Work Haven

Right Livelihood is
Sustainable Livelihood


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Sanity, Compassion, and Work
Discovering, preserving and making available ancient and modern wisdom of all sorts, practical or profound, arising from whatever tradition, is the general goal that inspires the Dharma Haven Web site. We keep coming back to a basic truth of the ancient Shambhala teachings: We all want to lead sane, dignified and confident lives, and this is possible.

On this particular page, our focus is work -- including business, money and the economy, but also including ways of living that don't require these things. We're looking for examples of sustainable, effective, respectful work practices that could serve as components of a sane and compassionate approach to livelihood.

The selection of work practices highlighted here is not at all comprehensive. These are all outstanding examples, superb contributions to the development of a sustainable society, but we've focused mainly on methods that are not widely known. 

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"There is a Moral Sense, and there is an Immoral Sense. History shows us that the Moral Sense enables us to perceive morality, and how to avoid it; and that the Immoral Sense enables is to perceive immorality and how to enjoy it."
-- Mark Twain

Right Livelihood and The Eightfold Path

It might seem that Right Livelihood is the aspect of the Eightfold Path that is relevant to removing "miserable states of existence" from our working lives -- but that would be a superficial approach, of limited use. The Eightfold Path is a system, and all the eight aspects apply to every part of human life.

Right View, seeing things as they actually are, without constant reference to hope and fear, is the key to the joy of effective action. 

Right Intention -- purity of motive -- follows from that: accepting the actual situation lets us work with what is, without manipulation or coercion. 

That, in turn, makes possible Right Speech: We can just say what needs to be said, very simply in a genuine way. 

Right Discipline comes next: We can give up our tendency to complicate issues, and relax into a simple straight-forward relationship with our job, the people we work with, and the needs of our family.

That simplicity makes Right Livelihood possible: we can appreciate our work, whatever it is, and do it properly and thoroughly, with no need to "get it over with." This lets us choose to do whatever most needs doing.

Right Effort then arises from realizing that there is no need to struggle at all. When we see things as they are, we can work with them, gently and without any kind of aggression -- any effort to manipulate or coerce -- whatsoever. 

With Right Mindfulness, then, comes precision and clarity, mindful of the tiniest details of our work and our working relationships. 

Finally, Right Concentration, brings freedom from absentmindedness and indulgence in entertainment and speculation, completely relaxed in awareness of the actual moment, right here, right now.

This begins to happen when we develop some sort of contemplative discipline, such as sitting meditation or contemplative arts or movement. Without such disciplined practice, the eightfold path is inaccessible. 

To see the path, we need a space or gap in our preoccupation with our conceptualized version of things. Once we begin to relate to things simply, as they are, that way of living expands naturally into all the facets of our lives. 

The Ancient Wisdom of Shambhala

Unbiased awareness of what is actually going on, within ones own being and in ones environment, automatically leads to appropriate action. When ones mind and body are synchronized, when what is actually happening is experienced on the spot, actions mesh with situations as they truly are. Developing such basic sanity, such authentic presence in the actual situation, is possible for all of us.

"Making Peace With Time"

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Working Models
Here we are pleased to list a few superb examples of sustainable, effective, respectful work practices that could indeed serve as components of a sane and compassionate approach to livelihood. (Actually, all of the models given on any of the Five havens pages are relevant here.)

patch adams  gaviotas  tibetan medicine

Tibetan Medicine: The Wisdom of Natural Healing

Imagine a medical tradition, highly effective, offering medicines that produce no lasting negative side effects, sustainably using resources of the natural environment, and fostering basic sanity and compassion as the essential basis of health and well being. It seems that several classical Asian cultures embodied such traditions, and elements of those medical traditions, in the form of Chinese herbal medicine, Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Tibetan medicine, are now beginning to gain respect in the West.

Through the link given above, Dharma Haven offers Web pages on many different aspects of Tibetan medicine, including its spiritual basis in Buddhism, generally, and in the Medicine Buddha, in particular.

Patch Adams and the Gesundheit! Health Institute

Can medical care be provided in a way that is both sane and compassionate? Patch adams and his friends, with their Gesundheit! Institute, hope to show us one alternative by creating a hospital and health-care facility with some unusual guidelines:

Not charging any money, to eliminate the distorting effect of greed on health care in our society; Carrying no malpractice insurance; Staff and patients living together in an environment that is not only hospital but also home -- farm, theatre, crafts centre, recreational facility, in a beautiful material setting, with the hospital ae especially silly, playful place; Having respect for and working in cooperation with healers from all traditions; Holding to the fundamental goal of living healthy lives and not just conquering sickness.

Gaviotas: The Village Who Planted Trees

In Gaviotas, Columbia, and the surrounding region, the appropriate technology movement is thriving. An experimental community in the wastelands has accidentally restored a rainforest, along with the hearts of its people.

"Gaviotans live in peace surrounded by narcotics dealers and guerillas. They live without guns, without pesticides, willing to serve and teach all comers. They count their wealth in sun, water, and community."

We'll be continuing to look for projects and methods that can serve as models, and for specific practices that solve certain specific problems in ways that may be generalizable to other problems. Suggestions of appropriate examples would, of course, be warmly welcomed.

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Money Matters

"If you loose your mind, come back."
-- Shambhala Buddhist Slogan

Gold Ocean! -- an online journal dedicated to the search for Intelligent Economic Life.

"By intelligent we mean cheerful, compassionate, ethical, colorful, and fruitful economic life."

"The inspiration of Gold Ocean! is to illuminate all aspects of economic life, including financial planning, career issues, and current events from a practical yet "spiritual" point of view. It is also to enrich appreciation for the context in which we all work through articles and essays on economic history and society."

"The pursuit of money in small-minded ways is akin to drinking bad water."

Redefining Progress -- home of the Genuine Progress Index.

"The official definitions of progress confuse more with better, costs with gains, borrowing with earnings, and means with ends. To achieve real progress we must learn to distinguish these again."

GPI Atlantic is a non-profit research group which is currently constructing a Genuine Progress Index (GPI) for Nova Scotia; integrating social and environmental factors into our economic accounts.

"Our growth statistics were never meant to be used as a measure of progress, as they are today. Are we better off as a result of decades of continuous economic growth? Certainly we have bigger houses and more cars, appliances, and home-entertainment equipment. We are also less peaceful and secure,  three times more likely to be victims of crime than our parents a generation ago. Average unemployment rates have risen each decade. Our jobs are more insecure. Our debt levels are higher. Real incomes are declining. Child poverty is increasing.

* * *

Activities that degrade our quality of life, such as crime, pollution, and addictive gambling, make the economy grow. The more fish we sell, and the more trees we cut down, the more the economy grows. We assign no value to the natural resources on which our economic wealth is ultimately based, and we count their depletion as gain in our growth statistics. This is like a factory owner selling off his machinery and counting it as profit, with no regard to the reduced flow of goods and services in the future. Growth is simply a quantitative increase in the physical scale of the economy, and tells us nothing about our well-being." -- 

Dr. Ronald Colman, Director

"Measuring Genuine Progress"

Research Potential Employers: Hoover's

Socially Responsible Companies: Calvert

Companies Awarded the Baldridge Quality Award
Investing: Quality Pays

Corporation for Enterprise Development

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More Resources

Haven Home: Community

Net Quest Work Links

Net Quest Earth Links

Right Livelihood Award Recipients


Beyond Growth : The Economics of Sustainable Development -- Herman E. Daly. 

The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability -- Paul Hawken.

Economics for the Common Good -- Mark A. Lutz.
"The book builds on an ethical foundation rooted in the logic of common sense, a common human nature, universal human rights, and an innate human dignity. It's an attempt to challenge conventional economics and the so-called economic way of thinking on grounds that are meant to be both more human and more logical." 

Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age -- Michael H. Shuman.

Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics -- Jane Jacobs. Review (Whole Earth).

The New Economics: For Industry, Government, Education -- W. Edwards Deming 

Total Improvement Management: The next generation in performance improvement -- H. James Harrington with James S. Harrington.

Reinventing Electric Utilities -- Ed Smeloff, et al

Mid-Course Correction -- Ray Anderson

Eco-efficiency -- Livio D. Desimone, et al. 

The Natural Step for Business -- Brian Nattrass, et al

Turning Off the Heat -- Thomas R. Casten

Charging Ahead -- John J. Berger and Lester C. Thurow 

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Revised on October 8, 2000

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