Buddhism penetration in Japan and its influence in business and economy
1. The Evolution of Mahayana Buddhism and the penetration in Japan
Mahayana Buddhism is the religion that promotes the economic business activities to the lay Buddhism believers and teaches the importance of diligence in labor and economic ethics according to the correct Dharma. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha taught that our economic activities are deserved to enrich society and people by working for the benefit of the others and the society, leading to the practice of Buddhism.
Mahayana means a great vehicle, a big boat that brings all the people to Enlightenment and brings all the people together to the other shore of salvation. Mahayana Buddhism, emerged in the Gandhara region of ancient India around the latter half of the 2nd century B.C., believed that Enlightenment could be attained even if we remained at home without being ordained, and that our daily life itself, including the economic activities, was a form of practice. This Mahayana Buddhism was spread from India to China, and then to Korea and Japan. It is very significant that it was trade merchants who had played a major role in the spread of Buddhism from India to China.
Prince Shotoku led the diffusion of Buddhism to Japan in the Asuka period and later Gyoki in the Nara period spread the Buddhist spirit. Japanese Buddhism is basically Mahayana Buddhism. In the Heian period, Kuukai and Saicho continued to spread Buddhism out, but at that time, it was for mainly the Imperial families and aristocrats. The spirit of self-interest and altruism, which Saicho of Tendai School taught as “self-interest through altruism,” is the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. Benefiting others will lead to one’s own happiness. He also said, “Wealth is a means to help us in our acts of altruism, and is an economic factor. Business is a form of training and the path to Enlightenment, which is found in his saying “Lighting up a corner, this is the national treasure.” He also affirms savings. Every job, no matter what it is, is always for the benefit of the people and helps to illuminate some part of society.
Following the Kamakura period turned out next famous Buddhism masters, Hounen, Shinran, Dougen, Eisai, Nichiren and Ippen. Shinran recommended the importance of diligence in production, prohibition of frugality and extravagance in consumption, honesty in commerce, prohibition of greed for money, prohibition of high interest loan, and advocated the concept, “To accept yourself as you are with gratitude“. The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism were also devised to fit the local Japanese people and spread to the ordinary people. For example, Honen taught that one could be saved by chanting the Nembutsu and Dogen taught that one could be saved by practicing Zen meditation, contrary to the complicated and difficult Buddhism scriptures. In order to make it easier for the common people to understand and implement the complex Buddhist practices, Dogen tried to slack the functions as much as possible to make them simple and clear.
This “The Compact Culture“ in thinking and making things compact by simplifying and clarifying complexity has been actually Japan’s forte, and is the source of the “small, light, shrinking, and packing” concept. This can be easily seen nowadays in haiku, bonsai, ikebana, tea ceremony rooms, folding fans, folding umbrellas, paperback, lunch boxes, business cards, and many more in our daily life. It becomes getting popular overseas today.
Nichiren Shonin, the founder of Nichiren School, taught that the Lotus Sutra is the only best teaching by Buddha who preached Buddhism, that all people are equally endowed with the mind of Buddha (Buddha nature as human being), and that all merits and virtues are contained in its mantra, “Nam-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo”.
Priest Shozo Suzuki (1579-1655), originated from the samurai class in the Edo period, mentioned in his book, Banmin Tokuyo, that fulfilling one’s role according to the feudal four-class social system (shi-nou-kou-sho) became one’S Buddhist practice. For merchants, he said, “Those who engage in business should first learn to use their minds for the benefit of virtue. He should learn the way of honesty by giving up his life to the path of heaven.” This means that a merchant should focus on profit making. In doing so, he should learn the path of truth by throwing himself and his life into the principles of heaven and earth.
With the affirmation of Klesha (vexatious desire) for profit, you can practice Buddhism and reach Enlightenment. This is “Bonnou-Soku-Bodai” (earthly desires are a pure aspiration to Enlightenment) idea, can be achieved if you should not engage in business as vexatious desires go, but rather practice temperance, improve your minds, and proceed honest business practices. We often need to increase sales and profits in our work, and when it is done, we normally become greedy for more. You can, however, realize that all suffer from vexation because of it, and can figure out how you should be, and how you can improve your mind and put it into practice. Finally you can reach Enlightenment by this process.
Baigan Ishida, famous philosopher in the Edo period, advocated, “The merchant profit is the same as the samurai’s stipend.” He recommended that the merchant profit from fair business is just as legitimate as the salary for samurai, and that the merchants should be allowed to do business with impunity. The pursuit of profit is nothing to be ashamed of as long as based on the ethics of humanity for the sake of the world and people. Ishida also proposed that the morality of merchants was the code of life for the people, and emphasized the practice of “honesty, diligence, thrift, simplicity and patience.”
Mahayana Buddhism in Japan allows the pursuit of profit, but also teaches the importance of diligence with a right mind, frugality and discouragement of wastefulness, the spirit of the Middle Way, and the importance of practicing the Six Paramita, including donation.
Thanks to the spread of this spiritual framework in Mahayana Buddhism, Japan’s economy had developed from the Heian period (794-1185) to the Edo period (1603-1868). After the Meiji Restoration, Japan as a nation focused on economic growth to catch up with the West. After the WWII, we recovered from the burnt-out ruins and went on the path of rapid economic growth. In the blood of Japanese people, we can say that there is a spirit of joy by contributing to the people and society, such as hard work, making improvements, new product development and improving customer satisfaction.
In terms of corporate philanthropy, it is changing from the traditional profit-sharing model to the social contribution model in style. During the economic bubble era, companies promoted their philanthropy and mecenat (cultural supporting activities), established foundations for the benefit of society, donated to welfare facilities, supported culture, art and sports, and engaged in the local social contributing activities. There used to be a time for everything was acceptable, including donations to welfare facilities, support for culture, art, sports, and local social contribution activities. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of activities that involve not only the financial donations, but also the provision of corporate facilities, equipment, and human resources to the local communities, as well as the disclosing of know-how. In addition, in order to support the volunteer activities of employees, volunteer work leave and subsidy systems have been introduced and they are getting socially popular in various ways.
The Japanese also believe that everything has a soul. Japanese people are good at “monozukuri” (crafting things), and Japan is a leading robot kingdom. In the Japanese manufacturing factories, people call the robots by cute names to be assisted, and to work in harmony together. The reason why Japanese believe that robots even have the lives, because of the mental basis of Mahayana Buddhism, teaching “Issai-Shujoushitsubusshou” that means everything has life, “All creatures have Buddha nature”. In Japan, due to the influence of animistic beliefs originally worshipping nature, there is a spirit of “Busshin-Ichinyo” (matter and mind are one) meaning that all things should be treated with the same importance as human mind. In Japan, people who craft things have always been highly valued in society. Japanese people have a culture of cooperation, ingenuity, and friendly rivalry in order to make things as superior as possible with their wisdom and devotion.
For Japanese, work is not an abhorrent drudgery or an atonement at all. Japanese people have the vision that they should strive for self-realization through their work. Practicing the Eightfold Path and the Six Paramita at work, and working diligently and honestly, is the essence of Buddhist practice. In the Japanese mentality, there is a spirit of honesty and diligence in work, as well as the Mahayana Buddhist ethic of self-realization through their work to help others. I believe that the Japanese people have DNA to think of better things all the time, to be self-reflective and uncomfortable with every status quo, to strive and devote themselves towards a great goal and vision,
to cooperate with each other as a team, to be more creative and to work hard.
With the spirit of self-interest and altruism, compassion, self-control, self-reflection, inquisitiveness to work hard and devote oneself to the ideal, creativity and ingenuity, the efficient managements have been achieved in Japan. There is a fundamental concept as a Buddhist that people can improve their personality through their work.
In addition Japan has unique culture to help others, including the business competitors in the serious case of emergency. In the Great East Japan Earthquake, the companies in the Tohoku (northeast) region were suffered with huge damages, and the rival Japanese companies then proposed to help them by lending machines and labor.
There is a structure of awareness understanding, “When in trouble, help each other.” There is also a culture of mutual gratitude. The companies helped send the regards, “Thanks to you, we are now recovering”.
Mahayana Buddhism introduced to Japan through ancient China, has been developed into a unique Japanese form by merging with the indigenous Shintoism. The influence of Confucianism and other teachings have led to the development of a style of belief and a structure of consciousness for work suitable for the Japanese way of life over a long period of time.
2. Diminishing religious belief (faith) by modernization and emerging the pursuit of profit as a self-purpose
As Max Weber says in “The Ethics of Protestantism and the Spirit of Capitalism,” the religious faith of Protestantism contributed to the development of capitalism, but as the modernization progressed, the element of faith faded. And the pursuit of profit and profit supremacy became stronger, so the pursuit of profit has become a self-purpose.
As modernization has led to the rationalization and specialization of organizations and corporate activities, there has been a tendency for rational thinking and the pursuit of profit to take precedence over everything else, as in the case of large bureaucratic organizations, for example, and the religious and ethical aspects tend to be secondary.
Then, it is not always true that religious elements are unnecessary in our economic activities. Without the religious or ethical code of conduct, any company will not be able to continue. A tendency to “Do whatever it takes for making profit” or “You can do whatever to make a profit” is so prevalent that normal organizational discipline collapses, which leads to the violations of laws and regulations as well as the other compliance violations, which in turn often leads to the criticism from society, which in turn leads to deteriorating business performance or bankruptcy. There is no end to the number of corporate scandals today. There have been many cases of the excessive market fundamentalism; such as Lehman shock in the U.S. resulted from the excessive profit maximization trend.
On the other hand, great company has its company philosophy and motto, a system to thoroughly enforce to all employees. As I have already mentioned, many of the corporate mottoes and precepts of the companies operating more than 100 years are mainly taken from Buddhism. For example, a major department store’s motto is “Do it right first, profit comes after righteousness” (Where the righteousness as the serving for society comes first, followed by profit). A sake (rice wine) manufacturer’s motto is “Do not covet profit, but give it away”. A machinery manufacturer’s motto is “Respect the righteousness of others”. A textile dyer’s corporate motto is “Enter and behold, another cherry blossom behind the cherry blossom” and a major large trading company’s motto is “Sampo-Yoshi” (Benefit for all three sides; good for the seller, good for the buyer and good for the society).
When I was stationed as an expat in the U.S. for about six years, Japan was suffering from the bursting of the bubble economy, but the U.S. economy was growing in good. As a model case of capitalism, and with the development of Silicon Valley, it looked like an ideal world as free economy and venture businesses. When the Lehman shock of 2008 plunged not only the U.S. but also the rest of the world into a financial crisis and simultaneous recession, caused by the market fundamentalist mindset and the profit-driven excesses within Lehman Brothers, who created the securitized products with undiscoverable risks to sell globally, as well as other investment banks, we had a strong question mark over American style capitalism and market-oriented market fundamentalism. With this experience there is a real need today for the economic activity with ethical, moral and the religious codes of conduct, and for the capitalism that values employees, communities and the environment more than shareholders.
Earlier I mentioned the need for ethical, moral and religious codes of conduct in the same level, the founder of Rissho Kosei-Kai taught that religion is to give energy to ethics and morality. Even if you know the importance of ethics and morality in your head, it is difficult to take the energetic action to implement them without the deep admiration and respect of religion. Therefore he taught that we need the religious faith and the unity of comrades united in that faith.
3. Phenomena of the personalization in religious belief
As modernization progresses, the influence of religion on economic activities tends to change, and the degree of influence tends to diminish. In addition to the progress of modernization, another factor reducing the influence of religion on the economy and society is that people’s interest in religion has become more individualized.
As economic growth progresses, people tend to become more individualistic in their interest for the religion as they become economically affluent, although they do not feel affluent from their bottom of hearts.
The activities of religious organizations in the era of rapid economic growth led to peace activities, social reform, and social purification, have become calmer and more stable in terms of mobilization. On the other hand, the activities of various NPOs and local communities are becoming more popular, attracting people with diverse values.
In times of emergency, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011), the religious community took proactive actions and made a great social contributions to the desperate communities and people in the Tohoku region by providing emotional relief, requiem for the souls of the deceased, assistance with relief supplies, and mobilization of personnel to accept evacuees and dispose of debris.
However, it can be said that in normal times, the power of religions to influence society and the economy has become relatively small, as the globalization of the economy and the progress of IT have given rise to a wide variety of values on a global basis, as well as multipolar politics and diverse ways of working and living.
On the other hand, it is not true that Japanese have become completely indifferent to religion. While the ancestral memorial services (ancestral rituals) is still important in some parts of Japan, younger people tend to be less interested in ancestral memorial services, this, however, does not mean they have lost interest in religions such as Buddhism. Rather, the interest in Buddhism is growing because of not only its spirituality but its entertainment value. For example, power spot boom, spiritual boom, pilgrimage boom, Buddhist statue girl boom, and the tour to the Buddhist sacred sites. Today a growing number of young women interested in Buddhist statues and visit temples, and 1.6 million people came to see the statue of Ashura at National Museum during the previous boom in Buddhist statue appreciation.
I have also heard that Zen temples are receiving an increasing number of applications for short-term Zazen (meditation) courses within one or two days for busy working people. The participants vary from those who were dis-promoted in their companies, restructured or lost their jobs, and unsuccessful business owners. Religious activities have come to focus more on the inner life of individual, which is the essence of religion. The largest number of lay believers today is the second and third generation who has inherited the faith of Buddhism from their parents.
This trend is not only in Japan, but also in the western countries. With the increasing urbanization in Japan, the downsized economy in rural areas, and the globalization and digital transformation of economy using IT, it can be said that the value of inheriting one’s “home” and the traditional faith based on one’s “home” are fading, and the need for faith that seeks happiness, salvation, healing, and peace of mind as an “individual” is growing in weight.
This “individualization of faith” is a common phenomenon in developed countries. As a result to this, the role of religion in the lives of individuals is increasing in developed countries, while the role of religion in economic activities is getting shrunk.
4. Ideal religious style for our economic activities
For ordinary people, “religion of belief or non-belief,” asking you if believe in God or Buddha, looks awkward. On the other hand, in the sub-consciousness of Japanese people there is a kind of reverence for a transcendent being beyond human knowledge. Since ancient times, Japanese have respected and revered nature, believing that there are eight million (millions) gods in nature. We also want to find peace of mind, to live in harmony among difficult human relationships, and to be happy.
I believe that religions of the future will not only be for the solving the problems of poverty, sickness, or strife as in the past, but will also have a greater emphasis on “religions of wisdom and joy of life,” which helps people to realize and awaken the afflictions that are the source of their misconceptions, worries, and hatreds, to reflect on themselves, and to give them wisdom, courage, and joy in their lives. I believe this role, a religion for solution, will increase. It is necessary to devise ways to make it more acceptable to younger people. (For example, since people are becoming more sensitive to personal information security, instead of confiding our problems in front of everyone, we can consult with them individually on a one-to-one basis or personally through the Internet.)
While maintaining the austere and pious aura (prestige and premium atmosphere) that religions have, there is a need for religions that are easy to enter, offering the counseling for the work and family problems, and that allow people to reflect on themselves in the midst of events with friends through their community activities. We at the same time should share what we can share in our activities with our local communities and NPOs, and put them into practice.
While it is true that the need for faith to seek happiness, salvation, healing, and peace of mind as an “individual” is becoming more important, it is desirable to give more positive meaning to act as a lay Buddhism believer in the relation to the society and the companies as a system that brings happiness to individuals, and conduct social activities as well.
In addition we need to be a religion (cult) responsible to the challenges of economy and society as the religion for our lay Buddhism believers showing the meanings to work and the positive significance to economic activities.
In Japan, there is a wonderful religious and spiritual foundation called Mahayana Buddhism that encourages economic activities in a positive way.
It is already embedded in the lives of Japanese people and as DNA it is natural to work hard, produce better products and services, and contribute to the world and people for joy. Japanese people have always had a spirit of diligence and willingness to work longer, but the West has criticized Japanese people for working too much and has been trying to reduce our working hours. The excessive overtime is not good for one’s health or family life, but to be honest the innovation and ingenuity often come from hard working and the spell of daily trials and errors.
Masaru Ibuka, the co-founder of Sony corporation, said that “the reward for work is work”, which means that “If you do a good job, you will get new work (job) from your customers and from your company internally, and you will also have many colleagues with whom you can share a good heart and sprit. You can also improve your own technical skills and expertise. Work is not just about money, honor, or status.” is something important shared among many Japanese.
When I visited one of our business partners, I saw a frame hanging in the president’s office saying, “Our Company is a Dojo” (hall for practicing). The president said, “I want to make my company indispensable by our society, and we want to work together with the awareness that the company is the training center for both the owner and employees toward our personal development. Our personality can be refined through hard working. As a management member, I will keep this in my mind.
In Japan there is a mentality and culture of self-realization and personal growth through work. Japanese people work with ingenuity, enthusiasm for research, ethics and efficiency, and the respect for teamwork and the coexistence and co-prosperity. I believe that we should be very aware of these precious religious and spiritual fundamentals in Mahayana Buddhism, and contribute to the development of society and the world with the confidence and pride.
5. Teaching and the value of working based on Mahayana Buddhism teaching
1. Buddhism teaching for working Buddhism is the teaching on how to become a Buddha, and it teaches that anyone can attain the state of salvation, which is Enlightenment attained by the Buddha, as long as they believe the teachings of Buddhism and practice well, whether they are practicing lay believers or ordained monks. Buddha divided his teachings into two groups: the ordained believers and the practicing lay believers.
The teachings for the lay believers are practical and teach economic ethics and morality. In Buddha’s teaching the economic activities are justified as a way to ”increase and accumulate the wealth under the fair rules without suffering others” and positively recommended unless denounced by local people.
Preaching the right use of economic activities without denying their benefits
The Buddha encouraged economic activities without violating laws or moral norms, the accumulation of goods as a result of ethical commercial activities through the reasonable production and commercial activities, profits from those activities should be applied into next four ways;
1. Invest coming projects
2. Support family and employees
3. Save for the future
4. Donate for Buddhist practitioners
At the same time, Buddha strictly discouraged the fraudulent economic transactions. in diligent and honest work. He also admonished that young people complaining their work for the cold or hot working environment must have fade out.
Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the goods (benefits) and wealth that one has acquired through hard work and diligence, and through the appropriate methods in one’s professional life as a lay believer they are one of the desirable life goals with more active attentions. It also warns against the indulging in hedonistic consumption and the extravagance with such goods and wealth, and encouraging staying simple without getting materialized and keeping donating for those in need as a Buddhism practitioner. “Person who does right things in a proper manner and strives patiently will get wealth. By truth (honesty) he will gain fame, and by contribution (donating) will make new friends.” “Those who work in a proper manner with patience and continuous efforts, will get benefit. By observing the virtue of honesty, he or she gains the trust of customers and companies. By donating to others, you will have good relationships and be a person loved and respected by others.”
Mahayana Buddhism teaches that all occupations are noble, without any distinctions between high and low in order, and that there is a mission and significance necessary for society, and that hard work and diligence for the benefit of others eventually leads to the practice of Buddhism.
II. Business based on Buddhism spirit and attitude for the management and working
1. Ideas for the problem solving and practice in business based on “Shitai” (Four Noble Truths)
In the Lotus Sutra, there is “Shitai-no-Houmon” (Four Noble Truths) as wisdom to resolve the suffering of life. Let me talk about it because there are many aspects of solving with challenges and problems in business to be considered and practiced in the same way.
Kutai (Truth of Suffering): Work and life is a series of suffering, so if you think suffering is the norm, so first thing to do is make up your mind and don’t run nor hide from the pain, but face the reality and assess it. In our life there are the four suffering (Shi-Ku) from birth, aging, sickness and death, as well as the suffering (Onzoue-Ku) from meeting whom one hates, the suffering (Aibetsuri-Ku) from separating from one’s beloved one, the suffering (Gufuto-Ku) from struggling to satisfy one’s needs by desire and passion. We use the term “Shi-Ku-Hak-Ku” (Big trouble that is agony with four great pains and eight hardships) by putting together with another suffering (Gounjyo-Ku) from not freeing oneself from body and mind.
We encounter problems and troubles every day in business. When they occur, don’t complain, don’t run away, but it is important to understand the actual situation and analyze it from both micro and macro perspectives with facing the reality straightforward.
Jit-Tai (Cause of Suffering): There is always a cause for suffering, so we must investigate, clarify and become aware of the true cause it. As we look into closer the cause of suffering, we will find that there is human attachment, vexation, thirst, and greed. All problems and troubles in business have own causes, some are direct and some are hidden behind the system or structural causes, but they are triggered by something with connection (En) and it is important to assess them all thoroughly.
Met-Tai (Truth of the Cessation of Suffering): The stage of peaceful mind (Nirvana) by diminishing or reducing the suffering in human life. Everything that occurs in this world changes (Shyogyo-Mujyo: the impermanence of all things), then you will come to realize the importance of making efforts that can change your life by setting goals and devoting yourself day by day. Once you understand all things in this world are connected to each other. Everything in this world are connected each other (Shoho-Muga: Everything is connected and interdependent to each other) , you can be grateful to all around you which make you alive. In business, we need to be able to both apologize, and provide the solutions when problems and troubles happened and alternative measures to prevent them from happening again in the future. In dealing with a problem the first step is to make a sincere apology and compensate for the damage, then work out a plan to minimize damage control, including the social trust of the company. Also as the management issues, we should decide policy, set the goal to aim for, and systematically make the decisions for the implementation measures and improvement targets to achieve the goal.
Dou-Tai (Truth of the Nobel Path to the Cessation of Suffering): Practicing Bodhisattva conduct is truly the way to diminish the sufferings. In business, carrying out the strategies, goals and solutions set under the Met-Tai conditions by actually setting deadlines and following up on the results with PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Action) method. Without changing the mindset between the president and employees, it will not last long even if you really want to proceed. Company is a “public institution” that contributes to the society and to people through its customers and services. The way of thinking and practicing based on Budhhism spirit such as “Roku-Haramitsu” (Six Paramita), “Hasshoudo” (Noble Eightfold Path), “Jiriirta” (benefiting oneself and others) as well as “Jitoumyou and Houtoumyou” (Attadipa and Dhammadīpā) is the way to success, and the indispensable teachings for the individuals to make a fruitful life.
2. Six Paramita is altruistic and valuable as an economic ethic
The “Six Paramita” in the first chapter of Hooke Kyo (the Lotus Sutra) is altruistic and bodhisattva practices. The Six Paramita can be read and explained from the perspective of economic ethics as follows. Of all these, I believe that “Devotion” and “Wisdom” are particularly important in the economic ethics. “Fuse” (Donation) means to give a part of your salary or profit away for social contribution and service with the gratitude and compassion without keeping them with you. It also brings you an altruistic spirit of serving others. It is extremely important in Buddhism.
In addition to general “Zaise” (financial support) donating money and goods to the community, organizations and people in need, Fuse has more varieties; “Hohse” (intelligence support) willing to provide useful information to other departments, “Sinse” (physical support) giving a bright smile on your face and being a positive influence on others, and “Muise” (mental support) taking away others’ worries, anxieties and fears. Specially “Horse” is very important in the company and gives you virtues by willing to share your expertise, planning and business know-how with others. “Muise” also is important activity to listen to and relieve the worry and anxiety of the staffs that consider quitting or lack of confidence to work.
“Fuse” can sometime be found as the mercy activities by the riches, the true meaning of Fuse, however, is a natural action coming from the truth of harmony, which is the most important aspect of Buddhism. The three virtues of “Fuse,” “Diligence,” and “Middle Way” are extremely important. The three virtues in Buddhism, “Fuse”, “Kinben” (Diligence), and “Chu-do” (Middle Way) are extremely important.
Here is a very interesting case study at university in Canada.
“When you spend money on others, your happiness is greater than spend it on yourself.” This is the answer. Let me talk about the results of an experiment I conducted with students at Columbia University in Canada. In the morning, the students were divided into two groups, A and B. I gave each participant either $5 or $20 and told them to spend it all by 5:00 p.m.
However, I put a condition on the students of group A that they must spend the money only for themselves. They had to use the money only to satisfy their own needs, such as buying bread or coffee. Group B students, on the other hand, were asked to use the money for others, to bring joy to others, such by treating pizza or coffee. Later in that evening I interviewed the students about their feelings and personal emotions. We did the same thing every day for a certain period of time.
Normally we would expect people feel happier if they can spend the money on themselves, but regardless of the amount they received, the happiness of those who spent the money on them did not make much differences. On the other hand, the happiness of students who spent the money for others increased significantly. Many of the students said that using money for others deepened their bonds with others, and made them feel a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Similarly in another experiment conducted in the US with 630 people, the results were the same. It is noteworthy that the scientific experiments have shown that the Buddhist practice of offering money and Christian donations leads to happiness. It is worth noting that these scientific experiments have also shown this to be true.
“Jikai” (Precepts) is the practice to conduct rational management and business by savings and self-control with erasing the wanderings of your mind through Buddhism precepts. In business, greed, anger and jealousy are prohibited as in the world of asceticism. Just like the saying, ”Desire, complaining and anger are the three poisons”, without controlling over your own mind you cannot initiate your staffs to be a successful business leader.
“Ninniku” (Forbearance) is the practice to endure, worship Buddha nature, and try to maintain good relationships with your boss who doesn’t understand your work or is unreasonably angry at you by forgiving and finding the good in him. It is the spirit of being patient and making efforts without running away from the hardships that to cultivate you.
You should be a strong-willed person in business, and the spirit of “Ninniku” will be your backbone. Trying not to be full of you, big-headed, nor delirious with business success is also a part of “Ninniku” practice.
”Shoujin” (Diligence) is the ability to work hard and persistently toward a vision or goal. “Continuity is power”, and by working tirelessly and diligently we can see the future. However, continuity is not just a repetition. It is a step-by-step improvements process to of work to make everything better tomorrow than today. The essence of things can be seen through the experience by focusing on the work, making improvements, and solving many difficulties and obstacles.
No matter what kind of job you do, keep working for at least three years and improving your working performance, and you will find a way. Through this process your mind will be refined and your personality could be enhanced. If we continue to devote ourselves to our work, we can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. And if you can think of your ability as “future progressive” and believe that you can accomplish the work not today but within a half or year, your business commitment will have more impacts.
“Zenjo” (Zen state of mind) is a quiet mind or a steadfast heart. In economic activities, “Zenjo” means making the calm judgments, honing one’s strengths, and managing one’s business in a steady manner, without worrying about the economic trends or the up-and-down of sales. For the steady judgments it is important to analyze thoroughly your company’s strengths, weaknesses, threatening environments and business opportunities. (SWOT: Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat analysis)
In the midst of the severe business competition, we must calm our minds down, cool our anxious mind down, focus and reflect on you. It is important to calm your mind and reflect on yourself at least once a day to prepare yourself for tomorrow.
Business decision needs “Cool Head & Warm Heart” (“Zenjo”). The well-balanced coolheaded judgment and heart with hot passion is necessary for the best result.
“Chie” (Wisdom) is an ability to distinguish the right from the wrong, the inquisitive mind to create something better through ingenuity, the sense to recognize what people really want, and the business sense for sales and analytical skills. It also includes a sense of responsibility without running away from a business crisis and responsible for the final result. Being responsible also means having courage. It is the courage to apologize by admitting your misjudgment and to take quick action without hesitations. We also should not constraint our management and business from the short-term profits but from a long-term perspective whether we are contributing properly to the society and/or we are doing right work truly needed by the society. Eventually we should manage and work based on the ideas with universal truths (laws). Since “Chie” is an essence of strategy in business I believe it is most important.
The new era has come which many white-collar jobs are replaced by artificial intelligence (AI). Now AI does some of our operational and intellectual work. The robotization of manufacturing lines that formerly happened in factories is also happening now in the whitecollar working fields. However, this does not mean the loss of humanity of workers.
We still have work to do that engages our human emotions. In this era people are working to live well, trying to find the meaning of work and their own places to exist.
In these times, the role of managers and supervisors is to work on the wisdom of “Chie: sense-making” (reasoning and idealizing the work). What is our status quo, and where do we want to go from now? It is important to head for the ideal stage by meaning to the past, present and future, and through this process to give the meanings as a team for your colleagues and to create empathy.
There are many good examples of “sense-making” companies, including the presidents and chairmen of Kyocera, Sony, Panasonic, Toyota and SoftBank. Also Steve P. Jobs, the founder of Apple in the United States. It is well known that Jobs presentation contained the full visions of him. With his presentations, the employees, investors and even customers understood his ideas and the same direction to behave.
He approached people’s hearts and conducted his ideas through empathy. AI can never do this magic.
Work in the digital transformation (DX) and electronization environment in coming future is a particularly important in the usage of “Chie”. With the expansion of telework due to Covid-19, this utilization in business is essential for speeding, reducing administrative burdens and increasing productivity. For instance in the contractual procedures with business customers, we have shifted from a conventional standardized approach to the electronic documents (Paperless), from a face-to-face approach to the electronic authentication and from a stamp-based approach to the electronic signatures. It is worth to investigate; with the encouragement by government laws and regulations the cost of stamps for contracts can be saved (electronic contracts do not require the revenue stamps) and the system cost of electronic signatures can be fully absorbed. As you see, we need “Chie”, wisdom to review and improve the entire work process.
The importance of “Chie” is practically demanded in the development of new products and services. In order to persuade the senior staffs and colleagues in company, we need to use our great “Chie”. By using our Chie (wisdom), which shows what the future should look like, by grasping the essence rather than self-interest, we should be accountable for the purpose, necessity, the needs of input of resources and effects. For people who are against to our idea or who are just waiting to see what happens, we always need to be creative and use various approaches to explain and remove their psychological obstacles. In order to do this, we need to be “Diligent” in our efforts to persuade people until they agree with us.
Also you need to have a steadfast “Zenjo” mind against the opposed, and keep your focus on the justice in contributing to society with your new products or services. If we can handle the resistance of the opposition with the mind of “Jikai” (Precept) to control our own mind without desperation and the mind of “Nin-niku” (Forbearance) to understand the other party’s position with tolerance and find a point of contact, we can find a way to go.
In the Lotus Sutra, the 19th chapter of the Dharma Master’s Merits and Virtues, Buddha teaches ”All the laws taught are in accordance with the righteousness of the Dharma and do not differ from the reality. If the mundane sutras, the words of the world, the karma of life, etc., all conform to the true Dharma.” This means that the believers who deeply understand and practice the Buddha’s teachings can explain the Dharma from various perspectives, and those contents will never deviate from the actual reality. In another words the content of the world’s ethics, philosophy, politics, economics and laws, as well as the industrial economic activities such as commerce, agriculture and manufacturing, will all be identical with the Buddha’s teachings.
In the 13th chapter of the Hospitality by the Lotus Sutra, the scripture says, “We should put on the armor of endurance and humiliation in reverence for the Buddha, and endure these difficulties in order to preach this sutra”. Mentioned in this phrase, “Self-sacrificing dedication to Buddha”, the Lotus Sutra teaches the importance of having a mission in mind, taking the initiative and influencing others in not only missionary practice but business.
The corporate management varies greatly depending on the leadership of the top executives and management team. I think Japanese people are familiar with and sympathetic to the business style whenever the management team has a “sense of mission” and/or ambition, and takes the initiative in setting new directions by taking risks.
When the top management is truly caring for the benefit of others and how to contribute to the world, not out of self-interest but together with their staffs to grow and improve their personalities, the employees will follow the tasks and projects, even if they face severe difficulties and challenges, and eventually the goals will be accomplished and completed.
3. “Has-Shou-Do” (Eightfold Noble Path): Work without self-centeredness nor self-interest and accomplish right with confidence
“Has-Shou-Do” (Eightfold Noble Path) is consist of “Shou-Ken” (right view), “ShouShi” (right thinking), “Shou-Go” (right speech), “Shou-Gyou” (right action), “ShouMyou” (right livelihood), “Shou-Shyojin” (right effort), “Shou-Nen” (right mindfulness) and “Shou-Jyou” (right meditation), and is the teaching for self-fulfillment. Righteousness refers to being in harmony with the truth. Right goal is set by “Shou-Ken” and right activities come from “Shou-Shi”, “Shou-Go”, “Shou-Gyou”, “Shou-Myou”. All “Has-Shou-Do” are very important in doing business, and include the right ways to have a mind and act, not to be confused with self-interest, to be honest, to obey compliance, not to be involved in preconceptions or common sense, to grasp with fairness and to make correct judgments. They are all demanded in business.
“Shou-Ken” (Right View): means to see the things from a correct and impartial point of view, not from a self-centered point but to look at things from a field-oriented perspective without any preconceived ideas nor common sense. It prohibits keeping secrets or avoiding the focus for the personal sake of self-preservation.
Whenever a problem arises, in Toyota Motor Corporation, one of the largest automobile manufacturers of Japan, the staffs and leaders visit the site and always repeat to ask “why” in five times. Whenever a problem pops up in the field, they go to the site to find the problems with their own eyes and analyze and verify the cause without being preconceived or applying common sense. Toyota Motor has five management corporate philosophies and principles called “Toyota Way”. They are “Challenge”, “Improvement”, “On-site”, “Teamwork”, and “Respect”. While you are on-site, it is especially essential to “see thing as is”. Based on “Toyota Way” from the past, Toyota Motor Corporation has the newly formulated vision; “Toyota Way 2020” consisted of next 10 charters. They are “For the sake of others”, “Act with integrity”, “Work with curiosity”, “See things clearly”, “Improve skills”, “Continue to improve”, “Create extra strength”, “Enjoy competition”, “Believe in your colleagues” and “Say thank you verbally”. “Seeing things clearly” among these 10 charters is equal to “ShouKen”.
In the Sixteenth Article of the Lotus Sutra, there is a teaching; ”All those who have cultivated and accumulated all kinds of merits and virtues, who are gentle and upright, will be seen as teaching the Dharma in their own bodies. Obviously told that you will be successful whenever you see and judge honestly by using “Shou-Ken” without prejudice, and try to be gentle and open-minded (Nyuwa-shichijiki) together with full of virtues.
McDonald’s Japan recently posted a record high operating profit and performed so well, despite the severe conditions such as the request to refrain from going out due to the spread of new coronavirus (Covid-19) and the shortening of business hours. The reasons for this were that although the number of in-store restaurants decreased in profit due to Covid-19, McDonald’s Japan took some proactive measures to cover this situations, such as promoting “Drive-Thru” services to avoid density, encouraging take-out service, improving “Value Menu” to eat at home and utilizing home delivery services.
Before the Covid-19 syndrome McDonald’s Japan has seen the reality right (exactly “ShouKen” practice) and has been reviewing the previous efficiency-centered management and investing in quality, hygiene, convenience and crisis handling. By preparing of not the ordinal in-store dining and face-to-face customer services but the various service channels such as Drive-Thru, mobile(phone) order, cashless payment and take-out, they can utilize those investments completed before the corona virus syndrome to make them possible to sell without the risk of infection. They also started delivering McDonald’s foods by consignment to the major newspaper sales offices utilizing their newspaper delivery routes.
The ability to cope with crises is called “Resilience”, and in the age of Covid-19 we need to build a business structure that is resilient to change by correctly assessing reality and factoring in changes in the situation, rather than managing as before.
We can learn a lot from the case of McDonald’s Japan that most important device to increase resilience is to prepare a variety of alternative solutions and be ready to switch all at any time. By having alternatives for whenever the current primary method is no longer available, such as a second supplier, a second production plant, a second or third sales method, etc., we can continue the business whenever any problem occurs by switching to next alternative.
“Shou-Shi” (Right Thinking): means to think correctly by broad mind and flexibility, and it is valuable as “Shou-Ken” (Right View) to understand our reality without being self-centered, selfishness, anger, unreasonable mind of persisting your own ideas. If your thinking habit is negative, envious, hateful or revengeful, you will never achieve any good results. If you always face your work with positive and constructive thoughts, you will find good ideas and get some positive advice from your colleagues.
“Shou-Go” (Right Speech): means to say the right words without lying, swearing, or leaving anything out as normal, but you should also talk in a polite, sincere, and gentle manner that respects the other person’s personality.
In recent years, many people have been asked to resign due to the discrimination, prejudice or unintentional comments such as the discrimination against women, racism, and the denial of personality, the discrimination against people with disabilities, the disrespect for professions and/or the disrespect for LGBT people. As the Chinese saying goes, “Every words like the sweat of an emperor’s brow” (meaning that once an emperor says something, it cannot be undone or corrected), those who are involved in the corporate management and organizations need to keep in mind that they should never say anything that could lead to these discrimination or misunderstanding even if as a joke nor a persiflage.
“Shou-Gyou” (Right Action): means to do all in right, not to kill, neither steal nor commit evil acts. Especially flirt should be highly punished. Celebrities, athletes, politicians and corporate executives have been exposed in the weekly gossip magazines for adultery, cheating, patronage dating and having affairs via Internet dating sites. A single tempting or playful moment can destroy your work and family, so you need to be responsible and control your behavior.
Harassment has also become a major issue in recent years. There are many types of harassments, such as power harassment, sexual harassment, moral harassment and maternal harassment, which are making others feel uncomfortable by pestering. Those involved in management need to be familiar with Power Harassment Prevention Law, Equal Employment Opportunity Law, and Labor Standards Act from the legal perspective, and take various measures to prevent them.
With complying with the “Code of Corporate Governance” we also need the system to prevent the top management from going out of control and to check its correct corporate activities whether management is not doing wrong from the public perspective. Corporate governance is “system for monitoring management, including not only internal the board of directors but also external directors, the external auditors as well as other external managers in order to prevent scandals throughout organization”, and is “ruling company”.
“Corporate Governance” is ruled to have the outside directors and corporate auditors as well as the directors with committees, the separation of directors and executive officers in order to maximize the interests of shareholders and other stakeholders for the purpose of preventing corporate scandals and increasing corporate value over the long term. The new corporate governance guidelines in 2021 requires to have at least one-third of their board of directors as independent outside directors instead of two or more in the previous rules for the companies listed on the first section of Tokyo Stock Exchange, and to respect for the human rights (e.g., no enforced labor, child labor, nor human rights abuses at supplier market in global basis).
Currently more than 90% of the companies listed on the first section of Tokyo Stock Exchange have achieved this goal to have more than two directors from outside, but when it comes to the new one-third rule, more than 40% have not achieved yet. In short the transparency in corporate governance has been demanded. Although the unlisted private companies are not covered by these new corporate governance guidelines, they should take right action (Shou-Gyou) by carefully reading and understanding the contents of the corporate governance guidelines and make plans to implement.
“Shou-Myo” (Right Livelihood): means to make a living within the legitimate income and remuneration from the righteous work and occupations that are beneficial to the world and people. If you have any business or social relationships with the antisocial forces (groups or individuals pursuing abnormal economic benefits by making unreasonable demands using violence, force or fraudulent methods, such as organized crime groups, general meeting of shareholders or quasi-gangsters), you have the risk of having your contracts with current good business partners cancelled. You must keep in your mind that the elimination of antisocial forces is a corporate compliance and social responsibility itself.
“Shou-Shoujin” (Right Effort): means not to commit greed, anger, evil thoughts, lies, double dealing lies, random speech (bullshit), killing, stealing or evil lewdness as the fault of sexual passions, but always do the right thing, not to be lazy, not to stray from the Buddhism path and to be diligent.
It is important to have the habit of reflecting daily on what you said and did today, and to try to improve tomorrow. The origin of the publisher name, Sansei-Do, taken from the Analects of Confucius, teaching us to reflect on ourselves three times a day (many times) and make improvements for the next day. We should review everyday before sleeping and reflect to find any improvement and/or work to do better for the coming day. (The Analects: “I reflect on myself three times a day, whether I am not loyal when I plot for others, whether I am not trustworthy when I associate with friends, and whether I convey what I have not understood with little knowledge.”)
In the Buddha Sutra on the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara among the concluding sutra of the Lotus Sutra says; “If you want to repent, sit down and think about the truth. Sins are like the dew of frost.” It is important for us to make it a habit to reflect our activities daily, repent, think about the realities of the world, improve the next day and try to be diligent as possible.
“Shou-Nen” (Right Mindfulness): means to practice with the same right mindset as Buddha. We often hear that people say, “This is the critical moment”, normally used if you are on the brink or in the dire straits. It is important to have the tough determination (commitment) to carry on whatever you think is right without giving up, even if there are difficulties or people against you.
“Shou-Jyou” (Right Meditation): means that your mind is not influenced by the changes or the noises around you, but fixed with your firm beliefs. While it is important to carefully listen to the opinions and feedbacks of consumers and apply them to the product planning, you have always the risks involved to launch a new product or service, even the worst risk of failure. Therefore it is important to keep your mind steady and have a steadfast belief that your product will surely benefit the world with consumer satisfaction.
For example, Seven & i Holdings Co., Ltd. against the internal and external opposition and icy looks before the beginning, launched the innovated, a new type of store called a convenience store, Seven-Eleven to solve the latent needs and the dissatisfaction of Japanese consumers. Then many new products and service plans were implemented, such as POS (Point Of Sale) sales management, Seven Bank (ATMs located inside of Seven-Eleven convenience stores) providing some banking services at store front to benefit the local residents by the debit service of the public utility bills, the issuance of official residence certificates and the joint delivery system for efficiency and cost reduction. Finally the rival convenience stores followed Seven & i Holdings’s success. This is a typical example of “Shoujyou” practice carried out in business.
4. Jitoumyou and Houtoumyou (Attadipa and Dhammadīpā): Enlighten your inner self in business with ethics to observe corporate compliances
Due to Covid-19 syndrome, the corporate performance is deteriorating, and more and more companies are being denounced by society caused by the internal depressive atmospheres. There is no end to the number of scandals such as the fraud and collusion with corporate clients, bribery cases, concealment of product recalls, information leaks, accounting irregularities such as off-balance-sheet debts, postponement of losses and advance of gained earnings, reuse of expired food products betraying the trust from the consumers, the delays in voluntary recalls of defective products and so on.
When the business opportunities and the corporate ethics (or compliance) conflict with each other, the employees must initially obey the corporate ethics and compliances. Keeping the corporate compliance means not only to obey the laws and regulations, but also social ethics, morality and corporate working rules covering the spirit and background of rules and regulations.
In recent years, there has been a growing demand for the higher corporate ethical standards, including the fairness and transparency in business activities and competition, the documentation and recording of the contracts, the information disclosure and the corporate accountability to their stakeholders, the respects for human rights and the enhanced information management. Bullying a subcontractor in terms of price and/or conditions leads to an abuse of being in the superior position of business. Employees should be able to make correct judgments and take action on their own without following unethical working instructions from their corporate superiors. It is also important for the company to create an organization and corporate culture where other employees can recognize those staffs could be welcomed with merits. Profit supremacy, the extreme result-oriented policy and the excessive pressure for cost-cut tend to arise the injustice and moral crisis among the employees.
Corporate fraud is the intentional activity to take the advantage of one’s position in the business to cause damage to the organization and to gain unfair benefits. Since it is done deliberately, it is combined with the cover-up actions. These frauds include the corruption as bribery, the misappropriation of assets as unauthorized expenditures and the reporting fraud as fraudulent accounting and data falsification.
Nowadays the majority of corporate scandals have been uncovered through the internal whistle blowing. The employees being ordered by their bosses or by their desire to increase sales and profits even though they are aware of violation or by their disregard on consumers by thinking that if they can handle the matter internally to hide the corporate secrets cause many of the corporate scandals. While the management is responsible for without taking the corrective actions, the employees are also responsible for their fault actions. If a supervisor orders you to do something against the law, you should consult with your senior supervisor, an executive officer, and the director in charge of the corporate compliance or the internal complaint desk to find a solution because you are in the position to be evaluated by your boss.
Employees are not only members of the company, but also individuals with independent personalities. It is important for employees to act based on “Jitoumyo” (Self Enlightenment), which means to think carefully about what is right to do and what is the right way to be as a human being, and to relay their judgment on “Houtoumyo” (Enlighten by Buddhism ethics) based on the truth of the reality in our society, the law in Buddhism. We need to have a strong will and courage with being out of the organizational culture, away from corporate injustice, standing firmly on the ground to take full responsibility for the results even while employed.
In Buddhism “Jitoumyou and Houtoumyou” (Self-Lighting and Dharma-Lighting) teaches, “Make yourself your own belief and also make the Dharma your foundation.” This means, “Think for yourself, don’t rely on others and stay responsibly with a selfless and righteous mind. Put yourself on the universal truth of the world.”
In order to prevent fraud, it is important for the management to create a system to prevent fraud in the company on a daily basis. This mechanism is called “internal control”, and I will show you some examples;
“Cash and bank deposits should be inspected by two or more people on an unannounced basis”
”Bank deposit books and personal seals should not be kept by the same person but by another staff”
“Double-check expense reimbursements with another person” “Keep suspense payments to a minimum amount and require its prior approval and timely settlement”
“Check the increase or decrease of each expense item, sales and profit on a monthly basis by comparing with the previous month, the same month of the previous year or the trend of the past year to clarify the reason for the increase or decrease”
“Clarify the division of corporate responsibilities for each department”
“The Audit Department regularly conducts the operational and accounting audits and reports directly to the president”
Here are the specific examples for the decisions and thinking based on the business ethics in the course of work.
“My decision is not shameful enough even under the Buddha perspectives?”
“My decision my cause grief to my family?”
“Can I explain the justification to the president, my colleagues and others without hesitation?”
In the Sixteenth Article of the Lotus Sutra the Buddha says, “Knowing that I am always following the path of sentient beings and not following the path, I will follow the path as I should and teach various laws for their sake.” We need right decision and action as a Buddhist because Buddha clearly knows who perform the ascetic practices and who don’t.
The market economy is based on the rules and ethics. Just as freedom has responsibilities and restrictions, the free economic corporate behavior is also constrained by rules and ethics. The Lehman shock in the U.S. (2008) has proven that their unethical behaviors in pursuit of short-term profits not only makes it impossible for companies to survive, but also has a great negative impact on the globalized world economy leading to financial crisis. As modern capitalism develops and the scale of companies grows, the competition becomes tough; companies must keep winning in order to avoid being left behind in the market. As a result, companies began to promote rational management, which led to the loss of religious ethics and profit itself tended to become their objective. In order to win the competition, the corporate culture of “profit supremacy” became widespread, and the significance of the company’s existence, such as what the company exists for, the ethics and morality became less important.
Capitalism, at its essence, is based on the premise that people act ethically. In order to achieve this, it is important for all of us who work every day to think independently and act ethically and responsibly based on the principles of “Jitoumyou and Houtoumyou” (SelfLighting and Dharma-Lighting).
5. “Bonnou-Soku-Bodai” (Earthly desires are enlightenment): Your position in company does not come from the difference of your humanity but of the missions given in this society accordingly.
There are many desires and worries that come up when you are working everyday in company. Sales and profits drop, cancellations have increased, problems have occurred. Human desire from merit rating system causes many reasons for dissatisfaction, such as slow promotion, low salary, unjustified personnel evaluation, unexpected job rotation, demotivating boss, uncontrollable subordinates and many many more.
In addition, many people promoted to general manager after winning the tough internal competition often lose their motivation suddenly when they are not elected for the board members. This is because career advancement itself has become their objective. In such a way of life, you will never be able to have happiness in your heart. What is important is if you could work truly satisfying your heart, if you have done what is truly useful for the world and for your customers, if you have wielded small justice and forgotten the greater rightness, and if you have truly contributed to the development of society not for your personal interest.
There are various corporate positions in company, such as position in director, manager, or section chief. “Corporate position is not a difference of the high or low in our humanity but only missions of this world, and every mission varies individually. Sticking too much to the career and title in corporation you will lose your own state of mind. As a human being, we have a desire for the promotion and higher salary. The lust for success is the lust for control, the lust for power, the lust to be able to dominate others as subordinates. By dominating others, we mistakenly believe ourselves that we have become more powerful in ability, which often leads to “vexation of pride as being superior”, the affliction of pride. However, the key to successful life is whether you can change your mind at this point. It is important not to deny the existence of vexations, but to humbly reflect on our own inadequacies because of them, and to strive to improve your humanity and contribute to the world.
In other words, while affirming the vexatious desire for profit, you are required to work with self-control and right mindset. We need to increase sales, profits, and other business goals, and then we want to increase them even more once they were achieved. Rather than suppressing vexations, we notice ourselves suffering from them because we have vexations, and we think about what is right as a human path and what we should be, and through the spell of trial and error, we make persistent efforts to improve and solve the problems. This is the practice of the Buddha’s path, and is “earthly desires are enlightenment” in the sense that we can reach the path of truth and Enlightenment.
6. Self-interest and altruism, using altruism as a criterion for judgment, open-mindedness for others, and a sense of ownership
What is important in your work is not to think about our own sales or profits first, but to think that profits will follow after you have provided what the customer truly wants.
In order to do this, you must first have a strong desire in your mind to do something useful for society and other people. We must be selfless in our desire to create new cultures, enrich people’s lifestyles, and help society by providing better services and products to our customers, and we must be compassionate in our desire to provide products and services together with joy from the bottom of our hearts. If we continue to put the customer first, the benefits will come back to us. In Buddhism, this is called “Jiri-tari” (self-interest and altruism). It also means that the practice of helping others actually leads to one’s own happiness. Working hard for the happiness of others and for society purifies your mind, makes you feel happy and refreshed, and make you free from preoccupied worries and suffering. In addition, we should focus the coexistence and co- prosperity with our customers, rather than just making money for ourselves.
There are two types of mindsets in our mind: the selfish mind to think only we should be good for ourselves, and the altruistic mind to help others by suffering ourselves. When we judge by the selfish mind, we only think about ourselves and cannot get help from anyone. If you are self-centered, your vision becomes narrower and you may make a wrong decision. On the other hand, if you make decisions with an altruistic mind based on Buddhism, your mind will focus on “helping others first,” and everyone around you will respond in kind and cooperatively. It also broadens your perspective and allows you to make the right decision. In order to do a better job, we should not make any decisions for our own sake, rather we should think about the people around us first then make decisions with an “altruistic mind” and full of compassion.
In recent years, solving social issues through the altruistic economic activities has been emphasized. ESG (combination of the first letters of Environment, Social and Governance) and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) are the popular ones.
With the recent experiences of the natural disasters such as earthquakes and torrential rain, the environmental crises such as global warming, the economic crises and the large-scale terrorist attacks and conflicts, people come to make the most of their lives for the benefit of society.
Their awareness and economic activities to solve those social issues are getting popular nowadays. Profit originally is the compensation for providing something useful to the society. If you want to make a profit over the long term, you have no choice but to provide products and services that offer some values to the society in a sustainable manner. Being altruistic will in turn lead to self-interest.
If we look at the service industry as an example, the starting point in the service industry is “caring for people and with hospitality” and “swift, convenient and safe”. Japan’s service industry is now attracting a great deal in Asia, Europe, and the United States. For example, Japanese style convenience store, Takuhai courier service, security systems, content businesses, restaurant chains and franchiser, beauty services, and supplementary schooling have good reputations overseas for their higher quality and detailed services, and they are actually fast growing players.
“Spaciousness in mind to think about others” leads to altruism and is the “heart of a bodhisattva.” In the corporate environment this is like ”working with a sense of ownership,” meaning to avoid thinking narrowly within your own domain.
For example it may be better for you to support a project with some responsibilities while it was already transferred from your group to another. This active participation to the project is an ideal attitude of working with the sense of ownership, and you should help other department if necessary and watch them until the project is over. This is an important attitude in a large company already riddled with the bad habits, the disease of large corporations. As a Buddhism believer we should brush up our moral to act with an altruistic mind naturally.
7. Shoho-muga” (Everything is interdependent): Always be humble, grateful, and work with optimized perspectives
Leadership is important, but you cannot succeed in business alone. Your success depends on the various stakeholders including company president, executives, subordinates, and staffs of other departments, consumers, suppliers, subcontractors, banks, accountants, lawyers, local communities, and shareholders. All these elements are connected to each other like the mesh of a net. This is the exact state of “Shoho-muga” in Buddhism, so you need to be humble and grateful.
There are more and more people becoming self-centered values and are assertive, they cannot accomplish any project requiring teamwork due to the conflicts of egos. Similarly if you are arrogant and snide about your abilities and small success, you cannot get any cooperation from the people around you but develop yourself.
Insisting only on partial optimization of your department will never lead to total corporate optimization. Therefore by aligning the directions of opinions from each department, restraining individual “ego”, orienting the overall goal and managing with efficient overall workplaces, you can carry out the project smoothly.
We should be aware that we can exist because everyone else exists, and aware of the overall harmony (total optimization).
In the sense that everything is all connected to each other, in today’s business and daily life, various things such as computers, mobile phones, Line, video on-demand and social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook are linked over the networks and creating the network merit. Network merit in business means that the individual benefit (value and satisfaction) by user basis goes up by the increase in the number of users in particular products and services. Using networking system is now essential to our business.
When network merit takes off in effect, it is not necessary to spend extra cost to improve the performance of the product or service itself. Once the number of users exceeds a certain level, the increase in users will attract other users and the profits will grow in the virtuous cycle.
8. “Innen-Kahou” (Fate and effect), Zenin-zenka and Akuin-akuka (Good causes and good effects, bad causes and bad effects), Good causes always lead to good results in the long run, “Shogyou-mujyou” (all things are in flux and nothing is permanent)
In cause-and-effect, all things first have a cause, which touches a certain fate and results in a change of mind. Doing goodness is important because the result is a feeling of abundance and happiness that refreshes our mind. Also, it is often said that “Zenin-zenka and Akuin-akuka (good causes good effects; bad causes bad effects.) If a good deed leads to immediate positive results, people are happy to follow, but in reality the results are not immediate. In many cases it takes years to see the good results.
In the long run, however, a person who does good deeds will not remain in poor eventually, their dream come true. On the other hand, people who are lazy without making effort or laden with bad causes dragging others down will not stay in good shape forever. In the long run, good causes will lead to good effects, and bad causes will lead to bad effects. This is a matter of cause and effect. However, even if we accumulate good causes, we will not see immediate results, and it will take time. Things will always change with the law of “Shoryo-mujyo” (all things are in flux and nothing is permanent). Therefore, no hassle but always tries to strive to be diligent and accumulate good deeds regularly.
Kazuo Inamori, the founder of Kyocera Corporation, writes something very interesting about good cause and effect in his book, “A Compass to Fulfillment”. Here is a quote;
“The universe was created by the Big Bang, when subatomic particles combined with each other to create protons, neutrons, and mesons, which formed the nucleus, which took in electrons, and the atom was born. Through nuclear fusion, many different types of atoms were created, and these atoms bonded together to form molecules. Again molecules bonded together to form polymers, and the polymers took in genes called DNA to give birth to life. Atomic life evolved over an uncanny number of years, eventually giving rise to advanced organisms such as human being.
In the universe, there is a kind of will and power or flow of chi or energy that never stops generating and developing everything without stagnating even for a moment. Moreover, it is based on good intentions, and it tries to make everything, from human being and other living creatures to inanimate objects, move in a good direction.
The law of cause and effect, in which good things happen when we do good things, is established, and the fact that subatomic particles repeatedly combine into atoms, molecules, and macromolecules, and still continue to evolve, is prompted by this flow or force. The universe is trying to grow and develop all things, including all things in the universe, and to lead all living things in the direction of goodness. The universe is full of such love and compassion. It is most important for people to think and live in harmony with this great (cosmic) will, and it is quite natural that good results will come from it because good deeds directly satisfy the cosmic will toward goodness.”
I think that what Inamori describes in his book as “the will of the universe,” “great power or energy,” and “Something Great” can be read as Buddha’s great compassion and God’s love.
9. “Kaisan-kenichi” (Three vehicles carry sentient beings the world of enlightenment): boosting centripetal force through the respect for various diversities but its ultimate goal will be same.
Diversity does not mean the understandings for the differences in skin color, religion or gender. In fact, it may be more risky to think that everybody will think the same way as long as we have the same skin color. Creating a company and society where each individual is allowed to live with different values is ideal stage of diversity. If everyone’s values are aligned, they can quickly share the corporate policies and work together to solve problems in the direction consistent with the corporate vision. In terms of efficiency it is better to have the same values, and Japanese companies have been able to solve problems under the team concept and grow rapidly.
Nowadays, however, the diversity becomes important. As customers are diversifying, the diverse proposals are needed, and if the diverse employees exchange opinions and come up with countermeasures, the company will become competitive. If the peer pressure to “Think and behave alike in order to work well in a company” can be found, it will make it difficult for the employees to work smoothly. Needless to say the productivity will not increase if their personal feelings are suppressed and they are forced to follow only the corporate policies.
For the respecting of various diversities, the diversity management becomes important by affirming the individual philosophy and boosting the centripetal power, creating the new values with personal respects. Respecting the diversity requires a great deal of leadership and tolerance as well as the accountability among the management and leaders.
When I was working at the Los Angeles branch of bank in the U.S., Americans didn’t understand how Japanese senior staffs thought, unlike Japanese do in the office by analyzing the atmosphere with the “aun” breath technique.
So I had to talk to my American subordinates in detail, by explaining from the overall significance of the project to the minor small points with instructions. The only thing that both of us shared in common were the single goal of “satisfying customers and improving the company’s performance. As a result, we got the trust of our customers and received the corporate sales award for our L.A. branch performance.
In the Second Sutra of the Lotus Sutra, “Kaisan-kenitsu”, which emphases that learning Ichijo (single vehicle) through understanding Sanjo. (Three Vehicles carrying sentient beings to the world of enlightenment).
In order to help people who are seeking Enlightenment to escape from the confusion and suffering of daily life, all conventional Buddhism have taught three different types of teachings: the learning-based teachings (Voice and Hearing Vehicle), the experiential-based teachings (Enlightenment Vehicle), and the action-based teachings (Bodhisattva Vehicle). The Lotus Sutra, however, declares that the sole purpose of a Buddha’s advent in the world is to enable all people to become Buddha, and that the three vehicles are accordingly not ends in them but means to lead people to the one Buddha vehicle. In my words, while respecting individual value and way of life, Buddhism teaches that we all lead to the same ultimate goal, the path to happiness, and are essentially the same.
In order to achieve a balance between diversity and unity (inclusion), the values of the organization must be aligned by the centripetal force. Independent individuals with the different values accept the corporate values based on their individual beliefs and unite in one. When this happens, the rich diversity and the feeling of unity together with the corporate philosophy will coexist, and a state of “strong individuals and strong organizations” can be achieved. The corporate goal is one as a whole, for the management, however, how a company respects the diversity of its employees and how it enhances the “unity of values and centripetal force” binding the diversity together is the key to success.
Today every one of us need to demonstrate our management skills, how to boost the united values and centripetal force in business by affirming the respect of corporate and organizational diversity.
10. “Taiyoku-chisoku” (Being happy with more and more makes for greater happiness):
Great greed transcends personal greed and leads to unselfishness, not self-interest.
We often hear the phrase, “know your desires”. This means not to be extravagant, not to indulge in excessive greed. Accept yourself as you are with gratitude, and be moderate and live with a balanced and grateful mind.
In business, there are still a number of managers who make mistakes because they are blinded by greed, cause scandals with money trouble or sully their reputation by mixing public and private life. Desire that doesn’t know one has already enough is greed.
We are surrounded by so many desires: appetite, sexual desire, material desire, money desire, power desire, career desire, honor desire and etc.
Not denying your own desires but rather, as being with desire, focus on what is happening and deal with it calmly and with warm-heartedly, then you will be able to see the whole picture and lose your attachment to it, and finally no more desires disturbing your mind will rise. This is true “Taru-wo-shiru” (Accept yourself as you are with gratitude).
The capitalist market recently becomes ugly when it lacks the ethics and morality and is infested with “profit supremacy doctrine“ where anything is allowed t as long as it is profitable to survive the fierce competition. Just as there are the responsibilities and the restrictions on freedom, there are the rules and the ethics in the market. Capitalism is a good economic system but it is not a panacea at all.
When make investments, the managers always predict the return on investment, analyze their current financial position and ability to repay, take out loans and invest in the future while considering the risks involved. While maintaining the philosophy of contributing to the development of society, companies also need to support the employees and their families as well as fulfill tax obligations. On the other hand, the companies are exposed to the severe competition, so they have to be creative for the sake of customers, or will be weeded out by the society and consumers.
In the business world, the phrase “Shouyoku-chisoku” (Being happy with less makes for greater happiness) can be harmful if used halfway. Some people think that the moderate sales and profits are sufficient and that the current condition is sufficient enough. This will not motivate them to develop better products or better services, and they will not make costly capital investments, rather to think that selling product in so-so scale is good enough. This may make them fall into a shrinking equilibrium, loosening the moral and motivation of their employees, lagging behind their rivals and being abandoned by consumers.
In the business world, keeping the current ”status quo” can quickly be a setback. This is because the speed of change in customer needs, global trends and social phenomena is so rapid.
“There is a saying, “Great greed leads to no greed” “I want to create something that can contribute to the development of society”, “I want to develop medicine and medical treatment which can help people in need”, “I want to deliver services that can make people happier” and “I want to provide products and services that make life more convenient”. This great greed transcends personal greed that we can no longer be selfish, that we can be mindless and that this leads to a state of selflessness. When you come to this stage, many people around you will sympathize and cooperate with you.
While maintaining a high level of positive greed and ideals to contribute to the society, aim to be “greedy and knowledgeable” without selfishness rooted in the profit supremacy, greed, nor avarice, we should carry out the business with a strong sense of temperance and corporate ethics.
11. “Fushaku-shinmyo” (Not sparing one’s life): Pride of the Japanese who investigate the pandemic in Hong Kong and risked their lives to save the local citizens
In Meiji period a team of Japanese doctors went to Hong Kong and risked their lives to investigate and solve the epidemic that was spreading in Hong Kong. The Japanese medical team worked tirelessly to investigate and find the solution to an unexplained epidemic in Hong Kong at the time, and discovered that the cause was the plague and announced a solution.
Dr. Tanemichi Aoyama himself was infected the plague during the autopsy investigation, collapsed with a high fever, became unconscious and was on the verge of death. They engaged in the life-threatening struggle against the plague. There was a great gratitude among the Hong Kong people for risking their lives for the people in Hong Kong to investigate the epidemic.
This was happened in 1984 (the 27th year of Meiji period). New epidemic of unknown origin had spread in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a densely populated city where people lived in the close quarters and local sanitation was poor, so many citizens quickly became infected and lost their lives. An unknown epidemic was spreading throughout Hong Kong, and people were terrified not being informed as originated from the plague.
The Hong Kong authorities at that time decided that they could no longer solve the problem on their own, and asked the Japanese government to investigate the cause of the problem and the assistance with countermeasures. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the Japanese government immediately requested the emergency assistance to Hong Kong from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Faculty of Medicine of Imperial University, and in response a team of investigating doctors was quickly organized and headed for Hong Kong. The medical team consisted of six doctors, led by Dr. Shibasaburo Kitasato of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Dr. Tanemichi Aoyama, a professor at Tokyo Imperial University School of Medicine.
There was no airplane in that period, they left Yokohama Port by ship and finally arrived in Hong Kong seven days later.
After arriving in Hong Kong, the team of doctors immediately began to conduct surveys and research at the hospitals on the island. People who had died of unknown contagious disease were brought in one after another, and the research was conducted day and night to dissect the organs from the deceased bodies and find bacteria with the microscope.
Finally, they discovered that the cause of the epidemic was the plague bacillus. The germ was also sent to the Koch Institute in Germany for final confirmation. The team reported in detail to the Hong Kong authorities that the cause of the disease was the plague bacillus, and recommended various sanitation measures such as rat extermination and sterilization by boiling. In this procedure, the unknown epidemic that had raged throughout Hong Kong was brought under control. According to Hong Kong records at the time, the plague had a fatality rate of 95%.
The Hong Kong government greatly appreciated Japan’s quick investigation and results, and expressed their gratitude to Japan. Gratitude and consolation party was held at the hotel in Hong Kong for the Japanese doctors and the Consul General of Japan.
Unfortunately Dr. Aoyama came down with fever of 40 degrees Celsius the night he had returned from the party. The fever didn’t go down even after taking the medicine, and he was convinced being infected the plague himself when a lump appeared on his side flank. The medical team had been very careful during the research to prevent secondary infections, but due to the large number of bodies handled he was infected during the autopsy.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong was surprised with the seriousness of his condition and sent the urgent message to the Japanese government. At the time, the local newspapers reported that “Dr. Aoyama was in critical condition and contracted the plague himself during the investigation” which was widely reported in Japan and Hong Kong. The rally was held in Hong Kong to pray for his recovery and many Hong Kong citizens watched the situation with concern. It was Dr. Ogai Mori close friend of Dr. Aoyama who informed his wife in Japan regarding husband’s critical condition.
Dr. Aoyama and his colleagues infected with the vest and in critical condition were treated with the most advanced treatment and medication at a hospital in Hong Kong. Thanks to the efforts Dr. Aoyama was miraculously recovered. The news of Dr. Aoyama’s survival was very moving to the people of Hong Kong.
In the past, the plague raged in Europe and killed many people. In the early Meiji period (1868-1912), the plague spread to the southern part of China including Guangdong Province.
It finally spread in Hong Kong in 1984. Two years later, it spread to Japan. A crew member from the U.S. was infected in Yokohama becoming the first death in Japan from the plague. This predicted that epidemics and infectious diseases could spread globally across countries.
As an expat in Hong Kong for six years, I was deeply moved to learn of this story. There have always been many Japanese who had done anything for the sake of the world and others even at their own peril. Dr. Hideyo Noguchi, for famous example, who himself was infected and gave his life in researching yellow fever in Africa, and Dr. Tsugio Horiuchi and others in Taiwan during the Meiji period risked their lives to succeed in eradicating the plague. In Afghanistan Dr. Tetsu Nakamura had made a great contribution to the resolution of the military conflict by building the agricultural canals to restore local agriculture industry, because he had realized the limitation of medical treatment for saving lives. Dr. Nakamura was shot and killed in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan government has issued a stamp in honor of him for his humanitarian contributions.
As a Japanese, I am proud to know that there was Japanese who knowing the risk of contagious diseases in Hong Kong, spared their lives to save people’s lives and serve for the development of medical care with the spirit of “Fushaku-shinmyou” (the spirit of not being afraid of death).
Many of our predecessors in the business field have came up with new ideas, worked hard and devoted themselves by trial and error, and created wonderful products and services that contributed to Japan and the world. They worked hard for the sake of the world and people with such power and passion being risked their lives. We can find these single-mindedness of their efforts are associated with the spirit of Buddhism.
Remembering those actions by our predecessors, with the management and thinking based on the Buddhist spirit, we wish ourselves to challenge these difficult times with high aspirations, pioneer the times, work for the society and for others to be happy all together.