Do any Agamas define wrong livelihood?

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I mentioned in an earlier thread that AN 5.177, which (as far as I know) is the only sutta that defines wrong livelihood, does not have an Agama parallel. Does anyone know if there are any Agamas that define wrong livelihood?


There’s SA.500, which lists four wrong means of acquiring alms for mendicants: Through corruption (legal), interpreting stars (astrology?), performing services for others, and practicing medicine.

DA.20 appears to give some examples of wrong livelihood. It’s a much more elaborate discussion of mendicants getting alms dishonestly or impurely. DA.21 has similar material.

MA.31 has a little bit of a gloss in the definition of right livelihood, mention “various kinds of wrong livelihood such as performing arts and magic.” Again, this is probably referring to mendicants. MA.189 has a gloss of wrong livelihood as seeking food, clothing, bedding, medicines, and beings to sustain oneself in ways that don’t accord with Dharma.

EA.24.10 says wrong livelihood is the path to hell, while right livelihood is the way towards Nirvana.

Those are the glosses I can find in the four Agamas. The Dirgha Agama Sutras are the biggest discussions, too long to translate off the cuff. Maybe look them up in the BDK translation for reference.


Is there a single reference to wrong livelihood for lay disciple in the Chinese Agamas like AN 5.177 which mention 5 kinds of trade a lay disciple should not be engage in?


I didn’t see any when I searched for the most common Chinese term for wrong livelihood, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t such a discussion hidden somewhere among all the alternate texts or under some other term.


Thank you, @cdpatton, for your investigation. It’s really remarkable how little there is on right livelihood in the EBTs (for laypeople). Perhaps the Buddha knew how hard it was to eek out a living in the world of samsara, and felt that it was not the business of himself or the mendicant sangha to over-regulate the behavior of lay followers in this regard?


Yes, it seems that way. It may also be that it was considered a straightforward concept that didn’t need that much commentary. Don’t make a living breaking the five precepts, and it’s probably right livelihood.