Practical Wisdom for Management from the Indian Spiritual Traditions – International Symposium at IIM Kozhikode

by chirag on January 14, 2012

The conference on ‘Practical Wisdom for Management from the Indian Spiritual Traditions’ commenced in the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode on  Thursday, January 12, 2012.

The welcome address was delivered by Prof. Anupam Das, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, followed by addresses from Dr. Gilbert Lenssen of EABIS – The Academy of Business in Society, Dr. Rajendra Sisodia of Bentley University and Conscious Capitalism Institute and Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, Research Professor, Yale University & CEO of the The Roosevelt Group.

The first keynote speaker of the day was Prof. Debashis Chatterjee, Director of the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Prof. Chatterjee, in his customary and almost casual conversational style, led the audience into a realm of profound philosophy that talked of great practical wisdom rooted in the tenets of Indian spiritual thought. His talk on ‘Timeless leadership’ revolved around two questions – ‘What qualities are timeless’ and ‘What make people follow a leader’. Dr. Chatterjee emphasized on the essence of renunciation – the key to excellence in life as well as business. Reflecting on the teachings of the Bhagavat Gita, he stressed on the ability to withhold one’s senses and thoughts whenever required. True renunciation would render people impervious to material turbulence surrounding them, making them ‘white screens’ where images come and go without leaving an imprint. He distinguished between ‘wish’ and ‘will’ – the former being a weak instinct while the latter is a strong intention of action. To emerge as a true leader, one has to move from personal will to general good. One will have to withdraw from ‘self’ and move onto serve ‘others’ and this is what remains timeless. He concluded his discourse with a tribute to Swami Vivekananda.

The second keynote address was delivered by Mr. Prabhu Guptara, Executive Director, Wolfsberg, a Freeman of the City of London, a fellow of the Institute of Directors and of the Royal Commonwealth Society. His discourse, titled ‘Towards a Topography of Practical Wisdom in Indian Religious Traditions Management & Public Policy’, brought a plethora of Indian thoughts and traditions in a single bouquet. From the Vedas to the Dalit spirituality, he attempted to cover almost the entire breadth of Indian spirituality. He delineated the aim, methods, scriptures, dominant philosophy, worshipped Gods, object of rejection, social impact, geographical boundary, chronology, language of expression, prime exponents and major divisions of all major schools of spiritual thought. Mr. Guptara deliberated on the interactions and diversity of these thoughts. His talk underlined the tradition of pluralism in Indian thought. He left the audience thinking whether it would be prudent to change ‘The Arguementative Indian’ to ‘The Conformist India’ by force.

The keynote speeches were followed by paper presentations. The first two presentations were by Dr. Prasad Kaipa and Dr. Srini Pillay. Mr. Kaipa presented his views on wise decision making drawing from events in the Mahabharath. He believes that it is important for us to move from being ‘smart’ managers to ‘wise’ managers. With the level of complexity that managers face in their challenges today, the key lies in their ability to work between extremes. Wise leaders are differentiated from others by their noble purpose. They perceive a holistic picture that stems from their intelligence, feelings, instinct and intuition. Mr. Kaipa also made references to the exchange of ethical guidelines between Dhritharashtra and Vidura and the guidelines to help make difficult decisions and taking difficult actions between Krishna and Arjuna. He emphasized on the need to manage anger and escape greed. A wise leader must be able to differentiate between false and right knowledge. Hence, wise leadership is a future opportunity for all modern day smart managers.

Dr. Srinivasan Pillay of Harvard Medical School took over to give an overview of his opinions on the relationship between Hindu Spiritual Traditions and Brain Science. Dr. Pillay gave special emphasis on collaboration. He showed the audience how self-realization emerges from the intersection of Advaita Vedanta and Yoga Sutras. An additional intersection with collaboration of managers helps shape team perception. As he went into the technicalities of brain studies and their relevance to management, he drew out the differences in eastern and western perceptions of collaboration. He stressed on the need to transcend lower levels of accidental collaboration to higher levels of integral partnership and community growth. He took the audience through the various aspects of ‘Samyana’ to teach them the various forms of concentration, thus indicating that managers should learn meditation to relax, learn to refocus and trust, develop cognitive skills and take out anticipatory anxiety.

The post-lunch session was slated to have paper presentations by Dr. Vineeta Salvi and Mr. Patrick Nickisch, covering their studies on leadership and decision-making lessons from the Bhagavat Gita, and by Dr. Gerrit De Vylder and Dr. Nisigandha Bhuyan on their studies in management theory and practice from Indian spiritual and religious traditions.

Mr. M.K. Chauhan of Mahendra group, is scheduled to deliver his keynote speech on ‘Practical Wisdom from the Indian Traditions for effective Corporate Governance’ followed by Mr. P.M. Kumar of GMR Group, who shall deliver his keynote address on ‘Human Sankalp – A Psycho-Spiritual Ecosystem’ on Friday, January 13 2012.

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