Zen At Work: A Zen teacher's 30-year journey in corporate America by Les Kaye Crown, $140 In the rush to write and publish self-help books, authors with more original ideas than Les Kaye have been trampled underfoot. Kaye's doctrine is that Zen, a form of Buddhism emphasising the value of meditation and intuition, can help the busy executive be a better, more humane busy executive. Which is all very well, but as Kaye admits, applying religion in the workplace is not only easier said than done, it is often impossible. But then Zen is only a quasi-religion. It is more of what the late Frank Zappa cynically referred to in his anti-religious songs as 'a way of life'. Zappa's vision was that 'ways of life' are easily abandoned when circumstances dictate. Kaye offers the view that even when executive life is not proceeding smoothly, Zen can help. Hence, when a colleague steals your research and sells it as his own, making a tidy profit in the process, Zen will help you put things in perspective. The art of meditating while sitting cross-legged on a cushion (zazen practice) will enable your mind to be flexible and open enough to accept a new way of seeing the situation. No room for 'don't get mad, get even' in Zen philosophy - more a case of 'don't get mad, get zazen'. Kaye uses examples from IBM, with whom he started work as a design engineer in the punch-card days of 1956. In 1988 he retired to become a full-time Zen master. One morning, for instance, a carefully prepared list of things he needed to do received responses from clients and colleagues alike of the prevaricating 'I'll get back to you' variety. What to do? Reply to all calls, letters and questions promptly and without exception and others will do the same. It is horribly simplistic and barmily naive. But then the self-help book industry was founded on teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. One of the messages of Zen, it seems, is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This might come as a revelation to the harebrained, but it is hardly big news to the rest of us. Zen, as a religion or a way of life, presumably has much to offer many people, but is far more complex than Kaye seems to realise. Why does he strip it down to inane platitudes? Probably because it would be too hard to do otherwise. Zen At Work is not a book about Zen any more than Bambi is a film about zoology. It is simply a book full of nice stories with happy endings about a man who lives his life by a code. Where it succeeds, if anywhere, is with its wonderfully inscrutable Zen sayings. There are all sorts of calendar-philosophies, from 'our spiritual path must be a journey without a map' to 'in order for our lives to be truly happy we need to know the meaning of true happiness'. And to think all this can be discovered only through Zen. How lucky we are to have people like Kaye to tell us.