Integrating Spirituality into Daily Life

It is not imposition of religion but adoption of values.

Spirituality is the sheet anchor of stability and harmonious functioning, which are the hallmarks of achievement in organizational as well as personal life.

Caught in the stressful rat race of life today, people are increasingly trying to seek comfort in spirituality, through meditation, religious activities, and so on. However, there still persists a view that spirituality is outmoded and opposed to scientific and economic progress.

Spirituality has to be distinguished from religion, which basically consists of prayer, worship and rituals. On the other hand, spirituality captures the spirit of philosophy, ethics, and values. It is something which an individual voluntarily adopts to lead a happy and peaceful life—personal or corporate. Spirituality can bring about order and harmony in the competitive society.

Though, by and large, it is agreed that spirituality does provide stability, acting as an anchor, still there is need to accelerate the process of creating a spiritual awareness among larger groups of people, eventually encompassing all members of the society.

Tattvaloka, which is committed to spreading truth and real values of life, organised on May 6, 2007, a seminar on Integrating Spirituality into Daily Life, to explore the relevance and applicability of spirituality in difference walks of life and to draw an appropriate plan for further action towards disseminating the message in different nooks and corners of the society.

A panel of speakers well-versed in their respective domains and having strong convictions and commitment to values was invited top air their views on the impact of spirituality on life. About 200 people from various walks of life attended.

Universal Values

Dr. M. B. Athreya, the well-known management consultant who has espoused the cause of spirituality in all his lectures, chaired the meeting. In his opening remarks he underscored the need to infuse spirituality in all spheres of life—personal, organizational and as a member of the community. However, he was emphatic that spirituality need not necessarily be a ritualistic or religious exercise, but should promote certain commonly held universal values.

Dr. Athreya pointed out that spirituality was consistent with objectivity because, unlike religion where one might have been influenced by one’s family members or society at large, in the case of spirituality the individual voluntarily accepts and adopts certain values. With these opening remarks and making a passionate appeal for Atma vichara, he invited the speakers on the panel to air their views.

A Challenging Task

Sri R. Seshasayee, CMD, Ashok Leyland Ltd, said integrating spirituality into daily life was a challenging task and answers are not easy to be found One may be spiritually inclined, but a failure be in the business field, while another may not be much concerned with spirituality, but would be successful in his career or business. However, spirituality did not mean inaction. In fact, action is the basic of spirituality from greed. He was not against people having aspirations or ambitions but they must be genuine and not based on greed.

In his professional life, he had come across several young executives who were excellent in meeting the targets within the given deadline, but constantly worried about getting rewarded for the work done. According to Mr. Seshasayee, one should pursue the job or do the duty talking it as a challenge and start enjoying what one does. In this context, he took up the example of one working in a project injurious to public health, such as a cigarette manufacturing company, and said if it was the livelihood of that person, it was all right if his conscience was clear at the end of the day. The acid test of Knowing whether a decision/action of ours is good or bad is whether we can have a good night’s sleep.

Balancing Need and Greed

Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, an eminent doctor and orator, speaking about spirituality in the fields of education and medicine, said both were important sectors of our economy. However, while both the sectors have made dramatic advances qualitatively, they have become marketable commodities with corporatisation spreading to the length and breadth of both fields. This was not a healthy sign.

On the other hand, there is a positive side as well. For instance, the definition of health has under-gone a sea change since the 1980s and has now come to include spiritual health also.

In this backdrop, Dr. Sudha Seshayyan called for a balance between need and greed. That could be done only through integration of spirituality. Education, especially medical education, where even bright students were afraid to appeals for examinations out of fear of scoring lower marks, was a field which badly needed spiritual training. Talking about spiritual values, she cited the not much heard of example of Hanuman putting the Sanjivi Parvata back in its place after talking it far away for the treatment of Lakshmana. Hanuman had the consideration that the mountain would be of use to others if it was so put back.

Regarding the exorbitant cost of medical treatment nowadays, she said the best idea would be coun9seling, placing before the patient all the available means and consequences and letting him have the choice.

She, however, said there were a number of problems and there was no single shot solution for all of them. One has to imbibe spirituality and be a role model for others, she said.

Mindless Pursuit

Mr. Raja Krishnamurti, a HR professional and corporate trainer, blamed mindless pursuit of objectivity for all ills and pitched in for developing self-awareness among the people. Before one seeks to integrate spirituality into daily life, one need to understand what is spirituality and what it can do to stop the mindless pursuit of objectivity.

He expressed anguish and concern about today’s impatience/haste, excessive desire and mindless aggressiveness in pursuit of objectives. While material progress is good and desirable, wishing for instance, initially the mobile phone served the purpose as a facilitator, but slowly became a deep-rooted pastime.

The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, had rightly said long ago that “there is enough food for every hungry man, but not enough for a greedy person.” If we all have to come out of this mindless possession/greed, there is an urgent need for directing all our actions towards providing and offering and not simply receiving, he stressed.

Moreover, people achieving certain things in their respective fields tend to become arrogant, forgetting that it is the society from which they took so much and they need to give it back.

Job Satisfaction

Dr. R. Kannan, Chief Vigilance Officer, Madras Fertilizers, emphasized the need to inculcate a feeling of job satisfaction in everyone’s pursuit. In his opinion, every situation can be converted into an opportunity if one has the right attitude and develops the habit of give, forgive and compassion towards fellow human beings.

The role of public sector has changed from controlling the commanding heights of economy to one of being a facilitator. However, in his opinion, government still has a major role to play with regard to providing good governance, apart from laying sound infrastructure for productive activities to be taken up with the ultimate object of improving people’s welfare.

Role of Music

Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan, a dedicated musician, said that in the face of the multitudinous problems one faces each day, spirituality was the only tonic which could give sustained energy. He was confident that music could tune the mind to such an approach. He was very much in favour of a ‘tampura therapy’ for all ills of the society.

He pointed out that the Sanskrit equivalent of culture—Kalachara—itself combined art and austerities which complement each other in Sanatana Dharma. However, he was painted by the degenerating trend nowadays and appealed to people not to associate music with cheap objectives.

Sri Santhanagopalan regretted that the fast pace of life in the current days, such as that in the corporate and the IT sectors, where men and women were glued to their tables day and night, certainly required remedial measures which spirituality along could give and music should aid that process.

Media and Spirituality

Sri Venkatesh, Assistant Vice-President, Vikatan Publications, speaking about the scope for spirituality in the media, chose to talk about individual values and corporate values separately. He picturesquely described how one talking up journalism imagines a halo around him probably caused by the easy access to people in power and the ability to present news and views and how in course of time he comes to terms with the reality.

Then he gets a real grasp of issues and finds a role for himself in identifying and finding solutions to society’s problems. Thereafter he builds up a value system. There is similar growth in organizational development also and both come to the aid of society in highlighting issues and finding solutions.

Appreciating this view, the chairperson brought attention to the media’s ability to dig out the truth, sometimes after a great ordeal.

Right Priorities

Dr. Athreya in his concluding remarks emphasized the need to place organizational interest above personal interest and national interest above organizational interest. However, sometimes in the larger interests of the society, breaking the rules also may not be a bad idea. In this regards, he recollected the observations of Sri G. D. Birla at FICCI meet in 1979, wherein he said, “Let more Chairmen go to jail for exceeding the capacity.” While emphasizing the need to overcome tamas and ahankara, he exhorted the people to do Atma vichara.

He underscored the need for courage to question unwise decisions impacting many. Lastly, he called for an action plan to take the movement further ahead so that synchronization of spirituality with daily life becomes the reality. He called for an action plan by the professionals to take the lead in spreading that awareness.

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