Leadership Lessons – Hanuman Chalisa



Last week we were having a session on Leadership within my team and we discussed many different aspects of this much sought after trait in the corporate world. But as we delved deeper into the subject and contrasted the leadership styles along with questions about morality, right and wrong, success and failure there was no one answer to the puzzle. I have always believed that among the many different qualities that one needs to master in worldly life Leadership is one of the toughest. I attribute this difficulty to the fact that while in interaction with hardware and software the outcome for a particular action is fixed, in case of human beings who posses one of the most complex softwares ( brain) known to man, the response could vary significantly. Also, while the machine will not hold the negative interaction against you and will in the first place tell you why or what it did not like a human being may never tell you about their impression but even hold their dislike for a long time. Again, to what extent even they will not know as it is a function of a number of things – your reaction, their own situation or circumstances, what others tell them about you, their own ability to forgive and forget. The data points are varied for both the leader and the follower and then you could have a dynamics going on within the followers themselves. They may see your actions as biased or dislike you for liking someone they don’t like and so on. A leader therefore has this unique of being a sage while excelling in the material world.

You see so many bosses around you but how many of them you can call leaders ?

While driving back home I was constantly engaged in the thought about how can this code be cracked.While I had enough question and a few answers it was clear to me that the answer was within me and not outside. How people look at me or get influenced by my behavior was indeed a function of my own mastery of myself. If I could attain a higher state of being unmoved by the trivial and ever enjoying a state of peaceful existence but at the same time having the drive and courage to do what is required of me I could probably inspire others around me to a certain degree.

The car stereo was all this time playing a soulful rendition of Hanuman Chalisa by Swami Tejomayananda and as usual I was humming along with Guruji. In this particular CD Swamiji has sung the Hanuman Chalisa in 7 different Ragas and in between each rendition he tells some anecdote about the great qualities of  Bajrang Bali. He was telling now about the 8 Siddhis which were awarded to Hanumanji by Sitaji and that Hanumanji was a giver of these Siddhis to his Ananya (unique or superlative) bhakts. I had heard about the Siddhis before and had always thought that Neem Karoli Baba (Maharajji)  possessed all of them. But today it was special – while Swamiji explained the verbal meaning of the what the Siddhis meant he also declared that we did not literally need to strive to achieve them but can take the gist of what they stood for and put them into practice in our lives. As an old habit I started making a mental note of what Swamiji was saying but soon enough I realized that the answer I was seeking was right there. The new 8 fold path of Hanumanji’s Siddhis was all I needed. Each Siddhi represents a different quality of ones character and if imbibed correctly they can really transform you not only as a leader but as a human being.

Let me take you through each one of them and you can decide for yourself :

  1. Anima – is to become small. Taken literally it is the miniature form that Bajrang Bali takes when he takes Shri Ram’s message to Sita in Lanka. But if you consider the import and apply it to our lives then it could mean not pandering to our ego on every small instance. We all know that there are times when if you can say sorry the job will be done but we keep holding our position just to satisfy our ego. Sometimes we even garb it as self respect. Trust me the ‘self’ does not need respect of all things as it is beyond human condition. In daily life it could mean a simple thing such as saying sorry ! In personal and professional life sometimes even if you know that the other person is being unreasonable, look at the larger picture and say OK you win. But then there is a challenge – you should know when to hold on and when to let go. A leader represents change and disrupts the status quo so he cannot be seen as giving up the cause. Having set a higher goal, the trick is not get bogged down by the trivial. This is the key.
  2. Mahima – The second Siddhi is the opposite of Anima and verbatim it means to become big. In Hanuman Chalisa this is described as Sukshm roop dhari siyahin dikhawa, Vikat roop dhari lank jarava, bhim roop dhar asur sanhare Ram chandra ke kaaj sanware. Hanuman ji attains a humongous form and burns the entire Lanka fighting with numerous powerful demons and jumping from one palace to the other as if he was jumping puddles. So now if we consider what this could mean to us – well, in life we meet so many situations where we have to act bigger than what we actually are or let me say what we think we actually are. This is specially relevant in the context of leadership. There are stations in life which require you to ‘become’ big and take a higher position. It could be a team lead, head of an institution, a CEO and so on. But when such a challenge comes don’t have self doubt or cower down, cringe and lose confidence. Understand that its not because of some false  image that you have projected that you are being given a higher role, it is because others have seen in  you the qualities that can help achieve the objective. You are in the front seat so you are being asked to drive. Don’t bring in your ego as it will create all kind of illusions. Just do what needs to be done ! Rise to the challenge and take everyone along with you. If your intention is good and your ideals high then where is the question of not taking a bigger form ?
  3. Garima – The third Sidhdhi has been described by many of Maharaj ji’s followers. Once he was not well and being an old man a disciple tried to offer support while going down the stairs. He recollects that when Maharaj ji gave his hand he felt that the weight of the entire world has come upon him and he will get crushed.neem Just then Maharaj ji looked at him and he was back to normal. Of course, this was Babaji’s leela ! Now for us this Siddhi could simply mean that one must have a Stoic nature in life. Good and bad , Happiness and sorrow, Winning and loosing are all part of the game of life. Swami Chinmayanada used to say that always remember – Even this will pass away. This holds equally true for favorable and unfavorable conditions. Just like the good times did not last so will the phase when things are less than perfect. Again for a leader it is important to know that praise needs to be taken in one’s stride as much as criticism. Not everything you do or every decision you take can be favorable to all and it also depends upon their own understanding and state of mind. If you get exalted with every little success or every small praise then you are bound to act the opposite when you have to face tougher times. Stand straight, not straightened as Marcus Aurelius the great Stoic would say.
  4. Laghima – is the quality of becoming light as a feather. This lightness enabled Hanumanji to fly as fast as the fastest bird and being the son of Pavan- the God of air he had this inherent quality of being like the air itself. Now the interpretation of this lightness for us would mean being ‘light hearted‘ or not taking every little thing too seriously. Have some fun in what you do everyday and take time off for simple pleasures of living. I have come across many people who take life quite seriously and they have found my view of life so different from theirs that they have gone to the extent of calling me careless, slow and easy. But on the other hand I have seen the misery of these characters who will stay up the whole night as someone passed a comment which they thought was not in the right spirit. Now the person who said it went home and slept but they will stay up the whole night thinking – oh my God how could he/she say this ! Also, almost always I have found that what seems to be a big problem as we conjure up dooms day scenarios within our minds usually has very simple outcomes. I am not saying that we keep acting funny and stupid but then take time to step back and look at things as they are. To be able to laugh at yourself is a wonderful way of doing away with the burden. Bob Marley said – Don’t you worry about a thing…every little thing is gonna be all right. I think he really made a point there.
  5. Prakamya – or taking the desired form at will. Hanumanji could transform into a Human being, a monkey and take many other forms he willed to or if they were required for him to accomplish the task of his master Bhagwan Shri Ram. It is a great Siddhi again which tells us that to meet the given objective or to perform the task at hand one should be able to change the attitude, the manner and the disposition/temperament. I always joke that Shah Rukh Khan has not acted in some 50 movies , he has acted in just one movie but it has been released or shown to us some 50 times ! As in the world of drama it is important to get under the skin of the character, in life too it is important to understand your role really well. And just as in the movies if one is playing a king he should look and feel like a king not a beggar in life too if one is in a position of respect one should make sure he does not bring down the stature of the position. ‘ Acting’ your part is an art we need to develop consistently. When in the office behave like a boss or an employee but once at home change your role to a father, a son or a loving husband. Never take the tension of your home to work or bring back worries from the office to the dinner table. The ability to switch ‘on’ and switch ‘off’ is one of most important traits of a great leader. And if we keep the first 4 Siddhis in mind and practice them well Prakamya should become our second nature.
  6. Prapti –  This Siddhi relates to transcending the limitation of Human form and to be able to reach wherever and whenever. It also implies being present at different places at the same time. This great Siddhi was possessed by Maharaj ji as there have been numerous instances of devotees seeing Baba Neem Karoli at different places at the same time. Many times people have described him to appear and disappear almost instantaneously although he always tried to find some excuse or the other for this phenomenon and scolded his followers of creating unnecessary myths.  For us this Siddhi would simply mean ‘resourcefulness’  or being able to create an environment around us that is favorable to what we want to accomplish. Getting the right tools, the right people, the right financial resources which can take the endeavor  forward is what is required of a leader. It could also mean removing the hurdles that would take the team or the organization from point A to Point B. Of course, where the point B is something bigger and higher in the  scheme of things. To be ‘able’ to reach the desired goal through one’s enterprise and to inspire others is in true sense having Prapti as a Siddhi.
  7. Ishitwa –  The way of being a Lord or a Master is referred to as Ishitwa. If taken literally it could itself mean being a leader but a leader is not a master or a lord. He is one among the followers and yet he is revered and respected as the group believes that by following the leader they can bring about positive change in their own life. Unlike a Master a leader does not permit freedom or impose sanctions. The leader shows the way within the same boundaries and limitations that the followers are also subjected to. Now in doing so he does win the hearts of the followers and in a sense he does rule over them, but over their hearts.Ruling over the heart is the key to Ishitwa as the organization structure or the position one holds for the time being may give powers so you start believing that it is you who can change the destiny of your people. But it is important that the belief is there not in you but in the people for whom you are responsible for. Remember that you are not only responsible for the good that happens to your followers but even the bad that they have to go through because of your indecision, your incompetence, your self doubt.
  8. Vashitwa –  To have someone in your ‘vash’ is usually thought of as a kind of Hypnosis. But wouldn’t you get hypnotized by the very presence of someone as pure, as powerful and as simple as Hanumanji. Even Bhagwaan said that I have two kind of Bhakts – First are those who love me a lot and the second are those whom I love more than everyone else. Hanumanji was one such Bhakt that even Bhagwan Shri Ram was hypnotized by his love and selfless service. We can also have people not only liking us but loving us as they would just be reciprocating our sincerity and genuineness towards them. A bond of loyalty is stronger than any form of Hypnotism. It has the power to stay even after the bad times have fallen and the name, fame and power are long gone. A true leader will have followers who love him for who he is and the feeling of being loved and cared for in his presence. The sense of security that comes from the fact that the leader would not let any harm happen creates a special bond of trust. This bond is what keeps the group together.

I sincerely wish and hope that Lord Hanuman will help me develop the above qualities. I know this itself will be a big Sadhana for me. It is much easier to write a blog post than to practice these seemingly easy behaviors in the ‘real’ world. But I also know that without ‘Tapa’ there are no ‘Siddhis’ and if I cannot push myself for these simple earthly qualities I can never hope to  pursue what is higher and divine in this life.

LSD – looking at life with a 25 X zoom…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience ……

The term LSD(Lysergic Acid Dyethylamide) or Acid as it is popularly known has come back into debate since Steve Jobs claimed in his autobiography that taking LSD was one of the most profound experiences of his life. This is not the first time that creative people or those who have changed the world around us have used Psychedelics as a means of expanding their consciousness. Google founders Sergey Berin and Larry page visited ‘The burning Man’ festival before they founded Google as a company. The decision to hire Eric Schmidt was also influenced by the fact that he had been to the ‘burning man’ while others had not. Whether any of them used psychedelics while at the burning man is not documented. We all know the penchant of artists and musicians for psychotropic substances so I will just take it for granted.

While the name LSD instils wonder and mystery may be even fear in most of us in India it has been used for over 40 years in the west as a street drug for so called ‘trips’ and even for exploring its various medical uses. It seems that the scientists are all for it but the governments across the world stand on the opposite side of the fence.The inventor of LSD Albert Hoffman argued that his invention if used improperly could make one go crazy but it used correctly it has the power to make us what we are supposed to be. The fact that he died a perfectly healthy man at the ripe old age of 102 testifies the claim the physical side effects of LSD use are negligible. A year before his death in 2008 Hoffamn had reached out to Steve for funding of his research.While nothing concrete came out of the half hour chat Steve summed up saying ‘ Lets just put it in the tap water and get everybody turned on’.

There are several documentaries on You tube that you can browse to know more about the subject. I am embedding one from the National Geographic channel in case you don’t want to waste your time.

Now that brings me to the larger question that if such a potent means of experiencing your self, dissolving the ego and raising your level of awareness/consciousness exists why put so much time and effort to get realized as per Hindu or Buddhist philosophy. The answer comes in the form of an anecdote shared by Ram Dass ( born Richard Alpert and raised to be Harvard professor of sociology who inspired Steve to visit India as a backpacker in the early 1970’s)  in which he says that one day his Guru Baba Neem Karori told him that he wanted to have LSD. While Ram Dass was surprised he knew that there is no point in trying to hide anything from his Guru who knew everything about everything. He got his bag of pills and wanted to offer just one thinking that it would be enough for the old man. Baba on the other hand selected several of them and popped them into his mouth.To his great surprise nothing seemed to happen to his Guru who just kept looking at him in a a very transparent way as if saying – It is all within you !

Now this is easier said than done to the point of being cliched. You see a guru on one of the religious channels giving gyan and you think to yourself – Oh Yeah, really. We are conditioned to believe stuff that we can see and experience ourselves not something which is surrogate and second hand.It’s like someone trying to tell you that the chocolate was just sooooo good but you want to know how good and the other person can’t really explain it to you. Now in the case of a chocolate you have the freedom to break the bar and take a piece to share the experience but what about self realization ? You don’t even know what it is supposed to be and even more whether the Guru telling you about it has experienced anything by themselves. That’s when faith becomes blind or you start drifting apart into the so called material world which is at least real and genuine to your five senses.

Trying to delve deeper into the subject I have tried to understand the phenomenon of the ‘trip’ and what it does to us I have come to an understanding that the LSD probably helps us to break down the barriers hat we have built around around our mind and spirit. Our sense of being emerges in a self image that results in an ego or what we think we are while in reality this is just a hoax created by our conditioning and orientation, even a sense of insecurity to hold on to what I love to call the gathered past.As soon as the magic molecule fits in the right place in the cortex our ego starts to melt and with it goes away our self image and sense of being. We start to have ‘ a beginners mind’ as per the Zen philosophy ready to look at the world around us in a new light, in a fresh way. Creativity becomes the obvious by product of this process. We are like the child who experienced the world for the very first time. To put it into perspective how magical it is when you fall in love for the first time, how sensuous to make love for the first time, how wonderful to be with friends and discover but then you get into the ‘loop’ mode and the experiences cease to have the novelty they did before boring your mind and making life mechanical and uninteresting. Again as you grow bad experiences such as death, disease and decay stare you in the face and cause another kind of conditioning that aims to block your reaction to these as far as possible. You continuously struggle to break free but you don’t know how and even from what ?? LSD and other such stuff helps you to become a child again roaming about in the wonderland of new experiences,breaking down the barriers of conditioning that does not allow you to see things as Aldous Huxley says ‘They Are’.

LSD does not actually alter the reality it just makes it more ‘real’ by enhancing our brains capacity to process sensory information. In a state of expanded consciousness you tend to see things as they happen not depending upon your data bank of past knowledge supporting the vision by assuming what would have happened.

Now you must be thinking about the obvious question – what about me ? Well I will let the fact that whether I have had LSD or not remain a mystery in your mind I will tell you that I do know the ‘high’ that lets the red become really red and when the flower looks more beautiful than it used to. The pupils get dilated and you get goose bumps for nothing. You are just plain amused and the happiness stems from nothing but just pure existence.

I have looked at life with a 25 X zoom ….. and there is no other way but my method and my tools are different. I am convinced that my orange bus might be slow and needs more maintainance but the destination its going to take me will be real and final.

Meanwhile I am just enjoying the ‘trip’ …….