"After our youngest son had seen Star Wars for the twelfth or thirteenth time, I said, "Why do you go so often?" He said, "For the same reason you have been reading the Old Testament all of your life." He was in a new world of myth." Bill Moyers, interview with Joseph Campbell











PRABUDDHA BHARATA Prabuddha Bharata | November 2004  





              Communication in the Light of Indian Wisdom



               Sri Prakash Lohia




     Among the famous nine courtiers in the court of Emperor Vikramaditya, known as nine jewels for their wisdom, learning and mastery in arts and letters, two great literary luminaries were Bhavabhuti and Mahakavi Kalidasa.


     To overestimate ones own talent and to resent the recognition of others achievements as overstatement is a common human folly, and even Bhavabhuti could not rise above it. He could not suppress for long his anguish at being rated second to Kalidasa in literary merit and expressed it one day to the emperor himself.




     Importance of Right Communication




     Quite often CEOs in the modern corporate world also face such dilemmas, when they have to establish the worth of their judgments (including unpleasant feedbacks) of human talent to their team members, who often individually wield higher merit in their own fields than the leader himself. And this has to be achieved without allowing resentments and de-motivation to set in. The more meritorious the team, the subtler are the interacting forces, and the greater is the challenge to uphold the morale, motivation and creativity of the team. The most important, nay, the only instrument left to the leader is the transparency and fairness of the decisions or judgments at every stage, and the subtlety of its communication to all concerned, befitting the situation.




     Human Resources Management in a Bygone Era




     Let us go back to our original narration. Vikramaditya was taking a morning stroll in the royal garden accompanied by both Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti. Such strolls were perhaps a part of the royal daily routine. It is not very difficult to imagine the subject matter of discussion and also the underlying tension that often accompanies the creative interaction of titans. It is again not difficult to imagine how Vikramaditya, a great patron of excellence that he was, would effortlessly utilize such tension to elicit the best from his team. Suddenly a dead dry tree standing by the wayside caught his attention. And Vikramaditya found in it the right opportunity to put at rest the anguish haunting Bhavabhuti.


     To carry an unresolved problem just below the conscious level, a part of the mind continuously pondering on it unawares, while carrying on normally with other work, and arriving at the solution in a flash, stimulated by some factor, internal or external - most of us experience this once in a while. Great leaders have to carry many unresolved problems, and such mechanism becomes a part of the normal functioning for them. It is not very difficult to imagine how Vikramaditya might have asked his learned companions to describe the dead tree without exposing the purpose behind. Propelled by the unconscious urge to prove his merit (agitation of rajas), Bhavabhuti prattled, Shushkam kashtham tishthatyagre; A dry piece of wood stands there in front. He then looked at Kalidasa. Kalidasa muttered, Nirasataruvara-purato bhage; A stark arid, towering tree looms ahead.


     A great manager of human affairs, Vikramaditya continued with his earlier discussions without betraying any expression, as if nothing had happened. This was a rare feat of excellence in human relations by a CEO. Bhavabhuti was himself a poet of great merit. The fact that, in spite of being a contemporary of the great Kalidasa, he could leave a separate identity and mark for himself establishes his literary genius beyond all doubt.


     We all know that highly creative people nurture highly sensitive egos and they possess a very effective defensive mechanism to protect it, a mechanism capable of shielding any communication appearing as a threat to the ego. The sensor operating the defensive mechanism is self-respect or self-esteem. The same self-esteem can be intelligently used to disarm the defensive mechanism as well. That is precisely what Vikramaditya did. By playing down the whole issue, he allowed Bhavabhuti to ponder over it, accept the qualitative difference and retreat with his self-esteem intact. To borrow an expression from the guna theory of the Sankhyas, Vikramaditya made sattva prevail over rajas, while very subtly conducting the interactive session to resolve the conflict.


     As a practising manager I could not control the urge to impart a case-study touch to the ancient historical episode. My apology to the learned readers for making the background too lengthy before starting with the main topic.




     Divinizing Communication




     Strangely enough, I landed myself in the shoes of Bhavabhuti, of course on a nano scale, confronting Mahakavi Kalidasa after a time gap of nearly fifteen hundred years. In a rare feat of imagination, I penned down some thoughts on the relationship of thought and word in an expression or communication, which I reproduce below.


     Thought and word are entwined in an expression. It is true for both contemplation within and communication with the outer world. If language is the body of expression, thoughts are the life or the Spirit permeating the body. The Spirit depends on the body to manifest. Without the body the Spirit is inconceivable, and the body without the Spirit means death and decay. Thoughts need language to express itself. The subtler the thought, the more refined the medium it gropes for to communicate. It is like the artists imaginative faculty and his mastery over the creation of colours in different shades and hues and the techniques of their proper application. We are told that Michelangelo, the great artist and sculptor of Italy, worked like a miner for some years in a quarry to develop the feel of marble. To him it was not just a cold, lifeless piece of stone but a lively medium responding with pain and pleasure to every touch of his chisel, letting his dream come true. In the statues of David and Moses, the ageless creations of the master, we find the consummation of the loftiest flights of imagination and perfection of the medium of expression.


     If after such an articulation, a person of my talent and merit feels somewhat elated in self-esteem, the wise will take a kinder view, and may utter a few words of appreciation as well with due sincerity. But lo, the moments of pride were very short-lived. I stumbled upon a verse of the great Kalidasa dealing with the same subject. First of all, with the limited range of knowledge and limited span of interest that I possess, I am not supposed to come across Kalidasas Raghuvamsha. Even if that happens, coming across the very verse dealing with the subject of my maiden literary venture is too weird a happening to accept as mere chance. Rather I shall prefer to accept it as my tryst with destiny (in the field of scholastics) and share with you the expressions of the master: Vagarthaviva sampriktau vagartha-pratipattaye; Jagatah pitarau vande parvati-paramaeshvarau (I bow, lowly, in obeisance to You,/ O Queen Parvati and Lord Parameshvara,/ The twin parents of the eer-moving worlds./ Bonded, as one, as word and its inhering thought/ Even so may my words and thoughts instill unwavering faith).


     This verse is the invocation hymn to Goddess Parvati and Lord Parameshvara at the beginning of the epic poem Raghuvamsha. The poet prays to Them that just as They are inseparably bonded as one and the same - much as a word and the thought it carries - so may his words be bonded with their indwelling thought and may this united harmony awaken the faculty of understanding in the readers of the epic work. (The English rendering of the verse and the explanation is courtesy Prof Shyamal Banerjee.)


     They say that every cloud has a silver lining. Though mediocrity is despised in intellectual circles, it shields the person under its spell from the pangs of egotism. No sooner did I come out of the initial shock of disappointment, than I started wondering about the expressions of the master and just went into raptures.


     It is a verse with just twelve words arranged in two lines in the form of a hymn, invoking the blessings of Divinity at the beginning of an important undertaking, as part of the time-honoured Indian tradition. At the same time the verse is elevated to the heights of a bija mantra to invoke the divine Spirit behind every expression by associating the word and thought with Purusha and Prakriti. Every expression is thus identified with the cosmic creation, the jagat; every communication is brought under the auspices of satyam, shivam and sundaram.




     ~ ~ ~




     In todays world, when we find that the only unit of measurement left is material benefit; when every human talent and creativity is a commodity to be encashed into the fastest million; when often the strong oppress the weak in the guise of globalization; when Socialism meets its fate in Stalinization and Capitalism in Enronization; when sophistry is allowed to replace philosophy and cynicism dons the garb of idealism - do we feel somewhere deep in our hearts that things are not right? It is high time we paused and lent our ears to the feeble but clear message of eternal India: Creation is the cosmic dance of Shiva. Nothing in the creation is secular; everything is sacred, spiritual, a means to worship the Truth and realize the Truth.

International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015






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