Life Lessons From A Monk & His Tuned Mini Cooper S
It’s All Connected

“Since everything on earth is connected, those relationships prove that you exist. That is En.”

I put down my glass of hot tea and quickly jotted down the quote from Masa, one of two monks that run a temple in a small village deep in the mountains region of Nagano. Truth be told though, the previous page in my notebook had the exact same pen-written message, circled repeatedly to mark its importance like one would do in a university lecture hall.

Even though this was the second time Masa had tried to explain this concept to me, I was still scratching my head to make sense of it all in light of everything we had talked about beforehand – predominantly his tuned Mini Cooper S.


It’s not everyday that you get to spend the day with a monk who just happens to be a huge petrol-head, let alone gain an insight into his beliefs and see what affect they have on his car life. But here I was.


‘Is that a monk with a car?’ ‘I thought they weren’t allowed to have any possessions?’ ‘Isn’t it against their religion to own a car?’ These were just a few of the comments I received when I told a few people the reason why I was heading to a small village in the mountains to spend the day with Masa, and an ideal way to kick off the interview…


Masa: “Perhaps people still believe that monks still practice that kind of lifestyle, but truth be told, that type of practice is almost non-existent these days. At one point in time you could live with minimal things and accept donations of material things rather than money as you could barter. For example, you could trade silk with a carpenter to repair the temple.”


Masa: “Nowadays that is simply impossible. Could you imagine trying to pay your mortgage with silk? How could I possibly take care of my family with a minimal lifestyle approach?’

Ron: Speaking of which, many people also believe monks aren’t allowed to have families, but obviously that is not the case.


Masa: “Yes, again, that is the old lifestyle practice. A very long time ago this was true, monks weren’t allowed to get married. However, when it became more difficult to find apprentices to take over the temple, it became acceptable for monks to get married and have children to increase the odds of a successor.”


Masa: “It would probably be more accurate if you were to think of a monk as a normal occupation instead of anything religious. Besides, Buddhism isn’t a religion, but teachings on how you, and the rest of the world, can feel happy and satisfied in life.”

The Importance Of Relations & Balance

Ron: And this relates to ‘en’ – the idea that everything is connected, right?

Masa: “Yes, that’s correct. Buddha himself never claimed to be a god though different gods do protect him. Those gods you can see around our temple. Buddha’s main point, if you will, was to follow teachings on how to live to be happy, and how to overcome the four struggles for humans: life, death, age and disease. Two of the main philosophies that help overcome these struggles are ‘en’ and ‘chudo’.”


Masa: “En is the idea that everything on earth is connected and your entire existence is made up of these connections – both with human and objects. Countless relationships are formed through en and these connections make up your life story. Your parents gave birth to you, which area you grew up in or even live now, your job, how you met your significant other – these are all examples of en. Without these connections, it would be very difficult to prove your existence. Think of it as there is no such thing as coincidence.”


Masa: “Even how I acquired the R53 Mini Cooper S was through en. Before me, the Cooper S belonged to my friend. He bought it with the goal of it being his toy, but in reality he never had any time to drive it and felt it was a waste.”


Masa: “Knowing that I love cars and driving them on the touges in the area, he decided that it would be better to give me the car instead of it sitting in his driveway. If it wasn’t for the relationship that I have with my friend, I wouldn’t own this Mini and consequently, I wouldn’t have met you, Ron, without the Mini.”


Ron: What about ‘chudo’? What is the main point behind it, and does it also relate to your Cooper S?


Masa: “Of course it does as chudo focuses on the idea of balance. Humans have emotions by nature and these emotions create desires. Buddha understood that humans will always have these desires and it’s perfectly fine to have them. It becomes a problem though when people lean to the extremes of these desires and affect others around them. Thus, Buddha came up with strict rules in hopes that it would bring people somewhat in the middle and escape the extremes of desires.”


Masa: “Take the example of work. If you work too much, it can cause unnecessary stress, spend less time with family and friends, and can become fatal. If you don’t have any work at all, then you can’t pay bills, buy food, etc. It’s perfectly fine for me to love cars but not to the point where it affects my family. On the flip side, it would be wrong of me to get rid of the Mini because I have a desire for cars. So a balance, chudo, is required.”


Masa: “I apply this principle in everything I do, including the way I have modified the Cooper S. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time doing a lot of maintenance as the car sat for a long time. Pulleys, radiator, new battery and weather stripping are just a few examples.”


Masa:I then changed out the old suspension to get better compliance out of the chassis. Giomic is a well known MINI specialist company, and I turned to them for replacing the springs and dampers. I decided to go with their CCS V2 with 7kg springs up front and 6kg springs in the rear. I felt this spring rating was a great balance of stiffness that I could enjoy on the touges without making the ride too uncomfortable for my family on the off chance they want to ride in it.”


Masa: “For wheels, I went with 17-inch Advan Racing RG-D2s and wrapped them in Advan Neova AD08s. Sorry I forget the wheel specs though Ron… Oh, I also replaced the brakes with an AP Racing kit. I wanted to ensure I had enough braking power as there are a lot of steep downhill touges around the area.


Masa: Underneath the hood, I’ve left things pretty much stock besides replacing the air box with a carbon fiber Gruppe M intake. I really like the power of the 1.6L Tritec supercharged engine in stock form. With the Gruppe M intake, the combination of the supercharger whine and induction noise is great fun. More power could be fun, but it isn’t necessary.”

Ron: This is another example of chudo, right, Masa?


Masa: “Exactly. Having 1,000 horsepower would be too extreme. At the same time, no power would be boring. Thus, where it is at now is just right. I really never understood why everyone nowadays wants lots of power.”

Ron: Absolute power corrupts absolutely – that’s why Masa. I definitely can understand the philosophy better now. Tell me about the interior.


Masa: “The interior still incorporates chudo. I’ve changed the driver with Bride Low Max seats, but went with Recaro for the passenger as they are more comfortable. This way, I can have a seat that fits my shape better without getting something too uncomfortable for a passenger.”

Masa:I’ve also added an oil temp, water temp, and boost gauge, so I can monitor what’s going on with the engine and make sure everything points to green when I’m out for a drive. Finally, I replaced the original steering wheel with a Nardi one as I like the way this one feels. I believe that’s pretty much it.”


Ron: Thank you Masa, I greatly appreciate you taking the time out to spend the day with me. Do you have any future plans for your Cooper S?

Masa: “No problem, Ron. I hope I didn’t confuse you too much?! With regards to my Cooper S, right now I’m more than happy with the balance of everything. I can have fun with the car without bothering my family (too much), so I think I’ll leave it as it is. If you can have fun still with whatever car you have, then you can feel satisfied, right?”

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography

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Speedhunters, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you guys deliver this story out of left field.

What a great read




couldn't agree more...the man behind the car made this a worthwhile read! good job Ron


Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


Is the car self enlightened?


really like that balance idea


Right? Such a simple and yet difficult concept to execute (cars and life lol)


Great post, what a cool dude.


Thank you! Yes, it was a blast and honor spending the day with Masa.


He has found the balance between fun and crazy. How many people can stop modding their car and not keep pushing it until the vehicle becomes undrivable.


This lol. Think forget their original aims and keep moving the goal post for whatever reason to the point they they never drive it because it's such a chore

Odisseas Sophocleous

After all these years of visiting this place daily, you never fail to amaze me SH team ! excellent article!


Thank you! We try to do what we can ^^


When I was at university, in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) two young German nuns asked me indications to visit the cathedral. They were driving a black me V Golf GTi!


His way of life


better than the pope-mobile!




This is not surprise for some people. In south east asia countries, many faith leaders drive luxurious cars. Some are even being chauffeured around like VVIPs. Mercs with heavy tints are the popular choices.

My friends would say that preeching (or selling) religion is a form of business these days.


Yahh I actually remember seeing that when I traveled to South East Asia ( who remembers traveling ??) I was so surprised at first and then my friends explained it pretty much as your friend did haha


It’s absolutely fascinating how a car built only a few miles away from my house, is now all the way over in Japan, owned by a Monk. I know know this due to my connection with Speedhunters. Perhaps this is ‘en’ too?


I'm not exactly sure it would be a connection with him, but you made a comment on Speedhunters because of the Mini that was built next to you and now I'm sending you this message back.

Something like that I believe ^^


Great great article! Love it.


Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it !


For a guy centered on balance he surely doesn't care about putting bigger rims than he needs, lol.

Great article!


The R53 cooper S came with 17 inch wheels stock. R50 was 15-16 depending on the car. They look great on it though!


I think there were even optional 18" wheels from factory for the JCW cars.


I don't know about codes but I know It came with 16 inch wheels stock, but who cares what It came stock? it has like 276 mm disc brakes so I'm sure 14 inch wheels fit and that would be a good chunk of weight removed.

Of course it's his car, but I found It funny.


Hahahah gotta have some looks too eh



Articles like this are one the many reasons I love SH. What a great read!


Thank you for the kind words and thrilled you enjoyed it !


Very nice and interesting article ! Good job !


Appreciate it!


not only a great car article, but a great article about life too


I was hoping the life piece would translate as well ! ^^


Man I definitely need to sit down and have some tea with Masa
He is such a cool dude!


He really is! I'd def go back just to chill and talk more about life tbh


Wow I never knew Monks can have cars
Now that's rad!


The principles of Buddhism are just really cool especially how Masa shows them with his Mini
Even as a Muslim, this concept is something I live to


Exactly. I really enjoyed learning more about the principles and def want to try and incorporate them more in my life (and project rough ^^)


Great story with my coffee! Balance!!




This sounds like a perfect philosophy for a practical daily that is also fun to use, and difficult to hurt yourself with. I'm taking notes.


Same haha


Never thought I'd be reading up on relations and balance in life on Speedhunters. Then again I never thought I'd be reading about a monk and his Mini Cooper. This is already one of my favourite articles of the year


Glad you enjoyed it ^^!


I feel like the balance aspect is going over many peoples heads these days, as most is chasing cool numbers to show the internet. I really like the monk-approach to things. Great read!


Agreed. I'd even say newer production cars may fall into this trap to generate sales.. balance is really a truly hard concept..


now i can buy my old car without feeling guilty, what an unusual and tasty reading


Hahahah if said purchase doesn't cause harm to family and you have the desire, then why not ^^


yes hahaha


Cool article !




Can I get a hard copy of this??? <3 -Kdodson77


Absolutely fantastic article and car. I love the way he approached modifying it. Chudo sounds like something more cars could use.


Appreciate it greatly! And I totally agree


Thank you Masa and Ron .. Excellent article. Dare I say it, but just what I needed in today's world.


Your welcome! And honestly, I needed it as well


Why did I read all of Masa's parts in Uncle Iroh's voice? lol. I think it's because he was speaking of balance in life, while still being able to have fun, all in a lighthearted, friendly way


Why did I read all of Masa's comments in Uncle Iroh's voice? lol. Probably because his teachings of balance, while still being able to have fun, all of which in a friendly, lighthearted manner


Hahahahahahah oh woooow that's epic!


One of my favorite reads in a while. I love learning a bit about the owners as well as their cars!




It’s so awesome to see the cars getting love in Japan. I remember working on a few of these when I started my automotive career in 2008. They are a BLAST to drive.


Oh man they love Minis out here! Fun and can fit on all the tiny roads here with no problems lol


Wow. WOW. Ron, this was an absolute pleasure to read. Thank you, and thank Masa.


I'm glad you enjoyed it ! I'll pass the msg along to Masa


Throw in some hot police babes and you've got the first episode of You're Under Arrest.


Lovely to finally see an R53 on SH! Great photos and a wonderful story. You guys never let me down.


Thank you!

Gagah Sasono Utomo

Absolutely unexpected, and enlightening in so many ways. Thanks for bringing this up Ron!


Thank you for reading!


This deceptively simple article has much chudo, and given these comments, will spread much en.


^^ the connections that keep on connecting


Great read and a reminder we so often forget; balance in our lives.


So very very true. It sounds so simple and yet it's so difficult to execute in practice


Love this article and Masa-san's insight. To think I have the same beliefs on cars as a Japanese monk and didn't realize it until I read this story.


Glad you enjoyed it! It seems that belief is become harder and harder to find now and days.


Well, from what i understood: overall my En is sh!t (not only related to cars), but my car build's Chudo is high (or a least still high).
A very rare and unique coverage to a point that i didn't think i end up reading a similar article (sure this is the case of a lot not only me specially after checking the comment section). Thanks Ron and all SH team.


Is it too early to call 'story of the year'? Thanks for sharing Ron.


Haha I mean the year has just started right ! Thank you Ben !


A great article, I enjoyed every word of it. Modifying par exellence.


Appreciate it ! Glad you enjoyed it


Nice One, more Mini Content is appreciated !


Appreciate it and noted ^^


Guys... if you do another sh book in the future make sure this story goes in there!


This may be one of the most touching stories I have ever read. Has all I needed right now.
Thanks for this Ron & Speedhunters.


This is what old speed hunter articles used to be about! Glad to see these type of articles again that are showcasing cars that you won’t usually see.


I've seen R53s with lots of custom work, but this example is one with everything.


I have not read Speedhunters previously but after this article i'm hooked. I just need to comment on Rons photography, outstanding! What kind of camera are you using? I was in Japan in '95 and your photos bought back pleasant memories. Masa is a character.


Definitely one of the best stories I've read on here


Great article, nice to see one of the worlds oldest religions adapting to modern times! But the photography is outstanding! Crisp, what kind of camera did you use Ron?


That is the best article I have ever read. Bar none! Thank you Ron. Does this mean you're actually moving out to Nagano? Its a beautiful city. Zenkoji is awesome. You can apply for a job there now, as they allow wives and cars! Hahah! What's the name of the temple he's at? I'd like to drive out and visit one day. You can use my email if you're not allowed to post that publicly. Thanks!


Never thought to see a Monk possessing a car...and tuned one!
Thank you Ron for sharing and thank Masa for the words!


Masa is a cool dude for sure but you seem to be quite alright too. I really enjoyed the vibe of your writing, great article and beautiful Cooper. R53 are still to this day the best looking (new) Minis. It's aging really well.


Amazing story. Felt very refreshing.


I guarantee its going to be part of favorite stories for 2021