In June of 2012 I lost my job. Finding myself unemployed in a job market that is less than favorable took some adjustment. However, there are several positive aspects to this situation. For example, deep down, when I was honest with myself, I really didn’t want to work where I was working anyway. I had an inner-conflict about it. It’s not that the actual job I did was anything particularly nefarious (I supported eCommerce), but I did realize that the aims, motives, practices and so forth of the company I worked for were truly in conflict with the rest of my life. You can say I became acutely aware of the principle of Right Livelihood.
Without getting into all of the details, or naming names, I felt that I would search for work in the non-profit, humanitarian sector rather than going back to the corporate world (which generally tends to thrive on deceit, manipulation, greed and so forth). For a time I had the opportunity to volunteer at a refugee resettlement center in my local area. This was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately they were unable to hire me for a paid position and eventually my savings ran dry so I had to stop volunteering as I couldn’t afford the gas to get myself there. At present I am actively looking for work in the non-profit sector, hoping something opens up soon.
Regarding Right Livelihood, one of the branches of the Noble Eightfold Path, I understand that Lord Buddha explicitly prohibited the following vocations for laypersons (such as myself):
A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.
[Source is AN 5.177]
I realize that Buddha does not specifically mention business in finance (like the company I worked for) however, I am looking more at the spirit of the message here. I may be wrong but I feel that the five types of business that Buddha prohibits all point, in one form or another, to breaking the layperson’s vows (aka the Five Precepts), which are as follows:
- To refrain from killing
- To refrain from stealing
- To refrain from false speech
- To refrain from sexual misconduct
- To refrain from using intoxicants
During my 12 year stint in various corporate jobs, I have found that breaking number 2 ( To refrain from stealing) and number 3 (To refrain from false speech) are pretty much par for the course. Corporate policies can often essentially be interpreted as taking what is not given (i.e. stealing). When I research the background of various companies I have worked for, this becomes quite evident. Also, having worked a good deal of time on the phone, directly interfacing with customers, I found that if I was honest, told the truth, etc, I would get pressure and threats from my management team. There is typically a corporate spin put on what we are allowed to say and what we are not allowed to say. It is often extremely deceptive and geared towards the company making profits off of the ignorance and/or naivete of its customers. So now I am faced with a complete career change midstream in my life and during a time of global financial collapse. But I am hopeful. I feel if I focus Right Intention and exert Right Effort I will be able to meet my responsibilities and find a path to Right Livelihood.