The Art of Purification and Subtraction

The Japanese believe in the art of purification; whereby an emphasis is placed on physical and mental cleanliness and emptiness. Another one of their core values is the art of subtraction; which constitutes the origins of modern-day minimalism and is quite focused on simple / practical design. The basis behind these values is that cognitive virtues, such as creativity and empathy, can be achieved (to the greatest extent) only in the absence of clutter and distractions. These values can be seen across Japan in practice, from the ultra-clean streets and public bathrooms to the neatly designed buildings and products.

Given that culture made up such an integral part of the Japanese business scene, checking out some of the landmarks in Japan was a must. We decided to visit the famous shrines and temples of Tokyo, Kanazawa and Kyoto. Although there were quite a few tourists and students around these majestic areas, we were still able to get our souvenirs and photoshoots in.

Our most memorable cultural highlight, however, was the mediation session we had at one of the most iconic buddhist temples in Kyoto. Our meditation session was led by an influential monk; who is very well known for his TED talk on meditation and his many lectures on mindfulness at some of the top U.S. schools (such as M.I.T and Stanford). He also showed us around the temple garden and explained to us the monks’ responsibilities as well as the theological bases behind their spiritual practices.

Georges Bassous is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School

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