Let me deal with the two questions breifly. Sorry for late participation due
to unavoidable circumstances. I shall try to give my thoguhts on the others
as and when I have time.
1. Is Teaching Right Livelihood?
Generally, teaching is a highly respected profession if you mean teaching in school and university. Instead of defining what is the right livelihood, the
Buddha chose to mention at times what not to be engaged in. Yet, there is more
to what is the right livelihood.
Although examining each profession is a very good strategy, things are not
always black and white at all. For instance, the Buddha condemned killing but not serving in the armed forces.
Perhaps, it is helpful to keep to some Buddhist principles while pondering
upon each profession. They are (a) one's intention or motive and (b) the
philosophy of the Four Noble Truth. If intention is wholesome, teaching
chemistry is a good thing. However, if someone intends to help a terrorist to
make a bomb, then it is bad. So, here we can go by the intention of the
The basis of the philosophy of the Four Noble Truth or indeed of the Buddhist
teachings is to reduce and ultimately end suffering. So any action that is
rightly considered to contribute to reducing suffering is to be considered
the right livelihood. Remember that the right livelihood is one of the eight
parts of the Buddhist Path. The right livelihood does nto stand alone to make
the Path but only in a combination with other seven factors. Meaning, there
needs to be right mindfulness, right understanding (to see and reduce suffering)
and right thought (non-violent thougth and so on) etc. Even a well intented
teaching job will contribute to being a part of the Path only when it has
other factors to support it.
2. Friendship and Compassion
It always takes more than reading a simple passage to apply the teaching in our
life. Your question is an obvious instance. You have received wonderful answers
from my colleague sayadaws and I do not need repeating them here.
I only wish to emphasise that one MUST establish oneself in a strong position
morally first before helping others. If translated into action, this would
mean that if you are not sure that you will not be able to prevent their gossip
to defile your mind, it is certainly better then to keep some distance. Because
it is not possible for you to help them. Instead, you may get drowned in the
same dirty stream of gossip, with everyone on board sinking.
This is the very reason why the Buddha stressed a good beginning point, i.e
to start with oneself before helping others. You can see on the plane that you
need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before putting it on your child.
It is a very practical advice and practice.
Once you are established in moral conduct and mentally firm to resist any
temptation of evil deeds, you can help your friends to get over their habits.
Because by associating with them, you are no longer affected by their habits,
like lotus flowers in muddy water not being affacted by the mud and water,
despite physically rooting there.