Buddhism is often referred to as the pursuit of the ‘Middle Way’. It typically refers to the rejection of ‘extremes’. 

 If we go back to the origin story of Gautam Buddha, we find the roots of the concept of the ‘Middle Way’ in his rejection of the two extremes of over-indulgence and over-asceticism.  Rather, he decided to focus on deeply understanding the simple ‘truth’. And that’s when he, in fact, got his enlightenment.

 Before moving forward, let us understand this a bit more. Are some of you thinking that the ‘Middle Way’ is in fact a compromise? Quite the contrary, in fact. It simply means:-

 ·      A rejection of holding on to any extreme view point, without exploring other perspectives on the same.

·      Investigating with an open mind rather than a biased view- positioning oneself on a neutral, objective ground

·      Being true to oneself, but also deeply aware of the impact of one’s actions on others and the environment too

 So, now comes the question of what this has to do with Inclusion. I have earlier written on the parallels between Buddhism and Inclusionachieving Inclusive leadership through Buddhism, and a comparative perspective on the pursuit of benefits in Buddhism and Inclusion. The wealth of knowledge in Buddhism that is relevant to Inclusion is enormous.

 When thinking about the Middle Way, we can observe that there are many extremes that one sees in the practice of Inclusion in today’s corporates. Here are some extremes that we can watch out for and take the ‘Middle Way’ in our journey of pursuing Inclusion.


1) Authenticity vs Fitting in

 Authenticity is one of the new corporate ‘buzz’ words, with several organizations making it part of their core values. However, excessive authenticity may lead to people getting too attached to their own identities. ‘But this is me’ or ‘I am like this only’ are the common statements depicting this tendency.

 On the other extreme is the excessive need to ‘fit in’- changing one’s own identity or taking on the identity of another in order to be accepted. Common examples are women taking on a highly aggressive stance because they feel it will lead to the same success as their male colleagues. Aggressive behavior in women is completely acceptable, only when it is truly natural to her.  

 Pursuing the Middle Way would be to encourage authenticity or fitting in to be practiced in an appropriate manner, and more importantly, in a manner that is relevant to the context and situation at hand.


2) Targets vs Development

 This is another fallacy that we see, which in fact, we have addressed in an earlier article on the difference between Integration and Inclusion. In an effort to be more inclusive, organizations put in recruitment targets for the various diversity strands; for example, ‘we want to be more inclusive, and would like to hire one transgender person this year,’ or ‘we have mandated a 10% increase in our women employees this year’. The hiring does happen, but oftentimes, diversity efforts stop right there.

 The other extreme would be to only concentrate on the development of the diversity strands that exist, without thought to the minority vs majority perspective. For that one transgender member who gets hired, extreme efforts are made to make that person included, and in that very act, the organization successfully brings about their exclusion. To be made to be in the constant eye can be rather tiresome on a daily basis, not to mention the stress it puts on performance. But having more transgender members can in fact reduce this kind of exclusion.

 Hiring of diverse groups needs to be carried out with a clear plan for achieving optimum targets and ensuring their development and ‘psychological inclusion’. That is the Middle Way.


3) Trending initiatives vs Contextual initiatives

 The extremes in this case are a) organizing only trending initiatives or b) considering only the organisation’s context while implementing initiatives.

 Oftentimes, we find organisations focusing on implementing initiatives that are trending, and have gained popularity as an industry best practice. One such example is that of Unconscious Biases workshops. Almost every organization that I have interacted with either has already conducted or has plans for a half-day session for senior managers; with no plans of following it up with any other intervention that are perhaps more relevant to the internal culture of the organization.

 On the other extreme is the viewpoint that ‘there is no such thing as a best practice. We are unique and therefore our interventions also need to be so.’ While this is very true, it also belies the fact that best practices have their own value too. A classic example of this is when organizations take the stance of ‘our managers don’t have biases, therefore, a discussion on biases is not relevant for us.”


It is exactly these extremes that the Middle Way rejects. Without examining what is the long-term impact of an intervention or examining with an open mind if it holds good in one’s context is critical.

 In conclusion, going beyond just inclusion, there is a lot to learn from the Middle Way and its application in behaviors and interactions in the daily world.

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