The Gita sermon (Palagiri/Wikimedia Commons) 
Snapshot
  • A new online programme brings the philosophy of Vedanta into practical experience and into the workplace.

धर्मे चार्थे च कामे च मोक्षे च भरतर्षभ |

यदिहास्ति तदन्यत्र। यन्नेहास्ति न तत् क्वचित्॥

Dharme charthe cha kaame cha moksha cha bharatarshabha

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Yad ihaasti tad anyatra yan nehaasti na tat kyachit.

These lines said to have been told by Vaishampayana, one of Vedavyasa’s shishya to King Janamejaya in the Mahabharata largely imply that whatever the field of activity, if there is something to be said, it has been said in the epic.

It is no news that our scriptures have been a repository of knowledge that those who had access to would avail benefit of to deal with situations in all walks of life, be it warfare or public welfare. But not many of us today have the key to such a treasure trove which could have made a world of difference to the very way in which we approach our life situations. Especially at the workplace where most of us spend the greater portion of our lives today, our scriptures can change the very way in which we function. But how is one to dig into this deep casket of knowledge and use it in the age where the attention span is less than 140 characters.

Sampath Iyengar at a TEDx talk Sampath Iyengar at a TEDx talk

In an interview with Global CEO, PE/VC investor, TEDx Speaker Sampath Iyengar who has conceptualised and will be delivering an online course called Vedanta for managers, we try to seek an answer to this question.

Here are a few excerpts:

1. What is `Vedanta@work’?

Vedanta@work is an online programme to empower professionals and leaders with the core and crucial principles of Vedanta, as communicated in the Bhagavad Gita. As you know, the Bhagavad Gita captures the essence of our Upanishads also known as Vedanta. Which in turn represent the philosophical, ethical, metaphysical aspects of our scriptures. The name reflects two benefits. One, Vedanta as it applies to your workplace. Two, Vedanta that works, that can be experienced. There is a Vedanta@work programme for Leaders and one for Professionals.

2. How can the knowledge that our scriptures hold make a difference to our professional success?

At one level, the principles of Vedanta can be a bedrock on which you, as a professional, can build your career by understanding your true potential for achievement at your current stage of life and then channeling your set of behavior and actions toward that direction. At another level, the concepts are so deep, clear yet nuanced and universal that it allows breakthrough thinking on very complex problems. This is because Vedanta helps you observe relevant signals without the noise.

Then again, as a former Global CEO I can tell you that it’s impossible to lead a dynamic organization without a set of clear principles. Principles that are articulated clearly and acted upon consistently. On a strategic basis as well as a day to day operating basis, decision making and conflict resolution is simplified by applying defined principles. Without the compass of principles that inspires and expands leadership capacity across and down the organization, leadership is not leadership. It’s mere supervision, reflecting a feudal culture, with instruction givers and instruction takers. Innovation and Aspiration wilt in this environment.

3. Does the knowledge held by the scriptures written in a completely different era still hold good today?

Indeed, this is the beauty of Vedanta. Designed for Inner calm, Outer Dynamism. These teachings are universal, timeless and applicable across a variety of contexts. The reason is simple. Vedanta gets to the heart of the matter, addresses the core aspects of personality, duty, ethics, interactions, attitudes, learning, knowledge, teamwork, behaviors and outcomes. And applying these concepts is not a one-time act. It is a rich framework that helps you evolve and grow in the desired direction.

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4. Who will Vedanta help and how? Does one need to have any understanding of the scriptures to take up this course?

This programme is designed for folks who are curious but have no prior exposure to Vedanta. The structure, content and flow ensures grasp of specific concepts first. And then an iteration between concept and application. The curriculum has been expressed as a bunch of questions and we will tackle those questions by applying the relevant concepts. For instance, we will apply the concept of Svadharma to address certain challenges and the concept of Karma yoga to address others.

People can understand, embrace and implement inputs that are contextual to work more easily since they are anyway immersed in thinking about how to get better at work, how to make more money, how to get promoted and so on. Also, people can experience quicker RoI at work and can more easily measure the progress. In fact, work related growth of a person can then be taken to the Life context so that we can grow into our full potential as individuals.

5. How is the course structured and what are the tools offered to help apply the knowledge gained here practically at the workplace?

The course is structured Top-Down and then iteratively. I start with broad, big concepts that have layers of meanings and then narrow it down to sharper concepts. Purushartha, Ashrama, Dharma, Artha, Karma, Types of Yoga, Svadharma, Svabhava, Gunas, Varna, Chitta, Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manaha, Shreyas, Preyas and so on. Then I apply these concepts to the curriculum of questions to be answered. The programme is interactive to allow for Q&A at each stage of progress, not just at the end. The number of participants is limited to enable interaction. The set of principles covered in the programme are the tool kit to be taken away and applied every day to different situations. Video of the programme is available for three months after the programme. For further reading, there are many reference books. And of course, I am only an email away from participants to guide them in their journey.

6. What in your opinion is the one most powerful yet most underrated offering of the scriptures that could help make a great deal of difference in the workplace today?The single most powerful concept is that of Varna/ Gunas. Chapter 18 of the Bhagavad Gita is a beautifully detailed presentation and analysis of this seminal idea. By applying the Varna framework, we can move organizations and institutions from underperforming, often toxic levels to harmonious, high performance work places. The Varna system has been historically the most poorly understood, under-utilized, abused construct in our Vedanta. This is such a shame, it truly boggles the mind.

7. How has your experience of offering this course been so far? What has been the strongest impact you have witnessed among those that took the course?

This programme was launched for the first time only in January 2019. For me the gold standard is to make Vedanta accessible and for participants to say `Yes, we got the concepts, we appreciate how this can make a real difference and we will embark on this empowering journey’. To that end, the feedback was wonderful and this has encouraged me to do more such programmes.

Whether you work for someone else or lead those that work for you, this course starting from 24th March has something to offer for everyone who wishes to apply Vedanta at work.

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