A lay follower should not engage in five types of business i.e. business in weapon, human being, meat, intoxicant and poison. But there are many jobs can be considered harmful but not included in the five types of business mentioned in the Sutta.

I have a qualification in music and I want to put this into practice. Is teaching music can be considered right livelihood? Talaputa Sutta says

Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter.

Teaching piano may not be explicitly mentioned in this Sutta but it is possible for a person who teaches music and for those who are taught to be focused with even more passion, aversion and delusion. Does this livelihood lead us to hell? I believe the majority of healthy, normal people in the most strictest sense will not object to teaching piano. But the Sutta is probably saying otherwise and it can potentially limit your career or business you want to pursue or at worst you can end up unemployed for the sake of keeping yourself on the right path. The antidote to this type of situation is to ignore it and keep going but I don't think ignorance is the right path.

I may misunderstand the Sutta or may not misunderstand it. Hope someone can shed some light, that will be a very helpful and appreciated. Many thanks.

4 Answers 4


Music is allowed for those observing the five precepts. This is the most basic practice. The five precepts:

  1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness.

Music is not allowed for those observing the eight precepts (those observing uposatha) and ten precepts (for novice monks and full monks).

A livelihood in music is allowed by the following:

"Monks, 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." - AN 5.177

Music in some sense provides pleasure and maybe even intoxication, but the type of intoxication that is more controllable than alcohol or recreational drugs.

Many things can provide pleasure like food, sex, good thoughts, pleasant sights and sounds. The Middle Way of Buddhism prescribes limits on these for lay persons by way of the five precepts and lay person Right Livelihood.

The point is, do all forms of music make the lay person heedless? I don't think so. I know of people who consume alcohol and get intoxicated while dancing to trance music. That definitely makes a lay person heedless.

But a lay person listening to other types of music, like pop or classical or country, may not become uncontrollably heedless.

However, it is still a type of pleasant sensation. And for a lay person, all pleasant sensations should be experienced in moderation, in accordance with the five precepts and Right Livelihood.

Personally, I think if you use music to uplift a negative or depressed mind - it's even a skillful use of music for laypersons.

For serious practitioners, uplifting the mind using mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati) is better (as prescribed in the Vesali Sutta).

  • 1
    Very excellent well articulated answer. Sadhu! Feb 25, 2021 at 5:00
  • Thanks for your helpful answer. So teaching music such as piano or violin is not considered an entertainment with terrible consequences as described in the Sutta above. But does the intoxication mentioned in the Sutta means figuratively i.e. immersed in the music itself?
    – B1100
    Feb 25, 2021 at 5:45
  • 2
    @B1100 I interpret the Talaputta Sutta as becoming intoxicated through music and entertainment to the point of inducing heedlessness. All music and entertainment is not suitable for monks, but for laypersons, it's not prohibited as far as I can see.
    – ruben2020
    Feb 25, 2021 at 5:51

Music has brought great joy to my life, as I'm sure it has many others. I think you can approach your career as a music educator in a mindful way that avoids harm to others.


In no sane way is music an "intoxicant", you can just stop playing piano or turn off the gramophone.

According to Buddhist psychology, distraction is classified, along with such things as laziness and inattentiveness, as one of the twenty destabilizing factors of the mind. In Sanskrit this factor is called vikshepa. It arises when the natural flow of sense perceptions is joined with and tainted by our emotions. In other words, distraction is fueled by the usual suspects: grasping, rejecting, and denial. So distraction is not just some mental tic. It is highly emotional.

Although vikshepa is often translated as “distraction” or “mental wandering,” it refers more specifically to the wandering mind being drawn to objects that cause it to lose its ability to remain one-pointedly focused on virtue. So this term points to a specific kind of distraction—distraction from keeping your attention on what matters, on what is genuine and virtuous.



The Talaputa Sutta refers to comedians who generate delusions, such as here, here and here. The Talaputa Sutta refers to a "hell named laughter" (pahāso nāma nirayo). The words pahāsa appears only found in this one sutta therefore it appears unexplained.

Other comedians share useful knowledge and wisdom, such as George Carlin, Jimmy Dore or JP Sears. Obviously, these comedians have developed some morality & heedfulness that can prevent 'rebirth' into hell.

The Buddha taught 'kamma is intention' (AN 6.63). If a musician can compose music to ease the sufferings of or generate good moral or harmonious qualities in worldlings (puthujjana), then the results of such kamma will not be hellish.

In summary, the Talaputa Sutta appears to simply be a warning about heedlessness & encouraging others towards heedlessness. Many gifted musicians who have transmitted wisdom to others, such as John Coltrane or Jimi Hendrix, were still suffering from heedlessness. Despite his good intentions and gifts to others, Jimi Hendrix was particularly deluded in relation to proper sexual conduct with women, as well as the harm of drugs; thus his demise.

To conclude, on the moral level, teaching music is not inherently wrong livelihood, unless the music taught encourages others to transgress the five precepts, such as this wicked song.


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