Tag Archives: Arjuna

The Karma Marga – Perfection in Action!

Most Actions have a binding effect.  That in sense is the design to keep the world moving in perpetuity.  For example, winning a race would seem perfect, but even that has its own baggage.   The baggage could be some rivals getting jealous, loss of privacy etc.   Similarly, losing itself produces its own side effects.   So results arising out of actions bring about some bondage.

It is then very rare to find people performing actions which would not bind them.   What are such actions and how does one perform them?  Can one in the current scheme of things be really able to do something without having the bondage out of results?  Can a CEO of any organization be not bound by the results of his actions?

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The key in this is expectation.  Results by itself don’t bind oneself.  It’s the expectations from the results which create attachment and bondage. How can one not have expectations?  While it is just natural to have them, it has and will continue to be the root of this bondage. What would be the way of reigning in the expectations?

Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita advises the Despondent Arjuna – to not worry about the results (fruits) of one’s actions, and just surrender the act into Him.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

“tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara asakto he acaran karma param apnoti purushah”

arjuna questioning

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty always, for by working without attachment only one attains the Supreme.

Another perspective is to do things for the collective Good – That is called Yagna. Whenever such acts are performed for unselfish benefits, the act is deemed to burn the bondages of Karma. Unfortunately, even though they perform good deeds – people do get caught up in the results.  Often, good people want respect and appreciation and that in itself is bondage.

In the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, the character Phaedrus describes the difference between planned acts and spontaneous acts, the latter which are being performed without any measure of expectation.  An arduous mountain expedition with its rigor when performed as a pilgrimage has a different quality to the same act of climbing the mountain.   There is no baggage of expectations.  It certainly is uplifting even though physically it brings the same amount of tiredness.  The spirit of doing the latter act is that of Joy.

Zen book

So what’s the verdict – Joy is freeing the mind from its own bondages.  Joy is in doing the act.  Joy is not outside the action.   When every small act is done joyfully, without the mind paraphernalia, it brings freedom. That is perfection in action – perfect because the perfection in the being is expressed through the act. Not of the mind.

The Yoga happens as a result of the mind not being caught up in the results of the act. That is Karma Yoga – the perfect action – free from any bondage – joyfully and effortlessly.

True Karma Yogis never look back at successes or failures – because that doesn’t matter to them.  They have done the action out of joy, and it is over. Period. The world will definitely analyze their actions, and results, but it will not bother them, because they are enjoying the game, not the results.

sachin

Sachin Tendulkar epitomizes this through the love for the game. It is the love which keeps him going even though his body and mind now are not so agile.

Are you ready to face every ball that is bowled at you for the sheer joy of facing the delivery? Are you ready to be a Karma Yogi?

By Vikas Bhatia 

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Uncomfortable Questions

Many years ago, I was a young manager joining a new organisation. The thing I remember most from that time is the welcome I got from our Vice President. After dispensing with the formalities and getting to know me a little, he moved on to telling me how I could be successful there. He asked me to remember one thing above all – ask lots of questions. He said that he’d learnt everything by asking lots of questions. In my time there, I saw him speak many times in various meetings with his staff. His core message remained the same.

Questioning

He’s not the first one to offer that advice though. There has been a philosopher with that advice for each age. Sample just a few of them here:

Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new. ~ Og Mandino

The important thing is not to stop questioning. ~ Einstein

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. ~ Voltaire

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. ~ Tony Robbins

The Problem:

Contrast this with the other experiences that many of us encountered while growing up and continue to encounter even today. We have all met those who become uncomfortable at being asked questions – grandparents, uncles, a parent, bosses, a colleague… Those who feel attacked when attempts are made to examine their promulgations. This behaviour is at loggerheads with all known wisdom.

Questioning - scared

Recently, I heard an ISB faculty speak at a webinar on Persuasion. He said many wonderful things but the one that struck me as most significant was when he stated that, “Meaningful dialogue is at the heart of Persuasion”.

He held up the Bhagavad Gita as an example of meaningful dialogue (incidentally at the end of which Arjuna is persuaded to kill his friends and family).

In the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna asks questions in order to understand his world better. He asks Krishna questions and does not relent for 18 chapters! Krishna answers each question with patience and understanding.

Today one can’t get to 3 questions without those who quote the Gita wringing their hands in frustration or wanting to wring your neck!

arjuna questioning

There is no dearth of questioning Arjunas in our times. The great tragedy of our times is that we don’t have enough Krishnas.

This resolution through dialogue isn’t particular to India alone.

Dialectic as a method to knowledge has been used in Ancient India as well as Ancient Greece. The dialectic of Adi Shankaracharya, of the Buddhist teachers that followed in Buddha’s footsteps and of the Sophists of Greece is the same. Meaningful dialogue, debate, uncomfortable questions have all been crucial to the development, growth and establishment of any philosophy.

Unquestioning acceptance of anything gives rise to many ills in society (and corporates). Superstitions, the Dark Ages, witch burnings, female infanticide, skewed gender ratios, terrorism, casteism, bribery, the cults of various babas, other personality cults, medical malpractice, insurance and securities fraud, bullying, subjugation, yes-men and the “sheep” mentality that exists in society and in organisations; all because people do not question enough.

A Solution:

If we are to live in a better world, a world we can make more sense of, a world that is fairer, I urge you all to question and question relentlessly. Why? How? What? And more.

Buddha Teaching

It’s not just me; even the Buddha encouraged his disciples to question relentlessly. He is quoted in the Ghanavyuhasutra as saying, “Do not accept my Dharma merely out of respect for me, but analyse and check it the way a goldsmith analyses gold, by rubbing, cutting and melting it.

Do not worry if it makes someone uncomfortable or makes them lose patience. They are not a Buddha or a Krishna or a Socrates.

Allow me to paraphrase another of my favourite Einstein quotes – “If they can’t explain it simply enough, they haven’t understood it well enough”.

Keep looking. Keep asking questions. When you meet someone who gives you satisfactory answers you will know that you have found your Buddha.

By Aman Zaidi

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Advaita – An approach to Conflict Management

By Aanchal Sethi and Vikas Bhatia

Through centuries, Man has been subject to conflicts both internal and external.  Denied access to God and His Divinity, man remains a hapless victim to the forces beyond control. Pain persists due to inherent contradictions between diverse thought streams resulting in perpetual conflict:

Conflict with nature; Conflict with self; Conflict with prevalent value systems.

What is conflict?  How to we thrive in spite of all conflicts?  Is there a better way to manage conflict?   Questions for which we seek answers forever.

Unfortunately conflict is one imperative of truth which just won’t vanish as the entire universe is essentially a product of conflict itself. The dilemma being, there cannot be any creation without friction, forward movement ceases without friction.

Conflicts originate through duality or Dvaita where duality means separation. Hence war persists on all fronts; a new Mahabharata every day. Surrounded by the Kuru warriors, each one an Abhimanyu, equipped with limited knowledge, does not know how to come out of this chakravyuh – the Chakravyuh of conflicts.

The lack of that knowledge (Advaita) does not allow the Abhimanyu in us to break free from the formation of worldly desires and embedded conflicts.  A desire to even break free from desires thus becomes a desire and hence conflicted. Man’s relentless pursuit of peace is elusive due to universal dualism (Dvaita) controlling the universe.  The apparent form and shape of the universe, including the building blocks of atom, the electrons and protons have an opposing nature.

The opposites always create some sort of conflict, but also very necessary for the functioning of the universe.

When conflicts are not there, one notices a sense of intimacy or belongingness.  A sense of Oneness is a characteristic often seen in the states of non-conflict.  Hence one way of defining conflict is a state lacking in Oneness or Togetherness.  How does one identify with this state of Oneness and practise that to resolve conflicts.  Is that view of Advaita only useful for inner conflicts or for resolving outer conflicts in the world too?

Conflict will always exist, how we choose to deal with it often determines our destiny.

An examination of the actions by the various characters of Mahabharata reveals how our approach to conflicts often aggravates conflicts or does not fully resolve conflicts.  And thereby it also defines our character and destiny. Most significantly, Krishna’s counselling to Arjuna on the battlefield reveals interesting insights into the role of Advaita and resolving the conflict, both inside and outside.

This knowledge of Advaita (non-duality- there is NO TWO!!) is the supreme knowledge rarely applied in moving ahead in conflicts.

Each conflict situation produces its own unique response from the affected person or persons.  The ability to recognize an appropriate strategy to deal with the conflict makes one effective in moving ahead in the world and yet remaining peaceful within.

Dhritarashtra ­- blind at birth further blinded by love for his sons, does not think it prudent to counsel his sons against their rivalry with the Pandavas. Gandhari, his wife, also chooses to not see the reality of things by tying a cloth across her eyes. Blinded by a sense of misplaced loyalty, she also becomes responsible for the unnecessary saga of war.

Both parents are unable to perceive the truth, largely due to their vain desire to see their progeny succeed. They keep “Accomodating” their son’s unjust desires and ignoring the issues of ‘Dharma’ – the duty which a king must fulfil for his subjects.

Amidst us there exists the avoiding turtle, who at the mere sign of a disagreement withdraws into a self-imposed shell. Bhishma held such an exalted position in the Kuru kingdom, had he wished he could have prevented the entire massacre of Kurukshetra. Bhishma bound himself with the vow of self-abdication and proved that even an exalted virtue like selflessness can aggravate a situation.

A leader’s reluctance to go by ‘Dharma’ – the act that must be performed and instead taking a stand that is just for the sake of pleasing the team often lets issues simmer. It is so easy to undermine the organization’s foundation by engaging in this strategy of accommodating or avoiding. Mere avoiding or accommodating does not take away the conflict.   In fact it materializes with a much greater intensity as we see later in the Great War. The comfort zone for leaders – essentially is a failure to recognize that all attachments – to people, desires and concepts come from the very nature of Dwaita.  Due to low intensity of the conflict at an early stage, the awareness and willingness of the individual to work from the space of Advaita is often limited.  This is the paradox!!  Even when the treasure trove of Advaita is readily available, we are reluctant to dive into it!!

Duryodhana’s flaming ambition ( read Ego – the component of our existence fuelling duality ) compels him to weave webs of deceit, treachery and lies.  His ambition is so sinister and grave that he builds a Lakshagrah (Palace of Wax) to burn his own brothers.

This is Competitive conflict at its fiercest. A hyper-inflated Ego doesn’t even allow the being to even contemplate about Advaita.  In its re-inforced belief that I am the winner or I deserve to be the winner of the world which is separated from me (the limited identity caused by ego). The inflexibility demonstrated by Duryodhana in his demeanour towards Pandavas is due to his strong Ego-sense.  Most of the conflict situations in the world do arise due to a very strong Ego-sense.  The dissolution of the Ego-sense leads to experiencing Advaita.  Unfortunately the dissolution itself cannot be carried out by the mind-Ego complex. This is only possible due to divine grace, which Duryodhana does not even care about.

A compromise solution is often perceived as an easy way to resolve conflict.  Here the apparent voice of reason is born out of a desire to end conflict but at the same time it is not rooted in Advaita. Here the assumption is – we are separate and we need to come close. The coming closer is just temporarily to alleviate pain or conflict.  Yudhishtira, conscious of unending conflict bends down and dangles the compromise with five villages only to have lost his dignity in a game of dice.  This is a beautiful example of an inner painful Conflict between temptation & Dharma. This compromise solution is just temporary.

A real win-win Solution is only possible with a being who is an embodiment of Advaita himself. Krishna, the master collaborator always has the right solution for the moment.  Note that, the right solution does not mean end to conflict but letting things unfurl the way they are supposed to be.  With war clouds looming large, both Arjuna & Duryodhana seek Krishna’s support. The master collaborator lends Narayani sena to the Kaurava’s and Narayan (himself) to Arjuna.  Now, that is letting a solution emerge as per the Dharma and also befitting the Karma of the individual. There is absolutely no Ego-sense interference in the working of the Advaita…the complete, perfect and all inclusive!!  Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram.

Human life is rooted in the duality of mind-ego complex which makes life a constant stream of conflicts.  In this imperfect world, the duality is embedded and perpetual.  On the plus side, we are all blessed with seed of Advaita, to end this constant Dwand of Dvaita….

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti…

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Profit through the Prophets

What the corporate world teaches you versus what spiritual wisdom says…

The Age of Extreme Greed

The wisdom of teachers, thinkers, prophets and great men has abounded for thousands of years. Despite this great body of wisdom, when we look around us today, we realize that we struggle to conduct ourselves in a manner becoming of intelligent, aware human life.

Why is this so? A lot of us read. The question is what do we read? What books do we choose to pick up, read and follow?

The answer to that too is contained in a book whose name at least we are all familiar with, the Bhagwad Gita. The Gita has Krishn telling Arjun that the cause of our behaviour is lust or desire.

If we operate from a place of desire, we will be led to pursuing those activities, not those that will help us banish ignorance or those that will lead us to enlightenment or goodness.

Yet all around us we see manifestations of lust, desire and greed. In public life, in corporate life, from common men to leaders, they all seem driven by lust. In the pursuit of the material, they have lost touch with themselves and have no time to acquire wisdom, either ancient or modern, and banish their ignorance.

The result of this is for everyone to see. Our age is not called kalyug for nothing. All around us there is injustice, poverty, inequality, inhumanity, war, hunger, corruption. All borne out from lust.

The Words of the Wise

Let’s take what we can influence for starters. Largely, we inhabit and operate in the corporate world. Let us consider the dichotomy in what we learn and practise there. We are taught to be tough with our people. We are taught that leadership is about command. We are taught that we cannot allow anyone to take advantage of us. At the same time we are taught that we must maximize our advantage from all of our interactions, whether it is dealing with individuals, organizations or our poor customers.

However, outside of the corporate world, in Life, everywhere from the Bible to the Quran to the Gita, there is repeated focus on speaking with kindness to people, on a culture of consulting each other, on dealing fairly with people, to working without greed.

Consider that the Old Testament warns against “skimping the measure, boosting the price and dishonest scales”. Unfortunately we are only too happy when prices of our products or services or real estate get boosted, and we never spare a thought for fair pricing.

Consider that the Quran has lessons in interpersonal skills, teamwork and democratic decision making when it says “And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter”.

Modern management thought coupled with the increased accent on training has ensured that most managers are equipped with the relevant skill; however let us see what pains us most about feedback or appraisal sessions.

Often we have worked with people where we have felt criticized and walked away from a “feedback” session with second hand negativity. What causes the behaviour of otherwise affable people to undergo such a change in feedback situations?

Have we ever felt during an appraisal that our efforts count for naught because the result wasn’t achieved? How often have we been told that the effort doesn’t matter, only the result does. And how often we found ourselves wondering at how starkly that has conflicted with what Baron Pierre de Coubertin had to say?

Take for instance Krishna’s advice to Arjun in the Gita:

Therefore, O Arjun, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.

Krishna clearly advises Arjun to focus on the job at hand without a view on the outcome or gain.

Take also for instance an instance related about Muhhamed. He is known never to have criticized even a simple thing like food, which many of us feel is our right to do. Once he asked his family for a condiment and they said, “We only have vinegar.”

He asked for it and began to eat, saying, “Vinegar is an excellent condiment.

Vinegar is an excellent condiment.

How many of us think about how the doer of a job (whether cook or employee) feels when criticism or a harsh word is uttered about his effort. How often do we pay attention to Jesus’ advice to us: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“?

Ethical Earnings

 Is there a need for a spiritual education in our times today? Do we hardened, cynical citizens need a course in spirituality? I think so. Some of us are there already. We’ve moved from training our people on soft skills to stress management, from managing others to self-management, from productivity to work-life balance. Speakers like Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra and Swami Parthasarthy are the rage in America, one country that is the foremost generator and consumer of modern management thought.

CEO’s and corporates are lapping up the work that academics such as Sumantra Ghosal, CK Prahlad, Ram Charan and Rakesh Khurana are doing in the field of values, stakeholder and reciprocity based selfless leadership.

The people that moved to Vedic City, Iowa, in order to be closer to the Maharishi University of Management, a university that is founded on principles of Vedic “consciousness-based” education, have found that their businesses have bloomed.

Also in America, there are CEO’s like Pat Flood who have based their running of the company almost entirely around the values espoused by the Bible. And his company was on FORTUNE’s 2007 list of Top 100 Companies to work for.

Since the late 20th century there has been an emergence of banks based on Islamic principles that prohibit either payment or acceptance of interest fees for loans of money, as well as prohibiting investments in businesses that provide goods or services considered contrary to its principles.

And these institutions are bigger in size than businesses selling either tobacco or alcohol. For example the third largest Islamic bank in the World, the Bank Saderat Iran, has assets more than three times the market cap of the third largest alcohol company in the World, the UB Group in India. Their asset size also happens to be greater than the market cap of Indian tobacco giant ITC.

Truly a victory for all those who believe that values based businesses will make money, probably even more money than dissimilar businesses.

References:

  1. BusinessWeek.com,
  2. indusbusinessjournal.com,
  3. money.cnn.com,
  4. bnet.com

By Aman Zaidi

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