What is most essential today are role models. Young entrepreneurs need to see role models; industries which have ethical practices, which are fair and which have corporate social responsibilities. This can happen and in fact this should happen, for there are ample number of businesses who have grown steadily following code of conduct and ethics. They only need to be highlighted and that is the main purpose of this forum, to highlight such businesses, which can be role models for the coming generations to be ethical in their practices.
You know, one can gain money in many ways, but one cannot gain good sleep in many ways. A good sleep and inner comfort will only come when you feel everything is clean; everything is straight forward. When there is transparency, clarity and sincerity.
Usually I recommend meals and meditation for everyone in the afternoon, in companies, in factories, etc. I would recommend people to meditate for 10 minutes to 20 minutes and share a meal together. You will find such coherence in the group. You will feel like working together, team spirit gets built up, creative ideas come up. So it is always good to have food together.
That is all! I believe in talking less and doing more. So, I have said what I need to say. If you have some questions, I shall take them.
Questions & Answers
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Earlier we had a very interesting discussion around ‘redefining the self interest’. Could you once again say something about that.
Sri Sri: Yes, self interest is very important. On a long term basis, you need to know that if you go about doing things in unethical ways for short term gains, then you are putting yourself into a risk of long term disaster. Then you are not doing it in self interest. It is actually self disaster. It may appear to be self interest, but in fact it will turn out to be self disaster.
Another angle I would say, in yourself, include more people, include the society also. When you say self, you think about only yourself, or your employees, or your company. Now, your company cannot stay on if there is no sustainable growth in the society. If there is no buying power in people, there is no point in you manufacturing so many things. Nobody has the power to buy them. What do you do? So, you need to in your self interest also keep in mind the buying power of the people. This is equally important as the manufacturing power that you want to possess. So this buying power of people also gets included in your self interest.
I think that is one good way to look at one's self interest in terms of the whole society.
I teach leadership, particularly public leadership and am very interested in helping people when they are faced with pragmatism and corruption, how to make decisions. How do you make decisions on a bigger scale and how do you make sort of personal decisions in terms of contentment.
Could you advise on how to help people with these kinds of decisions, be it for inner contentment or decisions around pragmatism?
Sri Sri: You just need to expand their vision. ‘Come on, wake up and see what you want to do. You want to evade taxes only to be caught again next year, and then you will have to pay fine. Or do you want to pay your taxes? Pay and move on.’
You know, this vision, this idea needs to be given to them. Sustained development and sustained growth is possible when you feel clear from within yourself. This is the first point.
Second is, there is no short cut for making money. This point we need to drive in to the entrepreneurs; especially the young entrepreneurs. They just want short ways to get richer and richer, and then they have the risk of a big fall. This education is very important.
I see a big difference in the society; the attitude of the people today is very different from that which was five to ten years ago because today we see many of these entrepreneurs, in many companies that grew very fast and then simply collapsed. So nobody wants to be counted in that list. These examples have helped people to not walk in that wrong path.
In this world of stress, violence and corruption, what is your message for youths starting out in business?
Sri Sri: We must know that not the whole world is corrupt. There are a few people who indulge in corruption.
We must also remember that corruption begins where the sense of belongingness ends. This is what we should note. Nobody can do corrupt practices with those whom they think belong to them. Wherever there is sense of belongingness, corruption becomes simply impossible.
Corruption begins where sense of belongingness ends. So you need to educate people in values where the sense of belongingness is extended. This is what I call spirituality.
Spirituality is that which enhances the sense of belongingness among people, so there is that natural tendency to be honest and to care for each other.
Corruption simply becomes impossible in these cases.
Guruji! We discussed about ethics, morals and personal interests. My feeling is that there should be a certain amount of spiritualism in evey human being, irrelevant of their religion. Some principles in mind that would help one think along the moral or ethical lines. Only then will one be fair and square. What are your feelings?
Sri Sri: I want to give you an example. You know when there is a crowd there always are thefts, especially in countries like India. When there is big crowd, there are thefts. But, when the Kumbh Mela (mass Hindu pilgrimage at the river Ganges) happens, where 30 million people assemble in one place, not a single theft is reported. Why? Because there is some sacredness, some religiosity, and there is some feeling, ‘Oh! I have come for a pilgrimage!’ People just keep their things, keep their laptops and just move or walk around, and nobody would steal them, which is unthinkable otherwise.
Otherwise, even if you keep an old spectacle somewhere unattended, that would be stolen; your slippers would be stolen. And in a Kumbh Mela your laptop is also not stolen, it is an amazement!
Sense of giving, contributing to others, reigns more.
I would like to tell you of an incident. It was a very cold winter day in January in Allahabad; it was very cold, nearly zero or minus one degrees. So, at the night I set out with fifty of my volunteers to distribute blankets. There were some very poor people, who had come from far off to take a pilgrimage there and to take a dip in the Ganges there. They didn't have enough amenities. So we were giving out blankets to very poor people.
A boy was standing under the bridge and he was shivering. He was about 20 or 22, something like that. When we offered a blanket to him, he said, ‘No, I don't need it tonight. I will manage tonight. But you know there are those old ladies under the bridge, some elderly people. They would make better use of this blanket. Please give them.’ He pointed towards them, ‘You see, 500 meters away, there are these elderly people, please give there. They deserve it more, I can manage. I am young.’
You know this sense of caring for others, really touched me. This boy is also with the T-shirt, he is shivering there, but, he says, ’No! Care for them first. If anything is left, I shall take it.’
That sense of caring for each other is amazing and especially in poor people this is already there.
So, ethics, or spirituality, brings out the good qualities, the humane qualities that we all have. It just needs to be brought to the surface.
Three months ago the Police Commissioner of North West Delhi invited one of our teachers. He told him that he has about 350 rowdy-sheeters.
Do you know what rowdy-sheeters are? They are the anti-social elements who do robberies and other mischief. You cannot really put them behind the bars, but they are a nuisance to society. You call them goons in the society.
So the Commissioner put them all together, around 350 of them and he called our teacher and asked him if he could do something about them. He wanted to bring about some ethics or spirituality in them.
It was very tough to deal with these people, but in 6 days what a big transformation happened in them. We spent two or three hours each day with them, and we took a few minutes of meditation, some breathing exercise, a few talks, and after 6 days they were totally transformed. The same anti-social elements started doing cleaning campaign, health awareness campaigns, and the crime rate in North West Delhi fell by 90%.
Of course the Police Commissioner was extremely thrilled and said, ‘Why don’t we do this all over.’
We said, ‘Yes, we are all the more ready to do it.’
See nobody teaches one how to get rid of stress. It does not go away by talking or advising. You need to teach them some techniques, some tools or mechanisms to get rid of stress and calm the mind. You need make them think from a calm and collected mind, this is essential.
So we did the same thing in Panama also.
In Chicago, in many schools where the incidents of violence were very high, we taught them the breathing exercises and meditation. After we taught them, the number of violence incidents in class rooms reduced from 268 to just 60.
The education department was very thrilled. So finally we could do something about violence and something about stress. Bringing people back to themselves.
I think our education system should inculcate ways to release stress. Stress is such a common thing. I usually call it a mental hygiene. We teach dental hygiene, but forget to teach them mental hygiene. We need to teach children right from school and college days on how to keep their mind sane and not go insane due to stress and anxiety.
30% of Europe is reeling under depression today; I don’t know what the percentage of depression in Singapore is. May not be that high, about 20% people are depressed. This was not the case a few years ago, right. The stronger we are growing economically,we shouldn’t be facing these problems. But in fact we are. That is why we need to educate our people in spiritual values, what do you think?
Don’t you think so? Spirituality is something that helps you to be centered in all occasions; spirituality is not just sitting and following a religious practice, but to see life from a broader perspective. Of course religion is part of one’s life but spirituality is a little different. It is to see one’s own life with values and with a broader vision.
Many counties in the world, they respect greed as good culture.
We have been fortunate here in Singapore because our government tries to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor by intervention. But that is not the case in other counties. Guruji, coming to your teachings and the work of the Art of Living, and as volunteers we can participate in this. But, it is still a huge challenge, because we live in a society which is ruled by a system of laws and government policies, where greed, making profit, becoming a billionaire, are upheld as the values for human existence.
So please explain and give us some divine guidance.
Sri Sri: See, entrepreneurship and competition is very good. They are needed in society. But not following the rules of the game and trying to win a game without following the rules of the game will be disastrous.
So, one can be greedy to get a desired result, but not at any cost. Do you see what I am saying? You know, you should eat as much as you can. You want to eat, you eat. But, don't succumb to Bulimia, where you can't stop eating and you have to be throwing out in order to eat.
That explains very well, the disease Bulimia.
So, I am not against entrepreneurship, I am not against companies making huge profits. Get as much profit as you can, but ethically. And also the more profit you make, the more you should invest in the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Do social work.
So, if that could be managed, then the business that you have started will go on. Otherwise it is very easy to go up fast and come down fast. And that is what the past years have taught people. Today people have become aware of that.