Buddhist Work

Buddhists do not work to earn a living. Work, and all action, is a means to refine consciousness, smooth the rough edges of the ego, and loosen the root of suffering: attachment to identity.Buddhist Work

Of course we need to support our bodies while we live in the world, but simply fulfilling material needs and desires leads to more desires, which leads to deeper bondage. We can observe those who have succeeded on a grand scale and see fulfillment of all desire eventually leaves one feeling a deep lack. Many who have great wealth and power try to resolve this difficult to place feeling of suffering by working harder to gain even more wealth and power. The greed distorts their focus, and delusion takes hold, driving them to amass more and more material goods in a never-ending cycle of fear and satiation. Some resort to drugs and other means of distraction through the senses, essentially hiding from their very self. Even those who have not achieved significant material success fall prey to these traps.

A few take up social concerns, devoting their energy and resources to helping the less fortunate. If they avoid the temptation to see themselves as a savior, they have the potential to tap into selfless giving, which always leads to joy.

With the Buddhist approach to work, we see activity as an opportunity to learn and expand our consciousness. If possible, we’ll seek out work that challenges us, and forces the brain to stretch. Even with simple or repetitive tasks, we appraise the work to be done and consider the most efficient methods. This brain stretching exercise over time makes it easier to meditate and to hold seemingly disparate concepts in the mind. We allow our consciousness to expand so everything we do becomes an opportunity to connect with the environment and the tasks as an extension of our self, where we ultimately become the work.

Through our activity, we also jump into what I like to call the rock polisher, a device that tumbles rough and dull stones so they smash against each other until smooth and shiny. In any society, we are conditioned to see the world in a certain way. We are also born with certain personality traits. This combination of conditioning and personality traits leads to sharp edges on the ego: the part of us that digs in our heels and insists we are right. This need to be right appears in many forms, including annoyance, hurt feelings, anger, frustration, and despondency. During our interactions with others, especially in a work situation where there is not always the option to walk away without severe consequences, we pay attention to when our feathers get ruffled. Instead of reacting, we watch as the different emotions and thoughts rise to the surface and allow them to teach us about our rough edges. Simply by watching and being aware of what is happening within us, the sharp edges begin to wear away. Eventually the things that bothered us do not seem all that important.

This view of work as a process with no concern for the result leads to the loosening of the root of suffering: the attachment to identity. We all think we are someone. The difference between the average person and the Enlightened is the Enlightened don’t believe the thought, while the average person does. Work gives us the wonderful opportunity to become what others need us to be, and do whatever needs to be done in the moment. Most people approach an activity with the thought of “I want to do this” or “I don’t want to do this” and depending on the word not in that sentence, they either enjoy or despise the activity. Buddhist practice allows us to let go of the sense of “I” and see the work clearly. If we don’t have the skills, we either learn them or pass the task onto someone who does. If we find the task unpleasant, we use the opportunity to learn about the attachment that caught us. Like all attachments, if we look at it honestly without attraction or repulsion long enough, it dissolves.

Even if we have won the lottery or have a trust fund, we work. We may not call it work, but the body cannot help but act. Unless we are dissolved in the silence of meditation, we are always doing one task or another. From the Buddhist point of view, we can use these moments of work to free the mind from suffering.


To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List.

My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you because I don’t have a trust fund. 😀 If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.

You can also help by sharing this website with others.



8 Steps to Bliss

Whatever our current goals are, when we dig beneath the surface, we all simply want to be happy. Based on an ancient teaching in modern terms, here are 8 steps to Bliss…


  1. Recognize the transient nature of this world. Nothing here lasts, including our bodies, our actions, and our experiences. However, that does not mean they are not important. While the form changes, this world and everything that is part of it will keep turning. Seeing things with clarity is always the first step to bliss.


  1. Check your intent. Behind every thought, every word, and every action, we have an intent. When we are not in alignment with our true intent, we delude ourselves and this invariably leads to suffering. By taking a moment to check in with ourselves and make sure our motivation is pure, we can prevent ourselves from causing harm to ourselves and others. If we lack self-control, seeing our real intent can help us understand the cost of our less than pure aspirations. This will allow us to work toward creating a pure intent behind everything we do and put us on the path to joy.


  1. Act with integrity. Our actions, although ephemeral, have an impact on this transient world. When we act with hatred, jealousy, or fear those states are mirrored back at us. When we act with loving-kindness and compassion, our mind opens and we experience a brighter and more beautiful place.


  1. Be honest when you speak. It’s amazing how easily we lie to each other and to ourselves. Even little white lies cloud the mind and compound the delusions that create misery. It becomes difficult to see what we are capable of doing; both our strengths and weaknesses become hidden. Without this basic level of humility – of being honest about where we are in our skills and understandings, we short-circuit our ability to grow in all areas of our life. Without growth, whether it’s in the context of material gains, emotional depth, or spiritual wisdom, joy always remains elusive.


  1. Earn your living in a way that enriches both yourself and society. Some people insist that to be happy, you must discover your dream job and make it pay the bills. While it’s wonderful when this happens, having a job that is not your particular ideal does not have to be an impediment to bliss. Consider the work you are doing, and ask yourself how it contributes to the betterment of society. Whether you work as a cashier or janitor or as a CEO, the work you do is important to the functioning of the larger whole. If you feel the person or company you work for is detrimental to society, then it’s time to go job hunting.


  1. Understand that whatever effort you put forth, no matter if it’s brushing your teeth or climbing a mountain, how you do it matters. When you approach the things you do with the attitude of obligation and stubbornness, you will not enjoy the outcome even if it’s successful. If you take the approach of giving your best effort, you will find joy in the process even when your activities fail to achieve the goal.


  1. Be mindful. In other words, pay attention to where you mind is all day long. The mind is a very powerful tool. It colors our perception and has the power to influence everyone with whom it comes into contact. By always directing your mind towards beauty and gratitude, it becomes easier to live in the present moment. It’s only from the present moment that we can clearly see what needs to be done and the means for doing it. This fluid, spontaneous action gives us a sense of connection to the world around us, where we feel the simple joy of movement.


  1. Learn to concentrate on one point. With so many distractions, it’s easy to get lost in the endless emails and posts and meetings and things to do. By training the mind to meditate, we learn how to be present in the center of the hurricane of existence. From this central place of silent stillness, pure Bliss arises.


By practicing these 8 steps daily, you will eventually find yourself in the blissful company of Buddhas…buddhas-670573_1920



To learn more, join me or one of the other teachers at Dharma Center in San Diego.

Or, check out Rama Meditation Society for an entire library of resources.




To be notified of new blog posts, please join my Happy News Mailing List.


My work is entirely funded by my readers – by you. If you like what you have read, if you find insight or inspiration in these words, please visit my Support page to learn how you can help keep the work going with a one-time gift, or as an ongoing Patron.