Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 6 – Transience

Chapter 2 Verse 16

We live our temporary lives as though we are here forever… and give importance to things that don’t last.  Modern firms are so caught up in the quarterly results that they miss focussing on their long term strategy and thereby fold up. Strange, but true.

Krishna seems to speak about this in verse 16 of Chapter 2 –

नासतो विद्यते भावो नाभावो विद्यते सत: |
उभयोरपि दृष्टोऽन्तस्त्वनयोस्तत्वदर्शिभि: || 16||

nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ
ubhayorapi dṛiṣhṭo ’nta stvanayos tattva-darśhibhiḥ

nano; asataḥof the temporary; vidyatethere is; bhāvaḥis; nano; abhāvaḥcessation; vidyateis; sataḥof the eternal; ubhayoḥof the two; apialso; dṛiṣhṭaḥobserved; antaḥconclusion; tuverily; anayoḥof these; tattvaof the truth; darśhibhiḥby the seers

The translation – Of the transient there is no endurance, and of the eternal there is no cessation. This has verily been observed by the seers of the truth, after studying the nature of both.

My interpretation –

The American corporatocracy’s greatest gift to the business world is the quarterly results. Everyone gets twisted out of shape trying to meet the guidance numbers and live quarter to quarter. What this quarterly results focus did/does is, to force many organisations to not focus on the long term value creation. Now the trend is reversing a bit. Here’s an article by McKinsey that speaks about the reversing trend – https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-misguided-practice-of-earnings-guidance.

Am quoting the last paragraph from the above article to drive home my point –

“….The voluntary disclosure of financial information is a key component of high- functioning capital markets. The current trend—more and more companies discontinuing quarterly guidance and substituting thoughtful disclosures about their long-range strategy and business fundamentals—is a healthy one. In this way, companies will better signal their commitment to creating long-term, sustainable shareholder value and encourage their investors to adopt a similar outlook.”

If the above example is about the focus on the temporary, the flip side is also incorrect. The assumption of permanence that some organisations have ….  that their products will be in use forever, thereby missing the emerging trends and changes. A classic example of this is Kodak. They missed the digital photography revolution completely and the organization died.

The underlying message in this verse is – recognise the transient and the eternal. At work, focus on the basics, as they are eternal. What are the basics ? Act with integrity, acquire new skills, treat colleagues with respect, “build” for the long term, stay profitable, watch your cost, articulate the purpose of the organization, stick to values, respectfully let go of colleagues that don’t fit the culture. Southwest Airlines has continued to perform well, under all kinds of market conditions because they stick to the basics and their contemporaries have floundered because they try short term strategies to win over competition and lose sight of the basics !!!

Infact, the basics for the organization and an individual are very similar – Act with integrity otherwise you cannot build trust, acquire new skills or you become redundant, treat everyone with respect, “build” for the long term which is to plan for the future, stay profitable which is ensure you save enough to become financially independent, watch your expenses (cost), articulate your life’s purpose or keep doing things that make you happy, stick to values, respectfully let go of friends and others that don’t support your goals or in other words, remove toxic/negative people from your friend list.

Focus on the eternal and the transient – but spend time and effort on the eternal, while watching the transient to be aware of what’s changing.

References – Bhagavad Gita as it is, ISKCON’s book; Bhagavad Gita by Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 1959 edition, my father’s copy.

5 thoughts on “Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 6 – Transience”

  1. Hello Ma’am..it’s 100% proven today that law of attraction works. I tried really hard to collate the name of your blog, which I earlier used to read, after you visited our university in Himachal Pradesh in year 2014 or 2015. I even asked few of the faculties member to share your or Mr. Krishnan’s contact details to know get your blog’s title, but little did I know that this was how I would come across your blog, after initiating the practice to write my own. Long story short, I’m glad to found you again, and this time not by any chance would loose you.

    • Oh yes ! Debt is truly a debt-trap. Indians have always been “savings” oriented but the new generations are wanting to get everything they want in the shortest possible time. So young Indians aren’t saving as much, and take on debt very early in life. As long as they are able to pay off and balance their income and expense its ok, but the credit cards and other debt instruments are very tempting. Most people over-indulge and over-extend themselves.


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