What Does Business Have To Do With Spirituality?

Fri, 08/02/2013

Bangalore, India

(The Corporate Culture and Spirituality Conference is an annual event where leaders from the fields of business, governance, academia, civil society and faith-based organisations come together to engage in dialogue, network and explore business potentials and discover the benefits of emerging paradigms in leadership. It provides a platform for leading minds to share their experiences and expertise on the value of an ethics based approach, the impact of this approach on the bottom line and to enable business leaders to understand the integration of spiritual values in business practices.
The Federation of the Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FKCCI) and The Art of Living in association with World Forum for Ethics in Business hosted the "Corporate Culture and Spirituality (CCS) - India" Conference at The Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore, on the 8th & 9th of February 2013.
Below is a transcript H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's speech on the opening day of the conference.)

My dear ones on the dais, and my dear ones in the audience.
Two important instruments were used for all of us to be here today. One is a scissor and the other is a needle. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be wearing the garments that we are wearing today.
A fabric needs to be cut, and then it needs to be sewed; and that is how all the suits, and the pyjamas-kurtas, and everything that we are wearing, exists. In the same way, Business and Spirituality – one cuts and the other joins, and they are both essential.
You can't have a fabric which is simply cut and not sewed. That is of no use. Similarly, you cannot sew something which is not cut.

Sometimes people ask me, ‘What does business have to do with spirituality? Business is all about passion, and spirituality is all about dispassion. They are poles apart’.
Business says, ‘Go aggressively and earn’, and spirituality says, ‘Give up everything that you have’.
Although they appear to be completely opposite to each other, I say, they are complimentary. Like the in-breath and out-breath. When you breathe in, that is passion; but you cannot hold it for too long, you have to breathe out, and that breathing out is dispassion.

In my understanding, for business, you need five ingredients.

Business is all about passion, and spirituality is all about dispassion. Although they appear to be completely opposite to each other, I say, they are complimentary. Like the in-breath and out-breath. When you breathe in, that is passion; but you cannot hold it for too long, you have to breathe out, and that breathing out is dispassion.

1. A Congenial Atmosphere
If you are asked to go and do business in some parts of Kashmir, or go and do business in Afghanistan or Iraq, the first thing you will say is no.
Take for example, Chhattisgarh. Suppose, someone says, 'Put up a factory in Bastar', you would say no. That is because there is no peace there.
When there is no peace, no prosperity comes, and when there is no prosperity, no peace can happen. Peace and prosperity are interlinked . It is because of prosperity that peace comes, (not all the time though), and it is because of peace that prosperity comes.
Out of the 612 districts in this country, 205 districts are affected by Naxalism, and these are the districts that are poverty stricken. Why? Peace is missing. The rest of the districts are very prosperous.
First, you need to bring peace, and then prosperity can follow.

2. Passion to Do Business
Passion needs to be there; the passion to take challenges. Business is always risk-taking. You need energy to take the challenge to do business.

3. Capital and Other Ingredients
You have passion, but if you don't have ingredients, then it would not be possible to go ahead.

4. Skills
You have all the materials you need, the place is congenial, but if you lack the skill, then you can't be successful.

5. Something very abstract called, Luck
Just by one's effort, if one could become very prosperous, then why are there so many people who put effort but don't become prosperous?
If you go to Commercial Street here in Bangalore, you will see that there are some shops which are very prosperous, but the shops next to them are making a loss.
The Chamber of Commerce here would agree with me.
In Chickpet also, one shop is making landslide business and the next shop is going bankrupt.
All the jewelers are in one row, all the garment shops are in one row, even then, one is doing good business and the other is failing. How come? Nobody knows!
This area which we don't know, is what spirituality is all about.

The whole material world, and all that we see, is run by a certain vibrational world which is subtler than what we see. The whole universe runs on vibration.
Many times it happens, you see someone, and you feel like talking to them and doing business with them. You see someone else and for no reason you have an aversion. You don't want to do business with them. Why? It is because you feel something; you say, 'I don't get good vibes'. The universe is run by vibrations; by a subtle world (Sukshma Jagat).

So, spirituality is to do with all these five ingredients.
Spirituality enhances positive energy; it brings out the skills in you. And a few minutes of quietness, of silence, helps you tap into the source of intuition.
Intelligence and intuition, these two faculties are enriched by spirituality.

Again, here, spirituality doesn't mean ‘doing something’, but it is ‘being quiet’. Allowing the mind to settle down; being centered and not taking sides. Going deep within oneself and appreciating the values of life in its totality; honoring life.
Spirituality helps one to enrich intuition and sharpen one's intelligence.

See, when you want to invest, you make a guess, and it is a risk that you take. This is where intuition is important. Intuition is the right thought at the right time, and it is an important component for success in business.
Now intuition comes to you when you balance your passion with dispassion; when you balance your profit with service; when you balance your aggressiveness to get things, with a compassion to give back to the society.
I'm not saying that you should not have the drive to do business aggressively, or that you should be very quiet and soft.
As a salesman, if you say, ‘My product is good, but the products of others are also good’, then that is not going to work!
You can say, ‘My product is the best’, but at the same time, having the compassion, having the ethics of honoring others too, is essential.
Intuition and sharpness of intelligence, sensibility and sensitivity, compassion combined with dispassion and passion, all of this brings such a balance to life that we can keep our smile throughout, whether we gain or lose in business. What is more important is keeping the smile.

If you have had some losses, why do you want to lose your smile also along with it?
If you have lost in the share market, you should at least keep your smile. Otherwise it is a double loss. And then a third loss will also happen, i.e., the loss of your health.

Spirituality is going deep within oneself and appreciating the values of life in its totality; honouring life. Spirituality helps one to enrich intuition and sharpen one's intelligence. Intuition is the right thought at the right time, and it is an important component for success in

Caring for oneself, caring for one's environment, and caring for the ethics in business is important.
You don't like your subordinates to cheat you, then why would you cheat them?
You don't want your customers or vendors to cheat you, then why would you do that?
When you don't want others to do something to you, then you should not do that to others. This basic thing is the line of ethics, ‘I would not like anyone to cheat me, and so I will not cheat anyone.’

Now, if you ask me, ‘How is it possible to be hundred percent truthful and do business?’
I say, it is possible, and there are many such examples sitting here.
This conference will bring those principles in the limelight that people have practiced. And that will set an example of how ethics in business is possible.

Now, I am not asking you to be Satya Harishchandra.
In our ancient scriptures, there is a certain limit to speaking lies for business people.
It is like this, for a monk, he should not lie at all. For a king, he can lie one percent for the safety and security of the country. For a doctor, he can lie 2%. He can tell a person, ‘Don't worry, I'm here with you’, though he knows that he's going to go away. But for a businessman, it is said, he can lie 3%; not more than 3%.
3% is like salt in the food. You can’t have food in the salt, but a little bit of salt in the food is okay.
Today, the situation has become such that the food is in the salt, rather than salt in the food!

There is a story about Birbal, and I'm sure that many of you would have heard it.
Once Emperor Akbar passed a law, that anyone who tells a lie will be beheaded. He will be sent to the gallows. Hearing this, the whole of Delhi was shaking; like it is shaking today also. I think, it is the history of Delhi to keep shaking.
So, Delhi was shaking. In Chandni Chowk, all the businessmen gathered together and said, ‘We all have to go to the gallows because we always claim that ours is the best product, knowing too well that ours is not so go. So now, this law is suicide for us.’
Then came the turn of all the astrologers. They were even more worried, because they guessed and predicted some things, and if it went wrong, what would they do? So astrologers were all in trouble.
The priests were in trouble, doctors were in trouble, everybody got so worried because this law was simply absurd. Then they said, ‘Birbal, only you can help us'.
So, Birbal went to the King’s palace, and the guards stopped him and asked him, 'Where are you going?'
He said, 'I'm going to the gallows, I am going to be hanged'. This was a lie, because he was the most favored comedian of the palace. Why would the King push him into the gallows?
So he was produced in front of the King and they said, he lied. Now, if he was sent to the gallows, then what he said was true. The King would be blemished for punishing someone who was innocent. And, if he was not punished, the law would become obsolete.
The King was perplexed, he called all the Pundits, the ministers, and then Birbal said, ‘This is what it is! What you speak is not the truth, it is the intention which is the truth'.

So business people can speak just that little bit of lies, otherwise no one can market anything. No business can survive. So these are all codes of conduct in ethics.
Do not do something to others which you don't want others to do to you.

The world is not in fragments. Society cannot be in watertight compartments, and spirituality and ethics are an integral part of a human being.
It is spirituality which develops character, and who does not want people with good character working under them? Business means people, right? You have to work with people. And the people working for you, don't you want them to have integrity, honesty, straightforwardness and skill to deal with situations?
Tough situations come in every business and every organization, and you need skills to handle them. All this comes from our inner space which I call as the Spiritual Space.
So spirituality, business, politics, service activities, all together make life holistic. If any one component is missing, there will be chaos and not bliss.

Tough situations come in every business and every organization, and you need skills to handle them. All this comes from our inner space which I call as the Spiritual Space. So spirituality, business, politics, service activities, all together make life holistic.

I also want to bring attention to certain areas in India where business is still untapped.
One of them is tourism. India has so many tourist avenues, so many ancient sites where people would love to visit. But tourism has not been much explored.

The other area is garments. Garments here in India are very unique.

Third would be the food industry. If you travel around India, after every few miles or kilometers, you will find different varieties of food. Once, just out of inquisitiveness, I said, ‘Let's have a vegetarian food festival in India’, and you know, 5600 food items were prepared by people. Seven tons of different type of food, all prepared by volunteers.
We organized this Annam Brahma program in Ahmedabad, and many of the dishes prepared, we had never heard of them before.
If you go to Tripura, they have some 40 to 50 varieties of food items and preparations which are not known to the general public. Similarly here in Karnataka, we have some special dishes, Obbatu, Chutney Pudi, Gojju, Villakai, and people love these.
We have not showcased the food industry as well as we can.

The fourth area is jewelry.

Then we have Ayurvedic Medicine which is 5000 year old; Ayurveda and the herbs, the Shirodhara and Abhinga massages, etc., are all picking.
It is a very beautiful system and you can say that it is the 21st century medicine. Many people appreciate this, and it is catching up very well in spas around the world. But we need to popularize it even more.

Then, we have Yoga, Spirituality and the Knowledge of the Vedanta.

Seventh is the IT industry. India is known for this, today.
It started with IT, and then Yoga and Meditation is also popular around the world.
I was told that in US alone, Yoga is a 27 billion dollar industry.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Karnataka, you can do a lot of exploration in these areas. We also here with us today businessmen from Russia, Nepal and so many other countries. It would be good if we can sit together and see how we can bring more prosperity to every part of the world. Not just to you and me, but to everyone.

With these few words I once again congratulate you and may God bless you all.

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