Friday, 20 December 2013

Buddhist elements in today's western capitalism

Capitalism, today, has become a form of chaos that functions. To fully engage and to try being in control in this market will make one go crazy. The ultimate meaninglessness of this phenomenon is felt in times of economic depressions where a sight of managers jumping out of their office buildings is no rarity. Bubble and bursts aside, even a rumour in the market can lead to its stability on fragile grounds.

A fairly new remedy practiced by western CEOs to counter these occurrences and even push this economic system is by borrowing the methods of the East - Buddhism. Buddhists stress the importance of tuning out the worldly chaos and to meditate. Managers are using this method to participate in the frenzy of markets without fully engaging themselves into it. They say that sort of 'inner distancing' of the self allows them to speculate all day and keeping their calm throughout. This is known as mindfulness.

The notion of ‘mindfulness at work’ is a new one. A search on reveals that most books published on this matter are done so in the current decade. What is striking that this is a being a made a business of. Book are published as well as lectures and seminars are also conducted at prestigious universities.

Harvard Business School professor William George has collaborated with Buddhist meditation master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche for a conference on mindful leadership. This aims to introduce core Buddhist concepts into Western leadership ideas to develop strong business leaders in today's world. Google even has courses for its employees called "search inside yourself" which teaches emotional intelligence through meditation.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. was a practitioner of Zen Buddhism. Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts and the 227th richest man in the world, is also practicing Buddhist. Top performing Western companies such as Deutsche Bank, Nike, Apple, Yahoo, and Google all have a 'quiet room' where employees are encouraged to take time out from the stressful environment and switch off for a bit.

What is interesting here is the switch of attitudes between the East and the West. Eastern financial hubs are having a greater say in today’s capitalism whereas western countries are swiftly adapting eastern methods to cope with the stress and unpredictability of it. This merger of spirituality/religion into the business world is surely going to a dawn an altered method of business. The 2008 financial meltdown has indeed required new ways to cope with the uncertainty. But the active implementation of this coping mechanism signals that is more volatility to come and we better be prepared for it.

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