Buddhist work ethics

Sorry to butt in, but… ( :joy: ) this is, IMO not entirely accurate.

In the Eastern worldview, Time is circular, hence for Beings trapped within the cycle it is essentially infinite.

Within this infinite circular path, all possible increase/ decrease in conditions is finite. This is because ‘all conditions are impermanent’. One can work to improve the world over multiple lifetimes… yet all that has been built up eventually crumbles away and becomes otherwise.

One cannot have Good without Bad - they are polar conditions, inevitably circling from one to the other extreme. This was the Buddha’s realization when he reviewed his innumerable past lives - he had been a wheel turning Emperor 7 times, yet his efforts had made no permanent mark on the world. Yet those efforts still mattered, without them he could not have reached where he did.

One must work to improve the world… working for the betterment of oneself and others (viz doing good karma) is recommended by the Buddha as being the way to Heaven. This is the first thing that’s explained to the layperson. And its considered enough for the 99% of Buddhists in Buddhist countries!

Only a few (1% ??) have ‘less dust in their eyes’. And its only when their mind is ready, that the teaching unique to the Buddha can be correctly understood viz… the Suffering embedded in within this infinite ‘groundhog day’ loop of Life, its Cause, its Cessation and the Path.

That ‘karma that leads to the end of karma’ is not a trifling thing. In my personal experience, working to kick one’s habits of greed, hate and delusion is one of the most difficult things to do! Still workin’ on it… :grin: :rofl:


Your patients are very happy that you haven’t reached Nibbana yet, Doc. Here’s what I am saying. Say you would reach Nibbana and stop working. If just one person suffered because you did not see them or a less experienced colleague would not do the work as well, would we not be forced to say that your reaching Nibbana created suffering? You personally would be in a blissfull and mindless state, but your decision not to act would still correspond to an act and create Karma. How can we then say that reaching Nibbana, if defined as the cessation of Karma, is possible at all?

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Maybe even more vexing:

On what basis can we differentiate between the doc and his patients? Doesn’t differentiating between the doc and his patients require that we actually find one of them under ultimate analysis? If we can’t actually find, then aren’t we making the same mistake as Mara in assuming a being for which Vajira rebuked him? If we shouldn’t be assuming, then who exactly is truly getting nibbana here and who is not??

That always boils my noodle at which point I just give up assuming I know a damn thing and readily admit I know nothing at all :wink:


Venerable, please forgive me, I should sometimes keep my critical thoughts to myself.

I can see no reason you need forgiving! If you made any error, I am not aware of it. BTW, please know that I am not ordained or in any way deserving of “Venerable” being used anywhere close to my nominal.

Yeshe is my refuge name given to me by my teacher. The little figurine that is my avatar is of a monk of the “yellow hat” school which is the school in which I received my name, but I am not a monk as I have not accumulated enough merit for the going forth.


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It’s covered by the CBC.

In Genesis, existence is inherently good, but the necessity of work is explicitly a curse by God, along with death, and painful childbirth, levied as punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve 3:16-19).

Obviously there’s more to the Bible, and more to religions than the text. The Protestant work ethic and all of that. But I just wanted to clear up the contents of genesis in particular.


There’s also some relevant thoughts to work shared in Matthew 6. E.g.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life

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Entering Nibbana does not mean that one stops working! The Buddha worked tirelessly for 45 years to establish the Sangha after having reached Nibbana under the Bodhi tree (DN16). :pray: :rose:

Exactly! Yet this is how Ananda explains the path in AN 3.74 .

To reframe this question in the context of the discourses, in what way can we say that once the Buddha had arrived at Nibbana under the Bodhi tree he made no fresh Karma?

For example, in MN87 the Buddha’s Dhamma statement to a householder led to a cascading series of events which would have been unpleasant for those involved. Similarly, in Vesali, the Buddha gave a discourse on the unattractiveness of the body which led to many mendicants committing suicide.

Why did these voluntary actions of the Buddha not accrue Bad Karma even though they apparently led to suffering for others?

The answer is complex, but IMO the crucial point is the Mind state that underpins the action.

A voluntary action rooted in Right Intention is blameless. The Buddha’s intention is to teach the Dhamma - it is rooted in compassion. If the student is unable to comprehend it correctly, that’s on them, not on the Buddha.

One way of looking at it is that there is no difference at all. The doc and the patient are only arbitrary realities… mere matters of conventional speech. There can be no doc without patient and vice versa. The Truth is that these two are actually intertwined, co- dependent processes which along with other interconnected processes make up constantly changing Samsara. The Truth is also that none of these interdependent processes which make up Samsara have any permanent essence… they are fundamentally Empty… even as they give rise to the illusion of a substantial Entity (SN 12.15). If one dissects downwards towards the core seeking the heartwood… there is Nothing.

Viewed in this context, one can answer the above question of @Malunkyaputta about kamma in another way.

Realized ones have realized Selflessness viz they know “There is no doer”. Whatever actions arise are simply the workings of impersonal processes … cause and effect. Since the Buddha has no defilements, the purity of the underlying process is maintained… it is just Dhamma. There is no “I, me, mine” making process for kamma to accrue to. For an unenlightened being however, there is an “I, me, mine” making process active. The unenlightened being, afflicted by the delusion of Self stains the underlying Dhamma process with lust and aversion… this is why kamma arises for them.

Just my two cents worth of Views, please ignore if unhelpful! :nerd_face:


:thinking: I think this thread is straying a bit far from the Buddhist view on work ethics… Let’s maybe leave the discussions of Jordan Peterson’s psychology to other, more appropriate, forums.

cc @moderators


Hi All,
Please refrain from posting offtopic Jordan Peterson related posts. If you want to discuss him, make a separate thread.


Sorry, I didn’t mean to provoke some discussion on Jordan Peterson, just the opposite: avoidance.