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Dalai Lama says capitalism can learn from Buddhism

July 31, 2009

Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:07am IST

By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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.

(Editing by Michelle Nichols and Paul Simao)
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