Surya sheds light on Spirituality
Surya Prakash Mohapatra explains to Annesha Banerjee, the pivotal role that spirituality plays in all aspects of life—personal, conjugal, familial, social, and professional. It encompasses everything.
It has been more than a year now since I started working with Life Positive, and the changes I have experienced in my personal and professional life are evident to anyone who knows me well. I started with being an atheist, then changed to being an agnostic, until, finally, spirituality opened up a new world for me. There are many questions about life and the mysteries surrounding it that still crowd my mind, but plenty have been answered too. The people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve gained, and the things I’ve observed have strengthened the belief in me that indeed somewhere, a force stronger than all of us is working, and we are under its love and mercy.
More so, as I am at home, spending my days in quarantine due to the countrywide lockdown, I think about the ideas people have about life. Is there any perfect way to live? Or even a way? Or should we just live life as it comes to us? This quest brought me to Mr Surya Prakash Mohapatra, a thought leader of international repute in the HR and L&D space, who was a speaker at the Becoming Youth Conference 2020, which I attended a few months ago. His ideas about relationships, career, and failure management among the youth caught my attention. Belonging to this group, I was aware of the dilemma faced by the young population of the country and even around the world—struggling to strike a balance between handling the increasing expectation of society and finding their own paths—and wondered if spirituality is really the answer. Swinging like a pendulum, many youngsters succumb to depression and anxiety, and suffer from various physical and mental health issues. So, when I got the opportunity, my editor encouraged me to follow up with Mr Mohapatra, Global Head of Talent Transformation at Wipro Digital Operations, and interview him. And one fine day, obeying the government rules, taking my place in my now home-office, I contacted him, and the conversation flowed.
. What urged you into the spiritual path. Tell us something about your journey?
I took the spiritual path without even knowing it. My parents are highly spiritual and are disciples of Sree Sree Thakur Anukulchandra. From my childhood, I grew up sitting in meditation with my parents, without even knowing what meditation was all about. Every day, my mother used to read to me and my brothers, stories and anecdotes from the scriptures, which made a profound impression on our formative minds. This brush with spirituality in my early childhood turned into an inquisitive pursuit later as I stepped into my youth. I have never looked back thereafter.
. You come from a business background where things are generally perceived from a logical viewpoint and in terms of investment. How does being spiritual help you in your professional life?
It is true; in business, everything is looked at from a logical viewpoint. So is the case with spirituality as well. My Spiritual Guide, Sree Sree Thakur Anukulchandra says, “The ideas and activities that lead man towards the Cause are spirituality.” Spirituality is about understanding the cause and effect of everything. Understanding of ‘cause and effect’ gives us clarity of vision, and we become wiser. As a result, we become more disciplined about our thoughts and actions.
How does spirituality help me in my professional life? Well, spirituality has made me more focussed, balanced, calm, composed, disciplined, and unwavering. Aren’t these essential ingredients required to become a successful professional?
. Stress and anxiety are part of one’s career and personal life. How do you think one can manage both?
To manage stress and anxiety, we need to understand the cause of stress and anxiety. If we can address the cause, we should be able to control its effect. The primary cause of stress is fear. This may be fear of failure, fear of uncertainty, fear of insecurity, fear of loss, or fear of negative consequences. If we can manage this fear, we can manage or even prevent stress and anxiety. Once again, spirituality can come in handy here. Spirituality helps us deal with fear more effectively and teaches us equanimity, i.e., the ability to remain calm under any circumstances.
Stress has several signs like irritation, nervous breakdown, headache, tantrums, breathlessness, etc. These are symptoms of stress but not the cause of stress. Unfortunately, most of the so-called stress management experts focus on the symptoms and not on the cause of stress. Like sedatives can provide only temporary relief from pain but not a permanent cure, similarly, techniques to deal with irritation, nervous breakdown, breathlessness, etc. only provide temporary relief from stress but not a permanent solution. Only spirituality is the permanent answer.
. In your speech at the Becoming Youth Conference 2020, you talked about the youth and their inability to deal with friction and conflict owing to their lack of wisdom. But wisdom, as they say, is gained with experience. How, do you think, the youth today can gain the wisdom to deal with the uncertainties and disturbances of life?
Yes, wisdom is gained through experience. However, this experience needs to be a guided experience. When you want to learn how to swim, you go to a swimming coach, don’t you? When you want to learn how to drive, you go to a driving coach. Did you jump into your car and start driving, the first time you had the urge to learn driving? I am sure you didn’t do that. Had you done that, most likely, it would have been a disaster. Similarly, if you want to learn how to navigate through the complexities of life, deal with ambiguity and conflict, you need to go to a life teacher or a guide. Like the driving coach teaches us how to navigate through the curves, slopes, slides, turns, and frenzy of traffic on the road, a life teacher teaches us how to navigate through the curves, turns, ups, and downs in our lives. Such a life teacher is called a ‘guru’ or ‘Living Ideal.’ All of us need such a ‘Living Ideal’ in life.
. You also talked about love as being one-sided. Can you please elaborate?
True love is always one-sided, and it is unconditional. In other words, in love, there is ‘no give and take.’ The moment there is ‘give and take,’ it is no longer love; it is a commercial transaction. Love is only about giving and not about taking. When you give something to someone, your love for them increases manifold. On the other hand, when you receive something from someone, your love for the object you receive increases. You feel sad when the other person stops giving you. Haven’t you experienced it?
Let’s think about our parents’ love for us. Their love for us is unconditional and without any expectations. That is why it is so pure. They love us so much because they give us everything unconditionally.
. There is a communication gap between the millennial generation and the previous generation—in thoughts, ideas, concepts, and in ways of dealing with problems and things. What, in your opinion, could be done to lessen that gap? Can spirituality play a role in helping the youth bring a change and influence the current scenario?
There may be differences between millennials and the previous generations. However, everyone (irrespective of the generation) wants to be happy and successful. To make a meaningful co-existence of different generations possible, we need to find a common ground between them.
Why look at the differences between generations as a problem? Why can’t we look at these differences as a strength for organisations, families, and societies? If we combine the energy and passion of the youth with the wisdom and experience of the earlier generations, we can create a beautiful world.
Can spirituality bring a change here? Yes, it can. Spirituality will inculcate values like respect for elders, tolerance, humility, and patience in the youth, and it will help the elders give up their ego and seamlessly work with the youth.
. Is spiritual development in alignment with professional excellence? If yes, how? Because it is thought that one cannot excel in one’s competitive profession if one becomes too spiritual or that spirituality can be a hindrance to someone who is focussed on professional success.
Spirituality is for all-round development of one’s life—personal, conjugal, familial, social, and professional. Spirituality is the path to self-awareness. Modern management and leadership experts say great business leaders have a high degree of self-awareness. They are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, emotions, feelings, and vulnerabilities. This self-awareness helps them respond to situations more effectively. Spirituality gives us clarity of vision, and that, in turn, helps us make more informed and accurate decisions. Spirituality helps us recognise our larger purpose in life. And modern experts say that organisations, businesses, and individuals need to have a purpose which is bigger than just increasing revenues and amassing profits. Spirituality doesn’t make one less competitive. It makes one go to any extent to achieve one’s larger purpose. Well-known German business leader Anselm Grün says, “Only one who is able to find his peace inside himself, and in God, may create an atmosphere of peace around himself, making employees feel well and enabling them to enjoy their work.” Spirituality, the pursuit of the ultimate truth, encompasses everything. It does not negate or contradict anything.
. What are your views and observations on relationships, expectations, and failure management among the youth?
If we place brick over brick, we cannot build a wall. To keep the bricks joined together, we need cement. Similarly, if husband and wife stay together in a conjugal relationship, they may still not be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually together. For them to live in unison, they need to have that cementing factor in their life. The cementing factor is the Living Ideal. How many of the relationships in our society today have a common Living Ideal?
Every relationship is noble. Like human beings, the relationships between people also have a life cycle. Like we need to nourish life, we need to nourish our relationships as well. Like a human being needs utmost care and nourishment in their infancy, similarly, at its formative stage, a relationship also requires utmost attention and care. My two cents to the youth today: “Please nurture and nourish your relationships with your spouses, siblings, friends, and others with love and care. Give everything you can to your relationships.”
Now coming to failure management, I would like to quote my Spiritual Guide, Sree Sree Thakur Anukulchandra: “Failure need not be weakness; to fail to try is weakness. If, despite your all-out effort in anything, you fail to succeed, no harm; carry on; don’t stop! That unblemished effort must carry you towards the goal.” Spirituality helps us build resilience and fearlessness. It enables us to accept both success and failure with equanimity.
. In times like these, when everyone is locked inside their houses, the economy is not looking too bright, and the situation is taking a toll on the mental health of people. What would you suggest to our readers?
Yes, COVID-19 has brought entire mankind to a standstill. Billions of people have been locked inside their homes for several months now. Billions of lives have been severely impacted by this crisis. In the present circumstances, there are two things we should keep in mind:
1. Our response: We have no control over the situation that we are in. But we have control over how we respond to the situation. It is our choices in the present circumstances that will determine whether we shall remain happy or unhappy.
2. Our learnings: COVID-19 has taught us many things already. We have an opportunity to carry with us, our learnings about hygienic practices, co-existence with other creatures in nature, resilience in the face of hardships, and the need for frugality, as we move beyond COVID-19. These learnings, if applied with the right intent, could help us prevent another crisis like COVID-19 in future.
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