A good friend gave me “The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life”. It is one of the few books that combines mindfulness, spirituality and business together. “The Diamond Cutter” is a written record of a teaching given by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago. It is also the oldest dated book in the world that was printed, rather than being written out by hand. It is a book about karma, imprints and mental gardening. Every thought is a seed to your future. You become what you think. In that way, it is very similar to “Free your mind of being yourself“, but in a lot more active way. Active karma management is the best way to describe the book. It is all coming from the things you did or thought before.
Business transactions, and business decisions, are like an empty screen: whether you see them work or not, whether they are successful or not, is determined not by any outer factors like the business climate or your intelligence or the amount of risk you choose to take, but rather solely by the perceptions of the transaction or the decision forced upon you by the imprints in your mind. You can control and manage those imprints.
The example that stuck to me is the example of Tibetan shepherd and how they managed their thoughts. They carried around a small bag of pebbles, half white and half black. Whenever they had a very good thought, or said something very positive to another person, or did someone else a kindness, they would take a white pebble out and put it in their left pocket. The opposite (black) would go in the right pocket. At the end of the day, they made up the balance. I think there is a product in there. Black and white stones, IoT enabled, linked to an app. Anyone?
The book starts with three basic principles
- The first principle is that the business should be successful: that it should make money.
- The second principle is that we should enjoy the money; that is, we should learn how to keep our minds and bodies in good health while we make money.
- The third principle is that you should be able to look back at your business, in the end, and honestly say that your years of doing business have had some meaning.
Everything is potential
The diamond in the title represents, in the ancient Tibetan way, a hidden potential in all things: This is usually referred to as “emptiness.” Every diamond is atomically quite simple: pure, unadulterated carbon. A pure diamond is, first of all, about the closest thing to an absolutely clear physical substance. Look through a windowpane made of a D-color diamond (if a diamond this big could ever exist), and it would look totally clear. Look down the length of a D-color diamond windowpane, and it would look just as clear. The hidden potential for success found in The Diamond Cutter is just like this pane of diamond glass. It is all around us, at all times; every object and person around us contains this potential. It is this potential which, if harnessed, leads to certain personal and business success. The irony of our lives is that, even though this potential imbues every person and thing around us, it is invisible to us: We simply cannot see it. The purpose then of “The Diamond Cutter” is to teach us how to see this potential.
Perception is everything
The hidden potential is truly absolute, in a way that no physical thing can be. Every single object in the universe—inanimate things like pebbles and planets, and animate things like ants and humans—has its own hidden potential, its own ultimate nature. This is exactly the meaning of emptiness: Things could go either way. There is no “thing” about the building in and of itself, it all depends on how we perceive it. That is the hidden potential in things. In and of itself, independent of how different people are perceiving it, it has no such nature; it is neutral or blank or empty. In short, it has “emptiness,” and this—according to the deepest books of ancient Tibetan wisdom—is its hidden and ultimate potential. In this sense again, the hidden potential of things—the one quality in things that can bring you both inner and external success—is like a diamond. Perception determines the outcome.
From here, we have to go on to the Buddhist idea of imprints in the mind, the true meaning of the word karma. Think of your mind like a video tape recorder. Your eyes and ears and all the rest are the lenses that you see out of. Almost all the knobs and switches that determine the quality of the recording are tied to intention—to what you want to happen, and why. So how does a recording get made? How are the imprints for business success or failure impressed into our minds? Our minds are like a very sensitive piece of film, and whatever we expose them to—in particular, whatever good or bad we see ourselves doing to others—makes a definite imprint or impression; the track of a dove or a wolf in fresh snow, a track that stays long after. How do these imprints affect our lives? Can we use them? Can we make things happen the way we want them to? To understand this, we have to tie the principles of the potential to the potential itself.
Sixty-five images or imprints during the space of a single finger snap
Herein lies the secret of the mental imprints. They are planted in the mind as we described above: through the gates of our own awareness of ourselves, as we do anything to help or hurt another. According to the ancient books of Buddhism, the “VCR” or camera of our mind records about sixty-five discrete images or imprints during the space of a single finger snap. These imprints enter, you could say, a place in our subconscious. Like seeds of the natural world, seeds within the stream of the mind continue to grow after they have been planted, and they grow, as in nature, in an exponential way. Our minds are like a vast repository of thousands upon thousands of mental imprints. They are queued up to take off like planes on the runway of an airport. The stronger imprints—according to the principles we talked about above—get to take off first, with fainter imprints lagging far behind but building up steam every minute they remain on the runway of the mind. When the imprint plane takes off—that is, when the impression in the mind comes up to the conscious mind—it colours (nay, even determines) our entire perception of whatever event we are undergoing at the moment.
An object becomes good or bad according to your perceptions, and these perceptions are dictated very precisely by the good or bad imprints you put in your mind in the past. Problems are not problems from their own side; rather, there is something in your mind making you see the problem as a problem. Every problem can be turned into an opportunity because no problem is a problem in and of itself. What we are talking about here is an idea that the Tibetans call kenyen chento: great potential for profit, and great risk of loss, both in the same package.
There are four rules that govern how imprints from the past “flower” in the mind, thereby forcing you to see things around you happen the way they do:
- The general content of the experience forced on you by the imprint must match the general content of the original imprinting.
- The strength of the imprint continually expands during its time in the subconscious; that is, until it flowers and forces us to undergo some experience, be it good or bad.
- No experience of any kind ever happens unless the imprint that triggers it has been planted first.
- Once an imprint is planted in the mind, it must lead to an experience: no imprint is ever wasted.
Manage your reaction
Even a relatively minor action, if undertaken with a conscious awareness of how imprints make us see an otherwise “neutral” or “empty” world as we do, will lead to tremendous results. In the majority of cases, the specific imprints in the mind that you need to create a given result in your life or business are quite nearly the opposite of what human nature tends to dictate. It’s important, therefore, to be wary of your natural reaction to a problem: It may simply perpetuate the problem. The point is that you should train yourself, in advance, to view the immediate results of your actions with a grain of salt. It is the Buddhist version of “Thinking fast and slow”. Do not trust the first stage of thinking. Those are your lizard and monkey talking to you. Read “Solve for happy”.
Your action and your thoughts determine your future. Karma. For example; every time you deny funds or help to those who depend on you, you plant an imprint that will make you see yourself and your own business denied the same funds and help. If you descend to a cheap state of mind, denying others what you actually could—even in your current finances—well afford, then you create powerful imprints that will actually affect whether or not you are able to bounce back. We are talking about how you feel actually determining whether or not you can make your payments. The premise here is profound and bluntly unprecedented in other systems of how to run a business: Money itself is created by maintaining a generous state of mind.
According to ancient Tibetan thinking, the “feelings” or “instincts” that successful businesspeople get that guide them through the dark forest of deals and markets is a direct flowering of a mental imprint— this then gives you some idea of what it feels like when a strong imprint comes up to the consciousness. Giving brings wealth, a good world comes from ethics; Patience brings beauty, eminence comes from effort. Concentration brings peace, and from wisdom comes freedom; Compassion achieves everything we all wish.
- In order to see yourself do well in business and prosper financially, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by maintaining a generous state of mind.
- In order to see yourself in a world which is just generally a very happy place, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by maintaining a very ethical way of life.
- In order to see yourself as physically healthy and attractive, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by refusing ever to get angry.
- In order to see yourself as a leader in both your personal life and in business, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by taking joy in constructive and helpful actions.
- In order to see yourself able to focus your mind steadily, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by practising deep states of concentration, or meditation.
- In order to see yourself freed from a world where things don’t work the way you want them to, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by learning the principles of hidden potential and mental imprints.
- In order to see yourself get all you ever wished for, and see others get all they ever wished for as well, plant imprints for this in your subconscious by cultivating an attitude of compassion toward others.
Your thinking determines your future
Buddhist writings go on to explain the exact dynamic behind this truth, which is precisely the law that governs imprints and what they make us see on otherwise “empty” or neutral objects like a granite block. It is, in short, a brilliant and effective method for making things happen the way we want. Everything is produced by your imprints—the world around you, the people around you, and even the way you are yourself, all of these things are a creation of your own past actions, words, and thoughts—good or bad done to others. Managing your imprints must be observed over a period of time and with complete self-honesty, and a sensitive understanding of the principles set out above—in order to bring success. Your ethical way of living and doing business must be driven by a clear and conscious awareness of what kind of imprints this behaviour will plant in your subconscious, and how this will determine the very reality of the rest of your business career.
Your mind is a garden
Growing things takes time. Imprints work the same as plants, don’t doubt it. Nobody would plant some flower seeds in their garden on Monday and then stand in the garden all day on Tuesday waiting for their flowers, angry and disappointed when they failed to appear by evening. Also, remember that imprints grow during their incubation time in the subconscious: Big results will come, even from minor imprints, but they have to be specific.
The book gives you a number of tips.
- Keep a diary and keep track of how you act and think during your day (not far from “Principles”)
- Create a space of complete silence and concentration; it doesn’t work if you get interrupted there, even if the interruption is only for a few minutes. You are reserving some of the rare, precious, irreplaceable moments of your life to go into the silence of your mind and find deeper answers to the challenges of both your business and your life.
- Set the day with silent time. The Tibetan wise men call this process ‘penpa tang”: The expression means to set the tone for an entire day by spending a few quiet moments in the morning, and the phrase is close to another that means “shooting an arrow.” The silent time should be dedicated to handling, in a very proactive and deliberate way, some problem that’s keeping you from achieving success, either in your business or your personal life. There is a custom in Tibet to finish the silent time with a specific step. Take a few moments at the end to picture yourself exactly the way you one day hope to be. The Tibetan wise men say that this should be the last part of your silent time in the morning: picturing yourself as the most successful, and wise, and compassionate person you can imagine.
- Finish the day review the day just past. Review the day and your thoughts Check for the best three things you did or said or thought, and then the worst three. Concentrate especially on the good things, and as you go to sleep.
- Take one day in the week out to drop working, reflect and learn. Spend a day away from our repetitive patterns of business thinking but also by spending a day away from concentrating on ourselves. Tsam in Tibetan means “border” or “dividing line,” and the word is used to describe the art of getting away from your work every once in a while—going off somewhere else and, in a sense, drawing a circle around yourself where you can sit quietly and think for a bit. The whole idea is to break up the usual routine; to get some time to think about why rather than how with the work at work—time to plan, time to reflect, and perhaps most important time to get new input, new sources of inspiration.
- Do some kind of light exercise. The ancient Tibetan books say that, on a very subtle and profound level, the body and the mind are linked: the heavier and less erect your body becomes, the harder it is for the subtle energies of thought itself to flow. You are not talking about exercise for the sake of exercise, or just for some kind of vanity. If your body is healthy, your mind is clearer; if your mind is clearer, your business goes better; and (as we’ll see later on) a really clear mind can transcend the limitations of the normal motivations for business:
make a conscious effort to get out and help somebody, at anything. Going into the Circle on our day off is meant to get us out of the rut of a single corporate mindset, and getting out like this can go in a number of different directions.
Everything is an opportunity with the right mindset
Every existing object in the world is empty. This means that no object in the world is good or bad from its own side; one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Problems themselves are the highest opportunity we can ever have. A problem is a problem only so long as your imprints make you perceive it as a problem. And the mere fact of knowing about this emptiness allows you to turn any problem into an opportunity. Viewing them as a problem already makes you nervous; it puts you in a defensive position mentally and quashes your creativity. Instead of feeling worried or upset that what you expected to happen isn’t happening, open yourself completely to the new direction—try to see the new road where they want you to go, rather than looking back with longing at the old familiar path.
Getting upset and concerned puts negative imprints in your mind. The mental space it takes to get upset means that there is much less space for creative solutions. It can only make things worse. Concentrating on how to discover the hidden opportunity in the problem invigorates your mind and plants only positive imprints, imprints that will make you see a success in the future.
One is the world of the hidden potential and imprints in the mind, the fabric of the very reality around us, made of a blank screen on which our perceptions project pictures of the business and personal success or failure, dependent entirely upon how we have behaved toward others in the past.
You will die
You must one day come to the end of your business, and even your life. The end is as important as the beginning and the middle; you must be able to come to the end, the inevitable end, and look back on your life in business and say honestly that it was all worth it—that all your intense hours and years of effort have had some real meaning. If I were going to die tonight, is this the way I would spend my last day? If you were really going to die tonight, would you sit and read through the whole Sunday paper or most of the magazines you subscribe to? Would you really surf around the TV looking desperately for anything of even minor interest? Would you still go out and spend an hour or two at lunch or dinner, gossiping about the other managers? Decide then: If not on the day I die, then not now either. Because, frankly, it may really be today.
Walk in someone else’s shoes
The Jampa Method is, in short, learning to be very observant of what others need and like. This is so you can give them what they want the most. Educate yourself about what others like and want. Practice exchanging yourself and others is to pretend to put your mind in their body, and then open your eyes and look at you, and see what it is that you (they) would like from you (you). Imagine, just for a moment, what would happen if the entire world thought and acted as if everyone else were they themselves. We could bring everyone to total happiness, and “no one” would reach total happiness because “everyone” would only be one of us: us. When you give something away to another person when you help another living being with your hands or your time or your funds, then a certain imprint is planted in your mind; the act is always recorded by the consciousness of the act, and consciousness is turned on and recording all the time.
We are all one
The only person who could really give away enough to others to plant the imprints in their mind to see a great deal of wealth coming their way later would be someone who didn’t really see much distinction between themselves and others. The person who has the best chance of truly being generous to others is a person who has figured out the biggest secret of life—the biggest source of all happiness; a person who has figured out that just working for a single “me,” a single mouth and a single stomach, is profoundly boring, uninspiring, and false to our whole human purpose. It’s a lot of fun, it’s an unexplored and endless joy, to expand yourself to include other bodies, and then take care of them.
Like my good friend (thank you Eddy), I have now started to give people copies of this book, because the message is profound. Business as a source for good.