Buddhism is an ancient philosophical system that follows the teachings of the Buddha. The system — a meditative, esoteric practice that often functions as a religious system — has an estimated 350 and 500 million practitioners and believers worldwide. Buddhism emphasizes the cultivation of mindfulness and values a spiritually minimalistic worldview, eschewing dependence and worldly attachment.
With the popularization of incorporating many multi-cultural and cross-philosophical practices in the business world, it's no surprise that some elements of Buddhism can be relevant to corporate managers, entrepreneurs, and indeed most people who share some portion of their lives with the marketplace. Buddhist business practices and maxims can be beneficial to the decision-making process in the workplace, but you don't have to be a guru in order to take away something meaningful from Buddha's teachings. In fact, you don't have to be religious, spiritual, New Age, or even seeking — these aphorisms are simply a way to rethink and reframe your qualitative skill set, and to maybe find a little zen at the office. Meditate on these ten Buddhist maxims for business, and you may achieve workplace nirvana in no time.
- "Too cold, too hot, too late" can always be the excuses to those who do not want to work. They let their chance pass by.
This short aphorism is a reminder of two things: 1) opportunity favors the hard worker, and 2) those with a lackluster work ethic are always going to find an excuse. Whether you have a stellar commitment to productivity, or you're just looking for a reminder that your hard work matters personally, this is a good maxim to remember. If you have a good work ethic and a great attitude, very little will stand in your way. And if you're the type who always has an excuse, you can bet that opportunities will pass you by.
- None can live without toil, and a craft that provides your needs is a blessing indeed. But if you toil without rest, fatigue and weariness will overtake you, and you will denied the joy that comes from labour's end.
This maxim, from the Dhammavadaka, is perfect for those in business, and a good reminder you can send to your favorite workaholic. It is true that life would not be so full without work, and it's always nice to read an ancient passage reminding you to be grateful for your work, and to get sufficient rest. One of the values of practicing Buddhism is a focus on centering and balance, and this passage tells you that it's OK to enjoy the fruits of your labor. It is also of great importance, reminds the sutra, to not overtire yourself. The rat race may be necessary, but it's not the only way.
- Develop the mind of equilibrium. You will always be getting praise and blame, but do not let either affect the poise of the mind: follow the calmness, the absence of pride.
The Buddhist practice of mindfulness can be a key to good business, reducing supply costs and increasing your potential to work with compassion. This saying, from the Sutta Nipata, instructs the mind and heart to be balanced, objective, and mindful of the fog of pride. Mindfulness has benefits that span many occupations and fields, and indeed most people will benefit from adhering to the words of this sutra. Remember to be calm, and not to obsess too much about positive or negative feedback. If you do a job long enough, you are bound to have great moments of achievement, as well as great moments of failure. These are both times to learn from, and keeping the mind rightly situated can be of the utmost value — especially at work.
- The Eightfold Path
BuddhistBusiness.com is a web portal to showcase Buddhist businesses, and also offers the first seminar examining the Eightfold Path and its relation to business. The Eightfold Path is the fourth of Buddha's Four Noble Truths (this isn't weird — think of the Ten Commandments), and a key component of behavioral practices that are crucial to Buddhist life. While you may not be looking for a new faith system, these eight signposts could prove helpful for your business dealings.
- Prajña Ditthi — seeing reality unfiltered, and as it actually exists
- Prajña Sankappa — the purifying wisdom and intention of harmlessness
- Sila Vaca — saying the truth, practicing non-harm in your speech patterns
- Sila Kammanta — non-harmful action (this applies to self and others)
- Sila Ajiva — commitment to a non-harming life
- Samadhi Vayama — seeking the mindful discipline to improve oneself constantly and over time
- Samadhi Sati — awareness of reality and freedom from temptations, cravings, and distractions
- Samadhi Samadhi — proper concentration and meditation.
- Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.
This is an attributed quote from the Buddha, who — like Jesus and Socrates — never wrote anything down. When you're in business, it's always nice to know that your work, which can be such a big part of your own world — really matters to the outside world. Take a deep breath and remember for a moment that every action you take, in business and in life, is part of a larger journey of self-discovery. These words from the Buddha can be exhilarating and helpful to reinvigorate the waning worker, as well as an indication that what you choose to put your entire self into really does matter.
- The most valuable service is one rendered to our fellow humans.
This phrase is found, along with more than 50 others, in Wat Phra Singh, a large Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In the temple, you can view an illustrious statue called the Phra Buddha Sihing. If you take a walk around the temple, you can find Buddhist aphorisms on signs nailed to trees that line the temple grounds. This adage tells you that your work is valuable only inasmuch as it helps other people.
What do you do for a living? Does it involve helping others? Directly or indirectly? Taking a reverent and honorable approach to your work, and finding out precisely how it produces value — to yourself and to the marketplace, but primarily to other individuals — is an important step on the way to performing your work with mindfulness. Simply being aware that your work has an audience, sells a service or product that improves lives, or involves working with the general public on some level can turn a sour mood into a grateful one — as you should maintain that what you are doing with your life is adding value to the human experience.
- Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.
This quote, from The Path to Tranquility are the words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. The passage is a reminder to stay calm, and that every person shoulders the weight of responsibility to do good. And it is our good actions, not our good intentions, that accomplish the most — on and off the job.
- Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Living in the present is of utmost importance, and it can definitely help you in your work. Do you ever have a day that you just can't quit thinking about the fight you had with your partner, or whether or not you left the oven on? These days happen to everyone, and with a deep breath and a mindful moment, you can incorporate this saying from the Buddha into your work day — and gladly turn to concentrate on the moment. One point of having work is being pointed and busy, and it is indeed one of the blessings that productive value-making brings. And that's why it's profitable to you and your business to concentrate your mind on the present. Unless you're about to burn your house down (the oven!), you can be sure that the task at hand is probably the most important thing you have scheduled, and that your mind is putting off accomplishing the task. Just a few moments of clarity and calm, and recalling this saying of the Buddha, might help you to refocus and increase your productivity.
- You can only lose what you cling to.
This short maxim, also purportedly by the Buddha, is a gentle reminder to embrace change. Change is everywhere — constant, eternal — and in the information age, this is especially true. The Buddha wishes to communicate here that nothing is permanent, and that adaptation and flexible fluidity is paramount to happiness and avoiding disappointment and suffering. Concentrating on detachment — from dogmas, old rules, and other tired modes of thought and action — will help keep your business and your work product strong, as it is generally positive to embrace the change that you cannot otherwise escape. Roll with it. Go with the flow. Keep calm, and carry on.
- A jug fills drop by drop.
This classic saying from the Buddha means that things happen step by step, and that methodological piecemeal work is often superior to big splashes. When you concentrate on the small things, the big things fall into place — and this is often true for the business world. Take heart, workers, and know that your small efforts can amount to great success. Namaste.