Archive for May, 2011

Personal Mastery & Leadership

May 30, 2011

The root of the word Master comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Maha’, which means a person who has put in effort and time to master the mind.

However, to master something does not mean to control something as it might be generally understood. It specifically means winning over oneself.

Hence hermits, sages and gurus in India are known as Maharaja – a kind who has won over himself.

I would like to illustrate this by a story of an encounter between Alexander the Great and an Indian hermit, when Alexander came to India.

One day he chanced upon a hermit sitting by the river bank of the Indus sitting deep in meditation. He was on his way to a meeting with his army generals to discuss war strategies with them. The meeting point was a few miles from where he came across the meditating hermit. After the meeting which was over in a couple of hours on his way back Alexander saw the hermit was still sitting there silently in meditation.

Seeing this Alexander was not only curious but also very vexed. He was curious to know what this man was doing. And he was vexed because he thought how any man can waste his time like this doing nothing.

Unable to overcome his curiosity Alexander approached the hermit and sort of woke him up by force. The hermit opened his eyes and smiled at Alexander.

Alexander asked him, ‘What are you doing? Don’t you have anything better to do rather than sit idle for so long and waste time?’

‘What might have been a better task than what I am doing?’ the hermit politely replied to the great emperor.

Alexander laughed and mockingly retorted, ‘You could do something like I am doing.’

‘What are you doing Sir’, the hermit asked.

‘Well I am conquering lands and increasing my empire and building wealth for my state and my people. After I conquer your country I would be the unchallenged master of the world. What might be better than that?’ replied the great emperor.

On hearing this, the hermit smiled and said, ‘In that case, Sir, I am doing something way better than that. I am trying to master myself by winning over my mind, which I would do soon. That I believe is much more difficult and important than winning the world with all its riches.’


1. This story contains the cultural seed that made Indians what they are – a tolerant people who value inner wisdom over outer achievement. That is the reason the great Indian epic Mahabharata (where Bharata denotes the original name of India) represents the tale of greatness of India and not the great epic of India.

2. Personal Mastery would mean exactly the same. It starts with gaining wisdom from whatever field of work one might be engaged in. Wisdom and Action are related. One can’t gain wisdom from thin air. It can only come from the numerous experiences one encounters in life and from his/her own realization of the inherent truth in every experience. 

3. Without Personal Mastery no leader is worth his or her name. One who can’t win over himself or herself can’t hope to win over others and expect people to follow them as examples rather than getting something from them in return for their followership.


Carrying a Woman

May 27, 2011
This is an old Indian story and perhaps well know. But I have never failed to be inspired by this short story. And everytime I read it I have a different realization of the inherent truth that I uncover layer by layer.

The story goes like this…..

Two Buddhist monks are returning to their monastery; they come to a ford. The current is very powerful, it is a hilly place. A young, beautiful girl is waiting there, waiting for somebody to help her to cross. She is afraid to enter alone.

One monk, who is the oldest walks ahead of others. So the young girl meets the older monk first. The young girl asks him, “Would you help me; just hold my hand? I am afraid, the current is so strong and perhaps it may be deep.”

The old man closes his eyes–that’s what Buddha had said to the monks, that if you see a woman, particularly if she is beautiful, close your eyes. So he closes his eyes and enters the ford without answering the woman.

Then the second, younger monk comes. The girl is afraid, but there is nothing else to do–the sun is setting, soon it will be night. So she asks the young monk, “Will you please hold my hand? The ford seems to be deep and the current strong… and I am afraid.”

The monk says, “It is deep, I know, and just holding hands won’t do; you sit on my shoulders and I will carry you to the other side.”

When they reach the monastery the older monk says to the young one, “You, fellow, you have committed a sin and I am going to report that not only you touched a woman, not only you talked with her, you carried her on your shoulders! You should be expelled from the community; you are not worthy of being a monk.”

The young man simply laughs and says, “It seems although I have dropped that girl three miles back, you are still carrying her on your shoulders. Three miles have passed, and you are still bothered by it?”

Now, what is happening to this old monk? The girl was beautiful; he has missed a chance. He is angry, he is jealous. He is full of sexuality; he is really in a mess. The younger one is completely clean. He took the girl across and left her on the other shore, and that’s that, the thing is finished.

Never fight with greed, ego, anger, jealousy, hatred –you cannot kill them, you cannot crush them, you cannot fight with them. All that you can do is just be aware of them–and the moment you are aware, they are gone. In the light, the darkness simply disappears.


a) Older monk walks ahead of the rest of the group. Note — all games of the ego. If you are older, you have to walk ahead; younger monks have to walk a little behind the older one. Who is helping this ego to develop? Society of course with its social norms.

b) Old monk closes his eyes…Note: I am surprised here: The monk has already seen her, then he closes his eyes; otherwise how can he determine she is a woman, and beautiful? You are already affected, and now you close your eyes! What is the purpose? Can’t he do something in a detached manner?


1. Society thrusts upon us and helps us develop our egos. We wrongly think that we have egos. Society is responsible for it. And to some extent is it useful. Without it we simply can’t function in a society. But the problem is being too satisfied with them. The egos then prevents us from rediscovering our true or real self.

2. Such egos that develop over the years is the cause of many of our miseries and troubles we face in life. However egos can’t be uprooted or repressed easily. The good thing is that there is no need for that too.

3. Only by being aware of their purpose, limitations and effects they are well kept in check. This then allows us to do our work with complete detachment from the ego. The Karmic cycle is broken.

4. The biggest lesson here is: One can never fight greed, ego, anger, jealousy, hatred –one cannot kill them, one cannot crush them, one cannot fight them. That is delusion. All that one might possibly do is to be just aware of them — and the moment one is aware, they are gone. In the light, the darkness simply disappears. That is what true leaders are made of.

Even the Wisest Don’t Know

May 25, 2011

Gautama Buddha was surely one of the wisest person who walked upon this earth.

But one night he left his home in search of enlightenment and was at it with the greatest perseverance for the next twelve years. However, after attaining Nirvana he decided to come back home to meet his wife, son and his father.

The dialog that ensued between his wife and him is enlightening by itself. Here goes the story..

And the first thing his wife said to him was, “I can see that you are transformed. These twelve years were a great suffering, but not because you had gone; I suffered because you did not tell me. If you had simply told me that you were going to seek the truth, do you think I would have prevented you? You have insulted me very badly. This is the wound that I have been carrying for twelve years. I also belong to the warrior caste–do you think I am that weak that I would have cried and screamed and stopped you?

“All these twelve years my only suffering was that you did not trust me. I would have allowed you, I would have given you a send-off, I would have come up to the chariot. First I want to ask the only question that has been in my mind for all these twelve years, which is that whatever you have attained… and it certainly seems you have attained something.

“You are no longer the same person who left this palace; you radiate a different light, your presence is totally new and fresh, your eyes are as pure and clear as a cloudless sky. You have become so beautiful… you were always beautiful, but this beauty seems to be not of this world. Some grace from the beyond has descended on you. My question is that whatever you have attained was it not possible to attain it here in this palace? Can the palace prevent the truth?”

It is a tremendously intelligent question, and Gautam Buddha had to agree: “I could have attained it here but I had no idea at that moment. Now I can say that I could have attained it here in this palace; there was no need to go to the mountains, there was no need to go anywhere. I had to go inside, and that could have happened anywhere. This palace was as good as any other place, but now I can say that. At that moment I had no idea.

“So you have to forgive me, because it is not that I did not trust you or your courage. In fact, I was doubtful of myself: if I had seen you wake up and if I had seen the child, I may have started wondering, ‘What am I doing, leaving my beautiful wife, whose total love, whose total devotion is for me. And leaving my one-day-old child… if I am to leave him then why did I give birth to him? I am escaping from my responsibilities.’

“If my old father had awakened, it would have become impossible for me. It was not that I did not trust you; it was really that I did not trust myself. I knew that there was a wavering; I was not total in renouncing. A part of me was saying, ‘What are you doing?’–and a part of me was saying, ‘This is the time to do it. If you don’t do it now it will become more and more difficult. Your father is preparing to crown you. Once you are crowned as king, it will be more difficult.'”


Moral of the Story

1. Even the wisest amongst us do not know in advance what would work and what wouldn’t. And it is indeed foolish to predict the future with any degree of certainty, more so, if such predictions are done by projecting the past.

2. Even the wisest amongst us are plagued or gripped by doubts, uncertainties, fear and loss of face, inability to be arrogant and fear of failure.

3. We learn better by doing and through direct experience

4. The fundamental truths in life are always available in whatever we choose to do and wherever we might choose to do that. No special circumstances or professions ae needed to realize the truth. So such truths are available to all and are a part of the ‘collective wisdom’.

Learning, Aging, Leadership

May 23, 2011


These Chinese characters represent learning.  

The first character means ‘Study’.

This is made up of two parts.

The first part means ‘to accumulate knowledge’ by various means and methods. 

The second part which is at the bottom represents a child in front of a door. That means in order to learn one must be blessed with a child like curiosity and innocence. 

Now we shall examine the second character.

The second character stands for ‘constant practice’. Understandably there is no substitute for hard work and constant endeavor to practice and hone a skill to perfection.

This character is also made of two parts.

The upper symbol represents ‘flying’ showing a bird developing its ability to leave the nest. So it means ‘being on one own and being a leader too’ signified by one’s ability to leave the nest. 

The lower symbol or the second part of the second character represents ‘youth’. This is an important benefit. With constant learning, rediscovering and reinventing oneself one probably never ages mentally and psychologically — perhaps even slows down biological aging.

When we put all the four parts of the two characters together they holistically mean — to learn one has to be like a child accumulating knowledge in bits and pieces, which is then followed up by constant practice with the strength and perseverance of youth in order to come up with something original like ‘flying’ (signifying ease and competence of some skill gained) to become leaders by leaving their nests and making their presence felt in the world through their own ability. 

However, the most important thing in the whole issue is to become like a child. Christ’s teachings also reflect the same when he says, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 18:3

Constantly learning is indeed the ‘kingdom of heaven’, which is symbolic in the sense that in heaven none grows old, which is just the same as what the Chinese meant by ‘youth‘ (inability to grow old while learning).

The process of learning can therefore be divided into three parts —

a) Accumulating from a teacher (accumulation of information, knowledge and the path to self mastery)

b) Self Study (to be the child at play with whatever one is interested to master)

c) Dialogs with peers and friends and application in real life (constant practice, refinement, development of leadership and the abilty to stand on one’s own feet).


1. Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Senge, et al.

2. New Testament, King James Version.



The Demons We Fight With

May 22, 2011


We are constantly fighting with our unconscious.

They appear as demons and evil sprits in our lives

How are these demons created?

These are created through Thoughts that we repress.

These are created through Thoughts that we don’t like

These are created through Thoughts that we secretly harbor in our minds

These are created through Thoughts by which we stop the flow of life

These are created through our judgment of things, people and events — without a holistic understanding.

This happens through labeling something as good and something as bad

This happens through idealistic thinking

This happens when we we feel that whatever we think is the only right way and others are always wrong.

This happens when we deny ourselves our basic urges and instincts.

This happens when we become too greedy and want something more than anything else.

This happens when we start hating people, things, events and phenomena.

This happens when we are deluded in believing something, hoping for something, waiting for something to happen, fearing something too much.

We are then thrown into the wilderness of shrinking consciousness and keep roaming there continuously fighting the demons in reality.


We continually try to fight such demons and often lose our battles.

Winning this battle needs a different type of skill.

It is not fighting continuously with a sword and a shield

It is not going to the battlefield and then fighting the battle

It is not about being continuously afraid of evil forces to guard ourselves and not let anyone come near or attack.

It is not fighting someone or something outside. These demons are not outside us.

They reside deep inside us.

The most skillful amongst us fight these battles in the mind first and then go to the battlefield to win the wars. 

One after the other! Continuously!

By doing so we not only help ourselves but also help others.

We create the flow inside to see the flow outside.

It is a flow of awareness.

It is a flow of attention.

It is a flow of compassion.

It is a flow created by empathy, wisdom and total understanding.

It is the gentle flow that matters

That soothes, heals and covers the wounds — gently and slowly.

It is so easy but we miss it every time.

All it needs is a prepared mind and body that welcome and allow balance to take place.

It is self organising.

Diseases are emergence of causes lost in time and space.

Can be healed physically, mentally and spiritually, of which spirituality is the best.

How do we do that?

Try it!

Heal thyself by knowing thyself!


Collective Intelligence or Wisdom

May 20, 2011

Collective Intelligence is certainly not common intelligence or influence upon one’s intelligence of the 10 closest people one would prefer to mix with.

Collective intelligence has more to do with wisdom rather than gaining information and knowledge or learning from the decisions of others.

This is because collective wisdom is subtle in its essence and formless. It then appears to me that such wisdom is ubiquitous so as to be available to all human minds. Therefore, it is not the personal property of any one individual though much of it would otherwise depend on one’s individual intention to tap into this enormous resource of wisdom.

Gaining such collective wisdom is more of a process that helps one to tap into the truth of a situation and understanding patterns rather than being an idea or concept that might be stored in one’s brain as an image. It therefore follows that such truths are always universal in nature and not dependent on the varied perceptions of human senses other than that of the mind.

The process is helped by one’s willingness to let go of clinging to specific viewpoints, practices, images, self images and sensual objects. It must also be free of intellectual sensations, tendency for mental constructs and even spiritual aspirations.

Collective Intelligence or Wisdom can only be gained or transferred from one to the other through stories, riddles, and puzzles or by solving problems.  

However, the output of Collective Wisdom would always remain formless and ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’, never quite reaching the reality and never quite ‘nothing’.

Kama – The Sensuality for Creative Leadership

May 19, 2011
Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

Continuing from previous posts on Dharma and Artha we now come to the third basic pillar of living — the creative part of life – called Kama.

This is mostly understood as having sex or making love. This to my mind is a big misunderstanding since the philosophy is much bigger and wider than that.  

How did this misunderstanding arise? The famous Indian treatise on love called Kama Sutra (where sutra means principles) created by a sage Vatsyayana is the cause of such misunderstanding, which of course the sage never meant to create.  

How is that?

Just as we have had unraveled the mystery of Dharma and Artha let us discover layer by layer the deeper principles involved in the meaning of Kama.

Layer 1

How is Kama defined in Indian philosophy?

Kama is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling/touch (though they have a subtle difference), seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind (one of the senses). The principle involved is a contact between the organ of sense and its object that gives rise to the consciousness of pleasure. This pleasure of ever increasing consciousness from sensuous contact is called Kama.

But isn’t that our existence?

We sense the world around us through our sense objects.

We learn through the interaction of the sense objects with the mind.

Our memory is built on the experience of our senses.

We think based on such memory developed through senses

We take all actions based on this particular interaction of our senses with our mind that leads to learning and ever expanding consciousness of spirituality. Spirituality is not devoid of sensuousness. It is the path that leads to it.

Our Layer 1 understanding of Kama is that of sensuous enjoyment that unfolds spiritual development. This is the most fundamental and perhaps the most important underlying meaning of Kama as we would soon discover.

Layer 2

Obviously, it is interesting to note that sex is also a similar type of sensual interaction and creative too.

Strange as it might seem, creating new life (babies, seeds, and plants), creativity and creating new ideas and thoughts replicates the sexual union or interaction. New ideas and concepts emerge when other ideas and thoughts have sex or interactions amongst them.

Layer 3

From another perspective Kama is all about professions one can engage in to build a worthy career to earn money and wherewithal to live and refine life and living. 64 professions are suggested in Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra and people are encouraged to learn the trades along with lessons of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Artha’. We find the professions, though listed long back, are still relevant in today’s world and might continue to be relevant till human beings live and walk the planet. These are listed under Chapter III (On the Arts and Sciences to be studied).

Some of the professions listed here are: Singing, Dancing, Playing musical instruments, Writing and Drawing, Reasoning, Architecture, Chemistry, Toy making, Games, Mental Gymnastics, ….   It is simply astounding.

Layer 4

Yet on another level, it deals with all types of emotional relationships with men and women and with members of society in general, making friends, influencing people and the whole lot of it. This is understandably a skill that can’t be denied, more so in today’s world of increasing complexity and ambiguity.

It also deals with making a home a home that not only deals with arrangement of houses, furniture but also deals with the manner of conducting daily life, duties of citizens, dealing with friends and amusement.

Layer 5

Perhaps the most important part of understanding Kama is to develop Virtue and Love that form the foundation of spiritual development linked to the concepts of Dharma and Artha.  

It therefore asks us to live in the present moment with total attention based on sensual awareness but detached from the awareness of the self. This is simply because our consciousness can’t totally experience the pleasure of the interaction between our senses and our mind, while dwelling in the past or in the future. At the same time the important lesson is not to be forgotten – that the present moment contains everything that is necessary since the present is the culmination of the past and the actions taken in the present creates our future.  

This most important lesson of present moment awareness is therefore represented by the ubiquitous symbol of Shiva Linga (the symbol of the phallus inside the vagina) that is found and worshipped everywhere in India reminding us to invoke the spirituality or our highest self that lies dormant in all of us waiting to blossom through the careful self organized balance of the male and female energies lying inside all of us.  


Ref: Kama Sutra

Happiness — Where is it?

May 17, 2011

Deep was a poor man. One day, by chance, he found a big and bright diamond. But he could not find any use of it. So he thought about someone who might need it most and be momentarily happy to receive this diamond as a gift.

After some hard thinking he thought of someone. He took the diamond to the King and presented him the biggest and largest diamond the king had ever seen in his life.

The king was amazed by this act and asked, ‘Why do you present me with such an invaluable diamond?’

“Oh King! I thought it would make you very happy.” Deep replied.

‘How do you know that? You could have kept it yourself’

‘No Sir, I have no need for this. I thought of the neediest person who might need this diamond to be happy. And it was you. Because you are the poorest amongst all of us. You need so many things and is always hunting for so many other things in life. So you always lack happiness”

Indian stories retold — Nagarjuna, A letter to a friend.


Happiness can never be obtained by relating our worth to the external environment. However, it can always be achieved by anyone who takes care to continually adjust and refine the internal workings of the mind (the structure that causes everything to happen around a person). It is not easy but worth a try. As Buddha said there are only two mistakes one can make in not achieving a sense of balance, flow and happiness — a) not start the journey b) not to finish it.



Truth becomes a Lie

May 12, 2011

Naropa was a great scholar, a great pundit, with ten thousand disciples of his own. One day he was sitting surrounded by thousands of scriptures–ancient, very ancient, rare. Suddenly he fell asleep, must have been tired, and he saw a vision.

He saw a very, very old, ugly, horrible woman–a hag. Her ugliness was such that he started trembling in his sleep. It was so nauseating he wanted to escape–but where to escape, where to go?

He was caught, as if hypnotized by the old hag. Her eyes were like magnets.

“What are you studying?” asked the old woman.

He said, “Philosophy, religion, epistemology, language, grammar, logic.”

The old woman asked again, “Do you understand them?”

Naropa said, “Of course… Yes, I understand them.”

The woman asked again, “Do you understand the word, or the sense?”

Thousands of questions had been asked to Naropa in his life–thousands of students always asking, inquiring–but nobody had asked this: whether he understands the word, or the sense. And the woman’s eyes were so penetrating–those eyes were going to the very depth of his being, and it was impossible to lie. To anybody else he would have said, “Of course I under-stand the sense,” but to this woman, this horrible-looking woman, he had to say the truth. He said, “I understand the words.”

The woman was very happy. She started dancing and laughing, and her ugliness was transformed; a subtle beauty started coming out of her being. Thinking, “I have made her so happy. Why not make her a little more happy?” Naropa then said, “And yes, I understand the sense also.”

The woman stopped laughing, stopped dancing. She started crying and weeping and all her ugliness was back–a thousandfold more. Naropa said, “Why are you weeping and crying? And why were you laughing and dancing before?”

The woman said, “I was happy because a great scholar like you didn’t lie. But now I am crying and weeping because you have lied to me. I know–and you know–that you don’t understand the sense.”

The vision disappeared and Naropa was transformed. He escaped from the university; he never again touched a scripture in his life. He became completely ignorant, he understood–the woman was nobody outside, it was just a projection.

It was Naropa’s own being, through knowledge, that had became ugly. With this much understanding, that “I don’t understand the sense,” ugliness was transformed immediately into a beautiful phenomenon, which we now know as ‘emergence‘. 


Source: Ancient Indian story – retold.

Dealing with Complexity

May 12, 2011

This is precisely the challenge that lie before us in this century. The thinking and the methods that helped us in the last century aren’t helping us anymore.

What is needed is a total change in mindset and the methods of achieving it. It calls for transformational learning that would hinge around seven critical factors as follows:

1. How do we understand reality that always exist on different planes (goodbye to objectivity and single character definitions)

2. How creatively we learn, understand and know what is to be done in a given situation. There are no fixed answers and we can’t rely on previous solutions and best practices any more than we can rely on fixed mindset to tackle any problem or issue.

3. How do we see the interconnection between different issues and problems and understand the interdependence of one on something else.

4. How do we feel for something. That is how do we develop our feelings along with our brain power.

5. How do we communicate

6. How do we imagine

7. And how do we connect to everything around us.

These seven factors call for 8 new skills for the 21st century, which are the following:

1. Creativity

2. Doing more with less

3. Understanding business dynamics

4. Accelerated Learning on a daily basis

5. Empathy, Trust & Respect

6. Touching Hearts & Minds

7, Purposeful communication

8. Observing Changes, Creating Visions

The challenge lies in developing all these skills simultaneously through day to day actions.

The beauty is these skills would be needed in everything we would be doing in the 21st century.

Amplify’d from

Biocomplexity_spiral Ask 1500 CEOs what the greatest challenge their organizations face is, and they’ll tell you:  complexity. 

Every crisis also creates opportunity and we believe this one calls us to bring transformative learning theory and practice to support leaders in meeting the challenge of increasing interdependence and complexity.