Kazuo Inamori, born in 1932 in Kagoshima, Japan, was one of seven children. During his elementary school years, he showed a strong interest in science and machines, particularly those in his father’s printing shop. However, in the sixth grade, he contracted tuberculosis, which led him to read a book by a Buddhist monk, sparking his interest in religion. When Inamori was young, his father took him to see a monk who advised him to recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha” every day. He has been chanting it every day since then without interruption.
According to Inamori, the initial 20 years of life should be dedicated to learning, growing, and preparing for entry into society, while the following 40 years from age 20 to 60 should be focused on working hard and contributing to society. He also maintains that at least 20 years of preparation are necessary to face death.
At the age of 65, Inamori decided to shave his head and embrace Buddhism. His intention was to rediscover the meaning of life and prepare for death.
The philosophy of Dr. Kazuo Inamori, who founded Kyocera, centers around the mission “to do what is right as a human being.” This concept is included in all decision making, emphasizing the importance of fairness and diligent effort.
When Inamori’s start-up business faced dissatisfied employees who demanded regular salary increases and guaranteed bonuses, he spent several days and nights negotiating with them. This incident made him realize the importance of securing the future of his employees. He adjusted the company’s business philosophy to be “a place to protect employees’ self and their family’s material and spiritual life.”
In Buddhism, there is a saying called “self-interest and altruism.” It emphasizes that if one wishes to benefit oneself, they must also benefit others. This philosophy encourages individuals to not only focus on their own interests but also consider the well-being of others. As a leader, I often encourage my employees to lend a helping hand to others during business operations.
In Japan, there is a saying that goes, “Human affection is not for others,” implying that treating others kindly will ultimately bring rewards. However, Mr. Inamori disagree with the notion that Buddhism is incompatible with capitalism and corporate profits. In fact, he believe that conducting business operations based on Buddhist principles is far more admirable than conducting business solely for profit.
Inamori founded KDDI with the lofty spirit of devoting himself to society and the world, leading to its success as the second-largest communication company in Japan after NTT.
In 1985, Kazuo Inamori founded The Kyoto Prize, which is considered Japan’s most prestigious private award for lifetime achievement in the arts and sciences. The prize is bestowed upon individuals who have not only excelled in their respective fields but also contributed significantly to the advancement of human knowledge, culture, and spirituality.
In 2010, at the age of 77 and with no prior experience in the industry, Inamori became chief executive of Japan Airlines. The following year, he returned the carrier to profit and led it out of bankruptcy. He relisted it on the Tokyo stock exchange in 2012. Inamori changed employees’ mentality by printing a small book for each staff member outlining his philosophies, emphasizing the company’s dedication to their growth, explaining the social significance of their work, and outlining Buddhist-inspired principles for how employees should live.
Kazuo Inamori holds the belief that the universe has an expectation for us when we are brought into the world. While it may be a question beyond human wisdom on how we should live in accordance with this expectation, he firmly believes that the only answer lies in “enhancing the mind”.
He has often expressed his desire to depart from this world with a heart that is kinder and more beautiful than when he was born.
When asked about his future goals in a 2002 interview with the New Sun, Inamori answered, “As long as I live, I would like to continue to contribute to the material and spiritual happiness of humanity and society.”
Live Act: Philosophy of Life of Kazuo Inamori “Respect the Divine and Love People”