I was facilitating a day long “Learning Dialogue” on the relevance of the Pandava archetypes in our world today centered around my book “Leadership Dharma, Arjuna the Timeless Metaphor” (http://www.raghuananthanarayanan.com/books.html).
“What is the relevance of the Pandava heroes and entrepreneurship?” a young participant wanted to know. More than half of the group comprised of young people and they were all very keen on discussing this question. I am sharing with you some of the key ideas that came up. But firstly, you must understand that we are speaking about personas within us in an idealized form so that the discussion leads to introspection and action in our lives. The intent is not to have a theoretical discussion about mythical characters.
“Bhima with his restlessness and courage has to be the one who initiates new adventures” our young friend began the discussion.
“He is the one who is moved by passion. He is willing to act in the face of danger, in fact, danger evokes him and brings out the best in him.”
“Does he think through before acting?” was a question that engaged the group at this point in time. After looking at their own experiences, the group concluded that the ability to act first enter areas that others would think twice about venturing into was the defining characteristic of entrepreneurship. Bhima’s ability to inspire heroism and followership was seen as a great asset in the early days of a start up.
The group then looked at what makes the start-up grow.
“I guess the ability to create a team that is close knit and well bonded is a prime requisite to create a stable core.”
“Well that requires the Nakula to come forward and hold the team together.”
“I think I am a Nakula, and I have found Bhimas very difficult to work with. They keep extolling their strengths and are contemptuous of weaknesses. Trust is the glue that binds teams. The way each team member values the strengths of others is important, but how each team member holds the weaknesses and lacunae of the team-mates is crucial to creating a great team.”
The Bhimas in the group fell silent for a few minutes. “Yes, I have felt lonely and anxious when I have had to face my lacunae. The worst thing that has happened to me when I felt weak was to be shamed for some thing that is a limitation.”
“I am not suggesting that one indulges in self pity or in self deception, there is a time for action and a time for reflection and rejuvenation,” the Nakula offered. “When this balance is lost and the reciprocity of valuing is absent the group becomes brittle.”
It was settled that the ability of Bhima and Nakula to work together was crucial to the process of building the team and holding the team together in tough times.
“Soon we will need the solidity of a Yudhistra”
“But what will he do? He is the boring administrator” this was a true Bhima speaking!
“But, without the Yudhistra you Bhimas will gain territory without consolidation! The lesser-known side of Genghis Khan was his administrative brilliance? The moment he captured a city or a town he would make sure that a just administration was in place and laws were respected.”
“Yes, come to think of it, Alexander never consolidated his gains the way the Mongols did” the Bhimas conceded. “Whether I like it or not, once I capture the market, I have to learn how to govern it, give space to and empower the ones who will ensure predictability and scalability.”
“Let us see where Sahadeva fits in.”
“He is the knowledge-builder is he not? So without him, one will not be able to create a knowledge bank and therefore, the future capability of the organization belongs to him.”
“Yes, but, Sahadevas are not very action oriented and tend to procrastinate action till they are sure, so a Bhima will either get impatient with them, or tend to dismiss them as mere thinkers compared to the doers.”
“I guess that's where the Nakula energy becomes key to creating a context for collaboration and mutual valuing.”
“That makes sense, because, the Sahadeva can also be dismissive of the Bhima as some one who is driven by emotion and incapable of careful deliberation. He will simply withdraw into a shell.”
“Where does an Arjuna fit into to all this?”
Here the group went down many false trails. One strong idea was that Arjuna was the one full of focus, or that he listened to the words of the elders. When it was pointed out that narrow focus without perspective is a recipe for disaster the group went into a discussion about focus. A consensus was arrived at “focus in this context is the ability to persist with the dream and the chosen direction even when the current challenges become all absorbing.”
I then had to place before the group the question “If an entrepreneur is entering a new field, can she find a mentor? What will she seek advice for?” After some fierce argument and some divergent thinking the idea that seemed to make sense was “An entrepreneur walks a new path so the final dialogue she has to have is with her own deeper self. She must trust her intuition, dig deep to find inner potentials that she has not deployed so far, and above all trust ones own judgment act with intensity.” “So, the Krishna she seeks is within” they concluded.
At this point, I again asked a few key questions: “What made the battle ground (Kurukshetra) a ground where matters of Dharma were at stake (Dharmakshetra)? Why did Arjuna stop the war and ask fundamental questions? And why did he go through all the psychosomatic symptoms of stress at this point?”
Discussing these questions was not easy, each of the participants had to delve deep within themselves to explore them. One of the participants who had gone through a difficult turn around situation in her organization some time back came up with a perspective “Organizations tend to forget basic questions like why they exist? What was the founding vision? What are the core values that have enlivened them? They get bogged down either in firefighting or in adhering to systems and policies. At this point it is important for an Arjuna to appear and ask fundamental questions. In doing what we are doing, what are we really doing? Why are we in business? Should we remain in this business and so on. These are paradigm shifting questions and shake the ground which most of us take for granted.”
“Ah! So he is an entrepreneur too, but one who shifts the foundations”
“And when one stops the whole system to ask these questions for which there are no ready-made answers, one has to bring oneself in completely and stake oneself both in the asking of questions for which one does not have answers and in searching for the answers in the context of a crisis.”
“That is very difficult because it is stressful, and it is personal too.”
“Yes, that's why deep personal integrity, and the ability to take on the stress and the anxiety of the group is important. If you remember, a Sthita Pragnya is described as one who can comprehend the whole situation and all its positive and negative dimensions without getting dislocated from the larger meaning purpose of the mission.”
My work revolves around helping individuals, groups and organizations discover their Dhamma, and become “the best they can be”. This aligns with my own personal saadhana. I have restated this question for my self as follows: “how can I be in touch with the well spring of my love for the world and my love for my self simultaneously”