Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Guru Speak

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar answers questions on the way beyond wealth

Published: Nov 25, 2009 08:20:00 AM IST
Updated: Dec 4, 2009 11:57:24 AM IST

When every breath of your body is focussed on creating wealth it takes an infinity to realise the expanse of the breath itself. Journeys across such an abstract expanse need a guide whose spiritual GPS is never offline. But then Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a man of God like no other. His powerful innovation of Sudarshan Kriya from the ancient system of Pranayam has calmed many a burdened mind.

It is hard to combine the commanding heights of spirituality with the mundane lowlands of everyday practical living the way Sri Sri has managed to do. So when a club of extremely wealthy men of practical world needed to understand how to go beyond all the wealth, Sri Sri was the obvious choice.

We seemed to have hit the hot button because questions from men of Mammon flowed freely. To make sure the answers had depth, we picked four questions that seemed to be most fundamental and intricate. But that was till Sri Sri answered them; after that they were blindingly obvious.

Harsh Mariwala
Chairman & MD, Marico Industries

  • We are realising more and more that society has a significant stake and role to play in the growth of every individual and organisation. It then follows that some part of the wealth built by the individual or organisation owes its origin to society. In a steady state scenario, this issue may not be difficult to sort out — one could follow the Islamic Zakat approach and give a fixed percentage to charity or to society. But when it comes to estate planning or leaving behind a legacy through a will, there would arise a question, where your guidance and views will be enlightening. What proportion of a rich person’s wealth should one bequeath to society?”
A: The Dharmashastras advise a man to divide wealth in five portions:

  • One portion is used for spiritual and religious purposes.
  • One portion for charity and society.
  • One portion for the growth of the wealth.
  • One portion for oneself and one’s own comforts.
  • One portion for one’s family.
The most intelligent thing would be to undertake all the charitable works during one’s lifetime itself. However, when you write a will with the wealth that is left to you, definitely give a substantial portion for charitable work.

Venugopal Dhoot
Chairman & MD, Videocon

What is the best contribution one can make to a better society? Make billions, spend billions, or give away billions?

A: The best way is to do both: To make billions, spend a little less, save the rest and give away!
Twenty percent of your earnings should be earmarked for charity. However, charity should be self-sustainable. That is, it should create more wealth rather than perpetuating the cycle of poverty and dependence. In this sense, the best form of charity would be providing quality education for children and more importantly, building a good character in them.

In the 11th chapter of the Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna said, “Win the war with enemies and enjoy a prosperous empire.” How can a businessman be altruistic and yet follow this piece of advice? Is there a way to resolve this riddle?

Krishna’s advice was not for a recluse, but addressed to a prince. The Gita should not be dismissed as a text for people who are not in the world. In fact, the Gita is of no use for people who are retiring from the world. The entire Bhagavad Gita is focused on the prince who had to shoulder a huge responsibility, encounter complex situations and solve complicated human relations to make the country productive. Any business empire has to perform all these functions: They have to manage human resources; resolve conflicts.

One cannot be emotional and say: “I don’t want to compete with anybody. The world of business is always a struggle — a fight. Your weapons are speculation, bidding, negotiation, branding, marketing, pricing, innovation etc. These are the weapons for you to fight the business wars and you should fight it to your complete satisfaction. If it does not turn out to be viable, naturally you lose your fight. (Non-viability, heavy competition, lack of HR, labour problems)

You can’t do business with a charitable mindset. Charity and business should be kept separate altogether. However when it comes to enjoying the fruits of your business, you should have a charitable mind. You must keep aside a portion for charity.

Analjit Singh
Chairman & MD, Max India

If one has faith and believes God exists, how important is it to pray, meditate, etc.?

A: Prayer is asking God what you want for yourself or thanking Him for what you have received. Meditation is listening to God’s will. If you believe in God, then you will definitely want to connect and communicate with Him. The way to communicate with Him is through prayer
and meditation.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala
Partner, RaRe Enterprises

“My principles in life are as follows:

  • All spirituality lies in our deeds and empathy towards others.
  • All deeds should be with practical integrity and means should be more important than the ends.
  • More than anything else in life, I work for a sense of achievement, which I judge and am not bothered about what others think.
  • I have far lesser wealth than people think, but far more than I need. Wealth also has a purpose in life.
  • I realise that all things in life including wealth, success and beauty are transient and temporary. Therefore I never take them for granted, nor am I overwhelmed or over-influenced by them.
  • The divine is the giver of all wealth, and along with the wealth, has cast upon us a responsibility that as far as possible must be used for a good purpose.
I would seek your divine views and thoughts on my beliefs and principles of life.

A: What you have mentioned are some moral and ethical values. Spirituality is recognising that you are a part of the universal spirit and that there is no ‘Other’. Spirituality is recognising the truth that a Divine Power is managing the creation and your own life. No doubt integrity, charity, compassion etc. are all virtues which are essential by-products of spirituality. How calm and dynamic you are at the same time, how compassionate and shrewd you are at the same time indicates the depths of your spirituality.

(This story appears in the 20 November, 2009 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)