At first the idea of business and spirituality together may seem contradictory. We are often told that businesses are only driven by the incentive to make more money, while spirituality entails abandoning this attachment to external goods and material wealth. With this attitude hanging over our head, how can a spiritual person ever expect to become a successful businessman? Under what conditions can one sell and still be righteous?
To start, is there any place in this world that is outside of economic reality? Even the poorest of spiritual beggars must have some desire for clothing, food and shelter if he or she wants to survive. They need to “exchange” things for food, even if it is just a warm smile or a lesson in compassion.
On the other hand, some of these spiritually-driven individuals make a virtue out of living from the bare minimum, a notion that the late Indian mystic Osho disagreed with strongly. Osho taught that material poverty was not a genuine spiritual value. Often referring to himself as the “rich man’s guru.” According to one excerpt from Wikipedia:
- “Osho had himself photographed wearing sumptuous clothing and hand-made watches, and while in Oregon drove a different Rolls-Royce each day – his followers reportedly wanted to buy him 365 of them, one for each day of the year. Publicity shots of the Rolls-Royces (93 in the end) were sent to the press. As a conscious display, they may have reflected both his enjoyment of wealth and his desire to provoke American sensibilities, much as he had enjoyed offending Indian sensibilities earlier.”
Although a complex character who loved to provoke others, Osho made it clear that he never mistook material wealth for spiritual gain. Money to him was just a tool. He says,
“Money is a means. If you are happy and you have money, you will become more happy. If you are unhappy and you have money, you will become more unhappy – because what will you do with your money? Your money will enhance your pattern, whatsoever it is.”
Although he was rarely one to hide his wealth, money did not define Osho. In fact many of the royalties he received from his work were often donated to local communes, including the 90+ Rolls Royces.
In some ways Osho’s teachings can even be seen to resemble the moral philosophy of Ayn Rand, who once said, “The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.” Osho was definitely one to enjoy himself and live. He saw no virtue in prolonging any kind of suffering, starting with his own. His way of life quickly became a quintessence of how one can take responsibility for themselves and enjoy life without any signs of guilt or fear.
It is not money that is the root of all evil, but human greed itself that causes humans to do heinous acts for material and superficial gains. Money however can still be used as a tool for good, and even the acquisition of money, as long as the means are just, can often benefit society at large. The remainder of this article will touch upon business incentives that I feel also align themselves congruently with spiritual and moral imperatives.
The Incentive To Provide Goods For Others
First and foremost the purpose of a business is to provide goods for others. The owner may have the intentions of striking it rich, but if he neglects the needs and wants of society then he will have a tougher time selling his products. Sure, he or she may find ways to exploit the system and trick others into buying something they don’t really desire, but this can be incredibly difficult to do and even if the business does succeed, they won’t last long because their reputation will be quickly tarnished (this is assuming governments don’t come in and bail them out for their mismanagement).
Businesses are almost always better off if they try to provide something of value. Just look at individuals like Bill Gates from Microsoft and Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. Both of these companies have drastically helped to increase the standard of living of others. Nowadays almost everyone has experienced the luxury of a computer, as well as the low prices provided by enterprises like Wal-Mart. Be honest, in what ways have these corporate conglomerates benefited you?
Businesses must know the demands of others if they want to continue to exist. Providing valuable goods to others at an affordable rate is a great way to benefit society at large. Often these endeavors can result in an alleviation of suffering, which is a primary objective to any spiritual practice. In the right hands, more money can mean a greater capacity to do good for others, especially when it is managed in productive ways. This is an aspect of business that should be celebrated more often.
The Incentive To Treat Customers Right
My economics teacher in high school once said that if someone has a bad experience with a company they are likely to tell the story to – on average – about 7 other people. I wasn’t able to confirm this statistic (if anyone can help me that would be great!) but I think she was touching on a crucial point: businesses must treat customers at some sort of satisfactory level if they want their customers to keep coming back. If a business gets enough of a bad reputation, people will stop going, and the company will no longer be favorable in the public eye. Especially in industries where there is a lot of competition, it is in the company’s best interest to win over their customers hearts and minds.
It doesn’t cost much to treat your customers with loyalty, care, and a bit of compassion – so if you are running a business it is in only in your own rational self-interest to make it assured that your customer’s needs are being met, and they they enjoy pleasant experiences with your company. This doesn’t just mean in the value of your product, but also in the value of your customer service and the overall human-to-human experience. This means their must be a certain culture to your company: What kind of friend are you to your clients? Are you being genuine, superficial, or are you acting as if you just don’t give a fuck at all? People aren’t dumb – they can usually tell the difference!
The Incentive To Treat Employees Right
Sure, many people believe that many modern economies have resulted in what is know as “wage slavery.” In this sense many say companies can get away with exploiting their workers, despite the fact that workers voluntarily choose where they work in a free society. Despite this, businesses have plenty of good incentives to treat their workers with the best possible care.
For example, building a sense of community or family around the workplace is a fantastic way to increase productivity. If people love where they work then they are much more motivated to do a great job. Of course, not all jobs are equally enjoyable, so it is up to the business owner to be creative when trying to build a more friendly atmosphere for his employees. One real world example is the offices at Google, one of the biggest companies in the world. Sure looks like fun to work there!
Choosing The Right Values
Achieving the above objectives requires a company to have good and productive values. Although this isn’t all that it takes to build a great business, it is important to have a sense of love, compassion, and family within the internal structure of your company. That is what keeps it together and makes up its core. You want your employees to be able to feed energy off of each other. This builds a self-perpetuating drive and motivation to do good for the company, which should try and be seen as a greater whole.
Understand that by doing good for the company you are also doing good for society at large. The key is to work for (or build) a company that you honestly believe is doing good for the world. The rest of your attitude will come naturally to you. You will want to improve the company because it simultaneously improves humanity too.
Last Thoughts On Business-Minded Spirituality
This framework for business is part of what I am beginning to call “Business-Minded Spirituality.” As an ardent proponent of capitalism and free markets, but also a deeply spiritual person, I strive to persuade you that businesses are not just evil and greedy money-making machines, but amazing tools that can be utilized to transform our world in a positive direction. For those that are already awakened spiritually, continue your learning by getting into the realm of business. For those that are more business-oriented, add a spiritual element to your company to help make it grow in new and expansive directions. I hope to be discussing these concepts more in the near future.
Some of you may have already adapted a business-minded and spiritual attitude. What type of things do you do to build a spiritual sense around your company? Which techniques do you find most effective for improving upon your business?
Let me now leave you with a video of Osho himself, discussing the concept of “Selling Bliss:”
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