【Interview】ZEN : ‘’The philosophy of subtraction". ( Naoki Nakagawa, CEO of Rjuna LLC) 


Rjuna LLC, a human resources development company engaged in leadership development that incorporates ZEN philosophy and Buddhist ideas. This time, Mr. Naoki Nakagawa, the representative of the company, talked about the true meaning of oriental leadership and his own view on ZEN.

Horizon Consulting Kanaguri (hereinafter referred to as HC Kanaguri):

Your company offers various leadership development programs in Japan under the mission of "cultivating world-class human resources through education that incorporates oriental mind and oriental philosophy." While many business people in the world are learning Western-style/origin leadership theories, what are your thoughts on introducing ZEN philosophy and Buddhist thought in your leadership programs?

Representative Nakagawa of Rjuna LLC (hereinafter referred to as Mr. Nakagawa): Thank you for your question. Certainly there are different types of leaders. I understand that Western-style/origin leadership theory is to logically classify and analyze it so that each type of behavior pattern and thinking characteristics can be efficiently defined. However, in the current VUCA world , management and businesses often face unforeseen difficulties, and the number of cases of decline without being able to overcome them is increasing.


*What is VUCA??

A coined word that combines the acronyms Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. A term that expresses the perception of the times that the current socio-economic environment is facing extremely unpredictable situations due to these four factors.



Mr. NakagawaIn the economic principle / social structure where various things are intertwined in a complex way and someone's profit easily becomes the loss of the other, it cannot be divisible by a leader theory that seems to be “just follow me" or " I help you ". Also, if you play such a crest-type leader, you will not be trusted by the people around you and you will be estranged. As a matter of fact, the current Western-style/origin leadership theory should be forced to develop anew.

HC Kanaguri: I see. It seems that the Western-style/origin leadership theory, which was devised on the premise of capitalism, is becoming difficult to apply in the current VUCA era.

Mr. Nakagawa: In that, I do not recommend giving up learning he Western-style/origin leadership theory and I definitely find the values in those, but I put the concept of a leader aside for a while, and first emphasize the fundamental attitude and mental attitude when engaging in business as a person. At this time, what is important is the philosophy of ZEN, which is a philosophical part of Buddhism.

Eliminate the idea of being taken for granted

A person becomes social by creating an "間柄(Aidagara)≒relationship" with other persons. Worrying about relationships means that this "間柄(Aidagara) " is not well established. So what is "間柄(Aidagara) "? This is where ZEN thinking is needed. It may be a little confusing but simply put, it eliminates the idea of taken for granted.


What kind of "間柄(Aidagara), do you have with your family, friends, and people at work? Is it natural to have it there? Have you ever felt it is irreplaceable? Everyone, including your own existence, is not eternal. When you feel that way, your mental attitude towards to each "間柄(Aidagara) " you have will change.

The first thing a leader in modern society needs is self-insight, not skill or knowledge. The key to this is the "philosophy of subtraction" that ZEN advocates.

Now, applying this to the perspective of business leaders, what modern leaders need is ‘’self-insight’’ rather than a perspective of ‘’logic’’. Acquiring skills and knowledge will be gained later, but first of all, the understanding of the philosophy of subtraction (=Eliminate the idea of being taken for granted) in ZEN's idea to be prioritized.


First of all, if you realize that even your existence is not "normal to be there", that alone will surely build a "間柄(Aidagara) " with your surroundings as your leader. After standing there, I believe it is worthwhile to have modern-style leadership practices which usually encourage you to have goals and objectives.


It is very important for modern business persons to feel this root.

HC Kanaguri: I see. Because we are living in such a complexed modern society, it is very important to understand the value of subtraction, which is the essence of ZEN, and the self-insight that is enhanced as an ultimate core of the result of subtraction.

Mr. Nakagawa: That's right.

HC Kanaguri: Let me move on to the next question. This is what I feel strongly about

after living abroad away from Japan.

In Europe, including Germany, where I live, I often see the designed rooms with the motif of ZEN. I feel that there are many opportunities to meet Europeans who are engaged in ZEN life more than Japanese people, such as people who practice ZEN-meditation every day and practice to improve their creativity. What are your views on this influence to Europe? And, what kind of change will occur by doing ZEN-meditation?



Mr. Nakagawa: Since the dawn of history, Eastern philosophy and ideas, including Japan’s, have rarely spread to Europe (except for ancient Indian mathematics). I feel European people are very good at responding to and understanding the new ideas, and taking the new essence in their life.

In other words, for them, "ZEN" is not only fresh, but also physically and mentally comfortable to live with. Therefore, they find high value in ZEN and are trying to deepen their understanding. Rather, it seems to be the intention that Japanese people should learn more now, in my opinion.


In order to enhance self-insight, it is important to move within the necessary range while feeling harmony with nature.

Mr. Nakagawa: Regarding the "change" in the question "What kind of change will occur?" As a way of thinking, the ‘’ change’’ is created just as a consequence. As is the case with the previous leader theory, modern-style leadership practices have goals and objectives, and there are actions toward those goals, and the changes obtained are just one result.


However, ZEN thinking is different from the flow of such modern logical thinking. This does not encourage "purposeless" movement. It means moving within the necessary range while feeling the harmony with nature and the flow of the universe.

HC Kanaguri: The premise of setting goals and objectives deviates from ZEN's ideas and prevents from developing self-insight. The scales fall from my eyes…


Mr. Nakagawa: I agree. For example, capital-based economic activity creates large quantities of goods and services with human-oriented goals. And we have to consider the price of competing for the resulting growth potential.

What is happening in the shadow of economic growth? It destroys nature that does not have to be destroyed, unnecessarily enters the ecosystem, and is wasting lives. How many people are really grateful for it? Such a social system will eventually collapse.

By incorporating ZEN meditation into your daily life, you will face yourself and be in tune with nature. By doing so, you can see what you are like.

I believe many difficulties can be eased by incorporating ZEN meditation into our daily lives as a way of thinking and practicing ZEN mind-set. For example, even in the predicaments and crisis situations that you face in your life, you will be able to maintain peace of mind and restore relationships, which will eventually improve your life. I think that such individual changes will lead to the natural harmony of economic activities and the formation of an ecosystem. Also, when your potential blooms through ZEN meditation, you can change the world you see into an ideal one.


However, again, it is due to the synchronization with nature and if you expect something too much, it will become unnatural, and on the contrary, your consciousness of manifestation will become overly strong. What is important is to create time to face yourself who is alive in this ephemeral moment.


To help form mental attitudes and practices in this regard, I incorporate all the necessary essences in my training program and support all the leaders in this world.


HC Kanaguri: I strongly felt that it is a world where Oriental philosophy and ZEN ideas, which are deeply rooted in our lives, are essential for all the leaders regardless of nationalities, race, gender, age and etc. Thank you for sharing your thought provoking ideas with us today.

Mr. Nakagawa: It was with my pleasure.

Naoki Nakagawa Profile:

Representative of Rjuna LLC. He majored in Buddhist studies at university, received zazen instruction from the beginning, and continues his practice and philosophical research.


After graduating from the university, he gained experience in the Japanese education industry. Most recently, he has gained a track record in consulting on human resource development and training for major globalizing Japanese companies at JAL Academy, an educational company of Japan Airlines.


While enrolled in the above organization, his company was acquired by two companies and he had achieved departmental and individual goals in a mixture of three corporate cultures. In the end, he received an award from the new management team. It was a complicated and chaotic environment, but he saw it as a place for Zen practice, and keeping his mind calm and consistent led to his achievement of his goals. After his start-up, he regularly holds Zen seminars and training for globally challenging global persons. He also collaborates and explores with SotoZen *.


* SotoZen: A Buddhist sect that has been around for 500 years and is mainly Zen. Apple's late Steve Jobs has also been heavily influenced by SotoZen.


Rjuna LLC (Homepage: http://www.rjuna.jp/)

Announcement from Horizon Consulting

Horizon Consulting holds regular ZEN meditation webinars under the facilitation of Mr.Nakagawa. (The language used is Japanese with an English additional interpreter.) In today's world, where VUCA stresses are increasing due to the influence of COVID-19, it will be a good opportunity to learn how to make correct ZEN meditation and improve your self-insight. It is an event that you can participate in from home for 90 minutes each time. Click here for more details.

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