This account is crystal clear

Nury Vittachi

Hong Kong’s humorist on why accountants should consider tapping into their spiritual side more



Is accounting an art or a science? This has been debated passionately around the world since the beginning of time – okay, in my head since a social media conversation earlier this month. 

But on the morning of writing this, I find in my inbox an alternative view: perhaps true accounting is actually a spiritual experience.

A reader forwarded me a piece from Forbes India, a business magazine, about a lady named Anamika Rana. A highly qualified accountant, she did audits for the Big Four during the day, but during the evenings, she dealt with clients’ spiritual needs.

Clients flocked so enthusiastically to the second of her offerings that Ms Rana had to start a side business supplying crystals, which her clients used to align their personal and corporate invisible energy fields.

It’s an interesting new area for financial professionals, although I’m not sure how they would build this into standard “company doctor” conversations: “We’ll need a drastic cost-cutting restructure of your corporation’s international arm, perhaps reshaping it around pretty pink crystals on the chief executive officer’s desk.”

Now I am fully aware that some people consider all that stuff to be a wacky waste of time, but let me point out that academics regularly write papers on the spiritual side of accounting.

“There may be a need for new forms of accounting and accountability practice – what I call, awakening accounts and awakened accounting, that are based on the realization of enlightenment and on awakened doing,” wrote New Zealand lecturer Dr Pala Molisa in an article in the journal Critical Perspectives on Αccounting. After all, our shared ultimate, he wrote, was to “help to realize heaven on earth.” (And you thought you were just counting stuff).

Writers for the Journal of Αccounting, Αuditing and Finance took the idea further, calling for spirituality to be incorporated into accounting teaching courses. The old mantra, “maximizing shareholder value,” needed revising, they said. Today, people valued “making the world a better place for everyone.”

I guess a better world isn’t a bad thing. These academics and Ms Rana have correctly divined that humans set themselves up for disappointment by forgetting the teachings of humanity’s wisest gurus, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose timeless utterances include:  “Money can’t buy me love,” and “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon baby now.”

A friend reviewing this text points out that the association of spirituality and accounting goes back to the roots of the profession. The man who won the title “father of accounting” by writing a book 500 years ago, was Luca Pacioli. His day job? He was a monk, so he and his colleagues probably spent most of their time rising at dawn, chanting, trimming each other’s hair into circles and talking to birds.

I asked an accountant friend to comment about this idea in a bid to fill more column centimetres, and he took a practical view. “It’s a great idea,” he said. “Religious organizations don’t have to pay tax. But you’d have to change the name of your firm.” He suggested something like: “Chan, Chan and Chan, auditors, saints and miracle workers.”

The Americans, meanwhile, are well ahead. Entrepreneurial advisor Mark Silver has launched an eight-week programme to help businesspeople find their spiritual centres. The “Heart of Money Transformational Journey” will give participants “a feeling of peace, love, beauty, clarity and strength in facing financial tasks,”
he says.

Even more startlingly, he claims: “We have found that every act of business can be an act of love.”

Every act of business? Like asset-stripping, for example?

But I don’t want to be a cynic here. If your business does become insolvent, at least you can hum “money can’t buy me love” with the assets that the creditors won’t want: a nice set of pretty pink crystals.

Nury Vittachi is a bestselling author, columnist, lecturer and TV host. He wrote three storybooks for the Institute, May Moon and the Secrets of the CPAs, May Moon Rescues the World Economy and May Moon’s Book of Choices

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