(Sri Sri interacted with entrepreneurs at a special seminar in Tokyo, encouraging the audience to embrace spirituality in corporate practices.Below is a transcript of What Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said.)
I was visiting the Shinto shrine yesterday and on the door there were two lions, one had its mouth open and the other had its mouth closed. One says, ‘Aaa’, and the other says, ‘Mmmm’. One is the beginning and the other the end. This is the word Om.
In life, even the beginning needs to be like a lion, and the closing needs to be like a lion. There needs to be that strength, and lion indicates strength, integrity, loyalty, and all this is a part of trust.
If there is no trust within us then none of these qualities will spring forth in life.
Trust is the backbone of business. You may wonder, what does business have to do with spirituality? They are completely different realms, or rather, worlds. You can say spirituality is different and business is the completely opposite. Spiritual people often don’t like business. They simply condemn business, and business people don’t think spirituality is worth looking into. But life is incomplete without either one of them.
Business brings prosperity to the society. If there is no business, there will be no prosperity. When there is no prosperity, crime with take over the society. Where there is crime, there can’t be spirituality.
On the other hand, it is spirituality that helps prevent crime. Spirituality brings the integrity and honesty that is need for any business to prosper. So, they are complimentary.
In Indian mythology, we say, Narayan (embodiment of spirit) and Lakshmi (goddess of wealth). The goddess of wealth is always with the embodiment of spirit. Spirituality is bringing forth the inner trust, integrity, happiness, and compassion which represent the spirit. Enhancing these qualities, is what I call spirituality.
We can listen to such talks, read books, but how to practically bring it on the floor is the question. That is where simple techniques of relaxation, i.e., breathing techniques and meditation come in handy.
Usually we say, M&M; it is not the candy that you get in America, M&M is Meals and Meditation. We have introduced this to nearly 200 companies and the results are phenomenal. People, before their afternoon lunch, get together, sit and relax for 15–20 minutes and then share a meal. There is a sense of belongingness, a sense of caring.
Business is not just working with machines, it is working with human beings. The human touch is needed, and it can only come when there is heart-to-heart communication.
In developing countries, in many corporate meetings, you might notice that two people would be saying the same thing, but it appears as though they are fighting. In the end, they won’t come to any conclusion because everyone is talking together. This is only head-to-head communication. There needs to be head-to-heart, or heart-to-heart communication, and this can happen when people share a few moments of silence, of quietness, and a sense of belongingness.
It all started in 1999, when I sent a couple of my teachers to a big public enterprises in India, Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited (BHEL). There was a lot of disturbance amongst few sections of the company, and so we introduced them to meditation and some breathing techniques to bring them together.
We had a small program for the employees, especially for the difficult ones, whom the company could neither fire, nor keep, because their productivity was very low. There are some people like that in almost every company, where you can’t send them out, and neither do you find them useful. Some who are tough nuts to crack. So I often tell people, if you have some difficult people, send them to us.
So, we got a bunch of such people, and we sent one of our teachers there. He just posed some questions to them; one of the first questions was, ‘Suppose you become the Managing Director of the company, how would you run it? What would you do?’
Those who complain, seldom do any work. Mostly the people who complain don’t take responsibility. So when we started posing some questions, and tried shifting their attention to the other person’s perspective, a breakthrough started happening. This combined with a few minutes of meditation and deep relaxation, made a big difference.
These people, who would go home and yell at their family, and their children, suddenly started behaving very well with their families. Their families became happy, and in turn they became happy, and their productivity increased. We saw a shift in just four days. So the company asked us to conduct the program for more employees.
Today Harvard Business School, Microsoft, GE, they have all taken this program. The World Bank has also made it a part of their curriculum in many countries.
There is something that is deep in every individual. When that is kindled, the shift from trying to motivate somebody to being inspired comes along.
In any business setup you need to motivate people. The way we motivate people, is by giving them a salary raise, or a bonus, or good transport. But these motivations do not stay too long. It lasts only for a couple of months, and then it starts fading away. We need to inspire people. It makes a very big difference.
All this can happen when the trust we have in ourselves becomes stronger; trust in our ability. Then our social capacity automatically becomes stronger, and then success is guaranteed.
It is always good to do team work.
We have a slogan, ‘Let out the steam and get into the team!’ First you have to let out the steam. You can’t be in a team holding pent up emotions within you.
We can handle pent up emotions, if we learn how to handle our mind through our breath. This is very important.
In schools we teach dental hygiene, but not mental hygiene. Whether one is a professional or a business man, they need to know mental hygiene.
Huge emotional loads weighs on many people, right from the young mind to senior citizens. Neither at school nor home, no one teaches us how to handle our mental or emotional pressure. This emotional cleansing, emotional hygiene, or feeling light hearted from within needs to be taught, and it can bring about a big transformation in society.
Then you will see a violence-free society, disease-free body, confusion-free mind, inhibition-free intellect, trauma-free memory and sorrow-free soul, and we can have a better, happier and prosperous society.
Questions & Answers
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My work includes building maintenance. I have a few 100 people working for me as staff. This kind of work it is not appreciated by the society. So when the economy goes down, we can’t pay much to the employees. I try to motivate these people, other than money. However, there are some who keep complaining or are unhappy. How can I maintain peace and happiness?
Sri Sri: Money alone cannot bring success or happiness. You need to do something different. Teach people how they can handle their own negative emotions.
Our teachers are here and we can have a program for your employees, especially for those who are always negative. All we need is a couple of hours for three days. You will find a difference for sure.
There are many smart people in my company. Now when I introduce a spiritual course to these smart souls, I fear they would get awakened and may start feeling a dispassion for business, and the true meaning of life would attract them elsewhere.
I would like to bring this program to the corporate world. So what is the best way to introduce them to something like this without having this fear?
Sri Sri: Actually, what The Art of Living gives in this course is something to develop their personalities. Their sharpness of intellect, calmness of their mind, and to bring an inspiration from within. That is what we focus on. So, you can be assured that they won’t run away, or become dispassionate.
Millions of people have done this course, we have not seen anyone run away. Otherwise World Bank would not have taken this program as a part of their leadership seminars.
It all depends on how you present the inner calmness. I understand when you say your inner calmness or liberation is important, and people may tend to go to in that direction, but here, it is all about finding the inner creativity and peace, and to be able to manage any adverse situation with a smile.
Gurudev I need your guidance. I am a mother and a wife, and I run a small school. There are times when things go wrong entirely, and I can’t concentrate or be myself at my workplace. How do I manage that?
Sri Sri: It is okay if it is only sometimes. But if it is often then we need to attend to it.
First of all, know that as an individual, you have the capacity to multi-task.
If you think, ‘Oh, I am a mother, I cannot be good at the office. It is not possible for me’; or, ‘I am an office goer, so I am not doing justice to my children’, these sorts of conflicts weighs very heavy on your emotions and your mind.
First you should know that you have the capacity to be a mother, a good wife, and a good officer or a good businesswomen. Resolve the conflict right at the root, instilling confidence in your capabilities.
The second is that, it is the quality of time and not the quantity of time that is important in whatever you are doing. You don’t have to spend 10 hours with your kids. Even one hour that you spend with your kids, if you are there with them a 100%, that makes them more satisfied.
The root cause of all this is stress. If you don’t relax and relieve stress, at least for a few minutes every day, whatever concepts you may have in your head, will be blown away by your emotions because our emotions are much stronger than our thoughts.
Many times we remain determined, but the surge of emotions, anger, frustration, desires, when they come, it just blows everything away.
The intellect, or all our concepts, are like the gatekeeper of the house. Emotions are like the owner of the house. When the owner of the house comes in, the gatekeeper has no-way to stop him. You just have to let him in.
We have to set right the emotions inside. That is where meditation, Sudarshan Kriya, pranayama, come very handy.
Is ethics different for different countries, or is it universal?
Sri Sri: Ethics are universal. Ethics is that which you want others to follow as well. For example, ethics are exactly those things which you expect from others who are working under you, or are working above you. You don’t want your boss to be unethical or those below you to be unethical towards you.
When you expect a certain standard of behavior, an etiquette, integrity from people working around you, you too will not do the same things to someone else. This is common.
You don’t want your employee to lie to you. Do you like them to lie to you? No. You too follow this in your life. This is ethics. As simple as that.
Ethics is universal. There is no Japanese lie, Indian lie, or American lie. A lie is a lie. Integrity is integrity. In this sense, ethics is universal.
In India, what is ethics to them? Is it that once you become a politician, you lose your ethics?
Sri Sri: Politicians, especially in India, the situation today is very pathetic. From top to bottom corruption has ruined our country, and ethics is completely dead.
Is it possible to revive it? I say, ‘Yes’, because people at large are honest, loving, and have a lot of integrity. A large percentage of people in India still have integrity, and they all want the change.
I would give you one example. There was a two month Kumbh Mela (a mass Hindu pilgrimage) in Allahabad and 100 million people visited that place. There was no crime or stealing registered.
Just imagine, with 100,000 people for two months, there wasn’t a single crime. This shows that people love to be ethical and honest. They just need some leadership in that. There is lack of such leadership and we must admit that. There is lack of good governance.
You need to go to college if you want to be a good businessman, or an engineer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or for any profession, but for politicians, there are no qualifications. That is why we (The Art of Living) have started a college of good governance where we are training the village panchayats for 1-3 months, so that they can go back and exhibit good governance.
Change is needed whenever ethics gets eroded. Politicians needs to be spiritual like in Mahatma Gandhi’s time, then they will gain the respect.
I would say, spiritualize politics and socialize business. Every business should have corporate social responsibility, and they should give something back to the society, and secularize religion.
Religious people become so fanatic, close minded and they cause terrorism, extremism and fanaticism in the world. Religious people shouldn’t only pray for those following their religion, but for humanity.
So, secularize religion, socialize business and spiritualize politics.
In the Japanese society, there is a thought usually that women have less commitment than men, especially if they get married and have a family. What is the best way to go about empowering them here?
Sri Sri: Women have a very important role. One is to keep the institution of family. She is the central focus of the family. Like Japan, India is also women centric.
Women play a very important role in keeping the family and culture intact. That does not mean women should not be empowered. Women need to be empowered. Women can multi-task. Women will do very well in politics and would be very good business leaders. They should come forward and not wait for men to give them the power. Nobody is going to give you power because you already have it.
As an old English saying goes, behind every successful man, there is a woman. Women empowerment should be the tune of the music of today. One thing they could do is, in the legislation, they can reserve half of the seats for women; especially in the assemblies and parliament. Then because of reservation, men would make their women stand up for the votes and work from behind.
Your program and organization seems like a religious organization for people who don’t know you. How can I introduce this to my company people, without any feeling of religion?
Sri Sri: I understand, that is why me or Swamijis, don’t teach these courses. Our very appearance and whatever we say appears religious. The ones who teach this course are in suits.
The course is all about breathing. Breathing and yoga have its origin in the ancient Vedic philosophy, but it has no religious component. We have kept it so secular that people anywhere in the world, even people who follow other religions, can take benefit from this.
That is the beauty of The Art of Living. The religious component is completely separate. So, if there are Buddhist monks who want to do the course, and who want to learn about breathing, they are not going to learn it from someone who is in a suit and tie. For them, it would be me and Swamiji who would go.
So, in The Art of Living, we have made it so universal, that for each section of society, we speak in their respective language. We do not mix up one another. People should feel comfortable, whether they are Muslim or Christian, or whatever religion they follow, they can follow.
Learning some techniques on how to calm the mind, and how to make oneself more energetic, is very important. Then you can work for 20 hours a day and still keep a smile. This is very important. That is why for the benefit of people, we have made different programs, so that religious people may learn separately, common people may learn separately, and business people and politicians may learn separately.
For different language, there are different faculty to teach these courses.