Music and right livelihood


By “listen” do you mean “hear,” which means simply registering an aural sensation, or “listen,” which implies a more active process of mentally cogitating on those aural stimuli? I know that Bhante Sujato travels through airports with some frequency. Music is played throughout airports and on airplanes during the boarding and de-planing processes. Doubtless Bhante Sujato “hears” music in public spaces. Whether or not he “listens” to it is another question, I suppose.


I agree with you there, that of course letting go of music is more conductive to liberation than being in the world of music :slight_smile:

But there are two kinds of kamma:

  1. Good kamma related to heavenly realms - doing good things for the world, they can be also supportive in others path of liberation. :slight_smile: :heart:
  2. Good kamma related to Nibbana - doing things that lead to final liberation :dharmawheel: :heart:

Music can be support on the Path and most of all, for some people it can be inspiration to explore beauty. Maybe it is not leading to final liberation, but it can be helpful to some people at certain stages (see my previous post please).

Right livelyhood refers to doing in life something that is wholesome. Other aspects of the Path can relate to meditation and final liberation.

Someone can be a musician making wholesome music, and after his work he can go and meditate or read suttas.

By doing wholesome music that has therapheutic or other good effect on the mind, he’s doing good kamma related to heavenly realms, and while meditating and reading dhamma, creating good kamma related to final liberation.

Of course being a bhikkhu is much more conductive to liberation than being for example a carrot farmer or musician. But still, both can be wholesome so they are not wrong livelyhood by definition, and this world will never be of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis only.

Right livelyhood as 5th factor of N8FP as Buddha described it is not just ordaining, it is everything that is doing some good in the world. And OP was a question if teaching music is right livelyhood.

I’m also thinking about other kinds of music than rock music, which isn’t very “high vibratory” like for example spiritual mantras or meditative ambient music. Music nowadays is extremely rich topic, with various kinds, a continuum varying from very extreme unwholesome and negative to very uplifting and heartwarming. And I think being on this good side of music is clearly not “wrong livelyhood” as 5th N8FP factor, even though it is not a quickest path to final liberation.



I believe you are referring to MN.117 wherein we find two right views.
One is right view that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. These include giving, sacrifice and offering etc.
The other is the right view that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path which is;
“It’s the wisdom—the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the awakening factor of investigation of principles, and right view as a factor of the path—in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path”.

Other than these two views, I do not know of a view where music can be considered support on the path. Since you have not quoted from discourses it is hard for me to respond adequately on your claim that music can be wholesome.

I think this is some kind of hybrid approach to liberation. Again, I would appreciate if you would quote from discourses because unless we use discourses as a guide in this type of discussion, it is very easy to come up with our own hypotheses such as above.

With Metta


I was reffering for example to DN31, Singalasutta:

“Householder’s son, a noble disciple gives up four corrupt deeds, doesn’t do bad deeds on four grounds, and avoids six drains on wealth. When they’ve left these fourteen bad things behind they have the six quarters covered. They’re practicing to win in both worlds, and they succeed in this world and the next. When their body breaks up, after death, they’re reborn in a good place, a heavenly realm.

There is a teaching of the Buddha where he teaches not path to liberation (Nibbana), but householder wholesome life leading to a heavenly realm.

The sutta speaks generally about how to live a good householder life, even getting rich on the way isn’t seen as anything wrong, quite the contrary:

They pick up riches as bees
roaming round pick up pollen.
And their riches proceed to grow,
like an ant-hill piling up.

In gathering wealth like this,
a householder does enough for their family.
And they’d hold on to friends
by dividing their wealth in four.

One portion is to enjoy.
Two parts invest in work.
And the fourth should be kept
for times of trouble.”

The theme of the sutta is generally to be:

“Parents are the east,
teachers the south,
wives and child the west,
friends and colleagues the north,

servants and workers below,
and ascetics and brahmins above.
By honoring these quarters
a householder does enough for their family.

The astute and the virtuous,
the gentle and the articulate,
the humble and the kind:
they’re who win glory.

The diligent, not lazy,
those not disturbed by troubles,
those consistent in conduct, the intelligent:
they’re who win glory.

The inclusive, the makers of friends,
the kind, those rid of stinginess,
those who lead, train, and persuade:
they’re who win glory.

Giving and kindly words,
taking care here,
and treating equally in worldly conditions,
as befits them in each case;
these ways of being inclusive in the world
are like a moving chariot’s linchpin.

If there were no such ways of being inclusive,
neither mother nor father
would be respected and honored
for what they’ve done for their children.
But since these ways of being inclusive do exist,
the astute do regard them well,
so they achieve greatness
and are praised.”

And there is finish of the sutta, that states that Sigalaka become lay follower for life:

When this was said, Sigālaka the householder’s son said to the Buddha, “Excellent, sir! Excellent! As if he were righting the overturned, or revealing the hidden, or pointing out the path to the lost, or lighting a lamp in the dark so people with good eyes can see what’s there, the Buddha has made the teaching clear in many ways. I go for refuge to the Buddha, to the teaching, and to the mendicant Saṅgha. From this day forth, may the Buddha remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge for life.”

So the sutta clearly states, that being good to our teachers, students, parents, children, friends, bosses, workers etc. work good a not being lazy etc., leads to rebirth in heavenly realm.

If the Buddha taught that, it clearly must be good kamma, right?

It is obvious to me from this sutta, that householder right livelyhood is less about doing particular profession, as long as doing it doesn’t break 5 precepts, but whatever we’re doing, do that in a very kind, good and mettous way.

I think it can apply to musicians as well. :heart: :slight_smile:

I think we should remember about the difference between

  1. householder -> heavenly realm practice
  2. renunciate -> final liberation practice

Buddha was teaching both, depending on the spiritual level and conditioning of aspirants :slight_smile: We should be careful when thinking of householders/lay followers by renunciate standards. They are still doing good kamma, just not aimed at final liberation yet. :dharmawheel:



I agree with you that the Buddha taught Sigala how to live a good worldly life and he may be reborn in heaven as a result.
What I find disturbing is your use of the word “wholesome”. Because the Pali word of wholesome is kusala which represent the second right view given in MN.117. The first right view is not wholesome since it is associated with grasping which lead to rebirth, may be in heaven.

Secondly, if we are to call a certain practice right livelihood, it has to be a factor of the path finally leading to liberation. If that is not the case IMO it cannot be called right livelihood as a factor of the path.

In other words, wholesome and light livelihood must go hand in hand as a factor of the path. If you want to include the practice of music in a livelihood similar to that of Sigala, IMO you cannot call it wholesome and right livelihood.
With Metta


I don’t know of any text that claims that a lay Buddhist who teaches music is practicing wrong livelihood. Renunciates have precepts against attending emotional performances, so clearly in that case you wouldn’t be teaching music.

These speculative views about what causes attachments or not by others are just generalizations and opinions that may or not apply to your personal situation, spiritually and psychologically.

My personal feeling is that arts like fiction, drama, and music encourage emotional intelligence, equanimity, and an overall broader understanding of the human condition. They can also do the opposite, but I think someone consciously practicing Buddhism is going to be a good candidate for the former.


Excellent points!
Also, it might be borne in mind that the musician who consulted the Buddha would likely have been belonging to one of the wandering troupes which would (and still do in many countries) have gone from village to village, offering entertainment which would certainly have been burlesque, crass and designed to inflame the senses. Most certainly wrong livelihood.
Just can’t compare such a musician with the likes of Imee Ooi!


Here is wholesome song and dance:

DN16:6.14.2: “Honoring, respecting, revering, and venerating the Buddha’s corpse with dance and song and music and garlands and fragrances, let us carry it to the south of the town, and cremate it there outside the town.”


This is more a reflection of the customs of the time than an endorsement to those things. Even Mahavira’s corpse is reported to have been paraded when he died, and still nowadays jains parade with much fanfare the corpse of those they considered attained moksha.
Nevertheless, we know that offerings of musiic and dance to stupas were part of early buddhist communities devotional activities.
I can recall reading somewhere that the Chinese pilgrims reported those activities and even that some vinaya texts regulate those practices. Is that an accurate memory?


Im not sure if these are wholesome, since these are the deities’ idea.

Yesterday After watching a movie called samadhi image
the music and pictures seems to induce mind deeply and quite troublesome to erase all these on the sit at night, even provoke a dream, since its been months I stop entertainment worlds.

Entertainment and music can make the mind to land its another form of clinging easily, there is no way to leave the clinging world but still living in entertainment cycles.


I simply cannot watch that–it gives me a headache. I had to shut it off after a few seconds. I need to wear sunglasses around deities. :sunglasses:

I prefer stuff like this:


Ever since I started meditating seriously, I have the same problem!

I just cannot bear to sit through 99% of what passes for “Entertainment” … My kids have banned me from watching Netflix with them ever since I pointed out all the innumerable instances of killing, gratuitous violence, lust, stealing, wrong speech etc over a 20 minute episode of their favourite soap opera. :rofl:
On investigation, I realized that what I don’t like is the way the script writer/ Director purposely tries to induce various Sanna, Vedana and Sankhara in the otherwise peaceful mind… it takes hours to calm everything down afterwards! So I decided to just stick to Dhamma talks!
Ordinary people are mostly unaware of how they are being played by mass media, but anyone practicing meditation or mindfulness tends to notice it pretty quickly! :laughing:


Pro music tip:

Guard the sense doors.

See the dukkha caused by the music.

See anatta in the music.

Watch the inevitable anicca of each note.

Boom you’re an Arahant. :crazy_face::sweat_smile::sweat_smile:


:slight_smile: Cry of devas and gods? :laughing: