NEW YORK, Feb. 10—A twenty-year-old public relations campaign by major Buddhist leaders appears to have paid off, according to a business-climate poll released today by magazine. For the first time in the fifty-year history of the poll, business leaders across the country have ranked Buddhism among the nation’s top ten business-friendly religions.
“This is a dramatic turnaround,” reported Gregory Hobbes, Business Week’s religion watchdog. “Only twenty-five years ago, Buddhism was deep in the ‘actively frigid’ category, due to its emphasis on contentment, renunciation, and karmic responsibility. When Small Is Beautiful came out in the early seventies, Buddhism’s rating hit an all-time low from which we thought it would never recover. But now, thanks to the concerted efforts of a new breed of enlightened Buddhist entrepreneurs, that image has been totally erased. Buddhism has shown convincingly that it is willing and able to do business on our terms.”
Among the factors cited by Hobbes to explain the turnaround:
The withdrawal of teachings that might question the values of the modern business corporation. “Buddhists have done a brilliant inside job of gutting the doctrine of karmic consequences. And their willingness to waive copyright on the concept of nirvana for use in advertising was a very savvy touch,” Hobbes commented.
The recent spate of Buddhist books celebrating the workplace as the ideal context for a complete spiritual life. “This way,” Hobbes noted, “Buddhism doesn’t get in the way of increasing demands that executives are forced to place on their employees in today’s competitive environment. Buddhist employees can feel that they’re fulfilling their spiritual aspirations at the same time as they’re meeting their quarterly targets. In fact, studies have shown that with their training in mindfulness, Buddhist employees are actually outperforming their less focused colleagues by a factor of five to four.”
The cultivation of an ideal experience-consumer attitude. “With American business increasingly geared toward providing experiences rather than mere products to its customers, we need to teach the public how to enjoy experiences enough to keep them hooked, but not so much as to get them sated. Buddhists, with their training in embracing each experience as it comes and then letting it go to embrace whatever experience comes next, have shown imaginative leadership in fostering the right experience-consumption mentality.”
The business of Buddhism itself. “Books, magazines, audiotapes, videotapes, teaching tours, concert tours, conferences, upscale retreat centers, meditation accessories, and altar tchotchkes—you name it, Buddhism has been what you might call a real Buddha-send to virtually every sector of the spiritual services industry. And our inside sources inform us that franchising is just around the corner.”
When asked why the liberal tilt of the Buddhist demographic hadn’t kept it out of the top ten, Hobbes replied, “That factor didn’t help, of course, but then Buddhists actually pride themselves on not holding firmly to their views, which has helped neutralize their negative impact.”
Still, business leaders have indicated that Buddhism’s newfound status doesn’t rule out room for improvement. When informed of Business Week’s findings, a spokesperson for Citigroup, Inc., commented, “We congratulate Buddhism on finally developing the maturity needed to become a responsible force in the global community, but we hope it won’t rest on its laurels. In today’s fast-changing economy, it will need to continue accommodating itself to the demands of the business sector if it wants to maintain its competitive edge.
After all, isn’t embracing change for the sake of survival what Buddhism is all about?” Despite repeated efforts to locate it, Buddhism was unavailable for comment.