-Kalpana Mishra, PhD
This article mainly focuses on the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP) in Nepalese organization. The researcher intends to objectively study whether people at the managerial level follow the NEP while performing their task in the organizations they work for. Descriptive analysis and interviews were interview conducted to meet the research objectives set by the researcher. The researcher has conducted the study here in Nepalese organizations that deal with various sectors such as education, finance, human resource development, profit and non-profit etc. The end result of the research is that the organizations that follow the NEP are more organized, resourceful and productive.
Noble Eightfold Path, Nepalese Organization, Managerial Level Employees
Buddhist teachings can be linked to multiple genres and disciplines; the researcher has focused on some of the Nepali organizations/institutions and the managerial level employees direct or indirect use of the Buddhist values while performing a duty. The Noble Eightfold Path (NEP) propounded by the Buddha himself could be the very formula to help cultivate true knowledge and understanding for better productivity and development of organizations of any kind.
The researcher, in this study, has studied the status of NEP in Nepalese organizations. There are several moments and situations in which people working for the different organizations tend to follow the NEP, but those who do it realizing its value, and for the good of the organization and that of its staff members, would achieve better results in terms of productivity, excellence, and quality. An organization is expected to grow along with the discipline formed in its atmosphere that is more conducive to exchange ideas and experiences amongst its staff members and also with the one at the managerial level (Mishra, 2018).
A manager with awareness in Buddhist values and disciplines can better practice them in the respective organization, which would eventually be an opportunity for others to learn and grow up psychologically.
Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Four Noble Truths. If we turn to the Buddha’s First Discourse, the Discourse on Turning the Wheel of the Dharma, which he delivered in the Deer Park at Sarnath shortly after his attainment of Supreme Enlightenment, we find that the principal contents of this discourse, in which the Buddha communicated his great spiritual discovery to humanity, were the Four Noble Truths: suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering the last of these being none other than the Noble Eightfold Path.
According to Hanh (1999) the Buddha assured that “wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is practiced, joy, peace, and insight are there”. The eightfold practice contains the gist of many thousand discourses scattered in Buddhist scriptures (Bodhi, 1994; Rahula, 1974).
The eight factors of the ennobling practice are not steps to be followed in sequence, one after another. They can be more aptly described as components rather than as steps, comparable to the intertwining strands of a single cable that requires the contributions of all the strands for maximum strength. With a certain degree of progress all eight factors can be present simultaneously, each supporting the others. However, until that point is reached, some sequence in the unfolding of the path is inevitable (Marques, 2012). NEP comprises right views, right thinking, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. “Right” emphasizes the behavior that is beneficial for both one’s self and others.
- Right Understanding/View
The Noble Eightfold Path begins with the Right View and an important element. Those views inform how we turn towards the world, and how we speak and act and make our way through the world. Right view also entails understanding what is unwholesome and avoiding it, and understanding what is wholesome and doing it (The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, 2007).
Borden and Shekhawat (2010) suggest that Buddhist principles, when applied within organizations, can result in a realigning of company philosophy from individual and collective self-interest toward functioning inter-dependently with other organizational members and groups.
- Right Thought
This refers to the intention of renunciation, non-greed, generosity, giving, sharing, non-hate, non-anger, love, friendliness, goodwill, forgiveness, non-cruelty, non-hurting, kindness, compassion etc. The Buddha urged us to become the master of our thoughts, so that our mind will be directed only towards the wholesome and will shun the unwholesome (Hanh, 1999).
Allocating time to think in which the leader focuses on the needs, wants, and desires of followers allows the leader to broaden his or her mental capacity to converse more effectively (Rahula, 1959).
- Right Speech
The classical explanation of Right Speech is: Speaking truthfully, not speaking with a forked tongue, not speaking cruelly and not exaggerating or embellishing(Jack, 1995). We don’t shout, slander, curse, encourage suffering, or create hatred.
Another part of right speech is to rejoice in the virtues and good qualities of others, while avoiding idle chatter (ibid). Engaging in wholesome conversation earns leaders a good reputation. No one respects people who spread stories about others.
- Right Action (Samma-kammanta)
Not killing is non-hatred; not stealing is non-greed; no drugs or intoxicants to excess means non-delusion. Greed, hatred and delusion are the three roots of our suffering; grasping, aversion, and not seeing clearly. Dalai Lama (1982) described the ten negative actions of body, speech, and mind to be avoided: “killing, stealing, misuse of sexuality…lying, speaking cruelly, slander and meaningless talk…attachment, harmful thoughts, and wrong views”.
The leader who takes credit for the creative ideas of the staff is stealing. The leader who accepts the glory and praise for achieving goals on the efforts of his or her staff without acknowledging their hard work is stealing. Effective leaders share the glory and the achievements with the staff (Banutu-Gomez, and Banutu-Gomez 2007).
- Right Livelihood (Samma-ajiva)
This is about earning one’s living in an honest way, that is, without stealing, cheating or deception. Also, it is abstaining from occupations that would hurt and harm others, such as slaughtering of animals, fishing, manufacturing and selling alcohol, drugs, tobacco, armaments, and poison. An ideal occupation is one involved in the service of others that contributes towards the betterment of society (Hanh, 1999).
Work should be enjoyed as a complement to leisure, not as a sacrifice of leisure time to be endured begrudgingly. If one has any guilt about how one spends the work day, how the customers are served, how the staff is treated, and the safety or usefulness of the product and services offered, such promptings may signify time to change careers or employment. Many companies will not disclose inappropriate practices on the outset. Speaking to existing employees and leaders before joining a company serves as a wise caution (Atkins andMaroun, 2015).
- Right Effort(Samma-vayama)
This constitutes the mental discipline which requires commitment. The mind is trained, cultivated, and developed through mindfulness techniques. According to Rahula (1974).it helps rid the mind of disturbing emotions, such as lustful desires, hate, hostility, lethargy, worries and restlessness, skepticism, and help cultivate such qualities as focus, awareness, intelligence, motivation, energy etc.
A successful leader spends his or her day with people. Spending time together provides the platform for idea generation and relationship development (ibid). Once a leader garners a proper perspective, he or she may shake off lethargy and involve the staff in problem solving processes.
The main opponent to effort, according to Gyatso(1980) is laziness. He admonished leaders to guard against laziness of indolence (seeking a life of ease), laziness of being attracted to what is worthless or non-virtuous.
- Right Mindfulness (Samma-sati)
Right mindfulness is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the right method, for the realization of Nibbana, namely the four establishments of mindfulness. One who is mindful is contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, having put away greed and discontent with regard to the world. The Buddha says, “He abides contemplating feeling in the feelings … mind in the mind … and phenomena in phenomena, ardent, fully comprehending and mindful, having put way greed and discontent with regard to the world (SatipatthanaSutta, n.d.).”
Leaders should be especially careful, as words are not retractable. Words cannot be taken back. To speak destructive words in moments of tension and conflict is a mistake. (Mischel and DeSmet, 2000) wrote it takes energy to restrain oneself from reacting negatively to circumstances and challenging people.
- Right Concentration (Samma-samadhi)
The Pali word ‘samadhi’ here translated as concentration is also linked to calm and tranquility. This is because the undistracted mind becomes serene and steady and in this state of calm, wisdom can arise. He who is concentrated knows and sees things as they are (Atkinson, 2015).
Building up one’s ability to concentrate in meditation is an excellent method to increase concentration at work. Foo (2012).asserted that meditation is an excellent way for all leaders to cope with stressful jobs and situations. There are many ways to concentrate such as the meditation cushion including finishing tasks that are started before going on to the next task, enjoying silent moments, turning off the cell phone when driving and doing errands, turning away from the computer screen when people enter the office, allowing people to finish speaking before voicing opinions, and embracing solitude whenever possible.
The primary objective of this study was to find out the status of NEP in Nepalese organizations.
- Do managers of Nepalese organization follow NEP in their organization?
- Do managers have a role in supporting the applications of NEP in their organizations?
Methods and Samples
The population of interest, in this research study, included managerial level employees of various organizations representing the decision-making capability regarding the organizationalwork.
Hence, the target population included minimum officer level staffs, with the working experience of more than a year, from the organizations having a minimum of ten staff members. An initial pool of organizations fitting the criteria for the target population was selected.
The researcher worked on the quantitative data initially, but for the qualitative section, the researcher mainly put priority on the individual participants with some knowledge and experience on Buddhism. For the purpose of quantitative part 220 employees of different organizations were included similarly, ten respondents were included as KIIs for qualitative sample.
Main Theme/ Result and Discussion
Descriptive Analysis of NEP
In the current study, the descriptive statistics were computed from the responses obtained in order to determine the means and standard deviations for the variables. The use of such a technique facilitated the displaying and interpretation of data. Ascertaining the frequency of a given phenomenon in a study requires computation of the means or the average scores of data collected, as well as the variability scores of the responses on various items in the questionnaire, which are represented by the respective standard deviations. The current research was conducted by using a 7-point Likert Scale (with 7= strongly agree, to 1= strongly disagree) has been used for each of the statements. It has been considered that >5.5 = agreed and satisfactory, 4.5 ≤ 5.5 = moderate and < 4.5 = disagreed and poor correspondingly.
In this research study, the eight variables were selected which are popularly known to be Nobel Eightfold Path, to assess their applications and practices in the Nepalese organizations. The research questionnaire was developed by the researcher herself under the guidance of the concerned experts. She made a comprehensive study of the rich literatures produced by the many Buddhist scholars. The following table shows an individual construct of the NEP.
Table 1: Descriptive Analysis of NEP in Nepalese Organizations
Source: Field Survey 2018
The results presented in the above table 1 states the status of NEP in Nepalese organizations, and it shows the composite mean of NEP scores 5.84, with composite Standard Deviation 0.657.
The mean score of all Noble Eightfold Path scales ranged from 5.34 to 6.12. The section in the data samples that obtained the highest mean scores was Right Thinking (M= 6.12, SD = 0.773), compared to the remaining variables like Right Speech (M = 5.98, SD= 0.720), Right Action (M = 6.04, SD = 0.756) and Right Livelihood (M = 5.96, SD = 0.901), Right Mindfulness (i.e. M = 5.83, SD = 0.792).
Hence, the items with the lowest mean scores were Right Concentration (M = 5.34, SD = 0.945), Right Views (M = 5.71, SD = 0.928), and Right Effort (M = 5.79, SD = 0.791).The standard deviations of the sub-scales are fairly similar, all ranging from 0.67 to 0.946. From the above analysis, it can be observed that Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood have been considered to be more important factors among the NEP variables. Since all mean values obtained are above five on the seven-point Likert Scale, we can say that the individuals working in the Nepalese organizations satisfactorily follow the NEP.
The scores obtained from the research showed that the employees working for different organizations in Nepal give a high priority for Right Thinking and Right Action and least for Right Concentration.
Discussion on Open Ended Questions
Section five of the research questionnaire was related to open ended questions. The answers provided by the participants are presented here. This section created an opportunity to the participants to present their unexpressed thoughts, ideas, and experiences in the form of writing, without any hesitation.
It is known that one hardly dares to completely quantify the NEP for its deeply rooted norms and values and the psychological depth. Therefore, the researcher was very honest in order not to miss anything important from noting, that is almost impossible by means of the close-ended questions. The open ended questions contained in the research questionnaire were of great value for the respondents to have an opportunity to express their feelings and experiences freely and openheartedly.
There are very many opinions and views for a query whether the NEP has been brought into practice in the organizations. One of the respondents had an answer in writing that he and his staff members are well aware of the Buddhist value based teachings, and they receive orientation, if and when needed. There was a manager working for an NGO, and his idea was more of an innovative kind. The content of his experience in the organization went this way:
The NEP has been applied for sure, in a direct or indirect manner in my organization. I, time and time again, organize orientations to get all the staff members acquainted with the value related subject matters to help enhance the quality of the organization and productivity of the staffs. As a manager I know that everyone has to have the knowledge of ethic and discipline to mend the gap that at times can be experienced in course of the dealings with human being at several many levels individual, community, organization and so forth. I do agree that anger leads to failure and I am aware that I need to achieve the goal set in my professional life.
Also there is another respondent here working for a very reputed international organization, with the following response:
Most of the precepts are applied in my organization, I guess. But the fact is that some of the staff members do not seem to follow them to practice in the right way. I cannot pinpoint individually who else does practice and who doesn’t do. But one thing is sure that Buddhist teachings are useful to one and all. I am with the time constraint and therefore have not been able to make an assessment on everyone in my organization on such an issue. The meetings and different forums I attend, it seems that most of the value related things are applied and people are conscious with them.
Interestingly, one of the research participants showed high level of confidence about the applications of NEP in his organization and continues to practice in the days to come. See the note below here:
Yes, I have applied. In my organization we have high level of communication not only with my team members but also with the customers. How I act and what I speak is all about what I think and I always try to keep my thoughts positive as much as possible.
Besides the above, some also responded that, if not fully, at least there is partial application of the NEP in their organizations. To quote some of them:
The NEP is partially applied in my institution and it has still to walk a long way ahead.
The Buddhist teachings could be really effective in the organizationbecause they make a person less violent while practicing his/her power and authority.
There comes to be a bit different thought from another participant:
I try my best to apply being more spiritual rather than religious.
NEP is the fundamental of human life, and not only for monks and nuns, but also for the people working in different organizations in the society. Right activities lead towards positive inquiry, positive action, positive learning, love, peace, and eventually bring change in the organizations as well as employees working in the organizations. Moreover, all these positive actions that replace the hate, disharmony and the tendency to harm others, and will facilitate for the enhancement of good working environment in the organization.
Research findings show that managerial level employees, being responsible for the organizational activities, can support their subordinates to follow the NEP in their organizations.
Its true that beliefs, experiences, and knowledge embodied by a manager in an organization play vital role so as to implement anything important and make decision an organization. A poor belief and attitude gets into confusion and perplexity. Hence a manager can do a lot if s/he is matured with his ideas, thoughts and principles. Hence, if the manager is well acquainted with NEP, s/he initiates to implement it in his/her organizations, and this has been observed in this research as well.
On summing up the responses provided by the research participants, it was learned that almost all the managers agreed the fact that their thinking, motivation for change, behaviors and attitudes etc. have an inevitable role to lead the organizations to the right directions as they have the power to influence, use creativity, provide decisions etc.
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