Monday, December 24, 2018

Confession of a fake guru: A soliloquy from “Tujhe aahe tujpashi”

Any teacher, especially a spiritual teacher needs to be alert about the process of self-deception. Hence, as a facilitator of mindfulness workshops, I find the following confession of a fake guru appealing. It is a soliloquy from the Marathi play “Tujhe aahe tujpashi” (You have your stuff) by P. L. Deshpande.
Beginning of soliloquy-- Who? Who made me a guru? In my youth, I jumped into social service inspired by patriotism. Navigating this stream was tiring. However, it felt as if the entire society was standing at the banks with sticks. And they would push me back in the water the moment I would reach the shore.  They would say, “Guruji, you have to fight for us!” Getting off at the shore became impossible. 
To go from monkhood to family life would have been far worse than becoming a thief! People would have laughed mockingly. A son of a monk could get a buffalo to recite Vedas. However, he had to face the mockery from society. I was scared of that throughout my life. This monk didn’t have the courage to drop the robe to become a common man and face the social stigma. I was giving discourses on the importance of fearlessness. But I was always scared inside. I was giving talks in high pitch so that I don’t hear the sound of my fear. Slowly it became a habit.

I neither got the respect of a monk nor enjoyed the peace of a common man. I also realized people would forget me if I go in the background. Thus began a constant struggle to remind people of my existence through talks, attending conferences, interviews, fasts, propaganda of mind purification tenets etc. This became my life.   

I didn’t win over the desire. On the contrary, I tried to bury it under layers of pompous words. The other day I was reflecting on my life at the banks of the river Kshipra. Kshipra flows peacefully distributing peace. She is able to instill peace in people because of the stillness she carries inside. Whose life have I made happier? Who is genuinely concerned about me in the Ashram? Whenever opportunities for better positions came, my colleagues left the Ashram. I had a strong ego. And they also needed a guru to salute. When they massaged my feet once in a while, both of us felt good.

I carried the ambition of returning the ocean waves with a broom. Buddha, Christ did it, I also got enamored. But each was like a lighthouse. It carries the strength to stand still under a tempest. We are like ships. We should navigate under the guidance of a lighthouse. This poor body began to feel that it is a lighthouse. With every little storm, the ship began to lose its way, got crashed again and again and became a pitiable object. Finally, this guru became a sorry figure. -- end of soliloquy.

Self-deception is relevant not only for spiritual teachers but for any person who carries a position of respect and power. It could be in a family or at work or in society. Fear of falling off from the position is so strong that maintaining the self-image becomes a full-time job. In the process, one loses track of one’s true nature. It is not surprising that the question “Who am I?” carries so much importance in spirituality.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What to do when boss says “Be more innovative”?

“What do I do?” asked a participant in a one on one conversation during a coffee break in one of my workshops. He felt he had been doing all he could on the innovation front. And yet his boss told him, “Be more innovative”. He was a bit upset. What could he do? Here are a few tips.

Listening: In my opinion, the most effective response is perhaps the most difficult one as well. i.e. to listen. Perhaps the boss has some important point to tell. At the very least, everybody carries a need to be listened to. Boss is no different. It could also be an opportunity to understand what innovativeness might mean to the boss. Sometimes the crux lies in the subtle differences in meanings. And an abstract concept like innovativeness can carry so many shades. Hence, I feel the most important thing to do is to listen and understand what boss means by “more innovative”. Perhaps ask questions so that he can elaborate it with examples.

Communication: Sometimes one is doing a number of things related to innovation – identifying new challenges, generating ideas, involving team members, building prototypes etc. However, one area which is sometimes overlooked is communication. Communicating innovation efforts may involve a short write up, a dashboard, a presentation, a demo or a combination of these. I would at least check if the innovation efforts are communicated regularly to the boss.

Challenge seeking: When boss says, “be more innovative” it could also mean following. Some of the key challenges that are important to him are perhaps not getting adequate attention. Hence, it may be a suggestion to prioritize the challenges that are given attention during the innovation efforts. Hence, it may help to probe and find out what according to him are the key challenges worth addressing. When the challenge comes from the boss, there is a higher chance of getting sponsorship for a promising idea.

In short, we looked at three things one can do when boss says, “Be more innovative” viz. listening, communication and challenge seeking. Will it always work? No. But carrying a grudge in the mind is not known to work either.