Right Livelihood

I wrote this review of J. Krishnamurti's "Right Livelihood" to summarize and share my understanding of the book with others who have livelihood issues.

Krishnamurthi himself was an independent lecturer and author who rejected traditional religions and nationality. He even rejected his inherited position as a leader and guru of a prestigious and wealthy international spiritual organization. His initial act as its leader was to dissolve the organization, saying that truth was a pathless (and therefore leaderless) land. He is the author of perhaps one hundred books dating from the 1940s until his death in 1986.

In a related book "On Fear" K advocates observing without choice or judgment fear within oneself. He distinguished between physical fear of real danger, to which one will react appropriately, and social and psychological fears, which can be pathological and destructive, and urged careful attention to one's psychological and social fears. One can become more attentive and aware of fear's symptoms, and thereby avoid reacting inappropriately. In becoming attentive, one's native intelligence mediates the response to fears. Perhaps the key theme underlying most of his selections was to be aware of fear's symptoms now, rather than to use some psychological or therapeutic theory.

In "On Right Livelihood" he advocated:

* Do what you love (K himself loved giving talks, writing, and meeting people)
* Watch yourself, without choice or judgment, be aware, etc.
* Do not do things that cause or exacerbate conflicts within yourself or with others.

The appeal of doing what you love (that does not occasion conflicts within yourself or with others) is obvious, but it does not appear commensurate with "making a living". The ideal is simply to do what you love completely and wholeheartedly, with the implicit belief that financial or other support will happen. In actuality it may happen, but without security, continuation, position, or status, and the heart falters. Most families need security. Those who have it physically may still know it is impossible to be secure. Support from the happenstance of jobs, inheritance, or luck, or stemming from sources who are themselves enmeshed in conflicts, may have unattractive consequences and contingencies. A personal solution cannot be achieved in isolation, but the process of working it out can resolve some difficulties, and in fact work relationships constitute much of life

The main problem, for most of us, may be to recognize or arrive at what we love to do, while addressing our conflicts within our means and options.

As his principle approach to mindfulness K advocated watching oneself, without choice or judgment. One should be aware of thought and emotion; what caused it, where it came from, etc., particularly envy, greed, avarice, anger/hatred, competitive desires, etc. K felt that most of us, the vast majority, live mediocre, meaningless lives, and suffer from repetitious work that tends to make one dull. K noted that the world's jobs, so avidly sought, are mostly repetitious and degrading. (The conflict within oneself however is in not wanting to do the work; if you just do the work, you resolve the conflict. Personal conflicts are due to our competing with our own ideals, or for position, recognition, and rewards.)

K implies in just doing a job without wanting otherwise one's mind can be still be free, fully alive and awake, and refreshed, and one will react to the job's demands appropriately. It seems implicit that one will respond correctly to any need or situation if one is aware of inner factors, particularly one's inner conflicts.

Was K enlightened, or was he enmeshed with the world's greed, avarice, and corruption that he condemned? I infer that both were true; he felt the world's problems, "I am the world... (its problems are my) burning issues". He easily defended himself against some listeners' obvious doubts about his altruism.

He also said that there is a need for radical transformation both within oneself and throughout all of society. His "radical transformation" seems akin to Zen's enlightenment. Perhaps he lived with radical transformation; fully conscious life may be radical transformation.

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