Yasuhiko Genku Kimura is a philosopher, Zen Buddhist priest and scholar, a teacher of spiritual philosophies of the East and the West, and a consultant to international business leaders and organizations. Yasuhiko has a unique ability to integrate Western scientific thought with intuitive Eastern spiritual insight to bring about radical and lasting transformation. Through his Zen-like, Socratic method of inquiry and dialogue, he awakens the highest level of creativity in people, which leads to effective action and breakthrough results.
In 2003 Yasuhiko established Vision-In-Action, a sapient circle of thought leaders that develops and implements creative, innovative, and transformative approaches to global challenges that open a new evolutionary pathway for humanity. In 2005, he further established the Vision-In-Action Leadership Institute to develop spiritually awake, intellectually sovereign, and emotionally mature business leaders.
Yasuhiko believes that networks will be central to the future of business because of their design for creating synergy. He points to humanity’s need for a transcultural approach, which is based on “alignment beyond agreement.” In the old paradigm, humans are unable to work together when they don’t agree or share the same opinions. However, agreement is not necessary for collaboration or synergy. What we need is alignment, which means sharing the same intention. In transcultural networks, synergy happens in the most powerful ways when individuals align in intention, while being empowered to think creatively and act autonomously.
Yasuhiko, how did you get started in the work you do?
When I was 16 years old, I had a deep spiritual experience, which led me to study Buddhism and Eastern philosophy. I was ordained a Buddhist priest at 21 in the Soto school of Zen Buddhism in Japan and then spent three years in India studying ancient Indic and contemporary Eastern philosophies. I visited many spiritual places like Varanasi and Rishikesh. What struck me as I traveled around India is that everywhere I turned I found endemic poverty. As a young man in my mid-20s I began to question, “What relevance does my spiritual experience or study of philosophy have for the future of humanity?”
In 1980 I was on my way to visit Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta (Kolkata), known for having perhaps the worst abject poverty at that time. A few days before I left Bombay (Mumbai), I read an article in a newspaper about Pope John Paul II’s historical first trip to his native Poland one year prior (June 2–June 10, 1979). I learned that the trip cost tens of millions of dollars. When I arrived at the mission in Calcutta, I asked a nun, “Is Mother Teresa Catholic?” (I knew the answer but asked anyway.) “Yes,” said the nun. “Is she a friend of Pope?” “Yes, they are close,” she replied.
I said, “Do you know the size of the wealth the Catholic Church owns? Why doesn’t Mother Teresa ask the Church to invest money in building hospitals and schools to help people who are suffering from poverty and disease? You could make a real difference in the city of Calcutta and all over the country using the influence and prestige of Mother Teresa. Many doctors and teachers from all over the world will come to volunteer their professional expertise to serve the cause.”
Then I told her, “You don’t need to be a jerk to be rich, and you don’t need to be poor to be spiritual.” It surprised me that I said this, as I had no business background. It just came out of my mouth, and naturally I was not very welcome in that mission.
You were challenging a longstanding institution.
Yes, I basically pointed out that you don’t need to worship poverty to be spiritual. If you can see Divinity in the poorest of poor, you can see Divinity in the richest of rich. “God” does not discriminate against one group over another. There is absolutely no virtue in being poor. By that time I had read the Bible, which says “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” It doesn’t say “the poor.” Poor in spirit means a person who is humble, who doesn’t have an inflated ego.
As I continued to think about this, I changed my orientation from scholarly priesthood to a career path that would allow me to create social transformation. When I left India and returned to Japan, my entire focus and motto had become “building inner and outer wealth together.”
I lost interest in being a priest as part of this old structure. I noticed how ancient teachings do not necessarily help contemporary people or society. Humans and human societies are much more complex today than they used to be. Consequently, we need to have a different approach to spirituality and how to apply it for social transformation.
I left the Zen Buddhist order and came to California in 1983. I had been told that’s where the latest spiritual revolution was taking place. I wanted to write books and knew that in order to have a global impact, English was a better language in which to write than Japanese. To support myself I started my own company translating between Japanese and English.
How did you get involved in network marketing?
After I came to the U.S. I started to study the works of the States’ Founding Fathers, as well as continued the study of Eastern and Western philosophies, science, mathematics, psychology, systems theories, economics, and history, because I wanted to develop a comprehensive system of philosophy and cosmology that integrates my view of inner world and outer world. In the process I began to recognize the tremendous value of business enterprise as a transforming factor in human society. Business is where problems are solved. It’s also where technology and philosophy meet.
After working for myself for several years, I became an in-house consultant to the CEO of a Japanese network marketing company. So my initiation into network marketing was more from the company perspective. I learned a great deal and even participated in creating a compensation structure. The company was targeting the Japanese American community and needed people who were fluent in both Japanese and English, so they hired me and I began presenting at opportunity meetings.
The network marketing model is interesting to me, because in the macro historical perspective people are moving away from having jobs to becoming more and more entrepreneurial. The historical trend we live in is from centralization to decentralization, where power is more distributed. Our whole society is moving towards a networking structure, so network marketing makes a lot of sense. Generally speaking, network marketing provides better products than those in supermarkets, and the company doesn’t have to invest as much in marketing. It’s a win-win-win business structure for the company, distributors, and customers. I believe it’s the way of the future with great potentials.
Today you head up a leadership institute which you founded. What was that calling about?
I have been studying leadership since I began consulting. Again, with the decentralization trend of humanity, the old paradigm where you have leaders who develop followers is no longer valid. Leadership needs to be distributed. This parallels what was happening in my field of spirituality, where we have the guru and the followers, a centralized structure that no longer works.
Someone with my background usually becomes a guru with a spiritual community, teaching people meditation, but I was not interested in that. I wanted to work on the spiritualization of business, teaching businesspeople to tap into something deeper within themselves, so that building wealth is not just external but also internal.
When I got started in the late 1980s and early 1990s, terms like spirituality were a complete no-no in the business community. Fortunately it so happens that the Japanese word for “to think,” kamgaeru, has come from the etymological root word, kami-kaeru, which means “to return to the god/spirit/higher source.” Accordingly, to think means to go within (meditation), be inspired, and then express that inspiration through your creative thought (mentation). Thinking is a spiritual activity!
I also noticed that schools don’t teach people how to think (either in the U.S. or Japan). We only learn to memorize and repeat. When people don’t think for themselves, they become followers. Business is a discipline in thinking. In fact, it is one of the most difficult disciplines in thinking. As a philosopher your thinking leads you to developing a new system of thought or writing a book but only in the realm of concepts and ideas, but in business your thinking is put to the test of reality. It needs to create results. If your thinking is lousy, so are the results.
Business as a discipline in thinking (in the Japanese sense of the word) has a spiritual dimension, and if you want to succeed, you have to be a creative thinker, which requires you to go deep within.
How did you sell this to the business community?
I promised people, “Consulting with me and taking my seminars will advance and transform your ability to think at a higher level,” and that’s what I delivered.
I said, “In the process of developing your ability to think, you also get in touch with a deeper, (spiritual) dimension of your inner being. Leadership requires that you become an independent, creative, original thinker who can come up with new ideas on an ongoing basis, so that by the time other people catch up with your thought, it has already become obsolete for you and you’ve moved on to the next new idea.”
Because of the distributive element, the decentralization, leaders also need to be able to network with other leaders and collaborate in a synergetic environment. When I do corporate consulting, I emphasize this ability relative to the advent of computer and information technology. Information is available to everybody, so having information or knowledge no longer gives you a competitive advantage. What makes you succeed in business is your ability to think creatively, and to think things through so that your thought manifests in action and results.
Leaders need to know what is not happening. For example, Steve Jobs was always looking for “what isn’t there” and transformed it into what is, and people purchased this. Once it became “what is,” other companies followed and came up with similar offerings. By that time Steve Jobs was already thinking about something else.
Followers copy what is. Leaders identify what isn’t and transform it into what is. Those who are able to do this are always ahead of their time. This kind of visionary leadership requires real creativity, as well as a positive relationship to uncertainty.
This is also what distinguishes the employee mindset from entrepreneurial thinking.
Yes, and it’s a fantasy to believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur. Some people who enter network marketing are born entrepreneurs or leaders, and the business allows them to shine even more. Others who don’t have this entrepreneurial bent can still be successful by working with a leader as part of the network. In network marketing, even if you are not a born entrepreneur, you can work with a leader and go way beyond what you could achieve as an employee. By partnering with and supporting the entrepreneur, you also get benefits.
Being an entrepreneur has little to do with the IQ-kind of intelligence. A genius scientist with 250 IQ may not be able to succeed as an entrepreneur, which requires a different intuitive type of intelligence, as well as common sense. You have to be able to deal with uncertainty in a powerful and creative way. In academia you start with certainty, develop certainty, and expand the range of certainty. Having spent many decades studying, I realize that we know very little. You may have heard Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s famous statement: “Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so.”
Of course, great scientists have great intuition, but it doesn’t work in the same way as great entrepreneurs. This intuitive ability allows you to spot other entrepreneurs and create a powerful network. You can work with people who are not necessarily entrepreneurial and support them in developing their own team, which in turn helps you develop your network. Utilize people’s talent, but don’t expect something that is not there to begin with.
People who get into network marketing need to know themselves. You can always succeed if you learn how to use your talent optimally. A leader’s ability to see people’s talent is essential in network marketing success. If you have 20 people directly under you, not all 20 are born entrepreneurs. You relate to the entrepreneurs differently from those who are not born entrepreneurs, but who have motivation to grow.
We are all different—that is the beauty of being human. We can’t make everybody the same. One of the problems we have today is that education tries to homogenize and equalize everybody. We don’t appreciate our differences. The more somebody evolves and develops, the more unique he or she becomes. We are all equal in that we are all different.
A successful leader appreciates the differences in people and encourages individual uniqueness, so that his or her organization becomes extremely dynamic and synergetic, as opposed to homogenous. If you have five entrepreneurs under you, you are in good shape. To get to those five you may have to go through 50, or 500 if you do it randomly. But if you develop your intuition, you can dramatically improve that ratio.
How do you hone this skill in leaders?
First, through the Socratic method, know thyself. Self-knowledge is essential for fulfillment and success. The more you align yourself with who you are, the more powerful you become. Our school systems put many expectations on you to “be somebody,” but nobody tells you, “Be you.”
Most people who become extremely successful were lucky enough to have been allowed to be who they are. To create inner and outer wealth, you need to know and be yourself. I don’t really teach in the sense of imparting knowledge; instead I ask questions that make people look at themselves. They discover who they are, and once they know, they learn to be who they are.
One of the best ways to discover who you are is to find your passion. What do you really love to do? It’s not that you have a passion; you are the passion. It’s literally who you are. Through discovering your passion, you begin to discover who you are, and as you begin to live your passion, you can become who you are. Then your inner potential begins to unfold, and you become more successful and fulfilled. Inner wealth and outer wealth begin to come together.
Getting in touch with your passion allows you to tap into a source of visionary thinking. You begin to have your own vision for yourself and for humanity. Your vision for your future becomes more like a future of humanity. Your life takes on a larger-than-life flavor, and it is no longer just about you.
At that point, you no longer need to “be nice” to people or altruistic, because within your consciousness you begin to hold all of humanity. You begin to see the entire humanity within yourself, starting with your family and friends. Humanity becomes part of you. Your vision is not only good for you, it is good for everyone involved. There’s an alignment. The whole and the part work together in a beautiful way.
You also talk about fear of survival as a real condition we all share.
Let’s say you got laid off and there are no jobs available, or you’re overqualified and over experienced to compete against young kids. You have a family to support, so you become concerned. Then you come across a network marketing opportunity. Initially you may join because you need to survive financially and support your family.
Survival or financial necessity may be the initial entry point into a business. Yet, so long as you come from that place only, your chances of greater success are diminished. Survival is an essential component of being alive on this planet. Nothing is wrong with you being motivated by survival. If you have a family, it is your responsibility to provide.
However, when you begin to build your business, you want to get in touch with what we’ve been talking about. You want to find a place within where your passion resides, a creative passion, and then find ways to align your passion with your business. Every morning before you start your day, be meditative. Be still for a few minutes and let the fear and the need for survival be. Then shift your attention to your creative passion and vision, and see how you can construct your business and engage in your daily activities not from fear or need, but from your creative vision. Spend a few minutes to calm down and be with yourself. Be kind to yourself and say, “Okay, I have a need for survival. Let it be. Now, how can I be the most powerful and creative for the whole?” Then conduct yourself from that place.
You don’t need to meditate for three hours a day. A brief moment of self-reflection can help you regain your power to choose and act instead of reacting from your fear and need for survival. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of fear. We all need courage. If you understand the need for survival, then you are not run by it. You act from your choice, and that is courage. You are in integrity with your source, yourself, and based on the situation in which you find yourself, you can be creative.
This understanding and conscious realignment with your source can happen in an instant.
Exactly. We all have fear, and we all sometimes get caught up in this need for survival. People can slip into this dark place of scarcity simply because they have no one to share their thoughts and feelings with. That’s why being part of a community is so important.
There’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable. If you get laid off by your company, it is a pain. If somebody you love dies, it causes pain. But suffering is optional. Suffering is a powerless way to relate to your pain. Suffering happens because you are not able to be with your pain, and you create some drama around it.
Suffering comes from the story you attach to your pain. One of the side effects of meditation is that you learn to be with what is. People often suffer because they are unable to be with pain while at the same time there’s nobody with whom they can really share their pain. As a leader, you want to be the person who can listen to people’s feelings. Listening has the power to heal.
This is something women have historically been better at.
Right, men are not used to being with their own or other people’s feelings. Human beings have many layers and dimensions. Each person has a different combination of male and female energies. Men are more passive in the emotional dimension. Physically, men are more outgoing (including in their sexuality) while women are more receptive, but emotionally it goes the other way. That’s why women are typically better at expressing their feelings and understanding other people’s emotions. We need to encourage men to be more expressive in the emotional dimension. Culture is moving in that direction, but we have a long way to go.
In network marketing, women tend to be more successful for that reason. Men can benefit greatly from having women (a life partner as well as business partners) with whom they can share their emotional side.
What’s your vision for the future of business?
Networks will play an important role, even though the concept is still largely unexplored. Today neuroscientists are discovering that our brain is a network. Physicists at the forefront of knowledge are discovering that space is a network.
Wherever there is a network, the whole system emerges in a very synergetic way. Synergy is defined as “behaviors of whole systems unpredicted by behaviors of their subsystems taken separately and observed apart from the whole (based on Buckminster Fuller’s Synergetics).” If you have a network, the movement of the whole is unpredictable and unknowable to anybody inside the network. However, when groups of people come together and align, although the specific outcome is unpredictable, the whole system actually moves in the direction of their alignment.
In a way, network marketing reflects the omnicentric (as opposed to concentric) and synergetic structure of the whole Universe. Leaders of the future, especially in network marketing, are those people who can harness that power of omnicentric synergy upon which principle our Universe is based.
How do you create alignment and synergy with people who may not be in agreement?
The principle I have been teaching is “alignment beyond agreement.” I also call it a transcultural approach. They go together. We hear about multiculturalism, which is doing the same thing in a different culture. For example, we all cook. Depending on our culture, what and how we cook is different. This is multiculturalism. When I apply a methodology of Japanese cooking to French food, taking a principle from one culture and applying it to another, that is interculturalism. Or you can create fusion, where you mix Japanese and Thai food, and something new appears. This is cross-culturalism. There is one more important step leaders need to take in a global business environment, which I call transculturalism.
Doing business in India is different from doing business in Japan or the United States. Leaders need to have an awareness of the different cultures, which is multiculturalism. Each multilevel marketing company has to somehow infuse its own culture into the different local cultures. This is interculturalism. At the same time you need to have a view of the whole, which is called transculturalism, meaning you are not identified with any of the cultures. You are the space that holds all of the cultures together. That’s a different way of being and understanding people. I’m writing books on this subject. That transcultural mentality is also called “omnicentric consciousness.” The key to this is “alignment beyond agreement.”
Can you say more about this?
Agreement means you agree on some ideas (beliefs, ideologies, opinions). At this moment in history, people are not able to work together when they don’t agree with one another. Christians want everybody to agree with and follow Christian teachings. Muslims want everybody to agree with and follow Islamic teachings. If they don’t agree, either they separate themselves from one another, or they try to kill one another—physically or verbally. When you listen to or read political discourses, the Democrats or Liberals want to kill the Republicans or Conservatives with their words, and vice versa. Verbal wars have been going on and people’s reputations or even lives have been destroyed unfairly. They just don’t know how to coexist peacefully. When you do business transnationally you won’t agree with the view of everyone, and it’s actually synergetically productive that you don’t agree. But you can be aligned.
Alignment is a congruence of intention. Agreement is a congruence of opinions, beliefs, ideologies. In transcultural, omnicentric networks, where synergy happens in the most powerful way, people align in intention, but allow everyone to be different, individually and culturally. Given this freedom, people become very creative in fulfilling that intention. What happens is that multiculturalism is taking place at the same time: when somebody does something great, others learn from this, and interculturalism takes place in the context of transculturalism.
Today multiculturalism doesn’t work because people are working in terms of agreement. If it is done in an alignment context, it becomes transculturalism, and every culture is appreciated. Today on the planet there are 6,000 languages and 10,000 ethnic cultures. You don’t want to homogenize them. You want to encourage them to be different. At the same time, we can work together.
As a network marketing leader, you need to articulate the intention with which everybody can align. Just making money is not a good enough intention to align people. That’s where you need to inspire people with your leadership, so you can actually align people at the level of intention to fulfill something, individually and collectively.
This also helps you to decide which network to join. If you cannot align with the purpose and intention of a network marketing company or group, then don’t join. Find some other team where you can find alignment. Making money and creating outer wealth is an essential component of life, but that cannot hold people together. Human beings who are in touch with the inner dimensions are too noble for that. Only an aligned intention beyond survival and money can do so, as it brings out our inner wealth—our passion and vision to create and co-create the best possible future for all of humanity.