Geshe Michael Roach explains the priciples of Buddhist economy and how to be successful with ethical methods in business
derStandard.at: How can someone be ethically correct and successful?
Michael Roach: The Diamond Cutter, a teaching originally given by the Buddha, is the oldest printed book in the world. Our company, Andin International Diamond, was the first modern business to use this book as a guide to our operations. As a result, our company was the fastest growing corporation of its type in the history of New York City. We went from zero to current annual sales of about US$250 million, and the firm was recently purchased by super-investor Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest man in the US (after Bill Gates).
If we study the Diamond Cutter carefully, we see that following ethics strictly in our business is not simply the right thing to do, but it actually makes the company much more successful, and at Andin International we have proved that this is true.
At the same time it's important to say that there are special techniques to running a company this way, and if you don't know them, you won't have the same success that we did. This is why some ethical companies seem to fail, and some unethical companies seem to succeed. You have to know the proper techniques to use ethical methods to be successful, and then you will be much more successful than any other company.
derStandard.at: Does something like Buddhist economy exist?
Michael Roach: There is a growing Buddhist economy around the world. When we say "Buddhist" economy, we don't mean that the people in these companies are Buddhists. They are just using the principles that are found in the "Diamond Cutter," which is a Buddhist book. These principles work for everybody who tries them, no matter what religion or country they come from. We have reports that about 3 million people are using the Diamond Cutter business philosophy now. The "Diamond Cutter" book has now been translated into 20 different languages, and it is especially popular in China and other Asian countries, contributing a lot to the significant economic growth there.
We have also received hundreds of exciting stories about people who are gaining unbelievable success using this philosophy. My favorite story is about two women in New York who were working as secretaries for an advertising agency. They read the "Diamond Cutter" and decided to start their own ad company, using the principles in the book. After only a short time, their company-which is called Kaplan Thaler Advertising-is now up to over US$1 billion in annual sales, and they have a beautiful huge building in Manhattan.
derStandard.at: You have been trained for 21 years in Tibetan monasteries; which are the most important virtues you have learned there for use in management or successful career strategies?
Michael Roach: I think there are two things which I learned in the Tibetan monasteries which have helped me the most in my business career. The first is about how karma really works. I mean, we all have some idea about what "karma" means. We do something good or bad to somebody else, and then the same thing comes back to us later. But this is not enough understanding to use karma to be successful in business.
If we learn a little bit more about karma, we can use it not only for financial success, but also to succeed in other parts of our life. For example, we can use karma to attract the kind of person we want for a great relationship. Or we can fix problems that come up with our health: we can stay young, strong, and trim. Here is a short explanation about how karma works.
I have a company, and I want it to make a better profit. And so I take some of the company money, and I invest it in a smaller business which is being started by a poor person in my country. When I hand this person the money, I am watching my own arm and hand reach out to give the money.
My mind makes a recording of what I am seeing. It becomes a memory. The memory plants a seed of karma in my mind. This seed gets bigger and bigger in my mind, and then it opens up. When the seed opens up, inside my mind, it makes me see a great opportunity for my own business which I never saw before. This is how the karma comes back to me. I follow up on this opportunity, and make a big profit. And so the first thing I learned in the monastery was how this process of karma works, and how to speed it up. This is how we made the fastest-growing company in New York.
The second important idea which I learned is about "me" and "you." If I can only make money for me by making money for you, then helping you is the same thing as helping me. And then clearly there is not so much difference between you and me as we always thought there was. Taking care of each other becomes a very natural thing to do, and this makes both of us not only more successful, but more loving to each other, and happier individuals.
derStandard.at: Which kind of people are attending your seminars in the US and Asia?
Michael Roach: There are many kinds of people attending our seminars in the US and Asia. A lot of them are business owners or executives of large companies. They want to know how to take their business up to the next level of success. Other people are employees who are working in companies, many of them as supervisors or managers. They want to know how they can make a better salary, or get a better position in their company. But there is an interesting thing that happens at our seminars. What we are offering to people is a new key from the ancient wisdom of Tibet that they can use for definite success in modern business. When people come to the seminar, they quickly realize that they can use this same key in other parts of their life. For example, once they learn how to apply Diamond Cutter principles for their business, people see that they can also use them for different kinds of success: to become healthy and strong; to find a good personal relationship; to become more creative, more happy, in everything that they do.
derStandard.at: You are also confronted with critical voices. What do you answer?
Michael Roach: Here's the one most common criticism that we get, and how we answer it. Some people ask why a Buddhist monk is teaching people how to make money. They say that being successful in business, and being successful in your inner life, are completely different things. Why are you mixing them together? The answer is that the key to inner success and the key to outer success are the same. If you really understand how to be successful in meditation, for example, then you can use this same understanding to be successful in business. It's no different. If you succeed in both of these things, then you become a calm, good person who also has enough financial resources to make a positive change in society and in the world.
Money doesn't make you happy, but a happy person who has money can do a lot of good in the world.
derStandard.at: You have established a 250-million-dollar company in the last 15 years; do you think you would have been as successful without being educated as a Geshe?
Michael Roach: Normally, whenever we undertake a new business strategy-or any other action in our life, even if it's just driving our car to work-we can't be hundred percent sure that we are going to succeed: maybe we will get in a car accident on the way to work! Life is full of unexpected disappointments, and unfortunately we get used to them. We learn to try to make the best of it. We think that happiness is learning to manage our disappointment in a mature way. The Diamond Cutter business principles though work hundred percent of the time. If a person is properly educated and simply follows the instructions that we offer in our seminars, then it is hundred percent certain that they will succeed.
And so to answer your question, it's possible that I might have been successful without my education in the Diamond Cutter principles. But it's also possible that I may have been a failure. And so my life would have been much different: I would have had that anxiety that so many people have, because they don't know what's going to happen to them: they don't know if what they are trying to do is going to be successful. The best thing about the Diamond Cutter method is not just that we become financially successful. More importantly, we know that what we try to do will be successful, and so we don't have any more anxiety or fear about failing. This makes us not only financially successful, but also very happy and relaxed people. (derStandard.at, April 7, 2010)