Ethics and Compliance in Business: The Road Ahead

Designing an Effective Compliance and Ethics Program

In two years, the climate for investment has turned from irrational exuberance—as Alan Greenspan called it—to excessive worry and downright pessimism. Can we correct the excesses and build on the achievements of the booming 90s? Or was it all a mirage—a passing fever that caused many to lose touch with reality?

Designing an Effective Compliance and Ethics Program We can’t take progress for granted. We must nurture the spread of market-based economies and work toward a more open, integrated, and flexible world economy. We need to extend an information-led upsurge in innovation.

The initiation of all wise or noble things comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from some one individual.

Partly because of the growth in corporate profits, economists at JP Morgan Chase anticipate GDP growth of about 3.5 percent this year. While consumer spending gains are likely to slow, that should be offset by higher business spending on capital goods and inventories. We have the lowest inflation (1.5 percent) and interest rates in 40 years—together with GDP growth of 3.5 percent and an unemployment rate of just 6 percent. And, the S&P 500 closed the books on 2002 with a sharp increase in reported earnings (up 27 percent) and a 21 percent increase in operating earnings. From this transfer of the world into the consciousness, this beholding of all things in the mind, follow easily his whole ethics.

Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.

Looking ahead, we believe that the stage is set for sustained, long-term growth. Inflation is low, and we have rising productivity, or increasing output per hour worked—the best single measure of economic health. Over the past four quarters, productivity growth in U.S. reached about 5 percent, suggesting that the transformation of the workplace—fueled by innovation, technology, and globalization—has not slowed.

I do not assert that anything better is compatible, as a general rule, with the present low state of the human mind. All he can claim is, freedom to point out the way. In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service.

Business Ethics and Compliance

By the end of this year, global growth should return to the 3 percent-plus annual pace that was the average during 1995 to 2000. China is booming, growing at 7 percent or more—a dramatic example of the power of market-driven economic advancement. Better results are possible longer-term, especially if Europe and Japan make their economies more flexible.

Business Ethics and Compliance If the U.S. recovery is underway and the global outlook is reasonably good, why don’t people feel better? Why the sour mood about financial markets?

As I see it, we are still recovering from the excesses and outsized optimism of the late 90s. But not all of the optimism was unjustified. We saw a surge in innovation and entrepreneurship, an investment boom, economic prosperity, equity market expansion, wealth enhancement, job creation, low unemployment, a focus on future growth, and financial innovation.

But expectations become outsized. By early 2000, things changed. Suddenly, our system began to look dysfunctional. We witnessed the bursting of the stock market bubble, a decline of more than 25 percent in the market capitalization of stocks, shrinkage in the retirement and savings accounts of millions of people, accounting scandals, outrage over pay packages for top executives, and a loss of confidence in accounting, Wall Street, and corporate America.

I believe that other ethics than any which can be evolved from exclusively Christian sources, must exist side by side with Christian ethics to produce the moral regeneration of mankind; and that the Christian system is no exception to the rule, that in an imperfect state of the human mind the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions.

Ten Lessons for Ethics and Compliance in Business

  1. We have been going through unusual volatility in financial markets because we have been going through unusual change. Part of the shift has been increased reliance on the sale of marketable securities—stocks, bonds, and other instruments—rather than bank lending. Individuals and businesses alike became less risk averse.
  2. While our capitalist model is prone to excesses in a boom, our system is transparent, efficient, and self-correcting. Our system does not prop up losers or sweep problems under the rug. It exposes and punishes speculative excesses through bankruptcy and loss of capital. It puts the heat of publicity on executive crime, and it sends criminals to prison. Even in ugly circumstances, this system works.
  3. We need to dose the gap between pay and performance, especially at the top. Sure, we can debate the merits of large compensation packages to CEOs and other top officers. But the stock market remains today sharply higher than in the past, and the gains have been widely dispersed. Indeed, that is one big reason for our long-term optimism.
  4. We have a true shareholding democracy. In 1982, when the Dow was struggling to top 1,000, fewer than 20 percent of U.S. households owned stock. Today more than 50 percent own stocks. If the wealth created by a rising stock market is spread among many people, the pain of a falling market is more widely shared. Even though the Dow is down about 3,000 points from its high in early 2000, it is still up eight times from 1982.
  5. Ten Lessons for Ethics and Compliance in Business We have seen tremendous job creation over the past decade. You can add up all of the job creation in Europe and Japan over the past two decades—and multiply that by a double-digit number—and it still won’t equal the number of new jobs created here.
  6. We are still adjusting to the downside. Is the market overpriced or underpriced today? I don’t know, but I do know that it is closer to fair valuation than it was at its peak in early 2000. I count that as another plus.
  7. Individuals who engage in fraud—treating ordinary expenses as capital expenditures and inflating profits—should go to jail. The visible enforcement of laws designed to protect shareholders and other investors is essential in capital markets. Our free market system depends highly on trust. Fraud and corruption highlight the need for transparency and governance. Still, we shouldn’t indict the many because of the actions of a few.
  8. The regulatory and legislative process can help restore trust in our system. As the CEO of a publicly owned company, I am comfortable with the new requirement that the CFO and I personally certify the financial statements. I regard many of the new rules and regulations as healthy. Value-based leadership can’t be an oxymoron. But in the long run, the attempt to impose ethics or morality from the outside with new rules and regulations is less likely to succeed than what we do on the inside to promote high standards of integrity.
  9. Integrity is imperative, and must be combined with innovation and an enterprising spirit—the essence of real progress. In a market-based system, there is pain to be felt and a price to be paid for change and progress. Corporate America must continue to reinvent itself—finding new ways to motivate, reward, and inspire people.
  10. Our mistakes have been mistakes of judgment, not mistakes of principle or ethics. Yes, we have made mistakes as JPMorgan Chase. We concentrated too much in the telecom sector. We were misled by Enron. And we did not anticipate the sudden collapse of numerous investment-grade companies into bankruptcy. So, we have made mistakes—but they have been mistakes of judgment.

Compliance-based and Integrity-based Code of Ethics

Compliance-based and Integrity-based Code of Ethics We have been through a lot over the last two years. We have created a global financial firm through a series of mergers, culminating with the merger of J.P. Morgan and Chase. All mergers are difficult, but we are gaining market share in key areas and receiving positive feedback from our clients.

But if our leaders only had a rudimentary understanding of how management works, perhaps the most important question about any ethics policy up for consideration would not only have a better chance of being asked (before ever needing to entertain the questions of ethics, morals, politics, or constitutionality), but also of being answered correctly: will it work?

Our strategy is based on diversity and balance of wholesale and retail business. On the wholesale side, clients prefer a global, broad-based firm that can deliver integrated capabilities. In retail, we have great strengths. Our financial performance has been disappointing, but we are not making excuses—we are learning from our mistakes and making changes to gain strength from the challenges.

Markets allow us to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes—to change, adapt, innovate and grow.

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Learning and Productivity Compound Over Time

Mathematician and computer scientist Richard Hamming on how learning and productivity compound over time

How are some people more industrious and prolific than others? Are they merely smarter or do they just toil a bit harder than everyone else?

In 1986, mathematician and computer scientist Richard Hamming gave a talk at Bell Communications Research about how people can do great work, “Nobel-Prize type of work.” One of the characteristics he talked about was possessing great drive:

Now for the matter of drive. You observe that most great scientists have tremendous drive. I worked for ten years with John Tukey at Bell Labs. He had tremendous drive. One day about three or four years after I joined, I discovered that John Tukey was slightly younger than I was. John was a genius and I clearly was not. Well I went storming into Bode’s office and said, “How can anybody my age know as much as John Tukey does?” He leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, grinned slightly, and said, “You would be surprised Hamming, how much you would know if you worked as hard as he did that many years.” I simply slunk out of the office!

What Bode was saying was this: “Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest.” Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity—it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

Thinking of investing your time and energy in terms of this compounding effect can be a very useful way to go about life. Early and rigorous investment in anything you are interested in cultivating—friendships, relationships, wealth, understanding, spirituality, know-how, etc.—often generates exponentially superior results over time than even marginally less effort.

Success begets success, and that counts for small investments, too.

Try to have “more experience” than someone else, but it’s not by itself enough. It’s about how well you can draw the appropriate lessons from the experiences. It’s about how well you can distinguish specific experiences as generalizable versus anomalies.

Knowledge Compounds

Someone once asked Warren Buffett how to become a better investor. He pointed to a pile of company annual reports. “Read 500 pages like this every day … That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

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Universe is Built Out of Four Natural Elements

A 15th-century illustration of Christ surrounded by the four natural elements

Empedocles introduced the theory that the universe is built out of four natural elements.

In his poem On Nature (c. 450 BCE), Greek poet Empedocles (c. 490-430 BCE) called upon a set of gods to represent the elements of his own cosmology. The notion that everything in existence is composed of earth, air, fire, and water, or a combination of these four elements, was borrowed from the ancient Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish (c. 1800 BCE), in which the universe emerges from conflicts between gods, each of whom represent some element or force of nature.

Empedocles was seeking what is now often referred to as a “unified field theory,” a theory capable of providing the groundwork for the explanation of any given natural phenomenon. The strategy he inherited from his intellectual predecessors, such as Thales and Anaximenes (who were themselves influenced by the Babylonian myth), was to attempt to identify the most basic ingredient, or ingredients, of the universe.

In the late sixth century BCE, Thales had believed that ingredient to be water. Later, Anaximenes argued that water was too fundamentally different from certain natural phenomena (like fire) for it to be the basic ingredient of the universe. Instead, he proposed that air was the basic ingredient. Empedocles, however, saw no way to explain the vast array of natural phenomena without introducing a total of four basic ingredients: earth, air, fire, and water. These elements were what Empedocles referred to as “the four roots.”

Aristotle (384-322 BCE) added a fifth element, aether. Medieval scholars learned of Empedocles’s notion of the four elements via Aristotle, and Empedocles’s cosmological theory dominated science until the seventeenth century. Although forms of atomism emerged as early as the fifth century BCE, it was not until the work of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Robert Boyle (1627-91) gained a hold that the four elements were replaced by the atom (or something pretty close) as the foundation of the universe.

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Materialism and the Early Materialists

Materialism

Materialism is the idea that nothing exists independently of the material or physical world.

Many ancient thinkers appeal to supernatural or extranatural entities in order to account for certain features of the natural world. Materialists, however, deny the existence of any non-natural events, entities, or forces.

Early materialists include the Greek atomists, Democritus (c. 460-c. 370 BCE) and Leucippus (fl. early fifth century BCE), who argued that the world consists of nothing but atoms in empty space (even the soul was thought to be composed of atoms), and Epicurus (341-270 BCE), who postulated that the atoms move only in an up-down direction.

The significance of materialism is typically found in discussions of philosophical questions, such as how to account for the properties of objects and how to explain consciousness. For example, while Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE) sought to explain why, say, two blue objects look exactly the same by arguing that they participate in pre-existing (ante rem) universals, Aristotle (384-322 BCE) argued that all universals are present in existing objects (in re), and was thus a materialist about properties. However, both men seem to appeal to an immaterial divine being to explain the origin of physical reality, and to an immaterial soul to explain consciousness. Thus, it was deemed possible to be a materialist about some things and not others.

The comprehensive materialism of the sort defended by the atomists gained popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as advancements in science reduced the apparent need for extra-natural explanations, and pluralism in mathematics challenged the idea of a unique, Platonic reality of mathematical forms. More recently, advancements in our understanding of the brain have undermined older appeals to immaterial substances or properties to explain consciousness, but they have also served to highlight the limitations of materialism.

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Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha – Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment

Zen Koan #13: Parable of A Buddha - Buddhist Teaching on True Love and Commitment Zen is simply to be consummately alive. Of course, Zen is withal a form of Zen Buddhism, but this is authentically just another way of saying identically tantamount. Zen Buddhism is the way of religious liberation, which finds its inceptions in the experience of enlightenment. It traces its history back to Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in India twenty-five centuries ago and realized the truth of his life after a long and arduous quest. The method is another way of grasping onto thoughts, but it is a way that allows us to eventually overcome grasping.

The precedent two lines referred to Zen as being illimitable by time. Religion is whatever the individual takes to be his ultimate concern. A kind of cognizance, and for many the world behind Zen arts as well, seemed a divergent perspective from the Western and is one that has appealed to Westerners. That magnetization led to the sprouting of Zen centers in most major countries outside Asia and to a “Zen” cultural influence that has gone far beyond its formal practice, affecting art, architecture, music, poetry, novels, and even brand denominations.

This is another way of describing the totality of space. The previous thought is continually at war with the following thought.

Zen Koan: “A Buddha” Parable

In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha’s precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o’clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.

One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.

“Hello, brother,” Tanzan greeted him. “Won’t you have a drink?”

“I never drink!” exclaimed Unsho solemnly.

“One who does not drink is not even human,” said Tanzan.

“Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!” exclaimed Unsho in anger. “Then if I am not human, what am I?”

“A Buddha,” answered Tanzan.

Buddhist Insight on True Love and Long-Term Commitment

The Buddha taught the pathway to happiness through body, through speech, through the heart, through the mind—altogether. These remain the guide through life to what is beyond life through long-term commitment, of millions of the human race. Think of the underprivileged person you have ever met, and then before acting asks if or how this act will be of benefit to that person. It is as is said here and elsewhere. Returning good for good is exceptional. That is true love. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Teachings On Love,

True love includes the sense of responsibility, accepting the other person as he is, with all his strengths and weaknesses. If we like only the best things in the person, that is not love. We have to accept his weakness and bring our patience, understanding, and energy to help him transform. The expression “long-term commitment” helps us to understand the word love. In the context of true love, commitment can only be long-term. “I want to love you. I want to help you. I want to care for you. I want you to be happy. I want to work for happiness. But just for a few days.” Does this make sense? We are afraid to make a commitment. We want freedom. But we have to make a long-term commitment to love our son deeply and help him through the journey of life as long as we are alive. We can’t just say, “I don’t love you anymore.” When we have a good friend, we also make a long-term commitment. We need her. How much more so with someone who wants to share our life, our soul, our body. The phrase “long-term commitment” cannot express the depth of love, but we have to say something so that people understand.

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Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

A detail from Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco Bad Government and the Effects of Bad Government on the City Life (1337-39), located in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy.

Plato initiated the view that possession of absolute power inevitably has a corrupting effect.

Probably the most ancient expression of the idea that power has a corruptive effect appears in the parable of the Ring of Gyges in The Republic (c. 360 BCE) by Plato (c. 424-c. 348 BCE). In the parable, the otherwise virtuous Gyges indulges in corrupt behavior after finding a magic ring that renders him invisible.

However, the maxim “absolute power corrupts absolutely” originates much later, being a paraphrase of a letter written by Sir John Dalberg-Acton (1834–1902), a British Catholic historian better known as Lord Acton, to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Acton scolds Creighton in the letter for his suggestion, in previous correspondence, that the pope, king, or any other person holding comparably high station ought to be judged according to standards different to those applied to common men. Acton argues that, quite to the contrary, “Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton The British politician and historian Lord John Dalberg-Acton famously wrote in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton (1887):

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which … the end learns to justify the means.

Acton, however, followed at least two distinguished persons in associating power with corruption: in a speech that was delivered in the British House of Commons in 1770, Prime Minister William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–78), had claimed that, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, tyranny beginsl” Acton’s observation was also anticipated by French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790– 1869), who, in his essay France and England: a Vision of the Future (1848), had claimed “It is not only the slave or serf who is ameliorated in becoming free … the master himself did not gain less in every point of view .. for absolute power corrupts the best natures.” Acton, too, believed that few could resist power’s corrupting effect, asserting, “Great men are almost always bad men.”

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Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Welcome to An Era of CEO Activism

Gone are the days when managers would shrink back from revealing their beliefs and viewpoints on matters that had little to do with their company’s routine endeavors.

Leaders should think carefully before jumping on the closest soapbox. Starbucks’s Founder and CEO Howard Schultz learned that the hard way in 2015 when he started the Race Together campaign in the aftereffects of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Schultz inspired Starbucks baristas to converse about race relations with customers whilst serving them their morning coffee. That didn’t come down with easy. In due course, Starbucks dialed back the initiative.

  • Topic: Race relations. Starbucks’ Howard Schultz got into hot water after he launched Starbucks’ Race Together campaign which encouraged baristas to talk about race with customers.
  • Topic: Vaccination. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg incurred the wrath of anti-vaccine commenters when he posted a picture of his Infant daughter visiting the doctor for routine vaccinations.
  • Topic: Common Core Education. ExxonMobil’s Rex Tillerson aroused the ire of education advocates when he referred to American students as “products” that companies simply don’t want to buy.
  • Topic: Global Warming. Unilever’s Paul Polman has publicly maintained that businesses and governments should commit to environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Topic: LGBT Rights. CEOs of Salesforce, Apple, Intel, Dow, Bank of America, Facebook, Yahoo! and others have come out against a wave of anti-LGBT legislation in several states.
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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #12: Judas and Matthias

Kiss of Judas (1304---06), fresco by Giotto, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Holy Scripture tells us that Jesus knew that both Peter and Judas Iscariot would betray him. Yet Peter repented and, receiving forgiveness went on to lead the apostles in their ministry as head of the early Christian church. However, Judas, though he too later regretted his crime against his master, could not bring himself to seek mercy from the one he had betrayed. Instead, consumed by guilt and grief, he took his own life, thus condemning himself.

The gospels give no clue for his treachery, suggesting only that the betrayer had come to be possessed by evil. The tragic events unfolded in this way: At the time of the Passover feast, the crowds in the city streets of Jerusalem hailed Jesus as a prophet, causing the corrupt chief priests in the Temple to fear for their own position of power. They wanted to be rid of Jesus, but they needed a means that would not enrage the public. Judas Iscariot, for the small price of thirty pieces of silver, showed them the way.

On a clear moonlit night, Judas led armed troops to the private Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus could be captured quietly. Judas arranged to identify Jesus with a signal, thus when he came upon his master, the traitor kissed him, saying, “Rabbi!” Immediately, the troops seized and arrested Jesus. Later Judas tried to give back the “blood money,” but the priests refused, turning their backs on him. According to tradition, Judas then rang the silver pieces down and Red. In the end, the betrayer hanged himself.

Saint Matthias, Workshop of Simone Martini

After Judas’ death, the holy apostles understood that the fellowship had to be made up to twelve again by appointing someone who had accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry. (Acts of the Apostles I: 15-26)

Two disciples out of the seventy who followed Jesus fit the requirement: Matthias and Barabbas/Justus. To decide between these good men, sacred lots were drawn for the first time by the apostles, and Matthias was chosen. Some believe that beyond the drawing of lots, a ray of light shone down from the heavens to rest upon Matthias’ head, thereby verifying that he was indeed the right choice. Judea was assigned to Matthias, and he preached there and in Armenia, performing many miracles, and went to his eternal rest in peace.

  • The symbol for Matthias is the ax.
  • Holy days: In the West, Matthias’ life is celebrated on May 14; in some Anglican churches, February 24; and in the Orthodox Church, August 9.
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Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism

Nagarjuna (A. D. 200-300) was an Indian Buddhist philosopher who founded the Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism. He studied both the secular and religious branches of Hindu knowledge before turning to Buddhism and spent most of his life in the great Mahayana centers of learning in south-east India. Two of the compositions credited to Nagarjuna are verses of counsel to a king, which recommends that he achieved some distinction during his lifetime. Other sources specify that he also served as abbot of a monastery and that he was the instructor of Aryadeva, the author of important Madhyamika texts.

Nagarjuna —The Most Sophisticated Buddhist Philosopher

Nagarjuna's Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition Two texts most clearly present Nagarjuna’s views: The Mulamadhyamikakarika (Stanzas of the Middle Way) and the Vigrahavyavartani (Treatise on Averting Arguments). The former is read and studied by philosophers of all major Buddhist schools of Tibet, China, Japan and Korea and is one of the most influential works in the history of Indian philosophy.

Nagarjuna’s stature in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions is enormous and the Tibetan tradition even identifies him as a magician-alchemist. The Madhyamika School is characterized by its logical refutation and negation of all philosophical systems, —Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike—while claiming no unique philosophy of its own. Nagarjuna’s philosophical method is referred to as negative dialectics.

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself

Nagarjuna is the Most Famous Thinker in the History of Buddhism After the Buddha Himself Nagarjuna especially attacked the Adhidharmas, claiming that the real agenda of dharma theory, atomism, was not really momentarism, time or causality but a new form of anatta (substantialism.) It is an unfolding argument culminating in the triumphant assertion of the reality of only emptiness. Despite lacking any essence, he argues, phenomena exist conventionally, and conventional existence and ultimate emptiness are in fact the same thing. This represents the radical understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the two truths, or two levels of reality.

Nagarjuna tried to re-establish Buddha’s middle path, affirming neither existence nor non-existence, permanence nor impermanence, identity difference, but showing the relativity of all conceptions. Even the basic elements of dharma, existence, are taken to be void of ultimate reality. The structure of ultimate transformation used by Nagarjuna requires an understanding that ideas, even ‘emptiness’, have no indispensable content. Non-attachment to mental images aids in the transformation of awareness, allowing one to perceive the arising and overindulgence of the world without interfering with it. The mind of inner cognition complete with its assertions and denials, is free from all attachment.

Nagarjuna’s Process of Ultimate Transformation

For Nagarjuna a general term simply distinguished a particular class of items from another class of items. The central organizing element in this structural process is the potency of a posture or vigilance that pervades all perceptions, sense of identity, feelings, concepts, or demeanor.

Nagarjuna, along with other Buddhists, pointed out how many people, though unaware, were being pushed by the very language and assumptions of language that they thought were helping them understand their existence. Such an interpretation utilizes a different norm for identifying authenticity than the one found in this structural process.

Nagarjuna's Process of Ultimate Transformation Similarly, the focus on a future fulfilment of a spiritual goal in one process may be inappropriate in another, for the release from evil and suffering in a context where there is a clear separation of time and eternity will be different from one where release is available only in a moment of existence by means of a shift in consciousness. The absolute is not within the sphere of mind.

The ignorance which is eliminated by insight is something more than just the lack of information or an inaccurate description of something. The realization of nirvana is not attaining a self-existent opposite to some sorrow—as was the highest reality conceived in some other forms of Indian spiritual life. Nirvana is the enlightened world, a way of being where concepts like good and evil are empty, without substance, where there is no birth and death, and where everything is totally interdependent and without abiding form.

The deepest illusions are thereby dissipated through the highest insight; these illusions are not simply faulty identification of subsisting entities, but affirming to the notion that identification of entities can insure absolute truth. The ideal authenticity, then, is not something other than what is right now; it is innate in the individual field of experiences that is indeed in fluctuation, and which can be cultivated and adroitly sensitized to other possibilities.

Nagarjuna’s Philosophy in the Buddhist Tradition

Nagarjuna: Founder of Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism Meditation is a practice that has been used throughout the Buddhist tradition to de-automate habitual patterns of experience. While Nagarjuna did not advocate meditation directly in his Fundamentals of the Middle Way, there are texts that are credited to him, such as his “Letter to a Friend” which suggest that he accepted meditation as a critical part of the Buddhist path. The external world is gathered into the form of the deity. Nagarjuna states,

  • Know that there are three things that block the gate to the city of freedom, and that you must cast aside: sole reliance on rites and penance, perverted views and doubt. None of the joys of this life are desired.
  • Freedom depends upon you alone, for no one else can help you: strive in the four noble truths, with study and virtue and meditation. Their limitless qualities are a precious treasury. Similarly, within the nature there are also no path, meditation, and so forth.
  • Ever train yourself in higher virtue, higher wisdom, higher meditation, for within these three are gathered more than a hundred and fifty trainings. The subject is extinguished with the object. The wisdom of the path of meditation is called the wisdom of full attainment.

This liberation is expressed philosophically in the Buddhist tradition as the middle path between the extremes of essentialism and nihilism; it is articulated by Nagarjuna in a negative dialectic and the assertion that all phrenic, physical and emotional objects of vigilance.

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Dharmachakra and the Eightfold Path

Wheel of Konark is the same as the Dharmachakra of the Buddhists The dharma, the path to enlightenment, is often presented by a wheel, known as the Dharmachakra. Generally a dharma wheel will have eight spokes, representing each of the principles of the Eightfold Path:

  1. Right Views, which involve an accurate understanding of the true nature of things, specifically the four noble truths;
  2. Right Intention, which means avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent and promoting loving-kindness and nonviolence;
  3. Right Speech, which means refraining from verbal misdeeds, such as lying, backbiting and slander, harsh speech and abusive language, and frivolous speech and gossip;
  4. Right Action or Right Conduct, which is refraining from physical misdeeds, such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct;
  5. Right Livelihood, which entails avoiding trades that directly or indirectly harm others, such as selling slaves, selling weapons, selling animals for slaughter, dealing in intoxicants or poisons, or engaging in fortune-telling and divination;
  6. Right Effort, which is defined as abandoning unwholesome states of mind that have already arisen, preventing unwholesome states that have yet to arise, sustaining wholesome states that have already arisen, and developing wholesome states that have yet to arise;
  7. Right Mindfulness, which means to maintain awareness of the four foundations of mindfulness, viz., body, physical sensations, the mind, and phenomena; and
  8. Right Concentration, which is one pointedness of mind. It is defined generally as the concentration of the mind on wholesome objects.

The circle represents the perfect whole of the dharma, while the hub represents meditation, the core discipline in following the path. The rim represents samadhi, the composition of mind required by the teachings. Some wheels have more than eight spokes, often 12, 24, or 31. These numbers also have significance in more in-depth aspects of Buddhist philosophy.

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