The transformative principles of Buddhism

The powerful transformative principles of Buddhism, for life, work, happiness, fulfilment and success

“Do not pursue the past; Do not idly hold out hopes for the future. The past is already discarded And the future has not yet arrived. Thoroughly discern the nature of the present, in the midst of reality. Simply set your heart on doing What must be done today”
– Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha

People think that Buddhism is all about giving things up, and sitting still all day, meditating – but that’s not necessarily the case. Many people also think that it’s about humble pennilessness and austerity – it isn’t.

Buddhism is more profound than this. It’s about maximising your own potential and creating benefit for yourself and other people in the world – making the world a better place through transformation of the self. So it’s perfectly possible to be highly successful and to generate wealth, while still being happy and fulfilled, having good relationships, creating value, and making the world a better place. Here are some key points in learning from Buddhist philosophy and applying it in life and work

  • Buddhism teaches that life isn’t a series of events that ‘happen’ to you, in a way that’s unrelated to how you conduct yourself. Rather, it’s a process that you can very much affect, take charge of, and influence positively. Buddhism is about getting your life – and other people’s lives – to work better.
  • Every individual has latent potential to manifest the positive aspects of buddhahood – qualities such as courage, wisdom and compassion – as well as the opposite, negative potential with qualities like fearfulness, greed or ignorance. Buddhist practice is the endeavour to live in a way that brings out our more positive potential for the benefit not only of ourselves, but also of others
  • As human individuals, we are not fixed quantities; we can transform ourselves through determined and consistent development of ourselves – bringing out our positive potential and overcoming our negative tendencies
  • Our lives unfold in terms of cause and effect, which is related to karma. To improve the results that we are achieving in our lives and work, we can:
    1) make positive causes in the present so as to create positive effects in the future
    2) address and work on negative results we are experiencing in the present, which have in turn been produced by negative causes we made in the past. The buddhist concept of karma is much misunderstood. Here’s a link to a humorous look at it
  • The Buddhist principle of esho funi* teaches that the events and experiences that happen to us, seemingly caused entirely by factors which are external to us, can be powerfully influenced and even controlled by what we create within ourselves, through our thoughts, feelings and actions. This links with the Buddhist principle of dependent origination, emphasising that everything in the universe – all people, all events and all phenomena – are inextricably connected.
  • Difficulties and challenges inevitably arise in life; what we need is a way of dealing with them to best effect, as an alternative to losing hope and giving up, or to just wishing they weren’t happening. Buddhism offers the revolutionary strategy of seeking to create value out of these disasters, tragedies and other unwelcomed events. This draws out our capacity to grow and develop in a way that would not be possible if the unwanted circumstances had not arisen, and is sometimes known as turning poison into medicine. Unpleasant experiences are seen as containing the further value of enabling us to understanding and have compassion for others who might be experiencing suffering.
  • Gratitude is an excellent antidote to misery, difficult as it may often seem to feel it. Even when things are dire, much usually remains to be grateful for – even the ultimate gratitude for simply being alive. Buddhism teaches that cultivating this sense of appreciation transforms our experience of life, and draws more positive responses to us from other people and from life.
  • Conversely, an attitude of complaining and blaming other people or circumstances for our problems takes away our power to transform and improve our circumstances. In Buddhism, it’s regarded as pointless and disempowering.
  • Not all Buddhists sit still in daily meditation; some chant or perform other practices. Furthermore, all parts of one’s life can constitute Buddhist practice; the principles outlined above can be applied with or without such activities, though daily commitment undoubtedly reinforces progress.

* esho funi: (Japanese) literally, “Self and environment are two but not two”

Gerry Thompson