5 Buddhist Principles to Help Run a Business

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Buddhism is often associated with meditation. But it also provides multiple insights into ways of thinking that can be applied to any field. Let’s look at some Buddhist principles that can help us run any project or business.

Define the Goal

Buddhism strongly emphasizes having a clear understanding of the goal and direction before becoming involved with Buddhist practice. The goal is to completely rid ourselves of disturbing emotions and to realize the full potential of our minds and hearts. This final state is called “enlightenment.”

Similarly, when we start any project or business, it is crucial to define the goal. Is it profit? Is it creating a certain value for customers or solving some difficult problem they’re having? The more precisely the goal is defined, the easier it is to figure out the road that can lead to it, and the higher the probability of reaching that goal.

Follow the Principle of Cause and Effect

Once the goal is defined, we need to figure out the causes that would lead to this goal. For enlightenment, the causes would be stopping our destructive behavior and training the good qualities of our minds, familiarizing ourselves with constructive, realistic ways of perceiving the world and dealing with it.

In the case of a business project, we need to use logic to figure out the causes that would lead us to our final goal. The process is like reverse engineering. We start to trace back the logical sequence of actions that would lead to a defined goal. This process helps to define the needed steps to achieve the goal and forms a good basis for a road map for the project.

Compassion: Solve a Customer Problem

Compassion is one of the most important Buddhist principles. According to Buddha’s teachings:

Compassion is the wish for others to be rid of their sufferings.

What does it have to do with a business? Business provides a solution to a customer problem. If a solution provided by a business is better than other existing solutions, it wins the competition race. So, understanding a problem our potential customers might be facing and having an empathetic attitude toward it are crucial. We need to identify and always keep in mind some real problem that our target audience is having in their lives and, based on that understanding, try to solve this problem in the best possible way. Compassion is the foundation for a customer-first or a user-centered approach to a business.

Impermanence: Adapt to a Changing World

Buddhist analysis brings us another valuable insight into reality: everything changes constantly – we ourselves, the environment, and all the people around us. It’s very easy to get caught with an idea that seems to be obvious and solid; but, in a rapidly changing reality, it often becomes a cause for narrow-minded thinking, stubbornness and inflexibility.

Let’s take Netflix as an example. They realized that the Internet changed media consumption patterns. Old school thinking had only one solution for consuming video content: rent a DVD. But Netflix became aware that there is an easier way to do that – video streaming. The entire media consumption industry didn’t realize the impermanence of the market and user habits. But Netflix realized it first, and changed the whole industry forever.

Ethics: Respect Yourself, Your Team and the Consumer

Buddhist ethics is based on the principle of non-violence. We realize that everyone wants to be happy and doesn’t want to suffer. If we base our actions on this understanding and try to avoid harming others, we gain their respect and trust.

If we respect our colleagues, it brings trust and understanding in the team. We try to avoid saying something nasty behind people’s backs or to their face, and try to be transparent. Further, the more we respect our customer, the more trust and loyalty we get back. Great companies like Zappos based their business model on respect of a customer needs and equanimity and transparency among the workers.


We can use 5 Buddhist principles to make our business stronger. These principles are:

  • Define the goal
  • Rely on cause and effect
  • Develop empathy and compassion for the customer
  • Be mindful of impermanence and be flexible and innovative
  • Follow ethical principles and respect for colleagues and customers.