Professor of Management & Associate Dean, Chair & Director of the MBA Program, School of Business, Woodbury University, California
Sadashiva Samarambham Shankaracharya Madhyamam Asmad Acharya Paryantam Vande Guru Paramparam……
I am beholden to Dr. Kanoria for providing me with the opportunity to share some musings on spirituality. The teachers, from whom I learnt the art of communication told me, start with a story and tell some stories in between and then conclude with the story. I will try to follow this advice.
I was travelling to Europe once and I met a fellow Indian. I generally keep the Bhagavad Gita with me and read it regularly. The fellow asked me what I was reading and upon hearing my answer, he asked if it was the same book where Lord Krishna was teaching Arjuna. You can understand my amazement.
I went home and I thought about the episode. I discovered that in chapter 10 of Bhagavad Gita, Shloka 37, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “Pandava naam Dhananjay,” which when translated means “I am among the Pandavas, I am Dhananjay.”
So that person was right. This is the beauty of Indian spirituality. In many religions, people talk about one God. The beauty of Indian spirituality is we don’t say one God, we only say God. Vasudevah sarvam iti, sa mahatma su-durlabha. In Bhagavad Gita, the word ‘durlabha’ is used for that mahatma, that saintly person who sees Vasudevah sarvam iti, he who sees Lord in everything.
One of the topics of this confluence is humanity. An Urdu poet, Altaf Hussain Hali writes, “Farishta se behter hai insaan banna, magar usme padti hai mehnat zyada.” To become a human being you have to do a lot of hard work. But what kind of work you have to do and what kind of understanding you have to come up with is what spirituality teaches us.
A great poet Muhammad Iqbal who wrote ‘Sare Jahan Se Accha’ said something very beautiful. He said, “Mann Ki Duniya! Mann Ki Dunya Souz-O-Masti, Jazab-O-Shauq Tann Ki Dunya! Tann Ki Dunya Sood-O-Soda, Maker-O-Fann, Mann Ki Doulat Hath Ati Hai To Phir Jati Nahin Tann Ki Doulat Chaon Hai, Ata Hai Dhan Jata Hai Dhan, Apne Mann Mein Doob Kar Pa Ja Suragh-E-Zindagi Tu Agar Mera Nahin Banta Na Bann, Apna To Bann, Pani Pani Kar Gyi Mujh Ko Qalandar Ki Ye Baat Tu Jhuka Jab Ghair Ke Agay, Na Mann Tera Na Tann.”
I remember a particular story about the Great Wall of China. It is said that it took about more than 300 years to build it. Within the first 100 years, the Great Wall was broken three times. No, those who broke into the Great Wall of China did not really break the wall and enter China. They entered through the front door. Now you would wonder how? The Chinese government failed to train their security guards while they were building the wall and they could be easily bribed and corrupted. In the same way, we can say that spirituality does not cleanse the people who are ethically impure.
One of the beauties of Indian spirituality in general and of the Bhagavad Gita in particular is the very first word of our holy book which is Dharamshetra Kurukshetra. If we rearrange the word, it is Shetra Shetra Dharaman kuru, which means in every walk of life, remember the Lord but also fight the life’s battle because that’s where it is Shetra Shetra Dharaman Kuru.
If you take the first word of Bhagavad Gita that is dharma and you take the last word of the last Shloka and that is mama. Mama Dharma i.e. my duty. The whole Bhagavad Gita is actually about our duties. Bhagavad Gita says a person who does not contribute his or her share to the community is dishonest.
In Bhagavad Gita, Sarvabhuta Hite Ratah captures the whole essence of spirituality. Those people who help others attain the Lord. There are many themes in Bhagavad Gita, and one of the main themes is surrender (samarpan). Bhagavad Gita starts with the samarpan when Arjuna says to Krishna, “I am your student. Please teach me,” and it ends with samarpan. The entire message of Bhagavad Gita is pivoted around the service to humanity.