Is Spirituality Relevant to Leadership?
Sadhguru: The very mention of the word “spirituality” conjures a variety of images in today’s popular culture – a galore of misconceptions. Spirituality is not about love or humanity or ecological consciousness. Those things can be done without any spirituality; you just need a little sense in your head. If I must define spirituality, I would choose a very technical definition. When one’s ability to experience life transcends the limitations of the physical, we say you are spiritual.
The essential nature of the physical is a defined boundary. The very nature of the human being is such, there is one part of him – the instinct of self-preservation – which constantly tries to define and protect this boundary. But there is another dimension of the human being that is always longing to be something more than what he or she is right now. It doesn’t matter what you have become in your life, you are still longing to become something more than who you are right now. If you manage to conquer the whole planet, I am sure you will look at the stars. There is something within you that does not like boundaries – which is constantly longing to become boundless. Boundlessness means non-physical. The physical is only the cover – the basis is a core non-being that is non-physical in nature, which is constantly trying to find expression in human life.
Leadership: Going Beyond Body & Mind
In what way is spirituality relevant to leadership? As I said, spirituality means your experience of life has transcended the physical. If you look at your body, it is just a heap of food. What you eat is becoming you. What you call “my mind” is essentially a heap of impressions that you gathered through the five senses.
If you function only on physical and intellectual terms, you will be a poor leader because your body and mind are chained to the past. People are always looking forward to a leader who does not repeat the past. They look forward to a leader because he can create something that other people could not think of. He sees something that everyone else could not see. Unless there is a spiritual element, unless a human being has started experiencing life beyond his body and intellect, he will not create a new possibility. Without a spiritual element, a leader – whether political, economic or otherwise – is definitely handicapped.
A leader is someone who takes charge of the destiny of a large mass of people. Unless he is capable of organizing and directing situations towards the desired goals, he is not a leader. But that will only happen if you have some mastery over yourself. How much mastery you have of your own inner nature will decide how free you are from outside situations.
Most people’s way of being is hugely enslaved to external situations. The nature of the situations in the world is such that it doesn’t matter who you are or how powerful you are, no one has 100% control over the outside situations. No one in this world functions 100% the way you want them to, but at least you must function the way you want.
If your inner situation functioned the way you wanted, how would you keep it? Naturally you would keep it in utmost pleasantness. You wouldn’t know any tension, anger or other nonsense. The reason people are going through these things is simply because the fundamental faculties within them – their own body, mind, emotions and energies – are happening in reaction to external situations.
Is there a possibility where whatever the outside situation, one can be free from that within themselves? Each one of us is uniquely capable when it comes to outside realities. But when it comes to inner realities, all of us are equally capable. Because you are looking in the wrong direction, it looks so far away and impossible. If you turn around, it is just a simple reality.
Today in the world, whatever kind of leader you are, it demands extensive travel, handling complex situations and above all handling people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. When a human being has to constantly handle complex situations, he will naturally get pulled down if he is not spiritually established. People talk about burnouts these days. This is not happening because the work is difficult, but simply because we do not know how to manage our own systems. Managing these systems from outside will not help because they were created from within. But if you have access to that which is the source of this body, they can be managed from within.
Spirituality means gaining access to that dimension within you which is the very source of who you are right now. This is not about looking up, looking down or looking around – this is about looking inward.
A Tremendous Opportunity
Right now, we are trying to handle human wellbeing and the wellbeing of nations and societies in a very ad hoc way. Today, India as a nation is on the threshold of economic prosperity. We as a generation of people have the opportunity to move a large mass of people from one level of living to another. No other generation has ever had this opportunity. In the next 10 years, what kind of leadership we have will decide what we do with this. A leadership bereft of any spiritual content, bereft of perception beyond the limitations of logical intellect and physicality cannot manage a situation like this with absolute clarity. It can only manage by chance. By chance, anything can happen, but if we are doing things by chance, we are a potential tragedy because we can fall at any time.
Indian culture is steeped in these technologies for inner wellbeing. This is something we must make use of. No other land has seen as much work towards human consciousness as this culture has. The best acknowledgement for this came from Mark Twain, one of the greatest intellects of the previous century. He came to India and had a good guide who took him to the right places. When he was leaving, he said, “So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked.”
I invite all of you to make use of these technologies so that we and the future generations here can know the exuberance of human existence.
Editor’s Note: Visit isha.sadhguru.org and check out the Isha Upa-Yoga practices from Sadhguru. These short, powerful processes are an ideal starting point to help you create health, peace and wellbeing.