Buddha's Teachings: The Eightfold Path - 5. Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva)
by Delight Yoga
"To practice Right Livelihood (samma ajiva), you have to find a way to earn your living without transgressing your ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Welcome to September, and to our fifth monthly theme. After having discussed the first four steps of the Buddha's Eightfold Path over the past months, we have arrived at the fifth: Right Livelihood.
"Right Livelihood" concerns the importance of earning a living in an ethical manner, a dilemma that often comes up, and one that is especially sensitive when working in a yoga studio. Yoga and money seem like opposing forces - we often get questions about how one can "profit" off of yoga, or what it is like to work in the yoga industry.
This month's theme is a unique edition, as it has been collaboratively written by various members of the Delight Team. We joined forces in order to elaborate on what Right Livelihood means, how Delight Yoga tries to work from a place of compassion for others, and how we can live Right Livelihood in 2020.
First, let's discuss what "Right Livelihood" is in the first place, and how earning money can intersect with a Buddhist lifestyle.
"Right Livelihood" relates to the Five Precepts in Buddhism: not killing, not stealing, not misusing sex, not lying, and not abusing intoxicants (you may recognize these rules from previous monthly themes). The Buddha elaborates that in order to practice Right Livelihood, one should not do business in "weapons, human beings, meat, intoxicants, and poison." This part is easily avoided at Delight as well as most workplaces, but what does "Right Livelihood" mean for the average worker in the 21st century?
Well, according to The Buddha's Teaching on Prosperity by Bhikku Basnagoda Rahula, "The layperson’s objective [is to] live a long and dignified life with the wealth obtained through rightful means.” We all need to work in order to earn money so we can support ourselves and our families, and here the Buddha defines how one can do this in an ethical manner, one that does not bring harm to others. This is where the yogic principle of "Ahimsa" also comes in.
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning 'non-harm' or 'non-violence', and yogic philosophy teaches that living Ahimsa means believing that everyone and everything is sacred, including oneself. Bringing Ahimsa into our workplaces, choosing to earn money ethically, honestly, and from a place of love for others is Right Livelihood.
Delight Yoga and Right Livelihood
Delight Yoga was created to help people to connect to their true Self and find a place of inner peace. We have the intention to infuse Ahimsa into each action we take, coming from a place of love. Our mission has always been to work for the benefit of others, but we also express Right Livelihood through investing in ethically sourced products and being honest with our community. While we may not be perfect, it is important that we always try to listen and learn so we can continually improve.
Having said this, in recent months, a new sense of what Right Livelihood means has emerged due to the global Black Lives Matter movement.
Ahimsa teaches us to practice non-violence to all beings in word, deed and even in thought, to be aware of how our internal behaviour affects the world around us, and to live our lives with love and compassion. From this place of truth we listen, learn, speak, and take action. Speaking up against violence and injustice is yoga.
We have heard the world speak up for those who are unable to live in peace due to external power structures. We feel it is important to create awareness and inspire actions against injustice. Which brought us to the following questions:
- How can we be an ethical organization?
- How can we support and engage with diversity?
- What have we been missing in this discussion that we can change?
- How can we change our behaviour and make an impact in our community?
Our plans of action:
We feel it is important to make yoga more accessible and inclusive. To support the path to a more inclusive yoga world, we are happy to announce that we will offer Community Yoga classes in Amsterdam twice a week from September on.
With the Community Yoga classes, Delight Yoga is aiming to make the ancient teachings of yoga accessible to everyone, including those who are interested but would normally not have the ability to come to our classes regularly.
In the near future, we will organize Ahimsa Sessions. With these sessions we will create safe spaces to amplify voices, to raise awareness and inspire actions against injustice. We will come together to speak, to listen and to reflect on experiences from a place of truth, without having to justify, explain or defend the truth of those lived experiences. We will end all sessions with a loving-kindness meditation to cultivate love and kindness to all living beings.
We hope that these sessions will create a long-term focus on diversity in the yoga world, reaching beyond our own organization and influencing the Right Livelihood of other studios and spaces around us.
We would like to conclude by asking you for any feedback, suggestions, and inspiration. We would love to hear from you.
The Delight Yoga Team