ESSAY on Livelihood and right livelihood For nearly 50 years, the idea of “livelihood,” the way we earn our living in this world has been at the forefront of my professional concern. Whether we work for someone else, a corporation; or a mom-and pop main street business; or we choose to freelance and perform gig work; or we become entrepreneurs and start our own business, it all comes down to “livelihood.” No matter how we choose to organize our individual work life, we are constantly choosing and making choices even if they are not conscious choices. It is easy to forget this fact, believing that we are at the mercy of the system or forces beyond our control or bound by
necessities of putting food on the table. While these factors do exist, recognizing the choices we make and can make, helps us, if we are mindful, to become more aware of the degree of control we exercise over our livelihood.
Then. we can grapple with the Buddhist notion of “Right Livelihood.” Right Livelihood is one of the practices in the Eightfold path to Right Living. These include Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness, Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, and finally Right Livelihood.
The idea of right livelihood is an ancient one. It embodies the principle that each person should follow an honest occupation, which fully respects other people and the natural world. It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the earth’s resources. That’s a large statement, and for some it might be overwhelming, starting with an honest occupation, then fully respecting other people and the natural world. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is an appropriate guideline from an alternate cultural point of view.
The concepts of respecting other cultures and the natural world are difficult enough. To then add being responsible for the consequences of our actions can feel like too much to bear and we haven’t even gotten yet to the idea of fair share.
How do we approach this as a practical matter? I believe that the Golden Rule and the idea of “do no harm” are excellent simple starting points. Let’s keep things simple. Each of us, each day, must decide for ourselves how to incorporate these ideas into our daily working life.
Resist the tendency to complicate matters. Only you can decide what is best for you. The reading list specifics below will offer you valuable deep dives onto these ideas, in particular the parachute book.