Spirituality pervades every sphere, be it business, management, governance, health care, or any other secular engagements. This book explores and analyses how spirituality can stall degenerative trends in these areas. This book offers critical insights into spirituality-in-action that will be useful for leaders and managers of enterprises, scholars and researchers in management, sociology, and psychology and post-graduate students in these areas.
About the Author
S. K. Chakraborty is currently the Mentor Emeritus of Rabindranath Tagore Centre for Human Values in Kolkata. He is former Professor and Founder Convenor, Management Centre for Human Values, IIM Calcutta.
Debangshu Chakraborty is currently serving Ambuja Neotia Group as the Head HR of the Realty and Facility verticals. Formerly associated with Varroc Group of Companies at Aurangabad (Maharashtra) as Senior Manager-Corp HR and Dept. of Management, BIT (Mesra), Kolkata Centre.
The one unambiguous and unanimous lesson from Bharatvarsha's (i.e. India's) tryst with spiritual religion is: first to discover the Divine within, and then to manifest It without. And, consequently, to be Blissful to oneself and to others. This keynote rings consistently in all the streams of Bharat's 'core culture' comprising Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. Sufi-Parsi mysticism, though originating in Persia, perhaps echoes the same note as the 'core culture'. This common mandate is woven into all the roles and functions humanity and society should perform - in principle. This is the core of the 'clean leadership' concept this book espouses. By common consent, murky leadership ('dealership' in effect) now holds the stage the world over. The 'rajarshi' model embodies such 'cleanliness' to the highest degree. Murkiness to a 'rajarshi' leader will be anathema.
Now that even business organizations and management literature have begun to show interest in Spirituality, this may in some respects be encouraging. Yet, it has been deemed important to reiterate the 'clean' essence. For, it would be frivolous to concoct a kind of 'secular' or 'business' spirituality. Such unseemly branding may soon relegate Spirituality too to an instrumental status for stoking and gratifying the impulses of the lower vital, hedonistic goals. This book, therefore, offers critical insights into some of the authentic versus pseudo concerns in recent engagements with Spirituality. It aspires to stimulate serious and honest interest in Spirituality among leaders. It is well to be conscious that the zeitgeist of the present times has turned upside down the dictum we had learnt in our boyhood: 'If wealth is lost, nothing is lost; if health is lost, something is lost; if character is lost, everything is lost: Today the overriding mantra seems to be: 'If Character is lost, nothing is lost; if wealth is lost everything is lost: Yet, the tragic case (September, 2012) of an Indian CEO of a top American company being jailed there for twenty-five years for charges of insider trading, etc., proves that old truths are perennial.
As for the contents of the book, the chapters are largely independent pieces. However, the connecting thread of Spirituality strings them together. Some cross-referencing has been done. Hence, the reader could begin anywhere without incurring loss of meaning. Each chapter has received nourishment from the authors' experience garnered through continuous and thorough involvement with members of secular organizations throughout India, and at times in the West and the East also. Such experience, stretching across a period of thirty years and more than ten thousand participants, has accrued from intensive workshops conducted for two or three whole days each time. Each group of participants (twenty to thirty) is exposed to one, two, or three modules of conceptual and experiential learning. The contents of these modules are organized around several foundational concepts, theories and processes of Yoga-Vedanta (Y-V) psycho-philosophy. Throughout the text numerous real-life, contemporary examples of Spirituality-in- action illustrate the principles highlighted in the volume. They first 'be-come; then 'do'.
Secular interpretations of organizational issues addressed below are set against the wider sacred canvas of Indian culture - both past and present. The future depends critically on how would-be clean or rajarshi leaders evaluate these antecedents. Especially, if secularists spurn Indian's past essence, the future too might then reject her. Therefore, this book has not shied away from touching on a few controversial issues. Superficial politeness has been avoided while dealing with them. Falsehood and opportunism of a disconcerting degree afflict large sections of Indian intellectuals and leader-dealers. This is bringing no good to any quarter; rather irreparable harm is being done. Secularism cannot ever help India to emerge as a winner in any sphere. The Bible had cautioned us with foresight: 'Do not lean on a broken reed, for such is man: Replace leader for man and the Indian crisis stands fully explained.
Truth or Wisdom of the Spirit has always been possessed by persons of tyaga (abnegation). The history of the human race proves this fact irrefutably. But the decisive drift of the human mind since the l8th century has been towards bhoga (hedonism). The more the better. Overloaded with matter, crushed under its weight, typical 21st century minds cannot recognize their incapacity for Truth, for Spirit - even for clean thinking. Fragmented, vested 'truths' in endless succession are creating bewildering chaos. Yet, the much-scoffed superstitious ancient mind had left a virgin Mother Earth for succeeding generations. The enlightened scientific mind has, however, since the 18th century, been bequeathing to us a groaning Mother Earth. It is this vital Truth which awaits its hour in the new discourse on Spirituality in business, politics, technology, management and much else. Once this begins to happen, stock phrases like self-actualization, achievement motivation, etc., will carry theoretical meanings and practical implications altogether superior to those implied even in the seminal writings on these topics. Only then could man, instead of politics and business, become the 'measure of all things'. Let none trivialize spirituality by treating it in a cavalier fashion. Examples will follow.
Another angle to the theme of this book: The centralized and volatile, rights-driven and conflict-ridden, West-inspired urban culture of the present is hostile to Spirituality. This is a life-and-death issue. Whether such a state of affairs can be undone, sooner or later is no question. It is the decentralized and stable, duties-inspired and cooperative grass-roots culture of organic times (at least in Bharatvarsha) which had produced the long line of spiritual giants, the rishis. There are disquieting signs that the 'don't care, except votes and bottom line' attitude of politics and commerce is trying to make an ally of even Spirituality as a technique for its own ends. Pray, let us be sensible enough not to fiddle with the priceless legacy of the rishis. This perspective too should exert a sobering influence on the new-born glamour-child called 'business spirituality' (much like 'business ethics') caught in the cunning coil of despotic economism.
Much after completing this manuscript, and during the third revision of this Preface, we perchance came upon these words of Swami Vivekananda (spoken in reply to the welcome address by the Maharaja of Khetri):' ... Whoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a great benefactor to his nation' (Complete Works, vol. IV, p. 324). This was quite a gratifying retrospective endorsement of what this book has attempted. And, who else but Sri Aurobindo has discharged this desh rin so comprehensively and meticulously, so delectably and lovingly. All Indians must feel indebted to their likes for aeons to come.
It is also worth mentioning at the start that although everything explained below applies generally to every field of leadership, the sphere of politics has been referred sparingly. People tend to feel that so-called leaders in this arena are perhaps beyond redemption - ill- educated and ill-bred as most of them are today. But surely the exceptional minority here also could profit by studying this book. The pages below convey a bit of the flavour of history as well by sharing some anecdotes and experiences of our times as well as that of the past. This should be good for serious readers of the future. And from them could blossom a few rajarshis as the 'salt of the earth'.
A small beginning was made when our first book, drawing upon Indian psycho-philosophy (primarily Yoga-Vedanta) for running secular organizations, was published in 1985 (Chakraborty, 1985). Yoga-Vedanta (Y-V) psycho-philosophy is widely recognized as the route to the highest peak of spirituality within the comprehensive range of what is generally called Hinduism. Y-V has always been universal, free as it is from identification with any single founder-prophet or ecclesiastical outfit. For this very reason Y-V is non-dogmatic, non-proselytizing and all-tolerant as well. So the door is open here even for an atheist to peep into the courtyard of Spirit - if she or he wishes. It is noteworthy that Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, though derived from or associated with the names of their respective founding avatars, are also all-tolerant. Their birth in the womb of Sanatan Hindu religion may be the most probable reason for this positive but rare characteristic. Children are different from their parents. But that does not eliminate the fact of the parent-offspring relationship.
Be that as it may, it was then a plunge into uncharted waters. Intuitive conviction in the perennial worth of such insights and processes, especially in the Indian cultural context, was the only empowerment behind the effort. Words like values, ethics, spirituality, yoga, etc., were then hardly heard in the realm of management. Since then much water has flown under the bridge. Quite a bit has been spoken and written on these topics over the last two and a half decades or so. Many others have joined hands in exploring this territory. Yet, for long we have been reticent in talking about Spirituality so directly and abundantly. But now certain academics are beginning to deal with even this topic by quantitative research techniques. This book is an effort therefore to put the subject in its proper perspective. Spirituality is too sacred and ineffable to be approached along conventional intellectual tracks. Here proof follows faith. The common gospel 'what can-not be measured cannot be improved' may apply well in the sphere of physical objects and processes. But it is a folly to pursue this approach in the spiritual domain*.The mother's love for her child cannot, and should not be expressed in quantitative terms. And this is true of spiritual practice as a whole. Of course, the effects of progress in this direction can be keenly sensed, felt or observed. Clean leadership must seize upon this truth.
A popular posture of today is: Yes, spirituality may have something of use to offer; but it must first clear rigorous scientific tests to be able to claim trust and faith. This stand has to be questioned on the following grounds:
(a) The assumption that modern sci-tech alone is the master of truths forgets that all the Ultimate Human Truths had been intuited several thousand years ago in the ashrams, tapovans, and mountain caves.
(b) The devastating results associated with 'rigorously tested' sci-tech theories and techniques over the last three centuries or so lurk just a little below the surface glitter- global warming to high-tech terrorism, existential vacuum to cyber porn, etc., (see Chapter 5). How can such a regimen of 'rigorous tests' then sit in judgement over spirituality? It should be the other way round.
(c) The assumption is that spirituality is all airy-fairy, offering nothing as universally precise and true as H2O for water, lacking any process of verification and so on. We should then listen to Sri Aurobindo on this score (Sethna, 1997):
'I must remind you that I have been an intellectual myself, and no stranger to doubt. I think I can say that I have been testing day and night for years upon years more scrupulously than any scientist his theory or his method on the physical plane:
Besides, the following pages are not a 'Spirituality Made Easy' venture. The book tries more to inform and inspire leaders towards authentic spirituality in the course of our secular pursuits (artha and kama), not so much to teach or research it. There are persons better qualified than us to play the teacher-mentor role. Nor is it a scholarly treatise which can meet the exacting standards of academics specializing in philosophy or psychology. This book aims at performing leaders in business and other fields. The authors bring here the experience of more than three decades of intensive communication of several salient concepts and processes to more than 10,000 such people, representing the multi-culture mosaic of India.
From the spiritual viewpoint, 'pious poverty' has been found to be more common than 'holy affluence'. This seems to hold true at all levels - from the individual, familial, organizational, to the national and global levels. Spirituality is a state for 'subjective realization'. This is the reason for coining the phrase 'human response' (Chakraborty, 1985) in lieu of' human resource'. Unless this all-important principle is held fast, spirituality as an end, solving or preventing the way the ills that sorely afflict us today, will remain elusive. Spirituality is not a field for 'objective research'. Physicists of real mettle have already admitted that so-called 'objective' research is impossible for human investigators even in the material sphere. Organizations of all kinds and society at large need leaders and members who are able to concentrate, whatever spare energy and time they can manage, on 'realization' of the Spirit. The case for academic research is but marginal, secondary. Frankly, academics themselves might do well to devote much more of their relatively ample time to gain some spiritual 'realization' within, than to carry out 'research' for career goals.
Next, the word 'secular'. It recurs in the text as an unavoidable foil to 'spirituality'. And this juxtaposition is necessary too. The word 'secular' has, therefore, been explained below according to five popular English dictionaries:
The New Collins Concise Dictionary (1982):
1. Of or relating to worldly as opposed to sacred things.
2. Not concerned with or related to religion.
3. Not within the control of the church.
4. An education having no particular religious affinities.
5. Not bound by religious vows to a monastic or other order.
6. Occurring or appearing once in an age.
7. Lasting for a long time.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1990):
1. Concerned with the affairs of this world, not spiritual or sacred.
2. (Education) not concerned with religion or religious belief.
3. Not ecclesiastical or monastic, not bound by a religious rule.
4. Occurring once in an age or century.
5. Lasting for or occurring over an indefinitely long time.
The Chambers Thesaurus (1999):
The New International Webster's Pocket Dictionary (2001):
1. Of or pertaining to this world or the present life, temporal, worldly, contrasted with religious or spiritual. 2. Not under the control of the church, civil- not ecclesiastical. 3. Not concerned with religion, not sacred. 4. Not bound by monastic vows, opposed to secular. The gist of all these explanations is that spirituality is a sacred existential state. But the secular realm is solely material and sensual. Nevertheless, the varied agencies managing politics, business and other secular functions can perform more exalted, honourable and wholesome roles by learning to honour the spirituality impulse for piety and holiness, taming the drive for monetary success and reward. In the process, nothing actually remains secular; everything becomes spiritual. But, as the following typical event indicates, we are as yet far removed from such saving convergence.
The Management department of a premier Indian university had organized a three-day conference on spirituality in organizations in early 2007. A Western university had partnered it. One of the Indian presenters had been allotted thirty minutes in the morning plenary session of the second day. The audience was about one hundred strong, including academics from the West as well as the East. The other three presenters were all from that Western university, including the chairperson. The Indian presenter spoke directly to the audience-no PowerPoint or video shows. His key question was: What is the true motive underlying the sudden spurt of interest in spirituality in business organizations? The management cupboard is already full of skeletons from the recent past: T-group, sensitivity training, behavioural labs, management by objectives (MBO), transactional analysis, PPBS, TQM, BPR, ERP, business games, business ethics, Six Sigma, ISO and so on. The 'tool-making animal' that man is, he seems now ready to turn spirituality too into yet another 'tool' for the business of profit or other kinds of secular success. This is sheer hijacking. The other three presentations did not evince interest in such prime issues. Rather, through a brain-teasing series of packaged PowerPoint slides, the theme of spirituality was turned into an intricate intellectual maze - boxes, curves, loops, arrows and all that in full measure. Shakespeare's words seemed to come alive: '... a tale told by an..., all sound and fury, signifying nothing!"
Interestingly, in the two subsequent concurrent sessions also, both the presenters and coordinators were again from the same Western university. The grapevine has it that as a condition for some aid by a UN agency, a Western university had to be taken as partner. It was, however, evident during the post-plenary question-answer interval that the listeners could not relate sensibly to any of the presentations, except the one by the Indian speaker. For, practically all the questions were directed towards him.
Another curious aspect of these Western presentations was the frequent assertion that 'spirituality is in, but religion is out: Why not then argue, with but a slight inflection: 'science is in, but technology is out'? The overzealous sci-tech movement of the last four secular centuries in the West had reacted strongly against Church-dominated religion and politics. This conflict has never been true of India. In any case, the West threw away the 'baby' of spirituality too, along with some 'dirty water' in the 'bath-tub' of religion. Now it seemingly wants to reclaim the 'baby' without the 'bath tub. What will then hold the 'baby'? Of all cultures, Bharat's experience should be remembered in this regard: spirituality has always been the core of religion. One cannot get a ripe mango without its outer skin or inner seed. Using the imagery of a scaffolding with many supports needed before a building can be completed, Sri Aurobindo had asserted: 'The religious culture which now goes by the name of Hinduism not only fulfilled this purpose, but, unlike certain creedal religions, it knew its purpose' (Aurobindo, 1997b). Swami Vivekananda too had it right: 'Religion is Realization'. This can be nothing else but spirituality. Realizing with certitude that one's true Self is a constant, luminous, bliss-in-itself perfection, and not just a mass of variables, fickle and caged in the sensual body-mind self - this is religious spirituality or spiritual religion.
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