Firms should not look at humans as markets: Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev speaks on everything from inclusive economics to how great leaders don’t take themselves too seriously

Many people who are creating businesses never understand inclusion is expansion, says Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.
Many people who are creating businesses never understand inclusion is expansion, says Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

About 206 entrepreneurs looking to scale up their businesses participated in the fifth annual leadership workshop conducted by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation at its campus in Coimbatore last week. Mint is a partner for the programme. Participants heard speakers ranging from State Bank of India chief Arundhati Bhattacharya to Rahul Narayan, “fleet commander” of Team Indus, the only Indian team in the race for the Google Lunar X Prize that requires contestants to send a spacecraft to the moon.

In an interview, Sadhguru, who blends mysticism with pragmatism, talked about everything from inclusive economics to how great leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. Edited excerpts:

Advice to young business leaders

If you have a large vision, you will anyway be a failure. But if you are blissed out, it doesn’t matter. If you are really blissed out from within, you will do your best. All your goals are just your thoughts. The only and only reason why people are miserable is (because) life does not happen the way they think it should happen. You have come with no investment. When you leave, you will leave empty-handed. So now whatever happens, you are in the profit side. What are you complaining about? Extend your thought in such a way you clearly know anyway it will not happen in your lifetime. But the question is - have you set the direction for the next generations to fulfil your dream? Make your dreams so big that you know it will not be fulfilled. Now it’s only a question of how many pieces of the dream can be made to happen in your life.

On problem-solving

There are no problems in the world. There are just situations. Some situations you know how to handle. Some you do not know how to handle. That’s (all) there is (to it). So, if you know how to handle all the situations around you, that means you are not growing, you are stagnant. If you are touching new terrain every day, then every day there will be something you don’t know how to handle. It’s a good sign.

On leadership

If people have to perceive you as a leader, they must think you are great. There is no good leader. First of all, if you think you are a leader, you are just messed up in your head. People should think you are a leader. If you think you are a big success, again you are messed up. Other people should think you are a success. If the world says you are a success, all right it’s good for them. But, if you think you are a success, (then) that means you have hit a point from where there is no other way for you. If you don’t take yourself seriously, you will die joyfully. If you take yourself seriously, you will go through a lot of misery.

On inclusive economics

How do you run an economy without including everybody? What is the point of such an economy? The people who are creating businesses largely never understand inclusion is expansion. You can either expand by conquest or by inclusion. If you expand by inclusion, you will expand limitlessly and with ease. If you expand by conquest, it all depends till you meet somebody else who is a bigger conqueror than you, and it will happen with too much pain, blood and gore. Corporates should have a brilliant team of people who look at how to make their products in such a way that it will serve humanity. You must learn to look at human beings as human beings, not as markets.

On Indian farmers

I am involved with the farming community in southern India. I think not even 10% of the next generation i.e. the children of the present farmers intend to be in farming, and the parents definitely don’t want them in farming. They want them to go to a city. They want them to go to America. This is wrong for Indian farming. This is happening because they have come to (realise) this – it doesn’t matter what you do, your life is not going to be better. They watch on television, in movies that somewhere else everybody is having the best of life. Here, they are tilling land from morning till evening and in the end, anyway it’s a disappointment. Even if money comes, the life in the village is not good. One of the first things that must happen is simple entertainment that is available in the city must come to the village. This might be time to take sport to villages in a big way. Cinema, sport, music, these kind of things must come. We are also trying to spread folk music in the villages...That’s the only you can overcome the hardship of working on land. It’s not easy. We must make life in the village a little better.

We have killed more farmers than the soldiers who have died in Indo-Pak wars (referring to the alarming number of farmer suicides). This is a tragedy of mega proportions. We think it is normal for farmers to die, but we don’t understand one of the greatest achievements of free India is we are able to produce food for 1.3 billion people. It is our farmer and his intrinsic knowledge of the land and the crop that is bringing this out for us. We should not take this for granted. It will not last very long.

You have worked with everyone from prisoners to farmers. You have given lessons on everything from yoga to leadership. What’s next for you?

I have not worked with farmers. I have not worked with prisoners. I have only worked with human beings. I didn’t see anybody as anything other than that. My work is with the human being because (for) the fundamental human mechanism to raise it to its full potential, certain cobwebs have to be removed. If you want to really rise as a human being, you must forget that you are a woman. I must forget that I am a man. You must forget that you are a Hindu, you are an Indian. You must forget all limited identities that you have taken up. My work is to help people to find the immensity of what it means to be human.

On the motivation for the leadership workshop

If a nation has to succeed, its businesses have to succeed. If its businesses have to succeed, the people who conduct the businesses have to evolve in some way. India has many family businesses. These families have conducted the businesses sensibly. They have immense knowledge about this business. They have conducted everything very judiciously. But they have reached a point and they can’t grow beyond that. The family which was of immense support as a foundation for the business slowly has become a fortress that they cannot cross. This is the case with a lot of families. Many have broken through that, but many are stuck there. One fundamental reason is every generation doesn’t come up with the same skill. So, when a certain generation does not come up with the same skill, we are unable to cross that barrier and look for the skills elsewhere because there is the “Dhritarashtra Syndrome”. Dhritarashtra was a blind king in Mahabharat. So it doesn’t matter what is the quality of his son. At any cost, his son should rule. That is the Dhritarashtra Syndrome. It is still continuing in the country in many ways. In businesses also, there is Dhritarashtra Syndrome -- no matter what, my son should take over whether he is fit or not fit.

Conducting the business and enjoying the fruits of that wealth are two different things. This separation needs to happen with many families.

And above all, a spiritual process is a way of enhancing yourself. Unfortunately, a message has gone about, this image has spread everywhere (that) spirituality is some kind of a disability. Spirituality is the constant enhancement of who you are. If you do not enhance yourself, how do you enhance your activity? Right now the problem with most human beings is just this. (With multi-tasking and other things), what you are trying to do is - you are trying to enhance your activity without enhancing yourself. It is like you trying to drive a Maruti like a Ferrari. It will break up for sure.

If you think your work is important, it is very important you work upon yourself. So that’s why spiritual process and business have to come together.

On US election results

Right now in America, there is a feeling they are not doing well. They are doing better than anybody in the world but they are not doing as well as they think they should be doing. So naturally there are emotions of nationalism. So accordingly they will choose that kind of leader.