The topic of Vedanta and its connection to Management(Leadership) was first introduced to me by my dear uncle and one of my mentors Sudhakar Kini – some day I shall write a whole article about him!!!
Around June of 1994 I decided to lead a life of balance as much as possible. I looked at various ways to organize my thoughts, activities and schedules. I found the answer at a seminar on “First things First” by Dr. Stephen Covey. The trick for me in all this was to define roles I played and set what we call ‘big rocks’ against each of the roles. The other key aspect I started practicing is to pay attention to the key factors –
Physical – Stay healthy, consider your body to be the temple for the God in your heart and maintain it will strong discipline.
Spiritual – Pursue a goal that helps balance all the material pursuits
Social & Emotional – Surround yourself and expand your circle of friends and family to have positive perspectives and emotional balance
Mental – Focus on Wisdom and not just Knowledge, be lateral, creative and innovative in execution of thought, work and activity.
While most of these were very easy to adhere to there was always a question about the spiritual component. After all I did not get the right ‘feeling’ by just visiting places of worship and listening to discourses or lectures. There was something missing. It is during Diwali day of 1995, while in NJ, my dear friend for 13 years then- Narayan (Nari) Rajagopalachari introduced me to what has become a primary purpose of my life now – Raja Yoga Meditation thru Sahaj Marg. To this day I believe it is the best gift of friendship I have ever received.
The mental aspect however, wanted to go deep and become wiser. During one of our long walks in Pune during my visit to India, Sudhakar and I used Spirituality, Vedanta and Management as a topic of discussion. He then presented me with a book called Vedanta Treatise by Shri Parthasarathy. Many surfing, reading and introspections later, this is my attempt to document some aspects. I for one is a strong believer in the concept of Leadership instead of just management. Hence I shall go ahead and call this piece thus.
Vedanta is basically the quintessence of the Vedas. The origin of the word Veda is also traced to “vidya”(incidentally my sister’s name and many other relatives whose association I cherish) which being knowledge. Vedanta can be looked upon as being related to knowledge. It ultimately leads to the spiritual side of knowledge. Swami Parthasarathy in his book VEDANTA TREATISE says: Vedanta literally means the end of knowledge. It is a systematic knowledge which explains the relation between man and God. A knowledge that is founded on its own authority. Vedanta trains you to think for yourself. To analyse, investigate and realize the essence of life. Not to rely on outside forces to do your thinking. Not to submit yourself to blind faith, superstitious beliefs and mechanical rituals.
N. Vittal once said a great deal about this topic. In his talk he tried to capture the essence of this topic while calling on the likes of Shri Parthasarathy to spread the knowledge of Vedanta. Knowledge of course covers a wide spectrum. Vedanta represents knowledge of a spiritual nature. At the same time our current economy where the world has become a global village is also known as a knowledge economy.
Before we explore the connections between Vedanta, assuming for the moment that it represents the spiritual knowledge and realizing the fact that management relates to the temporal and physical world, we can also have a look at the relationship between the matters temporal and spiritual.
The basic lesson of the Vedanta is to look beyond our existence and try to find a meaning in our existence. One lesson of the Vedanta has been summarized as aatmanam mokshartham jagat hitayacha. For an individual, one should try to reach moksha or realization and so far as the rest of the world is concerned, try to do good to the world. A manager therefore can think in terms of his own development on the spiritual side and at the same time ensure that his own organization is beneficial to the society. The ultimate purpose of existence as moksha has the advantage for helping every manager to realize that beyond the day to day hassles, success and failures etc. which all lead to stress, there is a more permanent and a more long lasting purpose or object in life. If a person is oriented in Vedanta and is aware of at least the purpose of life as Vedanta teaches, the minimum he would have a mental equipoise.
So one advantage of a Vedantic orientation may be to share some of the ideals of the Stithapragna as described by Lord Krishna in the Second Chapter of Bhagavad Gita and take the world as it comes. Vihaya kamanyaha sarvaan pumaamscharati nispruhaha nirmamo nirahankara sashantimadhigachathi. A person who is rooted in Vedanta is bound to be mentally detached and at the same time have a peace, which gives him strength.
The Stithapragna according to Lord Krishna can also be a contrarian thinker. In these days of highly competitive environment, probably a capacity to swim against the current may be one method of generating new ideas. Ya nisha sarva bhuthanam tasyam jagriti samyami yasyam jagriti bhutani sanisha prashyate munehe, says Lord Krishna in the Second Chapter. When others are sleeping the Stithapragna is awake and when others are awake, he is sleeping. So the creativity can be another strength that comes from an orientation rooted in Vedanta.
A third aspect is that a Vedantic orientation can help a manager to look beyond the immediate present and take a long-term view. It is true as the Keynes pointed out, in the long run, all of us are dead. But many a time in a competitive environment, that too which is time based competition, losing the long term perspective can be counter productive. Take for example, excitement about dot com companies and the mad rush of both the venture capitalists and the stock market into the dot com and technology stocks. There has been a corrective action taken. So, apart from contrarian thinking, a Vedanta based mentality will also help a person to take a long-term view so that one does not commit act in haste and regret in leisure.
The ultimate lesson of Vedanta is a continuous quest for improvement or in the management terms of today six-sigma! It is almost like the concept of moving towards perfection.
As the Upanishad says, Om purnamada puranamidam purnat purnamudachyate purnasya purnamadaya puranmevavashishyate.
The spirit of quality is nothing but the pride of the artisan in his art, and the quest for perfection. A competent manager who is imbued with the basic lesson of Vedanta, which is again, a striving upward towards moksha will also try to bring in this approach of continuous improvement or KAIZEN in every act.
Ultimately we can all make progress only by following the standard advice of the Taitreya Upanishad. Let us come together, let us enjoy together, let our intellectual strengths come together, let there be brightness of knowledge, let there be no poison of misunderstanding or hatred. That is the way probably we will be able to make the best out of Vedanta for achieving managerial success and satisfying performance as managers. In the management jargon “Collaborative thinking and functioning”.
An informative link: http://www.vedanta.org/
Sahanavavatu sahanaubhunaktu sahaviryam kara va vahai
Tejasvinam aditamastu ma vid visha vahai, om shanti shanti shanti