A. Parthasarathy is an internationally acclaimed philosopher. He has a multi-disciplined academic base including post-graduation from London University. He has researched for over fifty years on the state of human beings. His findings focus on the urgent need to revive, rehabilitate the human intellect. His resolve has emerged into four distinct avenues of service: Vedanta Academy - Parthasarathy founded the Academy in January 1988 in Malavli Hills, 108 km from Mumbai, India. It offers three-year residential courses designed to build intellectual ability and instil higher values of life in students from all over the world. Public Discourses - His discourses on intellectual development have captivated audiences in four continents for over forty years. He has lectured at prestigious organisations and universities the world over. Corporate Seminars - Parthasarathy has been a distinguished resource of the World Economic Forum, Young Presidents Organisation, Young Entrepreneurs Organisation and several multinational corporations. Writings - He has published ten books which present ancient philosophical teachings and wisdom of thinkers from the East and West. Two of them have earned best-selling status.
Q. Can you speak briefly on your new book, ‘The Complete Works of Swami Parthasarathy’ — thick, leather bound, and all inclusive as I understand – slated to be released on Thursday?
A. It’s not leather. I don’t use leather. A businessman offered me a Rolls Royce. I refused it because it has leather seats. I don’t want to kill a cow and sit on it. The person has sent a message to the head office to provide a car without leather and RR is considering it. I will never use leather…. harming defenceless animals. The book is leatherette and printed in Finland on special thin paper to keep all the volumes together and yet be easy to carry.
Q. The collection has a prescription in it for business…
A. Every businessman wants success, so they must first know what success is. They come with a lot of knowledge and intelligence but with zero intellect.
As a result, the mind is not in control and slips into the past or into the future. It is not in the present. The only thing that can control the mind and anchor it in the present is intellect.
Intellect is developed by a) not taking anything for granted and b) by questioning everything. If you do this from a very young age, you develop powerful intellect.
The book helps those who have not worked to develop intellect from a young age.
Businesses need the 3Cs — concentration, consistency and cooperation to succeed.
[See EXCERPT] And each of these demands the development of intellect, which is developed by oneself, not by attending seminars or meetings. Intellect allows you to concentrate and be consistent so that all energies are directed towards a goal. ou need intellect to realise that no one is important ( or unimportant).
We are all spokes in the wheel of life. This helps in building the spirit of cooperation.
Q. The business model based on increasing consumption and maximising shareholder wealth, the one that is practised the most, appears to have failed. You speak often to business leaders and so many of them have been caught on the wrong foot. Are you surprised, and why?
A. I’m not surprised because the base of all problems they have is selfishness.
Nobody wants to serve or sacrifice. As long as there will be selfishness, there will be problems and crashes. The moment they learn to give, not to take; to serve, not to be served; to sacrifice and not to aggrandise, there will not be any problem.
Q. So they will tell you business will collapse?
A. Their business has already collapsed. I’m telling them how to resurrect their business. They can’t talk about business because they have seen it collapse. Only when you sacrifice will there be real business growth.
Q. What do you see as the core proposition of business today… so many of business managers talk to you, train with you?
A. Greed and aggrandisement is the core proposition.
Nobody wants to serve. Business is also an activity to serve. While earning money, you must learn to serve.
I have the knowledge and I can use this either to serve and spread knowledge or for aggrandisement.
I choose to use it to serve. It is incidental that someone offers me a Rolls Royce or any other facility.
But all that is incidental. I must be here to serve the community. In the process of serving, you benefit, even in business.
Q. But that is not the paradigm of business?
A. You want to serve junk. Why not serve value for the public? Why serve junk, use some advertising junk and sell it when you can sell wholesome choices so that people enjoy and benefit and you make money in the process? There is no need to destroy people’s health. ou can still make money by service through your business.
Q. What is ‘Karma Capitalism’, a term you have used, and what is the kind of ‘ go- getter’ you need to be to see business flourish and genuinely add value and be of service to society?
A. Karma is action and all action should be unselfish.
Instead of asking what I can get, ask how I can serve through this business. Business does not mean cutting corners, so you could serve the community and that brings results.
And that is Karma.
Q. The model we increasingly see in India is derived from the West…
A. The same greed will come here and businesses will destroy themselves and we will see the cycle of rebuilding and destruction caused by greed. In a recent interview, I was asked about the 2008 crash and I said this is not the only one.
We have been crashing over and over again over the years. And that is because of lack of control of the mind that falls for greed while the intellect remains zero. Nobody has the capacity to investigate the cause of the crash. The same greed is spreading to Eastern countries and it’s only a matter of time — we’ll go the same way.
Q. Does that disappoint or pain you?
A. I’ve been telling them… I’m sorry for them.
I’m telling, ‘ don’t put your finger in the fire’ and you still do it and suffer, then what can I do? I go to the next man and say don’t put your finger in the fire. ou want get burnt, it’s your privilege. It’s madness. I’m not happy about it but I’ll go to the next man and talk to him… at least his finger will be saved.
Q. India still needs faster growth if millions have to come out of poverty. What is the path you advocate for faster economic growth in India?
A. Drop selfishness.
Q. And can you try and balance for me the competitive spirit which is so essential, we are told, with peace, an inner clam that you prescribe. How do they gel?
A. The moment you think of competitive spirit you are thinking of the other person and there you do not do your best. If you do your best, and don’t think what others are doing, you get to concentrate on what you are doing and you succeed.
The theme of the Bhagwad Gita is to think of what you are doing. Concentrate on what you are doing, never mind the others, and you will be the leader.
Q. How is book writing as an exercise for a guru of your eminence? Do you sit down project to project, with deadlines, or does this flow out seamlessly?
A. I hand write everything between 4 a. m. and 6 a. m. I have never written a line after 6 a. m. I’m by myself.
My handwriting is very neat and the manuscript is preserved in the ashram.
Q. And a message to business leaders in India at a time when India needs more entrepreneurship, more leadership and a model of inclusive growth…
A. My message is to be as unselfish as possible. To serve. To sacrifice. And develop the intellect to be able to concentrate, be consistent and cooperative. Then you’ll be deliver the best results in whatever you do as well as be at perfect peace.
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