By Suma Varughese March 2004 Even as the world is consumed by consumerism, some daring people are busy working to forge tomorrow’s world by spiritualising the way they do work. Meet the Cultural Creatives of India, as they slowly and steadily transform the culture we inhabit You can smell it in the air, you can hear it in the wind, you can almost touch it with your hands—the New Age is almost, very nearly, here.It seems odd to make this prediction when the world is going ape over consumerism. When the buzz revolves around the nth car model to have entered the country or the opening of the latest mall or multiplex. When car loans, house loans and personal loans facilitate the marketing mantra to buy, buy, buy. When everything and everyone is a brand and the stock market rules.Aah, but in Life Positive, you see, we are privy to what is as yet behind the scenes. Even as life plays out Act X, here at LP we can see the lead players and supporting cast of Act Y gearing up for their turn. From where we are, huge changes are slowly and subtly changing life as we know it on its axis. Paradigm shifts are nineteen to the dozen. And everywhere there is convergence. Science and spirituality are slowly coming together as scientists, like seekers, come to grips with consciousness. Concepts like servant leadership, responsible business practices and sustainable technology are integrating the welfare of industry with the welfare of employees and environment. Traditional and native health systems are proving an alternative to allopathy, and integrating the body, mind and soul of the individual. Organic farming is bringing together individual health and that of the planet. And a thirst for the meaning of life is creating a tidal wave of interest in spirituality, linking man to the cosmos. The inspiration behind the New Age is, of course, the legion of truth bearers, masters and sages who show us the way by precept and practice.But here in this story we honour the foot soldiers, those who take forward the philosophy and implement it within their own work, and thereby change the system itself. It is easy to meditate and do seva in one’s spare time, while pursuing the same unethical and unspiritual practices in one’s work. The real challenge is to infuse one’s spirituality into all areas of life, especially work. The New Age can never really emerge as long as it remains shrouded within the cloisters of private life. Unless the values it promotes such as a focus on the larger good, seeing work as sadhana and eschewing the profit motive for the service motive, are implemented in the workplace, large scale change will never occur. The New Age can only come about when the way we do politics, business, governance, education, or practise law, medicine, and the arts, arise from spiritual principles.When this happens, politics will not be about power, it will be about service; business will not be about money, it will be about creating products for the welfare of society and creating wealth for society; education will be not be about livelihood skills but life skills; medicine will be oriented towards health and not illness; the media will no longer glory in bad news and sensation, but highlight positive changes and ideas that can transform society; and the arts will paint a glowing picture of man’s highest ideals and aspirations. Such an age is not yet in view, but the people whose profiles we carry in the following pages are proof that it is possible.They are representatives of the thousands of anonymous system-changes all over India who work indefatigably to make a difference at work. Businessmen focusing on the welfare of their employees, doctors attempting to bridge the shortfalls of allopathy with alternative practices, artists and writers who stand steadfast by their vision no matter how little they make out of it. There’s a term for such people: Cultural Creatives—people who are creatively changing the culture of the land. It isn’t easy to select just 13 out of the thousands of Cultural Creatives fertilising the land. So we adopted a few criteria. Gurus and other spiritual leaders we set aside despite their powerful influence, because, most of them are not actually changing the bricks and mortars of society, although may be the source behind the change. The thousands of yoga teachers, Reiki masters, alternative healers and others of their ilk are doing wondrous work but within the New Age circuit. We excluded them unless their influence or contribution has been sensational, as in the case of Dr Madan Kataria or Dr Isaac Mathai. The people we have focused on, by and large, are those who operate in mainstream activities like business, law, the arts and publishing, and transform the way they are practised by holding steadfast to their vision and values. Our list cannot claim to be the ultimate selection of New Age heroes. It is subjective, based on who we thought measured up, and limited by the number of people we know or have heard about. If we have missed someone particularly worthy, we apologise and ask you to write to us so we can write about him. For each system changer needs to be honoured. By showing the way and going the way, he/she makes it easier for us to follow suit. G. NarayanaSpiritualising ManagementThe Source: The Executive Chairman of Excel Industries G. Narayana (63), Guruji to all, is a dynamo of activity and inspiration, which he attributes to an experience that befell him at age 42. At that point, this engineer cum MBA had set up his own companies after a phenomenally successful stint in industry. Unfortunately, one of them floundered and Narayana got his first taste of failure. He repaired to his native place, Manthini, by the banks of the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh.One morning, while bathing in the river with a cousin, his eyes fell on the old temples on the bank, and he wished aloud for a momento. Immediately, his cousin replied that he had felt something under his feet. Shortly thereafter, he pulled out two Shiva lingams. “A fantastic experience. I felt I had touched another dimension,” raves Narayana. But it didn’t end there. That evening, he found his cousin deep in a commentary of the Gita. The lingam experience convinced him to give it a hearing. And lo, Krishna was telling his devotee that if he were to put his faith in him, he would pull him out of the river. The auguries were favourable. Prompt as ever, Narayana got down to business. Not having access to the man who wrote the commentary, he adopted the book as guru. For the next 18 days, he read one chapter a day, practised its message, and abjured onions, garlic, sex and liquor. Gita yoga, he calls his practice. He emerged from his sadhana a transformed man. “I wrote the 19th chapter of Gita—on management yoga,” he says with characteristic aplomb. “My life changed, my problems were solved. I turned around my company. Then I turned around other companies. I turned around Excel in six months. Spirituality came. Upanishads, Bible, the Vedas. Everything I transfused into management.”The Contribution: Narayana has played a seminal role in rooting business practice in Indian culture and spirituality. In 1990, he, Swami Jijatmananda of the Ramakrishna Mission and S.K. Chakraborty of IIM, Calcutta, and a few others met and resolved to popularise the concept of management through Indian ethos. “Textbooks were needed so I wrote them,” he says nonchalantly, proferring several of his books, with titles like Noble Leader (A Journey through Dhammapada), The Responsible Leader (A Journey through Gita), Strategic Leadership (A Journey through Chaanakya Sutras and Kautiliya Artha Shaastra). Incidentally, his books have neither copyright nor price, for knowledge, he believes, should be free.His belief in human potential is absolute. The message, ‘you can, you can’ to be given continuously,” he says. “If you believe people can do, they can do fantastically. Give them inspiration, knowledge, resources. Back them up.”He cites the case of Prabhakar Thosar, an adviser with Excel, whom he summarily commanded to translate the Gita into Marathi. The bewildered Thosar stammered out his inability, which Narayana promptly dismissed. “Write the first verse in front of me,” he beamed. And Thosar did! He went on to translate all 700 shlokas into Marathi. In a touching tribute to Narayana published in a souvenir to commemorate the opening of the Guru Narayana Centre for Leadership, by the Baroda Management Association, Thosar writes: “The joy of my creation was stupendous and inexplicable… Revered Guruji had greater confidence in my capability than I did.”Narayana spouts numerous concepts and ideas, all his own. “God,” he says, “means Group, Organisation, Direction. Form groups, organise and direct them, and the impossible becomes the possible.”“Yoga,” he observes, “is nothing but aligning result, relationships, realities and realisation through action, relations, knowledge and responsibility.” He dares even to correct the great Stephen Covey. “Pro-active is not enough!” he thunders. “One must be pre-active, pro-active, process-active and post-active.”He adds: “I have a mantra which I make everyone recite: “Positive, active, timely, effective.”The Influence: Apart from Excel, which he turned around from a Rs 40 crore company in 1989 to a Rs 418 crore company in 1997, he is associated with other companies like Yash Paper Mills at Ayodhya, Aryan Paper Mills, Duraware at Aurangabad and La Opala at Kolkata. Wherever he goes, he spreads the seeds of spiritually-oriented management. When invited to attend the World Congress for Peace in Bangkok, he wrote a book to commemorate the occasion, called Humanity to Divinity,
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