Awakin Talks » DVR Seshadri » Transcript

DVR Seshadri : Business, Ethics and Life

Conversation Transcript

[These transcripts, as with all aspects of Awakin Calls, are created as a labor of love by an all-volunteer team located around the world. They are a collective offering, born from a shared practice of deep listening and service. Diverse and spontaneous teams emerge week to week to create and offer these calls. See our organizing principles here. Listeners are invited to join our co-creative community here.]

Guest: Nandini Murali

Host: Rohit

Rohit :Happy Sunday morning or Saturday evening, depending on wherever you're joining from. Whether you're joining us today for the first time on this webinar series or you're a regular listener, on behalf of all the volunteers, I want to say what a joy and blessing it is for us to meet you in this way. We can't see you on the screen, but your presence, your attention and your love feeds us and all our guests, fortnight after another. Thank you all.

My name is Rohit and I'm your host for today's Awakin talk. A space where we hold conversations with individuals whose inner journeys inspired us and whose work is transforming our world in large or small ways. It's an all volunteer and offering of ServiceSpace a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves, we change the world.

Thank you for joining us. And I request that we start our call today with a minute of silence, to quiten our minds so that we can be more fully present in this time and space and in our interconnection. And I will invite a dear friend Bhumika to open the silence after a minute with a small prayer. Thank you.

Thank you so much for that Bhumika, that was lovely. Legend has it that Bhumika used to sing in front of large crowds in Gujarat, during Navratri festival but now, with her transformation, she offers her musical gifts for in small groups, for friends, as an expression of love. So thank you so much Bhumika for bringing those blessings and that spirit in this gathering.

And for today's talk, I am really delighted and I am feeling blessed to have one of my favorite professors, whom I had the great fortune of spending some time with and studying under. And I think that is something, not only me, but so many of his thousands of students across the best B-schools of India, across corporates would resonate. We have professor DVR Seshadri with us, and the topic which we want to talk today is Business, Ethics and more broadly about life.

And we just heard the beautiful prayer "may all beings be happy". In a way, professor's life experience has been such a beautiful research in this question of happiness, in this question of purpose of life, in this question of Intelligence. And not only external research which he has spent lot of time doing, but more so a lived research through his life experiences and seeking.

In the last 20 years, Professor has taught across best b-schools of the country, including IIM Bangalore, IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Udaipur and a few more IIMs. And currently for the last few years, he has been part of Indian school of business (ISB) at Hyderabad. The courses which he teaches, span from the Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing, which is one of the most popular courses which the PGP B-school students love, to courses on leadership, on rediscovering yourself and life and so on. Before he stepped into this teaching field, he himself has studied at the some of the best institutions. He started at IIT Madras, then he has studied at University of California and then at IIM Ahmedabad. After that, he spent 15 years, in various corporate settings from large corporates, public sectors to small & medium scale family businesses. And last 10 of those 15 years were as CEO.

But, as we'll hear more in this conversation that a significant turn of events and experiences, which include extreme ups and downs, got him to come out of that career, and reinvent himself over the course. It also triggered a deep search within and a spiritual journey of reunderstanding life from scratch and his role in the world.

So we are very grateful professor, and I say this on behalf of so many students whom you have taught and they have felt so attracted and so moved by you. Not as much by what you've taught, but more from absorbing some glimpses of how you've lived your life. So very grateful for that. And we're looking forward to hear a bit more on that. Thank you and welcome.

I want to start our conversations with, this question of happiness.I was recently seeing one of the talks you had given, called DNA of happiness.

And I was really appalled by a story you shared at the end of the talk. And, I want to bring that up. It was a visual, which I have not been able to shake off from my mind since then. And I want to use that as a frame to get into this question of happiness. And you said something about the human condition and human life.

You said human life is like -- imagine a dark scary night and you're walking. A man is running in the jungle, very scared. He's running and suddenly he falls into a dark pit. And it's raining and it's lightning and it's thundering. And somehow instead of falling all the way down, he finds himself caught in a creeper. And he is just hanging upside down through the creeper and he can see the pythons and the scorpions at the bottom of the well, waiting for him to fall down so that they can devour him. And on the ground, there are elephants running helter skelter, so overall its a really scary environment. And just at that time, he sees that a rat is actually nibbling away on the creeper. So it's just a matter of time before he loses that last bit of support also and falls down dead.

So it is a disastrous spot to be in, and then at the same time he sees that there's a honeycomb just above him. From that honeycomb, some drips of sweet honey are falling. As he sees those tiny drips of honey falling, somehow he completely tends to forget that the deep mess he is in and he is just trying to, move his head here and there, trying to gather a drop of honey. So instead of trying to figure out a way out of the well, he is intoxicated by the prospect of the drips of honey, which is not helpful in the larger context.

And that you said is essentially the human condition. I would say that is quite a dramatic image. I would like to ask what makes you think that we are living in this type of a dangerous pit? What experices informed your perception that life is perhaps not a very cozy and warm swimming pool, but maybe a much more difficult and dangerous well to carefully navigate?

DVRS: Thank you sincerely for a wonderful introduction. I'm really happy to be on the show and it's nice to connect after almost six years at IIM Bangalore. With regard to your particular question, and you did phenomenal justice to the description that I had given in that talk. And this by the way, I picked up from somewhere it's not my original but when I read it, it resonated so much with me that I said, this is really what it is.

So the fact of the matter is we human beings keep looking for happiness here and there. And all the time we are running, running, running, and anytime we get some trace of happiness, it lasts for a while. Maybe I get a promotion, maybe I get an increment, maybe I marry and so on. And then it goes back to square one.

So this whole thing about life is very, very temporary bouts of happiness. Somebody might be very lucky to have it as a continuum so that there is no break in the happiness, May be that is a blessed fellow, but most people are not in that stae.

In the academic world that I entered 20 years back, I would have met more than 20,000 students because I was simultaneously engaged with multiple IIMs and behind all the facade of bon-homie, happiness and smiles, there is tremendous amount of insecurity. And I went through that hellish period for almost 17 years myself till my corporate career got derailed abruptly.

And therefore through that journey, I concluded that actually it is exactly what you said, that we are just turning our head, bringing out our tongue, trying to catch that one drop and then salivate on it for a couple of minutes before the reality hits us back again. In the case of human life, maybe you salivate on that happiness for six months or one year until inevitably conflicts come because of incredible egos that clash and so on. Therefore, I came to a very drastic conclusion, which basically is that there is no happiness, zero happiness outside in the world. If you should find so-called happiness, it's very temporary. And all the real happiness is within. And so that has been the journey for almost I will say now, 25 years and counting, including during the turmoil period.

So to put a short answer to your question, my life experiences and talking to more than 20,000 students has given me that perspective. Everyone, you just scratch the surface a little bit and they will literally start crying that their life is full of so many woes and problems.

I'm talking about students, not necessarily just PGP students i.e. young students and professionals. I also have students who are senior executives in companies. And all of them have a bag of angst in their heart. And that brought me to the conclusion that there is zero happiness outside. It might sound very, very drastic, but that's my firm conclusion. And all the happiness is within.

So don't even look for happiness outside. This is my conclusion, if I may say.

Rohit: Sir, you said that your corporate career at some point drastically came to an abrupt halt. Can you talk about some of those difficult experiences which have guided you towards this kind of an understanding?

DVRS: Absolutely. So actually I had a dream run after my IIM Ahemdabad FPM. It was a dream run. I joined Madras refineries. I was the blue-eyed boy of the managing director, Mr. Dindayalu. Had very rapid rise. Actually, I got an entry point, which was unthinkable in the public sector at that time. And after that, I was put as project manager for a 8 member team in Houston for writing some software code. And so it was wonderful, but somewhere I was getting restless that life is more than a nice secure job.

So I went into unchartered territory of joining a family business of four brothers, three sisters and their husbands. And they were my relatives. In fact, one of the brothers was my father-in-law, in drugs and pharmaceuticals business. In retrospect, was it a foolish move? I don't want it even comment about that because many of these moves are karmic. There's a lot of karmic forces and I'm a strong believer that there is this Karma force acting.

Otherwise, if I continued in the public sector, I would have probably retired as a very senior fellow in the Indian Oil Corporation type of organization. But, after five years I got itchy and I left into unchartered course. Joined this family business and right from the day of start, I found a lot of friction between the brothers and sisters and husbands, and therefore the whole families were engulfed in this mess. And I was one of them being the son-in-law of one of the brothers. And that taught me that what's all this about? We are supposed to be all related but then we're just sharpening our knives.

So that experience was about 2-3 years. And then in an attempt to escape from that toxic environment, I took a position as a Managing Director of a company in Gujarat, making Compact Discs (CDs) which was the latest technology coming up globally. And that was next seven years of hell. The first promoter was a guy from US who promised to bring the required money, but did not. And those four years I was just essentially twiddling my thumbs waiting for small trickles of money from the U S. It was an INR 80 -100 Crore (INR 800 - 1000 Million) project in those days. And I would get installments of 10 Lakhs (1Mn), 5 Lakhs (0.5Mn) and so on . And that drove me up the wall that how do I build the busniess? All the money that was coming was essentially for salaries to keep the flock together. I'd made huge promises to people to join this company. Some of them were well-established in multinationals and then I sold them a dream story. And there again, I saw tremendous greed of the first promoter who eventually ended up in a jail in Wisconsin for some previous frauds.

Then I went with hat in hand to again, to find a new promoter. And that guy was somebody in Chennai. And he was the great grand son-in-law of some very big business tycoon but they had distanced themselves from him because of his maverick ways. I didn't have a clue of this context because this was pre-internet era. So today, if I just go to the internet and check out somebody, I would know his entire horoscope in no time, but this was 1997 where internet was not still in vogue.

So it was a leap of faith. I looked at him as a savior for a sinking ship and brought him on board. Right from the word go, he was also very, very selfish. I was slogging it out big time hoping to build that company. Brought a lot of people and because of the project not moving forward, people exited from the company, obviously for better prospects and so on.

And I was just like a boy in a burning deck, struggling to keep it going. Maybe in retrospect, it was foolish to be so emotionally attached. But I was so intricately connected with that project that I thought this project will live with me, or it will die and with that, I will die also. That was the extent of emotional connect with that project.

And that was probably in retrospect, foolish, but life is all about learning lessons. Then one fine day as it was moving forward and it started some production, then the new promoter, the guy in Chennai, came up with a obnoxious demand. I remember the date, it was on 3rd of April, 2000 saying he's in deep trouble. His company secretary called me from his corporate headquarters and said, the boss needs you to facilitate 60 Crores (600million). By that time I had been pushed up enough up the wall. So I said that "You will have it on my dead body." And within 24 hours, I was ousted from the position. A letter was issued that I will not have anything to do with the banks, with the lenders, I will not have anything to do with employees, will not have anything to do with customers. Essentially. I was defiled in a moment, by a stroke of a letter and I had no option, but to exit on 4th April. Here I was 7 years of incredible exertions, running like a mad dog all over the world to raise money and keep the project somehow on the track.

And there were times when there would deep privations. There was no salary to myself, but I insured the salaries were paid to all the employees on the first working day of each month. And, the family went through hell because they saw me just so stressed out. And, somebody advised me in the last stages just before my exit "What are you doing with your life? You can do a lot more." and that sent me thinking. But anyway, the inevitable happened. And by then I had actually signed personal guarantees for 40 crores (400 million) bank loans.

I'd taken personal loans of 110 Lakhs (11 million), hoping to put it in the company and then one day it will become big. And with dreams that when this money will become a huge pile which I can use for my own venture. There were a lot of mistakes I made, but regardless of that, there was huge learnings. And here I was on the street, no job. Nothing. And huge liabilities. And you can imagine the type of pressure it put on the family.

This saga continued from 1993 and by the time I could come out clean out of this, it was 2009. So all these, it was almost 17 years. It led me to conclude that there's absolutely not an iota of happiness in the outside world.

And by the way, I was a diehard atheist right from 1978 when I went off to us as a kid of twenty and a half years, because the world I thought was revolving around my hand. I had gone to a good institute IIT Madras, had a nice life in California and so on. And then a steep rise in the public sector. So all the right doors were opening without even knocking. So somewhere when I landed in San Diego in California, I said "There's no God, I am God." You know, that arrogance. And by about 1997, it had changed to "Bachao Bachao" (Save me, Save me). I was getting so badly shaken up that it was more a surrender, asking help from some higher power. And by the time I was out on the streets with no job, it was very clear that there is some higher power guiding this destiny.

And slowly, my antenna opened up to that power. And it's work-in-progress. So that's the journey which prompted me that "baahar kuch nahi hai, sab andar hai" (there is nothing outside, everything is inside). So for me, it was quite incredible journey because 20 years of being an atheist, although I was born in a middle class, God-fearing family. So God fearing to atheist once I was let loose in San Diego, to begging God for some solace from all the ramming that I was getting, to finally being at peace with myself.

Rohit : In the difficult phase in business, there were many points in time where you could have had "the easy way out". Like you could sort of do something unethical or something which does not align with your value system and sort of escape lots of hardships which came your way. Could you talk a little bit about that?

The context also why I am asking this is I think as students and as young professionals, or any person in their life, we all have these kind of situations. We see that there is one thing which our heart is telling us to do for the sake of values, but there's something else your mind tells like "I can make a quick gain here" or "This is the way things happen in business. So I have to be practical." Any reflections on that?

DVRS: I have delved deep into this, and I will be happy to share this -- If I'm alive and talking to you today, it is simply because nobody, not even God, can point a finger to me and say that one Paisa that was not mine I have usurped wrongly. This is a reality. And that is what has protected me.

At some point, I realized that the promoters were siphoning off money from unsuspecting investors and just splurging it off. I was called to Manchester and Birmingham and London to be there as a face to show for potential investors. The group CFO and CEO were there and making grand statements that we're going to put up this plant, the world's greatest city plant, blah, blah, blah. And therefore you should open your purse strings and subscribe. This was a private placement and the premium was going up and up and up. It was crazy. Like for a 10 cents or 1 cent share, I don't remember those figures now, they were selling it at $30 or something like that. Inflating the whole thing. And I was sitting at the corner with a quizzical look and saying - "What the hell is, are they talking about? There's nothing on the ground." And these guys took their architectural drawings, made some 3D type of animation and then presented it to create an image as if the factory is running. And so I was sitting totally lost.

The CFO and CEO saw me hobnobbing during the dinner with potential investors and they knew that things are not going the way they wanted, because I was whispering to the potential investors that there's nothing on the ground for you to really invest. So next day morning, I was called for breakfast and told "Look, we don't want you to get a raw deal and we want you to be wealthy. So just name any bank anywhere in the world, and we'll remit you a million dollars."

That was a wake up call for me. And I just politely said, I'm quite happy with whatever I have. In those days I was getting a measly salary of Rs 25,000 per month because there was no money in the company.

And then there was a frantic calls from one gentleman and NRI doctor in Boston saying I put almost a million dollars in the company what's happening. So I told the CEO and CFO "Hey, what do we do with this - a guy is frantically calling." Then the CEO said, "Oh, don't bother, we have removed him from our board." That was the parent company in USA, it was all a shell company.

Then he was literally weeping on the phone saying I raised money from all and sundry people, including relatives and friends and I'm in deep trouble. So I said, okay, I'll go to Boston. And these people were very annoyed and I met him at Boston and he was just crying like a baby.

So there were also sorts of lures to take money from that group of promoters. And also the next group, led by an MBA from Harvard. There were all sort of inducements, but the thing that kept me sane is I did not put my hand on not one naya paise that was not mine. That's what saved me.

I go fast forward a bit, but because I don't want to go into the messy details. Basically what I was shocked to see is that lying and fraud was so prevelant.

So fast forward to 2004, 4th April, I was asked to pack up from the company, as I told you, within 24 hours notice. After that, the banks, several customers, some of the good employees were saying "What happened? This fellow is quite a clean guy. Why did he get sacked?" And then the stories were rampant about me that he swindled money. Some of my ex colleagues also said, "He's swindled lots of money. He made money on kickbacks on chairs, he made money on AC" and so on.

And surprisingly that made the banks very, very paranoid. So they put a concurrent auditor. And when the concurrent auditor came, there was absolutely no files to show. They were all disposed of or hidden away perhaps by the promoter overnight without my knowledge. So the concurrent auditors also wrote that "We think that this DVR Sheshadri has swindled a lot of money." I was at my wit's end as to what's happening. So the type of games that went on were really vicious. But luckily it was just a stroke of good luck that I escaped all those things, because I think the banks knew that I was a guy who was literally living hand to mouth at a personal level. Most of the time my salaries were getting delayed.

So if anybody was getting negatively affected, it was me and my core family. And of course it created a lot of tsunamis inside the family that what have you done with your life and all that. And lo and behold in August, see the whole cycle of karma comes full turn, the Chennai promoter also was thrown in jail. So my advice to everybody, youngsters is absolutely zero compromise on ethics, absolutely zero compromise.

What stood me good ground is my own upbringing. When I was a kid, maybe five years and onwards, all my siblings and I were told that my grandfather, who was a municif, that is a collector of small taxes in villages. He was a very Orthodox fellow. So he never used to go to hotels. Anyway there were no hotels in those days by the way. So when he went to a new village, somebody will host and he would eat a lunch. And under the mat, when he goes away after thanking them, they would find some six paise or three paise currency he had anonymously tucked under, as he didn't want debt to be accumulated in his karmic balance. So he would just insert three paise or whatever, and go off. And when they lifted the mat, they would see that this money. So those were the value frame with which I was brought up and that kept me in good stead amidst all these inducements, even I will say very aggressive way of pushing me to places where I could have really messed up my life.

If I hadn't been so upright, I will guarantee you one thing. I would have been in jail along with the chairman even now. That's the reality of it. And today technology has made it almost a hundred percent certainty that if you just swerve from the ethical part even an iota, sooner or later, you will be caught because of technology you're leaving footprints all over the place. What saved me was not one paisa I had taken.

But then I'm not saying I'm some Virgin Mary type of pure person. In the process of running business, to deal with the government officials, and I'm not afraid of saying this, to get some permission or the other, we had to pay money and obviously this cannot be discussed with everybody in the organization. So there would be some kickbacks taken from an air conditioning contractor and they will not do it directly because of being a high-profile company but through their distributor or some third person. And that back to back used to go to the recipients of this bribe to get our project persmissons.

So while I have not personally taken anything to run the business in those days, unfortunately I had to do some murky things. But even that in retrospect is avoidable. So my advice is absolutely no unethical taking, no unethical giving – zero. If it means that you have to delay the project, so be it, is what I would say. But over the years, this is what has protected me and I kept my sanity and I could absolutely stay out of any troubles. And, the justice takes a full circle.

And this is the reality of many businesses, especially small, medium, and maybe large, unless they're 24 carat gold in terms of corporate governance, like the Tata group, which are very rare. As senior people, we get suckered into doing so many unsavory things. “Boss ne bata diya, karo.” (Boss has asked, so I need to do this). In the heat of the moment , you say “Yaar, mein kya karoon, bache padh rahe hein”. (What can I do, I also need to provide tuition fees for my kids). I cannot afford to leave this job.

If I leave from Bangalore, where will I go? And in that if you succumb, you're writing your own death warrant professionally and even probably physically. So I hope that longish answer to your short question, zero compromise.

And here I would like folks to actually read Clayton Christensen's book., “How will you measure your life?” Four things he talks about: How will you find fulfillment in your profession? How will you find fulfillment in your relation with your spouse? How will you find fulfillment in your relation with children and the last one - and this is a Harvard professor, very, very internationally known - How will you stay out of jail? So, what he says is there's a ‘lakshman rekha’ (sacred line) dividing unethical and ethical, and most people are ethical. You know, it's not that we are all crooks, but once in a while, there's a temptation, like it happened to Rajat Gupta. He's a brilliant man, a great guy, but once small temptation, and he crossed that ‘lakshman rekha’ and he probably rationalized, “Is ek baar karoonga, bahut paise milega”, (I can make lot of money, I will do it just once) but that was the beginning of his end. And we all know that story. So what Clayton Christensen saab says is, stay far away in the ethical boundary. Imagine it's India-Pakistan line-of-control. If you want to build a house, don't build it on the edge, Or don't just say "okay, nobody's watching, let me go and grab some land in Pakistan." That is a sure way to go into hell professionally. So stay deep inside the ‘Lakshman rekha’ in the ethical side, and I would encourage folks to read up Clayton Christensen's beautiful, easy to read book.

Rohit: Hmm….Beautiful. It's so inspiring, what you're saying about the strength which you had always to choose values and honesty despite the hardships or the lures. To build on that, as I see the world today, I get that there's a significant proportion of us who will perhaps not have not have had situations still yet where there's a choice between something legal and something drastically illegal.

So for example, you know, if it's about when I'm joining a b-School and I'm making my Resume, and you know, maybe a wrong, incorrect, untrue point there about my credentials in my resume is not going to land me in jail. Even for example, when we start as professionals, something which a lot of us currently struggle with personally is say with something like Marketing. And you teach a course on marketing. This question of honesty comes there as well. You know, unless I really pitch my product as the best product which you can ever have, it is difficult in this age of competition to convince consumers to buy that. And on the other hand you also have this value of honesty which makes one ask - "Why can't I be more honest?" So it comes across in terms of the products or services that we are trying to sell. It comes across in a way when we take the Resume example, of trying to sell your own self or have your own brand and position.

So I think in every moment, we encounter that in small way, not in a big way like, you know, maybe stealing some money or embezzling some money from some bank account, but in these small ways. I think these decisions are something which all professionals grapple with on a day-to-day basis. So what are your thoughts on that?

DVRS: I will say that it's a zero compromise, zero tolerance. On your own. You're the judge of it. And your conscience is the judge. Because sooner or later, these will haunt you. In that sense, I would like to recall the sage advice of Mr Narayan Murthi, co-founder of Infosys, where he said the softest pillow is a clean conscience or something to that effect. So we want to sleep in a very comfortable way, not have these ghosts hovering around when will somebody knock at the door and say, "dude your time starts now get into the cellar".

So I do understand where you're coming from that fudging the resume is not that criminal a thing. To that, I will say that, you know, just now, before I came to office for this call, I was bumping into a bunch of PGP students at ISB. They're all concerned because the Corona and all the economy and stuff like that, and all of them, this comparison, pecking order is heavy on their minds. So I had a longish conversation with a guy, he was looking very forlorn. I said look, life is a marathon, not a hundred meter sprint. So focus on developing your skills, competencies, value frame, and so on. And that will take you in the marathon as a steady runner rather than to sprint hoodwinking somebody or the other, and getting a temporary gain. That's not going to last because those habits die hard. And once we are used to shortcuts, we keep doing it, and once the bosses in the organization know this fellow is malleable and bendable, they're going to use you as a conduit for doing all unsavory things. But once they know that you will not break, you will not bend, then, okay, if it means that you don't get promoted, so be it. Find other ways to engage yourself, like what you're doing, volunteering, and they're far more fulfilling. You might keep a day job and may not be going at the race horse in terms of tenure. So find a larger meaning, larger purpose, rather than these short bursts of getting gratification because you please some boss or this or that. This is the first thing that I would like to say that it has to be a zero tolerance because otherwise it's not sustainable.

Having said that, I will say I myself, let me say, bent inadvertently during my IIM Ahmedabad days. I'm not wanting to project that I am some totally 24 Carat clean guy. I did do something which made me reflect a lot afterwards.

One was an interaction. I was running around the campus in those days, and I saw a beautiful flower and it was opposite to some bunch of faculty quarters. I plucked that flower. Instinct was "It's good, let me pluck it." Gently, there was a voice from the balcony back. I looked up and it was the founding director of IIM Ahmedabad, highly respected professor Ravi Mathai, and he just told me in such a soft voice. "Young man, don't you think the flower is more beautiful on the plant than in your hands?" That's all. I dropped the flower then and there and ran for my life. I just muttered some sorry, and ran away. This was very soon after I had joined, probably 1981. That was a defining moment for me. That nothing we are supposed to take, which is not ours in the first place.

But having said that I got married in 1982 June I think. And I was a student, earning a stipend of 500 rupees monthly. Those were very financially difficult days, but probably the happiest days, carefree. And my wife was studying at Chennai and early in marriage, you are all palpitating for being with your spouse all the time and so on. So she had long stints in a different city, in Chennai.

And I would just find myself like a Devdas (a fictional Hindi film character, who mostly seems lost and drunk), and literally get into emotional upheavals. And there was an assignment in some course that was related to Information Systems and I just could not put my brain to address that assignment. And, so in the 11th hour I just requested a friend to please share the assignment and I literally copied it, and I thought it would go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, the teaching assistant noticed almost 90 or a 100% overlap and he raised it up through the system. And I was hauled up to the Dean. He said, "What are you doing? You're supposed to be a doctoral student and what is all this nonsense, we could throw you out." and so on.

That was my second defining moment although I prided myself in saying I am 24 Carat gold. Of course by then I had not been tested. By the way this was my pre-corporate experience. I had not been tested to the hilt, but these were the young days of brashness and so on. And for me, that was the first and last time that I crossed the "Lakshman Rekha" on these types of matters -- pilfering somebody's intellectual property, pilfering some money and so on. And I was deeply, deeply shaken up by that remonstration or admonition by the Dean. You know, he was a wise man, so he said, I let you off the hook, but next time, any such thing happens, you will be out of this Institute.

So this is how we keep kissing the "Lakshman Rekha" now and then. We have to stay far, far in the safe zone. So after that there's been no slips, I'm over cautious on intellectual property. You know, we keep writing some papers, so we quote the references properly and so on.

Rohit: Yeah, beautiful!

DVRS: So my advice is zero zero compromise on anything that is whether it is intellectual property or whatever it is. Zero compromise is what is needed. Even if it means losing the job, then so be it. Maybe you will discover something you're more passionate about, rather than sticking onto a thankless job where your heart is not there. And also choose your company wisely. There is no need to run after money.

I also believe very, very strongly that you will not get one paisa before you are due to get it from the higher power. You will not get one paisa, one millisecond before you are due to get it. So why palpitate for it. Focus on building your skills, learnability, uprightness and values and so on, which in the long haul will be far more holistically remunerative, not just the bank balance. Bank balance is very irrelevant, it is only one facet of multiple dimensions of, you know, what it means to have a richness of life.

Rohit: Beautiful. What I'm hearing you say is that we should be focused on values, not only because there's a chance of getting caught externally, because this is more for your inner growth, and more for your inner development and your conscience which is the softest pillow. That's beautiful.

And just to stay a bit more on the marketing, because one of the popular courses you teach is on marketing. The way the business world is progressing, I think the businesses are becoming bigger, much more powerful, much more technology-enabled. There's big data, there's artificial intelligence. We live in a world today that Google, or any large company for that matter, knows much more about you than you know about yourself. At least for me, that feels true. How are you seeing that? What do you think ethical marketing looks like today, in this big data world?

DVRS: Thankfully, from a personal angle, I teach B2B marketing and not B2C marketing. In B2B marketing, since the buyer is very rational and well informed, the chances of a sales guy or a marketing whiz going and fooling the buyer is almost impossible because he has got all the tons of data with him. So you are forced to be honest and also relationships are very important there and therefore if you mess up one place by hoodwinking the customer, your reputation will go for a toss once and for all, because these are accounts which you want to hang on for a long time for many years and so on.

The answer to your question I want to say very very very affirmatively, I would like to muster every iota of energy that I have, to make this statement that, in the long run whether you are in B2B or B2C you can succeed only by raising your level of consciousness as a sales guy. This might come as a googly to a lot of people. They will say what the hell is this guy talking about? But I would urge those who are interested in this topic of 'How can I be ethical?' in a marketing and sales context to please note down and read a book by David Hawkins called 'Letting go, the pathway of surrender’.

He is an MD in psychiatry and a PhD in psychiatry. About 25 to 30 years back, he brought SQ into the centre stage, 'Spiritual Quotient'. Till then people were saying that your success depends on your intelligence, IQ, EQ (Emotional Quotient) and so on. And he posits that success in life is squarely proportional to SQ.

And he created a beautiful scale of 0 - 1000.

On the bottom are the feelings and emotions like shame, guilt, anger, greed and so on. Then as you move up you get into courage, neutrality and so on and when you further move up it is peace, love and enlightenment. So if you take his entire speculum 0 - 1000, these are not some wild statements, these are in the journals of psychiatry where he has really established this scale of consciousness. All of us humans who inhabit the planet are at various stages of the scale of consciousness.

When I was booted out of the company in 2000, on the scale of 0 - 1000, I was probably at level 20 or 30. Shame and guilt were the primary feelings. Twenty thousand times a day the feelings will come 'I am useless' and 'I am a failure' and so on and it has been a long journey to move up on the scale of consciousness.

Now, what does it relate to Rohit's question? He has given a spectrum of 25 different emotions starting from shame, guilt, greed, anger and so on all the way up to peace and enlightenment. So it's a huge spectrum. He divided it beautifully into three compartments. The first one-third roughly is what is called the inertial state of human existence. The next one is called an energetic state and the last one is called a peaceful state when you are at the level of peace, joy, love and so on.

So long, as a sales guy, if you are operating in the inertial state, all the time you'll only get disappointments and you have to fool the customer and so on to get a sale. You may get one out of ten. You are spending a lot of energy but getting nowhere. So his advice is ‘Can you focus on the inner journey and move yourself rapidly to the higher planes of consciousness?’. To go into the next stage, the bucket is called the energetic state. So it is an inertial state, energetic state and peaceful state. If you make that progress it may happen over 3 years, 4 years or 5 years. And when you reach a peaceful state, things just happen. You just have to lovingly picture something that this client will be my customer. This potential customer will turn into a loyal customer. You just have to picture it lovingly. Because the way you talk, the body language, the way you communicate, the way you empathize with the customer, orders will just pour on you.

By the way, young folks who are in this session, I'd like to say in the same way he has come up with another beautiful correlation. In the inertial state, your worth to yourself and the world is based on what you have that is called 'Having'. Like I've got 5 Rolex watches, I've got a Mercedes car, I've got a penthouse in Bandra overlooking the Arabian sea.

When you move to the energetic state, which is the middle bucket it is 'Doing'. Nobody cares what you have! but 'What you are doing?'. Like now, when I look at Rohit he is doing extraordinary work, volunteering. He probably left a fancy PE job earning a 7 or 8 figure salary. One day he said I had enough of this and came into volunteering work, so that is 'Doing'. I am sure he has graduated to the next one because he has been at this for a long time. From an energetic state he has moved into a peaceful state. So when you go to a peaceful state, nobody cares what you have, what you do. It is just 'who you are'. 'What are you as a Being?'

So, 'Having', ' Doing' and 'Being' are very very important. In the lowest state of consciousness, the lowest bucket is about having this or that and titles. Then nobody really cares when you move into energetic state it is about 'Doing'. And, when you are in the highest state of consciousness, the last one-third bucket starting from peace, joy, love and enlightenment, it is about 'Being'.

So if that is clear, one would focus upon raising up on the level of consciousness through a very solid inward journey and a good starting point is to pick up that book which is available for Rs.600 or so, 'Letting go, the pathway of surrender’ by David Hawkins. He is no more but he himself is operating at 700 to 1000 on that scale which is enlightenment.

So Rohit, the point I am again emphasizing is that if one is stuck with a company which is forcing you to do unethical things, sell untruth or pedal falsehood, once you are on this track of moving up on the levels of consciousness you will not spend even one hour in that company anymore. You will resign saying "Dekha jaayega" (We will see whatever comes). So if you focus on building your capabilities "dal roti kahin se milega." (your daily bread will not be at threat), there's no need to be afraid.

At the same time I would also suggest you to keep your expenses low. Because many a times and I've met so many students who walk around like Devdas. In Bengaluru, I had people like vice presidents of top IT companies, they would walk around like Devdas and we used to get their profile -- 'Engineering kahan se kiya', number of years of experience, current designation and last drawn salary. I would accost some of these people and say "Hey dude I saw that you are getting 75 lakhs (7.5 Million a year). In those days it was a lot! I am talking of 2003. Why are you walking so forlorn?". And he would say, "Kya karoon (What do I do)! I hate my job! I can't stand it!". Then I would say "Why can't you quit?". "Nahi nahin, main kya kar sakta hoon? (No, No, I can't do that). I have one house EMI in Karol Bagh, one house EMI on Brigade road in Bangalore, one on Banjara hills in Hyderabad and the fourth one in Cuffe Parade in Mumbai". Then I say you'll suffer.

"And, every 6 months I am used to taking my family to New Zealand, Swaziland (not a real country, a figure of speech for cynicism), Holland, Switzerland and so on. If you have calibrated your life to be so expensive then you cannot really follow some of these ideas. So it's a good idea to tone down your lifestyle to basically minimalist, then your ability to take course corrections to thankless jobs is far far better.

Rohit: Yeah.

DVRS: If you just calibrate your life to be very very swanky and profligating money then unless you keep receiving that money you cannot survive. Therefore you end up getting conned into doing things that your conscience will not allow you. Two things to take away from this -- Tone down your life expenses to a minimum.There's no problem in going to a normal school. You don't have to put your kid to a school that costs 25 lakhs (2.5 Million) a year. And, in fact many of the great mahatmas we see around like Dr.Abdul Kalam and Mr. Narayan Murthy went to very normal schools. The second is to focus on moving up on the scale of consciousness which is the inward journey.

DVRS: Makes sense to you?

Rohit: Yes, sir. It's true. I think all of us have those questions, in the various phases of life. So that's very practical and relevant.

And so one of the things you're talking about is the basic purpose of life. You're saying that's to move to higher consciousness. To deeply understand the nature of unhappiness or suffering, and how can we can truly be happy and discover our purpose, and things like that.

You're also saying that conventionally going on this path of mainstream success, where you become big business leaders it seems on the surface but as you scratch it, it is clear that there's so much unhappiness and insecurties inside.

So it brings me to a question about education and intelligence. I think our education system today is making us excellent managers of companies, but it seems to be not preparing us for becoming more skillful and informed responses to these basic aspects of life. For example, if I look at your courses, in PGP, you teach B2B marketing and when you engage with more senior professionals, who are older, thirty-five, forty years of age, you have gone through ten, fifteen years of corporate experience, there you are teaching courses on reinventing life and rediscovering life and so on.

So it breaks my heart that why do we have to go on this path of accumulation and running behind things which don't give us satisfaction, that don't give us much growth first? Is there like a minimum age limit to asking these questions, that you cannot engage in reflections about life before you're 45? So why are there not enough spaces to facilitate that? As teachers and educators, do you think we are not supporting this inquiry?

DVRS: I think that's a very valid question. It should actually happen in schools. It should happen in colleges. And in fact, this is the most important education needed- life skills for how you keep sanity in a very, very turbulent world. But, sadly, it's not happening, least of all in MBA types of institutions where these issues are pushed to the background.

There are some scanty courses like these out of 30 courses that a PGP student might take. There is one course that might be on topics like happiness, inner journey, if at all. And even there, the students cynically comment on those who are opting for such courses "ye sab globe course hai" (these are courses just for hypothetical futile emotional and philosophical discussions). If you want to take it to secure your grades, then fine, but "asli MBA log" (real MBAs) will take courses on financial derivatives, or AI, or Python and its application to market research, pricing strategies and so on. So this is the tragedy of our times.

And another thing is that this cannot be forced on anybody. There has to be a time that has to come. People have to be ripe. For example, I have two daughters and if I go and tell this to them that "You have to spend time on yourself." They'll say "You keep those hobbies to yourself. We are living fulfilled lives, you don't disturb us.” So, I think any amount of preaching to somebody will not have any benefit. The time has to come when they open up.

Some people open up to these things at a very young age, explore, and then make rapid progress.

And that is because of the karmic credit balances with which they are born from their previous lives. I am a serious believer of the Karma theory. Somebody is coming with serious credit balances will get onto this and duddenly, he'll say, "Hey, there's a deeper meaning of life. Let me push on that, and fire on all cylinders". But, for most people, we have to go through our knocks and then somewhere after being battered and bleeding, all over the body, then you say "Bachaao Bachaao" (Save me, Save me). Then if you're lucky, you find some asli (real) direction from a genuine margdarshak (guide) I say genuine, because there are lot of Faaltu margdarshaks (fake guides) also who are interested in money and nothing more. Interested in their fame, and in numbers of followers and so on.

But luckily, across the world, not just in India, but across the world, there are Mahatmas (great souls). And if you really yearn for them, that is desire them very deeply, they will plonk into your life very, very, miraculously. The good thing is, thanks to technology today, there are enough and more forums, like what you are having here with Service Space. So, if somebody is highly disturbed, having no clue "What to do with my life?" sooner or later through WhatsApp or somewhere else someone will say "Yaar ServiceSpace mast hai". He will log in and say "Hey, there is a way to discover meaning". And the inner journey is important, which is what you also emphasize, right?

This was not possible in the past, but, I think with technology being so pervasive, I am very optimistic that in future, anybody who has problems would be able to come quickly to understand that "Baahar ek bhi boond sukh nahi hai, andar hi khazaana hai" (There is not a drop of happiness outside, the treasure is inside). Like that story that you narrated about the honey dripping in the fellow upside down in the well. So once he catches that, and starts this inner journey, he can be incredibly effective outside in his engagement with the world, because your mind is not getting wasted and dissipated with all sorts of nonsense thoughts. And you're able to bring the mind to absolute calmness through a variety of practices.

I would like to just make a small detour for those who are not familiar. There's a Chief Business Officer of Google and Alphabet called Mohammad Gowdatt. The short form is Mo Gowdatt. He wrote a beautiful book: "Solve for Happy." About six, seven, years back or more, maybe. A fairly recent book. So he was earning hundreds of millions of dollars in Google and Alphabet, but, extremely miserable. He was living in the lap of luxury, a life of opulence, but then he went back to the drawing board and said: "What is happiness?" And he came up with "Five States of Thoughts".

The first one is confusion, a state of confusion. For example, you got a job between two companies, one in Dubai and one in Germany. "Should I go to Germany? Should I go to Dubai? Dubai is close to my parents. I can fly back now. And then there is tax free Germany. I hear that it's very cold. There's also some talk that there is racism. And there is heavy taxation." "Should I choose this? Should I choose that?" That is the lowest state- confusion.

A state of continuous negative thoughts is suffering. And that is the state in which I was in for 17 years. One! Seven!

And then the state of thoughts, which are difficult to handle. For example, I've done something terrible to somebody- I swindled huge money from someone and that fellow died due to shock. No matter what, I cannot make amends. It's over, and I will be living with that guilt for the rest of my life. That will lead me to escape; get drunk, gamble, or to promiscuity, or to pornography, whatever else it is.

The third state is the one of continuous positive thoughts. And here you are positive and saying "Yes, I can make a difference." Like Abdul Kalam Sahab. Until the last breath he was engaging with students all over the country saying: "You can. You can emulate me. There's nothing special in me. I'm like you." and he fired the imagination of so many people.

The last state is a state of no thoughts, which is joy.

So once again, the bottom state is confusion, continuous negative thoughts - suffering, state of thoughts "I cannot handle this-I need to escape.". Then there is the state of mind where you have positive thoughts. A continuous stream of that is happiness, and a state of no thoughts is joy. And that is the effort of all spiritual practice across religions I dare say.

Can you bring the mind to a screeching halt? Because the biggest enemy is not outside; it is within us, in the resistance between the two ears, the mind where all sorts of crazy thoughts come on: "I'm useless. I'm good for nothing. That guy messed up my life. I'm a victim. Why me?" So many thoughts. This is the drama of life from morning to night, a recurring thought, negative thoughts keep coming. Usually, they have a pattern. In my case, 17 years, "I'm a failure" was the pattern. Till I came across an incredible Mahatma, and he literally held me by my little finger and pulled me out of a sewage pit in which I was wallowing.

So the power of the ability to embark on the inner journey is not to be underestimated. I would dare to say that it's the most important work that each of us can do in our lives. To accelerate the inner journey. The outer results will come happily. Whatever you deserve, you will get. When you move to peaceful state, whatever you set your mind on will happen miraculously. You don't have to really struggle.

If I may go into first person experience. While I was in IIM Bangalore, I was based there. I was an adjunct faculty, which means I would get paid per course. And somebody told me, get into ISB. They take care of faculty well. I tried for eight years, this way, that way. I was in the initial state in those days, it's just like hitting a wall. One fine day, after a gap of seven, eight years, there was a call from Dean, hey DVR we want to recruit you. I had not even applied. You know, that's just the beauty of it.

Having come here, I find, I have healed lots of past wounds. I was battered and bleeding all over, because of the financial mess I was in. So things just happen. Whatever you lovingly picture and desire, happens to you once you start moving to the energetic and peaceful state, and move out of the inertial state.

Rohit: Thank you, sir. You're saying that the enemy is not outside. The sort of development to be done is not outside, but inside. And, also "andar hi khazana hai" (the riches are also inside). So can you share a little bit on how that has manifested in your life?

DVRS: A hundred percent. I mean, today I will say that I give so much importance to it that my entire travel schedule is around the practices that I do, and by God's grace. And by the way, I totally, I was an atheist! Today I know that even the next word will not come out of my mouth unless by the higher power, the Infinite wils it. Right now, I can drop dead down on this keyboard and then Rohit will have to phone the ISB to remove this mess, we have stopped the call.

So, we arrogate ourselves that we have the movers and shakers of this earth or cosmos. Its total rubbish. And of course that higher power is not on some sitting- on-a-throne, attended by four beautiful women fanning and so on. Those are stories for mythology and so on. They have their role, but the higher power is within.

So. I typically wake up at four thirty in the morning, or four. If I have an early morning class, three thirty, and then it takes me an hour to get ready. I tend to calls of nature, bath etc. And then I spent three hours almost uninterrupted. That's my "me-time". That time no mobile- nothing. Its far away. By the way also, while sleeping, the mobile is far away. The last I look at the mobile is one hour before I sleep. Otherwise, all these toxic messages come. You know, that for instance, in Afghanistan two hundred people are bombed out, or in Iraq or this or that. Why pollute our minds more? There is enough pollution inside. No need to import external pollution.

So, and I step out of the house only after that. Then in the afternoon, I go and do some more practices. Then at night I spend one and half hours. So without five hours of spiritual practice, my day is not complete. And if Rohit comes and says "Please let it go for 2 days, I will give you 10 crores (100 million)?" then I will say "You please keep your money with you. This is far more precious. I cannot compromise on this even one day."

And what in what practices do you do essentially culminate in - How do you quieten the mind and bring it to no thoughts? That's all the thing. All spiritual practices of the entire world, I believe, culminate in this. Not too many talk about it because it's too scary for a lot of people. Many will say, if I don't have thoughts, how can I survive? I will be a vegetable and so on. But in fact, you will be at your most powerful peak! Of work, output, whatever your desire, according to your vision. And this is where the importance of life vision comes. Whatever you desire, will just manifest, absolutely by itself. Of course, you're putting the right effort in a meaningful way.

But in the inertial state that same effort, like it happened to me in that Gujarat Factory - seven years of hell. A lot of effort, but zero results. So, your ability to get maximum output for minimum input starts manifesting when you move to the higher planes of consciousness, when the mind is absolutely calm.

You just have to think, and it happens, but you do need to have a vision, which is broader than "my bank balance". That's all rubbish vision. Basically, you have to have a much bigger purpose. So, how I defined my purpose?

I wrote my first vision after sometime in 2004, when I met the Mahatma who put me on this track and started pulling me out of the sewage pit. That was the first time in my life. At that time, I was already pretty late in age, age forty-seven, or something. It's too late to have a vision. So folks who are on this call, please write your vision, here and now today. This weekend, republic day is coming, 2 days are enough to start tentatively writing your vision.

So there it was about enhancing the quality of life of students. Before that, 2000 to 2004, I was teaching at Bangalore. My teaching used to be dense PowerPoint slides. I will switch off the lights, turn my back to the audience, and with two hundred words per slide go on reading them. And the feedback used to be third rate. The Dean called me and said "Hey DVR, I think you are to look for another job!" That was how pathetic it was! And somewhere, I thought: "Where is this leading? Failure in corporate, failure in academics, failure in personal life. Where do I go? Do I jump into that canal in Bangalore - I forgot the name- which takes all the waste from Bangalore and dumps it somewhere. So that seemed like the only recourse.

So, then I sat quietly under a tree and thought about life. I realized the purpose of a teacher, espcially in professional setups like ours, is not to download whatever little wee bit of knowledge I know of B2B marketing on some unwilling heads of students and I can guarantee you that somebody like Niphun or Rahul or Rohit know more of marketing than I do, because they have been learning through that job, and so on.

Instead, the purpose of teaching is to address the quality of life of students. Can we enhance the quality of life of students? And when you take that, the same day I dropped the PowerPoint! Now I'm known as a fellow who never touches a PowerPoint. So, I'm called a "Walk, Chalk, and Talk" faculty.

So, I just swoop down like an eagle if somebody's sleeping, I'll come down! If Rohit is sleeping in the class, I'll look him eyeball to eyeball within six inches, and say: "What did you understand? What did I say in the last one minute?" And therefore, people are very alert! And then, in between, I give some snippets of life. Not in a very organized manner- that people see a lot of value. So, now I've sort of come to age sixty three. And then I said I have been teaching twenty years. 6-7 IIMs parallely. I think I had taught in those twenty years what a typical faculty anchored at one institute might teach in five lifetimes. So, in a way, I was going, living from a suitcase from one IIM to the other. It was a circuit, from Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, to Shillong and then back again. So this was crazy. And then, in between so many companies, so then I thought, enough of this.

And by the way, the other thing I learned was- keep the class at ease. No stress. I tell everybody: "Look folks, all of you deserve an 'A'. If I had the ability you would all get an 'A' in my course. Unfortunately, I would lose my job if I do that, because the institute wants to force fit a normalized curve. 25% A's, 45% B's and 30% C's and D's. But don't worry. These grades are not a big deal! And I usually open my class with this statement, I don't know, Rohit, if you remember, that "progress in life is inversely proportional to the grades that you get in class?" So that puts a lot of people at ease. And I do believe that poor grades don't mean a poor life because a lot more life skills are needed to really keep calm in this crazy VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguos). A lot more skills are required than just some silly grades, right after the course is over.

And now, the last one month I've been thinking: "What do I do? What's the new vision?" And suddenly I realized that I can now set the residual the years of my life, based on my life experiences, on three major projects. One is an Equitable Healthcare Access Consortium, which is based upon how you make the poorest get the same health care as a rich person. And this was motivated by what LV Prasad Eye Institute. had done in eyecare and also Arvind Eyecare, which is one of the most well known. They've done it in eye care. but what if I'm a poor fellow who has a heart problem or a liver problem or cancer? So can we take lessons from that and push it? So this is something I have been involved with many others Mahatmas, since last two years.

And second, I am seeing that the environment is degrading rapidly. Every year you see the news. When I was in Bangalore, news said this is the hottest year in the last hundred years. And now I've shifted to Hyderabad. The news is saying this is the hottest year in the last thirty years. If we are seeing hottest year every year, where is it going to go? So I have now hitched my wagon with some great folks who have done lifelong research. We have launched one Climate Healers Academy, which is giving me purpose for my next residual years. Maybe ten, fifteen, twenty, whatever, till I have my last ounce of energy.

And the other is Life Healer Academy. Because as I told you, a lot of kids are going through hell. Even forty year old people, maybe marital discord. And I went through enough of that, because of my professional problems which spilled over into the personal world, also. And then professional insecurities, children anxieties, health anxieties, mother-in-law anxiety, this, that, and the other. So we are launching one Life Healers Academy. The nice thing about a place like ISB is they give you the space to do whatever you want, so long as you work and plonk into the scheduled courses and teach without absenting yourself, and keep contributing some decent research output.So this is where I am.

All this leads to figuring out what's your life purpose, and it is an iterative process. For the youngsters, they might do it every six months, one year, till they zero-in on visibility for about ten years. In my case, the visibility is more like twenty years because of the gray hair.

Rohit: Beautiful. Thanks so much Sir. That brings us to my last question, which is something which you are already sharing. And I actually missed it from sharing in the beginning because that's one thing which I really appreciate about you. And so many of us do that.

I think one thing which many of us have felt is that through your work, I think, even when you're teaching, which is sort of a role of authority that, you are like, senior, and the students are junior. But, what I at least felt that their is a heart of the service which you bring to the table. Here is an opportunity to actually support the students in any way that I can. That I think has beautifully manifested in the kind of emotional support or spiritual support which so many students have found from you. Through your courses also, many people have been helped to change their career paths, to take a role which is more aligned to their purpose, something more useful to the society.

You were also talking about failure. That we all seem to be achieving so much, but then life throws in a googly, and then you find yourself at a spot where you really start feeling like a failure. Your courses and your engagement with the students has helped so many times in coming out of these difficult phases. And for a long time, you have been involved with many social service organizations like Arvind Eye Care, EHAC which you just mentioned and few others.

So I would like to understand, that you are operating in a mainstream business world, but what is role of service, kindness, compassion in your life today?

DVRS: For the benefit of everybody who's on this Awakin' Talk. I will say one thing. The primary purpose of life is your internal journey. Let's not fool around with that. The internal enhancement.

But, complementary to that whole issue of: “How can I be of service to the larger society." That includes not just people, but includes trees, animals, everybody.

So if we should sort out these two. Actually there is no conflict between the two. And once we do this, we suddenly find that we have been able to release a lot of human energy that is within us to do so many things simultaneously, and people will get stunned "Hey, are you able to do all this?" But suddenly you realize that all infructuous engagements, going and talking gossip with XYZ or going and looking at Facebook or LinkedIn or this or that, and wasting time unnecessarily, all those are jettisoned and you were of course, focusing on your main career like if I don't focus on what ISB expects of me, I'll be shown the door in three months or, maximum, in one year." There is some deliverables. So you can work intensely to deliver that in a very short time, because the mind is calm and there is no toxic thoughts like : “How do I stab a knife on my colleague?” None of that. Let everybody flourish. Let them all be happy. "Sarve jana sukhino bhavantu" as Bhumika recited beautifully.

So there's a lot of time that is there. So I say to youngsters that please do find time. Maybe if weekdays are not possible if you're commuting and so on, but on weekends, go and start something that you intended to do, but did not. Maybe learn Mridangam, maybe learn sitar. Maybe go to an orphanage, teach some street children, go to an old age home. There are zillions of causes and there are zillions of great people who are doing great work, just plug into them.

And as the Rohit and I were talking along with Rahul and Nipun before this conversation, nobody is really amused if I write a check for 10 lakhs (1 million). Enough people are giving money. What they need is people's time. And if you're able to spend that time, even if it is to start with two hours a week, then we are starting to set foot in the world of service.

Today there's a huge body of literature on servant leadership. The leader is first a servant. And then, you know, a Maalik (boss). Unfortunately, we think once we are a leader, I twirl my moustache, and I think I'm God's gift to humanity, and others have to do at my beckoning! This is all rubbish.

So, the moment we turn the tables and say: "I am given this opportunity to lead. And therefore, it is a blessing to me from the people who are my so-called followers; and, therefore it is my beholden duty to be of service to them." Then the whole world changes. So even within an organization, the obnoxious, toxic, competitive, spirit is gone and you're saying: "How can I be of service? To my colleagues, to my subordinates, to my superiors?" and so on. This is one thing that is very, very important. And once you take service as the main reason for your existence, then you also look for opportunities and avenues and spaces like ServiceSpace.

"How do I, be of service to humanity?" Because my premise is, there is incredible suffering in humanity. And of course, about animals the less we talk the better. They are struggling constantly for their survival, whether it is dogs or cats or elephants or whatever. You know, the way that we have been treating animals is scary. That where is humanity heading? For example, yesterday, I read a news item of some fellows in Kerala throwing one burning tire on an elephant, and unfortunately it got stuck on its big ear, and it didn't know how to extricate itself. It died a miserable death. Somebody else when a dog is barking, from the balcony, we just fling hot water or hot oil, and that's the end of it. Somebody else, you know, throws out some fire crackers on a cow and essentially incapacitates it. These are all recorded in the last 24 hours. These are so recurring. There is so much misery in the world. The other thing I wanted to say. Yesterday I saw a news item about a leopard that was killed and eaten! As if they have no other thing to eat then a leopard? I fail to understand.

So the call for service is so huge. You just have to scratch the surface of society and there are enough causes. And if you're doing service, then that culture flows into your work. You will be much more respected because you're not in this crazy, competitive, elbowing- each-other jostling for positions of power. You're there as a servant. You want anything? I will serve you unconditionally. No questions asked. All these ploughs back into your inner journey.

So it's very wonderful, virtous cycle that you're setting in motion. You can start from anywhere. For example, you can start from your work and say: "From today, I'm going to be a servant leader." in whatever capacity, and that will make you look at service opportunities in society that will help you to start accelerating your inner journey. There is no other purpose than this in life in my view. Whatever money you deserve, you will get according to your karmic credit, debit balances. No point in salivating for something which is not yours.

Rohit: Beautiful. Thank you so much, sir, for sharing your beautiful wisdom, which you have learned through so much of life experiences, and research and study in the last sixty- two years and may be more so in the last twenty, thirty years. Thank you so much!

One personal highlight for me is when we talk has been about sticking to your values, really prioritizing values, or even caring for others, it is not something to be seen as a sacrifice, but something which is actually congenial to your own growth and development.

Thanks a lot for sharing that, and clarifying that, and everything else, and all the values which you stand for, which teaches us to come out of our own deep wells of suffering, to at least take some steps to come out of it and support the whole of humanity, and all life in that process and bringing a bit more joy and blessing and grace in life.

Thank you so much. I will invite Rahul for a closing song offering, as a tribute to the wonderful teacher you are, and as a tribute to all who teach us, visibly and invisbly, and then we will will close with a minute of silence in gratitude.

DVRS: Before that, I just want to thank Service Space and all involved for reaching out to me. When they reached out, I said: "What new thing can I add? I'm just an ordinary creature roaming around on the block!" But somehow they had some faith that I could add some value. I am grateful to you for the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions preceding this through email and phone conversations. It was all so fast. Two weeks back or three weeks back, we connected. This has opened up to me, that there are some incredible human beings in every nook and corner. ServiceSpace is one, which is probably propelled by thousands of great Mahatmas! And my honest heartful obseisance to all of you for the incredible work you're doing, and Godspeed and more power to you for reaching out to millions of people.

Rohit: Thank you Sir.

Rahul: Thank you very much professor sir for this very engaging conversation. One of the central themes you espoused in this talk was that there is zero happiness outside. All happiness is within. In fact, our body is our greatest teacher is what Kabir says. And we would like to end this conversation with a song from Saint Kabir. We'll be putting up the lyrics here, and feel free, all of you, to sing along.

{After the song, everyone observes a minute of silence in gratitude and closes with thanks}

***


About Awakin Calls

Awakin Call is a weekly global series of deep conversations with inspiring changemakers. It is an all-volunteer offering and is completely free, without any ads or solicitation. Read more ...

 

Subscribe To Newsletter

To stay updated about guest announcements, fresh content, and other inspiring tidbits, subscribe below and we'll send you a weekly email.

(unsubscribe)

Archived Conversations

Or search by date or through tags like:

Contact Us

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a note.

Podcasts

  • img
  • img