I had the good fortune of meeting Awardee Prof. Ngawang Samten at Transcendence 2017, an OD and Change Conference at TISS, organized by CSOL, a few months ago. He is a Tibetan Educationist and the recipient of Padma Shree for his contribution to the field of education.

As the key note speaker at the conference, he talked on Compassion and its relevance at the workplace. His speech has stayed with me as post that I have been finding myself connecting the dots.

Isn’t Compassion at the root of Inclusion? Being a practitioner of Buddhism myself, I couldn’t help but see how the wisdom of Inclusion lies at the heart of the various concepts and teachings of the Buddha, albeit as I understand and interpret them. As I share my ideas with you, let us first look at a broad understanding of the two topics individually.


In my earlier articles, I have shared the definition of inclusion. It is about every individual working within an organization with a sense of belonging and equal access to opportunities and information networks.

In order for such equality to exist, the important pre-condition is an environment that is free of prejudices and stereotypes. Importantly, it is an environment where assumptions about a person’s potential is not driven by pre-conceived notions or biases based on a person’s gender, disability, race, and other visible and invisible dimensions of diversity such as sexual orientation or cognitive diversity. At the very minimum, it is an environment that fosters a culture of equality, and encourages its employees to to actively work towards examining their own biases and seeking ways to overcome them.


In the Lotus Sutra, one of the key teachings of Buddhism which is, in fact, considered to have been expounded by Gautam Buddha during the last eight years of his life, it is said that every individual possesses the innate potential to become a Buddha himself or herself. Every individual is already a Buddha waiting to be discovered. Undoubtedly, once he or she discovers their Buddhahood, they work actively towards applying this in the external world.

It is important to recognize here that a Buddha is an individual who not only recognizes her/his potential, but equally recognizes that this same potential to attain Buddhahood exists in others as well. Without recognizing that every other individual also possesses innate potential, one cannot achieve enlightenment.

And of course, one can recognize the existence of Buddhahood or the innate potential in others only by freeing oneself from prejudices and stereotypes. Consistent examination of the negative views that one holds about people they interact with is required.

Finding the parallels

  • The condition for Inclusion and attaining Buddhahood are the same: examining one’s own biases and negative views of people that one interacts with
  • Both involve an intense amount of self-work and self awareness. In order for biases to be overcome, self-awareness and acceptance that one does have biases is important. Similarly, for one to attain enlightenment, one cannot do so without becoming aware of his or her own self
  • Inclusion and Buddhahood both call for a dynamic and consistent process rather than an end state. For example, having a policy alone or having a diversity recruitment target alone will not lead to inclusion. Similarly, Buddhahood is not a state that one attains and remains in. Rather, it comes to life only when an individual consistently overcomes her/his own negative tendencies, disrespecting others being one of them.
  • Attainment or the process of attaining both Inclusion and Buddhahood leads to a win-win situation for all. An inclusive environment leads to higher engagement of employees, leading to higher productivity & strengthening the business case from the organizational perspective. The interesting similarity is that once an individual has become aware of his or her potential for Buddha nature, he or she will work actively towards helping others do the same, which in effect means that everyone will be operating at a higher potential. Isn’t that the same as higher productivity?

In drawing this parallel, the key point that I wish to leave you with is the importance of compassion in your journey towards Inclusion. Efforts towards Inclusion will be made much easier if the culture of an organization actively promotes and propagates this kind of deep-seated and unquestionable respect for self and others. Drawing a specific business case will also no longer be a question, as the biggest benefit to a business will naturally come in when every single employee is functioning at her/his highest potential, which a Buddha does, naturally and seamlessly.

I have also explored this idea further in another article to show how leaders can draw from Buddhism to be truly inclusive while unlocking their full potential. There is a wealth of knowledge in this parallel, and I plan to explore it deeper in my upcoming articles. If this perspective appeals to you, be sure to watch this space for more.

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