Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Introduction to 3.6.1
Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ-6 - What is Right Livelihood?

Na paresaṃ vilomāni1, na paresaṃ katākataṃ2;
attanova avekkheyya3, katāni akatāni ca.

Not should one be looking after others,
What they might have done or might not have done,
One’s own deeds one should observe:
Those done and those never done4.

This concentrated, short illumination of sammā-ājīvo from the Vibhaṅgasuttaṃ presents the clear and direct advice of the Buddha: ‘stay aloof from all wrong means of livelihood and keep your source of revenue unspoilt!’ This advice again emphasizes both aspects of vārittaṃ – avoiding, giving up - as well as cārittaṃ - performing, acting in a wholesome way – which have to be pursued and fulfilled5.

Still - often a question remains how even potential indirect negative corollaries or negative results of one’s profession can be avoided. A first, superficial glance seems to assure that by maintaining sammā kammantā the first aspect of vārittaṃ is achieved and direct harmful consequences of one’s livelihood do not occur. But how also can those indirect detrimental effects of one’s livelihood, which remain in the dark, be avoided so negative kammic consequences don’t ensue? How can the constructive aspect of cārittaṃ enable wholesome results with beneficial effects and facilitate a healthy kammic base? To accomplish this challenge a follower of the Buddha’s teaching has recourse to two guiding principles that may ascertain successful implementation.

Constant check on one’s volition represents a first helpful guiding principle while a constant check on one’s rightness signifies a second. Honest and thorough examination about one’s intention6 helps to detect whether one is deluding oneself or not while earning and increasing profit. Honest and thorough examination of one’s intention helps avoid the turning toward evil methods that come from neglecting righteousness. Upholding three supportive guiding principles, as described in the Pañcasīlapañcadhamma7 further cultivates uprightness: rightness concerning actions, moral correctness regarding persons and appropriateness in regards to objects8.

Rightness concerning actions or work means fulfilling whatever duty one is expected to perform or for which one is paid. This work should get completed to the best of one’s ability with moral conscience, earnestly and honestly in due time.

Moral correctness regarding persons includes fair remuneration for whatever work has been done, respecting the respective experience and dedication. It also refers to avoiding overcharging instead of asking for an honest price, taking into consideration investment, effort and reasonable profit.

Appropriateness in regards to objects considers material, quality and contents of the products. These must be presented truthfully, respective business transactions, sales and expiry dates must be made known honestly.

Naturally all sorts of deception, cheating, all kinds of fraud and charlatanism, gambling or bets are off limits for someone who wants to live in accordance with the principles of sammā-ājīvo.
[1] vilomāni (pl.): wrong, discrepant
[2] katākataṃ: kata + akataṃ: done + not done
[3] avekkheyya/ apekkheyya (opt.): should consider, look at
[4] Khuddakanikāye, Dhammapadapāḷi, Pupphavaggo
[5] see sutta 3.5.2: Cārittaṃ Vārittaṃ Sikkhāpada - The Training of Performing and Avoiding
[6] Commentarial exposition about the dominating input of volition was referred to at 3.5.6; 3.5.8, 3.5.10
[7] Pañcasīlapañcadhamma by Prince Vajirañaṇavarorasa, a Thai treatise, written in the midst 19th. century.
[8] Another supportive procedure to avoid negative side-effects of one’s profession is referred to at 3.6.4: investigation into the ‘tikoṭiparisuddhaṃ’- aspects of one’s livelihood.
Pāli lesson (with audio) 3.6.1

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Last modified: Thursday, 28 December 2023, 10:40 AM