(Setting: Auditorium of a Business School. The speaker is addressing new joinees during their orientation program)
Speaker : Why are you here? Why are you listening to me?
Student 1: Because you are more experienced.
Speaker: So you want to benefit from somebody else’s experience.
Student 2 : You can show us the right direction.
Speaker: To be shown the right direction by others. Measuring your life against some benchmarks, some standards. Alright, more please.
Student 4: We are also going to face the same things that you faced.
Speaker: The kind of life they have lived, you feel you too are going to live that in future. Now you see what I mean when I say that what you are doing here since the last two days is a clear reflection of what you have come to do in this campus for next two years.
This is exactly what you have come to do in this campus next two-three years. This is what your mind tells you by way of reason. That you have come here to learn from others, to check yourself against the standards and benchmarks set by others, to benefit from others’ experiences, to be shown the ‘right’ path.
Alright, I will take this a little further. Firstly I have said – step one – that what you are doing in these two days is exactly what you intend to do in your MBA program in next two years. Now I will take the story further.
Step two: what you intend to do in this MBA program in next two years is exactly the story of your life that you have lived so far.
Have you so far not lived a life in which you have always known the right path shown by others? In which you have always depended on somebody else for guidance? In which your standards and benchmarks have always come from an external source? In which you have seen life always through others? It is just a question of what is the time horizon that we are choosing to see: Twenty two years- your life horizon, or two years- your MBA horizon or two days- the horizon of this orientation program. It does not matter what timescale we choose, the script is the same. Essentially, the story is the same- ‘I have come here in this room, or in this campus, or in this world, to listen to others.’
Why do I want to listen to others?
Student: So that I can get something from them.
Speaker: What can I get from them?
Student: Somebody has said that one should be a good listener first.
Speaker: What do you listen to? When you say that I must listen to, then what must you listen to?
Student: Their ideas, experiences of the life of the speaker.
Speaker: Alright, how many of us are living? How many of us believe that we are not yet dead? (Students raise their hands)
So, we believe that we are alive. If you are alive, you would be at least 21 or 22. If you are alive, haven’t you been living every moment of these 22 years?
Is not each of these moments directly available to you for observation? Have you observed it? Have you listened to it? Have you really observed it? Have you really listened to it? Do you know yourself when you say you should listen? Our friend there talked of listening. What does listening require?
Speaker: How far do you jump! See the obvious first.
As far as you are concerned, the act of listening firstly requires a listener. Without a listener, listening cannot happen. So when you say that listening is important in life, you are essentially saying that the listener is important. Can you listen without the listener? Who is the listener?
Speaker: You. Have you listened to the listener? For the listener to listen to anything else, first you must listen to the listener. Do you know who you are? Do you know who this listener is? Or, do you just want to go to listen to somebody else without knowing who is going to listen? Without knowing who is going to listen, how can you even enter into listening? Is it not logical and straightforward?
Speaker: For acting to happen there must be an actor and attention has to be paid to the actor. Am I correct? For listening to happen, there must be a listener and attention has to be paid to the listener. I am here to ask: how much of your attention is towards others and how much of your attention is towards yourself, who is the listener. How am I going to spend my life: listening to others, or understanding the listener?
Students: Understanding the listener.
Speaker: The listener with all his complexities: his past, his processes, what he does, where does his motivations come from. All these must be understood. Have you really understood yourself? Because you see it is impossible to be doing anything externally without knowing oneself. You may do a few things and it may appear that action is happening. For example, right now it may appear that some action is happening and what is that action happening right now? That you have come over here and you are sitting and the action is that of a seminar going on. Somebody may come over here, and take a photograph, and he may be deluded into thinking that some action is happening. Even when a man is sleepwalking, it does appear that action is happening. But what kind of action is that? Totally unconscious. Is there any value in that action?
A man walks wakefully and a man sleepwalks, are they two doing the same action? The legs are moving about, there is some horizontal movement taking place, and if you look casually it may appear that the same action is happening. But there is a great difference in the quality of the action. The waking man knows, the sleeping man is just acting, just acting.
It is a beautiful time for you at this moment when you are about to start your journey. A time to ask yourself – ‘do I know what I am doing or am I just acting out of habit, out of conditioning?’
Do you really know what you are doing or you are acting just out of conditioning? I was here a few months back and I was speaking to your seniors at that time, it was good fun. I had the privilege to wake up a bunch of sleepwalkers. I do not know how it is turning up today but that is what I want to ask you. Do you know what you are doing? Do you really know what you have been doing all your life? Do you really know why you have taken admission here in this MBA program? Do you really know why you want to pursue this program or are you are acting like a pre-conditioned machine which does a few things because it has been conditioned to do them, because a certain software or an algorithm has been fed into it?
What is the relation between a machine and a human being?
A machine works far more efficiently than a human being but is totally unaware of its own processes. Even the best computer does not know itself though it may be a thousand times more efficient than a human being. The essential difference is that a human being may know himself, he has the power of reflecting. How have you been throughout your life- it may be twenty two years or two years or two days, the timespan does not matter? The script is the same, because you and your mind are the same. The same programmed mind has been rolling on and on in time. It is the same mind that has been acting so far. How and why have you come to this campus? To extend the same kind of life that you have been living so far, as an extension of that, just as a continuation of your past?
When you were in class six or seven, small, then they would say at home- read so that you get good marks. You must have a good position in your class – helps to tell the relatives and the neighbours – and when you would not study, you were shown a carrot: ‘you will get X if you study’. And there were all these external forces of motivation and work. And then you came to class ten and you were told that in a job interview, they look at class tenth marks as well, so you must study. And when you entered twelvth, you were told that this year is critical for your professional studies, entrance examinations, admissions, and so you studied.
And now what do you want to do? Extend that same stale story further? Add another boring chapter to it?
This script is so predictable. You have been a machine all your life, chasing numbers- marks, percentage, and you will chase a few numbers here as well. Then you will chase a salary – another number. And grow a professional network – another number. And then rise up rungs of the corporate ladder – another number. And have a family, and a nest, and so on. All on pre-decided lines. What a drag!
If the same story is being extended, then that class six kid, and this MBA student, are they different at all? Where is the growth? Where is the movement? Has any evolution been happening? Are you really going ahead or is it the same script being enacted again and again? Different platforms, different theaters, but essentially the same script? At some point as a kid, at the next point as an adolescent, at the next point as a young man, at the next point as a professional, then as a husband, as a father…all roles being enacted by you but scripted by someone else. And you are acting, without knowing why there is action. Like a man sleepwalking.
Do you really know why you are here?
– From a ‘Samvaad’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXXu0fTLJek
Article 2: Competition career and planning
Article 3: Before you chase goals become goal less