I am Buddhist. As a lay practitioner, I vow to follow a specific set of moral principles—contained in the Bodhisattva Vows, the Sixteen Precepts, daojin ordination vows, and the broader moral and ethical principles contained in the teachings. Work has always been a big part of my life and, with so much time invested in professional activity, it has been important for me to understand the workplace as a practice field—a setting for spiritual, as well as professional, development. As an ethics officer, I was responsible for ensuring that key ethical principles of the organization I worked for were in place and being followed—these values define what’s acceptable within the company and must be consistent with regulation globally.

I was very fortunate to be in healthcare, at a company with a clear mission to save lives and improve the quality of life. This, of course, is the first bodhisattva vow. Still, when I started practicing, I felt conflict between corporate life and goals and the personal resonance of the Buddhist path; they seemed incompatible. I did not talk about my spiritual practice with colleagues at work, and if someone asked what I did over the weekend, I said I “just sat around.” Close friends and colleagues began to comment on a change in my behavior, yet I felt a conflict between work and spiritual paths, and I struggled to find their mutuality.

Early in my practice, my greatest challenges at work occurred when I sensed a significant gap between my perspective on an issue and that of others. This would result in any number of inaccurate conclusions on my part, such as believing that my views represented a “truer” reality on an issue, or not understanding the difference between what I perceived and other valid perceptions. Furthermore, I would see a difference of opinion as an ethical issue, and I would frame this perceived difference as an inevitable result of the incompatibility of spiritual and commercial values. Perhaps ironically, the initial result of my Buddhist study was discord, the opposite of what I sought.