Leadership Lessons - Bhagavad Gita

Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 19 – Infamy

Chapter 2 Verse 34

अकीर्तिं चापि भूतानि कथयिष्यन्ति तेऽव्ययाम् |
सम्भावितस्य चाकीर्ति र्मरणादतिरिच्यते || 34||

akīrtiṁ chāpi bhūtāni kathayiṣhyanti te ’vyayām
sambhāvitasya chākīrtir maraṇād atirichyate

akīrtiminfamy; chaand; apialso; bhūtānipeople; kathayiṣhyantiwill speak; teof your; avyayāmeverlasting; sambhāvitasyaof a respectable person; chaand; akīrtiḥinfamy; maraṇātthan death; atirichyateis greater
Translation : People will speak of you as a coward and a deserter. For a respectable person, infamy is worse than death.

The link to the page is – https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/34

The lessons I draw from this verse are as follows –

In this particular verse Lord Krishna shows the difference between “fame” and “notoriety”. In our world today, the two are interchangeable and people do all sorts of things just to be famous and to be seen as being famous.

I remember someone telling me when I was very young – It takes a lifetime to get a “good” name and just one slip to lose it all. A whole pot of milk will curdle if a drop of curd were to accidentally fall into it. I always remember the famous cricketer Mohd Azharuddin – an amazing batsman and a really good Captain. All it took was one match fixing scandal to bring him crashing down. Was he a great cricketer still ?, of course, but no one wanted to add that word “great” to his name anymore.

A bigger icon was the cycling great Lance Armstrong. And what a great fall – a cancer survivor who went on to win the gruelling Tour de France only to admit to doping many years later :(. What made him dope? He was a champion anyway, even without the doping. The “good” name that took years to acquire, gone in an instant.

Lord Krishna is saying something very important – infamy is worse than death. No one will remember Lance Armstrong’s achievements, everyone will only remember that interview where he admitted to doping. From the corporate world, the fall of Mr. Rajat Gupta, ex-Mckinsey chief on charges of insider trading, wiped out decades of spectacular work. Just read the opening lines of his Wikipedia profile “Rajat Kumar Gupta (born 2 December 1948) is an American businessman, convicted felon, and philanthropist who served a two-year term in U.S. federal prison for insider trading.” All the arguments about whether he was framed or misunderstood or whatever will no longer work … before saying he is a philanthropist, it says he is a convicted felon. Infamy is indeed worse than death.

How to avoid the downfall ? Well, have your ears glued to your inner voice that lets you know if what you are doing is right or wrong. If you are deaf and can’t hear your inner voice, then ask the question if your child/idol/mother/spouse would be proud of what you are about to do. If the answer is no then that is the wrong thing to do. Easy enough ?

Remember always – infamy is worse than death.

2 replies »

  1. “In this particular verse Lord Krishna shows the difference between “fame” and “notoriety”. In our world today, the two are interchangeable and people do all sorts of things just to be famous and to be seen as being famous.”

    This is so insightful and through this lens lots of the current world makes more sense. Here’s hoping we can get past this apparent starvation for being known that so many seem to have. It’s causing no shortage of terrible repercussions.

    Enjoying this series as always. Thanks for doing it!

    • Thanks Todd. Fame is the new drug and because everyone wants to be “known” they spend increasing amounts of time on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else, opining about stuff they have no clue about – anything that gets them a few likes. Lets hope sense prevails and soon.

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