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Zen and the art of investment management

In a complex and highly interconnected world, how can we as investors and intermediaries be sure that our actions serve both ourselves and the planet? I believe that a mindful approach could take us a step closer towards the goal of truly responsible investing, and that the benefits would be material as well as spiritual.

Alone in a car with my Zen teacher several years ago, I asked him if there might be a way to be a mindful investor. He said nothing at first, and then said nothing for a painfully long time. Finally he said, “Invest in the Dharma. It will give you the best return.”

As a 67-year-old Buddhist who heads up a team investing over $15 billion for clients, I’m probably more preoccupied than most people with the ethics of investing. I’ve spent nearly half a century studying and practising Buddhism and over 35 years working in the investment industry. Most of my life has been an exercise in trying to balance the spiritual and the material.

So, is there a way to be a mindful investor? I think so, and I’d like to explain through my own experience how mindful practices can be applied to investing. We’ll come back to what investing in the Dharma might mean later. First, let's think about the concept of responsible investing and the challenges it creates.

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