Integrating Head, Heart and Hand – The heart of Gita

Read this beautiful interview of Michael Lerner on Dailygood and I wanted to snip a part of it where he talks of Gita and post it out here.

When I think about this, when we go back to what the great traditions tell us about what it means to be human, virtually all of them-the perennial philosophy at the heart of all the great traditions-what are we given? We’re given our heads, our thoughts, our minds; we’re given our hearts, our capacity for compassion and kindness, and we’re given our hands, which is acts of service.

If you go back, for example, to the Bhagavad Gita, what are the three great yogas that compete for supremacy? They are jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom; there is bhakti yoga, the yoga of the heart; and there is karma yoga, the yoga of the hands. I’ve been so fascinated because this is biologically designed; we all have heads, we all have hearts, and we all have hands. And in every tradition you find those three things in one form or another. In Christianity, faith is the jnana yoga; love is the bhakti yoga; hope is the karma yoga. You find the same in every tradition.

And so to me, we each are designed with different ratios, in some sense, of the degree to which we serve with our minds, serve with our hands, and serve with our hearts. But the traditions tell us that the greatest of these yogas, at least in the Bhagavad Gita and many of the great spiritual traditions teach us, that the yoga of love, of compassion, of kindness is the greatest of all three, the yoga of the heart. The mind is a wonderful servant to that-and the hands, enacted in the world.

So to me, it isn’t how I, or others, make the leap from thought to service-to action in the world-it’s that these three things are innate in us. And we each should have different preferences, perhaps at different times in our lives. Awakin, you knopw, this wonderful idea of waking up with kin, with kindred spirits, with those who are aligned with us -when we come together in community like that, we are just impelled towards some form of service.


An Unspeakable Tragedy & a Lesson for You

Like a never ending cycle, the natural disasters continue to strike again and again with a sickening regularity. I had blogged about Tsunami, the Kosi floods, floods in Northern Karnataka, Kedarnath tragedy amongst a few on this blog and had shut myself off from several others.

I now vacillate between “let me contribute something” to “I just don’t care” to natural and man made disasters.

The Nepal Earthquake that occurred yesterday was too close to ignore. But unlike past disasters, the Govt of India, seems to have got it right with respect to the response both in terms of time and communication. Some of the central ministers were online posting updates on twitter and this was a huge departure from previous times when the Govt was slow to move and would do too little, too late.

About two weeks back, Prof Srikumar Rao‘ marketing mail had a great message on Service and while he wrote it in the context of the war in Yemen – where incidentally the Govt of India was very prompt in evacuating Indians and foreign nationals with alacrity – the message is a larger one, applicable to all of us, anytime we see natural or man made disasters occurring. The title of this post is also courtesy Prof Rao.

I read this in the New York Times last week and my throat tightened.

India Tries Evacuating Citizens in Yemen

There are several thousand Indians in Yemen. Quite a few are women – mainly nurses working in hospitals and clinics.

An Indian Navy destroyer was sent to evacuate them. Since the port of Aden is subject to heavy shelling, the destroyer anchored outside while small boats ferried them aboard in groups of thirty or so. Many have not been able to make it out and are stranded.

Quite a few want to remain there despite the danger because of the heavy investment made by their families to get them there in the first place.

They are not dummies. They are bright and fully aware of the dangers. But their economic circumstances back home are so dire that remaining in an environment where they could be shot or blown up is not unthinkable.

Pause for a moment and think about this.

How far is this from YOUR circumstances? Can you even begin to imagine being in such a situation?

What is the lesson here for you?

One, for sure, is to feel immense gratitude for your good fortune.

But if you stopped there, it would be almost pornographic. Like rich tourists looking curiously at animals in a zoo.

These are human beings living in the same world as you and I. They are suffering. At least a part of this suffering is due to policies of countries that we belong to and call home. Possibly, even likely, the intent was honorable but the results were terrible.

So we are all complicit to some extent and we cannot turn away and pretend it does not exist.

So what else can YOU do?

Recognize that it is part of your role in life to alleviate suffering to the extent you can. You cannot do it all and you cannot spend all your time on it.

But that doesn’t mean you throw your hands up and walk away.

Pick someone in need, someone who is suffering and do something to alleviate that to the extent you can.

See a homeless person? Buy him a sandwich and a drink.

Go to a geriatric center and read to a resident.

Do you have a hobby or something that you enjoy and are really good at? Offer to train and share your interest with veterans or disadvantaged kids.

Look for some area where you can make a positive contribution to someone in need.

You cannot throw money at it. It is not about writing a check and feeling good.

It is about you, doing something concrete and personal.

You wash the dishes at a spiritual retreat – you don’t ‘get it done’.

Because, you see, you are not doing this ‘for’ someone.

You are doing this for yourself. You are acknowledging that, underneath the trappings of the role you play, you are just another ordinary human being stumbling your way through the predicament we call life.

So every time suffering somewhere in the world troubles you, do something to alleviate suffering near at hand in whatever area that you can. If you can afford it, by all means write a check to a worthwhile organization.

But that does not absolve you of doing something personally. When you, personally, wipe the drool from the lips of an incapacitated elder, and you do this with love and care, that is when you realize what a blessing you have received.


Prof. Rao

So let’s go ahead and serve.

PS: Have taken permission from Prof Rao to reproduce his mail here.

The PMO India gets the Leadership Model absolutely right.

The Prime Minister of India one of the most stirring speeches heard in 68 years of Independence. There was a lot of anticipation and the PM did not disappoint, this was an extempore speech of over an hour without any notes or teleprompter etc. Spoken straight from the heart. 

After hearing platitudes for several years, it was refreshing to see and hear a PM who understands the aspirations and needs of the people of this country and talks about meeting those needs systematically through a leadership model that is contrarian to what we have experienced in the last 68 years.

The PM began by saying that he is speaking not as a Prime Minister, but as a “Pradhan-Sevak” or Chief Servant of the people of India- putting the emphasis on concept of service based leadership or servant based leadership.

It is absolutely heartening to see that The Prime Minister of India gets the Leadership model absolutely rightContinue reading

Field Notes from CCS Conference – ArunKumar talks about Service Orientation and Servant Leadership

Just back from the Corporate Culture and Spirituality Conference held at the Art of Living Ashram. Two days of brilliant conversations, questions, talks and ideas. While I will come back with more details, I would like to share one of the best talks we heard at the conference by N.T. Arunkumar of UBS. Talking on the topic of Inspiration and Implementation, this is what Arun had to say (verbatim transcript of his talk, sent to me by someone from AOL team)


Guru-brahma Guru-vishnu Guru devo maheshwaraha

Guru sakshat para-brahma tasmai sri sadgurave namah

That is my inspiration. And I think that is the inspiration for everybody. And if you have your Guru’s grace, I think all the complexities, dilemmas kind of cut across the clutter and you can find the simple truths and explanations. We spoke about three things: inspiration, implementation, motivation and sustainability.

As Joseph Campbell said, “Everything starts with a story.” So I’ll tell you a very small story that changed the course of…of how I view spirituality, from looking at it as an esoteric practice that was reserved for a few, to a very practical day-to-day living that can be learned at work. So way back, about 15 years back, I used to work for a multinational called PepsiCo and I had the honor of hosting the current CEO Indra Nooyi and the then CEO Roger Enrico. We were visiting a remote part of India where we were doing experimental marketing. As you know, when we entertain senior management, we want to impress them with power points, dressing up the whole place. For some reason, these two people knew that this was going to be the case and as soon as they got out of the aircraft, they kind of singled me out because I was the only, I was the youngest General Manager in the management team at the time and I was not a sales guy. They sat with me in a truck, with a truck salesman who knew no English and here was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who knew nothing about this place called Trichurapalli. And he just said, “Drive through the market.” And during that one hour of drive, I was interpreting Roger’s instructions to the driver and the driver’s explanation back to Roger.

I learned the concept of servant-leadership. When he was dropping off the soft drinks in a shop, the man who was CEO of a Fortune 500 company actually taught him how to place the bottles in the right way that doesn’t inconvenience the shop-keeper or the customer. He actually wiped the fridge and told them how to maintain equipment. And all this without knowing the language at all. To me that demonstrated the hands-on leadership style and the kind of bonding that the truck driver earning a few hundred rupees a week developed and got inspiration from a global leader. No amount of power point, no amount of strategic conversation would have delivered the impact at the marketplace that was delivered. That was a turning point to me in terms of leadership style. So according to me, sustainable inspiration from a leadership perspective comes from being a servant-leader, being able to get down and talk the language of the bottom-most person who impacts your work.

The second one is, I think, the concept of paropakara, or service. So what does a servant-leader do in order to talk about sustenance. A servant-leader sustains the concept of paropakara or service-orientation by making sure that people have an environment where they can give. You know, all of us are happy when we give, not when we get. We all get so much in the outside world. You know, if you look at all our titles, look at all our positions, why do we come here? And when we come here…you know I had the greatest blessing of my life yesterday for a few minutes when I had the darshan of Guruji very close. My mind went blank. I had a thousand questions and a hundred things to ask of him but I couldn’t ask anything. The only thing that I could think of is, “Guruji, what can I do?”. I think true happiness comes from creating an environment where everybody feels like asking this question, “What can I do? What can I give?” And I find it bit funny that we’ve all come to give a lecture here from our business world when the answers are to be found here.

Look at Art of Living. I have only been associated with it for one and a half days today but look at the global brand that’s been created, not because of any brand positioning or marketing, not because of any complex strategies. Look at the multinational, the global nature. We talk about global business. Can any business or any institution be more global than Art of Living? 150 countries, 300 million people. How was it attained? And how is it that such an organization with no commercial strategy, no investor calls quarter- to-quarter, has attained a global impact. Because first time I heard Guruji speak yesterday, if anybody else had talked to me about balance between passion and dispassion, intelligence and intuition, I would have kind of said, “Yeah, right!” But for the first time yesterday I got the best leadership lesson of my life because it was truth, simplified and delivered by someone, a leader who was talking about it having realized it himself. And I think that’s the second part of making it sustainable.

And the last part…I’m going to be provocative here…the last part is, I think, reintroduce the concept of gender-bias in organizations. Don’t get me wrong, let me explain. I think we have a very wrong gender bias today. In the industry where I come from, investment banking, there’s a running joke that if Lehman- brothers was Lehman-sisters, the crisis would not have happened. Yeah?

Look at Lord Brahma’s creation. Look at the universe. Three key cabinet portfolios – defense, education, and finance – handled by three women – Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi. Yeah? And look at what we have in the corporate world. We don’t have enough women leaders. If we have more women, if we have the gender-bias towards women, I think we’ll be a better, much better, place to work in, much better place to sustain, implementation of service-orientation. Those three are my personal experience, and my personal views.

Having said that, my, I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to and I hope to, but my deepest and loving salutations to Guruji for having opened not just my eyes and mind, but my heart. To a conference like this, and to be able to relate to all this, you know, multiple complex theories of management, leadership, spirituality that I was struggling to integrate into a very simple fabric that as he said, “You got to cut, and you got to stitch, and they go together.” I think that’s what it is. Finally, my prayers that what is the goal of implementation of all this, I think, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos which sold out to Amazon, wrote in his book, a great book that “ultimately we want people to be happy. Happy employees form the best of companies, the most sustainable of companies.” And I think that’s the goal whether in spirituality or in business. And that, I think, is the confluence, to be happy and with that I conclude my prayers, “Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu”. Thank you. 

Why CMM, ISO and other Quality initiatives don’t capture the hearts and minds….

Stumbled upon Karl Albrecht’s book “The only thing that matters” and came across this paragraph that resonated with me:

Many organizations fail in their quest for Total Quality Service, not because their leaders don’t understand the conceptual or technical requirements for achieving it, but because they don’t realize that the heart of the service journey is spiritual rather than mechanical. They will bureaucratize the whole thing and make it look like every other “program.”

Too many quality initiatives are sterile, intellectual and administrative from start to finish; they don’t appeal to the human heart. They are based on a view of the organization as an apparatus rather than a society. They don’t start with human energy as the focus of change.

Spirit is the invisible force that moves organization and people. Spirit in an organization reflects the core values, attitudes and beliefs that shape the way people see themselves, their customers, and the business world, and cause them to behave the way they do.

Mired in their history and habits, many organizations do not have a spirit of service. They have instead a rational spirit, a technological spirit, a financial spirit, a manufacturing spirit, or some other dominant orientation that creates and defines the company’s culture – those things deemed to be important and “the way we do things around here”.

The journey to Total Quality Service is as much an individual and personal one as an organizational one. If the people don’t want to go there, the organization won’t go there; ultimately they are the organization. The spirit of service must come alive, grow, and flourish if the organization is to leap beyond the bounds of mediocrity.