Imagine an executive group meditation class inside an ancient temple with a Buddhist monk leading the proceedings. We spoke with Taka Kawakami, a venerated monk in Kyoto who facilitates just such events inside Shunkoin Temple, established in 1590.
Groups looking for a split program experience in Japan can take one of the many speedy bullet trains to Kyoto, only two hours south of Tokyo. FYI, 28% of inbound traffic to Kyoto comes from the States. There, group classes come in the form of tea ceremonies, Taiko drumming lessons, flower arranging, calligraphy lessons, pottery making and kimono dyeing.
Prevue: Can you tell us a little about Shunkoin Temple and the ambience?
Kawakami: Shunkoin Temple is one of 46 sub-temples in the Myoshinji temple complex. The temple houses historical artifacts from the 16th-19th centuries that are related to Zen Buddhism, Shinto and Christianity. Also, in the 1930s and 1940s, Dr. D.T. Suzuki, who was a famous Zen philosopher, was a frequent visitor of this temple.
What are a few of your main talking points during your Buddhism teaching class? Can it be translated in a business sense to help people in their careers?
“Being present” and “understanding the impermanency” are the main contexts of Zen Buddhism. In a business sense, it is important to know the reality and changing situation of your business. You also need to keep adjusting yourself to the change. You cannot use the same business strategy again and again.
Meditation also helps keep you efficient and accurate. Using meditation on a regular basis helps to keep your stress level low. The high level of stress slows down your neurotransmitter activities and makes you more aggressive. Your body then starts releasing stress hormones that can weaken your immune system. In a sense, stress can create more stress. But meditation can cut this negative spiral. The meditation helps you create a less stressful environment which leads to a more productive and efficient environment.
Are there any examples where something extraordinary has occurred because a corporate group arranged a class with you?
I don’t know about any “extraordinary experiences” because Zen is not mysticism. But many people start having a new view of the world after my class. I explain that every event is neutral and has no meaning. You are providers of meanings and values to the events. However, the meanings and values are only relative and temporal.
What is the most special example of something that you have felt or experienced due to your work with a group?
When I’ve been talking to a corporate group, I have noticed that economics and religion can go side by side. Economics can show us the truths in the world in numbers, and religion can teach us how to deal with those truths as human beings. Also, many great business leaders and economists say that we need to put a maximum effort into each moment to create the best result. We should not attach ourselves to the results in the past. I think that we have a lot of wisdom to share.
What have past participants said they enjoy or achieve most during a session?
Many participants said that they enjoyed my Zen meditation class and learning how to use Zen philosophy and meditation in their everyday lives. They said that the class is great because they can learn not only the tradition but also the reason why meditation is useful in their lives.
For more information, visit Rev. Kawakami’s blog.