Right Livelihood is an important aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha encouraged his disciples to make their living in a way that does not cause harm and ideally that is ethically positive. However in the East, where most serious Buddhist practitioners have been monks, this has been given little attention.
Given that almost everyone’s life includes an economic dimension, work and career need to be integrated into life as a Buddhist. Most of us spend the majority of their waking lives at work, so it’s important to assess how our work affects our mind and heart. How can work become meaningful? How can it be a support not a hindrance to spiritual practice — a place to deepen our awareness and kindness?
Sangharakshita also believes it’s crucial that the sangha is not dependent on the support of outside donors, who may influence its values and priorities. He has therefore encouraged those students who are free to, to explore working together — in partnerships, teams, and businesses. These have pioneered new ways of working based on generosity, co-operation, honesty and ethical trading.
right livelihood teams
Working in one of these teams is a strong spiritual practice. It supports individual efforts to grow and usually encourages spending ample time on retreat. It also challenges team members to collaborate, to take responsibility for their lives, and to loosen limited views of themselves.
Some of these Right Livelihood enterprises have been financially successful and become substantial ventures, raising funds for Dharma teaching and other altruistic projects. One of the pioneers in this area was the now closed windhorse:evolution, a UK-based company which ran a wholesale retail business and a chain of gift shops.
Listen to explorations of Right Livelihood.
Read Transforming Work: An Experiment in Right Livelihood by Padmasuri.
The Buddhist Centre: buddhism for today