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Dalai Lama says capitalism can learn from Buddhism

August 5, 2009

By Ellen Wulfhorst
Reuters
July 29, 2009

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.

AN "UNLIKELY PAIRING"

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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