(Extracted from talks at Vikasa, Rishikesh, December 2016)
2016’s Vikasa saw quite a few participants who were aspiring leaders. In one of the sessions, a participant shared his experience and observation that not everybody in society aspires to get into positions of leadership; only a few do. Many people just want to work in a company, they want to be in a good family, they want to go slowly, and yet contribute to the larger society and not be swayed by the nature of life. Is this possible? This is a beautiful and very practical question, which Adi ji answers with a personal story.
When you are in balance, it is a state of inner balance and outer balance, and a map between these, where you see your swabhava actually can contribute to societal well-being. When you take up such contributory actions, that is called your swadharma. And hence you could be one of the software engineers in a company, and you view your actions not just as your actions and the benefits you get from them, but actually, you see your actions benefiting a larger whole. Where, just because of you being you, you are able to do something unique. That might be a role performed by billions, and it is okay. You do it to the best of your ability and effort.
Once while I was travelling in the Himalayas, there were more than 100 landslides. In the Himalayas, landslides often occur after rains. Big boulders would fall off, you would have to stay in that place for you don’t know how long. It would be completely uncertain, maybe with no power, no food, water might be available but you are stuck in the midst of nowhere, because not every place is populated. And there might be these huge boulders, the Border Roads Organisation and the army do a tremendous job in clearing the way and ensuring that vehicles and people can pass through safely. So it so happened, I was just watching everything happening, and there was this old lady and a few of her mates, who were breaking stones. Breaking stones, stacking them by the side, just doing this in a jolly good manner, not with any tension or fuss anything, but systematically doing it and it was clear, the skill, they had gained the skill through long years of practice. Tak tak tak tak, and it was getting done, it was very efficient operation. So I was chatting with her –
“So you are doing this work, and you are doing it so well.”
She just nodded.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from a nearby village.”
“So, you do this all the time?”
“Yes, all the time”
“Why do you do this?”
She looked at me, and said,”So that you can be back home safely and happily.”
She struck me as awesome! I had not expected such an answer. She connected everything beautifully, what we are talking as swabhava, swadharma, all these complex concepts, she connected in that single sentence. Why are you doing this? So that you can be home safely and happily with your family. Simple as that. That is the big picture that we are talking of. It is not about becoming a Prime Minister or a leader, big or small, not in terms of work, but the big picture. She has the big picture. She is awesome. For her, it is not just a job, it is not like,”Are yaar, kya muzeebat hai!” (What is this man! What a pain it is to do this work!) She is not doing it that way, nor is she doing it for some money. In fact, a beautiful story illustrates this.
A king wanted to construct a temple. And generally it used to take many generations to finish the temple. So he appointed the right people, he made sure all arrangements were made, and the construction began. He wanted to check how it was going. So he assumed a disguise and interacted with one sculptor, who was sculpting.
He asked him,”Ayya enna pannitu irukeenga? What are you doing?”
For which this man just spat,”What?! This king does not have any other work. He tortures us constantly. For fear of him, I am doing this. What! You are also going on….Go! Just leave me!”Out of fear and because there was nothing else to do, he was doing his work.
So the raja went to another man and asked him,”What are you doing?”
The man said,”Athyen kekareenga? Why do you even ask? See I have a big family, I have to take care of them, children’s education, food, necessities, so I need to earn a living. What else do I do? Unakku enna yaar. Poya Po! What does it matter to you? Go!”
So the king went to another person and he saw that he was doing it very efficiently, very comfortably and he asked him,”What are you doing?”
For which he responded, “This deity, if I shape it up properly, will bring joy to the millions who will come to this temple for ages and generations together. Long after I am gone. And that will spread cheer and happiness. That is what I am doing.”
So this man is able to connect not just the physical aspect, he is able to connect not just the emotional aspect, he is able to connect across space and time. And that is the big picture that we are talking of! And that is leadership. Leadership is not in terms of Prime Minister, minister, CEO or MD. Leadership, I see this old lady as a leader, because she has the big picture. And she continues doing what is necessary based on her swabhava, on her background. That is a true leader, having the big picture.