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INTEREPRETING “RIGHT LIVELIHOOD”: Understanding and Practice in Contemporary Thailand. NISSARA HORAYANGURA nissara@post.harvard.edu. Work and Happiness. Work - the bulk of daily life Work as means of self-actualization (reflect values and aspirations) Work as means of self-development

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interepreting right livelihood understanding and practice in contemporary thailand

INTEREPRETING “RIGHT LIVELIHOOD”:Understanding and Practice in Contemporary Thailand

NISSARA HORAYANGURA

nissara@post.harvard.edu

work and happiness
Work and Happiness
  • Work - the bulk of daily life
  • Work as means of self-actualization (reflect values and aspirations)
  • Work as means of self-development
  • Work as part of spiritual practice
right livelihood and the buddhist path to happiness
Right Livelihood and the Buddhist Path to Happiness

Right Livelihood - Part of Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path

interpreting right livelihood
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
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 livelihood6
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
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 livelihood8
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
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
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 others11
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 others12
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
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
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
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
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