Almost everyone knows of the Tea Drinking Ceremony in Japan. There is something very special about Tea drinking due to its ritualistic importance in many countries like China, Korea, Russia, India and England too. In Japan the tea ceremony is called the Way of Tea and is an important Japanese cultural activity.

In my visit to Japan I made it a point to witness a Japanese Tea Ceremony in Kyoto. It was a stirring experience and all of us were in awe. The hostess a Tea Master clad in an elegant Kimono was graceful and her movements rhythmic and flawless – meditative. The ceremony captures the essence of ancient wisdom of the orient such as humility, simplicity, purity, respect and harmony. Which means it is a way to achieve inner peace through the simple act of preparing tea.

At the point of entry to the room the ceiling is rather low and we need to bow a little – a symbolic gesture of humility. The aesthetics in the room are subtle and serene. I did manage to sneak a picture of the ceremony with my Canon AE-I

The feeling of calm and peace which we experience here is at the core of Japanese culture. And it extends to almost all other spheres of activities – business negotiations, leadership, training, strategy, vision and values and so on.

Spirituality in Business Management

Case studies of Japanese MNCs like Canon, Matsushita, and Komatsu never fail to inspire as their source of success rests on spiritual beliefs.  Spirituality is embedded in the roots of Japanese national and organizational culture.

It looks like everything that Japanese do is tranquil and effortless yet with a sense of deep commitment and ultra precision. No wonder the world is in awe of the Japanese management philosophies and practices and attempts to emulate them – One of the many is Kaizen meaning a philosophy for continuous “improvement” or “change for the better” in ourselves as individuals as also processes in manufacturing, engineering, and business management. The Japanese are great learners and their power of observation very incisive.

Spirituality in Agriculture

Masanobu Fukuoka lived in Shikoku Island, Japan and “The One Straw Revolution” an epic memoir and guide to natural farming. You’ll be amazed at his philosophy and the Four Principles of Natural Farming:

(a)   No cultivation;

(b)   No chemical fertilizer or prepare compost;

(c)    No weeding by tillage and herbicides; and

(d)   No dependence on chemicals. Even though his methods require less labor, it can result in higher yields for your farm or garden.

Watch the book trailer on “The One Straw Revolution” that is narrated by the book’s editor Larry Korn. In 1973, Korn was under the tutelage of Masanobu Fukuoka, his Sensei (teacher), who lived in Shikoku Island, Japan. Korn received a hands-on education in the art of non-cultivation and do-nothing, natural farming.

The Japanese response to the recent Nuclear and Tsunami Disaster is yet another demonstration of the validity and power of intangibles- values and ethics across all spheres of activity.

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake - Japan

10 things to learn from Japan

1. THE CALM.  Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has been elevated.

2. THE DIGNITY.  Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude gesture.
The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn’t fall.  

4. THE GRACE.  People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could get something.

5. THE ORDER. No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just understanding.

6. THE SACRIFICE.  Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will they ever be repaid?

7. THE TENDERNESS.  Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared for the weak.

8. THE TRAINING.  The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did just that.

9. THE MEDIA.  They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters. Only calm reportage.

10. THE CONSCIENCE.  When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the shelves and left quietly


“Tea…is a religion of the art of life”Okakura Kakuzo (1863-1913), Japanese scholar

Thank you for reading!

About Dilip

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

18 responses

  1. ram natrajan says:

    dear dilip
    i appreciate the excellent article on tea ceremony which shows how much soft skills have importance in the japanese management system
    years ago in my projects tenure in saudi arabia i was asked by my management to go to rabigh in the west coast where mitsubishi heavy ind (MHI) was building a power station to coordinate our sub contract work .when i entered the project site i was directed to meet the cheif resident engineer .as i walked into his small office(all employees from the md down wear company uniforms)i was received into the office with a humble bow and after a brief meeting i was gently asked to join them for lunch with humility and respect
    i had to arrange a crane operator urgently for their site( from our staff )and during the morning i used to go to site to drop my operator .
    After a while i used to see the operator mediate and say a silent prayer with other jap workers which instilled great discipline in him
    no wonder the japanese are a tough hardened and a enterprising lot
    prof ram natrajan


    • Dilip says:

      Dear Prof. I am so glad you shared this story on the operator saying his prayer. I find this very inspirational. It re-kindles my interactions with the Japanese where there much to learn from their meditative approach in everything they do.

      Yes I share with you my admiration for these great people. Thank you sir!


  2. Thank you for posting this. It was encouraging to see people acting without greed, thinking of others, not just themselves.


  3. Geetha says:

    What an amazing spirit of generosity! And there’s a great leadership lesson on accountability here.

    “Nuclear power plants are the brainchild of scientists and engineers,” he said. “They created this mess, and they have to fix it.””

    The article can be viewed here:

    Elders offer help at Japan’s crippled reactor ~ Ken Belson


    • Dilip says:

      Thank you Geetha for this great inspirational piece. Yasuteru Yamada’s selfless leadership is a glorious tribute to the Japanese people. A lesson for all the young and old across the globe.

      Thank you very much and with kind regards.


  4. suhas says:

    Dear Dilip,
    You seem to have a huge collection.Now you have opened the JAPAN Box.
    How many more do you have in your cupboard?

    Best wishes,


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Suhas,

      Its true I admire Japanese and Chinese philosophy and so also Indian wisdom. As an example I will share the business philosophy of the Japanese global company Panasonic originally Matsushita –

      “In full awareness of our responsibilities as manufacturer, we will devote ourselves to the progress and development of society and the well-being of people, thereby contributing to the growth of human civilization”. Konosuke Matsushita

      Similarly we are inspired by by JRD quotes –

      “Money is like manure. It stinks when you pile it; it grows when you spread it”

      “Never start with diffidence, Always start with confidence”

      “To be a leader, you have got to lead human beings with affection”

      “I never had any interest in making money. None of my decisions were influenced by whether it would bring me money or wealth”

      “When you work, work as if everything depends on you. When you pray, pray as if everything depends on God”

      Kind regards!


  5. Abhay Shirke says:

    Extremely invigorating! For a moment I thought how could this be true? If we Indians can at least start with grace, sacrifice and conscience! The Japanese have held their cultural traditions firm despite embracing modernity and technology: another lesson for India!


    • Dilip says:

      Abhay … very well said. We Indians must instill some self-discipline among ourselves. One example that we witness every day is at the Stop sign at crossings. When there is no cop around so many cars and two wheelers jump the red light.

      A friend who just returned from a business trip from China shared several examples of the self-discipline at traffic crossings. So ‘Lets Do it’ must be our slogan- what’?


  6. Geetha says:

    Thank you, Sir!

    The chapter titled “A Yen for Professionalism” in the book ‘The Professional’ ~ Mr. Subroto Bagchi is also of relevance to the topic currently under discussion here. Especially the wisdom in the short story about the Japanese monk and his garden.

    Thanks and regards,



    • Dilip says:

      Many thanks. I just read the chapter ‘A Yen For Professionalism’. All the examples are so inspiring that I felt like reproducing all the examples here & now 🙂 I intend reading the entire book once again in this week end.

      Kind of you and regards!


  7. Geetha says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you for lifting our spirits and for enabling us to cerebrate with this blog post on the cup that cheers! As William Gladstone, the Victorian British Prime Minster said about tea:

    “If you are cold, tea will warm you;
    if you are too heated, it will cool you;
    if you are depressed, it will cheer you;
    if you are excited, it will calm you.”

    The Japanese have, time and again, demonstrated incredible phoenix-like capacity to rise from the ashes. And they did pave the way for TQM, Lean Management.. The Toyota Way is an excellent example of this. And the speed, simplicity and self-confidence with which they embrace Change is astounding to say the least! All this just goes to show that Japan is not just the Land of the Rising Sun, but a whole lot of Management principles also have their origin in Japan!

    And the fact that the Japanese exhibited such sterling qualities during the recent natural disaster proves that they believe in what George Washington said:

    “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

    When it comes to Spirituality in Business, I was sure glad to read about India’s Mr. Pranav Parikh in the Zen Garden section of Forbes India. Especially this one Q&A:

    “How does one deal with the conflicts that being in business entail? Can one be spiritual and yet swim with the sharks?”

    Parikh can hear them, and he answers: “Experience tells me that this is not only possible, it is essential. TechNova has been swimming with the biggest and meanest sharks ever since its inception. If the foundation of TechNova was not based on spirituality and the total commitment to be ethical, we would have failed a long time ago. Undoubtedly, there are conflicts on a daily basis; these can be categorised into three areas: Self-interest versus the right-thing-to-do, dealing with corruption and dealing with non-performers.”
    He says, to solve the first, one must become self-aware and frequently consult the conscience. On corruption, he says, there are three situations entrepreneurs have to deal with: Bribe to get business from customers; bribe to avoid penalties, and bribe as speed money.

    (The full article can be viewed here:

    Spirituality has to be a Way of Life. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had said:

    “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

    Thanks and regards,



    • Dilip says:

      Hi Geetha,

      I am absolutely enthralled to read what you have shared. Yet I can’t help conveying my sincere appreciation. Your inputs opens up a window to learning for me and all our readers. We would never have known of Subroto Bagchi’s chat with Pranav Parikh and living example of a business head who balances the conflicting challenges of spiritual and the commercial complexities. Many thanks for the link.

      William Gladstone, poem in praise of tea is too good and makes one feel like sipping a hot cuppa straight-away 🙂

      So I say Mucha gracias!


  8. Dear Mr.Naidu,

    Am so glad to connect with you and read this particular article. It’s explained so simply and yet has a deep impact.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    One of the things that I do is blend spirituality with daily life. You have done it so effortlessly.

    Warm Regards,
    Shilpa J Kanungo


    • Dilip says:

      Hello Shilpa,

      Firstly a warm welcome to my blog. When words of encouragement come from an expert it means a lot – thanks. Since long I have been an ardent admirer of the Japanese and Chinese for their wisdom which is interwoven in different aspects of their lives. I often use the quotes of Chinese philosophers to communicate the deeper sense of a lesson that I am not able to do so.

      You are doing great work in the field of development of individuals. We look forward to some great tips from you.

      With kind regards,

      Dilip Naidu


  9. Navin Kumar says:

    Dear Sir,
    The Japanese have again proved that adversity brings out the best in them.The kind of reversals which they faced during WWII and also recently have made them stronger than ever. It is the resilience with which they bounce back is something which we as individuals and as a nation should internalize.

    I still remember with awe the songs of the movie “Love in Tokyo” (released in mid sixties) starring Asha Parekh & Joy Mukherjee in which Tokyo was filmed extensively. The kind of prosperity which they had achieved within 20 years of getting defeated in WWII was and still is nothing short of a miracle.

    I shudder to think if our homeland had faced such ravages of war then how many decades not years we would have taken to bounce back??

    Coming back to Corporate world:There are multiple dimensions to kaizen, but for the purposes of rapidly and dramatically improving productivity and well-being, the focus is on its commitment to taking small, manageable steps to make big changes. It is about both shifting the way we see as well as do when it comes to the projects and goals in your life.

    To understand this, it is important to realize what we innately already know well: the human brain is highly resistant to big changes. Our brain is highly conservative and cannot stand the idea of having to push itself and the rest of you to do things very differently. Big change goes against human nature and so our brain fears what it perceives as likely failure.

    Thanks & regards,
    Navin Kumar


    • Dilip says:

      Hi Navin,

      Great response. Yes we as individuals and as nation do need to emulate the Japanese resilience. The Japanese get their strengths from their national culture which has years of The Buddha’s wisdom infused in it. We too have a head start with wisdom passed on from our sages. But the challenge is to bring it down into our daily lives.

      Your take on Kaizen is insightful. Here it amounts to leading from the front by the top management only then Kaizen happens.

      On change – the best lesson comes from The Kung Fu Panda a movie I saw yesterday. The moment the Master overcome his bias and accepts the chubby Panda as his pupil awesome things happen 🙂

      Many thanks Navin I enjoyed reading your response. Regards.