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Showing posts from July, 2009

Leadership and the Gita: Leader Has the Beginner’s Mind

The opening scene of the Bhagavad Gita is immensely beautiful. Arjuna is in the battlefield and the armies are standing ready for battle. And as it frequently happens in the battlefield of life, he does not know what his best course of action is. And the more he thinks over it, the more he gets confused. Eventually he surrenders to Krishna and seeks his wisdom. He tells him: “My mind is confused about the right course of action. Please tell me what is better for me. I am your disciple, and I take refuge in you.” It is then that Krishna begins his teaching.

True learning begins only when we accept our ignorance.

We, particularly the leaders among us, often assume we have all the answers. We do not. Particularly in today’s fluid world of fast changing situations. In a world that was more or less stationary, it was possible that a leader had all the answers, or at least most of the answers. But certainly not in our world where the pace of change itself has become dizzyingly fast and situa…

Leadership and Krishna: A Leader Rejects the Crown

In Mathura Kamsa has just been slain. And with that an age of evil and corruption has come to an end.

Krishna has killed his wicked uncle.

There is festivity in the air. The hearts of everyone in Mathura is dancing, barring a few loyal followers of Kamsa and guests whom he had invited to Mathura. And Jarasandha’s Magadhan soldiers, who were engaged in guarding Mathura and its ruler. Jarasandha was the mightiest emperor of the day and Kamsa’s father-in-law. Two of his daughters, Asti and Prapti, were wedded to Kamsa. If Kamsa’s loyalists intended to protest Krishna’s killing of Kamsa, if they wanted revenge, the desire was suppressed deep into in their hearts – for their stood Balarama, a giant of unbelievable strength, with his mace in his hand warning sternly that the first one who tries to lift a weapon will be dead before he does so. Balarama has just killed Kamsa’s powerful wrestler Mushtika before their eyes and they understand he means what he says.

Happy cries of “victory to Kr…

Leadership, Ethics and Krishna

I happened to see the last few minutes of the Hindi movie Khosla ka Ghosla on TV again yesterday. The movie brought to my mind a question one of my students had asked me last week in the course in Leadership Excellence that I teach at XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur. She had asked if it was all right to take recourse to devious means for achieving dharmic – righteous – goals. Can we use adharma for achieving dharma? Shouldn’t the means used be as right as the end itself? Or does the end justify the means?

These questions are very significant. They are of extreme relevance to us both in our personal and our professional lives. Choice is part of every decision making act and these are questions that influence most of our choices.

The questions were raised in the course of our discussion of Krishna’s leadership in the Mahabharata, more specifically in the Mahabharata war. What the student who asked the questions had in mind was Krishna’s role in incidents like Dro…

Reimagining Indian Womanhood: Sita as a Woman of Substance

[Paper presented by the author at the 2nd International Conference on Religions and Cultures in the Indic Civilization organised by The Indic Studies Network, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Manushi, and supported by Infinity Foundation, Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India. 17-20 December 2005, Indian Habitat Centre, New Delhi.]

Sita has been the symbol of the ideal Indian womanhood ever since the Ramayana. Even today the Indian woman readily identifies with her. Treating her as the role model engenders a certain self-image and a set of values, attitudes and characteristics in her, deeply colouring her self-perceptions and life expectations.

The popular image of Sita that so powerfully shapes the Indian womanhood is essentially that of a very docile person, someone who gives unbounded love but accepts injustice, cruelty, neglect, humiliation and banishment quietly, uncomplainingly. This ideal wife archetype is perceived as a m…

A Woman from the Arabian Nights

No single work of literature in the world contains more fascinating women than the Arabian Nights. The most amazing thing about the book is that it contains women of every imaginable shade, and each single one of them is unforgettable. There are hundreds of women whose stories are told in the Nights, but no two women are alike, and no two women’s stories are the same. There are women who display the highest love and devotion and there are betrayers and adulteresses by the score; there are women the savagery of whose acts is beyond belief and others whose goodness is equally unbelievable; if there are women whose powers would awe you, there are others whose beauty will caste a spell over you; if women of great chastity abound, there are innumerable sex hungry women whose predatoriness will stop at nothing.

I was looking for scholarly women in literature when I came across this particular woman in the Arabian Nights, one of my all-time favourite books. I wonder if literature has ever…

Eckhart Tolle and A New Earth: Awakening of Life’s Purpose

The book that I picked up at random for reading this morning was Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose.

I once used Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now as a text in one of the courses I taught [jointly with a friend of mine] at XLRI School of Business, Jamshedpur. It is an impressive book by any standards and one of the clearest to come from the west about spirituality in recent times.

One of my friends has recently published a book that compares the teachings of Tolle and Sri Aurobindo. I am sure that will be an interesting book and plan to read it as soon as I can get a copy. I had a long discussion over the phone with my publisher friend about the book and I wish I had had that discussion after I had read A New Earth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose. The book is about a subject that was very close to Aurobindo’s heart and central to his thought: the evolution of consciousness.

Speaking about the evolution of human consciousness, Tolle in A New Earth compares it to the fi…

Buddha in the Business World 2

[Continued from Buddha in the Business World 1]

Siddhartha first says in Kamaswami’s house as his guest and then begins working for him. “Siddhartha learned many new things; he heard a lot and spoke little. And thinking of Kamala’s words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced him to treat him as an equal, yes even more than an equal. Kamaswami conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha looked upon all of this as if it was a game, the rules of which he tried hard to learn precisely, but the contents of which did not touch his heart.”

Simultaneously, young Siddhartha learns other things too – from Kamala. “Much he learned from her red, smart mouth. Much he learned from her tender, supple hand… Wonderful hours he spent with the beautiful and smart artist, became her student, her lover, her friend.”

Kamaswami soon realizes that while Siddhartha has no real interest in business, he has “that mysterious quality of those people to whom success comes all …