the third of the steps of virtue is Right Livelihood. What's
interesting is that virtue is so infrequently spoken of in
our culture, in our modern California culture anyway, because
it's Victorian and old and repressive; it needn't be any of
is on one level a training. It's learning to speak, to act,
in our sexual life, in our business life, in our family life
-- to train to act more consciously, more mindfully, more
compassionately. And it takes practice. It is also, quite
wonderfully, an expression of our awakening, a foundation
of our awakening. You can't awaken if you're involved in killing,
lying or stealing. Even in the more subtle levels of it, it's
hard to pay attention. Your mind is caught up, busy, and paranoid.
So it's a foundation for a clear mind, and the training of
it is a foundation for being more mindful. But even more beautifully,
it's the expression of an awakened heart and an awakened mind.
Right Livelihood? I will say some things about it without
defining it completely. I'll say a lot of things. They're
traditional teachings and some contemporary associations,
and then maybe we can take a little time for discussion, especially
if I get through them in relatively reasonable time.
going to a conference recently with the Reverend Cecil Williams.
I don't know if any of you have watched him on TV but he's
great. He's a black minister of the Glide Memorial Church
in San Francisco, who has done all kinds of very wonderful
projects in the community and in the state for years. He got
up and he spoke. It didn't come from his head. He spoke the
way many black ministers are able to do, partly through the
culture that allows it or embodies it, but his voice came
from a place really deep, and he said to people, "What
you need to learn is you need to learn about love." He
put it out in such a powerful way. He said, "What I'm
talking about is not what love you get, but how much love
you give." He said it over and over in his speech in
that kind of repetitive way of a preacher, and it was so beautiful.
He kept saying it in different ways. "It's not how much
love you get; it's how much you give."
just end the talk right now. It's really quite beautiful.
Right Livelihood? Right Livelihood, like the rest of these
aspects of the Eightfold Path, is a path to become happier
in our lives and to become enlightened or awakened. There
are five aspects.
is non-harming. The traditional non-harming means not to take
a livelihood that involves weapons, or exploitation, or drugs,
or things that hurt people. Not much more to say about it.
You can look at it in your life and look at in the society
you're around. If you don't do it, great; and if you see other
people doing it, and there's a way that you can help it not
to happen, do it. It's pretty simple. That's non-harming.
part of Right Livelihood is an appropriate happiness. There
is a sutra from the Buddha that talked about appropriate happiness
in Right Livelihood; First is the "having." It's
essential to have a trade or a career. Even if you change
it five times in your life, that doesn't matter. But to feel
decent about yourself, it's really important or helpful --
I don't care how much money you have or what you have to do
or don't have to do -- to have some way of contributing to
society, because you're not happy if you don't contribute.
So to find a trade or a livelihood or a career; maybe you
use it for a while and then you change it. There's a happiness
or a joy in having a career or having work that you can do.
And if you haven't found it, it's really a crucial part of
spiritual practice to look for it. It doesn't mean it's going
to be some big special thing.
a mythology in our country that is false. It tells you that
you can have whatever job you want; anyone who grows up here
can be president -- God spare you -- and that you will find
just the right job and it will make you happy, the perfect
job for you, the one where your creativity and all your talents
are used, and so forth. That is the same American myth like
the one of the perfect relationship. I don't know how many
of you are still looking for that. Is there anyone who hasn't
gotten that one yet? Okay, you got that one. It's true about
jobs too; there is not the perfect job. I had the perfect
job, traveling around the world to glamorous places, getting
a lot of care and respect, relating to people on issues of
Dharma and meditation, sitting together. It really was wonderful.
I got tired sometimes. People came and they called me in the
middle of the night. There were things I didn't like about
it. Plus which I couldn't have a house and I didn't settle
down until recently. So I gave it up to teach in a different
way because it wasn't as perfect as I thought it would be.
It seemed perfect. It was wonderful.
is no perfect relationship and there is no perfect job. Find
one, or something, and really give yourself to it; that's
a happiness. Secondly, there's a happiness in producing from
the job, which is basically to make money. It's both producing
goods or services for other people, which we'll get to, but
it's also in having things and using them. And as householders,
money is necessary, and it's fine, and that's part of our
dharma, of our way of being in the world. And to have a career
or to find some way to work, even if it's your career for
a year or several years, and then to use it to create a home
or to create the financial things that are appropriate for
you, is great; it's really wonderful.
in terms of being happy, there is a wide range to "using".
It can be using in a very simple way or it can be using in
a more extravagant way. You're not so happy if it's based
on a lot of indulgence. Not that you shouldn't do it, you're
welcome to try it, but the people I know who have tried it
for awhile found it not so satisfying. So there's a a happiness
in having a career and work, and in producing and using the
things that come from it, including one's money.
happiness is to be free from debt. That's a good one for our
country, isn't it? Funny, it was said 2,500 years ago. It
seems to still be true because you worry and you're anxious,
and you struggle, and it really has to do with contentment.
See if you can learn fundamentally or basically to live within
going to put this stuff out about Right Livelihood. You can
do what you want with it. It's not commandments or anything
like that; it's suggestions. It says, "Wake up to these
different areas of your life; that you're happier if you live
within your means, and that people who don't, find themselves
if you've ever lived in a Third World country or some simple
situation for awhile, you discover you don't need one-quarter
of what you think you do to be happy. You can live with a
lot less than you think you can. And you can be as happy watching
a sunset or taking a walk as having an extravagant night out
on the town because you know how to relate to those things.
happiness is freedom from debt, "having and using,"
and the fourth is being free from blame or fault in your livelihood,
from your work; that you do it not to please the world around
you or because of what people will think, but you let it somehow
come from inside; that what you choose, and where your actions
come from, are not from how they look, because after a while
you get caught by that, and you get into pain and sorrow,
but that you start to reference inwardly to what matters and
what you care about, and that affects your livelihood and
aspect of Right Livelihood is growth and awareness; that you
can use your livelihood to grow in consciousness.
it's so interesting. We get very identified with our jobs
in this country. We meet someone and one of the first things
we ask is: "Well, what do you do?" That is what
we want to know about somebody. "Oh, I'm a psychologist,
I'm a meditation teacher, I'm a nurse, I'm a librarian, I'm
a waitress." You're all therapists, I know. "I'm
a" -- whatever it happens to be -- "businessman."
It's so interesting, when you go to India, nobody ever asks
you what you do. It's a very different culture. As far as
I can tell, in India nobody does anything. You meet someone,
and there's this baba kind of person sitting at the tea stand,
and he's been there for awhile, and you talk to him. They
don't ask you what you do. They might ask you what form of
God you worship; is it Krishna or Shiva or Kali or Durga or
Buddha, or whoever it happens to be, but it's not a big thing
in that culture to know what you do. It's much more about
how many children you have or what form of God you worship.
big thing for us, "What do you do?" It's what we
choose in this particular drama. We picked to be born in America
somehow. "Alright, I'll sign up for one there,"
and then in the script of living in America, it's what you
do that is a big thing. Okay, do something decent, alright?
But it's important to remember that it's part of the theater.
and awareness, the first thing is you don't need to be too
identified with what you do. We think what we do is who we
are. When you die you aren't going to be who you are, you're
going to be something else, or when you get sick, or when
things change around, or when the earthquake comes, or whatever,
what you do isn't going to matter a lot; it's something that
you do. You can do it instead in a spirit of adventure or
a dance or an exploration.
was talking to Carlos Casteneda about the qualities of being
a warrior. In this place he is training him to be a hunter
in the wilds but also a hunter of knowledge. He said:
you already, to be inaccessible as a hunter does not mean
to hide or to be secretive. It doesn't mean that you cannot
deal with people either. A hunter uses their world sparingly
and with tenderness regardless of whether the world might
be things or plants or animals or people or power. A hunter
deals intimately with their world and yet they remain inaccessible
to that same world.
as usual says, "I don't understand." There's a contradiction,
it makes no sense. How can you be inaccessible if you're there
in your world day after day?
did not understand." says Don Juan patiently. "A
hunter is inaccessible because they're not squeezing their
world out of shape. They tap it lightly, stay for as long
as they need to, and then move away leaving hardly a mark."
lovely way to think of it. It's to live lightly on the earth,
to take what we do, and use it, and care for it, to be tender,
to be careful with it, but not to get so identified or so
caught up in it.
are a lot of ways that one can begin to bring awareness to
one's work. There are the simple ones of exercises. For example,
Gurdjieff used to give awareness training exercises where
he'd tell people to do things in a different way than they
were used to. Tie your shoes and do the bow around the other
direction, or open your car door with your left hand instead
of your right hand, and let it be a signal for a little while,
maybe for two minutes, that you're going to wake up and you'll
go off automatic pilot and be conscious as the door opens
and you sit down in the car and you begin to drive. It becomes
that kind of thing into your work. Do things a little differently;
do them backwards. Use your meditative awareness or mindfulness
to start to make the work that you do a meditation. Especially
after these hours of training in monasteries, where you just
walk back and forth doing walking meditation, and then you
sit down, and then you walk some more, I've often thought,
"Gee, I could be on an assembly line somewhere and get
enlightened because it looks like the same thing, if I did
it right." And I worked on an assembly line once at the
Beacon Gauge Company, putting these screws into this little
part, into a gauger. It was not very different than what I
did in the monastery, except that everyone there was resenting
being there and waiting for their paycheck, or stoned on Quaaludes,
or whatever got them through the day.
and awareness means that we can begin to use our work, whatever
it is, to wake up, to awaken. To do that requires some discipline.
For many people it requires a lot of discipline and a lot
and repetition in work. Most every kind of work that you do,
whether it's as an artist, or as a therapist, or as a mechanic,
or whatever kind of business thing that you do, will have
repetition and boredom. One way to react is to put yourself
on automatic pilot and go to sleep. Sometimes it's useful.
I'm not saying that automatic pilot doesn't have its place
in our life. But it's possible to begin to use it more as
a discipline, to begin to awaken in some fashion, to be willing
to take it as your meditation.
you a question, to reflect: What could you do in your work
more meditatively? How could you bring more mindfulness into
the particular work that you do? You can start to look at
that. It might be little ways of how you open the door, it
might be in ways where you take a pause between people you
see, and promise yourself that you'll just sit there at your
desk or at your place for a minute or five between people
that you deal with and get centered again on your breath.
It might be in regard to this next thing or the next two things
of Right Livelihood which I'll come to.
was non-harming, the second was appropriate happiness, the
third is to begin to use it to wake up. You can do walking
meditation, you can work with your breath, you can do meditation
as a mechanic, you can do meditation as a doctor or a nurse,
by paying attention to your body, to your posture, to your
heart, to your mind states, to your moods. You can start to
listen. Then maybe you can answer Cecil Williams' question
as you go along through the day. It's not how much love you
get but how much you give.
is simplicity. It's a little hard to talk about in Marin County.
Maybe it is in our whole culture. I'll do my best, okay?
the old Zen poet, says:
lies in the middle of a dense forest.
Every year the green ivy grows longer.
Not much news of the affairs of men,
only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
The sun shines and I mend my robe
when the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.
I have nothing to report, my friend.
If you want to find the true meaning,
stop chasing after so many things.
nice poem. That which we seek, which we long for most deeply
in our hearts, doesn't come from so much complexity or chasing
around. It really comes from being in touch with ourselves,
with listening, with feeling, with awareness. Simplicity!
a beautiful and contemporary movement of Right Livelihood
that has been sparked by Gandhi teaching people to spin and
live more simply in India, and it's been picked up by people
like Schumacher, who wrote the book on Small is Beautiful
and Buddhist Economics. And there's a lovely foundation
called The Friends of Right Livelihood Foundation who offer
an alternative Nobel Prize each year in Stockholm the day
before the Nobel Prize is offered, not quite as much money.
But the people that they've had win it and for what reasons
are just beautiful. Some of the winners in the past were Stephen
Gaskin from the farm who started his own Peace Corps which
now goes to about a half dozen countries in the Caribbean
and Africa with medical services and agricultural things;
or Mike Cooley, who's a person in charge of the Air Space
Workers at Lucas Air Space Factory. He did a brilliant thing.
He got a plan together that's very wonderful. He asked all
the chief scientists to look at what the military/industrial
factories and complexes could make to serve the world rather
than destroy it. They couldn't think of anything. Not very
much came out of them. So then he asked all the people who
worked for them, all the workers in the factories, and got
some groups in different factories around England, and came
out with a thousand wonderful suggestions of things that those
skills and those factories could make that would be an alternative
to building weapons. Or a man named Bill Mallison, who is
a founder of Permaculture, which is a whole new much more
sensitive agricultural system, particularly in Australia,
and it is starting to be spread around the Third World. There's
a whole list of people like that who started to make their
livelihood and their relationship to work somehow connected
with the sense of living lightly on the earth, of living with
some care or some tenderness.
very beautiful thing, this quality of simplicity, of seeing
that we don't need as much as we thought we did to be happy,
and really asking yourself the question: "What do I really,
really want?" or "What would I want when I'm old
and I look back, what will I have cared about?" or "What
do I care about for this world that I live in?" Some
sense of our connectedness with it.
leads to the last of these aspects of Right Livelihood which
is Service, and in some ways the most beautiful of all --
seeing that what we do is totally interconnected with the
rest of life, of discovering our connectedness, and seeing
that the world is entrusted to us somehow. It's our planet
and it's entrusted.
one time asked his teacher, Neem Karoli Baba Maharaji, what
his teaching was, and he said that his whole teaching was,
"Love people and feed them;" that was all.
nice at intensive meditation retreats that I've taught so
often to watch the people who come and volunteer to cook,
because they're not cooking in a restaurant in order to get
their paycheck and kind of get the stuff out and get home
and do something more interesting. The people come there to
cook because they want to, because they like to cook, and
they want to support people's practice, and their sitting,
and their retreat. And there's so much caring. A pan of food
goes out and there's flowers on it, or there's some decoration,
or there's something that's done to it, or just the way that
it's cooked. Sometimes they'll just sing when they cook, as
a way to let that very simple act of cooking, which we all
do, become an expression of caring, of service. We can do
that in our work. There are fifty little ways that one can
be mindful in service.
In a very
nice book by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh called The Miracle
of Mindfulness -- it's the best book that I know of on
mindfulness in daily life -- he said that his teacher gave
him a whole series of little exercises.
when he washed his hands, he would recite this thing, "As
I clean my hands, so too may I bring the cleanliness or purity
of heart to all the people that I meet today." Or, "As
I drive in the traffic, may I wish well on all the other people
that I meet, that I pass by." It's a very different relationship.
I've sat on buses. You sit in your cocoon. You're reading,
or whatever, and everyone else has got their book or their
paper, and they're in their little cocoon, and you don't want
to be too connected. Then I sat there and I've looked up,
and without being too obvious or hokey about it, I just started
to do loving-kindness meditation, looking around, since I'm
not doing anything but daydreaming anyway, or planning, which
is worse, and I start to think, "May I be happy and peaceful,"
or whatever, and then I look around in an unobvious way, "May
all these people be happy." I let myself be tuned into
them. Some of them are bent over with suffering and sorrow,
and some are teenagers who are just kind of booming with energy
or with aggression, or whatever it happens to be. Some are
happy and some are sad. I just send each one of them a little
loving-kindness. It totally changes your relationship to the
bus trip completely. You get off that bus and it's like you
just took a trip to India to some wonderful ashram. It's true
if you do it because you feel connected with the world and
the people around you.
the spirit of service. It can be in giving what you actually
do, because any kind of livelihood, as long as it's not harming,
is a fine one. It really is. We need it all. We need farmers,
we need plumbers. As I've said in retreats, "I'd much
rather live in San Francisco with no doctors than with no
plumbers." It's a very crucial thing. And we're all needed
together and we all find something to do for awhile. It's
beautiful. You can see it as well, "I do it to get through
the night or the day, and get my money" or "I'm
going to do this thing and awaken and serve, even if I'm a
plumber or I'm doing something that may seem at first mundane,
I'm going to use it to serve."
how nice it is to have somebody who is your waiter or waitress,
or at the checkout counter at the supermarket, or the person
who comes to fix your refrigerator in your house, be a nice
human being who cares when they do their work, both about
their work and about you. It's like the Buddha walks in and
says, "Hey, I'm going to fix your refrigerator today
but really I'm the Buddha. I'm just here in the guise of a
refrigerator repair person." They say a few nice things
to you and remind you that you can love the world around you
a little bit more, and you can awaken, and they fix the refrigerator
and go off. What a fantastic thing! We each have that capacity
to bring that kind of light to the work we choose.
Soen-Sa-Nim -- who now has temples all around the country,
ten or fifteen Zen centers -- when he first came to this county
he knew no one, and he wanted to teach Zen. After talking
at Brown University, he got a job in Providence to support
himself. He was a Zen Master in Korea and quite famous and
had many disciples, and he wanted to teach in America. He
didn't speak English very well. The only job he could get
was to work in a laundromat, mopping the floors and fixing
the machines when they broke down. So there's this guy with
a bald head, in a gray robe, down there cleaning up the laundromat.
Students from the university who would come down to the laundromat
got curious. "Who is this strange guy down there?"
They talked to him. "I Zen teacher." He still doesn't
speak such good English. And they said, "Yeah?"
He said, "Yeah." After a while people started to
come down and hang out in his laundromat. This is a true story.
They would really get interested in who this guy was and what
he taught. Then they started to come up to his apartment and
he taught them how to sit Zen meditation. He would go to the
laundromat and leave them sitting there, and so forth. .Gradually
it switched around and over the last 12 years he has many
Zen centers and many hundreds of students. That was a fine
thing to do.
a beautiful whole chapter in the Bhagavad Gita on Karma
already told you, in this world -- says Krishna --
aspirants may find enlightenment in two different paths.
For the contemplative, there's the path of knowledge,
and for the active there's the path of selfless action.
Freedom from activity is never achieved by abstaining from
Nobody can become perfect by merely ceasing to act.
In fact, nobody can rest from their activity, even for a
All are helplessly forced to act by the movement of life.
dharma, your work.
duty always, but without attachment
This is how a person reaches the truth,
by working without anxiety about results.
The ignorant work for the fruit of their actions,
the wise must work also but without desire or attachment,
pointing their feet in the path of the Dharma,
giving their heart to it,
working without attachment.
Let them show by example
how work is true practice.
chapter in the Bhagavad Gita, is about beginning to
use our work through the path of selfless action. It's not
how much you get that makes you happy; it's how much you give.
to end with a guided meditation. Don't move, stay where you
are. It doesn't require sitting up or anything. Let your eyes
close for a second. Actually, it will just be a minute or
two. Let yourself picture the place where you work. See it,
or sense it, or feel it, or if it's not where you work, then
where you go to school, if that's what you do, or if not that,
then the place where you live if you don't work right now.
For most people it will be the place where you work.
are two questions we're going to ask: One is: How can I make
this work more conscious?" And the other: How can I make
it more of a loving service? In the place where you work,
the Buddha or the Bodhisattva of Awareness, Manjushri, has
left a gift for you. It's a box, and you'll discover it there
at your place of work. Let yourself sense it, or see it, or
know where it is, and go over to it. When you find this gift
from the Buddha of how to make your work more conscious, inside
the box will be a clear symbol of something that you can do,
a very clear symbol of how to make your work more conscious
open the box and be aware of what that gift is, this symbol
of how to make your work more conscious. Let yourself know
it, or see it, or sense it. If it's not clear to you, then
there's a light switch over on the wall. Turn it on. Bring
a little more light into the box. You'll be able to see it.
The Buddha leaves very good gifts for you. Just the right
thing. If you need a little explanation of how to do it, in
the bottom of the box you'll find a little note left by the
Buddha. Pick it up and you'll hear, or see, or know. It will
say two or three words, just what you need to learn, what
the symbol stands for.
is a second gift left for you. Stay at your work-place. This
gift was left by the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It's left
just at the place where you work. There's another wonderful
package, and it's the answer to the questions: How can I make
this work more of a loving service? What do I need to do or
how can I do it? What must I remember? So let yourself find
that gift, whatever way you need to, and open this package
left by the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Let yourself see it
clearly. If it's not clear, then take it over to the window
and let the sunlight stream into it. You'll see it, a clear
symbol of how to make your work a service of love.
need any more information, look in the bottom of the box,
and there will be a note again with two or three words on
it that will tell you, explain what it is or how to use it.
stay inside for a moment. I'll ask you a few questions and
you can just let the answers come out of your own heart. The
questions are: How can I begin to discover or continue to
discover peace and harmony where I am at work, just where
I am? How can I begin to discover the Dharma or truth within
this work, just where I am?
finish up and gently let your eyes open and come back when
you're ready. You know, you can work and treat each person
you meet as somebody else to deal with in your work, or you
could treat each person you meet as your brother or your sister,
or you could do what Mother Teresa does in her work and treat
each person you meet as Jesus, and care for them, and wash
their feet, or love them, or do whatever you do in the same
way you might love Jesus or the Buddha.
work on one day and just get through the day or the night.
And you can work on another day and have each person that
comes to you, and each person you meet, be a place where your
heart really opens, and where you share a love and a caring
and a tenderness.
with reading this last thing again from Don Juan. It's actually
Don Genaro, who is the most playful of them. He says:
love is the world. He was just now embracing this
enormous earth, but since he's so little, all he can do
on it. But the earth knows that Genaro loves it and it bestows
on him its care and that's why Genaro's life is filled to
brim, and his state wherever he'll be will be plentiful.
if one loves this earth, this life, with unbending passion
can one release one's sadness. Warriors are always joyful
because their love is unalterable and their beloved, the
embraces them and bestows upon them inconceivable gifts.
love of this splendrous life can give freedom to a
warrior's spirit, and his freedom is joy, efficiency, and
abandon in the face of any odds. That's the last lesson.
always left for the very last moment, for the moment of
a person faces death and aloneness, only then does it make
if one loves this earth and this life with unbending
passion can one release one's sadness.
are some thoughts or reflections on Right Livelihood.