Like many persons of Indian origin living in America I am conflicted.
I am immensely proud of the great philosophical traditions that sprang up and matured in ancient India. There are days when I wander about in a daze at the grandeur of the Upanishadic aphorisms and the penetrating insight into the human predicament that those long gone sages had. They understood the problem and they devised the solution.
And then I confront the bureaucratic mess of the country and the sheer inefficiency and lack of caring that is all pervasive. Here is something that particularly gets my goat and I am sure that many can relate to it. My luggage is frequently overweight when I travel domestically so I have to pay excess baggage charges. I don’t like this but can accept it. However, the clerk at the check in counter will not accept the charges. I have to take a voucher she gives, go to a distant counter to pay the charges and then bring that back to her to check in my luggage. And I can either cart my suitcases with me or leave them there with no assurance they will still be there when I return.
There is no point in getting annoyed. Such practices are the unhappy norm.
So is there anything in India or from India of which one can legitimately be proud?
Actually there is. And I make a living from it. The great truths that were discovered and propagated by Indian seers are more relevant now than ever before. The modern executive suffers from unbelievable levels of stress and technology in the shape of smart phones, fax machines, messaging has erased the boundary between ‘work’ and ‘home’. Global trade in different time zones compounds the problem.
What I do is simple. I take the solutions devised by those wise beings, state them in acceptable language and convert them into exercises. And these harried, powerful executives are utterly flummoxed at how simple and powerful the techniques are.
Here is a simple example where I take one of the fundamental tenets of the Bhagavad Gita where Sri Krishna exhorts Arjuna to dedicate the fruits of his efforts to Him and give up attachment to the result.
I point out to goal-obsessed executives that actually achieving their targets are beyond their control. The best they can do try their hardest. But if they obsess over the outcome and let their emotional well being depend on it, then they will live a life full of frustration and suffering. Paradoxically, when they relinquish this fixation on goals, the probability of reaching it actually increases.
As I put it. “Invest in the process. Do not invest in the outcome.”
It works big time. I have helped thousands of executives in the US and UK cope better with their particular situation through variations of this message.
It has even become a TED talk:
What those great souls put forth was actually a road map for liberation. They did not mean it to be a mere palliative for those suffering from stress in an acquisitive society. But it does relieve the pain and a small percentage of persons who play with these ideas do recognize that they can lead to something much greater.
They are the ones who are willing to go deep into the rabbit hole and when there are enough of them, society changes.