In 1970, Les Kaye asked the management at IBM if he could take a three-month leave of absence to live in a Zen monastery. Suprisingly, they said yes. A year later, he was ordained as a Zen monk. Back at IBM, he discovered joy, harmony and fluid relationships in a job that had previously been an endless desert of problems to overcome and goals to attain. IBM had not changed, but he had. “When we put aside all the distractions and the pressure to be somewhere else, we become intimate with the task at hand, bringing joy back into our work.” Kaye found that changing into a business suit did not prevent him from bringing spirituality into the workplace, and he offers ways for all of us to do the same. His career at IBM spanned thirty years, and he has been a student of Zen Buddhism and a meditation teacher for more than two decades.
Kaye is the abbot of Kamnor Do, the Zen meditation center in Mountain View, California and author of Zen at Work: A Zen Teacher’s 30-Year Journey in Corporate America (Crown Trade 1996).
Topics Explored in this Dialogue:
- How to apply the teachings of Zen in a nine-to-five job
- Misconceptions about enlightenment
- Why it is important to “just sit”
- How to become more creative by practicing the principles of Zen
- How Kaye integrated life as an American businessman with life in a monastery
- Comparisons of Buddhism and Christianity
- First-hand accounts of Suzuki Roshi’s life and times
- The softer approach to American Buddhism
- The similarities of American values and Zen practice
Program Number: 2668 Host: Michael Toms Interview Date: 10/14/1997