do something immoral such as killing, stealing, lying, etc. He or she can obey an instruction or request, “Please bring my gun, I am going hunting,” but not, “Kill that duck that I caught in the trap.”

The bottom line is that each individual has to decide for himself or herself what they feel is right, after consulting the various texts and asking about the meaning.
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