||12 August 2007 12:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Devi Sankaree Govender (Carte Blanche presenter): 'Greed may have been good a decade ago, but 'karma capitalism' is the new business ethos for long term success, and the ancient Hindu scriptures - the Bhagavad-Gita - is the hip new management text.'
Swami Parthasarathy: 'Everything is governed by this law of cause and effect. If you plant coconut seed, you will get a coconut tree, not a mango tree. So what you sow, you reap.'
With his down-to-earth interpretation of ancient wisdom, 80-year-old Swami Parthasarathy is at the helm of this growing trend in large corporations to embrace Indian philosophy, to promote a more holistic approach to business
Swami: 'There are three ingredients to success for the business people. It is concentration, consistency and cooperation. The only thing that can keep the mind on the present is intellect. So when you develop your intellect and focus your mind on the present, without allowing it to slip into the past or the future, you are practising concentration. That is number one point in business. Secondly, there has to be consistency in whatever you do. For consistency you need a goal, a purpose, a cause. So you fix a goal and all actions must flow in that direction. A simple example of that is: water flowing in one direction has power; wind blowing in one direction has power. The third point for business people is a spirit of cooperative endeavour. When there is a spirit of cooperative endeavour there is success.'
Despite his spiritual garb, the Swami is no stranger to the corporate world. He's a London University graduate with degrees in law and science. He had a future in his family's lucrative shipping industry, which he gave up to immerse himself in spiritual study. After 20 years of this he started an academy.
Devi: 'The Vedanta Academy is based in India and offers a three year diploma in the science of life and living, focusing on basic universal human values. Even though the tuition is free, it is certainly not an easy ride. The students get up at 4am and only go to bed at 9pm. There are no holidays, no weekends off.'
Teaching his students how to think for themselves, to question their thoughts and actions and not blindly follow the herd, the Swami believes is the basis of a successful life, which translates to business.
Swami: 'Intelligence you get from external source: from teachers and textbooks; from schools and universities. They only provide you knowledge, intelligence, but they don't develop the intellect. So if you don't develop the intellect you would not know how to make the choices. That's the whole theme of Vedanta. So once you build your intellect you can handle anything.'
Devi: 'Where does fate then come in?'
Swami: 'Go home and take your dictionary and strike the name fate. But, in the way we understand it, whatever your actions are, the result of it is your destiny. It is your fate. So it's not predetermined - it is your own actions that cause your fate. You're the architect of your fortune; you are the architect of your misfortune. There is no fate coming from anywhere above the clouds.'
Devi: 'Swami Parthasarathy's other passion is cricket and, at 80, he can still weave a mean spin.'
Vyasa Dass (Student: Vedanta Academy): 'The whole attitude of Vedanta is that you should be able to be energetic, that ageing is a myth. You should still feel young at 80.'
Devi: 'He's maintained his weight the last 60 years, his blood pressure is perfect and [he] doesn't suffer from ailments common to people his age, and he falls asleep in 10 seconds. How does he do it?'
Swami: 'Simple formula, which you can follow. I have no worries of the past, no anxieties for the future. The mind wreaks havoc in the human being. The mind is all the time gathering likes and dislikes. At this moment every human being is just a bundle of likes and dislikes. Certainly, the mind has a tendency to ramble into the past and future. All the time one is worried about what happened in the past and anxious about what is going to happen in the future, that saps your energy.'
Devi: 'From Mumbai to the boardroom, Swami has lectured to corporations and universities around the world - the Harvard School of Business, Microsoft and the World Bank. Here in South Africa delegates have paid R2 000 to listen to his message on business success.'
Swami: 'They are going on wrong track the business people. They could make their business far more productive. The whole business houses are dependent... are based... on incentives. That's how they lure people to work. But what you need to teach employees is to develop an initiative to work, and initiative comes through an ideal, a cause, a purpose.'
Devi: 'But for a lot of people, Swami - especially in business - there is this constant concern of wanting to be the best, of winning that contract, of performing to get that incentive. Your philosophy is now telling people to relax about it and it will come?'
Swami: 'I didn't say to relax the effort. I said relax the mind. The more disturbed the mind is, the less productive you'll be. I'm not asking you to relax the effort... then you won't gain anything.'
While traditional business teachings use a language of war and conquest, Swami uses the Bhagavad-Gita - one of Hindu's most spiritual texts - to urge students to turn inwards; a philosophy of the evolution of the soul.
Prof Nick Binedell (Director: GIBS): 'The issues that he's raising are so profound. They have to do with the philosophy of business and more about why we do things than the how. Individuals all need a map and a mirror. The mirror is about who they are; the map is about where they are trying to take themselves or the business. So the holistic idea of how everything fits together - of any particular decision you make, is quite specific, but you have to have a broad sense of the world in which you're making that decision.'
Swami: 'Living is an art, a skill and a technique - like playing golf, or a violin or bridge. You have got to learn and practice it.'
Swami Parthasarathy's message, though rooted in ancient Indian philosophy, is surprisingly well-attuned to basic requirements of companies today, which will only grow if they cater to the needs of their employees, society and even the environment.
Devi: 'How do people who are not from an eastern culture understand the philosophy of the Vedanta?'
Swami: 'I can't understand what you mean by 'eastern' and 'western'. The mind that eastern people have, western people also have. The people in between also have the same mind and intellect. There is no east or west. These are eternal truths of life.'
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.