Right Livelihood: “… The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life …” ~ Albert Einstein

right livelihood moral conduct einstein

Encountering “short gems” that encapsulate key perennial wisdom teachings is always a gift … especially when the gift continues to blossom with time revealing more and more … while also offering a simple relatable way to navigate life that leads to deepening equanimity, balance, and peace …. one such recent “gem” is:

“… let us vow to …. not create, and/or add-to, ill-will … be an ongoing source of harmlessness … and live this vow to develop/deepen my humility … which serves me well under all circumstances …”

In our recent post – Right Action, Right Speech … & Patience, we looked at how this gem encapsulated two (Right Speech and Right Action) of the eight folds from Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path (his practical instructions to end suffering) …

Of course, as one reflects on this gem it is easy to see that it encapsulates even more …

But before exploring this “more” …

As we’ve done since the COVID crisis began … we want to honor and highlight the “heroes” that continue to ensure our health and safety in the midst of the pandemic: Go Fund Me has organized various campaigns targeted towards the COVID-19 relief efforts. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we want to highlight TWO critical ones that we are supporting personally and also as Stillness Speaks (through donations):

We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then …

Frontline Responders Fund - GoFundMe

… please visit  Frontline Responders Fund’s Go Fund Me page … and help deliver crucial supplies to these frontline responders …

… and/or visit  America’s Food Fund Go Fund Me page and help feed the neighbors in need.

America's Food Fund GoFundMe

And, we again, express our deepest gratitude to a) the COVID-19 Frontline Responders (all the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, hospital/medical-services staff – firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers, and any/all the people involved in keeping the “system-at-large” functioning for ALL of us) … and b) Go Fund Me for organizing America’s Food Fund to feed the needy.


Now back to the “gem” and Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path …

Turns out, as we dig deeper into the above “gem,” it is evident that it is a simple yet powerful guide to … decent or principled behavior that does require conscious intention  in order to effectively utilize it … and it’s a guide that offers wisdom for the “here and now” … for navigating daily life …

Such a guide is eminently helpful at any time – individually or collectively … but is particularly helpful, arguably even essential … during this “2020 ongoing mayhem” of COVID, economic collapse, and social unrest.

The three elements – principled behavior, conscious intention, and wisdom – also happen to be the “… three essential elements of Buddhist practice—moral conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom …” … which in turn are also a 3-part grouping of the Eightfold Path …The first group: moral or ethical conduct includes “… three factors of the noble eightfold path: namely, right speech, right action, and right livelihood …” ~ excerpted from The Noble Eightfold Path by Walpola Sri Rahula (Tricycle)

Having explored Right Speech and Right Action before, today we – very briefly – explore Right livelihood … which “brings together” the three factors (Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood) that help us cultivate and foster ethical conduct

Right Livelihood

“… It’s almost as if there’s no point practicing unless we attend to how we’re living …” ~ Henry Shukman

right livelihood

Right Livelihood … as Henry Shukman says in his podcast episode (from Mountain Cloud Zen Center): “Buddha taught that when following the way of Right Livelihood, we should not engage in occupations that may promote harm. It isn’t always easy in today’s world to advance in a profession that does not in some way thrive on, or at least encourage, greed, hatred and ignorance. Even those who pursue careers dedicated to helping others at times find themselves in compromising ethical situations …”  …

As you reflect on Henry’s summary and after listening to the podcast, it seems obvious that when we are practicing Right Livelihood, we are naturally a “source of harmlessness”  – so when we integrate this gem in our daily life we are naturally practicing Right Livelihood!

And to further underscore Henry’s point (“there’s no point practicing unless we attend to how we’re living”), here’s another Zen perspective on a key and challenging part of “practicing in our daily living,” i.e., how to meet fear …

This Vulnerable Life

Courage is … a variegated response to {fear} … where we come into a nurturing awareness of what is really present ~ Frank Ostaseski

right livelihood sunset beach

In the podcast episode, This Vulnerable Life (from Upaya Zen Center), Frank Ostaseski (founder of the Metta Institute) “… invites us to meet our fear face to face, viewing it as a “doorway to compassion and a pathway to transformation.” Courage, in his view, is not the opposite of fear, but a variegated response to it, one in which we come into a nurturing awareness of what is really present.”

Here again, in following Frank’s advice we are not “adding-to ill-will” … while also continuing to be a “source of harmlessness.”

Yet another reason to continue integrating this gem into our daily life navigation!

The gift keeps unfolding 🙂


— —- —

May you continue to live a life of neither creating nor adding-to any ill-will … and …

May you be a source of harmlessness while meeting fear in your life’s daily rhythm … and in all your interactions with others … and …

May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.


Opening quote from Albert Einstein, Ethics Quotes.
Quote re ill-will and harmlessness: a Zen paraphrased quote – source unknown.
Images: (edited and logo added): Featured and 1) Composite of a) Beautiful Sunset at Grant Tetons by kwiktor and b) Hands make heart shape by suriyaphoto, 2) Snapshot from the Frontline Responder’s Fund GoFundMe page, 3) Snapshot from the America’s Food Fund GoFundMe page, 4) Composite of a) Team around circle by deskcube and b) Eco green heart by file404, 5) Spectacular sunset on the beach of Arnao, Asturias, Spain by argusferreiro. All except 2&3 purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


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