Family business succession has been typically understood as a function of safeguarding a biological, social or material legacy for future generations. While existing scholarship has suggested that family business succession to non-kin warrants further exploration, few have identified religion as an influential factor in such a process. In this study, we offer a counterintuitive illustration to existing explanations of kin succession in family businesses influenced by the role of religion. Our study of 12 Buddhist family businesses in Vietnam shows a connection between non-kin succession and Buddhist philosophy. In particular, we find that the Buddhist principles of non-attachment and impermanence were instrumental in influencing how incumbents rejected succession as a biological and material legacy process. In contrast, family businesses conceived succession as the continuance of a social legacy, whereby those who were best-placed to carry on the social legacy were selected as successors. We offer an inductive conceptual model that connects Buddhist principles to the foregrounding of a social legacy and our paper concludes with implications and opportunities for further research.