Putting Buddhism to Work
A New Approach to Management and Business
Shinichi Inoue
Translated by Duncan Ryuken Williams
Kodansha International: New York, 1997
144 pp., $18 (cloth)

What an appealing idea for a book: an examination of a Buddhist approach to business, written by Shinichi Inoue, a Japanese economist in Japan’s financial industry who has been a president of Japan’s Miyazaki Bank and is the chairman of the Foundation for the Promotion of Buddhism.

Putting Buddhism to Work promises the distilled experience of a person who “throughout his career has sought to combine the principles of Buddhism with his expertise in economics and management.” Such a work could offer a real report from the trenches: a deep personal meditation on the effort to be present to one’s life, and true to one’s inner search, in the chaotic world of capitalism and commerce.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t deliver. Instead, it offers a simplistic analysis of economic theories, “facts that cannot be disputed,” and a collection of almost cartoonlike descriptions of Buddhist entrepreneurs who have done well by doing good, all held together in a shallow and pedestrian assembly that might well be called “Opinions of Our Chairman.”

To be sure, there are good ideas in the book. How could there not be good ideas in a work that attempts to examine “an economics that benefits oneself and others, an economics of tolerance and peace, and an economics that can save the earth”?

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