Recently, I traveled to California’s San Francisco bay Area to celebrate the graduation of a relative. It was a wonderful experience to see all of the graduates expressing unmitigated joy, feeling of great accomplishment, and anticipation that comes with getting an MBA. There were hugs, laughter, animated talk and excitement everywhere. There was no sense of competition or expression of ego.
As the days following the convocation ceremonies passed, talk naturally turned to job search. And slowly the efforts of the graduates started to turn towards showing why the job seeker is better than other applicants with the same degree. It is not at all that one is trying to show another in a bad light, but each one is trying to show why he or she is better than the rest of the pack.
This is the beginning of competitiveness; which, along the way, can turn from a healthy one into something that has taken some very wrong turns in one’s career, as the person faces the reality of the fiercely competitive nature of the workplace, especially in the world-leading technology space called the Silicon Valley.
So, what happened? The true nature of our so-called “advanced civilization” becomes apparent. The emphasis and focus is on beating others at the game; success at any cost; jumping over thIs this what our scriptures taught us? Of course not.
Bhagavad Gita teaches us “to see the Self in all and all in the Self”. We can, all of us, progress together, so that no one is left behind.
Does this mean that those who are more capable and more talented are hand-holding those who are not? Not at all. Everyone has something to contribute, everyone has unique strengths. The principle of dharma, which means righteous conduct, reveals that what we do in the right spirit benefits not only us, but benefits the world as well.
Hindu scriptures also elaborate on doing karma (or karma yoga) which is selfless work and selfless service, as one of the paths to salvation (moksha). Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2 Verse 47, says “Karmanyevaadhikaaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadaachana”, which means that “You have only the right to do your work and duties, but you do not have the right to any expectations of what the outcome or results might be”; in other words, our efforts should not be based on selfish motivations or self gratification. Our efforts should be based purely on what the right thing to do is; the right thing is defined as being of benefit to all, and at no one’s expense. At no one’s expense implies also that we do not exploit nature and other species – that we do not clear cut forests, we do not strip mine or pollute the water, that we do not hunt other species to extinction.
In practical terms, this also means that we conduct our lives in a collaborative fashion, not in a competitive manner. This way of being is beautifully described in Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12 Verses 13 and 14, as being a compassionate person.
Being compassionate and competitive are mutually exclusive. Being compassionate implies that one has evolved to the highest spiritual state, and has developed divine love for everyone and everything in the universe.
Suresh Basrur practises the Hindu faith, participates in inter-faith activities in Victoria, and speaks to audiences about Hindu religion, philosophy and practices.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, June 6th 2019.