White Wind Zen Community

A Community practising and teaching Dogen’s Zen since 1985

Every Breath You Take 95: Seeing People of Right Livelihood Part 2

Dharma Talk presented by Ven. Shikai Zuiko O-sensei

Dainen-ji, December 25th, 2010


Seeing people of right livelihood,
"May all beings
Succeed in right livelihood
Never needing to do what should not be done."

I presented some thoughts on that last week and people did have questions about it and reactions to it
so I thought maybe we could have a little presentation of one's views.
They don't need to be pre-prepared, of course.

But, any thoughts on right livelihood?

What is right?

Livelihood is what you do for your daily crust, as it were.


Tando: I want to mention a couple of things that had come up during practice interviews, questions that students asked which had to do with sort of "what's the one safe job that I could do [O-sensei and students laugh] ... that I could be really sure is a right livelihood? And how does a monk know that they've got the right kind of job?"

What I responded was that there's no island that we can go to where what we do is completely safe and pure and everything is perfect and pristine and we know that's it. I was reading this morning the Roshi's comments on complete livelihood from "The Eightfold Path" where he talks about mutuality and that everything is intertwined. So we just have to, as Shikai O-sensei was saying a few days ago, the profession of assassin probably... [students laugh] not such a good choice, but with whatever we're doing we actually look at it not just from the standpoint of this is right or wrong, but how can we practise completely with everything that we do, as we're doing whatever we do with what we say and how we interact with people, and how we are, how our attention is.

Osho: Yeah, the new meaning of "How are you?"
How is your practice?
Different language spoken around practice than is spoken out on the street.

"How are ya?"

"G'day! I'm fine!"

[O-sensei and students laugh] It's not what we're asking.
We're asking what are you noticing about this moment of your life,
what's going on?
What contractions?
What patterns?
How did you get caught up?
And interestingly, a lot of times...
Something was uncovered the other day,
someone thought that they shouldn't have any thoughts at all,
that having thoughts meant bad practice:

You never know when something is going to come up.
That's where we learn, when we misunderstand things,
because in the process of correcting all sorts of insight and knowledge can be gained.

So don't be afraid that you're going to say something "wrong",
there is no right or wrong here in this moment.

Student: I had been wondering about right livelihood for a while because I had heard the term. Then one day when I was speaking with the Roshi, he asked me where I worked and I said I worked at a large software company. And he said: "Is it proprietary software?" [students laugh] And I said: "Yes" and he said: "Evil!" [more laughter]

So then I started to think about it and it was true, I was working for a company that made software that allowed arms manufacturers and other kinds of not so nice companies make more and more money off the backs of more and more people. Our software analyzed their information and let them make business decisions about how to make more money. It didn't seem all that "right livelihood-ish" but I also needed to eat, so I didn't quit the next day.

But this year, having been diagnosed with a rather serious illness, I was going to say "terminal", but we're all terminal... [O-sensei and students laugh heartily] it did somewhat concentrate my attention to what I wanted to do and so to me in the term "right livelihood" there might also be the opportunity for freedom of choice. I think: "What if I really only have a year or two or ten? Is this actually what this bodymind enjoys the most? Would really like to be doing at its best?" So to me, right livelihood includes that consideration.

Osho: Having a good time with it, having fun.
Yeah! Having fun because when we're not enjoying ourselves,
and again words get very slippery...

What do we mean by "enjoy"?

But if over and over and over again there's this kind of:

"Ughhhhhh........" [students laugh] "I hate this...."

...and we find we're getting more and more that way,
well it might be an opportunity to look at what we're doing
and say do we really want to be doing this thing?
And that comes up not just around the job that we may get paid for
so that we can eat and do what we want to do,
but increasingly with practice you'll have moments when you go:

"Oh! What am I doing?"

We may find ourselves in situations that are incredibly familiar
and we may often confuse familiarity for comfort or ease or enjoyment,
so you start to get a better sense of what it is that the whole bodymind is really happy doing.

And you'd probably be surprised...
I never thought sitting watching goldfish... [O-sensei and students laugh]
would be one of those things. Never crossed my mind!

So thank you.

Anyone else?

Student: I'd like to say that in my careers I have always tried to be in a job that fitted my personal integrity and my last career was doing environmental protection work, which is pretty mother, apple-pie type of stuff, but even in a job that you feel is helping and not harming and is something that you really believe in doing, there are times when in that job you're asked to do things that you know are not right. So even though the livelihood is correct, sometimes your employer or your manager will ask you to go down a path that you don't feel comfortable doing and that's a bit of a dilemma because you have to make a choice then whether you are doing to stand up and say no, and possibly end your livelihood or go along with it.

I think that's a choice that people make daily in a lot of their occupations, regardless of what they are doing, when they are asked by people to do things they know are not right. It's not just a matter of right livelihood but also how you carry yourself within that livelihood, I think.

Osho: Back to what the Tando was saying, "how you are,"
you're learning to look into how you are doing whatever it is that you're doing
and because you're seeing more and more completely
with more and more more openness
and less pulling through previously held conditions or previously held patterns,
you're actually present for what it is that's going on,
and you actually might notice that you're being asked to do something.

Student: Yes, and what I've noticed is that all of a sudden you start to feel uncomfortable and it's a physical discomfort, and the bodymind is telling you that you're being directed in a way that you don't want to be directed and you have to listen to that.

Osho: I remember there was a student who was working in the hospitality industry.

Now of course when you get back to the things that were seen as not being right livelihood way back when,
like 2600 years ago, there are the lists, right?
Not dealing in illusion,
not dealing in intoxicants of any sort,
not trafficking in beings not telling fortunes and so forth, you know, there's a list which is not all that long. But you think: not dealing in alcohol. Alright. There's this person, this student, very sincere, and in the hospitality industry, there they are, they're making a livelihood in an industry that if they stuck by the books, they could make a very good case for not being engaged in that industry, but increasingly we see that more and more the service industries are where people can get jobs. Even people with Master's degrees, PhDs and so on, there is growth in that hospitality industry.

This particular student was asked to join in the culture of the particular place of employment, and part of the culture was that you gave short shrift when measuring out beverages, probably later in the night too... The later in the night, the less the alcohol, but this was just what was done, it was expected, and if you didn't do it, management would get on your case and the others would be saying, you know "why are you not doing this" and so on. So this person had to make a choice around that and they chose to go somewhere else because like, that's just wrong, that's stealing, that's not nice.

So being able to look at things from multiple points of view is always useful.

Student: I also think that when you can be sincere in what you are doing because in most cases we actually know what is right or wrong before we start thinking about it.

Osho: Yes, in examining what's actually going on, and making the choice that you know is right instinctively.

Student: Yes.

Osho: Takes a little courage, though, sometimes to do that. And it would be nice, it says here:

"May all beings
Succeed in right livelihood
Never needing to do what should not be done."

You know, that's a little wish when you're doing the impossible,
seeing people of right livelihood.
Who are these people?
How can we pick them out?
Should we be picking them out?

But I think with all of these verses,
all of the texts that are written,
they're just ways of introducing more flexibility into looking at our moment to moment experience.
So, as you were saying,
a lot of the times we do know right away what's right and what's wrong,
so it's a matter of execution.
How we carry things out is also important.

And if you're feeling your feet,
feeling your breath,
standing up straight,
opening the eye gaze,
then you can just say "I'm not going to do this" and walk away.

Student (a lay monk): Osho, we vow that we will not act in support of any nation's military and I asked the Roshi about that once because as a consultant, I thought that that meant that I could never do work for the military, but my understanding of his response was well, when you look at the details of what you're doing, sometimes you can understand that a little bit better. So, I think in that case he said that soldiers and their families and children are people too and therefore there may very well be some action that you can take so that simply by working with those people as individuals, as beings, that would not be in support of military actions, or war-making, or weapons-making and that would be just fine. So, something that seemed to be clearly "on the list" of things not to do, when looked at carefully, there are in fact things that could be done that would be useful.

Osho: I went through a similar discussion because I was offered a contract
to go to a military base here around the time of the Bosnian crisis.
There was the prospect of refugees coming into that area, into the camp,
so what were people going to do? How should they be treated?
What could people expect to have happen and so on.
So, I went up there for a day, trying to present ways of giving the soldiers,
the administration and so on,
all the people that were there, the peripheral workers,
a way of appreciating more clearly through an experience that was obviously not actually happening,
they were imagining it, what it was like to be a person displaced from your home,
from everything that's familiar and how people who were working,
expecting to work with these refugees could make things easier for them.
That contract was paid for by the military.

So, you look at what's going on on many different levels
and that makes life more interesting because you're not stuck with a bunch of "do nots".
Who wants a bunch of do nots,
even with sugar sprinkles, you know? [students laugh, O-sensei laughs]

Thanks! [everyone laughs again]

Student: Osho, what I gather from this is the list can be misleading if it's taken literally, or if it's just followed as the list of "do nots" like you said. Or like the verse said: may all people succeed in not doing what doesn't need to be done. So, a continuous looking into from as many angles as you can is what's important and that's what we need to learn from this, rather than looking for a list or looking for a right answer because that can change and might not be true or correct right now.

Osho: Yeah and it can change like
[snaps fingers] that,
especially now with the rapidity of change because of the increasing rapidity of communication.
Now it's fast, really fast.
So you want to know, like what's going on here? Really?

My background was working in television.
So way back in the day, news stories went on the air as film that was shot and developed and edited.
Then came the move to video tape and the videotape machines.
The video tapes were two feet across.
The tape itself was three inches wide, it was huge.
So just picture an ordinary tape recorder you would put a reel on,
but picture it a hundred times bigger, that's what it was like, it was really weird.
And cameras, the electronic cameras were big,
they were huge in studio, you would roll them around.
So everything was bigger and harder to make available.

Then there was the development of ENG, Electronic News Gathering.
So that come on and everybody was excited because there's this flexibility now,
there's this movement, you can go out very quickly,
you don't have to wait for things to be developed,
you don't have to physically edit with a razor blade and stick it together with crazy glue
and then put it on a reel and then run it down to telecine
(the room from which film was rolled during a television show).
No, it was just this new thing that was great.

We were out one day covering the appearance of a politician and there were about 12 people at this mall,
and the director says: "Get them all together! Get them all together!"

So we get these 12 people around and then look at the picture after.
There's the politician and the 12 people, and it looks like he's being cheered by a mob. [students laugh]

[O-sensei claps] That's what goes out on the air.

Well that really gave me a lot of pause for thought
and a new way of looking at what's actually going on.
It didn't sink in at the time, and there is no way I was going to give up that job.
I wasn't practising or anything at the time, I thought: "That's interesting, that's propaganda."

And to see a whole group of people who were willing participants in that lie that went out on the air,
that went all across the country to however many, a couple of million people, were watching.
Most hadn't thought about it a bit.
The director's point of view was, well, it makes a better picture.
Reality is not necessarily a good picture, so you have to juice it up.

So you can keep those kinds of things in mind too.
What is it that you're looking at?
Are you looking at what you think you're looking at?
And recognize that on the whole, people don't get together and say:
"Well, we're going to consciously delude the public into thinking that this person is an incredibly popular guy".
No, they didn't do that, it just happened, like most of history, it kind of just happened.

Student: It might have been a more interesting story to show him standing there all by himself in the mall!

Osho: Again, it could have changed history... Little things like that...
And we're starting to find all sorts of hidden away facts,
now that the 50 year factor for information
(after 50 years, a lot of information can be released),
all sorts of stuff about all kinds of people.
And you go: "Oh no, he didn't!"

And yes, he did and it's right here!

So by looking into how we fool ourselves when we follow our usual assumptions,
and we recognize we're not different from every other human being on the planet...

"Maybe this is all a mass delusion... Maybe...?"

And we start to see how people are in general
through looking into how we are moment to moment
and what can be done about it,
and it can kind of soften the edges of often virulent opinions...
(I've been known to have in the past)... [students laugh]

But right livelihood, is there such a thing?

...we can make choices about things that we do see. Yes?

Yes? What would you like to say?

Ino: Anything that helps one and the people that one interacts with to have a better time and to have a better time with what you have rather than pursuing something that you don't have...So I think that right livelihood is something that helps you to be just where you are and have a good time with it. And you can have, actually a good practice if you begin to see that you can have a good time with very little. You can have a lot of fun with things that you didn't know you had! [O-sensei and students laugh]

Osho: For sure.

Ino: But in any profession as such, there's always this kind of nastiness or consequences that are causing harm and destruction to someone somewhere. It's hard to avoid that.

Osho: Yes, indeed. Yes, you use a cellphone and there's some mineral that comes from the Congo...

Ino: Yes.

Osho: Well, I'm not going to go any further into it,
but anything that we do,
when you track it down,
you find that at many places along the line,
someone is at the very least getting short shrift,
if not downright exploited.

Now, I watched something, and I recommend it, called "Good Hair",
a documentary by Chris Rock, a comedian.
Now, I think, right livelihood, comedians are on the whole, the actual job,
the willingness to get out there and throw a light on social culture,
I think it's right and good:
Some are, not everyone, but comedy is a wonderful thing.

"Good Hair" is about the multi-billion dollar hair industry in the US
that extends globally and it grew because people with nappy hair,
Afro-americans are told basically from birth that if they have nappy, curly hair, it's bad hair.
So the culture has grown up that they want to have hair like white people:
smooth, shiny hair that flows in the wind and whips around, that that's good hair.

A lot of this hair comes from India,
and I think that his research said that hair from India is the third biggest export industry, human hair.

So Chris Rock went to India,
went to a temple where the act of tonsure is done to ensure good luck,
it's always good luck, long life, appease the deities...
So these women who have grown their hair very long go in and have it shaved off.
It's worth watching the documentary just to see the skill with which the razor-wielders cut that hair off.
It's brilliant, it's astonishing.

But anyway, then the temple sells the hair into the industry.
Those women, many of whom I'm sure could do a lot with ten bucks, do they get it?
No. So it gets worse from there,
but it will tell you things just about how people are, and it's fun to watch.

The beauty industry? Right livelihood? [O-sensei and students laugh]
Anyone have anything else they would like to say?

If thoughts come up, I encourage you to write them down because at some point,
since this topic is very ripe,
it's one that can open windows on many different areas of human endeavour,
at some point we'll do a mondo,
which is what this is called,
when there's an opportunity to speak and ask questions, present views,
and no one is going to sort of attack you or say
"you shouldn't be thinking that! How could you think that?" [students laugh]
That's not going to happen, so we'll do this,
we'll put out a little poster,
a little something in the eMirror saying this is what we're going to do,
so anyone who wants to make a little presentation of some thoughts they've had
that have come together around a certain thing
or questions they want to ask and so on, they can do it,
we can do it, we can share info.

Student: Osho, do you mean about anything or specifically more or right livelihood?

Osho: Well, anything, we can fit it in.
And what is apart from practice?
Is there anything that is really apart,
away from it when you're practising?
You're practising with this very bodymind
and it's not as if you actually go and put your head on another one when you go out
doing what people call "the rest of their life",
it's the same bodymind that has practised and practice becomes embodied, literally.

So yeah, we can approach anything.

Student: For myself, I'm just thinking at this point my right livelihood is employment insurance... [O-sensei and students laugh] ... so I've got lots of fodder to think about my next choice of livelihood.

Osho: Well, it's interesting too,
sometimes people can get into an unfortunate kind of space about employment insurance,
as if there's something shameful about it,
makes them less worthy.

But you think: "I paid into this! I worked for years so this is what it's for."
Things can get kind of slanted and twisted in our own consideration.

Good. Leave nothing behind! [O-sensei and students laugh] STUDENT: Gassho Osho, I had a question about right livelihood. Osho: Yes.

Student: The issue of making money and working for a company that's a for-profit company... I guess I'm wondering if you could ever have a company with a goal of making money that was incorporating right livelihood? It's always been a question that I've had, whether that in itself is a problem.

Osho: Well, it's interesting, that's interesting.
Tell you what: since it's something you think about,
jot down a few words,
accumulate a little and we can make that part of some future discussion.

I will too. It brings into question the whole idea of what a company is.
Is a community that is incorporated a company?
And so on.
It raises lots of questions that are fun,
so we can't really get into it right now, but...

Student: Money.

Osho: [laughs] Money, money, money, money... Anything else? Okay, we'll close then.