Sunday, December 4, 2011

Step Five on the Eightfold Path

5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
These days I'm earning my livelihood primarily by way of my retirement benefits from Social Security and a small pension from That Insurance Company for which I worked. I also work a number of part-time jobs. I edit books, screenplays, stage plays, and other materials; I work as a patient model (also known as a standardized patient) once in a great while; I dogsit for a select clientele; and even more rarely, I catsit. I write almost every day of the year, but that doesn't bring in a lot of dough. Still, it definitely meets the criteria of Right Livelihood: it is legal, peaceful, and righteous. I harm no one with my writing, as I do my best to write as I speak, aiming to hurt no one.
There are many people my age who are resorting to selling their prescriptions in order to buy food or pay their mortgages. A person can understand how one can be driven to desperate thinking. But if one is living a Buddhist life, one cannot consider that type of livelihood, any more than working for the OLCC, or working as a meat wrapper for Fred Meyer, or a butcher for Whole Foods. A job as a bartender, or cocktail waiter would also violate the principles of right livelihood for a Buddhist. As would working at a place that sells medicinal marijuana, I think. And I think this because I believe that people choose to stay there to use the marijuana. If people picked up their drugs as they do from a pharmacy and left, that would be a different matter. As a person who lives with pain on a regular basis, I feel no need or desire to socialize with other sufferers while I take my medicine and seek relief. Therefore, I don't understand why medical marijuana users need a socializing area either. I believe this hurts the cause. Well, that was a tangent. I could be wrong. Seriously though, people who need and receive morphine for their pain, do not need a cafe in which to "enjoy" their morphine. They pick it up or have it delivered, and get relief. Period. Why wouldn't marijuana be the same when used for the same purpose?