Dharma in business

9 February 2011 - 11:44pm Comments Off

Question:

In life, we do our best to keep the basic five precepts of abstaining from killing, alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, stealing and lying. I have a few questions to ask about some of these precepts:

  1. In today’s business world, when we tell ‘white lies’ to persuade a customer, have we violated a precept even though no harm was done?
  2. When we make a counter-offer to persuade a customer to buy from us instead of a competitor, have we stolen other people’s livelihood?
  3. When I return home from shopping and discover one of my items was not charged so I did not pay for it, does it mean I am stealing?

Maybe you are asked these questions everyday but I have been thinking about them for quite some time now, and I hope you can give me some insight.

Answer:

They are all good questions, and they are questions many of us can ask ourselves everyday when we go about our daily business. Let me answer your questions in the order you have asked them, for simplicity’s sake.

  1. Everything is governed by the law of karma. That means cause resembles effect. In the context of your question, if we tell white lies that do not cause harm, then we will also have to experience people telling us white lies that do not harm us. Therefore, if we do not mind having white lies told to us, then we are free to do the same. Bear in mind however, that when we tell white lies, we may eventually become habituated into telling lies that harm other people, because we become used to the action of telling a lie.
  2. In order to steal, you must have taken it from someone who already owned the thing you took. Do we really own our clients, or do our clients own us? We can go into a long debate about that but again, in the context of your question, if you use underhanded methods to get the client, then you must be prepared for someone to do the same to you. If you use fair ways to win the client, then the same will happen to you in the future.
  3. It is not stealing as you had no intention to steal. What is good though, is if you return the item, or go back to pay for it. Why? Even though you did not mean to steal, the item taken and not being paid for may lead to further repercussions. For example, the salesperson might be blamed for missing stock. Your question also points to a good opportunity to practise awareness – were you aware of what was put into your shopping bag, or what was being entered on to your receipt?

All of your questions are a question of karma. Whatever we do, we will experience the effects of our actions so let’s do positive actions to experience positive results.

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