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Thursday, November 02, 2020

Karma and Capitalism

According to The Times newspaper (that's the one in London, England), “America’s business schools and corporations are turning to the teachings of Hindu gurus and the wisdom of Lord Krishna for guidance for their budding hedge-fund managers, investment bankers and venture capitalists.” (Article link here) It seems bright, young things are being sent to sit at the feet of various leading gurus, in the hope of imbibing key “techniques” to illuminate the path to long-term business success, and “transform stressed-out, one-dimensional executives into well-balanced bosses whose inner peace will keep them focused, productive and profitable.” High-profile gurus are invited to lecture at Wharton, the Kellogg School and similar top institutions.

Far be it from me to decry such lofty aims, but it does seem that these business schools are maybe missing the point of the teaching they are asking their alumni to taste.

One of the leading gurus, Parthasarathy, was, says The Times, “the heir to his family’s shipping business, but turned his back on the family firm after studying at London University.” He then began studying the Bhagavad Gita, and has spent the past 50 years building a multimillion dollar empire through explaining its practical benefits to wealthy corporations and executives.

The Times says:
Parthasarathy, however, is skeptical about his new role as guru-in-chief to America Inc. “The business community has appreciated my line of approach. But nobody knows what I’m talking about, just bits and pieces. I’m saying they need to develop their intellect, not simply their intelligence, which is just knowledge from external sources, to help earn a living.

“Your intellect is your capacity to deal with the world, which is dormant in you. I ask people to think. People are doing business, but they don’t know why,” he said.

“You’ve got to set targets for yourself. They could be material or spiritual. I’m not interested in business. I’m interested in teaching people what life is about. We have to add self-realization as a target, to know yourself. We have a spiritual target and all these business jokers have a material target.”

He is skeptical of the prospects of many of his business students benefiting from his teaching. “Not a single soul has understood. At Kellogg, nobody understood. They said it was inspiring. They think I will help them make more money. It’s hype,” he said.
I wrote recently about the tendency of America Inc. to try to find answers for all situations via a series of techniques that can be learned and replicated, for the sole purpose of making money more consistently. It seems that Parthasarathy has encountered the same thing.

If only these students would listen to the core of the Swamiji's message, they might find what they are searching for. It's what I have been writing here for months:
  • Stop and think. Use your intellect, not just your emotions.

  • To prosper in the long term, you have to think long term. That may well mean setting future prosperity above short-term profits.

  • Understand who you are and what you value. Communicate this honestly. Act on it. Forget all the macho hype.

  • Work should be part of life, not the other way around. It should bring people a sense of purpose they can be proud of. No one ever felt his or her heart swell at the thought of making this month's numbers.

  • Forget the language of war and conquest as an analogy for business. Organizations are communities. Communities that are always at war, internally or externally, waste their energy on fighting and end up exhausted and debilitated.

  • Remember this quote, given in The Times article: “'You should never engage in action only for the desire of rewards,' Krishna says. Acting on worldly desires leads to failure. Do well, and good things will come."


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