The pursuit of benefits in Buddhism and Inclusion: A comparative perspective

A practitioner of the Lotus Sutra may be quite familiar with the concepts of receiving benefits in the pursuit of Buddhahood. And similarly, a champion of diversity and inclusion is very much interested in the benefits that inclusive practices can bring to her or his organization.

 If there were no benefits that one was to receive from either of these, then why would one focus on or spend time, effort and energy on the same? Therefore, benefits are definitely important, but equally important is to put them in perspective.

 First, let’s understand the idea of benefits from a Buddhist standpoint.

 Typically, a practitioner will take to a Buddhist way of life to overcome a certain negative situation in their life. Of course, there are some who take up this way of life more as a way of achieving a higher self, but largely, it is to put behind a negative situation and have their prayers answered.

 And of course, prayers do get answered, specifically in two forms:

 1)    Conspicuous Benefits: As the name suggests, these are the benefits that one can see, depending on what one has been praying for and focusing their energies on. They take place when prayers are answered in exactly the form that one has hoped for- finding the right job, finding a partner, earning a certain amount of money. This list literally can be endless.

 2)    Inconspicuous Benefits: A practitioner also receives benefits that cannot really be seen, but only experienced. These take place within the individual’s being, and can be felt only over a period of time. Simple examples of these include overcoming the negative tendencies of anger or laziness, or being judgmental.

 Now comes the interesting part- the inconspicuous benefits that a person experiences is oftentimes what leads to conspicuous benefits being realized.

 For example, a person who was earlier lazy and laid-back will find herself or himself becoming proactive. This proactive person now networks in the right circles, which leads to landing the ‘dream job’.

 And here in lies the biggest challenge: if one gets too attached or focused only on the Conspicuous Benefits, one may not recognize the role of the Inconspicuous leading to the Conspicuous.

 This is exactly the scenario with any change intervention that an organization seeks to implement, especially from a Diversity and Inclusion perspective.

 The very obvious Conspicuous benefit of a D&I intervention is the immediate benefit to business, what in other words, is really the business case for starting the D&I journey. These are seen in the form of numbers and data- increase in the bottom-line by having more women in the workforce, lesser attrition due to having more disabled employees, etc.

 The inconspicuous on the other hand, is the positive cultural shifts that keep taking place within the organization:

 ·      Feelings of belonging and inclusion will lead to employees being more embedded in the system

·      Knowing that one’s diverse identity will not come in the way of promotions or growth will motivate the employee in giving her or his best

·      Authenticity will lead to an employee being more productive and engaged

·      When one feels like their diverse view points will be heard and considered, it drives innovation

 This list can surely be quite long. Just like a practitioner may start for a conspicuous benefit, so does an organization, for a business benefit. However, it really is the internal, inconspicuous benefits experiences over a period of time that will lead to a visible, conspicuous benefit.

 So, D&I champions, continue your efforts. Believe in the power and importance of the Inconspicuous, convince your leaders of the same, and then see the Conspicuous emerge without fail!  

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