Thursday, December 24, 2009

Daivi Leadership

The Daivi Leadership model is based on the daivi sampad discussed in the sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. It is also based on the life of Krishna as a leader and on his teachings. Besides these, in developing the Daivi model of leadership, I have used insights from the wisdom of the Vedas and the Upanishads as well as from Indian leadership philosophy as discussed in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Arthashastra, Tirukkural and other ancient Indian literary works. The Daivi model of leadership is a contrast to the Asuri model of leadership, which I have developed from the asuri sampad as discussed by the Bhagavad Gita and leadership thoughts in the texts mentioned above. These two twin leadership models form the extreme ends of a continuum, the Daivi Leadership being the best and the Asuri Leadership being the worst. In the ultimate analysis, Daivi Leadership focuses on light that ennobles the life of all people involved, whereas Asuri Leadership focuses on power for its practitioners, utilized for dominating others and creating wealth through exploitation. Eventually however, Asuri Leadership leads to all-round misery.

I have been teaching both the Daivi Leadership model and the Asuri Leadership model for the last couple of years at XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur. These models are taught in detail as part of my course in Indian Philosophy for Leadership Excellence. What follows is a brief summary of the Daivi Leadership model.

The Bhagavad Gita lists daivi sampad as fearlessness, purity of heart, generosity, sacrifice, compassion, absence of covetousness, vigour, fortitude, etc. Asuri Sampad is described as hypocrisy, arrogance, self-conceit, anger, harshness, ignorance, etc.

As other types of leaders have, the Daivi Leader too has a powerful vision and mission, which in the case of the daivi leader is a noble one. He is passionate about his mission and his commitment to his mission is total. The Daivi Leader shows the willingness to sacrifice his name and his life itself at the altar of his cause.

While the Daivi Leader is highly moral, his morality is often different from that of the society to which he belongs because he functions from a higher moral plane. He also raises his followers too to a higher moral plane, as the transformational leader does.

The Daivi Leader shows the same deep commitment to his followers as he shows to his mission and never abandons them. He treats their needs as their needs and their problems as his problems. He sees his happiness in their happiness, his success in their success. He considers as good not what pleases him but what is good for his followers and sees their welfare as his welfare. His care for his people is that of a pregnant woman to the child in her womb. Just as she constantly thinks about that child and lives for it and does nothing that will harm it even if she loves to do it for herself, he too lives for his followers and does nothing that will harm them.

The Daivi Leader has all the qualities that the Bhagavad Gita lists as daivi sampad and suffers from none of the evil qualities the Gita speaks of as asuri sampad. He is highly autonomous and has both great strength and vulnerability. He does not believe in hiding behind masks or playing helpless but accepts himself as he is.

In spite of problems facing him, the Daivi Leader retains his self-mastery. This helps him in retaining his serenity, which is a basic requirement for clear perceptions, unerring intuitions and right decision making. He has the energy and freshness of youth, has the quality of flowing, is childlike and is highly creative. Because of his originality and creativity, he is an expert in thinking outside the box.

For the Daivi Leader, his mission comes before his ego. For this reason, he is willing to accept injuries to his ego in the process of achieving his mission. He is also willing to serve, without occupying positions of authority, as the servant leader does. He can let go of things, which makes him very flexible where required. Because of his flexibility, he knows when to be firm and when to yield. He knows when to assert himself and when to gracefully surrender in the interest of his mission. Though he is generally gentle with people because of his sensitivity, he can also be tough if the situation requires it.

While being passionately in love with the world and life, the Daivi Leader also knows how to withdraw into himself and remain contented in the solitude of his inner sanctuary.

He is interested in what the Upanishads call preyas – immediate satisfaction, short term goals – but never loses sight of shreyas – long term good, which is his real interest. In the same way he is interested in both abhyudaya and nisshreyasa – prosperity in the material sense and prosperity in the spiritual sense. He sees life as a sacred yajna, a holy sacrifice, and looks upon his leadership too as such. He has both the passion of a devotee and his humility. In work he is a karma yogi.

The Daivi Leader trusts people and in their essential goodness. Because of his trust for people, he creates an atmosphere of trust in his organization. The Daivi Leader’s presence is that of a sattvic person – unlike the tamasic person who sucks up your energy and leaves you drained, and unlike the rajasic person who both energises you and makes you restless, the Daivi Leader energises you and at the same time help you reach your inner serenity. Like Krishna in the Mahabharata, at his highest level, he is gunatita, beyond all the three gunas.

Nyasa – the sense of detachment and renunciation – is part of the Daivi Leader’s attitude towards people and life. While he passionately cares for his people and is intensely concerned about them, he is not carried away by his care and concern. He is able to detach himself from them and is able to look at them objectively and make clear assessment of them and their situations.

The Daivi Leader is motivated more by the need to give than by the need to get. He is not driven by deficiency motivation. At the organizational and at the personal level, he has the three purusharthas of dharma, artha and kama – virtue, wealth and pleasures – balanced.

Speaking of the effectiveness of Daivi Leadership, ancient India had achieved great economic, cultural, educational, ethical, philosophical and spiritual heights and high standards of living for its people. This was possible because of the Daivi Leadership it practiced.


Friday, December 11, 2009


I was reading Romain Rolland’s Life of Sri Ramakrishna this morning when I came across this fascinating incident from the life of the great master. The incident involves Sri Ramakrishna’s guru Tota Puri coming under the influence of Maya and the the sage of Dakshineshwar, the disciple, laughing at it with the merriment of a child.

Tota Puri, the naked saint, as everyone familiar with the life of Sri Ramakrishna knows, is one of the two teachers of the saint of Dakhineshwar, the other being Bhairavi Brahmani. While the Brahmani’s instructions to Sri Ramakrishna were mostly in tantric spiritual practices, Tota Puri was the master’s teacher in Advaita.

Speaking about Tota Puri, Ramain Rolland says: “Towards the end of 1864 just at the moment when Ramakrishna had achieved his conquest of the personal God, the messenger of the impersonal God, ignorant as yet of his mission, arrived at Dakshineshwar. This was Tota Puri – an extraordinary Vedantic ascetic, a wandering monk, who had reached the ultimate revelation after forty years of preparation – a liberated soul, whose impersonal gaze looked upon the phantom of this world with complete indifference.”

Sri Ramakrishna is then twenty-eight years old. When Tota Puri sees him first, Sri Ramakrishna is seated on one of the steps of the temple at Dakshineshwar, lost in the ecstasy of a vision. Tota Puri tells him, “My son, I see that you have already travelled far along the way of truth. If you so wish it, I can help you reach the next stage, I will teach you Vedanta.”

Sri Ramakrishna answers that he must first seek the permission of the Divine Mother [Kali] and can accept his guidance only if the Mother permits it. He runs to the temple and comes back in a short while – yes, she has given him her permission. Ramakrishna becomes Tota Puri’s disciple.

Tota Puri was a wandering monk who had taken the vow of never staying at one place for more than three days. But fascinated by his extraordinary disciple, he breaks his vow and stays at Dakshineshwar for eleven months, instructing Sri Ramakrishna in the highest spiritual practices.

Speaking about the final stage of his sadhanas, the master says: “Nangta Baba [the naked saint, Tota Puri] taught me to detach my mind from all objects and to plunge it into the heart of the Atman. But despite all my efforts, I could not cross the realm of name and form and lead my spirit to the Unconditional state. I had no difficulty in detaching my mind from all objects with the one exception of the form of the radiant Mother [Kali], the essence of pure knowledge, who appeared before me as a living reality. She barred the say to the beyond. I tried on several occasions to concentrate my mind on the precepts of Advaita Vedanta, but each time the form of the Mother intervened. I said to Nangta Baba in despair: ‘It is no good. I shall never succeed in lifting my spirit to the “unconditioned” state and find myself face to face with the Atman.’ He replied severely, ‘What! You say you cannot? You must!’ Looking about him, he found a piece of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes, saying: “Concentrate your point on that point.” Then I began to meditate with all my might, and as soon as the gracious form of the Divine Mother appeared, I used my discrimination as a sword, and I clove Her in two. The last barrier fell and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the ‘conditioned”, and I lost myself in Samadhi.’

Sri Ramakrishna thus reaches the highest peaks of spirituality under the guidance of Tota Puri.

Something extraordinarily fascinating happens on a subsequent occasion.

The Nangta Baba was contemptuous of all rituals, prayers, hymns, dances and so on and he expressed his contempt openly. But over time, the beauty of Sri Ramakrishna and of his prayers and rituals began working their charm on Tota Puri. Certain hymns sung in his melodious voice moved Tota Puri so that hidden tears came into his eyes. The man who had scornfully rejected all emotions had now begun to come under their influence.

Let me quote Rolland here, “There are contradictions, often unobserved by their owners, even in the strongest minds. This scorner of cults had the weakness to adore a symbol in the shape of fire: for he always kept a lighted one near him. One day a servant came to remove some brands, and Tota Puri protested against such disrespect. Ramakrishna laughed, as only he knew how to laugh, with the gaiety of a child. ‘Look, look,’ he cried: ‘You also have succumbed to the irresistible power of Maya!’


That is Maya.

One of the definitions of Maya is ‘the power that makes the impossible possible.’ Even the greatest masters become subject to her unawares. That is the reason why the Adhyatma Upanishad says:

yathāpakrshtam śaivālam kshanamātram na tishthati |
avrnoti tathā māyā prajnām vāpi parāngmukhām || Adhyatma Up 15||

“Just as the moss in a tank momentarily displaced resumes again its original position in a minute, so too Maya envelops even the wise, should they be careless even for a moment.”

Here is a beautiful story told by our Pauranic lore.

Sage Narada is walking across a vast desert with God as his companion. The silence between them is broken by a question Narada asks, "Tell me Bhagavan, what is the secret of Maya?"

God smiles and makes no reply. They continue their walk.

After a while God tells Narada, "The sun is hot today, and I am thirsty. Ahead you will find a village. Go there and fetch me some water."

Narada sets off. Arriving at the village, he approaches the first house he sees and knocks at the door. A beautiful young woman answers. The moment the sage looks into her eyes he forgets why he has come there.

The woman ushers Narada into the house, where he is warmly welcomed by her family. It is as if everyone in this gentle household has been expecting him. The sage is asked to eat with the family, and then to stay the night, which Narada accepts gladly, enjoying the family's warm hospitality and secretly marveling at the young woman's loveliness.

A week goes by, then two. Sage decides to stay on, and he soon begins to share in the household chores. And then one day, unable to resist the temptation any more, Narada asks for the woman's hand in marriage. The family has been expecting this, it turns out. Everyone is overjoyed.

The sage and his young wife settle down in her family's house, where she soon bears him three children – two sons and a daughter.

Years pass. When his wife's mother and father pass away, the sage takes over as head of the household. He opens a small shop in the village and it prospers. Before long he is an honored citizen of the community. Giving himself up to the age-old joys and sorrows of village life, Narada lives there contentedly for many years.

Then one night during the monsoon season a violent storm breaks overhead, and the river rises so high from the sudden rains that the village begins to flood. Narada gathers his family and leads them through the dark night toward higher ground. But the winds blow so violently and the rain pelts down with such force that one of his sons is washed away by the torrent.

Narada reaches for the boy, and in so doing lets go of his second son. A moment later a gale tears his daughter from his arms. Then his beloved wife is washed away into the roaring darkness.

The sage wails helplessly and claws at the sky. But his cries are drowned by a towering wave that rises from the depths of the terrible night and washes him headlong into the river.

Everything goes black. Hours pass. Slowly, painfully, Narada comes to his senses, only to discover that he has been washed onto a sandbank far down the river. It is daytime now, and the storm has passed. But there is no sign of his family anywhere, nor, for that matter, of any living creature.

For a long time the sage remains lying on the sand almost mad with grief. Bits of wreckage float past him in the river. The smell of death is on the wind.

Everything has been taken from him now; everything has disappeared into the swirling waters. There is little to do, it seems, but weep.

Then, suddenly, the sage hears a voice behind him that makes the blood stop in his veins. "Narada," the voice asks, "where is the water you went to fetch?" The sage turns and sees God standing at his side. The river has vanished, and once again he and God are alone in the empty desert. "Where is my water?" God asks again. "I have been waiting for you to bring it now for several minutes."

The sage throws himself at the Lord's feet and begs for forgiveness. "I forgot!" Narada cries again and again. “I forgot what you asked of me, God! Forgive me!”

God smiles and asks, "Do you now understand the power of Maya, Narada?”


That’s the power of Maya. Even great sages like Narada and Tota Puri are subject to her.

Is there no way out then?

Yes, say the great masters. Surrender to her, accept her as the Divine Mother, as the mother of the universe, and live your life as a celebration of her lila.

Not blinded by that lila, but with your eyes open.


Romain Rolland: The Way of the East, The Way of the West

Reading The Life of Ramakrishna by Romain Rolland this morning, I came across a beautiful passage which I felt I should share with my readers. For those who are not familiar with Romain Rolland, he is a Frenchman and a Nobel Prize winner for literature, whose magnum opus is the giant Jean Christophe, acknowledged as one of the greatest works of modern literature. Rolland’s original book on Sri Ramakrishna is in French and what is given below is from an English translation by E. F. Malcolm-Smith, Ph.D.


“The age-long history of the spirit of India is the history of a countless throng marching ever to the conquest of supreme Reality. All the great peoples of the world, wittingly or unwittingly, have the same fundamental aim; they belong to the conquerors, who age by age go up to assault the Reality of which they form a part, and which lures them on the strive and climb; sometimes they fall out exhausted, then with recovered breath they mount undaunted until they have conquered or been overcome. But each one does not see the same face of Reality. It is like a great fortified city, beleaguered on different sides by different armies, who are not in alliance. Each army has its own tactics and weapons to solve its own problems of attack and assault. Our western races storm the bastions, the outer works. They desire to overcome the physical forces of Nature, to make her laws their own, so that they may construct weapons therefrom for gaining the inner citadel, and forcing the whole fortress to capitulate.

“India proceeds along different lines. She goes straight to the centre, to the Commander-in-Chief of the unseen General Headquarters, for the Reality she seeks is transcendental. But let us be careful not to put Western ‘realism’ in opposition to Indian ‘idealism’. Both are ‘realisms’. Indians are essentially realists in that they are not easily contented with abstractions, and that they attain their deal by the self-chosen means of enjoyment and sensual possession. They must see, hear, taste, and touch ideas. Both in sensual richness and in their extraordinary imaginative power they are far in advance of the west.

“How then can we reject their evidence in the name of Western reason? Reason, in our eyes, is an impersonal and objective path open to all men. But is reason really objective? To what degree is it true in particular instances? Has it no personal limits? Again, has it been carefully noted that the ‘realizations’ of the Hindu mind, which seem to us ultra-subjective, are nothing of the kind in India, where they are the logical result of scientific methods and of careful experiment, tested throughout the centuries and duly recorded? Each great religious visionary is able to show his disciples the way by which without a shadow of doubt they too may attain the slave visions. Surely both methods, the Eastern and the Western, merit an almost equal measure of scientific doubt and provisional trust.”


What Romain Rolland says is no more than the truth. Yet it is fascinating to watch a man like Romain Rolland seeing so clearly this truth about Indian that vast sections of us Indians miss ourselves.

To appreciate fully the magnitude of Rolland’s perception, we must remember that his words were written when India was a slave nation to the West, a colony of the British. It indeed needs great perceptiveness on the part of a Westerner to see this and great courage to say this about a slave nation.


Weakness and Strength

Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.

The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move. “Sensei,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?” “This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” the sensei replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.

Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.

This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. “No,” the sensei insisted, “Let him continue.”

Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.

On the way home, the boy and sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind.

“Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?” “You won for two reasons,” the sensei answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defence for that move is for your opponent to grip your left arm.”

The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.


One Glass of Milk

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house.

However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door. Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?” “You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.” He said...”Then I thank you from my heart.”

As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Years later that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease. Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life.

From that day he gave special attention to the case. After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, and then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words... “Paid in full with one glass of milk.”



An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had singed her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings had lived.