Tag Archives: knowledge

Agni – Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Agni is the light that pulls us out of the abyss of ignorance, from darkness into light. It illuminates the path for the journey within. For the ancient sages the soul was the sacred fire. No philosophy was necessary to explain its self-evident luminosity. They lit its flames on their altars and in their hearts as the Divine consciousness coming forth from the material world.

Through it, they achieved a state of consciousness far beyond our current idea of intelligence as defined by the scientific mind and its interpretation of reality. Through it they touched the cosmic mind of which our human mind is but a spark.

Agni: The Flaming Godhead derives its name from a root whose quality of significance is a pre eminent force or intensity whether in state, action, sensation or movement. The sacred fire is the third eye of lord Shiva.  Agni melts, moulds and creates, never destroys but transforms. The fire was our first guru in the infancy of our species from which we learned the secrets of light and consciousness. The sacred fire, we could say, is the spiritual ancestor of all people of all races and continents. The religion of fire remains our natural religion—the very basis of our aspiration as a species to find the light.

Agni: Fire in the belly is the will to excel, to compete and emerge victorious. It propels the individual to acquire qualities needed for any transformation. He is the sheer will in the universe relentless in its pursuit. Whatever he does in his passion and power is guided by the light of the silent Truth within him. But then Agni is also merciless for it destroys those who don’t respond to its call. It propels us to destroy the ego we nurse so lovingly and transcend to a deeper consciousness. The sacred fire is the harbinger of the soul thereby delivering the “Aatma” to the “Paramatma”.

The other Gods awake with the dawn but Agni rises even in the night; he keeps his divine vision even in the darkness where there is no moon or star; the flame of divine will and knowledge is present in the densest obscurity. Even for the man sitting far off in the night enveloped by darkness of ignorance, this flame is the light which when perfectly kindled stirs the universe inside us and works its magic of growth and change. Time becomes a process of transformation, nourishing our inner light and ripening our souls.  In Dante’s “Purgatory”, fire signifies that every soul must wake through. Purgatory is the fire that purifies the process that forklifts the impurities out to leave the ‘Core Alloy” luminous.

Agni: The mysticism of the flames signify a stated condition of effective sacrifice, The sacrificial fire used in Hindu rituals is seen as an incarnation of Agni, so he serves as a conduit that “carries” the sacrifice of a worshiper to the gods or goddesses that are being worshiped. Transformations in a society, organization, family or an individual take place when the self sacrifices the ego; that is when the soul reincarnates. “Moksha” that we constantly seek is not of the other world, it exists in ours attained by our actions and thought.

Agni here being action and thought Vayu (Air). The divine force of Agni works through the vital energy of Vayu. Hand in hand they set the world on fire. All my life I’ve heard elders caution “ Don’t Play With Fire!!!”; but my life so far has been an ode to Agni which screams -”Lets Play”…!!!


Agni forms the first of a five-part series by Aanchal Sethi on the basic elements and how they manifest in our lives. The articles are an attempt to inspire the reader to introspect, recognize and draw strength from one’s inherent traits which seem to embody the characteristics of each of the five basic elements.  

By Aanchal Sethi


Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement – Part 2

Continuing with the ideas I had shared in my previous post, Building a Culture of Learning and Engagement, we need to find processes for learning and engagement that engage the mind-body-spirit of our employees. This would help to make employee engagement not just an intervention but a way of life in our organizations.

I received some excellent comments from readers to that post, and now I’m sharing some ways in which I believe we can achieve our goal:

        1. Creating a purpose driven work-force
        2. Including conversational processes in Learning
        3. Having a ‘Jugnu’ approach
      1. Creating a purpose driven work-force: Purpose can be described as the reason for our existence. Organizations are not always purpose driven but they are definitely vision driven and have clear goals and strategies. As part of alignment, we do help people see how the organizational vision connects to their role.Suppose we flip this approach. Supposing we start with each employee instead. Get each employee to identify their personal purpose and values – what matters to them – why do they exist – what makes them wake up with a spring in their step – what makes their eyes shine? Questions that perhaps they have never considered.Jobs don’t really require an answer to these, do they? Yet, a purpose statement helps us to understand the reason we exist, live and work. If we facilitate this discovery for employees, we build a sense of confidence and self-discovery in them. Only then should we link it with their organizational roles and the vision of the organization. We at Pragati Leadership strongly believe that this would enable a realizing of potential and power within people and they would then be able to be better engaged and involved with themselves and the organization. If I don’t understand myself and what I want, how will I understand what the organization aspires to achieve and my role in the same?Giving people the freedom, resources and autonomy to be able to pursue their personal purpose at work (along with their organizational role) would help to bring out both positive energy and involvement. Hindustan Petroleum has done this in a remarkable way with great success.
      2. Including Conversational Processes in Learning: Most of our OD and HR interventions are highly structured and well planned. They enable sharing of knowledge and building of skills.Yet it is informal conversations that lead to collaboration, connection and co-creation. Informal conversations lead to sharing of ideas, best practices and innovation. Organizations need to create spaces and forums to operationalize this. Two such conversational processes are: Open Space Technology (OST) and World Cafe. What is common among both of these is that a theme is chosen and people voluntarily sign up for areas or issues they are passionate about. This leads to learning and passionate ownership of actions. Many companies have experimented with regular monthly or quarterly forums where OST is introduced to employees . This has led to new ideas being generated, and more importantly,  people coming forward voluntarily to take responsibility for their implementation. These processes are sustainable, cost effective and require no external intervention. These are critical ongoing OD interventions that can build engagement and learning.
      3. Having a Jugnu Approach: The word ‘Jugnu’ means ‘fireflies’. Fireflies glow in the dark. Where there is darkness, they show the light. In an organizational context, Jugnus refers to those people who show more learning luminosity than others. In order to enhance the vibrancy, learning and luminosity of an organization, the HR/L&OD team can identify a cadre of employees called ‘Jugnus’ or ‘I-Catalysts’. These are people who are internal change agents for learning and engagement. They are naturally interested in sharing, learning, have a positive and optimistic approach and are natural communicators and magnets for others. These people can be identified through seeking nominations and selected using a check-list. With some degree of I-Catalyst training, they can become the extended arm of HR/L & D in order to catalyze learning among employees. I-Catalysts would typically be line managers .They would help to promote learning among employees by organizing and facilitating informal learning e.g. brown bag workshops, best practice sharing, debates, peer assist sessions, films, storytelling etc. Research has shown that the trend in learning is that organizations are moving away from formal training to informal learning where they don’t need to be in a classroom for picking up new skills etc. I-Catalysts can spearhead this process of informal learning within the organization.


Photo credit: pareeerica via Foter.com/ CC BY-NC

When a culture of purpose, conversation and learning gets created, it automatically leads to greater employee engagement and involvement. People’s strengths and talents are used better. There is higher ideation and innovation. People meet across departments and silos and there is a naturally higher collaboration. There is less fear and more joy. More importantly employee engagement is no longer an HR intervention, rather it becomes each person’s priority. When this happens, the goal of the HR department has truly been achieved.

Are some of these ideas adopted at your organization? I would love to hear readers’ experiences and share knowledge so that we all learn and grow.

by Anu Wakhlu


Gyana Marga

Gyana Marga – A road to liberation.

Gyana – Knowledge in Sanskrit has been described as one of the paths to liberation.   Most knowledge is acquired for practical benefits or for worldly success.   Either you acquire knowledge to get around in the world, like knowledge of French will help you communicate with people in France and knowledge of herbs would help know which ones are useful and which ones are poisonous.  This kind of knowledge is essential for one’s survival.


Success is often also linked to amount of knowledge one acquires.  The rush for acquiring MBA and other degrees defines the value of knowledge in the scheme of things. The current era is labeled as the Knowledge era; where knowledge is prized over capital, labour, land etc.

So where does this knowledge to liberation fit in?  Is it really relevant?  Well it is relevant, if the quest for knowledge is really there. It is relevant if we find ourselves unhappy in spite of all the progress we see around.  It is relevant if your life seems meaningless in spite of the worldly success you might have.


Many well learned men sought what is the ultimate knowledge which man can ever acquire.  Some scientists have explored the frontiers of space and are trying to discover the Higgs Boson particle, which supposedly gives mass to the entire universe.  And billions of dollars have gone to research the origin of the universe, where and how did it all start… On the other hand psychologists, sociologists and other philosophers have examined the issues of mankind and have explored the wellbeing of human mind and what keeps us going, and where is the human race headed.

Vedas – the knowledge created by the Ancient Seers of India have described life and its abstract nature and its relation to God.   Their focus is on the ultimate knowledge which liberates us from the trials and tribulations of life.  Same is the case with Ashtavakra Gita and Bhagawad Gita.   Gita – the song of life, describes the duality which we are all sandwiched in.  Each action of ours brings forth a result and along with it, another set of problems.   No action is flawless.   And yet we need to act and be free.   Why is this knowledge so priceless?  Simply because it liberates us.   What does this liberation mean?  It means that we as individuals have a choice – a choice to see that the entire universe is our own creation and is one being.   This choice of seeing the whole instead of parts is liberating.   It transcends conventional behavior and actions. It transcends everything one sees from the plane of logic.


It doesn’t mean that logic is not important.  Logic is very important to know the cause and its effect.  Logic allows us to organize things efficiently; it helps us to run businesses, trains and organizations. But it stops at that. It doesn’t offer synthesis.

In the path of knowledge – Gyana Marga, it is all about finding this synthesis and thus happiness and liberation.  This synthesis is about the source of life, the source of everything and experiencing Oneness in spite of the duality life offers.   The ability to celebrate this Oneness over duality is what Gyana Marga is all about.

How does one start about on this path?  Most of you already are on the path.  The knowledge of life is not separated from life itself.


That is what Siddhartha, the young Buddha, sought before his enlightenment.   The ability to observe, contemplate and reflect, are the skills required on this path.  And all of us have been blessed with these skills.   So put them to use, and see the beauty of the universe through the lens of Oneness, and celebrate.

By Vikas Bhatia 


Bhakti Marga – The Ultimate path

Bhakti Marga – the path of Devotion is often referred as the pinnacle of all paths, where all other paths eventually converge.   It is one of rarity even though it is profoundly blissful.

bhakti 2

The Sufi Saints, Gopis of Krishna, Mira bai, Hanuman are examples of who walked this path.  Well, this is not even a path, it’s more of a state.  The state of devotion, in which the distinction between the limited Self and the object of devotion, often it being the – Universal Self disappears.   Even Gyan Marga talks about the very same thought.  Then how does this differ?

bhakti 1

Narada – in his treatise – Bhakti Sutras – describes the maturing of love as devotion.   When the desire or longing intensifies to a level, where the only focus is the attainment of the greatest, or the divine, one is said to be in state of devotion.   It is the next level to love.    Love is about coming close, merging.   At the physical level, this often manifests as attachment.   Love gets distorted to lust, anger and other negative feelings through the layer of Ego.  Ego field is the reason for the distortions we experience in our daily lives.   But without this ego interference, the power of Bhakti shines.

The wise people realized the dissolving of this veil of ego is easier when one effortlessly falls in deep love with the divine.   Devotion is the natural outcome.   One doesn’t seek anything more.  The part – Bhaj, is now merged with itself ( the bigger Self).  What more can a child ask for than to be re-united with the mother?


How does one even experience a taste of devotion?  Does it require one to sing hymns, praises to the divine?  Does it call for anything special?  The special thing to do is to turn ordinary!!!  Only an ordinary being can experience this special state of devotion.   Because even if one believes oneself to be something, the veil of ego will stop from experiencing devotion.  So in that sense, it is being totally surrendered, an act of wilful submission, of dissolving.

Na aham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaya na cha, madbhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami narada.

The Lord says: “O Narada, I dwell not in Vaikuntha, nor in the hearts of Yogis, but I dwell there where My Bhaktas sing My name!! The state of infinite bliss and bhakti are inseparable.

There is the keynote of devotion and surrender throughout the Gita. Bhakti-marga is the easiest, safest, surest and quickest way for attaining the highest bliss or God-realisation. That is the reason why Narada Rishi says: “Bhakti is greater than Karma, Jnana and Yoga. ”


That’s the ultimate Treasure – Love for the sake of love itself.  Love without any conditions. Love for the highest!!

This can not only uplift oneself, but the whole Humanity.  All great shifts have happened because of devotion of few people to a cause, country or God’s children.   The power is always there.  The power of Bhakti – by being the instrument of the divine.

Dissolve and be free !!!

By Vikas Bhatia 


On a treasure hunt of Self

Yes….I Know it now….The power of my being resides in myself.    There is nowhere else to go.  I and I alone can access it.   For years I believed that the keys to this treasure were somewhere far, in some distant exotic land and inaccessible unless one crosses the towering mountain cliffs and battles the devilish seas.   Now I know the journey is simpler, maybe there is no journey at all.   And the treasure awaits me.

med 4

So what is this treasure?  Why is still hidden?  And where are the keys? 

An ancient saying goes that God was often heckled by Man and his incessant requests.   Then God approached a wise Saint and wanted to know if there was someplace he could hide and be away from these constant demands.   Apparently wherever God went, Man would chase him and find him.  The saint advised God to take refuge in Man’s own heart.   That is one place he will never search for God!!

Aaah, so this treasure called Self or God is just there. In your heart and my heart…And so beautifully concealed that even with eyes wide open we just fail to notice.  And if and when we do, we might just dismiss is as irrational exalted state.   And then once again the doors shut and we wonder what next.


Just like for any treasure hunt, Man has been looking for the clues to this treasure.  Many have found it, and some have come very close.  It is time millions find it too.   But unlike the treasures for which the kings explored lands, this one is endless and limitless.   This treasure is something everyone can have and yet it will grow.   So what are the clues?

First of all just know that it is just there waiting for you.   Recognize that.  And you are that treasure.  So it is not removed from you.  It is part of you and you are part of it.    And all that you require is to remember this!!  So simple!!   Yet the myriad schemes the mind will come up with will take you away from this.  That’s the fake treasure called Maya.   Remembrance of the real treasure was always there, and yet the wily mind made it sound unreal.


Sage Ashtavakra told King Janaka in the Ashtawakra Gita –

muktabhimani mukto hi

baddho baddhabhimany api .

“You are what you think.”

If you think you are bound you are bound.

If you think you are free you are free.

The biggest fallacy is that the treasure is bound.  It is not.   Even the layers are illusionary.  The master sword of awareness of the supreme consciousness is all it takes to reach to this treasure.  The highest knowledge is the knowledge of the self.  And that is the treasure.

Jesus, Buddha and other enlightened Masters have shown the way to this treasure.

4 keys

Bhagwad Gita describes the four keys or ways to this treasure.   Gyan Marga,  Bhakti Marga,  Karma Marga and  Yoga Marga.   All Margas lead to the ultimate treasure of Kaivalya, freedom.  You can start anywhere and you are guaranteed this treasure.   Amazing isn’t it.    Where do you want to start?

By Vikas Bhatia 



Aum Jalbimbaye Vvidmahe

Nila Purushaye Dhimahi
Tanno Varunah Prachodayat

The Translation:

Om, let us meditate on the reflection of water
O person of ocean blue, give me higher intellect
And let the God of water illuminate my mind

Jal is the nectar of life. Water is the original creator.  Sprinkle just a few drops of cool water on the parched earth and see how life germinates there without any external help. “Jal” symbolizes boundless energy of an original idea, which can be ruthless amidst the winds of chaos.

Jal constitutes the phenomenal energy contained by the clouds, swaying to the rhythmic vayu. The clouds personifying the dark soldiers straddling horizons, obscuring the mighty sun and then showering life all over “Prithvi” (the Earth).

Such is the power of that one thought or “winning idea” that circumvents thousands of hurdles and prevails.

Saraswati, the great river, awakens us to knowledge by the perception and shines in all our thoughts. Saraswti, the inspiration is full of her luminous plenitudes, rich in substance of thought. She upholds the sacrifice, the offering of the mortal being’s activities to the divine by awakening his consciousness so that the right states of emotion occur.

The Jal in the river has the patience of eons, of “Kalpas” because it inherently represents the truth of an honest idea which has the unfathomable patience and energy to defeat all falsehoods obstructing its way.

Jal is also the eternal calm ocean. Deep, silent and cool on the surface, hiding, like the mind of a meditative sage, thousands of storms within. The ocean is the human consciousness and is often compared to the mind, the thoughts and emotions being the waves.

The Churning of the Ocean is allegorical, symbolising the great fight in the human bosom between Virtue and Vice. The forces of Virtue, the celestials, the devas fight the forces of Vice, the demons, the asuras. In this fight Immortality is the end result and Immortality is nothing but Self Actualisation !

By Aanchal Sethi


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…