Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

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Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby tomamundsen » Thu Mar 29, 2012 6:05 pm

Hello DharmaWheel,

I am a programmer at a research institute funded primarily by the US Army. For the past few years, I was working on projects related to treating wounded veterans with various psychological disorders and physiological conditions (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Meningitis, etc.). However, a month or so ago, those projects lost some funding and could only pay some of my salary. I had a few other groups at our institute asking me if I was interested in working on their projects. However, one of these project leaders has a close relationship with my boss, so they pretty much put me onto his project without me really having a say in the issue.

The thing is that this project is all about training military soldiers to be able perform better in battle. They use various devices to capture psychophysiological data (heart rate, breathing rate, skin conductance, EEG, etc.) and put them through simulations of common scenarios in theater. They look at the results and determine if the soldier is desensitized enough to be OK for battle. So, basically it's my job to do the programming on those simulations and integrating them with the psychophysiological devices.

Does this constitute wrong livelihood?
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:18 pm

Well, it seems so.
In the end you risk help making human beings better killing machines. Desensitizing them is making the whole war theater, that should be offending to our psyche, look like something natural. If on one hand a calm (through desensitization) soldier can make better decisions like avoiding random shooting caused by stress, on the other it will be easier for him to kill others. You're between a rock and a hard place, I guess.
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Astus » Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:11 am

Two explicitly mentioned business among the others in the list of forms of wrong livelihood are dealing with weapons and poisons. Both are meant to harm beings. So, even if one is not a butcher or murderer himself, creating and selling means of murder is a type of wrong livelihood. That makes the case of training soldiers for battle another form of wrong livelihood. Note, however, that wrong livelihood is not equal to actually doing something evil, it is not the same as generating bad karma, especially as long as one does not condone and agree with evil acts.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:10 am

Yeah, however since you currently lack intent, you shouldn't be generating negative karma now.
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:59 am

Yea, I know its not the same karma. However, it does mean that I am missing one of the five personal advantages to engage in Dharma practice, which is a pretty big deal. I will have to discuss it with my lama, I suppose.

Thanks, guys.
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:47 am

Any job in the US military is wrong livelihood except for medic and other healthcare jobs I suppose
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:12 am

I don't think so.

In any situation, there is no absolute right and absolute wrong.

If we see the life of butcher, it seems that that job is the sin job. No matter how you think, there is no chance that butcher job can be wholesome. But this is not true. If you see the life of Tilopa, he killed fish and eat it. What is the different between killing fish and butcher?

So, in whatever situation, there is always something that can make unwholesome become wholesome. Tilopa has something that can turn killing becoming not killing.

Of course, as lay person like us, it is very difficult to think that we can kill the fish like Tilopa because we are still ignorant.

However, the point I want to make is in whatever situation, there is nothing absolute right and there is nothing absolute wrong.

Make a program to check the health of soldier for example, I don't think that is a must be bad job, because you somehow save the live for that soldier. But, whether you help creating war machine or not, it is like someone who create the kitchen knife and people use that kitchen knife to kill. The fault is not on the poeple who create the kitchen knife, the fault is on the people who use that kitchen knife to kill.

Unless when you make that kitchen knife, you have the intention to kill as well, then you are also wrong. But if you don't have that motive at all, how can you be wrong?

Whether your work is wholesome or not it depends on your motivation for the work. You make the software or not, the war is still there, unavoidable.

Is the war really bad? This is a very difficult question. I cannot imagine how many people will die if USA doesn't fmdrop bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In Buddhism as well, there is wrathful deity and peaceful deity. Sometime the action of killing can be seen as the action of helping.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:08 pm

DarwidHalim wrote:If we see the life of butcher, it seems that that job is the sin job. No matter how you think, there is no chance that butcher job can be wholesome. But this is not true. If you see the life of Tilopa, he killed fish and eat it. What is the different between killing fish and butcher?
Oh, there is one slight, teeny weeny little difference: Tilopa was a Mahasiddha and the majority of butchers out there are ignorant human beings motivated by the three poisons. It's a small yet important difference that you may have overlooked.
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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Astus » Fri Mar 30, 2012 12:57 pm

DarwidHalim wrote:In any situation, there is no absolute right and absolute wrong.


Buddhism has quite clear ethical standards, with its basis in non-violence and compassion. Karma is not negotiable nor avoidable. Excuses only strengthen ignorance about it.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:08 pm

If we have not realize no self, there is unavoidable right and wrong. Karma is unavoidable. And excuse is the ignorant act.

But all of them are not valid for mahasiddha who has realized no self.

So, for this case, it really depends on the realization of the 'actor'.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:57 pm

So, until you have realised the true nature of self and dwell in mahamudra 24-7 it is probably a REALLY good idea to engage solely in wholesome activities as outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path, at least that way you won't be accumulating even more negative outcomes.

Best to leave the moral relativism to the (deluded) post-modernists and the (realised) bodhisattvas.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Mr. G » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:43 pm

    Although your realization is equal to that of the buddhas', make offerings
    to the Three Jewels. Although you have gained mastery over your mind, direct
    your innermost aims towards the Dharma. Although the nature of the Great
    Perfection is supreme, don't disparage other teachings.

    Although you have realized that buddbas and sentient beings are equal,
    embrace all beings with compassion. Although the paths and bhumis are beyond
    training and journeying, don't forsake purifying your obscurations through
    Dharma activities. Although the accumulations are beyond gathering, don't
    sever the roots of conditioned virtue.

    Although your mind lies beyond birth and death, this illusory body does
    die, so practice while remembering death. Although you experience dharmata
    free from thought, maintain the attitude of bodhichitta. Although you have
    attained the fruition of dharmakaya, keep company with your yidam deity.

    Although dharmakaya is not some other place, seek the true meaning. Although
    buddhahood is not anywhere else, dedicate any virtue you create towards
    unexcelled enlightenment. Although everything experienced is original
    wakefulness, don't let your mind stray into samsara.


    - Guru Padmasambhava - The Jewel Spike Testament
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:05 pm

Yes, that is true.

For anyone who realize no self, he created no karma at all. Even he does offering, there is no karma for him. Even he kill, there is no karma for him. Because for him, there is no such thing called offering, killing. He is untouched by karma. It is very dangerous here for someone who think he has fully realized no self to do action such as killing, etc as if nothing can touch him.

However, for dualistic person like us, who is subjected to karma, we are not always in the ideal situation. There is a situation that we cannot avoid in life. So, if we are skillful, action that normally give bad karma, can be turned to become a good karma.

THere are 4 factors that determine what karma will you get. I cannot remember all, it is in lam rim. The point here is, even in dualistic world, there is still nothing called absolute.

The extreme example of killing is the best example. If by killing someone, that is the only possible way to save him from doing unlimited and unimaginable karma, with that good motivation, that action is wholesome.

If someone tied your leg and you cannot move at all, and you see your friend want to kill his mother, if at that moment you can grab the gun, and to your best possible efforts shoot him is the best way to save him to be reborn in the hell, doing it with that mindset is wholesome, not only for you, but also for the mother, and also for the murderer. You save the murderer from the worst hell.

But if we don't know something called relative, and because at that moment you think oh if I shoot him, I will o bad karma, let him kill his mother, because that is already their karma. Because we have this mindset called absolute right and absolute wrong, because of this, you have actually failed to save anyone.

Motivation is the chief that determine whether something is right or wrong in dualistic world, not the action. Because motivation can varies, there is no room for absoluteness. Everything is relative. Relative to your motivation.

Even war, it is very difficult to say this is right and wrong, all depends on the motivation of that bomber and the shooter.

FOr this topic, which is livelihood, you can't tell it is right or wrong, because there is no absolute. It can be right, it can be wrong.

So, you should rely on your motivation to do the work. If you do the program with the motivation to make the soldier more powerful to kill blindly, that is wrong from dualistic point of view. Bad karma is for you.

But if you do the programming to make the soldier more powerful in capturing the head of terrorist whose life is training bomb for many many terrorist and whose job is doing bombing in the marketplace, train, all over the world, you cannot say your job is bad or sinful. In this case, you have the role to prevent chaos. There is no reason why good karma is not for you.

In dharma, there is called dharma protector, to give some lessons for anyone who want to destroy dharma. The action of harming can be seen as harming and also can be seen as helping.

It all depends on your motivation.

Doing the same thing, black become white, white become black, relative to motivation.
Last edited by DarwidHalim on Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:17 pm

Although your realization is equal to that of the buddhas', make offerings
to the Three Jewels. Although you have gained mastery over your mind, direct
your innermost aims towards the Dharma. Although the nature of the Great
Perfection is supreme, don't disparage other teachings.

Although you have realized that buddbas and sentient beings are equal,
embrace all beings with compassion. Although the paths and bhumis are beyond
training and journeying, don't forsake purifying your obscurations through
Dharma activities. Although the accumulations are beyond gathering, don't
sever the roots of conditioned virtue.

Although your mind lies beyond birth and death, this illusory body does
die, so practice while remembering death. Although you experience dharmata
free from thought, maintain the attitude of bodhichitta. Although you have
attained the fruition of dharmakaya, keep company with your yidam deity.

Although dharmakaya is not some other place, seek the true meaning. Although
buddhahood is not anywhere else, dedicate any virtue you create towards
unexcelled enlightenment. Although everything experienced is original
wakefulness, don't let your mind stray into samsara.


- Guru Padmasambhava - The Jewel Spike Testament

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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby tomamundsen » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:24 pm

Ryoto wrote:Any job in the US military is wrong livelihood except for medic and other healthcare jobs I suppose

I don't actually work for the military. I work for a research institute that is subsidized by a university. The reality is that most funding for scientific research in the US comes from the military. Not many people here are actually that interested in the military aspect of our projects, even the neuroscience people. The military is just another domain to do research in our respective fields that actually has a lot of money to fund us. But the real purpose of our work is to do research on simulations and humans in general.
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Astus » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:30 pm

DarwidHalim wrote:Everything is relative. Relative to your motivation.


Not exactly. Murder does not have good motivation, neither does war, theft, etc. So you get the ten wrong deeds of body, speech and mind. And it is quite misleading to say that enlightened beings are not affected by karma. It is intentional act that generates merits, with wisdom one makes infinite merits and so the form-body becomes. While it is stated by some texts that all the events in Shakyamuni's life were a teaching, a display, it was the show of causality regarding the illusion-body of a perfectly enlightened one, not to mention bodhisattvas and arhats.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby DarwidHalim » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:39 pm

None of beings who have realize no self will be affected by karma.

When there is no self, how can you have action?

When you have no action, how can you have the object of action?

It brings to the third question: When there is no self, how can you have the object of action?

THat is why, anyone who have fully realize no self, they are always free from actor, action, and object of action.

The sword cannot hurt the sky no matter how you sway the sword, just because the sky doesn't have self. Same thing, no matter how you do, nothing can hurt you, because during that action, dualistic people see there is action, but from enlightened being, during that period, there is no action.

All Mahasiddhas won't care what we are going to say about them. They can drink anything, they can eat fish, they can drink beer, they can do anything. It is because they have absolutely free from these actor, action, and object. But these actions are not foolish action like what dualistic people do.
I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:59 pm

Thanks for the lesson, but let's get back to the original point: I'm gonna take a bet and say tomamundsen is not a Mahasiddha, Buddha, Bodhisattva on the last bhumi, Arhat, etc... That his actions will have outcomes. Given this, and given that currently his job will entail "programming" human killing machines (and given that the US governments motivation is just a little suspect) I would ask you Tom: "What are your chances of finding another job, or asking to be put on a different project within the same organisation (since it is not a military organisation anyway)?"

That's what I would do and thus save myself all the moral dilema you are currently facing.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:07 pm

tomamundsen wrote:
Ryoto wrote:Any job in the US military is wrong livelihood except for medic and other healthcare jobs I suppose

I don't actually work for the military. I work for a research institute that is subsidized by a university. The reality is that most funding for scientific research in the US comes from the military. Not many people here are actually that interested in the military aspect of our projects, even the neuroscience people. The military is just another domain to do research in our respective fields that actually has a lot of money to fund us. But the real purpose of our work is to do research on simulations and humans in general.

It would be a nice idea to discuss this with you lama, as you said. I've explained why your actual research seems to fit under wrong livelihood, but in a matter so closely related to your life as your job must be, it's better to rely on your teacher's advice.
If you lose your job and get unemployed, the resulting difficulties may be overwhelming and your Dharma practice can come to a halt. OTOH, if you generate very nasty karma, in the future you may face dire circumstances that will make practice harder. Thus I've said you're between a rock and a hard place. If you can somehow avoid doing that particular research (and similar), without losing your job, that would be the best option in my opinion. :smile:
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Re: Is My Job Wrong Livelihood?

Postby tomamundsen » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:44 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:
Ryoto wrote:Any job in the US military is wrong livelihood except for medic and other healthcare jobs I suppose

I don't actually work for the military. I work for a research institute that is subsidized by a university. The reality is that most funding for scientific research in the US comes from the military. Not many people here are actually that interested in the military aspect of our projects, even the neuroscience people. The military is just another domain to do research in our respective fields that actually has a lot of money to fund us. But the real purpose of our work is to do research on simulations and humans in general.

It would be a nice idea to discuss this with you lama, as you said. I've explained why your actual research seems to fit under wrong livelihood, but in a matter so closely related to your life as your job must be, it's better to rely on your teacher's advice.
If you lose your job and get unemployed, the resulting difficulties may be overwhelming and your Dharma practice can come to a halt. OTOH, if you generate very nasty karma, in the future you may face dire circumstances that will make practice harder. Thus I've said you're between a rock and a hard place. If you can somehow avoid doing that particular research (and similar), without losing your job, that would be the best option in my opinion. :smile:

Thanks Dechen (and everyone else). That about wraps up the thread.
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