It's not a connection that many people automatically consider - profit-making and spiritual practice, but introducing Buddhist precepts into your business can have positive effects on your employees and on your bottom line.
The goal of Buddhism is ultimately to achieve enlightenment, but along the pathway to awakening, there are many useful lessons about how to operate ethically and effectively in the world.
I run business and employee workshops, and I use the teachings of Buddhism to help organisations improve their communication, to build effective ways of working, to help employees deal with change and to manage stress.
Consider the Noble Eightfold Path, which is the foundation of Buddhist Practice. It is made up of eight practical ways of organising your thoughts and behaviour so that you will reduce unsatisfactory living. The precepts easily apply to reducing conflict, stress and ineffectiveness within a business environment.
Here is a quick guide to how the three training dimensions of the Eightfold Path can benefit your business:
Wisdom (Panna): The first division of the Eightfold Path relates to 'Right Understanding' and
'Right Thought'. According to the Buddha, we need to realise that everything is impermanent. This transience causes us suffering, particularly if we deny its truth and insist on over-attachment to things. The Buddha also taught that everything is connected and interdependent.
Training your workforce with these insights in mind can result in greater creativity, teamwork and co-operation as colleagues learn not to attach to their own ideas or fixed ways of doing things, and to share their successes with others. This learning also builds an increased ability to adapt, and to be flexible and resilient in the face of change.
Ethical Conduct (Sila): Buddhism teaches us to do no harm and to talk and act in a way that is considerate and helpful to others. Not only does taking such an approach encourage a more harmonious and open communication process in the workplace, but it also an important factor in customer service. Companies which show themselves to be ethical, transparent and support the local community also earn good brand loyalty from consumers in the modern world.
Concentration (Samadhi): In Buddhism, 'Right Concentration' means concentrating on one object or subject to the exclusion of all irrelevant things, as in the practice of Mindfulness. This is accompanied by a commitment to making the effort to improve, to develop greater awareness and to deepen insight. Taking an attitude of wanting to develop and excel into the boardroom and onto the frontline will benefit any business.
Developing Right Concentration also means that workers learn to be more focused, more driven, more effective and can manage their time better. In the process of training the mind, workers learn to overcome hindrances to concentration, such as laziness, torpor and a wandering mind. They also learn to manage stress responses.
Needless to say, in my workshops, I don't stand there and recite the Dharma to delegates. I translate the lessons into practical forms and formulas that managers, employees and whole organisations can use to make their business run more smoothly, more harmoniously and with greater effectiveness.
If you still think that Buddhism is all bosh, consider that big businesses such as Google, Apple and Procter & Gamble have all introduced the Buddhist practice of Mindfulness meditation into their offices as a way to reduce employee stress.