Right Livelihood and Joblessness

Could voluntarily staying as a NEET be of Wrong Livelihood? Or Right Livelihood is just simply the absence of Wrong Livelihood?

Hard to say overall. What does this individual do with their free time? Who is financially responsible for them?


Your question is phrased in terms of an outcome – a set of behaviors already manifesting.
From the standpoint of Dhmma practice, I’d suggest the intention(s) that lead to the behaviors is more important to your query.

“Intention shapes experiences;
intention is first, they’re made by intention.
If with corrupt intent
you speak or act,
suffering follows you,
like a wheel, the ox’s foot.”

Why did one choose this? Was it to relax without responsibilities while indulging in the sensual realm? Where will that lead in terms of the ending of dukkha?

Was the choice made as leading to ordination? Giving up one’s job and academic education in order to ordain leads in an entirely different direction with respect to dukkha and its ending. No?

There are, of course, many choices in between these examples which are offered only to support the point.

imho, the leverage point is our choice, our intention – either as a way of deepening our Dhamma practice or a way that leads to idling in samsāra.

We have to check our heart to know.

Hope this is helpful. :pray:

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Wrong livelihood defined:

"[5] Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? One discerns wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood, and right livelihood as right livelihood. This is one’s right view. And what is wrong livelihood? Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, & pursuing gain with gain. This is wrong livelihood.

"“And what is right livelihood? Right livelihood, I tell you, is of two sorts: There is right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions; there is right livelihood that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.”

“And what is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abandons wrong livelihood and maintains his life with right livelihood. This is the right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions.”

—Majjhima Nikaya 117

The term NEET is from a samsaric view, its goal is the maintenance of society, that’s why it’s popular in Japan which is regimented. Right livelihood in Buddhism refers to employment which benefits practice. There needs to be separation there and is one of the insight knowledges.

If NEET is used for financial gain it’s wrong livelihood, if its used to benefit practice it’s right.

I knew of a case of a Thai monk in Australia living outside the monastery and receiving unemployment benefit, probably on the grounds it paid the rent. His practical arrangements would come under mundane right view, and his meditation practice under transcendent.

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Scheming, persuading, hinting, belittling, & pursuing gain with gain. This is wrong livelihood.

Thanks for bringing this up. This phrase sums up very well about Wrong Livelihood.

There is right livelihood with effluents, siding with merit, resulting in acquisitions

In this case, my interpretation is that the absence of Wrong Livelihood for whatever reason, is still count as Right Livelihood, albeit it could just be a mundane one.

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This is Wrong Livelihood for monastics. Wrong Livelihood for lay people is:

Trade in weapons, living creatures, meat, intoxicants, and poisons. A lay follower should not engage in these five trades.
~ AN 5.177


Disagree as far as Majjhima Nikaya 117 goes. In the section on right view, the description of wrong view in dealing with kamma relates to mundane right view, not transcendent, the latter applying to monastics.

Are you asking specifically about NEETs living in dependence on the state? Or do you mean anyone at all who isn’t in “education, employment or training” – including those with their own means of support?

not being able to leave ones house and living as a shut-in (hikkikomori) is usually the result of undiagnosed mental illnesses that requires help and treatment

if your mind is in constant turmoil your volition of doing things is likely unskillful too - I am talking from experience as I am also guilty of explaining the reasons behind my actions as if they were wholesome (a good example is from Nietzsche: just because you don’t have the power and influence to do bad things it does not mean you are a good person)

so if you are too anxious and afraid of doing things because of unresolved trauma (you are affraid of being successfull, happy or just making any kind of mistake) that is not helping anyone

The later, bhante, they’re voluntarily staying NEET.

In that case I can only echo SDC’s comment; it’s too broad a range of persons to make any judgment about.

I feel it is very subjective. From the perspective of some people, Buddha had wrong livelihood because they see it as wrong to rely fully on the support of others in clothing, medicine, food, home etc. And if you are a soldier in America and have killed many ‘enemies’ you have served the country very well and have a respected livelihood. Tja…

In general having a job is appreciated in my country the Netherlands but most of the time there is no concern for doing immoral things during job-time. It is accepted, such as lying for the good cause/boss/company to earn a living, deceiving clients, arousing greed in other people, socalled customers. My sister works for an assurance company. It is policy of the company that they approach every client on the telephone as if it were a real friend. They even start talking about holidays, hobbies, etc. One fakes all the time a real interest, a real friendiness because that increases the sales. This corrupt behaviour is everywhere and is also everywhere fully accepted.

At the same time it build up a society in which all becomes fake. Especially we ourselves. The atmosphere becomes toxic. Who to trust? A lot of people get sick in this atmosphere of distrust, impurity, or they just cannot find there way anymore.

I feel it is really necessary we stop this fakeness because we are fake enough. Our friendliness, our compassion, our patience, it is all fake. It is always a strategical friendliness, patience, wisdom, compassion, interest. Always connected with a goal and sense of self-interest. All the time it is more an investement. Never pure. It has nothing to do with honesty, sincerity, purity, Dhamma, the Noble Path. Really it has not. Dhamma is not…fake it till you make it. Dhamma is about let go of this fakeness and this constant self-interest. All becomes so ugly when all we do is always strategical. The supra mundane Noble Path is not like this. The mundane noble path is.

Sorry, it believe it is important.

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This is a good point. I am pretty sure that not working (and perhaps using the time to practise) if you have enough saved and you rely on your own means of support would be considered better than working and accumulating more money. There does not seem to be the idea in Buddhist circles that working in a job can be a noble thing to do. You either do it for greed or for ego reasons or for some form of delusion (I heard the argument that people are deluded in thinking that by being useful to society they will be somehow rewarded and are doing something good, whereas they are not very smart because when they are all ‘used up’ society will no longer care about them). In capitalism industriousness is considered ethically good because it is thought to improve the world but this idea seems to be absent in Buddhism.

From what I gathered from e.g. Breiter’s book on Ajahn Chah, deriving one’s livelihood from an inheritance is also considered smart. This is in contrast to other types of ethics; e.g. Bertrand Russell gave away most of his inheritance because he considered living off it immoral. Wittgenstein gave up all of his inheritance. In contrast to this, I have gathered from stories I heard that living on inherited money (or money you get after say a divorce) is considered ok in Buddhism.

I think the question arises on whether it is ok to say live on the ‘dole’ and receiving all your livelihood from society without being productive. The fact that working does not have a moral worth (and that inactivity seems to have a higher value than being busy) makes this question more tricky.

I wouldn’t say it’s absent but it’s certainly not as emphasized. He says making various people (what I assume you mean by “the world”) happy is a legitimate motive to get rich by legitimate work. (Also, contextually, this is in dialog with a sort of proto-banker, Anathapindika)

However, that sutta itself answers the topic question IMO,

Now if the riches a noble disciple gets for these five reasons run out, he thinks ‘So, the riches I have obtained for these reasons are running out.’ And so he has no regrets.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. But this indicates, IMO, that a Stream-Enterer could be a regular - as opposed to vow-driven - unemployed penniless person, and such a status is not incompatible with practice.

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