Leadership Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita 1 – Decision Making

I have been fascinated with the Bhagavad Gita for a long long time … I have attended a few Gita discourses at the Chinmaya Mission in Shillong and have participated in the Gita-shlok reading competitions at the RK mission, again in Shillong. This year I have decided to read one of the verses everyday and post my understanding and interpretation of it on my blog.

The reason I have been fascinated with the Gita is because its 700 verses long and for many centuries it has been remembered through recitation – just unbelievable that we could pass on knowledge through memorising verses and whole epics. There are many commentaries on the Gita and many learned people have interpreted it, so what am I going to add ? Well, I want to understand it in my own way and through the corporate lens because thats my “karmabhoomi”. I am no battlefield expert or a Sanskrit scholar, but I have read Sanskrit in school and I have worked in the corporate world – so I want to explore how the Gita applies to a common man/woman.

This is also an invitation to all the readers to add your own interpretation or thoughts on each verse, as it will lead to a better understanding of the Gita.

I am ignoring the first chapter because its largely about how the two armies are deployed and Sanjaya, the first videographer is relating to the blind Dhritarashtra about the goings-on on the battlefield at Kurukshetra. In short, the Gita forms part of the epic Mahabharata, which is about two families – Kauravas and Pandavas who are cousins. The Pandavas are five in number and they are the rightful rulers of Hastinapur, but Duryodhana, the eldest of the 100-strong Kauravas desires to be the King. There is a war between the cousins over 18 days and the Pandavas win. The Gita is Lord Krishna’s (an avatar of Vishnu) coaching conversation with the greatest warrior (archer) of his time – Arjuna, a Pandava. When Arjuna sees the Kaurava army, he sees his uncles, cousins, teachers etc and loses his will to fight … he becomes dejected and depressed and tells Krishna that he doesn’t need to kill his teachers, cousins and other relatives just to win a piece of land and rule over a Kingdom. Lord Krishna through Gita gives him the much needed coaching, right in the middle of the battlefield. All thanks to Sanjaya for relaying the entire Gita to Dhritarashtra … otherwise this would have been lost forever.

I am starting from Chapter 2, verse 11 which is –

श्रीभगवानुवाच |
अशोच्यानन्वशोचस्त्वं प्रज्ञावादांश्च भाषसे |
गतासूनगतासूंश्च नानुशोचन्ति पण्डिता: || 11||

śhrī bhagavān uvācha
aśhochyān-anvaśhochas-tvaṁ prajñā-vādānśh cha bhāṣhase
gatāsūn-agatāsūnśh-cha nānuśhochanti paṇḍitāḥ
śhrī-bhagavān uvāchathe Supreme Lord said; aśhochyānnot worthy of grief; anvaśhochaḥare mourning; tvamyou; prajñā-vādānwords of wisdom; chaand; bhāṣhasespeaking; gata āsūnthe dead; agata asūnthe living; chaand; nanever; anuśhochantilament; paṇḍitāḥthe wise
The link to the original website is – http://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/chapter/2/verse/11
The translation of the above verse is – The Supreme Lord says to Arjuna “While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living or the dead.”
My interpretation is as follows –
This is so close to what happens at work – many of us pose as learned wise people when we are actually quite unwise and ignorant. So its important to stop posing. The other interpretation I have is, not to mourn for something that you cannot change – death is a certainty, no one lives forever. In the same way, business goes through cycles – sometimes when it slumps, there is no need to feel dejected and in the same way, there is no need to go overboard when it does well. A wise person will deal with situations with equanimity. The idiom “there is no point in crying over split milk” is also relevant here because that’s pretty much what Arjuna is doing – the war has been declared, if he doesn’t kill his cousins, they will kill him and he is sitting there lamenting about it. So he is not behaving very wisely.
The other inference that I am drawing from this is – once a decision is taken, go with it. So often we tend to vacillate and spend time weighing the pros and cons over and over again. Do all that before taking the decision, but once a decision is made just go with it. The market place (the equivalent of the battlefield) is no place to wonder about your decision – that’s the place where the decision is played out.
Its difficult for many of us to accept death easily …. not just the death of a loved one, but death of our idea, death of our business, death of our relationships … but death is a reality. Coming to terms with the fact that sometimes things won’t work out is very important for all of us. When something fails, we learn lessons, when something succeeds, we rejoice. Technically there is no failure or death – you either become wiser from a failure or you succeed and thats great.
Fascinating how this one verse can be interpreted by a lay person like me in so many ways … and I am looking forward to doing this for all the remaining verses. May my favourite God, Krishna, send me some more interpretations and inferences as I read his Gita.
Jai Sri Krishna.
References – Bhagavad Gita as it is, ISKCON’s book; Bhagavad Gita by Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 1959 edition, my father’s copy.
Comment from Usha –

Brilliant, I’m going to follow every interpretation. One from my view – in the corporate world, you sometimes do need to ‘kill’ as in let go of or move people, to get the ‘piece of land’ – save the larger business. No use mourning because it is a death that is necessary.

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