Centre for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism, The Chinese University of Hong Kong



India was in its first urbanization period when Buddhism came into being. Merchants began to flourish when they migrated into cities. At that time, the Buddha advocated the life ethics of “equality and autonomy” and “self-retribution” against the background of traditional Brahman monopoly on offering sacrifices to the gods, which made the broad audience become a new social class. These believers are mainly engaged in various business activities, as the Saṃyukta Āgama Sūtra says: “Businessmen who make a living, farm merchants, herd cattle and sheep for prosperity, and house for profit.” Whether it is agricultural and animal husbandry harvests, or business and trade, business operations, investment and interest-bearing income, etc., they are all economic activities endorsed by Buddhism.

However, for Buddhists to engage in commercial activities, they still have to adhere to the principle of “a gentleman loves money and get it in a proper way”, and operate a business in accordance with the teachings of Buddhism. The so-called “Business Method (Shang Dao)” must also conform to the “Noble Eightfold Path” (Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Conduct or Action, Right livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration/samadhi).  On in this way will business not depart from the way of Buddhism.  By doing so, when Buddhist businessmen emphasize the maximization of profits and benefits, they will certainly be able to use Buddhism that transcends utilitarianism as the basis to follow, and to convert the profits they obtain into social welfare and achieve the greatest value of their enterprise.

Buddhism, which has a history of more than two thousand years, continues the wisdom life of the Buddha and not only participates in the organization and planning of education, culture, charity, and spiritual practice, but also promotes social harmony and progress. However, with the continuous progress and prosperity of corporate civilization and business culture, Buddhism is also facing new survival thinking: Is the traditional reciprocal donation between corporate cultures sustainable? And what impact will the modern business model have on the operation of the Buddhist Sangha? Such doubts are all subjects that “Humanistic Buddhism” must face squarely.

As everyone knows, there is no fixed answers for all questions, no definite dhamra for all situations, and the “dharma” must be used skillfully and wisely at any time.  The same applies management methods.  In recent years, the doctrines and theories of Western management masters have set off a global trend, which has promoted the retrospect of Chinese traditional culture in order to derive good management philosophy from the theories of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.  Hence the emergence of “Ancient Emperorism”, “Management from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, “Chan in Enterprises”, “Zhuangzi and Operation Management”, “Heart Sūtra and Modern Management” and other related topics and statements. In this regard, Master Hsing Yun thought: “Whether it is to learn from the West or explore the wisdom of the East, these theories and methods can only be used as examples and references.  How to use them flexibly according to time, place, and person is the most important thing.”  This is true. In addition to professional knowledge, “management” must also have the ability to understand and motivate others, and more importantly, to be able to analyze and diagnose mental abilities generated under complex situations.

Management is not merely a matter of operation.  Even more, it involves the understanding and mastery of human nature.  If management is left with only the calculation of revenue, it will be reduced to the tool and means of the employer. This classical management thought has long been unable to meet the trend of “human needs” emphasized in the modern era. “Management” involves interpersonal interaction, and interpersonal interaction is rooted in human nature.  In Buddhist management thinking, great attention is paid to the thinking of the actor; in other words, if the managers can practice correct thinking, maintain right knowledge and right view, they will have a guiding effect on the organization.  This is so, so in the teachings of Buddhism, it is advocated that all behaviour begin with the cultivation of the mind. Therefore, various functional roles must assume corresponding responsibilities under autonomy and self-discipline, and establish a sense of “self-management”.  Once self-management is possible, the various institutional norms can have their beginning and end. Buddhism emphasizes moral and ethical awareness, so the self-management part pays more attention to inner purification, and advocates that it is not necessary to rely too much on external forces to achieve one’s career. The external can only be used as supporting conditions, and the main condition is still in the heart.  This is also the fundamental law of “humanity management”.

As Ven. Master Hsing Yun said, “Management… is to test how much compassion and wisdom you have in your heart… More importantly, let yourself have others and the interests of the public in your heart, and be able to manage your own mind with compassion and gentleness, to the extent that you and the others are like one, and that you treat people with sincerity and lead people with humility and equality.  Only then you will be considered to have completed the credits of “management studies”. ” The master’s teaching indicates that the manager should have compassion and wisdom, benefiting and guiding all beings with subtle and pure language, and practicing generosity to benefit sentient beings.  He should have sympathy for all beings, and follow their three karma of body, speech and mind, so as to attain benefits and happiness.  Only when managers possess the bodhisattva spirit of “treating all others like treating myself”, be considerate of others, benefit others, help others, and make everyone happy, can they achieve the highest level of management.  In other words, from the point of view of human nature, managers should not regard the managed as a production tool, blindly demanding the enhancement of work efficiency and the increase in production quality, but respect their existence.  If the two parties can establish the concepts of “you and me are the same” and “we share the same destiny”, then they will be able to exert their greatest overall strength and create a win-win situation.

The ancients advocated that “understanding one principle leads to understanding one hundred principles” and that “the wonder of application lies in one’s mind.”  Their ideas are consistent with the Buddhist prajñā system. How to use the prajñā wisdom of Buddhism to fulfil the modern management system has gradually been influenced by the times, and has gradually acquired people’s concern and attention.  The Humanistic Buddhism advocated by Ven. Master Hsing Yun emphasizes returning to the Buddha’s original bosom.  It has the humanistic care that benefits the world, and meets the spiritual needs of modern people. The integration of Humanistic Buddhism and modern management has constructed the embryonic form of “Management in Humanistic Buddhism”, which meets the needs of today’s business circles.  From this point of view, “Management in Humanistic Buddhism” is undoubtedly the high-level wisdom and wealth that brings the essence of “Chinese Style Management” to the world stage and contributes to human civilization.

In view of this, Centre for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism of the Chinese University of Hong Kong invites relevant scholars to conduct case studies, design teaching courses and academic research that match the trend of the times, and publish the “Management of Humanistic Buddhism Series”. This series of books can not only be used as course materials and academic research, but also a good reference for future enterprises. It is hoped that through this Centre, we can attract people from all walks of life to care about management, research management, and the audience can also benefit from this.  It is for the longest hope.


Chen Chien Huang
Director, Centre for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
11 November 2020