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Wk 163 – Buddhism – The Eightfold Path – 5. Wise Livelihood

The Eightfold Path, which is a central teaching of Buddhism that outlines the path towards liberation from suffering and attainment of Enlightenment. We have practiced with Wise Understanding, Wise Intention, Wise Speech, Wise Action and is now on the fifth step, Wise Livelihood. This refers to the wholesome way of earning a living and the moral responsibility we have, to be a part of a community. Our career is one aspect of our Dharma or purpose in our embodied experience.

Wise Livelihood in Buddhism emphasises the idea that one’s occupation should not cause harm, suffering, or exploitation to oneself or others. It involves engaging in work that promotes well-being, compassion, and the welfare of all even to our environment. This step encourages you to consider the ethical implications of your chosen profession and to make conscious choices that align with Buddhist principles like the Five Precepts and Four Bhramaviharas which we have covered in previous sessions.

Now, you might be thinking how can we apply this to our physical practice? Think about the boss within you, your heart. Upper management, your thoughts. Lower management, your emotions. The workforce, your body. 

Is everyone aligned with the same mission statement? Company values? And vision of where you all are going? Are they communicating in healthy or unhealthy ways? Sometimes your hearts is filled with good intentions, however your thoughts and emotions are affected by negativity, stress and fear which delivers a different agenda to the body and how to take action. This is why we practice, so we have our own internal business meeting that airs out all the inner conflict and confusion by outside forces that lead us astray. Our yoga practice aligns us to what matters to us most, a clearer vision of where we are going and how to act with integrity aligned to wholesome principles for the greater whole.  

Our serenity and equanimity within our heart, mind and body… is a remission on a daily basis, contingent upon our devotion to practice. Ultimately, the practice of Wise Livelihood in Buddhism is about integrating one’s spiritual values and ethical principles, aligning one’s actions with the path towards awakening and liberation, fostering personal growth, and contributing to the greater welfare of society.

First, we take care of ourselves on our mat and then go out, being the best you in whatever you do. The goal is to align one’s work with the principles of compassion, non-harming, and ethical conduct in order to promote well-being and the path to awakening.

So before practice, we will sit and meditate on some recommended questions to contemplate Wise livelihood with your external and internal profession. 

  • Who do you work for? 
  • Do you respect them? 
  • What you produce or service you provide?
  • Is your current occupation in alignment with your values and principles?
  • Does your work contribute positively to society and promote the well-being of others?
  • Are you engaged in any activities that may cause harm to others or the environment? If so, how can you minimise or eliminate that harm?
  • Does your occupation involve exploitation, unfair treatment, or unethical practices?
  • Are you fully aware of the impact your work has on others and the world around you?
  • Are there alternative ways you could earn a living that align better with your values?
  • How can you bring mindfulness and compassion into your work, fostering a positive environment for yourself and those around you?
  • Are you satisfied and fulfilled with your current work, or do you feel a sense of discontentment or ethical conflict?
  • Can you find opportunities to use your skills and talents in ways that directly benefit others and create a more harmonious world?
  • Are you open to exploring new possibilities and making changes to align your livelihood with your spiritual and ethical aspirations?

Here are some key principles and practices followed by Buddhists in their pursuit of Wise Livelihood:

  1. Non-Harming & Avoiding Unwholesome Trades:: We strive to avoid professions that involve causing harm to living beings. This includes refraining from occupations related to weapons, poisons, any form of violence or any activities that lead to the exploitation or suffering of others.
  2. Ethical Conduct: This emphasises the importance of engaging in occupations that promote honesty, integrity, and ethical behaviour. Buddhists avoid professions that involve deceit, fraud, or any form of exploitation.
  3. Mindful Awareness: The aim is to cultivate awareness and discernment regarding the consequences of your work, making conscious choices that minimise harm and promote well-being.
  4. Compassion and Service: This is the importance of compassion and service to others. Occupations that involve helping others, such as healthcare, teaching, social work, or environmental conservation, are considered to be virtuous for the greater whole.
  5. Sustainable Livelihood: Buddhists recognise the interconnectedness of all beings and the environment. They strive to engage in professions that contribute to the sustainable and harmonious development of society, taking into account the long-term welfare of all.
  6. Cultivating Inner Development: Wise Livelihood is not solely about the external nature of work, but also about the inner development of the practitioner. Striving to bring mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom into your work, always aspiring to foster personal growth and spiritual development.