Many of the most passionately animated conversations I hear lately are about the new paradigm of business — business as service; business conducted with integrity and heart, for the well-being of all. Business as a force for good.
And yet, this new paradigm emerges from an ancient tradition. The great world tree of business and commerce has always been rooted in the soil of generosity and service.
In traditional and indigenous cultures, work and commerce are not separate from spiritual life. Business — along with every human activity — is the hands of the Sacred shaping the world.
Growing up in Bombay in the 50’s and 60’s, this was evident in the commercial life of a very commercial city. Every business — from the tiniest hole-in-the-wall sweet shop to the sleekest corporate office in the most lavish penthouse — held a shrine to the gods. Front and center, where they blessed and presided over all daily activities.
It wasn’t only the gods of prosperity who were honored in this way, but gods of music and art, creation and destruction, love and devotion, and of every human activity — from making pottery and weaving cloth, to milling flour and cobbling shoes.
And every business — no matter how small or struggling — shared something with the community. A loaf of bread. A percentage of weekly profits. Sponsoring a neighborhood clean-up or a kids’ kabaddi team.
Good business understands, in a very pragmatic way, that we are the green branches and breathing leaves of the world tree. Our businesses don’t exist as isolated particles whirling independently in space. They are part of an intricate ecosystem whose every element is essential to the life of the whole.
The well-being of your clients and customers, the health and prosperity of the world, the vibrancy of your business, and your own wholeness and happiness — each of these is as intimately connected as root and trunk and branch and leaf, soil, air, clouds and rain.
We who are shaping the world of business today stand on ground that was patiently nourished, enriched and tilled by those who came before us.
In societies that lack a social safety net to protect those who are most vulnerable, business owners have built schools and hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, social housing and elder-care facilities.
We are part of an ancient tradition of business as love in action.
Today, I send a prayer of gratitude to the Deva of Commerce, who holds the pattern for the perfect unfolding of business as the work of the Sacred in the world. I am thankful to be part of an honorable business lineage of love and generosity, kindness and service.
From the owner of the coffee shop where you sit and write your blog posts or plan your next launch, to the diaper service that swaddles your baby’s bottom in soft, clean cotton, to the accountant who takes care of your tax returns — your business is supported by hundreds of others.
And your business, in turn, supports and nourishes the life of your clients and customers, your community and your world.
Take a moment, today, to feel the strength of the business lineage that has carved the path under your feet.
And feel all the ways in which your business widens and extends that path for those who will walk this path after you.