Buddhism is a philosophy.

Buddhism is a philosophy. It is not a religion and its principles have a profound benefit in management practices.

Regardless of the exact number, it is fair to say that a sizable number of individuals in the world are influenced by the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist belief influences management practices that a wider application of the principles may be beneficial to management practitioners, regardless of religious orientation.

Buddhism beliefs and philosophy, based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, is a branch of Eastern philosophy. Since the time of its start, Buddhism has had a firm philosophical element, which is defined by love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline. Buddhist philosophy rejects a number of traditional notions like those of atheism, theism, monism, and dualism. Dualism is a Philosophical system that seeks to explain all phenomena in terms of two distinct and irreducible principles unlike monism and pluralism. Plato’s teachings define, as there is an ultimate dualism of being and becoming, of ideas and matter. Aristotle Greek philosopher, criticized Plato’s doctrine of the transcendence of ideas, but he was unable to escape the dualism of form and matter.

Buddha criticized all these concepts and encouraged his disciples to discuss the problems in metaphysics, phenomenology, ethics, and epistemology. Traditionally, metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that attempts to understand the fundamental nature of all reality, whether visible or invisible. It seeks a description so basic, so essentially simple, and so all-inclusive that it applies to everything, whether divine, human, or anything else. It attempts to tell what anything must be like in order to be at all.

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. In Plato’s view knowledge is merely an awareness of absolute, universal Ideas or Forms, existing independent of any subject trying to apprehend to them. Though Aristotle puts more emphasis on logical and empirical methods for gathering knowledge, he still accepts the view that such knowledge is an apprehension of necessary and universal principles.

Buddhism is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not a system of faith and worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being. Though there is no blind faith, one might argue whether there is no worshiping of images etc., in Buddhism.

 Buddhists do not worship an image expecting worldly or spiritual favors, but pay their reverence to what it represents.

 Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Buddhism is considered by some to be more of a philosophy than a religion. Buddha never declared Himself God. Almost all the other religions essentially entail some form of theism. However, Buddhism, in itself, is considered non-theistic or atheistic. It does not emphasize the existence or non-existence of a God or Gods any point of time. In addition to that, Buddhism does not have doctrines in the same sense as other religions do. The major concepts covered in Buddhism teachings include.

Epistemology

One of the major philosophies that differentiate Buddhism from Hinduism is that of epistemological explanation. Buddhism has a smaller set of valid justifications for knowledge than Hinduism. It does not believe in a blind and inflexible acceptance of the established principles.

Metaphysics and Phenomenology

The philosophy of Metaphysics rejects the notion of a soul or a permanent self. The concept of continuous identity is nothing but a delusion. In the early days of Buddhism, philosophers formed a metaphysical system that advocated the breaking down of the experiences of people, things, and events into smaller perceptual units called dharmas (or phenomenon). Even the issue of the person, was debated upon by the different schools of Buddhism. The concept was introduced to replace the one of atman (self).

 

Dependent Origination

A basic belief of Buddhism consists of the doctrine, which asserts that neither the events of our life predetermined, nor do they take place at random. Rather, it states that the events in our life have, in fact, no independent existence. It refuses to accept the notion of direct causation of events. According to the doctrine, certain specific events, concepts, or realities are always dependent on a number of other precise things. For example, cravings depend upon emotion, which in turn is dependent on our interaction with the environment. Similarly, almost all the events are affected by another happening. Even the alleviation of decay, death, and sorrow depends indirectly on the alleviation of craving, being ultimately dependent on an all-encompassing stillness.

Interpenetration

The doctrine says that the entire phenomenon in this world is linked with one another. Buddhism has used two images to symbolize this doctrine. One is that of Indra’s net, set with jewels. The jewels have an extraordinary property; they reflect all the other jewels. The other one is that of world text. It depicts the world as consisting of an enormous text. The words in the text are composed of the phenomena that make up the world.

Ethics

The main ethics of Buddhism consist of the eightfold path, comprising of…

Right Speech

Right Actions

Right Livelihood

Right Effort/Exercise

Right Mindfulness/Awareness

Right Concentration

Right Thoughts

Right Understanding

According to Buddhism, the rationale behind leading a meaningful life is to have ethics. A person should always strive towards increasing the welfare of not only his own, but of all the living beings. This will help in cessation of suffering, which is so widely prevalent in this world.

Buddhism offers an interesting perspective on the practice of management.

While the literature on the effect of Buddhist beliefs on managerial practice is quite limited, Fernando and Jackson (2006) did find that religion, including Buddhism, played a significant role in the decision-making of managers.

Buddhist beliefs are very consistent with Western scientific beliefs. Buddhism has a pragmatic orientation, deals with cause and effect relationships, focuses on problem solving, and recognizes the importance of observation and verification. All of these are relevant issues to managerial research and practice.

 Buddhism has great influence towards managerial activity and, therefore, is primarily sociological in nature. The importance placed on the “middle way” or moderation in all aspects of life tends to produce more consistent and moderate behavior.

Extreme positions, including strategic choice are generally not reviewed as favorably. The belief in no self tends to produce a more collectivist orientation and supports a stronger focus on interpersonal relations. The Five Precepts and the Eightfold Path have implications for ethical behavior. In particular, Buddhist beliefs can manifest themselves in a number of different aspects of management including leadership behavior, personal development, team building, the use of harmony over conflict, and a more gentle approach to people management. The Dharma, as manifested in the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts, and the various sayings attributed to the Buddha have much in common with modern managerial practice.

The ideal Buddhist organization is one in which less emphasis is placed on command and control, and greater emphasis is placed on developing the abilities of individuals to manage themselves.

Buddhist principles are collectivist in nature, and this orientation towards the importance of the group over the individual has positive implications for team building and functioning. Buddhist philosophy is consistent with a collectivist view.

Buddhism promotes a different economic system. Referred to as “Buddhist economics” , the concept maintains that quality of life is not dictated solely by maximizing one’s utility, but also includes non-material factors as well.

The wisdom of the Buddha can also provide timeless advice for modern day managers regardless of religious orientation. The Buddha’s recommendations for modern managers could be summarized as follow: be mindful, be compassionate, consider the fact that you are only part of a complex and dynamic situation, be flexible and open minded, and recognize that nothing is permanent – not the organization, not strategies that may work now, not you, or your leadership style. Enlightened management is about accepting change, creating harmony among those you work with, and treating all people with dignity and respect.

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