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Leading from the Soul: A Case Study on Spirituality Inspired Leadership

M.S. Srinivasan

Can spirituality be the foundation for effective stewardship and elevate the level of leadership from the average to extraordinary heights? The life of an exemplary banker, R.K. Talwar provides an affirmative answer to this question. R.K. Talwar joined the Imperial Bank as probationary officer in 1943 and rose to become the chairman of its nationalized avatar, state Bank of India in 1969 at the age of 49. But it is not this achievement in his career which makes him unique in the annals of leadership. What makes Talwar stand apart as a leader is his exemplary character, moral courage and spiritual dedication which evoked respect and admiration from everyone who came into contact with him and inspired countless young officers to lead a life of integrity and values. This article is a case study on Talwar’s leadership based on the following sources:

  • R.K. Talwar: Values in Leadership by N. Vaghul, Shrenuj & Company Ltd
  • R.K. Talwar: Tributes, Shrenuj & Company Ltd

The first part of the article gives a glimpse of the character and personality of Talwar as a human being. The second part examines the value-based leadership of Talwar and his effectiveness as a leader. The last part presents a brief discussion on the spiritual inspiration behind Talwar’s leadership.

The Inspirational Leader
Talwar groomed and mentored many officers under him who later rose to the pinnacles of their careers. A brief summary of the views of some of them gives a glimpse of the character and personality of Talwar. One of them was N. Vaghul, who later became the chairman of Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India, ICICI and widely recognised in India for his role in pioneering the concept of universal Banking. Regarding the nature of his personality, Vaghul states:

“Talwar was easily the most eminent banker of his times. His leadership was characterized by an outstanding intellect, honesty, integrity and a strong commitment of purpose. Above all, he possessed an indomitable courage which helped him to take on the political establishment. His personality was shaped by a strong faith in God and an unshakable belief that he was merely an instrument of the Divine, whose purpose it was, his bounden duty to carry out. It is this faith, which became the fulcrum of his personality and any analyses of his leadership traits would inevitably lead to an analyses of this characteristic.”

And on the respect he invoked in banking circles, Vaghul writes:

“More than his achievements, the reputation for honesty and integrity enjoyed by him in the industry drew the admiration of everyone with respect to his views on banking issues and he was generally recognised as the spokesperson for the industry.”

The other senior banker who worked closely with Talwar is Dr. A.S. Dave, who later became the chairman of Industrial Development Bank of India, IDBI. Dave in his tribute to his mentor states:

“To us he is more than a manager, leader, chairman, friend or a Guru. He is a living symbol of values of perfect professionalism and fearlessness overall guided by his spiritual hunger and deep concern for human beings. He just cannot be measured by the conventional yardsticks of logic, success or failure. He is above all these. It does not matter at what stage in life one came to know him, nor the limited time for which one worked closely with him. What matters is his immense presence, the instantaneous respect he commands, the spontaneous responses he evokes, and the lasting impact of the relationship that stays behind in one’s life. Getting to know him closely it was a beginning of transformation in our own lives.”

A Role Model for Value-based Leadership
What are the qualities or values of a leader, not professed in lips but lived in action, which create a lasting impact on people? Many systems of classifications are possible and each one has its validity. In the personal view of this author, there are six qualities which make the inspirational leader in the corporate context:

  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Fareness and Justice
  • Integrity
  • Mentoring
  • Professionalism

Contours of Courage
The first quality is Courage, which may be defined as the ability to hold on to one’s values and principle against stiff, persistent or powerful opposition. In his biography of Talwar, Vaghul gives many examples where Talwar has displayed exemplary professional and personal courage in living according to his values.

The first episode is his confrontation with the political bosses during emergency days in India when the authority of an extra constitutional political figure, reigned supreme all over the country. A borrower, who is a friend of this political figure, applied for more loans for his perpetually sick company. The bank management has found that the company is failing because of gross miss-management and therefore there is no point in pumping more money into it unless the company appoints professional management. The borrower used his political connections to put pressure on the management to release the funds. The Finance Minister of Government of India rang upto Talwar and asked him to sanction the proposal because the “highest political authority” wants it. But Talwar refused to budge and told the finance minister he cannot do it. And when the matter was reported to the political authority, Talwar was asked to meet the reigning political boss. But Talwar refused to meet him and said that he would not take his orders from some who has no legal or constitutional position.

We must note here such defiance during emergency days in India requires a very great courage because in this period no one dared to go against the political authorities. Even a mild murmur of protest may lead to arrest, imprisonment or even torture. And finally Talwar was eased out of his office through an amendment of the laws in parliament, which became wellknown in banking circles as “Talwar Amendment.” Here is one more episode of courage recounted by Vaghul in his biography.

“A Minister of State called Shri. Talwar to his office and insisted that he act in a particular way in an industrial relations dispute. Shri. Talwar had a different view on this issue and politely declined to fall in line. The Minister was furious. ‘Are you refusing to carry out the orders of the Government?’ he asked. Shri. Talwar, without losing his cool, replied, ‘Mr. Minister, you are not running SBI, I am. It is for me to decide what is in the best interest of the Bank. You have a right to decide whether I should continue to be the Chairman, but you have no right to tell me how to administer the Bank. If you want to issue a directive to me please do so in writing. The SBI Act provides for the issue of such a directive, but before issuing such a directive, you must first establish that it is in the public interest as provided for in the Act.’ The minister was taken aback, and no wonders he did not pursue the matter further.”

The Soft Human Touch
But courage alone is not sufficient to make a great leader; it must be tempered with the softer qualities like compassion, fareness and sense of justice. On this softer side of Talwar Vaghul states:

“As a person, he is capable of boundless affection, an affection which is given generously without asking for anything in return. As a friend, he is capable of providing immense support and comfort. He is someone with whom you can share your innermost feelings and count on a sympathetic hearing. As a leader, he was unrivalled and to many younger colleagues he was a mentor responsible for shaping their lives. He is a spiritual Guru who with his simple yet profound spiritual thoughts can create vibrations in the deepest layer of consciousness.”

Here is another episode in Talwar’s career which shows how true a leader can be at once firm, compassionate and fare in dealing with people or a difficult situation.

The junior officers of the bank had certain grievances regarding their working conditions and remuneration. Talwar was sympathetic to some of their demands but before he could put his mind into the problem, the officers union called for a work-to-rule agitation followed by a strike. Talwar felt that this kind of unionism and agitations are harmful to discipline and efficiency of the bark. He took a firm stand that there would be no negotiations unless and until, the officers call of the strike. The officers union was adamant and the strike dragged on. Talwar held his ground with full support from the Government of India. And finally the striking worker could not go on further and called off the strike. A settlement was reached in favour of the bank management. The Finance Minister of Government of India rang up to Talwar, asking for some clarifications. Vaghul who was present when the minster rang up, describes the conversation between the minister and Talwar, which brings out the character of the stalwart banker.

FM: I hear that you have reached a settlement with the officers.
Chairman:       Yes Sir. We reached a settlement late last night.
FM:                 Is the settlement satisfactory from your point of view?
Chairman:       Yes Sir. I am fully satisfied with the settlement.
FM:                 Did you get what you wanted? Have the union leaders accepted your proposition not to function as a parallel authority?
Chairman:       Yes Sir, this is the part of the settlement.
FM:                 Have you dismissed all the suspended officers?
Chairman:       (After some pause) No Sir, they have been reinstated.
FM:                 I do not agree with this settlement. All of them should be sacked and no mercy should be shown to them.
Chairman:       (After some pause) Sir, you have been kind enough to leave the handling of the strike to me. Why don’t you leave this issue also to me? They are after all my colleagues and I will decide how I deal with them.
FM:     (After some pause) Ok, have your way

We can see from this conversation that Talwar was compassionate in dealing with the erring workers, though he was firm in dealing with the striking employees. He was also courageous in not yielding to the demands of his political bosses.

Talwar was also well known for his impartiality, fareness and justice in his relationship with his colleagues. Here is an anecdote recounted by Vaghul, which illustrates this aspect of Talwar’s character.

“Bhide who was his personal secretary when he was Chief General Manager in Mumbai region narrates a series of incidents with regard to a senior manager of a branch for whom Talwar seemed to have developed a prejudice. This could have been due to either a sporadic incident or as a result of a series of interactions with him. When Bhide was accompanying Talwar during one of his visits to the Branch, where this gentleman was the Manager, Talwar made known his general dislike of the person to Bhide during the course of the journey. Both of them spent two days at the branch at the end of which, Talwar turned to Bhide and told him, “I realize I was completely wrong about this person. I allowed myself to be carried away by stray incidents without collecting adequate evidence to judge his capability.” Bhide also narrates several cases when Talwar used to put up a stout defence in favour of employees who according to him were being unfairly dealt with as scapegoats for something going wrong in the Bank due to accidental turn of events. When he became Chairman of the Bank in 1969, he was not only known for his firmness in dealing with the employees but also the manner in which he used to balance the firmness with a sense of fair play. The President of the Employees’ Union had several times confided with me, that while one could disagree with Talwar on issues, it would be difficult to doubt his bona fides and good intentions. Once he becomes convinced about the logic of the argument advanced by the union, he would not hesitate to back it with all his might.”

The Backbone of Integrity
The other set of leadership qualities which command respect from people are honesty, truthfulness and integrity. He lived the ideal of truthfulness with an austere and fanatical rigour. As Vaghul describes this quality of Talwar with a revealing anecdote:

“That Talwar was a person of unimpeachable honesty and integrity hardly a matter of surprise. Had this not been an integral aspect of his personality, it would not have been possible for him to take a firm stand with regard to the political system as well as the Bank’s clients whenever the occasion demanded!—- His concept of truthfulness had a sense of inflexibility. Most of us who claim to be truthful would not mind uttering minor harmless lies from time to time to avoid embarrassing situations. But even this aberration was totally unacceptable to Talwar. In the early days of my association with him as his personal secretary, an incident happened which illustrates this aspect of his personality with some force. We were planning a trip to Kolkata and an invitation for lunch had come from a senior industrialist at Kolkata which Talwar had accepted. A few days later, he received a communication from the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry that during his visit to Kolkata he should avoid eating food outside his home. We also received an anonymous letter at around the same time that an attempt was being made to poison him during his trip to Kolkata. While Talwar did not pay any heed to the anonymous letter, he had no option but to obey the directions from the Mother. He called and told me to draft a communication to the Industrialist saying that it would not be possible for him to attend the lunch. I drafted a simple communication to the effect that as he had some unavoidable commitments he had to cancel the lunch. When I sent the communication to him for signature, he called and told me that he could not sign the letter as this was not truthful, since he had in fact no unavoidable commitments. I was a bit puzzled and asked him, “Sir, but you wanted to cancel the lunch, is it not?” He replied, “Yes, but I can’t be telling a lie.” I responded, “Sir, but I cannot tell the truth. Obviously you do not want me to tell the industrialist that you have been asked by the Mother not to take food outside the home.” He said, “Yes, you cannot say that, but at the same time, you cannot also tell a lie. Take it back and think of something else to say. It is important that we should never utter a lie even though it is not necessary for us to broadcast the truth.”

This may appear to be a too rigid and inflexible approach to truthfulness. A spiritual seeker has other alternatives like for example frank admission of the truth that his guru has asked him not to take food outside, with a total surrender and faith that leaves the result and consequences to the guru or the divine or a response based on a deeper intuition into the truth of the situation or a prayer for a precise inner guidance in the silence of the mind. None of these alternatives are easy to put into practice. In fact, they require a higher level of inner spiritual advancement, purity and surrender which an average seeker may not possess. Nevertheless, such a firm and total commitment to truth as in the case with Talwar, is a very rare quality among leaders.

The Meticulous Professionalism
In the result-oriented corporate environment, moral characters alone is not enough to inspire and motivate other professionals. An inefficient and unprofessional leader however noble she may be cannot inspire confidence and respect from other competent professionals. Talwar was an exemplary professional and demanded such professionalism from his colleagues and clients. As Vaghul explains with a concrete example:

“Under Talwar’s leadership, State Bank of India acquired the highest level of professionalism. The State Bank officers acquired a reputation for the clean and business-like manner in which they processed the loan proposals. Compared to the rest of the banking system at that time, which was characterized by a cozy relationship between the senior bank executives and the big industrialists, this approach of the State Bank of India brought about a refreshing change. But at the same time, it also made life somewhat difficult for some of the industrialists, who were accustomed to getting what they wanted, regardless of the fact whether their business needed the funds or not or whether their businesses were being managed in an efficient manner. In fact, when Talwar was in charge of the loans department at Kolkata office in the late ’50s, he had a stormy relationship with the jute barons when he insisted on a measure of financial discipline. Apparently they found him very inconvenient to handle and just to get rid off him they seemed to have offered the position as a General Manager in Punjab National Bank – a position which is equivalent to that of a CEO. A few years later, after Talwar became the Chairman, Ramnath Goenka had some problems with his jute company and when the Bank insisted on the enforcement of financial discipline as a pre-condition for any enhancement in the loan limits, he wanted to meet Talwar. In fact, Talwar was spoken to by the Finance Minister who subtly hinted that Goenka’s request should be taken care of. Talwar agreed to meet Goenka at Kolkata when he was on a visit there. At the appointed time of the meeting, Goenka walked into the Chairman’s room to find Talwar sitting along with the Managing Director, the Chief General Manager and four other officials from the Bank. Goenka was a little bit taken aback and remarked somewhat humorously, “Oh! I see the Saptharishis sitting before me and I am all alone to confront such an illustrious group of people.” Talwar retorted, “That Mr. Goenka is really the problem. This is how we take decisions in the Bank. It is not the Chairman’s prerogative to take decisions as he pleases. The decision is taken on the basis of a collective judgment of the professionals who are sitting with me. And you are alone and you do not even bring your finance people to help you in the discussions. This is precisely what the Bank has been demanding from you that you should run your business in a more professional manner to deserve the Bank assistance.”

Talwar counseled his executives to keep the big-picture but without ignoring the ground realities. He was also fond of systems and advised his young officers to evolve effective systems in every aspect of banking.

The Nurturing Mentor
All great leaders are also great mentors. They reproduce themselves by awakening their leadership qualities in others and creating similar leaders. Talwar was an extraordinary mentor who groomed young officers cutting across organisational hierarchy. Vaghul makes the following observations regarding the mentoring abilities of Talwar.

  • Talwar’s ability to spot talent and nurture them had assumed legendary proportions in the Bank. If one were to ask any of his young contemporaries what was the single most leadership trait which they saw in Talwar, it was his capacity to mentor the young people whom he considered vital for not only the future of the Bank but of the country. The terminology mentorship was not widely known at that time and Talwar did not, therefore, practise this as a conscious strategy of management tool. In a way it was embedded in the basic tenet of his personality. The young officers in the Bank got attracted to him because of his charisma and accessibility and he reciprocated this whenever he spotted characteristics which appealed to him.
  • The mentorship he practised was subtle. There was no conscious attempt to coach or preach. Most often it was a hint here and there. More essentially it was the opportunity for frequent interaction which enabled the youngsters to gain access to his mind and the thoughts that floated from it. The relationship between Talwar and the young brigade, as the group of youngsters came to be known, was viewed with considerable disfavour by the senior executives who were used to a strict hierarchical line of control that prevailed earlier in the Imperial Bank and continued in the State Bank as well.

The Change Agent
Qualities like courage are only one aspect of leadership. The other aspect is the quality of performance. Qualities must produce results. The best indicator of leadership competence is the ability of the leader to change or elevate the culture and quality of the organisation she leads to a higher level. Talwar is such an uplifting change-agent. As Vaghul sums up the positive impact of Talwar’s leadership on the culture of State Bank of India:

“Under his leadership, State Bank of India quickly came to be recognized as a Bank with a difference, consisting of officers who displayed the highest sense of honesty and professionalism, apart from a high level of competence. I have often heard this being mentioned in the Reserve Bank and Government of India circles that one could easily pick unerringly a State Bank of India officer from amongst an assembly of bankers.”

The Spiritual Foundation
We are now brought to the question what is the deeper source of Talwar’s achievement as a leader? It is not entirely mental or moral but predominantly spiritual. Talwar is mainly a spiritual seeker and a practicing Karma Yogi who happened to be a professional banker. Talwar believed and practiced the yogic doctrine of surrender to the Divine and becoming an instrument of the Divine Will.   “Talwar’s personality—-and his entire value-systems” says Vaghul “were shaped by a strong conviction in God and he was carrying out the God’s Will” and his moral courage to defy the pressures of the powerful, “stems from a deep sense of spiritualism from which he drew his inspiration.” Here is another anecdote from Vaghul which gives a clear indication of the spiritual inspiration behind Talwar’s leadership.

“On the first day of his assumption of the office as Chairman he called me to his room and offered me the post of his secretary, which I accepted with delight. I sat with him to discuss as to what we should be doing and what should be our priorities. During the course of the conversation, I remarked, ‘Sir, during your tenure as Chairman we should ensure..’” He immediately stopped me and said, ‘Vaghul, never again bring this phrase ‘during my tenure’, I as an individual do not matter. I can never let the thought enter into my mind that I am the doer. I am here in this office because of the Divine Will and my duty is to serve Him and obey His command.’”

Similarly another close associate of Talwar, S.A. Dave states:

“He saw every new situation in which he was placed as a new opportunity, new challenge and himself as a chosen man to offer his services to his best abilities and as perfectly as possible. To each new stage of life, he believes, he is driven by Divine Will, and there can be no place for regrets; only joy for the new and gratitude for the past. There is no passivity, no fatalism in his acceptance of events; his acceptance is total and joyful, and all his responses positive. For him they are nothing but occasions for offerings and further offerings. Life, for him, is meant for unconditional offerings to Divine Will.”

Talwar was a dedicated follower and disciple of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and his entire life was moulded by the teachings of his Masters. He believed that The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram was a human manifestation of the Divine and made a conscious attempt to live according to her inner guidance or outer instructions. In the following passage Vaghul describes clearly the spiritual faith behind Talwar’s actions and achievements:

“His meeting with the ‘Mother’ was not preplanned but took place when he was on a visit to the Ashram. When he looked at the Mother’s eyes, something snapped in him and he experienced as though a strong energy was flowing through his body. This was a moment of a sudden awakening in him and he found that his search of Divinity ended with his meeting with the Mother. From that point of time, the Mother and the Ashram became the focal points in his spiritual journey. He stopped reading any scriptures, refused to engage himself in any discussion on metaphysics and confined himself only to the readings of the Mother’s teachings. His favourite literature was, of course, the Mother’s ‘Questions and Answers’, which he believed contained all the wisdom that a person needed to have. He came to a simple but strong conclusion at this point of time, that the Divinity he always believed in, was manifested in the form of the Mother, and that he was merely an instrument or tool to serve Her Will. He did not waver from this thought till the time of his death.”

In receiving the inner guidance from the Divine, Talwar followed the formula given by The Mother, which he describes in one of his interviews as “Sincerity + Silence = inner voice,” which means when the aspiration to live according the Divine Will is sincere and the mind is silent, the inner divine guidance is heard or felt in the stillness of the mind or heart.


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


Steps to self-Healing

Whatever may be the nature of the ill health or disorder from which we are suffering, we can heal ourselves through a proper use of our consciousness and calling down the healing power of peace.

Three Steps to Heal All Disorder
Now suppose that due to some illness or other you have some pain at a particular spot. At that moment all will depend, as I said at the beginning, on the approach most familiar to you. But we can give an example. You are in pain, in great pain; it hurts very much, you are suffering a lot.

First point: do not dwell on the pain by telling yourself, “Oh, how it hurts! Oh, this pain is unbearable! Oh, it is getting worse and worse, I will never be able to endure it”, etc. all that sort of thing. The more you go on thinking like that and feeling like that and the more your attention is concentrated on it, the more the pain increases remarkably.

So, the first point: to control yourself enough not to do that.

Second point: as I said, it depends on your habits. If you know how to concentrate, to be quiet, and if you can bring into yourself a certain peace of any kind – it may be a mental peace, it may be a vital peace, it may be a psychic peace; they have different values and qualities, that is an individual question – you try to realise within yourself a state of peace or you attempt to enter into conscious contact with a force of peace.

Suppose you succeed to a greater or less extent. Then, if you can draw the peace into yourself and bring it down into the solar plexus – for we are not talking about inner states we are talking about your physical body – and from there direct it very calmly, very slowly, so to speak, but very persistently, towards the place where the pain is more or less acute, and fix it there, this is very good.

This is not always enough.

But if by widening this movement you can add a sort of mental formation with a little life in it (not just cold, but with a little life in it) that the only reality is the divine Reality, and all the cells of this body are a more or less deformed expression of that divine Reality – there is only one reality, the Divine, and our body is a more or less deformed expression of that sole Reality – if by my aspiration, by my concentration, I can bring into the cells of the body the consciousness of that sole Reality, all disorder must necessarily cease.

If you can add to this a movement of trusting surrender to the Grace, I guarantee that within five minutes your suffering will disappear. If you know how to do it.

You may try and yet not succeed. You must know how to try again and again and again, until you do succeed. But if you do these three things at the same time, well, there is no pain that can resist.

How to Call Down Peace                                                                     

First of all, you must want it.

And then you must try, and you must persevere, keep trying…. You sit quietly, to begin with; and then, instead of thinking of fifty things, start saying to yourself, “Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, calm, peace”. You imagine peace and calm. You aspire, ask it to come: “Peace, peace, calm.” And then, when something comes and tries to touch you and be active, you say quietly, like this: “Peace, peace, peace.” Do not look at the thoughts, do not listen to the thoughts, you understand. You must not pay attention to everything that comes. You know, when someone bores you terribly and you want to get rid of him, you don’t listen to him, do you? Good! You turn your head away and think of something else.

Well, you must do that: when thoughts come, you must not look at them, not listen to them, not pay any attention at all, you must behave as though they did not exist. And then, repeat all the time like a kind of… how shall I put it?… as an idiot does, who always repeats the same thing. Well, you must do the same; you must repeat, “Peace, peace, peace”. So you try this a few minutes and then do what you have to do; and then, other time, you begin again; you sit down again and then you try. Do this on getting up in the morning, when going to bed. You can do it… say you want to digest your food well, do this for a few minutes before eating. You cannot imagine how much it will help your digestion! Before beginning to eat, you sit quietly for a while and say, “Peace, peace, peace…” and everything becomes calm.

It is as if all the noises were going far, far, far away (Mother stretches out her arms on both sides) And then you must continue doing this; and there comes a time when you no longer need to sit down, and no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are saying, it is always “Peace, peace, peace.” Everything remains here, like this, it does not enter (gesture in front of the forehead), it remains like this. And then one is always in a perfect peace… after some years. But at the beginning, a very small beginning, two or three minutes; it is very simple. For something complicated you have to make an effort, and when you make an effort you are not quiet. It is hard to make an effort while remaining quiet. Very simple, very simple, one must be very simple in these things. It is as if you were learning to call a friend: he comes because he is called. Well, make peace and calm your friends and call them: “Come, peace, peace, peace, peace, come!”

The Mother


Harvesting Human Growth: A Consciousness Perspective

Human growth has to be harvested in the soil of consciousness. A synoptic overview of the stages and factors which govern the growth of consciousness.

Key Perspectives

Three stages of growth; six factors of growth; yoga of the Future.

A human being is in its essence a consciousness. So all human growth has to be viewed in terms of developing the potential of human consciousness. This article examines the principles and process of this growth from an evolutionary perspective.

Stages of Growth
The first step in harvesting human growth is to understand clearly the stages of growth. There are three major stages in human evolution. The first stage of evolution is driven predominantly and compulsively by the instincts, needs and desires of our physical and sensational being. At this stage there is only a modicum of evolutionary progress established by the ordinary experiences of life. And the movement of progress is slow and tedious like a journey in a bullock-cart.

At the second stage there is a more conscious effort by our intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being to understand the laws, aims, ideas and values of life and govern our life according to these higher mental verities. This is the stage of evolution guided by the law, Ideas and Ideals, by knowledge and values, through education, science, philosophy, ethics, art, social organisation, etc. There are two sub-stages in this mental phase of evolution. First, the stage that develops the pragmatic mind, which brings efficiency, productivity, power and prosperity to the outer life of the individual and the community. Second, the phase that develops the ideal, ethical and aesthetic mind and brings a better quality to the inner as well as the outer life of the individual and the collectivity. At this stage of evolution the pace of progress is faster, which means a more conscious and rapid flowering of the human potential and its self-expression in life. If the first stage can be compared to a journey in a bullock-cart, this second stage is like travelling in an automobile.

The third stage is the flowering of the intuitive spiritual mind in religion, mysticism and yoga. With religion, the spiritual aim of human evolution becomes more or less intuitive but the method and process of realisation are not fully grasped. In mysticism, both the aim and method have become more or less fully conscious and clear. In Yoga, we take a further step with the development of a systematic and scientific path and methodology for a rapid, conscious and self-directed evolution towards our spiritual destiny, leading to a further acceleration of the pace of evolution. The Yogi is no longer travelling in the bullock-cart of needs and desires or in the automobile of Ideas, but flies jet-set in his soul towards the divine goal.

Factors of Growth
This brings us to the pragmatic question: what are the factors that bring about this evolutionary progress? We may identify six major factors of growth – Consciousness, Ideals, Concentration, Progress, Liberty, and Wellness.

The first factor is increasing Consciousness . The essence of consciousness is Awareness. Increasing consciousness means growing self-awareness, that is awareness of all the parts and layers of our being, from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual. We have to become fully conscious of our four-fold being – our body, life, mind and spirit and all their powers, faculties, qualities and potential. First is our material base, the physical organism, the body; second, the life-force in us which is the source of our sensations, emotions, desires and vital energy; third, our mental apparatus made up of thoughts, perceptions, ideas, understandings; and finally, the fourth dimension, our spiritual self, the deepest and innermost essence of our being. This growing self-awareness is the basis of self-mastery, which is mastery over the forces and faculties of our consciousness, for we can only master what we know and command what we have mastered. This discipline of self-management is the foundation for managing others. Someone who cannot manage himself cannot manage others and is therefore unfit to be a leader. Thus, someone who has attained self-mastery is a natural leader because he or she radiates a subtle psychological power and authority, which commands spontaneous respect and obedience.

This growth of consciousness should not be confined to the self within but also extend outwards to the world around. An alert, detached, objective, scientific and impersonal awareness of the world within and around us, growing constantly deeper, wider and all-embracing is the nature of the discipline to be pursued to become a totally conscious being.

The second factor is an aim or Ideal, which gives unity of purpose to our life and leads to the integration of the individual and collective organism around a focal point. This ideal can be a standard of perfection or a system of values or a vision, mission or goal. The nature of the Ideal and the path of realisation will not be the same for all individuals or the collectivity. It will vary according to the nature of the human organism and its evolutionary status. For example, an ideal and the path that help the individual to progress from the first to the second stage of evolution will be different when the individual progresses from the second to the third stage.

The ideal for the third stage is again different, requiring some form of inner spiritual liberation and transformation and the path towards it would require internalising of consciousness and a complete elimination of ego and desire, even the moral ego and desire to do good to others. Ideals for the growth from the first to second stage could be the motives of the vital and pragmatic mind like power, wealth, enjoyment, achievement or mastery over the forces of life and the environment but with an emphasis on social responsibility and ethical self-control. And this first stage of growth can be achieved with ego and desire but by subordinating them to a higher mental, moral or social ideal. Similarly, ideals for the different types of organisations – educational, research, religious, commercial, political, social, military or policing – cannot be the same. For example non-violence can be an ethical ideal for a religious organisation, but it cannot be the ideal for a military or policing organisation. However as the human soul passes from the first stage to the second and third stages, the ideals have to be raised beyond mundane and material interests to the mental, moral and spiritual levels.

The third factor is Concentration, the ability to focus our will and all the energies of our consciousness on a single task, activity, aim, or ideal, thereby minimising wastage of energy and resources and maximising the possibilities of self-actualisation. The Mind is also a form of Energy like Matter and when this mental energy is scattered, diffused in uncontrolled and useless chattering it is at the lowest and most inefficient level of functioning. On the other hand when this mental energy is controlled, free from useless, wasteful and disturbing thoughts, focused and concentrated at a point, it functions at its highest potential. The act of focusing the mind increases and multiplies the cognitive and penetrative power of its energy. The other important factor, one not well recognised, is that concentration reduces the time taken to do a task.

The fourth factor is Progress, which means a constant effort towards progressive perfection, or to use the management terminology “continuous improvement”, in the inner being and outer life of the individual and the collectivity. The outer progress is seen in the constant growth of skills, knowledge, efficiency, productivity and professional competence in work and action. The inner progress means a similar growth in the psychological, moral, aesthetic and spiritual realms, measured in terms of values, character, wellness, integration of the personality, and the faculties, powers and potential of consciousness.

Here the main emphasis has to be on values and character. Light and clarity in the mind; kindness, compassion and generosity in the heart; firmness and strength in the will; courage, energy and enthusiasm in the vitality; harmony between thought, feeling, will and action; aspiration for truth, beauty and goodness in the soul and the whole being integrated around this higher aspiration of the soul – these are the contours of character. Inner growth means progress in building character.

The inner foundation of ethics, morality and character is the spiritual source of our being. Ethical and moral behaviour becomes entirely selfless and perfect only when it flows spontaneously from its spiritual source. This is the reason why in Indian spiritual tradition, moral development is only considered a preparation and a means for spiritual growth and perfection. However in our integral perspective, inner growth at the moral or spiritual level should not remain self-contained within. It must express itself in every activity of the outer life so that individual progress becomes the engine driving social progress. For this to happen all the expressive instruments of consciousness, such as the faculties of thought, feeling, will, action, imagination, intuition and communication, have to be fully developed.

The fifth factor is Liberty, both inner and outer. Outwardly liberty means to create an environment in which each individual can grow towards his highest potential, with minimum rules and restrictions and maximum possible freedom or to use the modern terminology, Empowerment. This includes the freedom to think, innovate, express, decide, organise, experiment and learn by making mistakes. But this outer freedom is not enough to realise the full creative potential of human beings. There must also be inner freedom from psychological bondage. There are three major forms of inner bondage – first is the negativities of various kinds like greed and lust, selfishness and jealousy; second is the attachment to people and things and to fixed or biased dogmas, opinions, ideas, ideals, prejudices; third is the compulsive habit of the mind towards dispersion, restlessness, aimless and repetitive or mechanical thinking. We must note here that this inner freedom is not a matter of morality or idealism. It has practical consequences for unleashing the creative energies of people. The inner bondages we have described, confines the psychological energies of people within the narrow grooves of their tiny little ego, throttles their creative energies and prevents the free flowering of the emotional, aesthetic and intuitive intelligence. So, if we can attain a certain amount of freedom from these psychological bonds through inner disciplines like self-control, concentration, inner peace and detachment, it releases the creative energies of people.

The sixth factor is Wellness. Growth without human wellness is unsustainable, for an increasing inner and outer wellness is the sign and index of a true and balanced growth. The corporate world seeks growth mainly in efficiency, productivity, outer expansion and wealth-creation. Though these aims are legitimate for business, when they cause too much stress, strain and tension, turmoil, pain and social disruption then they cannot be sustained in the long run. So corporations have to make as much systematic and planned effort in achieving inner and outer human wellness as they do in achieving bottom-line results like productivity and profit.

Yoga of the Future
These six factors of growth can be applied to any aspect or activity of human life. For example, any activity performed unconsciously and mechanically, with a scattered mind, without any unifying ideal or effort for progress, belongs to the first stage of evolution. Such an activity brings very little progress for the individual or the collective. But the same activity when it is performed with full consciousness, total concentration, with a clear understanding of its evolutionary purpose, with an effort towards progressive perfection and a striving towards a higher ideal of truth, beauty or goodness or any other ideal in harmony with the eternal and universal laws of life, it becomes Yoga and a means for rapid and conscious evolution of the individual. Such an activity brings spiritual as well as pragmatic benefits. It not only leads to the psychological and spiritual development of the person doing the activity, but also enhances the efficiency, productivity and quality of the activity. For, an activity which is done with consciousness, concentration, knowledge and understanding is done better and more efficiently than when it is performed mechanically and with a distracted mind.

This holistic vision of growth, applied comprehensively to the individual and collective life, will be the Yoga of the future. And in this life-embracing vision of Yoga, the distinction between the “secular” and the “spiritual” disappears. It doesn’t ask us to outwardly renounce the world and run to an ashram, mountain top or forest in order to progress spiritually. Every activity of human life – activities of knowledge, production, organisation, relationship, community, work-place, market and the shop-floor – can be a means of yoga, a means for conscious self-development, progress, learning and experimentation in higher evolution. But for this to happen, all these activities have to be given a higher direction by bringing to them the six factors of progress we have described.

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.