Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Destiny’

Life is not fair. Once in a while, when one’s Guardian Angels decide to go off to enjoy a long furlough, it decides that merely throwing some brickbats at one is not enough. Instead, it derives a sadistic pleasure in hurling huge rocks at us. These are instances when it is no longer a question of one’s ego to be kept on a tight leash or just managing one’s basket of desires. The challenge in such cases is that of meeting one’s basic needs; of keeping one’s body and soul together. Even one’s survival could be at stake.

On one of those not-so-fine mornings, one gets called by the boss with a stiff upper lip and handed over a pink slip. Given advances in technology, one is told that one’s services are no longer required. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution 4.0, one’s career goes for a toss.

Or, a CEO who has built an enviable reputation for herself over the years, comes under the cloud of a corporate scandal which gets eagerly sniffed at by various regulatory agencies. This prompts her to put in her papers and face the legal consequences. The media, of which she was a darling till the other day, decides to start shaming her. A severe loss of prestige comes about. A glorious career comes to a sudden halt. Her feelings in a situation of this kind could not be much different than those of Napoleon after his Waterloo debacle.

Some once-in-a-blue-moon experiences

Allow yours truly to share few experiences from his personal life.

A low point in the career

While working in a company which was steadily going downhill due to very high overheads and also an unhealthy level of internal bickering and politics, a highly embarrassed moment had to be faced. In a meeting of all senior managers, I was somehow singled out to be publically lynched for much of what was going wrong with the operations. The unfairness of it, and that too delivered in wide public view, left me shaken to my core. Whereas all those who know me personally can vouchsafe for my chin-up attitude towards life, on this particular occasion, I confess that suicidal thoughts plagued my mind. Always appreciated for my work and sincerity, this was indeed the lowest point in my career.

Late evening, though, my boss offered his sincere apologies. Thoughts of a spiritual nature and a dash of equanimity helped me to regain my sangfroid, so to say. A few months down the road, I moved on to a much better position in another outfit.

The kidnapping fiasco

While working in a very senior position in a small town in India, on one fateful night, I and my son were kidnapped by a gang of four and kept in captivity overnight. They were under the impression that I was the owner of the business I was working with at the time. They had a ransom demand which I had no way of fulfilling.

While held in captivity, I could imagine the sequence of events if they decided to bump me off and dump the body at a desolate location. But faith in a higher power saw me regaining my confidence. Despite a language barrier, I could explain my financial constraints to them. We could eventually manage to get released without much physical harm by the time the next day dawned.

Swift police action followed. Based on my cell phone records, the miscreants were identified and nabbed. But it took me a very long time to mentally recover from the trauma suffered.

Partition blues

One of the heavy costs paid by the society at large when India became independent in 1947 and a new country known as Pakistan got carved out of it was the riots which broke out. Families had to leave their properties, home and hearth behind, and run across the newly formed border to safer sanctuaries. According to UNHCR estimates, partition led to a displacement of some 10-12 million persons along religious lines.

My wife’s Hindu family, located then at Bahawalpur in Pakistan, was one such which faced a trauma of this kind. Interestingly, it was a Muslim family which stitched ‘burqas’ for the entire family and assisted them in fleeing to India. From being rich landlords in Pakistan, overnight they became paupers.

It was by sheer dint of her father’s hard work and resilience that they rebuilt their lives in India from scratch. Prosperity and happiness rules the family today, thanks in part also due to the innate faith they have in their family deity. An old cot from Pakistan, donated by the family, is one of the items on display now at the Partition Museum at Amritsar in the Punjab province of India.

Crucial enabling factors

With the benefit of a 20/20 hindsight, one can analyze and identify the crucial underlying factors which enabled a successful handling of such challenges. If the low point in career could be handled with the help of humility and one’s own job knowledge, skills and attitude, the kidnapping incident could be overcome with faith and an inclination to surrender to a higher power. As to the partition catastrophe, hard work backed by my father-in-law’s own skill-bank and innate faith eventually led to success.

It is not difficult to discover traces here of what Bhagavad Gita proposes.

अमानित्वमदम्भित्वमहिंसा क्षान्तिरार्जवम् |
आचार्योपासनं शौचं स्थैर्यमात्मविनिग्रह: || 13.8||
इन्द्रियार्थेषु वैराग्यमनहङ्कार एव च |
जन्ममृत्युजराव्याधिदु:खदोषानुदर्शनम् || 13.9||
असक्तिरनभिष्वङ्ग: पुत्रदारगृहादिषु |
नित्यं च समचित्तत्वमिष्टानिष्टोपपत्तिषु || 13.10||
मयि चानन्ययोगेन भक्तिरव्यभिचारिणी |
विविक्तदेशसेवित्वमरतिर्जनसंसदि || 13.11||
अध्यात्मज्ञाननित्यत्वं तत्वज्ञानार्थदर्शनम् |
एतज्ज्ञानमिति प्रोक्तमज्ञानं यदतोऽन्यथा || 13.12||

Humbleness; freedom from hypocrisy; non-violence; forgiveness; simplicity; service of the Guru; cleanliness of body and mind; steadfastness; and self-control; dispassion toward the objects of the senses; absence of egotism; keeping in mind the evils of birth, disease, old age, and death; non-attachment; absence of clinging to spouse, children, home, and so on; even-mindedness amidst desired and undesired events in life; constant and exclusive devotion toward Me; an inclination for solitary places and an aversion for mundane society; constancy in spiritual knowledge; and philosophical pursuit of the Absolute Truth—all these I declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to it, I call ignorance.

Here, one has a virtual ready reckoner of certain mental and emotional attributes, moral attitudes and ethical principles. These are held to be the essential prerequisites for one to discover – and act in tandem with – the Self within.

 

तमेव शरणं गच्छ सर्वभावेन भारत |
तत्प्रसादात्परां शान्तिं स्थानं प्राप्स्यसि शाश्वतम् || 18.62||

Surrender exclusively unto Him with your whole being, O Bharat. By his grace, you will attain perfect peace and the eternal abode.

Much like a Senior Vice President who gets promoted as a CEO after the seniors notice a potential in her to shoulder a higher responsibility, coupled with a match between the value system of the incumbent and that of the business, and a deep sense of loyalty (read surrender) to the organization, Lord Krishna also stipulates the condition under which His grace would help a person to attain perfect peace – exclusive surrender. A conscious realization that it is not one’s own efforts alone which get success in life, and that it is one’s destiny also which plays a crucial role, helps one to surrender in such a manner. 

Challenges and evolution

Each of the demeaning experiences faced by yours truly led to some inner growth. A public rebuke made me learn the value of sensing dangerous turbulence on the flight path in advance, and punching the eject button in the cockpit before things spun out of control. Likewise, the kidnapping incident taught me the importance of having some acquaintance with the law and order and regulatory agencies in the country. As an additional perk, each incident revealed the true friends and foes of those around me at the time. An enriching string of experiences, one would say in retrospect.

When a pink slip gets dished out, one finds an opportunity of reassessing one’s strengths and weaknesses and act on them. A fall from grace eventually ends up increasing the depth of one’s inner reservoirs of patience, equipoise and fortitude.

Challenges come in all sizes, hues and degrees of seriousness. Each challenge faced by one in life eventually results in speeding up one’s progress on the tricky path of evolution. One gains maturity and experience. One learns to be grateful when one is feeling unduly elated, and graceful when feeling totally down. One learns to be more careful and patient. Challenges are blessings which bring about changes which uplift and enrich one.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/divine-grace-works-all-the-time)

 

Read Full Post »

Members of the tribe of managers who believe in the ‘I and Me’ approach have swollen minds and shallow hearts. They live in a virtual reality of their own, surfing atop the turbulent waves of life in a belief that they remain in total control of things. They think that they punch all the right buttons in their careers. Successes get attributed to their own actions and initiatives. Failures get attributed to external circumstances, to other people, or to the business environment in general.

In terms of an upgraded Blake-Mouton Grid, they have a propensity to evolve into a leader for whom results alone count. Concern for People gets relegated to the background. Concern for Ethics gets swept under the carpet and conveniently forgotten. In other words, they become CEOs who end up becoming road rollers.

Take the case of a young engineer from India who goes on to pursue his higher studies in one of the advanced countries of the world. He builds a career for himself, gets married, buys his own house, raises a family and even acquires the citizenship of the country where he has settled down. He starts believing that he is an all-powerful and accomplished person, and has the freedom to do what he wants. He prides himself on the fact that his spouse, an independent professional in her own right, is in that country owing to him alone. By implication, she has to be beholden and subservient to him. What he does not realize is the role destiny also has played in his career and life. A hard blow could well make him see the folly of ascribing all his achievements to his capabilities alone.

Free Will, Destiny and a dash of humility

One of the things such persons badly need is a dash of humility, professionally as well as personally. They could do with some introspection in all cases of successes and failures. A pitiless analysis of any success would invariably reveal key factors which not only assisted but also enabled them to achieve it. Likewise, a root cause analysis of a failure might reveal to them what they could have done better in the given situation. It might even show where they personally contributed to their own downfall.

A realization that one is not destined to exercise one’s so-called free will indiscriminately can help one to progress on the path of humility. In any case, the view that human beings are free to exercise their free will has always been a debatable one. Often, hapless Homo sapiens feel as if they are mere puppets going through motions in life according to a grand plan, ostensibly pre-determined by a superior power.

Take the case of an aspiring manager who has just finished her education from an Ivy League institution. She does not entirely control the kind of company she ends up starting her career with. Nor does she control the kind of boss, peers or subordinates she might end up working with. She could very well analyze the business environment the organization operates in. But she has little control over the same.

Going with the flow

Generally speaking, in life, one does not control one’s own birth or death. Nor does one control the kind of parents, extended family and friends one may merit. One merely goes with the flow, so to say.

Omar Khayyam thought one is no better than water, flowing willy-nilly, ‘where Destiny with men for Pieces plays’. He proposed that one merely follows an unalterable script in one’s life, as dished out by our Guardian Angels.

Contrast this with the traditional view of Judgment Day of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This view is based on the conviction that each person is wholly responsible for her conduct in life. The Hindu view of karma also supposes choice for individual human beings.

To participate in, and to submit to, the collective rhythm of creation is to attain bhakti, Narada Sutra says. This marks progress towards humility.

‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’, says the poet (Julius Ceaser, Act 1, Scene 2).

The ‘We and Us’ Approach to decision-making

Life is much like river rafting, where one may make choices while negotiating the rapids. But the scope of the individual will is rather limited. In one’s career, the scope of the individual will is to choose between making decisions entirely based on one’s individual ego, thereby becoming an ‘I and Me’ manager. Alternately, one may choose to surrender to a higher power, and perform one’s action without attachment to the results thereof. This choice would lead one to a ‘We and Us’ approach to decision-making.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna exhorts us to do precisely this: Practice detachment.

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि || 47 ||

karmaṇy-evādhikāras te mā phaleṣhu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te saṅ
go ’stvakarmaṇi

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

In this unique scripture, the performance of one’s own duties is said to lead to the creation of one’s destiny. Thus, one’s actions are held to be superior to one’s destiny.

(A version of this post appears in a yet-to-be-released book by yours truly. It connects Gita to the realm of Management.) 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/heartfulness-management-and-leadership)

Read Full Post »