Sri Sri Ravi Shankar lovingly called as Guruji, the founder of Art of Living Foundation through which He relieves the stress at individual levels, thus reducing violence, sufferings and conflicts and spreading the love, harmony, peace throughout the world in various societies.
(Confederation of Indian Industry organized a special session on 'Human Potential and Business Ethics' with Sri Sri on 7 October 2014 at New Delhi. Below is the transcript of the Q&A session with Sri Sri)
Q: (A member of the audience asked a question which was inaudible).
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
As Jayantji very correctly said, we have human potential but no skills and no aptitude. And I would add one more thing: no common sense.
Someone asked what is the sign of an Indian? I said there are four things:
1. Every Indian is a philosopher. They will give you advice on what you should do and how you should do. They will give you their own philosophy. Even a rickshaw driver will have advice to give you
2. Every Indian is a politician
3. Everyone is a doctor
4. If someone is going forward, instead of running faster than them we have a tendency of pulling them backwards and putting a brake on their work
What is that something that is motivating or inspiring people to put their heart and soul into the work they are doing?
This is what we need to look at.
Way back in the 80s, I remember, I had a meeting with the top industrialists of this country whom I wouldn’t like to name, and do you know, they were having a discussion on how to put a brake on the people who were marching forward. I felt this to be so pathetic. If someone is progressing and doing very well in business we should see how we can do better than them. This is the attitude we must have, and also build into our culture. It was there before, but somehow we are misjudging our own abilities. We don't realize that we have huge potential.
I know that small and medium industries have many challenges. Profit and loss makes a very big difference to these industries, unlike big Industries who in spite of having loans still survive. But for small and medium industries, skill development is very important. You need to have skilled people because you cannot employ too many people. You want efficient, productive, creative, honest people. It almost sounds like utopia. Where do you get such people from?
I tell you it is possible. What you need to do is just take a little time and look at how the NGOs and religious bodies work. You know, we need to learn from every avenue and understand how people are so dedicated in these places. If you think you are secular and don’t want to look at NGOs or religious bodies, the other option you have is to see how the terrorists work.
See how the Naxalites or the terrorists elsewhere in this country work. What is that something that is motivating or inspiring these people to put their heart and soul into the work they are doing?
You know, the year before last year, The Government of India Home Ministry had sent 350 ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) terrorists to our Ashram, many of whom wanted to give up their arms. They stayed here for one month and I tell you, each one of their lives changed drastically. Their life stories are like a Bollywood movie; in fact much more interesting than any movie.
Now, what is the force in these young people that causes them to let go of all their comforts, take to guns and live in the forest. This speaks volumes of what an individual can do.
If an individual can put their whole life, heart and mind into doing something destructive, can’t we put the same potential and same energy into doing something much more creative? I tell you, we can.
The one month that they stayed in the ashram brought a big transformation in these people. The same people vowed to go out and bring a change in society. Some of them became agriculturists and some have become small scale industrialists. So all that is needed is that right direction. So we have to think about how we can kindle that source of energy in the people who are working for us. They should not just come and work from 9 to 5 and leave.
Many times, people work only when the supervisor is watching. Once the supervisor turns the person starts slacking again. We must change this attitude and to change this attitude and bring out the best in people, we need to view human beings as human beings and not as commodities or machines. We need to build a relationship with them.
We need to view human beings as human beings and not as commodities or machines. We need to build a relationship with them.
For e.g., the guard outside your factory is safeguarding your whole factory. Have you ever stopped and said hello to him anytime? Have you asked him, 'How are you? Did you have a good Diwali? How many kids do you have? Are they fine?'
A couple of sentences or small conversation with them will help develop a sense of commitment, and a sense of belongingness gets kindled within such people. So these are small gestures that we need to make because these small things can make a big difference. It is not just the money.
If you see in The Art of Living also, so many graduates from IIT and IIM are working with us. They can earn a very high salary in any other IT company, but they work with us and just take what they need for their day to day expenditure, yet they put their heart and soul into their work. When this can happen in an NGO, can it not happen at a workplace? It is possible.
This culture was in Germany soon after World War II when the entire nation woke up and said, 'We have to rebuild our nation. Our nation is totally destroyed'.
The youth have the power and women also have the power to bring about change.
I must tell you of this 65 year old lady who invited me to her home in Germany. This was about 20 years ago. This lady had children and grandchildren, yet at the age 65 she and her husband built their whole house themselves. They made their house out of wood and not a nail was out of place. It was the zeal in them to work.
See, we need to induce our young people and our work force. We need to induce a work culture. For this, we need to look into four aspects:
1. We need to ensure that their health is okay. Sometimes if they are feeling lethargic to work, check to see what is wrong with them. They may be low on vitamin B, or vitamin D. These days due to the excessive use of chemical fertilizers in vegetables and food, people get tired more after eating this kind of food. Instead of getting energy from food they get more tired. So physical tiredness results in laziness or lethargy. So they must focus a bit more on their food.
One such small industry in Coimbatore, on my suggestion, they started giving a mid-day meal to all their workers at lunch time. They gave them a balanced meal of grains and sprouts.When people started sharing lunch together their productivity started getting so much better. And a balanced nutritious meal in the afternoon also keeps them awake and alert for the rest of the day. Otherwise if they eat parathas (stuffed flat bread) and drink lassi (thick buttermilk), they feel sleepy soon after their lunch and are not able to concentrate on their work. So some attention should be given to food.
You can charge it from the salaries you give them, but give them good nutritious food.
Care for people. Just talking to them, interacting with them from time to time and making them feel that the company belongs to them also will make all the difference.
If you see our diet, we are so poor in our nutritional awareness in this country. We only consume carbohydrates: potato, tomato and eggplant. We don’t seem to include any greens in our meals at all. We only eat potato, onion, tomato and eggplant every day. There is absolutely no nutritional value in this.
Even fasting is done wrongly. We eat potato and say that we are fasting. This is totally wrong. There is a way to fast.
It is said, ‘Jaisa ann vaisa mann’ (as is the food, so is the mind). My grandmother used to be so particular on what one should eat every day. She would ensure that there is some green chutney and saag (cooked green leafy vegetable) everyday. She would daily eat food on a banana leaf, and being a village lady she lived up to the age of 95.
In the olden days, there was a system that was followed in terms of food. What should be eaten in what order, and how it should be served, attention was given to all these details. Even the food was honored. It would be served on a leaf, a small prayer would be said and then the food would be eaten. And they would serve at least two vegetables and two types ofdaals (lentils). This was a must.
So, if you look back and see what our ancient people used to have, it was such a balanced diet. If you want to change the attitude of people, you must make their food intake more balanced.
2. Exercise. People don’t exercise at all. They just keep sitting in one place and let both the body and mind get rusty. They should be encouraged to do some yoga or some vigorous exercise. All should be encouraged to do this together.
Now you may wonder, where is the time for all this? But you can incorporate all this at lunch time. Just 5 minutes of this is good enough. You don’t need to exercise for a full hour, just five to ten minutes of exercise will make the body fitter. So taking care of health, this is very important. And caring for people. Just talking to them, interacting with them from time to time and making them feel that this company belongs to them also will make all the difference.
Try all this and see how motivated they become. Even if someone offers them more money they will say, 'No I like it here'. You must create an atmosphere that is very congenial for working and give them not just physical but mental comfort. You can then motivate people to work for you better.
You must create an atmosphere that is very congenial for working and give them not just physical but mental comfort. You can then motivate people to work for you better.
3. Teach them a little bit of meditation as meditation is the only way to get rid of mental stress. So you should have M&Ms in the afternoon, i.e., meals and meditation. Everyone should have their meal together and then sit and relax. Meditation is not concentration but de concentration. In the west, power nap is the buzz word, and they have found out through research that when people spend 20 minutes in the afternoon on a power nap or meditation, their productivity goes up by anywhere between 32% to 54%. This is huge. So that type of mental rest or power nap should be done wherever possible.
Many of you may think that this is not practical to have a nap in the afternoon. But for people who are doing more intellectual work, to make them more efficient, it is good to give them a little rest in the afternoon for 15 or 20 minutes and meditation is the best alternative. If you do 15 or 20 minutes of meditation, it gives you the same rest as eight hours of sleep because in eight hours sleep your oxygen consumption rate goes down 80% and the same thing happens in 20 minutes of meditation. So meditation is very useful in more than one way.
So a little bit of meditation and personal interaction.