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Takafumi Kawakami is a monk on a mission, or more like several missions. While the 37-year-old deputy abbot at Shunko-in, a historic Zen Buddhist temple in the northwest of Kyoto, certainly looks monkish with his shaved head and cherub-like youthfulness, he thinks and talks like an entrepreneur.

In his meditation classes, which he holds almost daily, he is as likely to expound on the business tactics of Silicon Valley executives and articles from the Harvard Business Review as he is about oneness, focus and breathing. He dresses in traditional garb but sees little point in holding on to tradition for the sake of it.

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