[Originally appeared in the CSR Vision June 10, 2014.]
CSR VISION: As a realized master, how do you relate spirituality with responsible conduct of a corporate or an individual?
SRI M: I prefer not to be addressed as a realized master. I may have progressed on this spiritual journey a bit forward than usual and I have witnessed something, which normally is not visible to many, and as a result, my outlook on things may have undergone a transformation.
I understand that the whole world is a network, where we cannot consider things in isolation. I am speaking on the basis of my personal experience of what is also said in the Upanishads. For instance, the Upanishad says, there is one Supreme Being consisting of millions of cells linked together. We are all linked together as cells. To enable the whole body to function, each cell has to perform its job and cooperate with each other. The cell cannot say that it will perform as per its wish.
Therefore, I see the whole universe, as a principal system, including the countries, states, departments, organizations, human beings etc. All living beings are linked together like cells and sub-systems. A single cell holds within it the potential of the whole universe. Sri Ramanujacharya said that the whole body could be called ‘Sriman Narayan’ and each cell a ‘Jeevatma’, which packs within it all the potential of the whole body. Each cell has been there from the beginning of life and has progressed through three million years of evolution. When the cells work in tandem, they achieve fullness / completeness. ‘Purnamidam’ means each cell has full potential for the whole. It is the responsibility of all of us to tap that potential.
To tap the inherent potential, every cell has to act responsibly. When you say Corporate Responsibility, it does not refer to the business corporations alone. Corporations, in larger sense of the term, refer to the whole universe. The world is like a corporate from a philosophical and intellectual point of view; we are parts of that whole. It is futile to think that everybody has everything. Thus, no one is superior or inferior. Each individual has limitations. Maybe what you know, I may not know and sometimes, something I know, you may not know. We cannot be omniscient with a limited brain. However, we can expand. So, we must depend on the capacity of others to bring about betterment.
The whole world as a corporate can develop into a healthy organism, only when all cells/components responsibly work together. There is a difference between your idea of corporate, which is business, and my definition of corporate, which is the universe, a larger perspective.
CSR VISION: How can we use spiritual principles to influence responsible conduct, as spirituality is considered beyond us?
SRI M: When I talk about spirituality, it is not something that is ‘outward oriented’. It is true that it transcends the ordinary. When man intends to transcend the ordinary, he takes to spirits (liquor) and feels so out of the world. But, we have here the joy of understanding spirituality. It encompasses everybody. It is within us, something that we can access when we take a journey inward.
It is my responsibility to spread/share with you such a spirit; this is not social responsibility, but rather spiritual responsibility. Swami Vivekananda said that if you don’t see the poor or their suffering, you are not spiritual. There is a term – daridra-narayan which means a poor-God. He said doing service in the temple is easier than working for the poor. For this to change, our hearts need to change. In the spiritual world, there is the principle of ‘If you give, you receive by default’. This is because we are all connected. Now this “receiving” may not necessarily be in money and money is not everything. This is my idea of social responsibility. Every being is spiritual and connected, so we have to be responsible.
Babaji, my Guruji, used to say, “If you meditate 13 hours or 13 months or 13 years and you don’t hear the cry of your neighbour’s hungry child, all your meditation is a waste. Therefore, you can’t enforce social responsibility by law.”
If there is a red light with no policeman around, how many will stop their vehicles? Self-discipline is the first step in spiritual progress. The progress in social responsibility is similar to the progress in spiritual responsibility. It has to develop from within.
So, when we say corporate, we have to think about the whole. If this is inculcated as a governing principle among the people at the helm of the corporate, it will filter down from there. Both the top and bottom are Gods in their own way. They are all connected. Nothing functions without some connectedness. This connectedness has to be appreciated and respected.
Promoting social responsibility is to develop responsibility from within; self-imposed inner discipline is spiritual discipline. It cannot be effectively imposed from outside. In the spiritual world, everything is connected. The spark in you is same as in me as well as the man on the street. The key lies in compassion, love, sharing and kindness.
CSR VISION: How do we make the internal process/self discipline evolve?
SRI M: Laws can be made, but it is up to us to obey. Let us go back to the ancient times. We are indeed proud of our heritage. Dalai Lama recently spoke at a gathering that Indians including Buddha, Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti are our Gurus and all the key knowledge systems were developed here in India, but this does not apply to the modern Indians. There is a disconnection between ancient and modern times. People today think that if you are modern, you are more efficient. This is not true. Efficiency and modernity has no connection.
The connection lies in a quote written in the Royal Place of Banaras, which says,“satyanastiparo dharma” meaning truth is beyond or higher than dharma. We may be independent as a nation for 60 years, but mentally, we are still not independent. We are still influenced by the need for western acknowledgement. Until Vivekananda was accepted in the West, he was not respected in India.Realizing the truth about connectedness will help the internal discipline to evolve. Without the cooperation of all the “constituents”, the “whole” cannot function. There is a strong need of communication with all the constituents. It starts from spiritual understanding of the connectedness. Goodness needs to be cultivated. It should not be confined to spiritual centers and ashrams, but should be spread among all including the shop-floor workers and the top management.
CSR VISION: How do you deal with top management leaders, who are intellectual but not spiritual?
SRI M: The real meaning of intellectual is someone who has lots of information. But no one is as intellectual as Google. In this Internet age, Google is the father of all information and may be called GOD, G being common. But, goodness can’t come from the Internet, it has to come from our hearts. It has to spring from a feeling. That feeling is called spirituality.
CSR VISION: How do we make the leaders, who are controlled by politicians, compassionate?
SRI M: We have to reach out to all leaders, as they are central to all these processes. The brain is the key. If politicians control the corporate sector, we have to reach out to them too.But this reaching out has to be done by people, who have no agenda of their own but are ready to take risk and make sacrifices. To break through a certain set structure is a difficult thing. If there are three people who are serious and ready to make sacrifices, we can change the world. Their sacrifice will be recognized in due course.
Enactment of a law is not enough. We need to initiate a dialogue targeting all stakeholders of the business system, primarily the top management, other segments including the employees, civil society, consumers etc. We also have to engage with the youth and the students, who are our future. Many a time, when words like ‘spirituality’ and ‘God’ are not appreciated, then use a word like ‘human’. Believe me, I am very hopeful. This process will succeed.
CSR VISION: What message would you like to convey to our readers?
SRI M: Humility, Compassion and Spirituality. These three need to be promoted. As I said earlier, it is important to not separate the corporate world from the rest of humanity. When you are part of the vast network called ‘Corporate Humanity’, to coin a new phrase, then to serve the less fortunate becomes part of the system.