Monday, December 05, 2005

The Bhagavad Gita and the example of the hedgehog

I was browsing Jim Collins's site - a great site for management enthusiasts and generally for people who want to get some good insights into management - when I came across this story of the fox and the hedgehog.

You can find that story here

While reading the story, the following shloka of the gItA echoed in my mind almost in a flash.

Lord Krishna says in the gItA:
vyavasAyAtmikA buddhirekeha kurunandana |
bahushAkhAhyanantAshcha buddhayo.avyavasAyinAm ||

A rough translation - the buddhi of the industrious is one pointed. But the intellects of the unindustrious are many branched.

It may be also interpreted as - the intellect (buddhi roughly translated) that is single-pointed yields to industriousness. But if the intellect is numerously branched, it leads to one becoming an "avyavasAyi" or an unindustrious one.

Reading the shoka, I recognize myself to be an "avyavasAyi" as my intellect is spread across too many things to be able to do something meaningful in a single area.

Going back to Jim Collins's example/parable, it looks like I am a fox. I may be smart, but definitely ineffective when compared with hedgehog-like people.

The fox-hedgehog/one-pointed-many-directional intellect idea seems to be applicable on multiple levels.

We can see that single-mindedness yields success as a student, happiness in the family and a prosperous career.

Single-mindedness yields benefits even on the spiritual plane. A seeker sticking to one particular path that suits him most succeeds whereas a dabbler in different traditions will gain more intellectual knowledge, but will fall short of that ultimate goal of True Understanding.

Upon reflection, we see that what is said here is commonsense. If we lavish our attention on multiple goals, some of which may be mutually contradictory, we become too weak to concentrate on anything substantial and failure becomes inevitable. However, if we concentrate on a few essential things, the chance of succeeding becomes that much higher.

A simple truth, but really difficult to implement. It is so for me at least. I should try and minimize my areas of action so that I can be successful in a few. But numerous interests drag me hither and thither so that I just accomplish something minimal. This minimization becomes possible by mindful prioritizing. But we have to keep prioritizing things ceaselessly to succeed. It is pretty difficult to do that and needs a lot of mental energy. But in perseverance is the secret (and the difficulty). Doing it one week may be easy, but doing it on every day of one's life is pretty challenging. One has to be really strong-willed to succeed.

As Krishna, again so pithily, states :
abhyAsena tu kaunteya vairAgyena cha gR^ihyate |

By practice and dispassion, the mind can be controlled.

Again, simple to intellectually understand - but the implications of this statement are profound. And internalizing it is not exactly simple.

The gItA is indeed a valuable medicine chest - we go to it when we are unwell and upon following the Lord's prescription, we become well again.

Sometimes, though, we need the sugar coating of a story and some lively language to ingest a bitter pill (as in Jim Collins's article). But we see that the gItA within the mahAbhArata has already done it for us. This is not to belittle Jim Collins's wonderful insights, but only to recognize an alternate and older (read time-tested) encyclopedic source. I mentioned the mahAbhArata because, to understand the gItA, one must have a fairly good idea on the events that had transpired before the delivery of the teaching. I feel that aspiring and practising managers will benefit immensely by a serious study of the mahAbhArata (with or without the gItA in it).

Coincidentally, now is mArgashIrSha, the month in which gItA-jayantI (the anniversary of the descent of the gItA) falls - on the 11th day of the bright fortnight.

Reflecting on the teachings of the gItA will do well for us both in this life and beyond.

|| iti sham ||

1 comment:

bhattathiri said...

The management lessons in this holy book were brought in to light of the world by divine Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Sri RaviShankar, and the spiritual philosophy by Sr. Srila Prabhupada Swami and humanism by Mata Amritanandamayi Devi and Satya Sai Baba. Maharishi calls the Bhagavad-Gita the essence of Vedic Literature and a complete guide to practical life. It provides "all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level." Maharishi reveals the deep, universal truths of life that speak to the needs and aspirations of everyone. Arjuna got mentally depressed when he saw his relatives with whom he has to fight.( Mental health has become a major international public health concern now). To motivate him the Bhagavad Gita is preached in the battle field Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as a counseling to do his duty while multitudes of men stood by waiting. It has got all the management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any crisis situation. The Bhagavad Gita can be experienced as a powerful catalyst for transformation. Bhagavad gita means song of the Spirit, song of the Lord. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of one's life. In the days of doubt this divine book will support all spiritual searches. This divine book will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one's inner process. Then life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and joyful—no matter what the circumstance. May the wisdom of loving consciousness ever guide us on our journey? What makes the Holy Gita a practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge?