Yearly Archives: 2010


Quality, Culture and Excellence

Quality is practical; it is also moral and aesthetic.

– Tom Peters – Management Guru

In the minds of men, Useful has succeeded the Beautiful.

– Benjamin Disraeli
(commenting on the transition from the pre-modern to modern age.)

True quality comes from the refinement of culture and the pursuit of beauty and quest for excellence.

Total Quality Management (TQM) may not be the present fad in Business. Jack Welch, the famed former CEO of GEC opted for Six Sigma instead of TQM! But the concept of Quality has an eternal relevance for management and human development.

What is precisely the meaning of Quality? The ancient thought viewed quality in terms of aesthetic refinement. The traditional management thought conceived quality in terms of reliability, durability, technical excellence or utility of the product or service. More recent trends of thought in management views quality in terms of customer perception or satisfaction. There is an element of truth in all these perceptions.

There are two dimensions to quality: inner and outer. The outer quality consists of external factors like reliability, durability, technical excellence, utility, aesthetic design and many others. Beauty or aesthetics is an important part of quality. Ancients valued Craftsmanship as an essential aspect of quality. Craftsmanship is a combination of professional skill with artistic excellence or in other words an inner vision of beauty expressing itself through a harmonious and skillful action, culminating in a product or service of extraordinary beauty and quality.

The inner dimension of quality depends on the quality of consciousness of the people who make the product and the environment in which the product is made. This is the invisible dimension of quality, which is not recognized, in modern thought. The other aspect of this psychological dimension of quality is the inner response which the product or service invoke in the customer or in other words, the nature and quality of the experience which the customer has in the act of looking, buying or using it. This aspect of quality is now increasingly recognized in modern management thinking. An integral approach to quality must take into consideration all these dimensions of quality.

The other aspect of quality is the quest for progressive perfection or excellence in every activity of life, not only in terms of outer efficiency, productivity or improvement but more importantly in terms of mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual refinement, which means a quest for truth, beauty, harmony, goodness in all the activities of the individual and collective life. This inner refinement is the essence of culture. In this deeper perspective culture is the outer expression of the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual genius of a community. The quality of the corporate life comes from the effort of culture, which means in practical terms, government of the outer material and pragmatic life of the community by the inner and higher mind and soul of the group.



The Dimensions of Quality

The concept and practice of quality has many facets and each facet has an inner and outer dimension.

Key Perspectives

Quality of the People, Product, Process and the Environment; Inner and Outer Dimension of Quality.

The concept and practice of Total Quality Management (TQM) is now well established in the corporate consciousness. However in a more holistic perspective, TQM is not sufficiently integral to call it “total” because it deals predominantly with the outer dimensions of quality and doesn’t give sufficient attention to the inner dimensions of quality. This article examines the concept of quality in an integral perspective embracing the inner as well as the outer dimensions of quality.

The Facets of Quality

In an integral perspective, the concept of quality may be viewed in terms of four aspects:

1. Quality of the People
2. Quality of the Product
3. Quality of the Process
4. Quality of the Environment

Each of these facets has an outer and an inner dimension. We may include one more to the list, the aesthetic dimension.

Quality of the People

The first facet of quality is the quality of people. The outer quality of people depends on the skill, knowledge, productivity and efficiency they bring to the job. The inner quality of the people depends on the nature of the values lived in action and internalised in their individual consciousness. In general, it is the values of the higher nature in man made of the idealistic, ethical, aesthetic and spiritual mind, which brings inner quality to people. So, for sustaining integral quality in people, the human resource development (HRD) policies and strategies should aim not only at professional development or excellence of people, but also at the mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual development of individuals.

In most of the progressive organizations, professional development of the employee is pursued systematically through regular and periodical training and education programmes. And the management of the organizations insists as a policy that the employees should make use of the training and education opportunities provided by it to enhance their professional capabilities.

A similar effort has to be made in the domain of the moral, aesthetic and spiritual development of the employees in order to sustain the inner quality of people. But we must keep in mind that this inner development cannot be brought about by force and compulsion and therefore should not be imposed on people by the managerial fiat or authority. It has to be voluntarily embraced by people through the combined influence of inspired leadership and a favourable environment. The most important factor would be the living example of leaders who are living the higher values and pursuing the inner development. Such leaders can ignite a similar higher aspiration in others through their words, action and behaviour or even by their sheer presence communicating their inner condition to others in silence or by inner contagion.

The second factor is the right environment. The management of the organization should actively encourage and promote this inner development by providing those who are willing to pursue this higher growth with sufficient incentives, recognition, leave facilities and educational inputs. However, in a long-term perspective, once the management of the organization takes a firm decision to make this inner quality one of the major aims of its HRD philosophy, then it must become part of its recruitment policy. This means, other factors like professional competence, qualification or experience being equal, preference should be given to those who have the inner inclination for this higher development.

Quality of the Product

The second facet of quality is the quality of the product. The inner quality of the product depends on the technical excellence, utility and reliability of the product or the quality of outer service to the customer. The inner quality of the product and service depends on two factors: first on the quality of the emotional and aesthetic experience which the product or service gives to the customer and the inner quality of the people who make the product or provide the service. This is an important and invisible factor, which the modern scientific culture refuses to admit but the ancient wisdom always recognized. It is based on the relationship between Mind and Matter. As Sri Aurobindo states, “Mind overflowed into the inanimate. ” For, modern psychology admits that Mind, like Matter is also a form of energy, Anima, as it is called in Jungian psychology. So this mental energy can overflow the body and into the material environment.

So, a creation, product or service, which is produced from an individual or collective mind or consciousness of peace, harmony, nobility and well-being has an invisible quality, beauty or attraction, which a similar product or service created out of stress and conflict and ugliness of thought and feeling lacks.

In the future of business and management it is this invisible factor, which will determine the customer pull and attraction. For when the technological and managerial competencies are more and more generalized and the differentiation between products and services in terms of outer quality becomes more and more minimal, it is the inner moral, psychological and aesthetic quality which will determine the customer choices. Interestingly, Tom Peters, the well-known management guru, made the following significant remark on quality. “Quality is practical. But it is also moral and aesthetic” and quotes marketing expert, Philip Kotler as telling it is the “delight factor” . If the people who make the product or give the service has this delight factor within them it will flow into the product or service, suffusing it with a subtle and intangible beauty or attraction for the customer.

Quality of the Process

The third aspect of quality is the quality of the process. In modern management practice, the process quality is measured in terms of minimizing and elimination of defect, with zero-defect as the ideal to be achieved. However in a more positive perspective, process quality means maintaining a certain standard of excellence in every activity of the corporate life. As Venu Srinivasan, CEO of Sundaram Clayton, which won the prestigious Deming’s award for quality states, “In the context of total quality control what total quality means is trying to achieve excellence in everything you do.”

There is an inner dimension to process-quality, which emerges when all the activities and process of the organization, along with people, material, resources, flow in perfect rhythm, harmony and resonance. According to modern system theory when there is a complementing harmony between individuals and parts, all working together for a common purpose it leads to the emergence of something more than the sum of individual contributions, or in other words 1+1 becomes more than 2. A still better example is dance, a harmonic resonance between bodily movements, music and mood creates an aesthetic quality which transcends these physical and psychological factors. Thus, when there is a rhythmic orchestration and harmonic resonance between people and processes in an organization it creates an aesthetic inner quality to the process.

Quality of the Environment

The fourth aspect of quality is the quality of the environment. The quality of the outer material environment depends on good working condition, cleanliness and aesthetic arrangement of space and objects. But when people come together or work together and form into a community; it creates a psychological environment. Some of the early organizational theorists in management recognized this phenomenon and called it as the “Organizational Climate”. According to these theorists, just like each geographical region has its own unique climate pattern, each organization has its own “climate”, a unique psychological atmosphere, distinct from that of other organizations. In an integral approach to quality, the inner quality of this psychological environment or “organizational climate” will be an important part of total quality. This inner quality of the environment depends on two factors. The first factor is the nature of the values and ideals of the organizations; second factor is the quality of the thoughts and feelings of the people who constitute the community.

The importance of values is now very much recognized in management. When George Imlette, after he took over as the CEO of GEC from the famed Jack Welch, was asked what would be his new priorities, he replied “values”. However in modern management thought and practice the concept of values is understood in a pragmatic sense as guidelines for action and behaviour. But in the integral perspectives, values are ideals, which nurture the higher nature in man. For a collectivity like that of an organization, to achieve a higher quality of the corporate life, its values and ideals should not be narrowly centered around the self-interest of the organization or its owners or shareholder. The goals of the organization should be generous and inclusive taking into consideration the interests and well-being of all the stakeholders like employees, customers, suppliers and the community. Moreover every functional activity of the organization should have some professional, ethical, aesthetic or spiritual ideals, towards which it has to strive constantly with a constant uplifting effort.

The second factor, which determines the inner quality of the environment, is the quality of the thoughts and feelings of people. The modern corporate world tries to achieve interpersonal harmony and teamwork through externalised behavioural modification or motivational techniques. But enduring harmony and teamwork can be achieved only on the foundation of inner harmony in the minds and hearts of people. This inner harmony can be achieved only by a psychological discipline, which brings about a qualitative purification and elevation in the thoughts and feelings of people. The discipline involves rejection of all thoughts and feelings which leads to conflict, division and discord like ill-will, jealousy, harsh or derogatory judgement, sense of superiority, and conversely cultivating positive thoughts and feelings like goodwill, kindness, generosity, understanding, non-judgemental attitude, forgiveness, which leads to a sense of inner closeness and solidarity among people.

M.S. Srinivasan

The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.


The Culture of the Heart

Equanimity, inner detachment and love are the triune discipline for achieving a free, calm and equal heart. The article is based entirely on writings and conversations of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on Yoga.

Key Perspectives

The Meaning of Equality; way of equanimity; inner detachment; nectar of love.

The Meaning of Equality

The untransformed human heart is the most “unequal” part of our psyche, and the seat of most rampant, violent and turbulent form of inequality. So equanimity is the first step towards mastery of the heart. Equanimity means,

  •  not to be disturbed by whatever happens within us in our consciousness or without in the external environment.
  •  to receive with an equal regard all the unequal and varying thoughts, feelings, sensations and events that raises or assails within and without.

Outwardly events like success and failure, insult and praise, good and the bad, beautiful and the ugly assail me with their corresponding inner reactions like joy and sorrow, elation and depression, anger and satisfaction, likes and dislikes, attraction and repulsion. But I remain undisturbed by these events and reactions, regarding them with calm equanimity.

Three Paths to Equanimity

There are three paths to equanimity: Heroic Endurance, Sagely Indifference, Saintly Acceptance. Each individual can take the path, which is suited to his predominant temperament. However they can also be combined.

The Heroic Endurance is the path for those who have a strong will and the temperament of a warrior. Endurance means to consciously bear the inner and outer assault of events, reactions, sensations and emotions with an undisturbed and unflinching calm. But you may ask:

Do we not do it everyday?

The answer is, most of us do not endure but succumb to it wailing and lamenting. Endurance means not to succumb and collapse, wail, weep and lament, but to consciously meet, confront and bare the assault with unyielding courage and calm.

For example my boss makes a terribly insulting remark I become inwardly very angry, but I cannot show it outside. The feelings of anger, and revolt, hate and vengefulness raise in me. I don’t suppress these feelings but do not succumb to it and become more and more angry. I refuse to give the inner consent to these feelings. They raise in me again and again but I am not pulled, drawn and tossed by the feelings. I bear them consciously with a calm and equal endurance. If I am able to wield this shield of endurance with a calm persistence, an interesting thing happens. It creates an inner bifurcation in my being between the surface and the inner being. The surface part of my being is still subjected to these reactions but a deeper and inner part remains untouched and above these reactions, a calm and strong witness, which looks and watches the turmoil in the lower part but untouched by it. By further practice we can bring down the calm equality of this deeper self to the surface being.

The second path is Sagely Indifference. This path may appeal to those who have a philosophic temperament and tend towards knowledge. The main attitude here is not endurance but detached indifference, though certain amount of endurance is necessary in all the paths. In this path, the unequal turmoil is viewed with a smiling and indulgent indifference, as something, which goes on in a lower, childish and immature part of my being. It is something like a Mother who looks with an indulgent smile on all the wild and obstinate tantrums of a child, which demands from her something, which is harmful to him and therefore his Mother is unwilling to give. And finally the child understands that whatever he may do and however hard he may insist, his Mother will not give what he demands. The child becomes less and less adamant and finally becomes calm. A more or less similar result happens by following this method. As in the first method there is an inner bifurcation between the deeper part, which is calm and undisturbed, and the surface being which is still subject to the unequal disturbance. Later, with further practice, the calm and equanimity of the deeper parts imposes itself on the surface being.

The third path is that of Saintly Acceptance. This path is for those who believe in God and have a devotional temperament; it is not for those who have a skeptical and critical mind and ask questions like, “If the God is supremely compassionate, why there is so much evil and pain in the world.” This path is for the heart-centred people who have a deep, intuitive faith in the love and wisdom of God. The basis of this path is a firm faith that there is a divine Love and Wisdom which governs the world and a divine organization which arranges everything for the ultimate good of each and the whole. So whatever happens to us is received with an acceptance and faith in the divine Will and as a part of our ultimate good. All the outer events and inner movement are offered to the Divine with a complete acceptance, faith and trust in His Wisdom. It is something like a child who has a total faith in the love and wisdom of his Mother. He accepts with faith whatever her Mother gives him or asks him to do, however difficult and painful it may be, with a faith that whatever Mother gives him or asks him to do is ultimately helpful to his growth. Here again, as with other paths, when this attitude is put into practice, it leads to calm and equanimity with more or less the same process described earlier in the other two paths.

Inner Detachment

The practice of equanimity can be further strengthened by the discipline of inner detachment. As we progress in the path of equanimity and we begin to live more and more in our inner and deeper self it creates a certain amount of detachment from the surface being. This can be further reinforced by the inner self totally disidentifying itself from the surface being. The inner being says, “I am not this thing that struggles and suffers, grieves and rejoices, loves and hates and is baffled, is angry and afraid and cheerful and depressed a thing of moods and emotional passions. All these are merely happenings in my surface nature;” it draws back from the surface emotional being and becomes the pure and silent witness, which observes and understands the movements of the surface nature but remains untouched and above it. This witness-self is not only the impartial seer but has the power of mastery. When the witness-self refuses sanction or consent to a movement or habit of our surface nature, it cuts-off further supply of energy to the movement, and slowly that movement loses its sustaining source of energy and finally ceases. For example, let us say I have this habit of anger in my emotional nature. If from my witness-self, I refuse sanction to this habit of anger every time it raises, then slowly it looses its energy and ultimately disappears. Thus the practice of equanimity and inner detachment leads ultimately to a free, equal and serene heart.

The Nectar of Love

However equanimity, detachment and the purity and peace they bring are not enough for a complete transformation of the heart. For this higher regeneration the heart’s cup, made pure and empty of all turbidities by equanimity and detachment, has to be filled with the nectar of a transforming Love. The popular conceptions consider the emotional being as the source of love. But this so-called “love” of our surface emotional being is a source of great disturbance and cannot be a force of transformation. The true love that transforms the heart comes not from our emotional being but from the soul or the divine spark within us, lying hidden in the deepest and innermost core of our heart. This deeper spiritual heart behind the surface emotional heart is the source of true love, which can transform our heart and life.

There are many disciplines for coming into contact with this source of true love within us. One of the most effective combines meditation with practice of universal benevolence. We have to reserve sometime everyday to enter deep within us and come into some form of conscious contact with the spiritual heart within us. In our daily life, we have to maintain a persistent attitude of goodwill, kindness, benevolence, understanding and helpfulness in our relations with people around us. This attitude of benevolence has to be constantly extended and expanded to include more and more of life, until it envelops the whole creation in the embrace of universal compassion. In the next article, Mother describes another path for coming into contact with universal love.


The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.


Knowing Oneself

To know oneself and master oneself is the art and science of living. This article describes in a simple language the path to self-knowledge and self-mastery.

Key Perspectives
Becoming conscious; knowing oneself and mastering oneself; becoming a conscious individual in a collectivity.

Becoming Conscious
You are to be conscious of yourself, you must awake to your nature and movements, you must know why and how you do things or feel or think them; you must understand your motives and impulses, the forces, hidden and apparent, that move you; in fact, you must, as it were, take to pieces the entire machinery of your being. Once you are conscious, it means that you can distinguish and sift things, you can see which are the forces that pull you down and which help you on. And when you know the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the divine from the undivine, you are to act strictly up to your knowledge; that is to say, resolutely reject one and accept the other. The duality will present itself at every step and at every step you will have to make your choice.

Knowing Oneself and Mastering Oneself
This means to be conscious of one’s inner truth, conscious of the different parts of one’s being and their respective functions. You must know why you do this, why you do that; you must know your thoughts, know your feelings, all your activities, all your movements, of what you are capable, etc. And to know oneself is not enough: this knowledge must bring a conscious control. To know oneself perfectly is to control oneself perfectly.

But there must be an aspiration at every moment. It is never too early to begin, never too late to continue. That is, even when you are quite young, you can begin to study yourself and know yourself and gradually to control yourself. And even when you are what is called “old”, when you are quite aged, it is not too late to make the effort to know yourself better and better and control yourself better and better. That is the Science of Living.

To perfect oneself, one must first become conscious of oneself. I am sure, for instance, that the following situation has arisen many times in your life: someone asks you suddenly, “Why have you done that?” Well, the spontaneous reply is, “I don’t know.” If someone asks you, “What are you thinking of?” You reply, “I don’t know.” “Why are you tired?” “I don’t know.” “Why are you happy?” “I don’t know”, and so on. I can take indeed fifty people and ask them suddenly, without preparation, “Why have you done that?” and if they are not inwardly “awake”, they will all answer, “I don’t know.” (Of course I am not speaking here of those who have practiced a discipline of self-knowledge and of following up their movements to the extreme limits; these people can, naturally, collect themselves, concentrate and give the right answer, but only after a little while.) You will see that it is like that if you look well at your whole day. You say something and you don’t know why you say it – it is only after the words are out of your mouth that you notice that this was not quite what you wanted to say. For instance, you go to see someone, you prepare beforehand the words you are going to speak, but once you are in front of the person in question, you say nothing or it is other words which come from your mouth. Are you able to say to what extent the atmosphere of the other person has influenced you and stopped you from saying what you had prepared? How many people can say that? They do not even observe that the person was in such or such a state and that it was because of this that they could not tell him what they had prepared. Of course, there are very obvious instances when you find people in such a bad mood that you can ask nothing of them. I am not speaking of these. I am speaking of the clear perception of reciprocal influences: what acts and reacts on your nature; it is this one does not have. For example, one becomes suddenly uneasy or happy, but how many people can say, “It is this”? And it is difficult to know, it is not at all easy. One must be quite “awake”; one must be constantly in a very attentive state of observation.

There are people who sleep twelve hours a day and say the rest of the time, “I am awake”! There are people who sleep twenty hours a day and the rest of the time are but half awake!

To be in this state of attentive observation, you must have, so to say, antennae everywhere which are in constant contact with your true centre of consciousness. You register everything, you organise everything and, in this way, you cannot be taken unawares, you cannot be deceived, mistaken, and you cannot say anything other than what you wanted to say. But how many people normally live in this state? It is this I mean, precisely, when I speak of “becoming conscious”. If you want to benefit most from the conditions and circumstances in which you find yourself, you must be fully awake: you must not be taken by surprise, you must not do things without knowing why, you must not say things without knowing why. You must be constantly awake.

Becoming a Conscious Individual in a Collectivity
You must also understand that you are not separate individualities, that life is a constant exchange of forces, of consciousnesses, of vibrations, of movements of all kinds. It is as in a crowd, you see: when everyone pushes all go forward, and when all recede, everyone recedes. It is the same thing in the inner world, in your consciousness. There are all the time forces and influences acting and reacting upon you, it is like a gas in the atmosphere, and unless you are quite awake, these things enter into you, and it is only when they have gone well in and come out as if they came from you, that you become aware of them. How many times people meet those who are nervous, angry, in a bad mood, and themselves become nervous, angry, moody, just like that, without quite knowing why. Why is it that when you play against certain people you play very well, but when you play against others you cannot play? And those very quiet people, not at all wicked, who suddenly become furious when they are in a furious crowd! And no one knows who has started it: it is something that went past and swept off the consciousness. There are people who can let out vibrations like this and others respond without knowing why. Everything is like that, from the smallest to the biggest things.

To be individualised in a collectivity, one must be absolutely conscious of oneself. And of which self? – the Self which is above all intermixture, that is, what I call the Truth of your being. And as long as you are not conscious of the Truth of your being, you are moved by all kinds of things, without taking any note of it at all. Collective thought, collective suggestions are a formidable influence which act constantly on individual thought. And what is extraordinary is that one does not notice it. One believes that one thinks “like that”, but in truth it is the collectivity which thinks “like that”. The mass is always inferior to the individual. Take individuals with similar qualities, of similar categories, well, when they are alone these individuals are at least two degrees better than people of the same category in a crowd. There is a mixture of obscurities, a mixture of unconsciousness, and inevitably you slip into this unconsciousness. To escape this there is but one means: to become conscious of oneself, more and more conscious and more and more attentive.

The Mother