Saturday, October 3, 2009

Part Three: Wise Livelihood and Wise Effort

This post unpacks slightly what is meant by the fifth and sixth parts of the Noble Eight Fold Path.

V. Wise Livelihood

What is Wise Livelihood?

It is abstaining from earning one's living by harming others.
It is the earning of one's living in a way that brings no harm.
This is Wise Livelihood.

(Commentary: I ran across this idea when still in high school and it figured strongly in my choosing a career in education. I have always known that being a teacher would require leading a much more materially modest existence, but I had faith that a wise livelihood would have rewards that would compensate me immaterially. From my perspective now nearer to the end of my career, I feel glad to have heeded the Buddha's suggestion.)

VI Wise Effort

What is Wise Effort?

It is the effort to restrain defilements.
It is the effort to abandon defilements.
It is the effort to develop wholesome states.
It is the effort to maintain wholesome states.

This is Wise Effort.

(Commentary: Like Wise Speech, Wise Effort is one of the aspects of the 8FP that serves well as an entry point into Buddhist practice. Wise Effort is simple. Everyone gets it, even kindergartners. If more beginner Buddhists were to start down this aspect of the path here instead of on somewhere else—think meditation—the benefits of walking the path would appear reliably.)


Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Dan~ It occurred to me in going through these (up to now) six sutras that what we're missing is a strong community. I was thinking of the image of Jesus as shepherd steering those out of the fold back into it. And the young man in an African village who did something unethical, and the whole community banded around him and built up his self-worth. Inclusive, not exclusive. They wouldn't have to build so many jails!

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Margaret—

Good point. The 8FP covered here outline just one aspect of the three jewels of Buddhist teaching, the Dharma. Community (Sangha) is another of the three jewels. A mistake I made early on in my Buddhist practice was thinking I could "go it alone" you know, the rugged individual of the American Dream. As time has gone by I have come to see more and more the importance of community.

Symbols said...


In many ways we can never do anything alone. Yet, the most important thing that we can ever do we must do alone. That is to realize what real value is. I mean ego-loss or transcendence in specific. How the energy of emotions behave like energy. How the material world behaves like material. And how this blog here allows us to meet as a digital Sangha.



Symbols said...

Here is a poem that I wrote during a time of deep profound transcendence.

I call it "Poor Little Tea"
If you like this there is much more at:

Samsara (Considered to be the cycle of life in Buddhist Pali texts)

It comes from the sky
drips into our oceans,
Into our food, into our stomachs,
Whether as tea, ice or mist it is all water.
It will eventually end up in the sky
Then back in the ocean, again
To start the process a new

Wait, what if
A cup of tea became selfish?
Thinking it could be completely dependent
In tombed by its own record of likes and dislikes, aversion and attraction
Then the tea starts to prefer, "I want only to be only a refined tea"
"A specific flavored tea"
"Perhaps not even to be drunk"
"I wish to be put on display"
The poor little cup of tea
Fighting its own nature
A nature of impermanence and change
The poor little tea will struggle fruitlessly,
Whether it reaches and attains all of its goals or none,
It will continue to be a part of the continuance of water.
It will end up back in the sky and ocean to repeat Samsara,
Whether it likes it or not!

Now wait, what if the opposite happened.
A strong little tea, a very self satisfied and self motivated tea.
A compassionate selfless tea.
"I wish to quench anyone thirst well"
"If you will have me then that is my responsibility"
"Whatever you have for me I will do my best at"
"I will not have a preference outside of being satisfied with myself"
Being ever versatile and vigilant over it's own emotional attachments it would be free!
Never bending in logic or equanimity toward the never ending cycles of Samsara.
Then with time and practice one day it would become proficient at staying self satisfied, self motivated and compassionate.
Then it would become something else all together.
Perhaps something beyond imagination.
Perhaps something that we could only get a hint at anytime we drink our warm favorite drink of choice.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Symbols,

Yes, the work to keep our ego from running the show is hard work which we must do ourselves.

Thank you for sharing your "Poor Little Tea" poem.

Keep writing poetry!