Isha INSIGHT 2019 Day 3 – The Isha Way
Yesterday’s sky was a featureless grey sheet of cloud that looked as if it wanted to rain but couldn’t quite work up the energy. Perhaps inspired by the vibrancy of INSIGHT, last night it rained to its full satisfaction. Day 3 is picture perfect: cloudless skies, glorious sunshine and a vivacious group eager to start the day and with good reason. Sadhguru will take questions from Resource Leaders today. Sounds of Isha’s signature timekeeping tune draws the last few people still absorbed in incomplete conversations with new-found friends.
219 corporate leaders from 17 states and 12 countries come together to learn how to scale up their business as well as themselves, all set to a theme inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of vibrant Gujarat.
Be A Solution, Not A Business
Sadhguru strides in. Over the last three days, the group has mastered the Isha way – they rise and join their palms perfectly in a Namaskaram. Over the next hour, Sadhguru answers questions on limited identity, the “cobra test,” opportunities in a developing nation, Yoga and business dilemmas. “Once you’re identified with this body, you'll get identified with everybody and just about everything,” says Sadhguru in response to a question on the meaning of a “limited identity.” It’s a sure-fire way of killing off new possibilities – a dangerous thing for an entrepreneur.
Someone wants to know why snakes are so prominent in Isha’s architecture. “This is their land,” says Sadhguru and explains that snakes are symbolic in spirituality for their enhanced level of perception which is the objective of spiritual endeavour. “Snakes are very sensitive to human chemistry,” says Sadhguru and jokes that one of the best ways to check one’s chemistry is to take the “cobra test”. What’s that? Well, just pick up a cobra.
From his tone, one would think that Sadhguru was talking about picking flowers, not one of the deadliest creatures on the planet. “If you show the slightest agitation, he’ll go for you,” says Sadhguru and suggests amusedly that it’s a good way to check how settled people are within themselves. You can almost hear the whole group gasp!
One of the questioners wants a good start-up idea and advice on how to execute it – well, so much for insight! “India is a developing country,” says Sadhguru. “What it means is, a lot of things are still not done yet. This means a lot of opportunities. Just go out into our villages and see what is missing in people's lives and create it. Be a solution, not a business.”
Regardless of whether he got a great idea or not, the questioner certainly got a great tagline – Be a solution, not a business.
We are working towards building an Isha Leadership Academy which will offer various programs for a variety of people, particularly for policymakers. We want to create various layers of leadership in the world who impact the world positively on a daily basis. -Sg #IshaINSIGHT pic.twitter.com/MPYw0Ws44v
Of Metal And Mettle
“It’s a privilege to have Muthuraman Sir here because he’s literally a man of steel,” Sadhguru introduces the next speaker, B. Muthuraman, former Vice Chairman of Tata Steel. He is also the recipient of the prestigious Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in the Republic of India. Over the next 30 minutes, he recounts the captivating story of one of India’s best known brands. His steadfast commitment to an institution where he worked for 48 years shows his mettle.
The story is almost too incredible to believe, except that it’s being told by the man who was bang in the middle of it all. In 1991, after 84 years of state stranglehold, Tata Steel is teetering on the edge of an abyss. In the new era of economic liberalization, Tata’s survival depends on the behemoth transforming into a lean and agile business. Tough decisions must be made. Tata must retrench nearly 5000 employees every year over a decade to have any realistic shot at survival. Its death warrant has already been signed by the world’s leading consultants. Those who have to be asked to go are tenured employees and the company has a labour union. The situation has “disaster” written all over it.
Drawing deeply from a reserve of personal integrity, trust and compassion, Muthuraman turns what could have been potentially one of the ugliest moments in the company’s history into a moment of celebration. After the imminent closure of an entire department is announced, a grand feast is organized to “celebrate the event” – those who are leaving are leaving happily knowing that in doing so they’re saving an institution that has given them so much. They’re willing to remove themselves so that the institution can live on and impact more lives. “Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions but they must be done with compassion and they must be fair,” says Muthuraman who ensured that Tata gave its people the best retirement package anywhere in the world.
“Tata Group in many ways was the only business at one time that was not just doing business but was also building the nation. Just about anything that was needed for the nation, largely came from this one group,” says Sadhguru. And in the organization’s darkest hours, Tata employees pay back with a fitting tribute to the organization that always valued the greater good above its own.
B. Muthuraman’s session is moving. Here stands a fine gentleman whose primary allegiance is to humanity. For 25 years, he has made an honest annual assessment of his shortcomings and worked on them diligently. It causes Sadhguru to quip that Muthuraman is making Inner Engineering redundant, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience. There’s sincerity and an earnestness in him that’s hard to come by and impossible to ignore. When a participant asks him about Tata’s fundraising strategy, he responds, “I won’t be able to answer your question but if you meet me outside, I can give you the contact of someone who can.” That’s B. Muthuraman for you – a gentleman in his own league.
It is not in the culture & ethos of Tata to send a person off with 15 days of salary. “Yes, it's going to cost us, but we need to work hard to make up for the cost” decided the Tata management when they were faced by the dilemma of letting nearly 40,000 employees go. #IshaINSIGHT pic.twitter.com/uyqmavfUNC— Isha Leadership Academy (@IshaLeadership) November 29, 2019
Isha’s Anthem Of Joy
As participants file in after lunch, the room suddenly explodes with Isha’s Anthem of Joy – Alai Alai, a beat that no one has been known to successfully resist because there’s an Isha law against such resistance! A few make a gamely attempt but give up quickly. Soon, we’re creating a racket fit enough to bring down the roof and raise the dead – and make them dance. Sounds of Isha has outdone itself and they’re not allowed to stop. They oblige cries for an encore, so there’s one more... then another... and another...
Tune into the effervescent sounds of Alai Alai filling Spanda Hall with a burst of energy that transformed the conclave into a carnival of joy. As musicians stepped up the tempo, corporate leaders broke into an impromptu dance, leaping around with abandon and cheer. #IshaINSIGHT pic.twitter.com/sB4L9Pws5q— Isha Leadership Academy (@IshaLeadership) November 29, 2019
The Final Frontier
After some time for reflection on the sessions of Day 2, we now take a sneak peek into the inner workings of an organization that has of late been the toast of space organizations globally. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is unlike anything we typically associate with a government-run organization. Its scientist community is acknowledged as one of the finest in the world. They’ve put world class satellites in space at one-tenth the cost of other nations. All ISRO chiefs share one distinct characteristic – humility. Space must be humbling – to experientially realise that “you are just a speck in this universe” (Sadhguru never tires of reminding us, but how quickly we forget).
S.Somanath, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, speaks about ISRO’s enabling work culture that attracts passionate scientists. ISRO’s story is one of grit, determination and some of the finest inspired leadership. From transporting rockets in a bullock cart, to carrying international payload on indigenously designed space vehicles, ISRO has come a long way and in many ways is the poster child of the new India story.
“We don’t conduct training at @isro. We follow the Gurukula system where young boys and girls are placed with senior bosses to learn the ropes of space technology. We stoke their willingness to seek help,” discloses S. Somanath of ISRO #IshaINSIGHT 2019 pic.twitter.com/yvCi7Xhxkj— Isha Leadership Academy (@IshaLeadership) November 29, 2019
The Isha Way
“What can we learn from Isha?” asks B.S. Nagesh, Master of Ceremonies. It’s an innocuous question but once you ask, you can’t pull it back and stuff it in the cupboard. The floodgates have been opened and that does what opening floodgates are wont to do – it reveals the power of what was concealed behind the gates. The people you never see or hear, the depth and scope of their efforts, the ones who’ve dropped anchor so that they can be a part of what Sadhguru wants to offer to the world.
They’re articulate but they grapple because it’s a vision that even they cannot fully comprehend. For years, in INSIGHT after INSIGHT, audiences have asked only one question in a variety of ways: “But how do you do it?”
They pull off feats that only the mad would dare venture into: events that draw crowds in lakhs and fever-pitch campaigns that enrol millions, all resting firmly (or so they hope) on the shoulders of untrained (maybe even unsuspecting) volunteers in far-flung corners of the world who are largely clueless about the value of the cargo they’re carrying. “We’re all dedicated to the process,” they offer helpfully, but who is we? And why are they so dedicated to the process? We are nine million volunteers around the globe. And to answer the question of “why?”, the only way is to experience Isha for yourself.
Editor's Note: For regular updates about the on-going Isha INSIGHT 2019, visit Isha Leadership Academy’s Twitter page.