Seattle 1-Day Retreat Aug, 2015
Retreat in Bellevue, Seattle
Aug 29th, 2015
Address by Dr. Shashank Shah
Sairam, Sisters and Brothers
As I mentioned recently in one of our study circle reports, the alumni of Swami's educational establishments in India are now manifesting in all aspects of society, and particularly in the US, where many of them seem to emigrate to in order to avail themselves of the superior conditions in this country for professional advancement. But, further, they are not only working successfully in this country, they are, even after such a short time (these educational establishments were only set up in the 1980s in India), showing up in the top echelons of this country. Swami's plan is bearing fruit very rapidly, and it is interesting to note that He seems to have chosen the US as the main beneficiary of His efforts.
Dr. Shashank Shah is one such alumnus, and at the very young age of 32 yrs. already has many accomplishments to his name. He is currently at Harvard doing post-doctoral work on Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.
1. For the first part of his address, he chose to speak on the HOW of business, how it should be done.
He introduced this by reminding us of the importance of education. And of how Swami had started his life. As a student he had taken (and taught) all lessons – music, sport, drama (he wrote and directed dramas), as well as the normal studies. He had been a scout and valued friendship. It was known at his school that Swami came from a poor family and one of the richer children offered to give money to Swami in order to be able to procure something. Swami refused, explaining that friendship was not a business deal.
Education, Dr. Shah reminded us, must be to impart the value and necessity of humility. It must resemble a heavily laden fruit tree, which bends to allow its fruits to be picked. And this applies to business also.
He mentioned a pilgrim to P.N. who had been ill and who Swami had cured. Swami told her, 'I did not cure you; your faith and conviction cured you.' This was to emphasize how vitally important faith and conviction are. One could think of the great scientists of the past – Fleming, Enstein, etc. – and more recently the giants of the tech world – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs. They all had absolute conviction in their ideas.
One of the theories of Management is To Be, To Do, To See (observe and re-assess) and To Tell. This puts conventional management philosophy on its head. First, be the servant and do it. If this is done well, then leadership will be thrust on the individual. Simply because the individual has demonstrated he is interested in serving.
It always seems to come back to Serving.
On Event Management he told us that leaders must micro-manage. While delegating, they must also check all details. All work, even the smallest and the apparently most insignificant, is Swami's work - all aspects of home life, work life, driving, etc. And he/she must lead from the front. Start it properly and wind it up properly. Strive for excellence in every area of life.
The boys in the school in Puttaparthi were set to work once sweeping the yard. One boy, rich, had never held a broom before. Passing by, Swami observed him and told he was not sweeping correctly. The boy confessed he did not know how to. Swami took the broom and demonstrated how it is done. The boy stood by watching. At that moment a master came upon the scene and was astounded to see Swami sweeping with the student just standing watching. The master was so incensed he came near to striking the boy. However, just in time, the boy explained that Swami was teaching him how to sweep! So, we see from this, that even the president, chairman, of an organization must be prepared to roll up his sleeves and help, do what is necessary. And without anger or blame.
One day it was observed that during Darshan Swami, whilst walking amongst the devotees as usual, taking letters, was deviating considerably from his normal routes. Afterwards, when questioned about this, Swami replied that he had noticed that some devotees had looked anxious and concerned and he had realized that they could not hear, because some parts of the audio system were not working properly. His extra 'walks' had enabled him to pinpoint exactly which speakers were at fault. They were later repaired. So, even when the event had started the 'boss' was still micro-managing!
One of the problems, apparently, in business is how to inspire those employees who work for you, how to get them so excited about their work or project that they begin to feel they own it. When an individual or a team feel they own a project then, it has been seen, that work is done with excellence and therefore achieves results. So, how does a leader do this? How do you get your employees to own their projects/work? By following Swami's example. By being interested in the most menial of tasks, like sweeping, and bringing an art, a skill, perhaps a beauty to it. That surely is inspiring. When we micro-manage to the smallest detail, paying a visit to the most insignificant department of the organization and talking to those staff, it also has the added benefit of validating those employees, making them feel counted, important and valued. This leads to confidence. As Swami has so often pointed out, confidence is the foundation of life. Imagine an organization where even the cleaners of the bathrooms feel valued! It is not all about remuneration - although that too is very important.
For young people he pointed out that you are only going to be listened to, taken seriously, if you have the qualifications of the world – college degrees, PhDs, etc. - so, although we strive to be not of the world, we must be in it, thereby acquiring the means, the power, to influence it for the good.
Technology is like a knife. In the hands of a surgeon it will cure; in the hands of a bad man it will kill. So, teach your child the responsible use of technology.
2. Dr. Shah then touched on symbolism. Symbols are the age-old teaching tools of all great teachers. We must grasp the symbolism behind everything, Swami tells us. For example, the symbol of the limbs being part of the body, can be carried over to families forming that society, and so on. There is great symbolism to be found in nature. Symbolism gets one thinking, reflecting. For example, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
While helping out in a shop once in Puttaparthi, a woman asked Dr. Shah what the expiry date of a packet of vibhuthi was. Vibuthi, as we all know, is the end product of everything. It is ash, which everything material eventually becomes, and it cannot deteriorate to anything further. Dr. Shah replied: vibhuthi is symbolic of our expiry date!
Swami has said that we do not grasp the symbolism behind everything. This is a very important statement. It enjoins us to reflect more, to observe more. To work our way back to the Cause of everything, to give less importance to the multitude of manifestations that comprise the material level.
Many people came/come onto Swami's path via Howard Murphet's book: The Man of Miracles. That was the primary school level of Swami's teaching. Murphet's next book takes us to a higher level, more symbolic. It is called Where the Road Ends. This is beyond miracles. It teaches that we must do good and give back to society. We must realize that we are embodiments of Swami.
The only spiritual practice is to realize that we are not the body, but are God. All other practices are just 'good' practices.
Love My teaching, Swami said. Not Me. That is perhaps the most important thing Dr. Shah said.
While on the subject of symbolism, we could recall that the ancient culture of India has perhaps given the world more riches than any other culture. As a plea, perhaps, not only to be aware of this but also to do something about it, Dr. Shah lamented that nobody takes on the responsibility of the preservation of this great culture.
3. Parenting and Children. Only when you take care of children with love can you demand things of them later. Parents must treat their children the way they would treat the jewels lent them by the neighbor. Children are gifts from God whom you must nurture and cultivate goodness in. On a very practical note, we were told, do not give them sweets (rewards) until they merit it.
Many of us have heard the anecdote of the father telling his boy he must never lie. Soon after the telephone had rung. The boy answered it and learned it was his father's boss. The father told the boy to say that he was not at home. 'My father says to tell you he is not at home!' said the honest little boy. Hopefully the father learned to do as he preached!
Bullying. Sai children in normal school are particularly prone to bullying, especially here in the US. Dr. Shah recommended that those parents go immediately to the school, discuss the situation and ensure that the necessary action is taken.
Always it is example that is the most powerful when we are dealing with others, particularly children, not what we say.
Discipline is very important. Only children who have a measure of self-discipline are admitted into the Sai educational system. Otherwise they would not be happy.
Sleep is very important for us all; it recharges the Atma. An adult should sleep for 7 – 8 hours a night. And there must be regularity in the time of retiring and rising. For a disciplined person 6 hours may be enough.
A child of 10 years should be getting 8 – 10 hours a night.
The body is actually a machine and it has its 'life' like a car or a cell phone. Ideally, we are born not to be born again. So, use your machine well.
Or look at it this way: Your body is your battery; don't waste the energy of your battery!
4. Ceiling On Desires. This is the last of the nine points of the Code of Conduct. Dr. Shah felt it should be the first. One day Swami emerged with a red eye. A doctor who was with him pointed out to Swami that His eye was red. Swami informed him He had got soap in his eye that morning, and not being willing to waste a lot of water trying to soothe His eye he had left it still smarting. 'I do not waste water,' he told the visiting doctor. 'The boys, on the other hand, waste water – a lot – when they clean their teeth and when they shave. It is the Divine who gives water. When you waste it you are being ungrateful to the Divine. Air, your energy, time – who has provided you with these? And you pay no taxes for them. The tax is gratitude!
One of the things Swami used to do with his students was to teach them how to budget. They had to learn how to make 100 Rs ($1.50) last for a month. 'You must not waste money,' Swami told his students. 'Appreciate and value the hard work of your parents.' Children will not be made happy with more money. Teach thrift. And institute routines.
'I have no holidays,' Swami told everyone. 'I only have Holy days!'
Time: things must start on time.
There are five limbs of the Visionary Program. Limit, put a ceiling on, your desires.
If we put ourselves in order, the world will come into order. And it starts with righteousness in the heart. Spirituality is a way of life; we practice it in the kitchen, in the garden, whilst driving, at work. Your spiritual life is your daily life. Do the rituals – they help by reminding us of God. Then follow your conscience. 'Then I will be very happy,' said Swami.
Things of this world are incapable of giving any joy. This world is temporary. The things of this world are designed to give worry.
The study of Swami's scriptures and the last of the nine points of the Code are absolutely essential if you feel you want to be on the Path.
Dr. Shah concluded his talk by taking us up to a more elevated level. 'The One cannot experience Love, so I separated Myself from Myself to love Myself.' This is Duality. And we humans are also playing this game with our larger selves. And in order to re-unite each has a customized game plan.
Get rid of the mind, get beyond the mind, lose your sense of identity. Touch the cosmic vibration.
When yoga was given, aeons ago, it included five aspects. The physical exercise was only one aspect. Today, people mistake this aspect for the whole of yoga.
Swami teaches that whatever happens is good for us; it is ordained by God and our higher selves.
Those of us on the spiritual path experience more pain and difficulty than the average individual. This is because the spiritual path has been designed for our evolution.
Prayer is a means of expressing our feelings to our higher selves.
The first stage, dvaita (duality), there is the Master and the servant/messenger. At this point Jesus called himself the messenger of the Father.
The second stage (intermediate) there is the Master and the Son. Jesus said 'the Light is in me.'
The third stage (non-duality), advaita, there is no difference; Jesus said 'I am the Light' and 'I and my Father are One.'
I, your reporter, understand there is a parallel teaching in Islam.
On the atmic level we experience sohum, sohum – I and God are one.
Love and devotion and gratitude are what please Swami.