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Posts Tagged ‘Character’

Preamble

After Sita Devi was kidnapped by the evil Ravana, Sri Rama and Lakshmana started looking for her in the forest of Dandakaranya. During their wanderings, they came across Kabandha, who had a ferocious and grotesque form due to a curse. The brothers were able to relieve him from the curse and he regained his original handsome and resplendent form. He addressed them thus: “Not far from here lives an old female ascetic called Shabari. She is holding on to her life only to welcome and have a vision of you. Please be kind enough to visit her”. Accordingly, the brothers went to Shabari’s Ashram, received her hospitality and made her sublimely happy. Then Sri Rama instructed her in Navadhaa Bhakti, that is, nine different ways of practicing devotion (This part of the story is to be found in Adhyatma Ramayana and the Ramacharita Manas of Goswami Tulsidas. It is not found in Valmiki Ramayana).  The nine ways are as follows:

  1. Association with holy men.
  2. The recital of accounts about the Lord.
  3. The singing of the glories of the Lord.
  4. The hearing and exposition of the teachings of the Lord.
  5. Sincere and devoted service of the Guru, seeing the Lord in him.
  6. The practice of meritorious habits, the control of the inner senses, the observance of external rules of purity and devoted ceremonial worship of the Lord.
  7. Devoted repetition and contemplation of the Lord’s Mantra in all its parts.
  8. The worshipful service of the Lord’s devotees, seeing His presence in all beings, the cultivation of non-attachment for all external objects and self-control.
  9. Investigation of the true nature of the Lord.

It is to be noted that the first in this list is: “Association with holy men”. Indeed, after imparting the nine ways to Shabari, Sri Rama himself advises her thus: “If a person has succeeded in the first of these disciplines, namely, association with holy men, then the other ways follow one by one”.

In the Sundara Kanda of Tulasidasji’s Ramacharita Manas, we come across the following encounter. When Hanuman reached the gates of Lanka in search of Sita Devi, he was prevented from entering the city by its fearsome guardian Lankini. But she was easily overpowered by the mighty Hanuman. Then she realized it was indeed her good fortune that she got to see Hanuman, the messenger of the divine Ramachandra. So she says: All the bliss that one may experience in Paradise and even upon deliverance, is not equal to the happiness one gets in just one second while in the company of good souls.

From this preamble, it is evident that any amount of striving is worth the effort if it can lead us to the company of saintly men. I am reminded of a traditional story in this context.

Yudhishthira’s Ashvamedha Yajna and Draupadi

After the end of the Bharata war, king Yudhishthira conducted an Ashvamedha Yajna (Horse Sacrifice). At that time, Sri Krishna had suspended a bell in the Sacrificial Hall and had advised that if the Sacrifice was accomplished satisfactorily, then the bell would ring by itself. Every oblation had been offered, the ritual baths had been taken and all guests had been fed generously. Still, the bell would not ring. Sri Krishna then advised “Please see if anyone has not partaken their food”. On checking, it was found that a holy man, who had been invited, was not present for the meal.

Immediately, Bhimasena mounted his chariot and went to invite the holy man. That saint declared: “Unless you offer me the fruits of your Ashwamedha, I cannot come to the dinner”. The Pandavas had spent great effort to carry out the horse sacrifice in order that they might be expiated from the sins of killing relatives during the war. So, how can they give away its benefits? Bhima returned crestfallen. No one seemed to know what to do. Even Sri Krishna was nowhere to be found.

Then Draupadi said “I will bring the holy man. I do not need a chariot. I will walk to his abode” and she started walking immediately. Sadhu gave the same answer to Draupadi also. Then she said humbly: “Respected Sir! Wise people say that every step we take in order to have darshan of a saint is rewarded with the fruit of one Asvamedha. I have walked more than thousand steps in order to see you. Thus I have earned the fruits of more than one thousand Ashvamedhas. Please accept one of them and grace us with your presence at the feast”. The saint was pleased and attended the feast. The bell rang automatically!

Point to Ponder

What was the reason for the Saint’s acceptance? Was it the belief that “If it is to seek the company of a good person, then every step is worth an Ashwamedha” or was it the cleverness of Draupadi or was it her humility? The reader might like to deliberate on this.

About the Author

Chakravarti Madhusudana was born in Mysore State, India. He completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees in mechanical engineering in Bangalore. He migrated to Australia in 1967 and earned a doctorate from Monash University in the same field. He retired after serving 34 years as an engineering academic at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His research monograph “THERMAL CONTACT CONDUCTANCE”, two editions published by Springer Verlag, is considered to be the “go to” book by academics, research workers and the engineering industry involved in the area of heat transfer. Mostly since retirement, he has written several (80+) articles of a general nature on religious, philosophical and secular matters, in both  Kannada and English.

Notes:

  1. Permission to reproduce this article here is gratefully acknowledged.
  2. Illustration courtesy the world wide web.

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Of Swollen Minds and Shallow Hearts

A vast majority of managers fall in this category. With money power ruling their lives, they cannot be blamed for behaving like robots, relentlessly chasing materialistic goals. With the heart playing a subservient role to that of the mind, analytical skills rule supreme. Intuition, feelings and emotions take a back seat, leading to rapid burnouts and build up of stress. We run into managers who are driven entirely by results, a prospect tolerated with much glee by top managements. Often, they lose the trust and confidence of their team members, resulting into a human relations crisis. External titillations offered by life provide transient moments of gratification. The inner glow of happiness eludes them.

This tribe, which puts a premium on the ‘I and Me’ approach to decision-making, experiences a hollowness within. Minds are whirling with ideas, indicating the dire need to practice brain-stilling, as…

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Of Swollen Minds and Shallow Hearts

A vast majority of managers fall in this category. With money power ruling their lives, they cannot be blamed for behaving like robots, relentlessly chasing materialistic goals. With the heart playing a subservient role to that of the mind, analytical skills rule supreme. Intuition, feelings and emotions take a back seat, leading to rapid burnouts and build up of stress. We run into managers who are driven entirely by results, a prospect tolerated with much glee by top managements. Often, they lose the trust and confidence of their team members, resulting into a human relations crisis. External titillations offered by life provide transient moments of gratification. The inner glow of happiness eludes them.

This tribe, which puts a premium on the ‘I and Me’ approach to decision-making, experiences a hollowness within. Minds are whirling with ideas, indicating the dire need to practice brain-stilling, as opposed to brain-storming. Hearts are shallow, resulting into lack of empathy and concern for others. They need the maximum amount of the kind of meditation practice one would refer to as Heartfulness.

Of Balanced Hearts and Minds

Managers in this category are indeed the luckier ones, because they are able to deliver results on a more sustainable basis. Their heads are screwed on right. Their hearts have a modicum of the milk of human kindness flowing through its chambers. By balancing the output of their active brains with the emotional vibes generated by their empathic hearts, they lead happier and more contented lives.

This tribe takes the ‘We and Us’ approach to decision-making. Loved by their team members, they make better business leaders. Since the emphasis placed on results is balanced by the importance given to their people, they command a high level of trust from their loyal team members. If one were to look back at the kind of bosses one still keeps in touch with, even if the formal association had occurred quite some time back, one is apt to find them having achieved this delicate balancing act between the mind and the heart while handling matters.

Of Larger Hearts and Sharper Minds

These are the ones who care about humanity in general. They end up assuming leadership roles while handling challenges facing a particular business group or the society at large. Their thinking is strategic. Their vision is lofty and innovative, at times even disruptive. They take a holistic view of matters at hand. In the process, they extend their sphere of influence to all stakeholders of business. Corporate Social Responsibility is not a mere public relations exercise for them, but an agenda which has to be pursued as vigorously as any other business goal. The inner glow of happiness and contentment does not elude them.

This is a rare breed indeed. It believes in, and follows, a ‘They’ approach to decision-making. Fame comes easily to them. Humility is one of their key personality traits. They become role models, not only for those who observe them at close quarters, but also for people at large. Their minds are vibrant, firing on all twelve cylinders. Their hearts are already overgrown, encompassing a much wider segment of humanity. They are living examples of the potential Heartfulness has, and what it can offer to humanity.

The opportunity of a transformation  

A manager has it within herself to bring about an inner transformation from the ‘I and Me’ attitude to the ‘We and Us’ mindset. Introspection can lead to it. A benevolent senior could propel her on this path of an inner journey of evolution. Even a major setback in life could lead to it.

The germ of this inner desire nestles within her, silently planted there in an embryonic form by their upbringing. The trick lies in discovering and nurturing it, so an opportunity of transforming oneself is not lost. Her core personality and attitudes help. The catalyst of this process of transformation happens to be the value system inherited by her from her elders.

Managers who ignore the need for a transformation of this kind run the risk of being poor team players, stunting their own growth.

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Gone are the days when India used to have illustrious intellectuals leading it from the front, shaping public opinion and carrying the masses with their line of thought. The stature of our leaders – whether spiritual or political – like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, had left a deep impression on the public psyche. But the effect seems to have got completely obliterated from our collective conscience and memory.

It was Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan who had once coined the phrase “Crisis of Character”. As a common citizen of India, I think this is what we are facing today. Probity in public life is at its ebb. There is a vacuum at the top. On issues of corruption, we are not being proactive. Instead, we appear to be reacting to self proclaimed public activists and godmen. The last example of high standards in public life was possibly witnessed by us in 2004, when the President of the largest political party in India declared her intention of not assuming executive power. Today, we are a mute witness to a hapless Government conceding the demands put across by a section of the society, thereby compromising the fundamental principles on which our Constitution is based.

The root cause of some activists trying to usurp executive powers is the widespread public disenchantment with the lowering standards in public life. What is necessary at this juncture is the statesmanship of our top political leaders, including those who do not occupy the treasury benches. The opposition parties need not gloat over the recent turn of events – they would do well to set their own house in order and provide constructive support to the Government to clean up the mess.

Some basic steps which the powers-that-are may consider taking may sound utopic but make eminent sense.

Major political parties can come together and voluntarily declare their sources of donations and their expenditure pattern from 2011-12 onwards. Admittedly, there would be red faces all over in the short run, but a basic cleansing of the system will begin in right earnest.

Political parties would also do well to treat themselves like publically listed companies, thereby bringing them at par with private businesses, declaring their financial and corporate affairs to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs year after year.

Top political and business class can declare the assets and bank accounts held by them abroad, thereby giving a clear signal that probity in public life is a desirable trait. Even if a few selected top honchos take this initiative, the message will percolate down to the rank and file and bring in better transparency in our affairs.

The offer of the Swiss government to share information on the tax deducted on interest earned on deposits held in their banks must be purposed vigorously, thereby leading to realistic estimates of the money stashed abroad. Strictures against trading with countries which act as tax havens should get expedited.

Electoral reforms, specifically linked to disqualifying political aspirants who have criminal cases pending against them, are the need of the hour. So are judicial reforms, on which we only hear some lip service once in a while, but no concrete action on the ground in terms of fast tracking the disposal of cases.

By sending out an unambiguous message to the Indian public as also the world at large, the leadership today can ensure that our developmental plans gain momentum, we rekindle the interest in India as a favorite investment destination and we move towards a growth which is more inclusive in nature.

Would the political class rise to the occasion and seize this historic opportunity? Does it have the will to bring in radical changes in the way run this country and our lives?

Let us clean up the mess our individual and collective greed has led us into. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore had exhorted us to hold our heads held high and having a mind without fear. Let us practice it. Let us demonstrate to the world that ours is a unique democracy, based on a spiritual paradigm which is millennia old. Let us rediscover ourselves and restore our national pride.

 

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