This one is one of the most misinterpreted of Buddhists thought. For me, at least, I feel that a healthy amount of common sense and understanding of this writing needs to be applied. Let me show you what I mean.
I work at Trader Joe’s part time. It is a great job. I feel decent about the company as a whole. It has always done ok at providing for me and my family. I have full healthcare and a retirement account…and it is generally a decent place to work. Here is the write up on Right Livelihood.
Right livelihood means that one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
Ok here we go…#1 – Check! It is not my thing. #2 Check! I grew up on a farm. I agree with raising animals for your own consumption. I interpret this as giant feed lots and slaughterhouses. Undue suffering on countless cows can’t be good for anyone. #3 See number 2 – However it should be noted that the Buddha himself was NOT a vegetarian. That really pisses off a lot of vegans! ha ha. #4 I have ever had more than a sip of champagne. Its true. I just don’t drink. I do have to sell alcohol at Trader Joes. I suppose I could get out of register duties by saying that it is actually a concept that doesn’t jive well with my religious philosophy, but I have worked way crappier jobs for far less money. And if people want to buy something totally legal…or not legal I am not one to stand in their way.
For me, the end of the phrase here is really the key. Yes this stuff can be bad. Indeed, at times harmful or deadly to people…and animals. You should DO YOUR BEST to not cause that suffering with your job. How you see fit is really up to you! I hope that makes sense. Today at work I got to help a blind person through the store and shop. It was an awesome experience. I have done it a few times. But it makes me feel good about my job every time I do. so….I guess that sums this up. Take care.