“Right Livelihood” is a traditional Buddhist teaching. For laypeople, Buddha’s teaching of right livelihood is meant to make an ethical living with the objective being to, “live a long and dignified life with the wealth obtained through rightful means”.
You may think that teaching was a little easier to practice in simple economy of 500 B.C. as at that time it mostly meant avoiding occupations such as butcher, tanner, or soldier – if possible. It also meant to be honest and ethical in business dealings – not to cheat, steal or lie. Basically it meant to make one’s living in an upstanding way.
In the much more complicated societies of today, one might ask what “right livelihood” means today? This is an important issue for not just Buddhists but the population at large. As nearly half Americans live in poverty and 1 in 5 children go to bed hungry and 15 million unemployed you might not think is possible, but it is….
“Right Livelihood” means living a life in accordance with your values and being aware of the impacts your actions have on others. Everything we do can be a spiritual practice including what we do for “work”.
Two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha probably didn’t have our complex society of today in mind when he spoke but he clearly understood what is harm and what is not harm. When a person does not have a job and cannot support his or her family, that is harm – there is no question about it. That is why we must stay vigalant against the causes of poverty, stay informed so we are aware. In this way we can learn to do no harm – and then we cam learn to help.