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What is Samma Ajivo? translated in English as Right Livelihood

Right Livelihood is the fifth of the eight path factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, and belongs to the virtue division of the path.

With due respect, I agree Right livelihood includes one’s profession should not cause harm to others.

  • What is Samma aajiva really mean?
  • I have a humble question, if a person is by birth have a body not supportive to take up any work and he is completely dependent on family/relatives/others. For such persons how Right Livelihood is applicable?
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Well, to my mind such a person should attempt to live his life in a way similar to a Samanera or perhaps even a monk.
That would mean, perhaps, helping in the day to day activities of his family as much as possible, serving them by presenting them with thoughtful acts when they return from their busy day (even a cheery greeting, a smile and maybe a cup of tea is nice, isn’t it :slightly_smiling_face:), actively eschewing petty family politics and carrying tales. :thinking:
Even if nothing else, striving to set a good example of what a human being should be can be considered Right Livelihood IMHO!

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Well, as a monk, I take up no work and am completely dependant on others.

Right Livelihood for a monk is, most broadly, living according to the vinaya, but more specifically means not seeking out support by currying favor or ingratiating oneself to potential supporters by e.g. fortune telling, distributing magical charms, puffing up egos, threatening, or, in the most egregious case, misrepresenting yourself. (See Ajahn Brahm’s essay “Wrong Livelihood” for more details)

We make ourselves worthy of the generousity and support we have received through honest and diligent cultivation of the ten pāramī: growing the seeds they planted and not wasting our (slightly extended) human existence.

I hope that helps :smile:

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As you’ve correctly pointed out, right livelihood belongs to the sila group of the path. The function of observing sila is to ensure a mindstate that is without remorse for wrongdoings, as a basis for the arising of samadhi. Then right view works with a tranquil mind to develop wisdom through investigation:

"And what is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities (wholesome/unwholesome) as a factor for awakening , the path factor of right view[1] in one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is without effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is noble, without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.”—-MN 117

If the path of practice is established in an individual they know when some action is adversely affecting their tranquillity and they work diligently to remove it. That is the way problems with right livliehood should be approached. The necessary foundation is to establish direct knowledge (by investigation) of the link between thoughts and suffering as the Bodhisatta himself did before awakening:

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality (ill-will, harmfulness) arose in me. I discerned that ‘Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.’

“As I noticed that it leads to my own affliction, it subsided. As I noticed that it leads to the affliction of others… to the affliction of both… it obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding, it subsided. Whenever thinking imbued with sensuality had arisen, I simply abandoned it, dispelled it, wiped it out of existence.”—MN 19

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What do the Suttas say about right livelihood?

There’s the general definition which is repeated in various other places in the Suttas:

SN45.8:7.1: And what is right livelihood?
SN45.8:7.2: It’s when a noble disciple gives up wrong livelihood and earns a living by right livelihood.
SN45.8:7.3: This is called right livelihood.

Another interesting one is:

MN117:28.3: When you understand wrong livelihood as wrong livelihood and right livelihood as right livelihood, that’s your right view.

From there it continues, putting right livelihood in context with other factors of the path:

And what is wrong livelihood? Deceit, flattery, hinting, and belittling, and using material possessions to pursue other material possessions. This is wrong livelihood.

And what is right livelihood? Right livelihood is twofold, I say. There is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment. And there is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path.

And what is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements, has the attributes of good deeds, and ripens in attachment? It’s when a noble disciple gives up wrong livelihood and earns a living by right livelihood. This is right livelihood that is accompanied by defilements.

And what is right livelihood that is noble, undefiled, transcendent, a factor of the path? It’s the desisting, abstaining, abstinence, and refraining from wrong livelihood in one of noble mind and undefiled mind, who possesses the noble path and develops the noble path. This is right livelihood that is noble.

They make an effort to give up wrong livelihood and embrace right livelihood: that’s their right effort. Mindfully they give up wrong livelihood and take up right livelihood: that’s their right mindfulness. So these three things keep running and circling around right livelihood, namely: right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.

Another interesting one:

SN45.1:3.6: Right action gives rise to right livelihood.
SN45.1:3.7: Right livelihood gives rise to right effort.

In other words, good ethics in general (right action) leads to right livelihood, and right livelihood supports meditation of which right effort is a part.

To my understanding, everybody should apply this to the best of their ability, no matter what this ability is like.

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Thank you @sabbamitta for pointing me to Suttas for reference, I will definitely go through MN117, one of major point I grasped here is Samma Ajiva, Sama Dhitti, Samma Vayamo, Samma Sati works together.

When I read, Samma Ajiva not limited to ones profession it includes abandoning of above wrong livelihood and cultivating good deed.

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Thank you @paul1 for you references of MN 117 & MN19

Thanks for giving your perspective, I incline toward your explanation. If some action causing hinderance to tranquility and doesn’t conducive to right view it’s need to be abandoned.

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Thank you @Khemarato.bhikkhu for your explanation

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IMO @faujidoc1, greeting and smiling is not something to be underestimated, it’s a great wholesome karma to uplift own mind and let others to feel happy. When you greet a stranger and wish well to him, what happens? Your action going to help others to have a happy mind state, and you will feel happy too.

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I would add women to that group, who over the ages, may or may not have had a say in what livelihood they follow, if any (help husband make ends meet, look after family, farm etc). “Livelihood”, if it strictly meant a profession, excludes many.

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IMO, 8 fold noble path is core of teaching and it’s applicable to everyone, Samma Aajiva not limited to those who hold a profession, it’s more to do with mental development. Let me share a snippet from Ven Bhante Vimalaramsi’s popular book, he only teaches Sutta as reference and reads sutta for students.

There is another interesting Sutta about seeing of the Four Noble Truths, found in the Digha Nikáya Sutta number 16, section 5.27. From this section of the Sutta, one concludes that the way to attain enlightenment is by following the Eightfold Path and realizing the Noble Truths. It says:

5.27 "In whatever Dhamma and Discipline the Noble Eightfold Path is not found, no ascetic is found of the first grade (meaning a sotápanna), second grade (meaning Sakadagami), third grade (meaning Anagami), or fourth grade (meaning an arahat). But such ascetics can be found, of the first, second, third, and fourth grade in a Dhamma and Discipline where the Noble Eightfold Path is found. Now, Subhadda, in this Dhamma and Discipline the Noble Eightfold Path is found, and in it are to be found ascetics of the first, second, third and fourth grade. Those other schools are devoid of [true] ascetics; but if in this one the Bhikkhus were to live to perfection, the world would not lack for Arahats.
– Digha Nikáya Sutta number 16, section 5.27

The mind opens when it sees and realizes these twelve links of Dependent Origination directly. As a result, the mind becomes dispassionate and free. This is as true now in present times, as it was 2500 years ago. Any teaching that doesn’t highlight the necessity of the Dependent Origination as its realization and final goal or destination, isn’t teaching the true path.
(Reference The Anapanasati Sutta by Ven Bhante Vimalaramsi )

This link may be of help.

:anjal:

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Right livelihood in the sutras usually doesn’t refer to a person’s profession, rather to the way a person sustains themselves from day to day. That means how they get food, clothing, housing, medicine, etc. Laypeople have professions, but monks and nuns are expected to rely only on donations and not to own wealth. When the eightfold path was taught by the Buddha to monks and nuns, that’s what he was meaning. Laypeople are left to figure out how best to live while following the five precepts or perhaps the path of ten good deeds.

The way the eightfold path is taught in sutras is that each item is the basis for the next one in a sequence. So, right view up to right action is required for right livelihood to be established. To me, it means a way of day to day life that arises from right view, right thinking, right speech, and right action. If one of those is lost, then right livelihood will be a problem.

Right livelihood is also the basis for what follows it in the eightfold path: right effort, mindfulness, and concentration. What that means to me is that if a person hasn’t established a fully ethical lifestyle, right effort isn’t possible, and then right mindfulness and concentration are a problem. That is to say, a person doesn’t have the right conditions in their day to day life to pursue those practices consistently, and so liberation isn’t possible.

That’s my take on the place of right livelihood in the eightfold based on what I’ve seen in the sutras and thinking through what they say about it.

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Very true. Although the narrow definitions (trade in meat, etc.) do refer to professions, obviously for many it would be a broader conception. For those staying at home and managing domestic affairs, traditionally the work primarily of women, this would refer to their careful and efficient management of the household, something that the Buddha elsewhere praised. For students, or the incapacitated, or children, or the elderly, it would be different again.

In each case, the bare minimum would be to support your living in a way that does not cause harm.

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There are two levels of right view (and right 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.”—MN 117

I discussed before how the function of the sila group is to establish tranquillity in the dynamics between sila, samadhi, panna. Those who hold a profession are acting within mundane right view which still seeks tranquillity, but on a material, acquisitive level for those who partake of sensuality.

“And what is the bliss of debtlessness? There is the case where the son of a good family owes no debt, great or small, to anyone at all. When he thinks, ‘I owe no debt, great or small, to anyone at all,’ he experiences bliss, he experiences joy. This is called the bliss of debtlessness.”—AN 4.62

The suttas also speak of debtlessness on the level of transcendent right view, where it is a mental feeling not-of-the-flesh resulting from release from the bondage of sensuality (AN 6.45, MN 39).

“Thus, monks, poverty is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality. Getting into debt is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality. Interest payment is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality. Being served notice is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality. Being hounded is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality. Bondage is suffering in the world for one who partakes of sensuality.”—AN 6.45

So when the practitioner seeking transcendent right view is investigating how sensuality causes affliction to themselves, they should discern the feeling of non-freedom associated with it.

“And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.”—MN 19

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Thanks for your explanations and references of Suttas, this gave me good understanding of Samma Ajivo.

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