Mind, Body, Soul|Nov 17, 2010 8:09 AM| by:


Man-management is essentially an extension of self-management. What we see in others is a projection of our own selves.

A story is told about four people who viewed a tree standing in darkness differently depending on their own mental states. The epic poem Ramayana narrates with poetic beauty the feelings and reactions of Janaka’s courtiers when young Rama entered the bow-contest. The city folk pitied Sita who would lose her match just because Rama was tender, otherwise he was befitting her in every way. The strong and valiant in court felt a greater strength. The weak felt protected, while the demon king felt his own destruction and death draw near. Janaka saw in him a perfect manhood, while the sages felt the Incarnate’s tread. So each sees the world as an extension of his own fears and hopes.

The external universe, it is said, is an objectivisation of our internal universe. Does it mean that all persons are alike and the same, and we see the difference because of our state at the time? No. Rather, differentiation is the rule in Nature; variation is her method. True, there is a fundamental unity within, a oneness that cannot be seized by the mind, not felt by our surface emotions. The oneness is real and experiential, but perceived by another consciousness than the mind’s. It is a spiritual oneness and it would be rash to apply it at once in the field of mind, life and body. Such an attempt could end up in a mechanical regimentation and dull monotone.

So man on the surface is a complexity. We try to over-simplify and reduce things to a moral right and wrong, good and bad, but in reality and in the experience of practical psychology, it is not so. Each of us holds inside diverse elements of all shades, the dark as much as the bright. Often when endowed with a great possibility, we also possess the very negation of that possibility. However, we are carried away by frontal appearances seeing only what we are accustomed to habitually encounter in ourselves. Only we do not call it by that name. What we call in ourselves self-respect is seen as arrogance in another; our need is the other’s desire; our love is another person’s lust; our humility is another man’s weakness and submission; our forgiveness is another’s cowardice; our perfection is another’s rigidity; the list is endless. But in truth, others are simply a mirror in which we see our image. This means that we see only one side of life in human beings. We fail to see another, perhaps the more luminous and brighter side, simply because we have not yet seen that in ourselves. It is said, and rightly so, that one who has met his soul can see it in others too. Naturally, since the large part, and incidentally the best part of our nature, is sealed from our eyes, we ourselves live and work as limited entities.

The self-view and world view

A simple observation demonstrates that what we habitually call ourselves is nothing more than a confused or haphazardly arranged mass of sensations, information, reactions, desires, impulses, suggestions with a limited idea-force and emotion driving it with a weak will, helpless against every passing current. To this pell-mell, we give the name ‘me’ and somehow try to relate it to the world. And what do we find there? Only the same disorder.

This is the reality of the surface life of man. So long as we choose to accept this as the sole truth, all our reactions to others proceed from it. We assume, in our ignorance, that others too are like us — physical frames, slaves of habits and nervous sensations. We motivate them. We give them money as reward and punish the body for an act the mind has planned and life committed. Or we attribute motives that never existed, throwing our fear and suspicion onto others. And once we have succeeded in corrupting man’s consciousness, we say, we have succeeded. Yet, if we so choose, we can reverse the balance, by removing these measures. We begin to see in others a concealed possibility of which they themselves are not aware. We see behind the mask of error, the imminent birth of a good. Not only can we see and feel it by an inner sense, but we can also have the joy of assisting its delivery, for it is a great mistake to believe that character is something fixed and can never be changed. In fact, much of our evaluation of character is itself very wrong. Often, we merely notice outer habits of response which are nothing more than nervous conditioning. This is due to our own conditioning in terms of moral values. So we may erroneously regard that all who sink are debauchees and all who take drugs are junkies. At the other extreme too, we may equally fallaciously conclude that all who visit religious places or observe penance are good people. We forget the lesson that Ravana’s thousand years of penance created only a gigantic asura (demon). Whereas the thrice married Arjuna was favoured and privileged to receive the Gita.

Our values are not what they appear. We see a reflection distorted by Nature and not the real thing. Another difficulty occurs when our judgment of people is not rational and ethical but emotional. We have certain preferences, something to which we are habitually attached, say for instance vegetarianism. Now, in the totality of man, it is a minor issue. But we may be emotionally enthusiastic proponents of vegetarianism. And we may instantly start liking another vegetarian even if he indulges in horrors that mortify the flesh.

The list is long. At one extreme, it may be food-fads, place of birth, language and dress, at another it may be those known and closely related to us or associated in a common work or cause.

We find, therefore, that our judgment of people and things is largely distorted and limited by our own imperfection. Added to this, is the error of seeing oneself as the centre of the universe. ‘I am the best’, we believe. ‘I am the reference point’, we think. ‘All that conforms to my thought, my way of living or my opinion is necessarily the best’. ‘All that is different, contrary and opposite is certainly wrong or a fictitious myth. All that is outside the range of my own experience has to be false.’ It cannot be true. At best we tolerate these contraries, at worst we forcefully suppress or try to eliminate them. It is little wonder then that things go wrong and misunderstandings arise. Rather, it is a wonder that, in spite of all our distortions and prejudices, opinions and assumptions, preferences and prejudgements, love, friendship, sacrifice and sympathy can thrive and grow. If nothing else, it is a sign that man is not just what we believe him to be. He is something more. If a hardened criminal can love even one human being, if a weakling can show even one moment of courage, we can say that the doors of possibility cannot be shut. Irrespective of our dealings and experience of the person, there is a truth in him. If I am not able to bring it out, it is my own limitation as much as his. It is frequently observed that all great leaders, truly worth that name, inspired much more than ordered. Their lives were an example for men to exceed themselves.Their influence helped men to open to their own deeper possibilities. ‘Swarat’ (self-possessed) they went on to become ‘Samrat’ (world-possessed). Even after death, their consciousness continued to uplift human life to vistas beyond our mortal state. What made this huge difference possible but the fact that they lived and acted from their own highest self?

Basis of management

This then is the fundamental law of all man-management — to be, live and act from the summit of one’s consciousness. Even if we have glimpsed it for a brief movement in our lives, we must try to deal with others by relating and referring to that. Naturally this summit will be different for different people. Or, in a rare individual, two, three or more summits may sometimes be fused and harmonised in a truth from which all other truths derive. This happens in the background of a large impersonality and vast universality supporting the individual consciousness. For in the stillness of the mind, the ray of intuition can shine; in the calm and untroubled waters of our emotions, true feelings can reflect themselves; in a life untroubled by desires, the omnipotent’s will can decisively act; and a body plastic and well poised can radiate a beauty in every contact.

We may end as we started but with a more positive turn: we help the world become perfect in proportion to the degree we perfect ourselves. We make the potential in others manifest and become real by making it real in ourselves.

Individual to collective management

This is fine on an individual scale. To see the best in another, to love the best part and leave the rest as in friendship is no doubt the sign of a healthy, even if incomplete or imperfect relationship. A complete and perfect relation with another person in an untransformed human nature however must mean strife and struggle. For as we descend we find the same vibration assuming a different hue and texture. Take for example, love. At its highest, it represents self-giving. As it enters the mind, it changes into mutuality and understanding; still lower it becomes an egoistic give and take, leading to quarrels and ruptures as much as to passion and attraction. Still lower down, it turns into possessiveness with its attendant evils of jealousy, hatred, suspicion — things which appear as the denial of love. That is why it is said that too much closeness breeds contempt and that behind every hatred there is the presence of love.

All this is valid as far as it concerns individuals. But what about the group? The dynamics of group-management involve motivation, composition, hierarchy, stability, interdependence and growth. The dynamics of a group are far more complex. The difficulties are far greater and yet, without being in balance with it we remain incomplete. Imagine a few rich men living in an otherwise poor society. Naturally, these rich people will not be able to fully enjoy their wealth if all around is poverty and famine. There is an overt and covert interdependence of individual and group. Any social theory which denies one for the other is one-sided and incomplete. In the above example again, the growth of a rich man, economically so to say, is largely powered by people around him. He not only needs his clientele but also his competitors who goad him to expand, diversify or increase the value of his product. The growth of the universe is in its turn dependent on its own constituent elements.

The role of an ideal

How does this relate in our practical dealings? The first thing we need to understand is that a true grouping begins only when there is a central aim and ideal. Otherwise it is like a crowd jostling in a traffic-jam accusing and abusing or indifferently moving against one another. For the ideal becomes a magnet drawing all those who feel a natural call. A group which does not have a clear shared ideal is doomed to failure sooner or later. A group must have a group-ideal, a subject of common interest. If the objective is purely one individual’s subjective or objective growth, then the group cannot survive long. But we have ideologies, a set of principles and norms, a list of dos and don’ts, but rarely an ideal. The manager of a group must remember that he is only representing this ideal. If he deviates from the principle and starts considering himself greater, the group will eventually collapse. Take the case of the family. In the Indian tradition, a husband and wife go round the fire to solemnize the marriage. This reminds both that neither is more important. The fire of aspiration, of sacrifice, of purification is the main thing. The moment the husband tries to place himself at the centre, he has to either burn in the fire of purification or else be reduced to ashes. This lack in the true ideal of marriage is one of the main causes of the instabilities of domestic life. Of course there are other causes, also deeper and subtle.

The aim itself can be extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic aims are fragile and short-lived. They depend on the creation of a rigid outer discipline and mechanical regimentation. But as the group evolves, it begins to develop intrinsic aims. Thus, the aim of conquest for looting may change into a thirst for power, or else a war into national spirit. Amassing or attracting wealth might change into growth of equality or, on a still higher level, a pursuit of perfection or, still further, manifesting beauty through form, design and colour.

The higher and wider the ideal, the more heterogeneous are the elements that can be accommodated into the group. The more narrow and low the goal, the more homogeneous should be the elements. But a low goal, by its very nature, is short-lived. For instance, a group may get together to generate money through dishonest means. Naturally, it can be constituted only around dishonest people and dishonest people are bound to be dishonest to one another. Sooner or later, they will cheat one another until the group collapses as the most clever scoundrel swindles the rest! Such things are much more common than we believe. The underworlds, the dishonest firms, are full of such short-lived stories. And yet something in man is drawn to this.

Once the central aim or ideal is established, the rest follows — the policies, decisions and plans — all must be seen in those terms. To have conflicting, contradictory or even separate ideals is to sooner or later invite trouble, conflict, rivalry or even shutdown. The heterogeneity of the people themselves does not matter. But to profess or seek a different aim from the group-aim is a serious issue. Even if the elements are few and even if the unit is homogenous, like a family, if the ideals are different, the group will scatter. But if one is firm about the goal, then differences of opinion and varied mutual interests can be settled by seeing it in the context of the ideal. All that cannot withstand the pressure, then, moves out and gives place to others. This would form the principle of a free and natural grouping. That is, people should be drawn by feeling a natural inner urge and call. To draw them in by portraying another picture they might like to see, only creates confusion. The next thing is to nurture this ideal by the right kind of environment. For this one should be willing to wait and work patiently. In this work the bottleneck, the first shortcoming, the real limitation, is the human factor. Of course once the ideal is established, the rest follows, as is very evident in the life of a nation. The members living there begin to come under its influence, willingly or unwillingly. Then the problems are less, even though not eliminated. So we find the same individual who hardly works under one set of conditions begins to wake up to his responsibility under another. This is often attributed to the work-culture. But the work-culture, the ethos grows as a natural outcome of the intrinsic aim. It is not something that can be enforced for long through law and reward. This is a fundamental truth of human nature we seldom understand — all motivation is in its deepest sense intrinsic. And an ideal is a living thing.

The role of hierarchy in management

This brings us naturally to the next question — the value of the individual and hierarchy within the group. Naturally, the value of an individual is proportionate to his adherence to the ideal, and as he grows, the law of mutual interdependence. Hence, it is immensely important that the group encourages the growth of the individual and creates a suitable environment for his evolution. This is not only necessary but indispensable. For if the individual cannot grow, he will sooner or later deviate from the group, move out or come to conflict. Still worse, the group and system would have to drag him to the level of their own standing. Consequently for a group, practically speaking, a hierarchy helps. It prevents confusion and scattering, a false domination. A king is only useful as long as he knows he is the representative of the nation — a symbol and upholder of the national truth. A king who forgets this truth and lives for himself naturally causes misery and suffering. But the absence of a ruler also invites foreign domination. The important thing, then, is to discover and erect a true inner hierarchy represented by the group-ideal. It is in the ideal that the individual and group combine and harmonise. Harmony is not for the mutual pleasure and satisfaction of one another’s ego. It is not even mutual agreement on an issue achieved by compromise and exchange of interest. Adherence is to the truth of an aim. This is not rigidity but fidelity and plasticity to the force that an idea represents. True harmony is born only when each member of the group begins to owe allegiance to the central aim. And artificial means do not help here. As the individual grows, the others too advance. And since all are potentially capable, the hierarchy is not to be confused with subordination or superiority. The story of the Israeli victory in 1969 is a case in point. The general defied higher commands for the objective at hand, — to win victory for his nation in a nearly lost battle. He defied and succeeded. He was court-martialled and honoured on both counts. The rule of being at one’s summit and act holds equally true here. The safest and best decisions are those inspired by the highest in us.

Stability in management

Last of all, we come to the factor of stability. There is a short term stability and long term stability. Short term stability is the result of homogeneity. Heterogeneity of elements (as opposed to heterogeneity of the ideal) is desirable for group-evolution and long term stability. Firstly, heterogeneity acts as a self-corrective to any individual errors. Secondly, since the same objective is being approached differently by different people, the scope for achievement and fulfilment is greater, though initially slower. Thirdly, heterogeneity is always evolutionary as it aids the perspective, helping individuals to look at the same thing differently as well as providing alternative strategies. That is why the Indian nation has remained stable despite many onslaughts. This is because of a clear national ideal and diversity of its elements.


These then are a few of the principles that govern group-psychology, its growth and decline. The signs of decline are a growing distrust, mutual and conflicting interests, disharmony and ruptures. These too are sometimes necessary as pointers to what has gone wrong. One can then use the experience of growth as long as the faith, vision, an inner strength to recover, as well as an adherence to the central truth is there. It is not always immediate success that is the yardstick of true success. For success depends as much on the strength of the truth-spirit as on the fidelity of its members. Failures too can be enriching. For they teach the final lesson that one must know how to renounce an immediate success for a greater future. One must know how to forego short-term interests for long-term goals. And one must know that if the direction be kept in view, then sooner or later one will reach the goal. A halt can only then be an avoidable delay, not an end to the task undertaken by our souls.

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