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  • White Collar Zen: Using Zen Principles to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Career Goals
  • Carol S. Gould
White Collar Zen: Using Zen Principles to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Career Goals. By Steven Heine. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. ix + 198.

In these days of corporate corruption, downsizing, and outsourcing, not to mention the continuous cutbacks in the Academy, it is no surprise that people are open to unconventional ways of looking at life and work. Several years ago, Epicurus became a best-selling author in Italy, and more recently we have seen philosophical approaches from authors such as Alain de Botton (Consolations of Philosophy), Lou Marinoff (Plato, Not Prozac), and Tom Morris (If Aristotle Ran General Motors), to name a few. Steven Heine's White Collar Zen: Using Zen Principles to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Your Career Goals applies as well to the academic as to the corporate workplace.

Heine has written White Collar Zen from the standpoint of a scholar of Buddhism and a professional academic administrator. That he has been extremely successful [End Page 123] at both should make one take a serious look at this book. Given the indifference of both institutions and the natural world to human suffering (think of Enron and Hurricane Katrina), we all need survival skills, and Heine shows us how we can acquire them in our professional lives by applying Zen philosophy. While his expressed purpose is not to illuminate the subtleties of Zen, the attentive nonspecialist reader can glean much about the tradition nonetheless and, like the Zen specialist, find new paths for navigating around the foxholes in organizations.

Zen, as Heine points out, infiltrated American culture over one hundred years ago and has made its way into subcultures beyond the American-Japanese, for example the worlds of psychotherapy, the arts, medicine, and even some of the more liberal branches of Judaism and Christianity. In case a novice feels unprepared to use Zen for success, Heine points out that Zen has great flexibility, that it is not orthodoxy. "Discover your own way . . . of 'being Zen,"' he tells us (p. 10).

While it might seem clear that Zen could foster creativity, introspection, and self-understanding, the philosophical reader might raise two questions about using Zen to achieve worldly power. First, how can Zen, with its well-known requirement for periods of solitude, be a guide in the workplace? Second, is this endeavor consistent with the Zen principles that the ego is a mirage and that desires are fruitless?

Heine does not explicitly address these matters as problems, but the reader will find them resolved by the end of the book. Do not be deceived by his informal tone or his hip references to the likes of Bob Dylan. The logic of this book is carefully mapped out. As for the first issue, Heine demonstrates that the sort of isolation prescribed by Zen makes us more fit for organizational life. With regard to the second, human life, according to Zen, is a series of constantly vanishing moments. Success is simply survival and gaining the ability to be in each moment fully. The Zen philosophy, like the Heraclitean, does not shy away from the inconsistencies to which reflection leads us. Thus, Zen does not require that we resolve the tension between the twin needs for solitude and life with others. White Collar Zen is a guide to accepting this fact without anxiety.

The self, according to Zen, is not an atomic individual, but something constantly in flux and part of a whole. Everything is Buddha nature, and meditation is the way to discover it. The Unmoving Mind is the state within each of us that can transcend the perspective of our own desires, peculiarities, interests, and ego. To look at events from the standpoint of the Unmoving Mind is to look at them from a higher perspective. It gives one tremendous freedom to choose wisely, because this cleanses the self of petty resentments. When a conflict can be resolved in a way that benefits everyone, each individual will benefit. When one is glued to one's own vantage point, it is difficult to want to act for the benefit...


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pp. 123-126
Launched on MUSE
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