Being Buddha At Work

101 Ancient Truths on Change, Stress, Money, and Success

Franz Metcalf (Author) | BJ Gallagher (Author)

Publication date: 02/06/2012

Bestseller over 75,000+ copies sold

Being Buddha At Work
  • Offers ancient solutions to today's workplace problems and provides new perspectives on timeless troubles
  • For people seeking to bring spiritual values to work or seeking to discover new beliefs and values through their work
  • Co-authored by Buddhist scholar Franz Metcalf and workplace expert BJ Gallagher

Buddhism has for thousands of years provided a spiritual foundation for the daily lives of millions of people around the world. But does Buddhism have anything to offer us-Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike-in today's world of work? Metcalf and Gallagher think it does. Spiritual wisdom, Western or Eastern, inspires and instructs us in living a good life. And that's just as true at work as at home.

Buddha mind-a source of calm, compassion, and insight-exists within each of us, not just the historical Buddha. Being Buddha at Work shows how to embody that mind in the stress and clamor of the workplace-how to tap into the Buddha consciousness so we can relieve daily tensions and greet challenges with awareness, equanimity, and good humor.

The book is divided into three sections. The first, "Becoming a Mindful Worker," covers Buddha's wisdom for our own work; the second, "Cultivating Mindful Work Relationships," focuses on how to work with other people; the third, "Creating a Mindful Workplace," deals with broader organizational topics. There is wisdom here for everyone-from frontline workers and team members, to supervisors and managers, to top executives and organizational leaders.

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Read An Excerpt

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Overview

  • Offers ancient solutions to today's workplace problems and provides new perspectives on timeless troubles
  • For people seeking to bring spiritual values to work or seeking to discover new beliefs and values through their work
  • Co-authored by Buddhist scholar Franz Metcalf and workplace expert BJ Gallagher

Buddhism has for thousands of years provided a spiritual foundation for the daily lives of millions of people around the world. But does Buddhism have anything to offer us-Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike-in today's world of work? Metcalf and Gallagher think it does. Spiritual wisdom, Western or Eastern, inspires and instructs us in living a good life. And that's just as true at work as at home.

Buddha mind-a source of calm, compassion, and insight-exists within each of us, not just the historical Buddha. Being Buddha at Work shows how to embody that mind in the stress and clamor of the workplace-how to tap into the Buddha consciousness so we can relieve daily tensions and greet challenges with awareness, equanimity, and good humor.

The book is divided into three sections. The first, "Becoming a Mindful Worker," covers Buddha's wisdom for our own work; the second, "Cultivating Mindful Work Relationships," focuses on how to work with other people; the third, "Creating a Mindful Workplace," deals with broader organizational topics. There is wisdom here for everyone-from frontline workers and team members, to supervisors and managers, to top executives and organizational leaders.

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Franz Metcalf

Franz Metcalf teaches religious studies at California State University, Los Angeles. He is the president of the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion and an active leader in the Forge Institute. His books include What Would Buddha Do? and Buddha in Your Backpack.

A scholar-practitioner of Buddhism, Franz received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. He is a review editor for Journal of Global Buddhism and author of scholarly works on Buddhism and psychology. He is a founding member and newsletter editor of the Forge Guild of Spiritual Leaders, and author of four books applying Buddhist wisdom and practice to our hectic everyday lives. His first, What Would Buddha Do? has appeared in a dozen languages.



Visit Author Page - BJ Gallagher

BJ Gallagher is a dynamic workshop leader and charismatic keynote speaker, as well as a much-published, bestselling author. She conducts seminars for women's groups, as well as professional organizations and corporations. Her topics include: leadership skills for women, male/female communication styles, how to manage your boss, thriving on change, and tapping into the creativity of diversity. BJ writes business books, women's books, and gift books.

BJ's other business books include: Being Buddha at Work: 108 Ancient Truths on Change, Stress, Money and Success (Berrett-Koehler) and YES Lives in the Land of NO: A Tale of Triumph Over Negativity (Berrett-Koehler). Her latest career book is It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been (Viva Editions).

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Table of Contents

Foreword by His Holiness the Daiai Lama

Introduction: Putting Buddha to Work

Part One: Becoming a Mindful Worker

Chapter 1: Choosing Mindful Work -- Creating Right Livelihood

Chapter 2: Practical Enlightenment -- Chop Wood, Carry Water

Chapter 3: Quality of Work Life -- The Middle Way at Work

Chapter 4: Being Successful -- How Do You Define Success?

Chapter 5: Money and Happiness -- What's the Connection?

Chapter 6: Dealing with Change -- Riding the Waves of Impermanence

Part Two: Cultivating Mindful Work Relationships

Chapter 7: Working with Others -- Unity in Diversity

Chapter 8: Dealing with Difficult People -- Seeing All Beings as the Buddha

Chapter 9: Customers, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em -- Customer Service as Bodhisattva Activity

Part Three: Creating a Mindful Workplace

Chapter 10: Leadership and Bosses -- Lead, Follow, or Get Off the Path

Chapter 11: The Big Issues -- Beyond the Bottom Line

Chapter 12: Work Practices and Processes -- Practice is Awakening

Chapter 13: The Care and Feeding of Employees -- Your Team as Your Sangha

Chapter 14: Solving People Problems -- There are No Answers, Pursue Them Lovingly

Chapter 15: Organizational Change -- Everything Changes; Nothing Remains Without Change

Glossary of Buddhist Terms

Notes on Sources

About the Authors

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Excerpt

Being Buddha at Work

images Choosing Mindful Work

Creating Right Livelihood

 

What Are the Advantages of Mindful Work?

Since there is nothing to attain, the bodhisattva lives by the perfection of wisdom with no hindrance in the mind; no hindrance and therefore no fear.

—The Heart Sutra

WHAT ARE THE advantages of mindful work? The Buddha would simply say they’re the advantages of awakening, because mindful work brings awakening to the workplace. This is true because, fundamentally, awakening is the state of being fully aware—fully mindful, having your mind full—of reality. The first person to see the Buddha after he was awakened asked, “What are you?” The Buddha answered, “I am awake.” Enlightenment is being awake to the reality of reality.

So the question becomes, “Reality—what’s that, and why would I want to awaken to it?” And the answer is, “Reality is the interconnectedness of all things, and you want to awaken to this because it frees you from your limitations.”

Awakening/enlightenment, full mindfulness of reality, is the core of Buddhism, and there is no reason why it cannot be the core of work as well. Mindful work wakes up the workplace and the world. The “perfection of wisdom” that the Heart Sutra describes is a Buddhist spiritual practice, but what does that mean? Work practice can be spiritual practice. And Buddhist spiritual practice comes down to mindfulness. So these spheres of life are not separate. And this non-separateness is not about attaining anything; it’s about being there, at work or at home, without hindrance and without fear.

“Which comes first,” you might ask, “mindfulness or mindful work?” Well, where are you, right now? Do the work of the moment. Take a first step. Sure, a first step is not a whole journey; nor is a first answer a whole book. Keep on.

How Do You Choose the Right Career or Job?

A bird catcher said to the Teacher, “My family’s always been bird catchers. If we stop, we’ll starve. But doing this [evil] work, can I still reach Buddhahood?”

The Teacher answered, “The mind goes to hell, not the body. So when you kill a bird, take your mind and kill it too. Doing this, you can reach Buddhahood.”

—Suzuki Shosan, Roankyo

ALMOST EVERYONE AT one time or another has asked, “How do I find the right career, the right job, where I will be fulfilled and happy?” If you are seeking to learn from the Buddha’s teachings, this question is especially important, because part of the very core of Buddhism, the eightfold noble path, is right livelihood. Simply put, that means doing work that helps, rather than harms, all living things. As the Buddha brought work into the spiritual life, he brought spirituality into work life. Right livelihood is being the Buddha at work.

For many people, this is a serious problem. What if you work for a company that makes instruments of destruction? What if you work for an organization whose fundamental mission is not aligned with your own values? Can you still do mindful work? Can you still pursue right livelihood?

The Zen teacher Suzuki’s answer here is very interesting. He taught that we should try hard never to harm other living things, and yet he reconciles enlightenment with bird catching. How can this be? The key issue, it seems, is not so much what your body is doing but what your mind is doing. Of course, the mind and the body are intimately connected, and one often follows the other in day-to-day life. But this need not always be so. It is possible to have the body engaged in one activity and the mind focused on something else. Here, he advises the bird catcher to kill the bird if he absolutely must (he recognizes that people have to make a living), while keeping the mind not on killing the bird (which would be wrong livelihood) but on killing the mind—that is, killing desire and attachment. A creative solution, and one that acknowledges the power of our environment over us. There are times when we cause harm without meaning to.

Of course, the Buddha would never accept this as a long-term solution. He would encourage the bird catcher to change jobs if he could. Bird catching simply is not right livelihood. But perhaps for the time being, there is no choice. You must feed yourself and your family, and this means you must make a living in a compromised fashion. You’ll simply have to work that much harder to keep your mind pure until you can find work that is right livelihood.

You can pursue enlightenment no matter what job you have, and you can often transform your boring or unfulfilling work into mindful work by changing how you think about your work, by changing your spirit. You can be a garbage collector, in the spirit of love and service, and be well on your way to Buddhahood. There’s no question that garbage collecting is right livelihood, while a creative and high-paying position in a corrupt and greedy field is not. Whatever your job is, start there; adopt the right mind and take that first step on the path. Yes, the path may lead you to change careers, but the Buddha does not demand that you harm yourself in doing so. In the end, only a career that helps will make you truly fulfilled.

What Does It Mean to Be a Great Employee?

A good employee serves her employer in five ways: by getting up and starting work before her; by stopping after her; by taking from her employer only what is given; by striving to do her work well; and by upholding her employer’s name.

—Digha Nikaya 31

IF YOU’RE WONDERING what you can do to endear yourself to the boss, to be a great employee, the Buddha has some words of wisdom for you. Get back to basics. Forget about kissing up—no one is impressed by that. To be a great employee, start by doing great work. Here are the five suggestions that the Buddha gave:

1. Get up and start work before your boss. It never hurts to arrive at work a little bit early; you will be calm and collected as you start your day.

2. Stop work after your boss does: being willing to stay a little longer to tie up loose ends or to help a coworker is a great way to show that you are willing to go the extra mile. And, so often, this quieter time is the most productive in the day.

3. Take from your employer only what is given. Not taking what is not ours is one of the five basic Buddhist precepts. It may seem harmless to take home that pencil or that wrench or some other little thing, but it really is stealing, and it’s the first step on a long downward spiral. Everyone may do it, but you don’t want to be just like everyone, do you? You want to be authentically you.

4. Strive to do your work well. This may seem obvious, but many people do just enough work to get by … and then wonder why they aren’t doing better in their careers. Don’t waste time on scheming or daydreaming; the Buddha always focused on effort. The bottom line: above all else, do great work!

5. Uphold your employer’s name. To many people you meet, you are your organization. Whether you are on the job or off, speak well of your employer and represent them well in the community; it will come back to reward you in surprising ways.

What does it take to be a great employee? You can always add more things to this list, of course, but the Buddha lays it out plain: start with the basics.

Can You Have Self-Esteem and Still Be Buddha?

As a solid rock doesn’t quaver in the wind,
So the wise are moved by neither praise nor blame
.

—Dhammapada 81

YOU MAY HAVE heard that the Buddha denied the existence of the self. Let’s be clear: the Buddha never denied that we experience the world and our lives through a sense of self. This self matters and needs attention. What the Buddha denied was that this self is enduring. Our selves arise and pass away; they exist in their relationships and experiences, and these are constantly changing.

The Buddha respects the need for self-esteem. The self in this world needs to feel positive about itself. He warns you not to be swayed by other people’s opinion of you or your work. You know when you have done your best work, and you are the best person to judge your own actions. Do not give away your self-confidence by letting others’ opinions determine whether you feel good or bad about yourself. If you let others’ praise or criticism affect your sense of self-worth, you will forever be a slave to public opinion. In a sense, what they think of you is none of your business. Does a rock care what the wind thinks of it? A rock just goes on doing its thing. So do Buddhas. So can you.

It is a truism that people who feel good about themselves produce good results. It is also true that people who produce good results feel good about themselves. Which comes first, the self-esteem or the good results?

The Buddha would tell us it doesn’t matter which comes first. If you feel good about yourself, chances are, you are already producing good results. If you don’t feel good about yourself, try producing good results and see how your self-esteem improves. Instead of the contemporary “power of positive thinking,” Buddhism emphasizes the “power of positive doing.” Get into action, and see how it improves your mood, sometimes immediately. Action alleviates anxiety. It also helps elevate self-esteem and can even lighten depression. So, if your self-esteem isn’t all you’d like it to be, get your butt in gear. Perhaps the Buddha would phrase it differently, but no less bluntly. Act in the awareness of the rightness of action, even if you don’t feel positive. In this scenario, thinking will follow acting.

Dealing with Distractions

Reaching for the silence
he hears
every single sound
.

—Steven Sanfield, “A Poem for Those of You
Who Are Sometimes Troubled by Barking Dogs
and Low Flying Jets,” in American Zen1

THE POET STEVE SANFIELD is not a psychologist, but he is a Buddhist, and he is certainly onto the irony of the vexed relationship between concentration and distraction.

If we are so easily distracted, what can we do to focus in order to see projects through to completion? The Buddha advises us to train our minds, specifically through meditation and other forms of spiritual discipline. Having a trained mind is good because it lets us focus on the important things. A trained mind brings ease because it is uncluttered. We no longer feel the anxiety of the monkey mind, chattering endlessly, or hear the thousand sounds that assail us. We cannot stop up our ears, but we can stop—or at least calm—the mind.

How? Take up a spiritual practice. Whether this is a martial art like aikido, a meditation practice like zazen or Transcendental Meditation (TM), a physical discipline like hatha yoga, a devotional practice like reciting scripture or prayer, or even a complex game like chess is not important—just practice something. It can even be simple mindfulness while you eat or drive or brush your teeth. Practice trains the mind, and a trained mind is a good thing. Your best choice is to look around and pick something you like. If you train in a way you like, you’ll simply do it more. As you do, your mind will focus better and longer.

Within the confines of this book, we can’t train your mind for you, but here’s one suggestion for beginners: when you feel distracted or angry or sleepy, acknowledge it; don’t deny it. That begins the training: react to the negative with the positive. Now, strengthen the positive by bringing the mind back to breathing. Stop moving; relax. Take a deep breath. Don’t think; just feel the breath. Don’t try to breathe in any special way; just breathe naturally and let your mind rest in that breathing. You can count your breaths if it helps you. Count to ten. Let the myriad things rest. Now come back to the moment. You have trained yourself to find strength in the face of distraction. Take the strength of that focus on the breath and apply it to your task.

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Endorsements

“This book, Being Buddha at Work, attempts to relate the Buddha's advice to the modern workplace. I trust that readers will find inspiration here and pray that those who do will meet with success in putting that inspiration into effect.”
—from the foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Being Buddha at Work made me think; it made me chuckle; it made me reflect. This little book is like having Buddha as one of your mentors or coaches—someone who can help you with real-world problems.”
—Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and Leading at a Higher Level

“Most of us could benefit from having a little more of Buddha in us during our daily lives. This is a great guide to transcending the tensions of the workplace and facing issues with humor and equanimity.”
—Walter Isaacson, President, The Aspen Institute, and author of the biographies Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin

“What do you get when a Buddhist scholar and a workplace expert write a book together?
Being Buddha at Work—a treatise with profound spiritual implications and practical applications. Being mindful was never as important as it is in today's high-stress business climate.”
—Marshall Goldsmith, author of Mojo and What Got You Here Won't Get You There

“As a Tibetan lama, I am happy that workers everywhere can benefit from Buddha's teachings in their jobs and careers by reading this inspiring book. These same teachings have guided my Nyingmapa lineage for centuries, so it is richly rewarding to see them expanded into this new realm.”
—Tulku Tsori Rinpoche, founder of Yogi Tsoru Dechen Rinpoche Foundation

“In a world where people are stressed, overworked, and constantly distracted by screens, this book is a gentle wake-up call. Written in a clear and loving language, it will bring a smile of recognition to your lips and help you wipe the dust off your mind's mirror.”
—Dr. Cristina Rocha, Managing Editor, Journal of Global Buddhism

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