Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week - On Work

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week from Snow Lion Publications is on "right work."
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and Dr. Howard C. Cutler

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Question: ...Let's say an individual starts analyzing, but then they discover that the type of work they are doing is ultimately harmful for the environment. Or let's say they make a part that is used for weapons. Once they think about it, they realize that it is not productive--in fact, it's destructive in some way. And yet at the same time, maybe they don't have a lot of resources--they can't just quit their job and look for a better job because they have a family to support and there aren't many other industries in their area. I'm wondering if you could address that issue in view of your definition of 'right livelihood.'

Dalai Lama: This is a very complicated question. There are so many factors at play here, it is very difficult to come up with a definitive approach to this question. On the one hand, if your work turns out to be part of weapons production, if you look at the immediate purpose of a weapon, then you will come to realize that this is for destruction, this is for killing. But at the same time if you look at the picture from the vantage point of overall society, unless there is a fundamental change in the society as a whole, for defense purposes for the society, or even on the global level, nations do need weapons for security purposes. Especially in the American case, you look at the fact that in the world there are totalitarian regimes who are against democracy. I think so long as those nations are there, the American military power must remain. But then again if the President used American military power for destruction or elimination of a single individual, the leader of a dangerous totalitarian regime for instance, I don't know if this is really appropriate or not, I don't know. It's a very complex problem.

...And for example, there are Western European nations who produce weapons, but use them mainly for defensive purposes and do not abuse them. And similarly, the example of the United States, although the Russian threat is no longer there, so long as a totalitarian regime like China exists with a huge military power, some kind of deterrent power is necessary. Then again there is a question whether the leaders of these countries will act responsibly in the use of the military power they have at their disposal. All of these are very complex issues. For an individual who comes up with moral qualms about being part of this company or this factory, and to what extent it is wise for him to give that job up, and how effective that is, is open to question. Whether that individual decides to quit or not to quit may not make a difference. It's a bit like the story of this old Tibetan woman who was so cross with the Tibetan government, it is said she turned her back to the government for a couple of years in protest--which didn't really have any practical power or effect.

--from The Art of Happiness at Work by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Dr. Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

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