Below are the excerpts from Sri Sri’s talk at the Business, Ethics & Spirituality discussion sponsored by the University of Southern California.In the panel discussion, Sri Sri was joined by John Paul Dejoria, a first generation American-turned-enterpreneur, philanthropist, government officer and an integral part of the business community; and Rob Dyrek, a professional skateboarder, television star, filmmaker, enterpreneur and multi-faceted philanthropist.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: A few years ago, it was not considered appropriate for someone spiritual to be in a business setting. Business and spirituality, or business and charity appeared to be poles apart. Essentially, business is to give less and take more. If a banana is worth ten cents, it will be sold for twelve. You take more and you give less in business. However, charity is to give more than you take.
The backbone of business is trust. If trust is broken, business cannot succeed. Greed kills the consciousness. That’s what we saw with the financial crisis. To prevent this, it is essential for companies like John Paul Mitchell Systems to grow. Paul Mitchell is an example that shows that an individual need not be unethical to be rich and successful.
Corruption is the greatest dilemma in the world. Africa has no money to feed its people, yet there are billions in the bank accounts of corrupt politicians. How can the world be so blind to countries where there is such suffering and famine? When we raised this issue in the European Parliament, the office holders said they would send the money back to the African people. Corruption only happens out of a sense of non-belongingness. No one can be corrupt towards the people they belong to. We need to bring a sense of belongingness to every individual. How can that happen? When the mind is stress-free. A stress-free mind is the source of love. We must foster a sense of belongingness that cuts across the prejudice of nationalities and religions. The Art of Living Foundation have such a wide range of programs, so that people can learn how to cultivate a sense of belongingness.
We need to care and share. There have been earthquakes in Haiti, China and elsewhere. Today, businesses are helping out. America is at the forefront in providing aid. You should really congratulate yourselves.
There is a story I want to share. There was an earthquake in Gujarat many years ago. Our volunteers went to work there. They met an elderly lady who had gone to the temple and on her return found that she had lost everyone in her family. She had lost her sons, daughter-in-law and husband. Her home had crumbled. She had only a little amount in her purse which she wanted to give as a donation. Our volunteers refused her donation and said that they had come to give and not take. She said, “Nature has taken everything away from me. Don’t take away my right to give as well. Please accept my contribution, it is my dharma.” Our volunteers had tears in their eyes. When you have and you share, it is not a big deal. When you don’t have and you share, then that is something.
Q: Please speak about wealth.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: As per the ancient scriptures, there are eight types of wealth. Wealth is not only money. Of course, bank balance is wealth, progeny is also a type of wealth, so is health. If you have the confidence that you can create wealth in any situation, even when the economy is not doing well, you will have courage. That courage and confidence is a wealth. The ability to make friends is a wealth. Knowledge is also wealth.
The goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is floating on the lotus. She moves with the wind. The Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati, is on a rock. A rock is stable. Once you have learnt knowledge, you have learnt it for life. Wealth is not an end in itself. It is the means to an end. Wealth, happiness and life are to be shared with all those around.
Today, many people have lost faith. When you lose faith, it takes you within. Every crisis is an opportunity. When all doors are shut and you have nowhere to go, that is when you go within.
Many hurdles and crises come, but you must keep your intention strong. You have to have vision. When you look around, people who break your trust will be few. Those whose values falter will be few. Though sometimes you may shake, but hold on to your vision and mission.
If you don’t want others to cheat you, why should you cheat others? Money is essential, yet you cannot sleep well having only money. Half our health is spent on getting wealth and then we spend half our wealth to get back the health.
Q: How do you define success?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Success is measured by the smiles you have had from the heart. It is the confidence you have to face challenges. When everything goes well you can easily smile. Success is when everything falls apart and yet you can smile. One who manages all challenges that life gives is successful.
Q: Can business be a force to promote peace between nations?
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Three dimensions will bring peace. There should be spirituality in politics, corporate social responsibility in business and secularism in religion.
This is deeply ingrained in our minds. Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are examples of secularism in religion and spirituality in politics.