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Karma In Jobs

I have been casually thinking about something that I would like to hear various opinions on.

If karma is basically 'action' via a conscious decision, and there are repercussions of said conscious action now or later, then what kind of ripples will be made if somebody works in say McDonalds, or at a bar. Let me elaborate.
Those who sell food that has killed millions of people through obesity etc, or those who sell alcohol to other people to earn money, do these people generate negative karma? The answer seems obvious to me and that would be a yes, but at what level?
Most people do not think about these things when they work, and sure the person buying is making their own decision to do so. But what difference (apart from the fact of it being illegal or legal by societies standards) is somebody selling you alcohol to somebody selling you weed, magic mushrooms, crack or heroin? Alcohol kills thousands of people annually but simply because it is legal surely does not detract from the fact that it causes suffering, and the seller should have something to do with that from a karmic point of view, right?

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 24

    The Buddha gave an outline of what jobs were unskilful, and they are as follows:

    " ... 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.
    "These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

    (Vanijja Sutta).

    The ultimate decision though, is for you to come to, and live with.

    CarlitaUkjunglist
  • CarlitaCarlita Om Vajrasattva Hum United States Veteran

    @federica said:
    The Buddha gave an outline of what jobs were unskilful, and they are as follows:

    " ... 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.
    "These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

    (Vanijja Sutta).

    The ultimate decision though, is for you to come to, and live with.

    What does The Buddha mean by business with human beings? You know?

  • @federica said:
    The Buddha gave an outline of what jobs were unskilful, and they are as follows:

    " ... 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.
    "These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

    (Vanijja Sutta).

    The ultimate decision though, is for you to come to, and live with.

    Thanks for that, I think I recall reading this a few years ago but I obviously have forgotten about it. And business with humans would mean human trafficking I assume?

  • CarlitaCarlita Om Vajrasattva Hum United States Veteran
    edited September 24

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I have been casually thinking about something that I would like to hear various opinions on.

    If karma is basically 'action' via a conscious decision, and there are repercussions of said conscious action now or later, then what kind of ripples will be made if somebody works in say McDonalds, or at a bar. Let me elaborate.

    The alcohol is a given. For example, my father has drunk alcohol his whole entire life. His kamma caught up with him. He had two liver surgeries (he doesn't want an implant) and because of the surgeries he has internal bleeding. He sound healthy even though doctors say he has six to a year to live. All cause and effect.

    Alcohol harms the body and mind. It's in the five precepts. Why intake or encourage (one way or another) someone to intake something that would cloud their mind and eventually harm them?

    With the animals, that's a hard call. I know monks have fasting rules. Other than what Federica quoted and basically eating what has been killed (another precept if it relates), I wouldn't know. That sounds like personal preference.

  • @Carlita said:

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I have been casually thinking about something that I would like to hear various opinions on.

    If karma is basically 'action' via a conscious decision, and there are repercussions of said conscious action now or later, then what kind of ripples will be made if somebody works in say McDonalds, or at a bar. Let me elaborate.

    The alcohol is a given. For example, my father has drunk alcohol his whole entire life. His kamma caught up with him. He had two liver surgeries (he doesn't want an implant) and because of the surgeries he has internal bleeding. He sound healthy even though doctors say he has six to a year to live. All cause and effect.

    Alcohol harms the body and mind. It's in the five precepts. Why intake or encourage (one way or another) someone to intake something that would cloud their mind and eventually harm them?

    With the animals, that's a hard call. I know monks have fasting rules. Other than what Federica quoted and basically eating what has been killed (another precept if it relates), I wouldn't know. That sounds like personal preference.

    Yeah I assumed alcohol was a given, but my point was at what level are the karmic repercussions for someone who works at a bar for example? Or the CEO of Carlsberg Larger... It was just an interesting thought that entered my mind. And about McDonalds, it is common knowledge that fast food has killed more people than alcohol and all drugs put together in the past decade. Someone working in McDonalds probably doesn't think too much about their hand in the process of
    terrible 'food' > consumer > poor health > death.
    They are just trying to pay their bills rather than slowly kill people.

  • CarlitaCarlita Om Vajrasattva Hum United States Veteran

    @Ukjunglist said:

    @Carlita said:

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I have been casually thinking about something that I would like to hear various opinions on.

    If karma is basically 'action' via a conscious decision, and there are repercussions of said conscious action now or later, then what kind of ripples will be made if somebody works in say McDonalds, or at a bar. Let me elaborate.

    The alcohol is a given. For example, my father has drunk alcohol his whole entire life. His kamma caught up with him. He had two liver surgeries (he doesn't want an implant) and because of the surgeries he has internal bleeding. He sound healthy even though doctors say he has six to a year to live. All cause and effect.

    Alcohol harms the body and mind. It's in the five precepts. Why intake or encourage (one way or another) someone to intake something that would cloud their mind and eventually harm them?

    With the animals, that's a hard call. I know monks have fasting rules. Other than what Federica quoted and basically eating what has been killed (another precept if it relates), I wouldn't know. That sounds like personal preference.

    Yeah I assumed alcohol was a given, but my point was at what level are the karmic repercussions for someone who works at a bar for example? Or the CEO of Carlsberg Larger... It was just an interesting thought that entered my mind. And about McDonalds, it is common knowledge that fast food has killed more people than alcohol and all drugs put together in the past decade. Someone working in McDonalds probably doesn't think too much about their hand in the process of
    terrible 'food' > consumer > poor health > death.
    They are just trying to pay their bills rather than slowly kill people.

    Since The Buddha did mention against alcohol it would cause karmic repercussions. I have to think about it a bit. I know there is more detail on the nature of how actions etc lead to what type of karma and its consequence or benefit. I read there are different types of karma so that confuses the situation even more.

    With McDonalds, I guess in one view you can view it as if you're working for McDonalds, you're working for an industry that promotes eating of animal products. Then again, I think only monks are bound by those restrictions. I'll get back to you sometime later.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 24

    @Ukjunglist said: Yeah I assumed alcohol was a given, but my point was at what level are the karmic repercussions for someone who works at a bar for example?

    The only repercussions you need worry about are those to you, if you take up that job. Basically, what you do with your life, is your decision, and you have to commit to accepting the consequences.
    What are those consequences? Well, that's not always cut-and-dried, black-and-white. I think Jiminy Cricket said it well: 'Always let your conscience be your guide'.
    Or as I put it, often:
    If it feels good - do it.
    When in doubt - don't.

    You can pretty much apply both bits of advice to pretty much everything you think, say and do.

    Or the CEO of Carlsberg Larger... It was just an interesting thought that entered my mind. And about McDonalds, it is common knowledge that fast food has killed more people than alcohol and all drugs put together in the past decade. Someone working in McDonalds probably doesn't think too much about their hand in the process of
    terrible 'food' > consumer > poor health > death.
    They are just trying to pay their bills rather than slowly kill people.

    Exactly.
    Which, at day's end, is all anyone is ever trying to do.
    It is for you - and you alone - to decide whether the means YOU CHOOSE TO ADOPT of paying those bills, is skilful or unskilful. For you.

    paulysodhammachick
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Carlita said:

    With McDonalds, I guess in one view you can view it as if you're working for McDonalds, you're working for an industry that promotes eating of animal products. Then again, I think only monks are bound by those restrictions. I'll get back to you sometime later.

    You need to check out the basic 5 Precepts. There is an interpretation factor involved.

    dhammachick
  • I agree, as always it seems, with everything @federica said. It's for you to feel out these things. Before you engage in employment, you have to guess how it might affect others. Then during your work, you can learn from experience and either renounce it or accept whatever karma is being produced.

    But I'm not sure that answers your question. At what level is this karma accumulating?

    I don't know. What are the levels? Does anyone have any knowledge about these things?

  • CarlitaCarlita Om Vajrasattva Hum United States Veteran

    @vinlyn said:

    @Carlita said:

    With McDonalds, I guess in one view you can view it as if you're working for McDonalds, you're working for an industry that promotes eating of animal products. Then again, I think only monks are bound by those restrictions. I'll get back to you sometime later.

    You need to check out the basic 5 Precepts. There is an interpretation factor involved.

    There are different viewpoints from different people. For me, I am trying to go vegetarian. One five precepts say no killing (I know them by heart; I took refuge in them). I said in One view you are working for an industry that promotes killing animals. Then again (Another view-I think) the monks get or bound by those type restrictions.

    I was reading about layman practices. Fasting is usually the day before and during a celebration. Meditation is encouraged but not a Law as for monks given our working. Giving to the Sangha and community and meditation are both layman practices. Culture has a lot involved in it too.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Karma is a fascinating subject to explore....

    For example....
    The world and all who sail in her are flux.... constant motion/action/change...

    What one does (an action) with wholesome intentions/skillfully, or unintentionally can (further down the line , through a sequence of events) have an unwholesome karmic impact upon another sentient being whose past karmic actions were done in an unskillful manner, with unwholesome intent...and vice versa :)

    As karmic bundles of vibrating energy flux, sentient beings flow through life in an active and reactive kinda way... We impact each other 'karmically' in a direct and indirect way...

    "For every action, there's a reaction"

    "Things are not quite what they seem-With karma on the scene"

    Life can be such a drama, hence why we practice the Buddha Dharma

    Ukjunglistlobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    But looking at things like alcohol and fast food, at what point do our individual choices become of the utmost importance? Of course all actions and words ripple outwards, and we should be aware of that. But many people aren't Buddhist and don't believe the things we believe. We don't get to put our beliefs on them any more than we want them to do so to us.

    It's interesting to ponder, but unless you are pondering from a point of view of yourself, it does little good to put it on others and spend a lot of time wondering about their decisions and their karma all while you miss contemplating your own life and decisions. If I make the choice to eat fast food, I accept the consequences on all levels. I don't shove them off onto someone else. If I drink too much wine and get sick, that isn't the fault of the sales person. It's my fault. If I worked a a bar, then I might have to consider that for myself. But I don't, so I don't worry too much about the people who do work there because it's none of my business as far as their karma goes. I have enough to deal with with my own!

    dhammachicklobster
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @karasti said:
    It's interesting to ponder, but unless you are pondering from a point of view of yourself, it does little good to put it on others and spend a lot of time wondering about their decisions and their karma all while you miss contemplating your own life and decisions. If I make the choice to eat fast food, I accept the consequences on all levels. I don't shove them off onto someone else. If I drink too much wine and get sick, that isn't the fault of the sales person. It's my fault. If I worked a a bar, then I might have to consider that for myself. But I don't, so I don't worry too much about the people who do work there because it's none of my business as far as their karma goes. I have enough to deal with with my own!

    IMNSHO This is important to remember. While we can make mindful choices karmically, we cannot choose for others, nor can we take responsibility for their actions. We also need to ensure we do not see ourselves as better than others because we do make those choices (eg. become vegans/vegetarians, abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants etc).

    BunksUkjunglist
  • Some interesting points, and yes I can see that unless you view such points from your own world position then things are almost irrelevant. However, I think that in thinking about other people's positions and actions can help put your actions into perspective. Looking at the world from different viewpoints is always a healthy activity and allows you to be brought out of the haze of your own ego.

    Cause and effect, small thoughts and actions have vastly greater repercussions down the line, as some people in this thread have said. Example, if my Dad didn't pick up a mechanics magazine when he was in his late teens, he wouldn't have gone to college to study engineering and he would not have met my Mother, thus I would not be here now as I am. Picking up a magazine to read is very trivial indeed, and then it caused two lives to be born. Not an example that fits in with the narrative of this thread, but it shows how everything we did can have profound reactions later in life. Something you say to someone, the way you act etc, it is all very important. And so we need to act skilfully and wise, with the upmost compassion.

    It is everybody's decision to do what they will and they own their actions, but if my actions helped them create other very negative actions, resulting in many ripples of profound negativity, I wouldn't feel like a happy-chappy because of it.

    paulysoCarlita
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    We should always be cautious of how we interact in the world. But to think we can have a clue what ripples we truly cause can still be ego in action. Thinking we know why a person is obese or thinking we have an impact on it. Thinking that we influenced what someone did instead of allowing them their own accountability. Assuming something that can cause harm always causes harm isn't good, either. There is always a balance to be struck. Suggesting that anyone who works or has worked at McDonald's is participating in ripples of profound negativity is quite a stretch, really. There are many positive interactions that happen as well, as a result. Like the many, many families who stay at Ronald McDonald houses around the world.

    One of my middle son's only memories of his father is a fun and memorable trip to McD, for example. It is something we do rarely, but sometimes when traveling. He was 5 when his dad died, and he has very few memories. If we hadn't gone, who knows if that memory would have been replaced by something good or not. Most likely it would have been just another mundane day with no memory attached. We can drive ourselves crazy looking back at all the things that might have been different (for good or bad). Every single day we make thousands of decisions to do and not do (or say) various things. Very few of them we do with much consideration of where that will take us in an hour or a month or a year. Because we'd go crazy trying to do so. We most all do the best we can with what we have in that moment.

    Ukjunglistpaulysolobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 25

    @Ukjunglist said:
    I have been casually thinking ...

    It is not your job :p

    Hi and welcome to McDharma ... ;)

    It is everybody's decision to do what they will and they own their actions, but if my actions helped them create other very negative actions, resulting in many ripples of profound negativity, I wouldn't feel like a happy-chappy because of it.

    Ukjunglist
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 25

    "The thought manifests as the word;
    The word manifests as the deed;
    The deed develops into habit;
    And habit hardens into character.
    So watch the thought and its ways with care,
    And let it spring from love
    Born out of concern for all beings."

    ~Not a quote from the Buddha BTW~

    It's interesting... actions have consequences...and in this modern day and age if one cares to think about it, it's obvious ...For example, every time we buy something from a shop, part of the money spent (be it directly or indirectly) goes towards the killing of other living beings and possibly their habitat destruction too...Insects rodents birds and many more creatures are impacted (more often than not in a negative way) by what we do intentionally or unintentionally ...

    Hence why if one can't stop the cycle completely, then "Do the least Harm Possible (Under The Present Circumstances)"

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Ukjunglist remember this:

    "He who deliberates fully before taking each step, will spend his entire life on one leg."

    lobsterCarlitadhammachicksilver
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 25

    Exactly so @federica

    We are a karmic ripple. Everything we do matters. Eating defenceless sardines (lobster raises guilty claw), being kind to unkind or difficult people - hard eh, especially when we are difficult (another guilty claw goes up). :3

    The important thing is forgiving ourselves and others and doing our best (best feet forward for non bipeds) ;)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited September 25

    @Shoshin but in a grocery store, the money isn't allocated dollar for dollar. If you buy meat, they don't turn around and say "Ok, this person who bought $4 worth of meat, $2 of that money is hereby allocated to buy more meat." If you shop AT ALL at a place that sells meat, you are contributing to them buying meat. Especially when you buy things with the highest markup since that is where they collect most of the money. Meat markup isn't terribly high. Stuff like pop/soda is though. So anyone who shops at any store selling anything they find questionable is still contributing to those issues.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 25

    @Ukjunglist said:
    The answer seems obvious to me and that would be a yes, but at what level?

    According to traditional interpretations of "wrong livelihood" it's essentially the proprietors, owners or commissioned salespeople, but not checkout clerks, stock clerks, line cooks, etc.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited September 26

    @techie said:
    I think it's better not to think of karma at all. It is often complex and confusing.

    True it can be quite complex and confusing ...but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater...It's important to have some understanding of karma according to Buddhist thought...

    @karasti said:
    @Shoshin but in a grocery store, the money isn't allocated dollar for dollar. If you buy meat, they don't turn around and say "Ok, this person who bought $4 worth of meat, $2 of that money is hereby allocated to buy more meat." If you shop AT ALL at a place that sells meat, you are contributing to them buying meat. Especially when you buy things with the highest markup since that is where they collect most of the money. Meat markup isn't terribly high. Stuff like pop/soda is though. So anyone who shops at any store selling anything they find questionable is still contributing to those issues.

    @karasti many shops in Western countries (especially shops that deal with food (also shops that sell other products too) must have pest management programmes in place, so money from the sale of their product (be it food/animal flesh/clothes etc) is used to 'pay' for these programmes...hence why I said directly or indirectly...

    Also as we build homes, we are destroying habitats... Driving a vehicle, walking down the street, we are crushing creatures under foot and wheel...

    This taking of life and destroying habitat may not be intentional on our part... just a necessity in order to live life... it's just the nature of the beast

    No doubt there are many more examples of where this kind of thing happens, but for the most part we pay it no mind....out of sight...out of mind

    lobster
  • yagryagr Veteran

    I've searched in vain since this thread appeared, trying to find a story I thought might be germane to the conversation, with no luck. Perhaps someone can give me some direction to find it if I describe it accurately and they have it handy...

    It was a piece by a Buddhist woman whose father was an executioner. She spoke about his karma related to his job and the larger web of karma including the judge who ordered the execution, etc. I found the piece to be insightful.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @yagr I couldn't find the article you mentioned but it may have been about Chavoret Jaruboon who was an executioner in Thailand....

    In Thailand’s Buddhist culture, capital punishment is sometimes justified in terms of karma, the doctrine that your actions for good and bad will be reflected in what happens to you in this life or the next. From the karmic point of view, an executioner is simply relieving his victim from their existential punishment, in the same way that Buddhist fishermen save fish from drowning by catching them. He settles their karma, as the saying goes.

    Chavoret rose over the years from prisoner escort, to gun aimer and loader to the senior position of trigger man. Executioners have karma issues too. “Killing is as universal sin” says Chavoret “but in Buddhism, killing without the vicious intention of hurting can settle your karma. If (the executioner) performs with clear mind and without taking pleasure he will show others that an executioner isn’t necessarily doomed to fail in life because of bad karma. Also, if he behaves, goodness will protect him.”

    Thailand dropped its culturally hybrid execution system in 2002, replacing it with lethal injection. Four people have been executed at Bang Kwang since then. Chavoret Jaruboon took this opportunity to leave the executioner’s job, and after a short time at a Buddhist monastery now serves as the prison’s Director of the Foreign Affairs Section, where he is responsible for all non-Thai inmates, including 15 British nationals.

    yagr
  • Karma has to do with the imprints we make within ourselves. Imprints made by every action, spoken word, and by those thoughts and feelings that we dwell upon and feed within ourselves.
    Even accidental actions that harm others create some negative imprints within us .. but when we intend to take that harmful action, the imprint is much stronger. And when we rejoice afterwards over what we have done, the imprint is stronger still.

    A server at McDonald's has not killed the animal that is being served. The selling of the hamburgers will continue whether or not they work there ... and by selling hamburgers they are not intending harm to other living beings. I doubt if there is much negative karma at all.
    And, in fact, Buddha was pragmatic enough to allow his followers to eat meat, if that was what was offered into the monk's begging bowl. Some Buddhists do not eat meat. Others do. Even the Dalai Lama, once he got older and began to have health problems, started eating meat on the advice of his doctors.
    But none of them KILL to get the meat.

    As for serving alcohol, this is not the same thing as choosing to become intoxicated. The Buddhist Precept against becoming intoxicated/stoned/whatever .. is the attempt to maintain a conscious, alert, mindful awareness. Both for the practice of Buddhism, and also to avoid accidental actions that might harm others. And, in fact, the Lama at the center I attend tells us that the more time a person spends in an intoxicated frame of mind, the more likely they will be karmically drawn to a rebirth in a body that has impaired intelligence/awareness.
    So there is a huge difference between serving alcohol and drinking alcohol.

    Finally, remember that all positive imprints/actions/karmas are very strong in their impact on us. Even random acts of kindness do much to ameliorate the impact of negative actions we have taken.
    Rather than use the concept of karma as a way to fear or to chastise ourselves (so prevalent in Western society), use it as a way to motivate ourselves to become more aware of our choices and even of where we allow our mind and emotions to wander ... as an aid to increasing our mindfulness.

    silverlobsterdhammachick
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