The Way We Work – Skilful Livelihood

How does your work affect you? In the Buddhist texts there are many definitions of wrong livelihood, but they are mainly connected to occupations that involve weapons, poisons or killing.

Not many of us are arms dealers (weapons), or drug dealers (poisons), but in today’s world our working lives are complex. How do we know, for example, that the global corporation we work for isn’t involved in devious business practices that harm its competitors and put other people’s livelihood at risk?

What if the company we work for is guilty of polluting the environment and indirectly causing harm to people? There are many examples, in the press and in the popular culture such as movies, about crusaders fighting and winning against unscrupulous corporations.

We cannot all be crusaders, but we can make a judgement as to whether the work we do is harmful to others, and if so, how we go about changing the situation.

Skilful Livelihood is a goal to be sought gradually as our understanding matures.

In other words, don’t rush. Examine your options. If resigning from your job means your family will suffer you need to keep a strong intention of finding more acceptable work in the future.

Interactions in the workplace

Interactions with others at work can be openly examined in a journal. When strong emotions surface, writing through the problem can often resolve it, lessen it’s harmful effects, or lead to deep insight into the nature of destructive behaviour patterns such as jealousy, envy or greed.

These insights are extremely powerful. Sometimes so powerful that they can wipe out the tendency to indulge in harmful behaviour to that person and others once and for all. When you see the very nature of destructive behaviour you are immediately free from it. You see where it comes from and this art of seeing is a liberation from the great tangled mess of unwholesome action.

Once you no longer have ‘harmful intent’ you are shielded, to a great extent, from the harm done to you by others.


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