The New Sun

Dr. Kazuo Inamori was born in 1932 in Kagoshima. He graduated from Kagoshima University in 1955 and has received honorary doctorates from several universities in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan.

In 1959, at age 27, he established Kyocera Corporation, which has grown into a multinational high-tech conglomerate employing over 30,000 people, supplying a wide range of products including cellular phones and cameras.

In 1984, he founded DDI Corporation (currently called KDDI), which is now Japan's second largest telecommunications network,

Using his own funds, he established The Inamori Foundation in 1984. A large endowment from the foundation backs the Nobel-class Kyoto Prizes: international awards that honor significant contributors to humanity in the fields of Advanced Technology, Basic Sciences, and Arts and Philosophy.

He has been ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk and remains the guiding force behind all aspects of his international empire.

As an entrepreneurial visionary, his commitments include technological and social innovation, solving urgent world problems, and "contributing to the material and spiritual happiness of humanity and society."

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Lese Dunton: Would you describe the moment (or moments) when you decided to become a monk? What inspired you?

Dr. Kazuo Inamori: I can't really pinpoint any specific moment that prompted me to decide to become a monk. It was more of a process.

From my youth to young adulthood, I was raised in a religious atmosphere, thanks to my parents and family. I had no resistance to spirituality, especially in terms of Buddhism; but I can't say I had a particularly strong awareness of religion, either. Nonetheless, from the very inception of my business, when I was 27 years old, I strongly felt that elevating my own mind and polishing my own heart were absolutely necessary if I were to continue to successfully develop the business. So, I have always considered it important to polish my own rationale and philosophy as a manager, in addition to learning from the teachings of wise people of the East as well as the West. I didn't have one specific teacher, but rather, drove myself in this manner for the past 40 years.

My ordination as a Buddhist monk was the natural destination of my many years of effort in elevating my mind, polishing my heart and raising my philosophy. That is how it happened.

So, you might say there was no sudden revelation that induced me become a monk, but rather, it was the natural conclusion of many years of effort.

LD: How has being a monk made you a better businessman? How has your depth of understanding as a spiritual person enabled you to help humanity -- in a business setting and in general?

KI: Becoming a monk did not suddenly make me a superior businessman or change me drastically. As I said earlier, my efforts to elevate my mind and raise my philosophy during 40 years in business have enabled me to grasp my business from a viewpoint beyond immediate profit. I have become more objective in my observing it as a purely societal phenomenon.

I think that being able to see the truth behind things and events does make it easier for a businessperson to avoid mistakes and find true success. It may sound pretentious, but I feel as if "the eyes of my heart have been opened."

Also, I think my sensitivity to feel "the pathos of things" has become more acute. As a result, I am now privately involved in an effort to try to build a nursery and children's facilities to receive and protect mistreated infants, orphans, and other unfortunate young souls.

Last year, we established the "Inamori Kyocera Western China Development Scholarship" to assist needy college students. This $1 million endowment was funded half by Kyocera Corporation and half through a personal donation of my own.

I think my interest in such philanthropic projects is now much stronger than it was in my earlier self.

LD:: What basic advice do you have for businesspeople who want to promote international understanding, create peace, and strive for the greater good of mankind?

KI: Charitable acts, by helping society and other people, are in fact what will drive you wonderfully to your own happiness. Have confidence and courage to move ahead in your endeavor. As we say, "To be charitable is not just for others -- for you will benefit from your acts also."

LD: How does your work tie in with the United States?

KI: In terms of business in the United States, we have two major groups of subsidiary companies, Kyocera International, Inc. (KII) and AVX Corporation headquartered in San Diego, California and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina respectively.

I am pleased that these companies are using the United States as their bases to contribute to high tech industries worldwide. However, I believe that for the human civilization to progress, we need not only advancement in science and technology, but also of philosophy and arts as well as to develop leaders to lead our human society.

From that sense, the Inamori Foundation, founded by my personal endowment in 1984, established the "Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy" in Washington, D.C. jointly with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to help raise future leaders.

Also, the Kyoto Prizes that are presented yearly by the foundation awarding those who have dedicated their lives to contributing to humanity in the fields of advanced technologies, basic sciences, arts and philosophy, but by far the largest number of laureates have been Americans. The Kyoto Prize presentation ceremony and related events are held in Kyoto every November.

LD: What are your goals for the future?

As long as I live, I would like to continue to contribute to the material and spiritual happiness of humanity and society.

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Copyright © 2008 The New Sun.

Please visit websites: Kyocera Corp.
The Inamori Foundation