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Ethical enterprises that benefit the world

Thirty years ago, Dr. Mtichell May escaped death in a traffic accident. He became a medical miracle when he recovered from an injury that broke his legs in 40 places. Now, he is able to walk at ease. In 1992, Dr. May established The Synergy Company in order to supply his personally-formulated super-nutritious blend of food and herbs to patients and doctors. Outwardly, it appears that he has left his healing but in actual fact, he has expanded the scope of his healing work to include business world and the entire planet.

Dr. May resisted entering the business world at first, because he observed that it had very little goodwill. To achieve personal gains, businessmen have no qualms about destroying the environment, harming people’s health, and exploiting employees. Neither do they care that their actions can lead to significant suffering and social unrest. Dr. May did not want to be part of this, as did many others who disdained from entering the business world. Yet, the business world especially needed people who respected life in order for it to change for the better. Businesses should contribute to life, not harm it. Everyday, Dr. May could see people’s greed and deception in the business world, just as he could see people’s suffering when he was going in and out of the hospitals. He could not be indifferent to this, but respond with compassion. He had learned healing skills from his teacher, Jack Gray; how could he exclude the business world from healing? Whether the business world creates benefits or harm has tremendous impact on the world. Hence, he finally decided to jump into the fire pit of business. Little did he know that it would be so hot!

After operating for ten years, The Synergy Company’s contribution to environmental protection was recognized by the state of Utah. In 2003, the company was awarded Excellence in Manufacturing for Environmental Consciousness. Even the town of Moab where Synergy operates has also turned “green”, the town government, and many of Synergy’s employees have switched to Blue Sky wind energy for electricity.

Right from the beginning, in designing the production plant, Synergy company considered the environment and sustainability. It arranged for the National Parks department to transplant wild trees from the site for park restoration projects. Its production plant uses environmental-friendly facilities, and drought-resistant plants and trees for the grounds. It uses water-efficient toilets, and energy-efficient machinery. Even the lightings use motion-sensitive lights. In addition, only 100% environmental-friendly cleaning agents are used to protect the water supply. Recycled paper and boxes are used, and printing use water-soluble colours derived from soya beans. Organic cotton wool is used to pack Synergy’s products. Even the fillers used for boxes are made from bio-degradable corn. Still, the production process inevitably damages the environment, and the company tries to minimize this damage. Hence, 100% of the electricity supply comes from wind power, and this avoids generating 140 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Although wind-generated electricity costs 50% more than normal, this is an investment for the next generation. To compensate for the carbon dioxide that would be generated from using paper, boxes, and transportation, Synergy plants an additional 25% trees annually. In collaboration with Plant-it 2020 (a tree-planting foundation established by the late singer John Denver), Synergy plants indigenous trees within the U.S. and Mexico. In 2003, they planted 2000 trees, and more trees will be planted in the future as the business grows. In addition, Synergy buys the wild Camu Camu grown along Brazil’s Amazon River in an effort to help the local residents preserve their rainforests.

Below, Dr. May shares his thoughts in running a company:

I do business with ethics as the foundation. I define ethics as responsibility towards all forms of life without limit, and it is the principle I use in making every business decision. Other companies see making money as their primary objective. For my company, profits come from appropriate decisions that respect life. Many people consider life to be restricted to humans and not other life forms. This is very narrow, and will lead to the destruction of other life forms. I consider running a business as my spiritual practice. Of course, other people need not do this, but everyone should have morality, honesty, and goodwill. This does not mean we do not use our common sense and judgment, or the fruits of our spiritual practices – loving kindness and a calm mind. All these attributes should be used in business. Doing business is not about being taken advantage of. If companies that are our business partners are not honest, I will stop dealing with them. This is because we want honesty of our counterparts, and we deal with them with honesty. If we don’t want others to pollute the water supply, we must also not pollute the water supply. Goodwill in business comes from being able to see the perfect nature of everyone. Although the other party is not performing to expectations, we have the responsibility to see their perfect nature. Otherwise, it will be difficult to continue a friendly attitude once we encounter negativities in their speech or actions. We do not need to criticize them. Many enterprises do not have goodwill with each other because they care only about making money and gaining power. They will get money and power, but they will not get merit, love, health, and peace, which are all inner treasures.

Developing a morally-responsible enterprise is relatively difficult because we need to consider all aspects. Working hours are long and tiring. I have thirty employees, and I need to care for their welfare and concerns such as family, children, sickness or financial difficulties. I also need to provide their health insurance, and a fair salary for their living expenses. We are not an enterprise that relies on volunteers, although we donate to charitable activities. This is the company’s choice. We respect everyone’s value, and respect the natural resources provided by the earth, including resources used in shipping, packaging, and building the production plant. We very much treasure earth’s gifts to us.

Our employees are very committed because their jobs have meaning and reflect their aspirations. They feel badly when the occasional mistake occurs. They want to contribute to mankind and to the earth. They feel happy even after a hard day’s work because they know that they are helping to support small organic farms, protect the rainforests in South America, and support wind energy. When a person constantly feels the inherent goodness inside them, their spirituality will naturally be raised.

At the moment, large corporations control the entire food production and marketing. Being unwilling to share resources with those more unfortunate than us is unthinkable. It is hard to understand why people do not help others alleviate their sufferings when they have the ability to do so. Morally-responsible enterprises have potential, and can make money. Our company’s growth is higher than the industry average, even though we donate a high proportion of our profits, and our cost of organic or natural ingredients is 2 to 5 times the average (generally, the cost of organic ingredients is only 25% more). We use the best natural ingredients as if they were for the consumption of our own families. We only use wind-generated electricity, and this leads to a 50% increase in our electricity costs. This is an investment for our next generation. I will not enjoy the benefits. If we consider the environmental damage caused by electricity generated from nuclear power plants and petroleum, wind energy system is indeed the least expensive option. Our ancestors planted trees for their children to enjoy the fruits. Modern people only want to extract fruits within a few years. If businesses only think of their own benefits, they are like parasites – in the end, both host and parasite will die. Friendly bacteria consume food inside the human’s intestines, but they also secrete substances that help its host ward off harmful bacteria. This symbiotic relation is more ideal. Fortunately, some people have begun to realize this, and businesses have begun to consider environmental and social impacts of their actions. These “green” enterprises think more holistically, and it is a good start. However, do not do so only on the surface. If I only take leisurely strolls, I cannot say I exercise everyday. If I listen to music periodically, I cannot say I practice meditation everyday. How do consumers discern true “green” enterprises? Real products? True moral responsibility?

Knowing an enterprise is like knowing a person. You need time. You can phone the company to find out about their activities, such as support for organic farms, recycling, energy conservation, or awards won. Nowadays, some organizations give recognition to socially-responsible companies that do not sell cigarettes or alcohol, manufacture toxic chemicals or pesticides, and those that provide health insurance for their employees. Some religious organizations do not invest in companies that manufacture weapons.

More and more people want to support morally-responsible enterprises. If there are two similar products, they would rather pay a little more to support these enterprises so that their money can be used to benefit the world, and not destroy it. Thus, when you buy our products that contain Camu Camu, you are also helping Brazilian people to support their rainforests. I can only do things this way because this comes from my spiritual consciousness. It is an arduous task, but anything that has value requires hard work. My rewards are blessings and joy.

The temptations in business are large, and this issue itself is a deep philosophical practice. Management must hire people with love and morality to work for them, and it is best to have a teacher close by to remind them. The CEO’s job is to be vigilant, and when hiring people, observe whether they have an honest job record, and whether they have a sense of responsibility and take pride in their own work. This is the foundation of spiritual life. Many people say that they have a faith or spiritual life, but tell lies when they face crises. What a person does is more important. Does he/she learn from experience? Some employees have their own spiritual practices, but I cannot insist that everyone has. If they unintentionally make mistakes, I forgive them. But if they intentionally cheat, I will ask them to leave.

At the end of a hard day’s work, I know with a clean conscience that I have benefited this world. How many people can say this? Our wealth comes from other people, and we must share this with others. When we share with others, our wealth will grow even more. Based on my experience, true giving has miraculous powers, and quiet giving has even greater powers.

References for morally-responsible enterprises:

www.coopamerica.org
www.planti2020.org
www.awea.org
www.synergy-co.com

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2004 Feb Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore

Enjoying the fruits of trees planted by others

At a farming class organized by Lapis Lazuli Light in the U.S. last summer, Bob Cannard made this profound remark: “Many people tell me they cannot grow fruit trees because they rent their homes. In our society, many people indeed rent their houses. They may move every few years, so they feel that if they plant fruit trees, they do not get to taste the fruits of their effort. However, think of it another way: if every tenant of a house grows fruit trees in his backyard, then he will enjoy fruits even if he moves to another home later. In our modern society, this narrow perspective is the sickness of our cultural ailments.” Bob elaborated further: “I am also renting this farm to grow vegetables and fruit trees, and I’ve been here over twenty years. One day, I too will leave this land. I can’t bring these fruit trees with me, but I can bring along my experiences to another piece of land. If I hadn’t originally grown fruit trees merely because the farm land was rented, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy so many fruits now!”

A friend living on the U.S. east coast was preparing to sell her house, and engaged a contractor to repair the floor. This friend is particular about using non-toxic materials, and, this time, she also asked the contractor to look for non-toxic glue and paint. Because this involved a lot of time, the contractor was very unwilling to do so, and said: “You are selling your house and not living in it. Why are you so particular about the materials? Other people use cheap materials when they sell their houses.” Carpenters I know also commonly utter the following phrase: “Can’t see it from my house.” It means that when you are building a house for someone else, you can be a little sloppy because you will not live in it.

In our daily life, what we wear, eat, live in, and use are all dependent on others. If we want to raise the quality of our lives, and improve what we wear, eat, live in, and use, we need to change our perspective of life. Our teachers in school teach us this motto: “All for one, one for all”. If we can actualize this motto when we grow up, the earth can be transformed into a paradise. Not only will our living conditions be improved, but so will our lives.

Here’s another true story. Walter Russell was an American genius. Born in 1871 in Boston, he made significant contributions to the arts, music, philosophy, and science. He was twice invited to the White House by the first President Roosevelt to draw portraits of the President’s family. He also made a bust portrait of the second President Roosevelt.

Walter started working to support himself when he was ten years old. At the age of thirteen, he entered the art school, supporting himself on a part-time job. One summer, he was working as a bellboy in a hotel. He was very special in that he enthusiastically served the guests, but never accepted a tip or gratuity. In fact, he would wake up at 5 a.m. to get fresh milk for an infant staying in the hotel. At that time, his salary was only US$6 per month, and income from tips generally could be as high as US$100 over the entire summer. The first time a guest offered him a tip, Walter extended his hand to receive it, but then retracted it. This was because an inner voice told him that he should not take it. He murmured hesitantly: “I am already drawing a salary, and shouldn’t receive a tip.” He then hid in his room to reflect on his feelings just experienced. He had a sudden inspiration: “I want to be the one and only bellboy in the world who doesn’t accept a tip, and who offers the best customer service.”

After that, Walter joyfully and wholehearted served every guest. All the guests were pleasantly surprised by such a spirited bellboy who offered such good services, and yet refused to accept any tip. They invited him to attend their dinner functions and cruises, but the hotel manager told them that this was against hotel regulations because hotel employees are not allowed to socialize with their guests. In response, these guests made it clear that if an exception was not made for him, they would stop patronizing the hotel. So he had a wonderful summer.

Walter paint in his spare time. The hotel guests were very interested in his paintings so much so that during the entire summer, he made US$850 from selling his paintings even though he didn’t receive any tips. In addition, five wealthy families wanted to adopt him as a godson. After Walter’s work became famous, these guests also introduced many people to purchase his paintings. Later, he also attended the wedding of that infant who had, many years ago, needed fresh milk at dawn. Walter deeply felt that the universe’s laws are fair: when we give it all we’ve got, we will naturally get our rewards, so all of us should joyfully do our jobs well. He realized the universal law that we will get back what we offer. Being overly greedy will lead to losses in other areas. Joy is the manifestation of a heart in balance and equanimity, and genius comes from inner joy. A person immersed in joy does not feel tired, nor will his body create toxins.

If what we can give more than expected, our lives will naturally be successful. Walter’s wonderful life story illustrates this universal truth. If we can all internalize and apply this work attitude during this period of economic recession, we would surely see a change for the better. Dr. Mitchell May (featured in the October-December 2003 issue of the Lapis Lazuli Light newsletter), who is himself a living medical miracle, also discovered that the universe transcends three-dimensional space and time. He found that to overcome difficulties within one’s body, life, and finances, one needs to transcend narrow restrictive thinking and living conditions. Faith or trust is one key factor to transcending three-dimensional constraints.

Walter’s creative genius originates from beyond time and space. When he had to do his first-ever life portrait bust (of Edison), he had never received any training or instruction in this area. During the flight to see Edison, he entered into deep meditation that transcended time and space. When he arrived before Edison, he had already acquired the skill to do the sculpture.

In his younger days, Walter also used a similar method to transcend challenges in his life. When he was fifteen, he was drawing a weekly pay of US$12. His girlfriend wanted him to bring her to attend opera performance that was coming to town, and he readily said yes, thinking that it was just for one show. He didn’t realize that she wanted to attend every show of the series, costing a princely US$79.60. He said it was impossible to do so, and she retorted “You are the last person in the world that I would ever expect to hear say that word” Walter reflected, and thought that she was right. On the night before the ticket sales, he lined up behind a long queue, with only US$6 in his pocket. However, he believed that by the time he reached the ticket counter, he would have enough money to buy the entire series of shows. The next morning, a man behind the queue asked him: “Do you want to earn five dollars?” Walter said: “Of course.” The man said: “Only if you can offer your place to me so that I can get to work by 9 a.m.” Walter had instinctive thought: “I have a better idea. Give me the money, and I’ll deliver the ticket to your office.” Walter recorded the man’s address in his notebook. Shortly after, other people also sought his help. By the time he reached the ticket counter, he not only had enough money to purchase the entire series of shows, but he had also earned US$110, an amount that was enough to civer his school fees over the next few months. The strange thing was that none of the people who entrusted him to purchase the tickets had asked for his name or address. When he completely trusted on the forces of the universe, it also enabled others around him to trust him.

Because people do not believe in the generosity and fairness of the universe, they engage in unbounded greed. Regardless of whether the targets of this greed are the resources of nature or of the commercial world, excessive greed inevitably leads to poverty and damage. During Bob Cannard’s farming class, he continually emphasized that nature is generous, but we must repay what we get in order for these resources to keep coming. Twenty years ago when he first started farming on this ecologically-damaged turkey farm, all the plants and vegetables needed his daily attentive care to supply liquid fertilizers. After the land had recovered, he could leave it unattended for two weeks, and the plants and vegetables would still grow very well. Long ago, Bob’s farm was originally a place where spring water gushed out everywhere. However, a hundred years of deforestation and damage by cattle grazing led to the hardening of the land around the mouth of the spring water. Furthermore, the water level sank, causing the spring water to dry up. After Bob took over the farm, he used rocks and wood to slow down the flow of creek water. He also used twigs and branches to cover the hardened land around the spring water’s mouth so that the land will soften. After a short four years, the spring water came back again.

From these examples drawn from nature, we can see that when we naturally pay back to nature what we have received, nature will offer its unabated generosity manifested in our daily lives, work, businesses, and interpersonal relationships. Believe in the universe’s generosity and its fairness. Be concerned only in cultivating and planting virtuous seeds, and ask not about the rewards. In this way, we can be sure to create a wonderful world filled with joy.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2003 Nov Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore