Leadership Coaching Insights from the Geeta: The Supreme Goal
There is a huge appetite these days for consuming books, podcasts, blogs, seminars and workshops on character-driven leadership. This emphasis on values or underlying principles reflects the desire for both individuals and organizations to strive for a higher purpose rather than an obsessive focus on just the next paycheck, next quarterly profit report, or next big accomplishment. While there is nothing wrong about focusing on results and making ends meet, the exclusive preoccupation can drain the very exuberance needed to succeed in life and work. So, does the Geeta really have answers for those who strive to be great leaders? Does following the teachings of Hinduism or a focus on spirituality really make a difference? Let me share some of my interpretations and see if you agree with me.
The Geeta is about a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, a leader, who is experiencing an existential crisis about good and evil, action and inaction, and his role and purpose in life. This conversation is narrated to a king, another leader, who happens to be blind to the truth regarding his own kingdom and the leaders he supports.
Many who read the Geeta believe it helps them lead a better life. I would surmise that it is an ideal resource and more importantly a religious practice for leaders looking for pearls of wisdom and behavioral suggestions to build character, purpose and intention.
So if you are ready to look at the Geeta through a different lens, where is a good place to begin? I have often found randomly opening the Geeta to a specific page and reading a few stanzas’ often provides many with a sense of inner peace and direction. A sudden lift occurs in their feet and a novel perspective that lasts through the day or week occurs. A sense of equanimity can also be the result of brief exposure to powerful stanzas. Today’s modern leader needs mental and spiritual energy to maintain a persistence of focus, commitment, unselfishness and humility.
I believe the last stanza in chapter 9 is a rare example of how a few words capture the essence of spiritually driven purpose and existence. The version I am referencing is in The Holy Geeta, commentary by Swami Chimayananda.
Chapter 9, stanza 34 reads as follows: “Fix your mind on Me, be Devoted to Me, bow down to Me, having thus united your (whole) self with Me, taking me as the Supreme Goal, you shall come to me.”
Every Hindu is well aware that the ultimate goal of life is to accomplish the “Supreme Goal.” Stanza 34 is an executive summary of an action plan to achieve the final destination. The relaxing reality of this action plan is that there is no predefined deadline or sense of urgency to get the job done. In fact, one can take as many lifetimes required due to the nature of this task.
Fix your mind on me. This is a clear suggestion to the leader that despite all of life’s distractions and requirements, one must spend some time in meditation and practice focusing on something beyond self. Second, devotion is an extremely powerful human capacity combining unselfishness and commitment to serve beyond one’s own self interest. Finally, bow down to me is further encouragement about maintaining humility and understanding that true and infinite power is not the province of an individual person.
By reading the Geeta, living life with a higher purpose dedicated to the “Supreme Goal” will actually enhance the leader’s capacity to lead naturally and in a positive fashion.
The leader need not talk about religion or spirituality but simply follow ancient wisdom about how to live life toward achieving the ultimate. And living life and striving for the utmost gives one the vitality to accomplish the rest of the goals of life. So now, you should be ready to look at the Geeta differently and lead life and work with an ancient wisdom guiding your inner purpose and I wish you great success in accomplishing your Supreme Goal.
Dr. Naakesh Dewan, a physician executive and sports psychiatrist who also works with leaders on wellness and life fulfillment, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE VALUE OF RELIGION
For most people, religion is an organized system of beliefs and practices intended to keep one in close contact with the highest being recognized by that religion. As such, religions have provided a path for the masses to follow for centuries. Ironically, equal number have found disturbance in the name of religion as have found solace. If you're not convinced, just consider this. One major obstacle to world peace is actually religion.
The blind faith and belief in religion are not the way of the modern humans. Rituals, as they were prescribed to the masses, are now seen by the same masses to be highly marketed businesses and political power systems. The old ways filled with tradition, belief and faith are crumbling under the scrutiny of the modern evidence-based transparent world views.
Still, the underlying tenet of religion is intact. That tenet is every human's personal need to understand the place of humans, at the individual level, in the overall order of the universe. Essentially, the question is still, who am I? The answer, however, cannot derive from a doctrine or a dogma. It must be a personal experience for the modern human.
Nevertheless, the need of modern humans to understand their individual place in the universe is nothing new. It has always been the fundamental inquiry of the human race at the individual level. This need has given rise to orthodox religions in the past and, as a result, even atheism. Just think, can the atheist exist in the modern sense if there was no concept of God?
Modern humans are driven by personal experience. We no longer need to blindly follow a path. Rather, we prefer a personal journey of self-experience over the cookie-cutter mold of religion. The religious dogma is being transformed into a personal quest for knowing "who am I."
As such, this is an exciting time in human evolution. We have risen beyond the solace and comfort of the shelter called religion. We are once again roaming outside the shelter to figure out the true nature of our existence. What could be more exciting? This is indeed freedom at its highest level of expression.
The religion of modern humans is rooted in experience. Humans have discovered the freedom to experience spirituality as an individual experience. We are no longer bound by judgment of good over evil; we are free to reflect with our own minds the personal expression of each of our life experiences in a continuum of what value our personal actions add to diaspora of humanity. The new expression of our inner need for a binding philosophy has evolved from a religious dogma to liberated personal expression of spirituality.
So, is this really a new evolutionary step for humanity? The highest expression of personal freedom that does not require God as the central dogma? Not really. Expression of personal freedom external to the need for a God has been the basis of a way of life that originated as early as humanity itself. It originated along the banks of the river Saraswati, which predates the Indus civilization. This way of life has ever since been named Sanatan Dharma – the universal identity of humanity. The word Dharma was mistakenly translated as religion. What it really means is "the true and essential nature." Indeed, Sanatan Dharma adheres to a philosophical inquiry into the true and essential nature of humans. It rises above the doctrinated religion to encourage personal freedom in its highest expression through self-discovery.
So, when you're ready, start by letting go of your fear of God. Start the journey of self-discovery with Sanatan Dharma as your guiding path and experience for yourself the full freedom of human expression. You must know yourself before you can consider knowing or meeting God. This is the only way!
Maulik K. Trivedi M.D. is board certified in general adult psychiatry, and child and adolescent psychiatry. He specializes in the MindBody approach to behavioral health at Florida Medical Clinic and can be reached at (813) 973-1304.