Dalai Lama says capitalism can learn from Buddhism

By Ellen Wulfhorst, Reuters, Jul 29, 2009

NEW YORK, USA -- The Dalai Lama may not be the first person who comes to mind for business advice but, as the Buddhist monk wrote in his new book, capitalism can profit from Buddhism's principles and values.

In "The Leader's Way," published this month by Broadway Books, the spiritual leader of Tibet wrote that both business and Buddhism attach importance to happiness and making the right decisions, and a company without "happy employees, customers and shareholders will ultimately fail."

Citing Buddhist basics such as good intentions, a calm mind free of negative thoughts and a realization that nothing is permanent, the Dalai Lama and co-author Laurens van den Muyzenberg tackle timely issues such as corporate compensation, malfeasance and the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since fleeing a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

Inclined toward socialism, the Dalai Lama wrote that his understanding of communism came through meetings with the late Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung. His admiration of Mao ended, he said, when Mao compared religion to "a poison."

"I have come to put my faith in the free-market system.... The fact that it allows for freedom and diversity of thought and religion has convinced me that it is the one we should be working from," he wrote.

The Dalai Lama is a well-known advocate for religious freedom and autonomy for Tibet, putting him at odds with China, which accuses him of seeking independence for Tibetans and stoking unrest.


The book, subtitled "The Art of Making the Right Decisions in Our Careers, Our Companies, and the World at Large," emerged out of meetings between van den Muyzenberg, an international management consultant, and the Dalai Lama from 1991 to 2000.

The two discussed what seemed "an unlikely pairing" of business and Buddhism, van den Muyzenberg wrote.

"When I started this project, I was not sure that companies could act in such a way that they could deserve a thoroughly good reputation. Now I am convinced that they can," the Dalai Lama wrote.

Profit, for example, is "a fine aim," but not the main role of business, which is "to make a contribution to the well-being of society at large," he wrote.

"The true value of a business is not the sum of its facilities and its employees and its financial resources; the value resides in the relationships among the people within it and with the many stakeholders outside it," he added.

For business leaders, the authors advocate meditation, noting opportunities to do so while in airports or taxis.

But the book is not intended to convert readers to Buddhism, the Dalai Lama noted.

"We wanted the book to be of practical use and to help business people make better decisions," he wrote.