The Story of the Golden Buddha

The story of the Golden Buddha.

January 29, 2019 by

In 1957 an entire Monastery in Thailand was being relocated by a group of monks. One day they were moving a giant clay Buddha when one of the monks noticed a large crack in the clay. On closer investigation he saw there was a golden light emanating from the crack. The monk used a hammer and a chisel to chip away at the clay exterior until he revealed that the statue was in fact made of solid gold.

Historians believe the Buddha had been covered with clay by Thai monks several hundred years earlier to protect it from an attack by the Burmese army. In the attack, all the monks had been killed and it wasn’t until 1957 that this great treasure was actually discovered.

I was able to share the story of the Golden Buddha at the end of a talk I gave recently when a woman in the audience asked “Is it just a utopian dream to think that I can find my ‘why’ at work? Where do I even start looking for my purpose?”

I explained that it’s already right there inside each of us, that it’s not necessarily found in another job, a new company or another country. It’s always been there and it’s way closer than we think.

What happens over the course of our life however is that we pile layer upon layer of clay over our own Golden Buddha. The heaviest layer of clay is of our own doing – it’s our own limited thinking and our unconscious conditioning. The other layers of clay get added on from external influences (parents, schools and teachers, bosses and co-workers, society, the media, the church, government and corporations). Eventually we are so laden with clay that we forget that the Golden Buddha is there all the time.

The secret to finding our Golden Buddha, our higher purpose, lies not in the future, but in our past. All we need to do is start chipping away at the clay and rediscovering those things we were passionate about as we grew up. We reconnect with why we first went into our profession or that job we really, really loved. We recall the times when we were in flow and time stood still. We chip away at our clay with a therapist or a trusted advisor. We get curious and we do something, anything. Action always precedes clarity. Action reveals the Golden Buddha.

At a company level, we also need to reclaim our Golden Buddha. I believe that most organisations are founded with a golden intent. They are started with a higher purpose to improve humanity and not damage the planet, however over time the clay appears in the form of poor management, flawed systems, board pressure, shareholder expectations or venture capitalist demands. The most vital role for leadership is to unearth that higher purpose again and make it both the glue and the guiding North Star of the company.

Imagine a world where every person and every company could return to their natural state, their Golden Buddha. Just imagine.