“The Gita: A matchless metaphor for management” [Archives:2006/961/Education]

July 3 2006

Anil K Prasad, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
Faculty of Arts
Ibb University.
[email protected]

In the Indian Embassy Hall, Sana'a, on Friday morning of May 5, 2006 the Indian community was enthralled by Professor D. Thakur's talk on the significance of the Gita, ” book the eternal, the global”, as he defined it and underscored “its great contemporary relevance” for those who are “managing” to “be” and “become”, what V.S. Naipaul called “with a sense of two worlds” or the in-betweenness of home and abroad. The talk was an annual event organized by the Indian Embassy Club. Professor A.K.Sharma, set the tone of the talk by referring to the fight of Arjuna and “how he came out with the odyssey of life with flying colours” by “managing” the physical and spiritual scales of his personality. He hailed Professor Thakur as a ” Gita Purush” who, actually, lives in a true state of no-attachment. Professor Jayaraman performed his “proud and pleasant duty” of welcoming the chief guest, H.E. Mr A. Karuppaiya the Ambassador of India to the Republic of Yemen, the special guest Dr Abdulwahab Al-Meqaleh, President of the Oriental Cultural Association of Yemen, and other distinguished guests who traveled from different campuses of Sana'a, Tai'z, Ibb, Dhamar, and Hodeidah to attend this talk. They were also greeted by Professor Thakur as the “co-authors of his book.” Professor J.S.Shaw, visiting professor, Sana'a University, presided over the function. Dr Yogesh K Sinha gave the vote of thanks. The programme's circularity of melodic structure was heightened by the singing of bhajans by Mrs Shayamala Rangnathan, Mrs Manisha Sinha and Dr Satyartha Prakash Tripathy. It is important to note that Professor D. Thakur's Geeta: The Song Extraordinary (2005) has been widely-acclaimed for its “bold and original” approach and a “new contemporary reading of the Gita” (Dr Karan Singh, Foreword, x).

Commenting on Professor Thakur's magnum opus, Professor Mohan Raj, Faculty of Education, Ta'iz University, described Gita: The Song Extraordinary, “Not a translation of the original or a commentary on it; it is something like Shankar Bhashya which can be better understood as an important treatise on comparative religion.”

Professor J. N. Patnaik, a visiting professor in Sana'a University said, “Professor Thakur's approach is different from the conventional approaches as he has treated the Geeta as a human document – a book wherein knowledge 'compacted lie'. It is a book that does not pretend. Its language is lucid and simple.” Professor P. K. Sinha, a visiting professor, Sana'a University, called the book a work of scholarship which combines together in it the knowledge of linguistics, literature and literary criticism. Professor B.N.Singh, a visiting professor, Sana'a University, expressed his “feeling of joy” at the “range of scholarship, profundity, keen insight and analytical ability of the author”. Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Meqaleh expressed his hope that this book would be read and appreciated everywhere. Professor V.S.Dubey, Hodeidah University said that the book “is sprinkled with words of wisdom.”

Some unheard melodies: Management of life, living and the message of going ahead

Professor Thakur summarized the message of the Gita as “The image of someone going ahead with a balanced, harmonious expansion of oneself.” In his opinion “this is what makes the book global, anitya and enduring.” “Here is a book that talks about unity: “a dynamic togetherness of the sky and the earth, of Krishna and Partha”. This is the message of the Gita for the people of management today. “In the Geeta a prophetic voice speaks in an exuberant language for a harmonious expansion of one's personality, not the one-sided expansion. It is a book that tells us not only to live – exist – but to become and to leave the Bill Gates of today far behind.”

The modern age is the Management Age. Management is the cry of today. “Does the Gita have anything to offer for the managers, directors and the business executives of today? The answer is “Yes”. One has to “manage” oneself first, otherwise a man is nothing but a bundle of undisciplined, unordered, undefined, unsophisticated talents. Referring to the lives of some of the great personalities like Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770), Harold Hart Crane (1899-1932), Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), Jack London(1876-1916), Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) and Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), he said that these personalities, though incredible in their intellectual energy and caliber could not “manage” their lives well unfortunately and ended their precious lives abruptly and abnormally.

“Apart from the management of grief and joy in one's life one should manage to come out of the “prisons of joys and sorrows”. Management, as a profession, is full of ups and downs of a very serious nature and here lies the true worth of the Gita for the managers. For not only its message will awaken the hidden potential in them but also enable them to comprehend the micro and macro contexts of the emotive and financial catastrophes they might suffer in their professional career”, he said.

The image of India: So old and yet so new

Geeta is “an energetic expression of that thing we call India. Here is a book that reflects the eternal spirit of India”. “India is not a geographical territory with 1 billion of human beings. India is a conviction, a realizable message, a philosophy. Where the earth and the sky meet that horizon is eternal India.” “For me trying to discover India is the Gita. It is a glimpse of eternal India, for me it is a discovery of India. I've never been apologetic about it. I'm rather proud of it.” He quoted Sri Aurobindo, Aldous Huxley and Albert Einstein to underline the “enduring value” of the Gita for the world today. He urged the audience to conquer the enemy of self-distrust and to doubt everything ” for doubts are at the very root of success” and to “project, organize and acquit oneself for doing is the mother of success. Don't just 'be' – 'become' and achieve the impossible, awaken the hidden possibilities in you and become good managers.”

The end is where we start from: Not fare well, / But fare forward voyagers

Prof J.S. Shaw, in his presidential observations said that the discourse was an “extremely enlightening experience for me and all of us” for three reasons: the image of going ahead, for the possibilities of being and becoming and for embodying “a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization.”

“The end is where we start from,” inspired by the Gita wrote T.S. Eliot in his poem Four Quartets. Truly, for Arjuna, the Pandava prince, the battle of Kurukshetra was not the end of his being ) that was the beginning of his becoming – nirdvando hi mahabaho sukham bandhatpramucyate :

An archer's disillusioned dilemma

In the midst of the battle-field;

Song of sang-froid follows;

Widowed dumb tears burn beside

The devouring flames of funeral pyres.

Scavengers search of gold

Hot dry bones in the ash

Of flesh.

Fragrance of life

Pounded out on

The anvil of duty. ()Anil K Prasad, from “Time Talks”)