In Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, when young Siddhartha meets the beautiful courtesan Kamala, he is not yet an enlightened man but is on the way to enlightenment, not a Buddha yet, but is soon to become one. They become friends instantly and later fall in love with each other. One day Kamala speaks to Siddhartha of the rich merchant Kamaswami.
'Things are working out well,' she tells him. 'They are expecting you at Kamaswami's, he is the richest merchant of the city. If he'll like you, he'll accept you into his service. Be smart, brown Samana. I had others tell him about you. Be polite towards him, he is very powerful. But don't be too modest! I do not want you to become his servant, you shall become his equal, or else I won't be satisfied with you. Kamaswami is starting to get old and lazy. If he'll like you, he'll entrust you with a lot.'
'You've been lucky,' she adds, 'I'm opening one door after another for you. How come? Do you have a spell?'
Though he has not yet attained enlightenment, Siddhartha is already a man who has learnt to flow with life, go where life takes him. He has stopped fighting with existence, with life. He is no more the accidental man, but has become the essential man. Doors open on their own for such people. But Kamala, the courtesan, the woman of the world, does not understand that. She takes credit for what is happening. She tells Siddhartha, 'Where would you be without me? What would you be, if Kamala wasn't helping you?'
'Dear Kamala,' said Siddhartha and straightened up to his full height, 'when I came to you in your grove, I did the first step. It was my resolution to learn love from this most beautiful woman. From that moment on when I had made this resolution, I also knew that I would carry it out. I knew that you would help me, at your first glance at the entrance of the grove I already knew it.'
'But what if I hadn't been willing?'
'You were willing. Look, Kamala: When you throw a rock into the water, it will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water. This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal. This is what Siddhartha has learned among the Samanas. This is what fools call magic and of which they think it would be effected by means of the daemons. Nothing is effected by daemons, there are no daemons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.'
Siddhartha is not being ungrateful. I am sure he is grateful to Kamala for all that she has done for him and loves her for that. But going beyond gratefulness, he is speaking the truth.
Siddhartha's words here contain immense wisdom. The human mind is a powerhouse. It is the greatest power there is in the universe. All other powers in the world are but faint reflections of the power of the mind.
The Yoga Vasishtha, that ancient classic whose observations about the powers of the mind are unsurpassed, says that as minds, we have limitless powers at our command. Thought in the forms of desire, imagination, effort and will is the most potent force in the world. Mind is endowed with creative power. In its creative activity mind is absolutely free. We all attain to what we aspire after. All that we intensely desire come to us sooner or later.
The mind loses its power when it is disturbed, agitated, crowded with thoughts and worries. The quieter the mind becomes, the more powerful it becomes. A single thought held in a still mind is like the will of the universe itself. There is no power in the universe like a mind that has become still. We all have access to the boundless powers of the mind to the extent we are close to stillness.
I have written elsewhere of an experiment a researcher named Duane Elgin conducted at Stanford Research Institute. His attempts were to influence a magnetometer, which measured magnetic power, using his intentions alone. In his initial attempts, Elgin focused on the magnetometer willing to make its needle move. He continued his efforts, concentrating on the meter with all his will power for twenty to thirty minute stretches at a time. Nothing happened. And then he gave up in despair ' and the moment he gave up, the needle moved. The movements were not slight, but unbelievably powerful ' in some cases, as powerful as one thousand times the strength of the earth's magnetic field! He soon learnt that to influence the magnetometer he did not have to be near it ' he could do it from his home, miles away!
Eventually Elgin mastered his technique and this is what he did: 'I'd spend twenty to thirty minutes doing the best I could to establish a sense of rapport and connectedness with the instrument, and with great will and concentration I would coalesce that sense of connectedness into a field of palpable energy. I'd feel myself coming into a magnetic field and pulsing it to respond. Then, when there would be a moment of total surrender, the response would occur.'
The power of a mind that has learnt to surrender is unlimited. In surrender, the mind becomes still and in that stillness, all its boundless powers are at its command.
In its days of glory, Tibet had an education programme that lasted for twelve years. This was an esoteric programme for selected young lamas and children of the nobility, and a central aim of the programme was to transform people into what was called wang thangs ' centres of power. Through meditations and other allied exercises, stillness was achieved and the stillness unleashed the powers of the mind that were normally not accessible to the agitated mind.
When a still mind makes a resolution, that resolution becomes a reality. That's why in Indian culture we say that whatever thought is born in the mind of the great ascetics rich in tapas becomes reality. We say they have the power to bless and to curse, make all kinds of things happen in the world around them.
When a resolution enters the mind of someone like Siddhartha, it becomes a reality. People become instrumental in turning the resolutions into realities ' that does not mean they cause it. The events are caused by the power of the resolution itself. Kamala may believe that she is doing favors to Siddhartha, but the fact is that Kamala has no choice but to do them. To use the metaphor that Siddhartha himself uses, every resolution in his mind is like a stone thrown into water. It will speed on the fastest course to the bottom of the water.
Two more important things.
Kamala tells Siddhartha: 'I do not want you to become his servant, you shall become his equal, or else I won't be satisfied with you.' I love what she says.
Years ago I used to live with my guru in his ashram, as his student and disciple. In all, there were some hundred and twenty of us young people there ' around sixty of us from India and the other sixty from across the world, mostly from the US and Europe. We had our regular classes on the Upanishads and the Gita and a few other texts. The classes were held either in the large lecture hall, or in our beautiful temple hall. The evening lectures were mostly in the temple hall. Memories of the glorious evenings spent listening to Swamiji lecture to us there are still as fresh in my mind as though they are happening now. One such evening, sitting majestically in his teacher's seat in the temple, his entire body charged with spiritual power, his face glowing, Swamiji told us in his booming, commanding voice: 'Never be a slave to the world. Serve the world like a master and walk off like a king.'
There is something about the theory of servant leadership that makes me uncomfortable. I like most of the things about it. Like, I like the idea that a leader need not necessarily hold formal leadership positions. Gandhi, easily the most influential and effective Indian leader in modern times, did not hold a formal leadership position throughout most of his later life. The all-time greatest leader India has seen, Krishna, never held any formal positions in his life. In Mathura, where his wicked uncle whom he killed was king, he could easily have become king. But he refused that position. Throughout his long life, he disposes off many evil kings, but never accepts the kingdoms for himself. Instead, he always places the son of the dead king on the throne and refuses all positions for himself. In the Mahabharata war, he could easily have become the commander-in-chief of the Pandava army. In every way he was the most competent person for that position and yet he chose to be Arjuna's driver, instead.
Similarly, I like the idea that a leader should encourage collaboration and trust. I like the idea that a leader should use his power ethically and should empower his followers. I like the idea that a leader should be a good listener, should strive to understand and empathize with others and accept them as unique individuals. I love the idea that a leader should be able to touch his people and through his touch transform them, heal them. I appreciate the need for a leader to be aware ' have self-awareness, other-awareness and general awareness. I totally agree with the servant leadership stand that a good leader uses persuasion rather than his positional authority; that he should be a dreamer of great dreams and see into the future, that he should have the ability to understand the lessons from the past, the realities of the present, and likely consequences of a decision for the future; that he should be committed to building community, helping his people grow as persons, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and evolve into leaders themselves.
That's liking almost everything about servant leadership, for this is what servant leadership is all about. What then makes me uncomfortable about the concept?
Perhaps it is the idea that 'the servant leader is a servant first.'
No, it is not that I do not believe that a leader should serve and serve first. But I believe he never really becomes a servant even when he serves ' he is always a master. In fact, I believe it is only as a master that you can really serve. As a servant you really cannot serve. As a servant you can obey, take orders and carry them out, but you cannot guide, you cannot transform people, you can empower them.
Scholars writing about servant leadership in the Indian context often quote Krishna's example for servant leadership. Didn't he serve Arjuna as his charioteer? But I do not see Krishna serving Arjuna as a servant. Even when serving Arjuna, Krishna is the master. Krishna cannot be anything but a master. The only way he can serve is as a master.
The Journey to the East, yet another classic by Hermann Hesse, is considered seminal to the understanding of the concept of servant leadership ' in fact it is the book that inspired Robert K. Greenleaf to evolve his theory of servant leadership. In the first essay in his Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness, Greenleaf says, 'The idea of the servant as leader came out of reading Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East. In this story we see a band of men on a mythical journey, probably also Hesse's own journey. The central figure of the story is Leo, who accompanies the party as the servant who does their menial chores, but who also sustains them with his spirit and his song. He is a person of extraordinary presence. All goes well until Leo disappears. Then the group falls into disarray and the journey is abandoned. They cannot make it without the servant Leo. The narrator, one of the party, after some years of wandering, finds Leo and is taken into the Order that had sponsored the journey. There he discovers that Leo, whom he had known first as servant, was in fact the titular head of the Order, its guiding spirit, a great and noble leader.'
To make sure about what I am writing, I just read The Journey to the East, a book that I have been intending to read for years, since Hesse is among my all time favorite authors. True, Leo serves the group, but he never becomes a servant in the book. He remains a master even when he serves. It is with the full awareness that he is the master that he serves the travelers. And he never once loses his dignity as a master even when he serves.
The wise Mahabharata says: 'A good king [leader] should always behave in such a manner as to avoid what is dear to him, for the sake of doing that which would benefit his people.' The Mahabharata wants a leader to serve his people, but it does not want him to be their servant.
Nor does Chanakya mean the leader should become the servant of his followers when he says that the leader should always do what is dear to his people and not what is dear to himself. Chanakya's leader remains the swami even when he serves.
And I do not mean, either in the case of Krishna or in any other case, that one should be a master of others. By the word master I mean a self-master. That is what the Sanskrit word swami means ' a master, a master of oneself, a self-master.
Neither a master of others, nor a servant to others, but a master of oneself.
That is what the courtesan Kamala tells Siddhartha: 'I do not want you to become his servant.' Kamaswami is wealth. How can wisdom be the servant of wealth? Can there be anything more demeaning than a man like Siddhartha becoming Kamaswami's servant?
Kamala wants Siddhartha to remain Kamaswami's equal: 'You shall become his equal.'
And Kamala adds, 'Or else I won't be satisfied with you.'
A woman like Kamala cannot respect a servant, a slave. She is a mistress of herself in spite of being a courtesan and she can respect only a master.
This is not arrogance. This is dignity.
The Tibetan Shambhala tradition talks about the four dignities to be cultivated on the road to perfection, and the first of these dignities is meekness. And the tradition explains: Meekness is not being feeble, but resting in a state of simplicity, being uncomplicated and approachable. It is being true and genuine, being completely comfortable with yourself and at ease in the world.
For the Shambhala tradition, the analogy for meekness is a tiger ' a tiger in its prime, who moves slowly and heedfully through the jungle, mindfully, relaxed, liking his body and his bounciness and sense of rhythm.
That is how I see all self-masters. That is how Kamala wants Siddhartha to be with Kamaswami. That is how every man should be.
One should not compromise on human dignity while serving.
Well, perhaps all I have against servant leadership is a quarrel with one word.
That's one thing. The other thing I want to comment about is what Siddhartha tells about his goal, his resolution. He says once he has set his goal, once he has made his resolution, 'he doesn't let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal.' Most of our resolutions fail because of our inner conflicts, inner contradictions. We do not have the single-mindedness to make our resolutions come true. Doubts arise in our minds, questions arise, and our own mind works against our resolutions and defeats them.
As Krishna puts it in the Bhagavad Gita: vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kurunandana; bahusakha hi anantah ca buddhayo'vyavasayinam. 'Those who are resolute sustain a single thought in their mind, but the thoughts of the irresolute are endless and many-branched, O Arjuna.'
We are never defeated by the world outside. We are always defeated by ourselves. By our own minds. By our doubts and inner conflicts. By our irresoluteness.
Miracles happen when your mind is resolute.
Your mere desires then get transformed into realities.
It is for that reason that the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad asks us to be careful about what we desire. For our desires shape us: atha u khalu ahuh. kamamaya evayam purusha iti. 'Therefore it is indeed said: you are what your desire is.'
Siddhartha first says in Kamaswami's house as his guest and then begins working for him. 'Siddhartha learned many new things; he heard a lot and spoke little. And thinking of Kamala's words, he was never subservient to the merchant, forced him to treat him as an equal, yes even more than an equal. Kamaswami conducted his business with care and often with passion, but Siddhartha looked upon all of this as if it was a game, the rules of which he tried hard to learn precisely, but the contents of which did not touch his heart.'
Simultaneously, young Siddhartha learns other things too ' from Kamala. 'Much he learned from her red, smart mouth. Much he learned from her tender, supple hand' Wonderful hours he spent with the beautiful and smart artist, became her student, her lover, her friend.'
Kamaswami soon realizes that while Siddhartha has no real interest in business, he has that mysterious quality of those people to whom success comes all by itself. Kamaswami is not sure what exactly it is, but he makes a few observations about Siddhartha and his ways. For one thing, Siddhartha always seems to be merely playing with business-affairs, they never fully become a part of him, they never rule over him, he is never afraid of failure, he is never upset by a loss. Also, that Siddhartha surpassed him, the merchant, in calmness and equanimity, and in the art of listening and deeply understanding previously unknown people.
On the advice of a friend, under the hope that this would perhaps make Siddhartha take more interest in business, Kamaswami makes him a shareholder in his business, with a share both in his profit and in his loss.
But Siddhartha never takes any more interest in business than he did before. At one time, he traveled to a village to buy a large harvest of rice there. But when he got there, the rice had already been sold to another merchant. Nevertheless, Siddhartha stayed for several days in that village, treated the farmers for a drink, gave copper-coins to their children, joined in the celebration of a wedding, and returned extremely satisfied from his trip.
True, Siddhartha can see the commercial advantages of this. If I'll ever return there again, perhaps to buy an upcoming harvest, or for whatever purpose it might be, friendly people will receive me in a friendly and happy manner, and I will praise myself for not showing any hurry and displeasure at that time. But that is not the reason why he spends time with the people. It is not future benefits he has in mind. It is not a business strategy for Siddhartha. He truly values their friendship for its own sake. Among his most cherished memories of the time are that he has gotten to know people and places, received kindness and trust, and found friendship; that children have sat on his knees and farmers have shown him their fields.
Siddhartha values people for themselves and not for their commercial worth. He is genuinely interested in them as people, as human beings.
Like Kamala who wanted to take credit for what she had done to him out of love, Kamaswami too wants to take credit for what Siddhartha had learnt from him, and but his need to take credit is not as innocent as that of Kamala. Siddhartha calls this a joke and tells Kamaswami, 'What I've learned from you is how much a basket of fish costs and how much interests may be charged on loaned money. These are your areas of expertise. I haven't learned to think from you, my dear Kamaswami, you ought to be the one seeking to learn from me.'
Again, I want to point out here, it is not ungratefulness. He is just speaking the truth.
Siddhartha is a true brahmana, in the original sense of the term, and Kamaswami, a bania, a businessman in the true sense of the term. The brahmana should not learn the ways of the bania, whereas the bania should learn the ways of the brahmana. When the brahmana learns the ways of the bania, he ceases to be a brahmana but when the bania learns from the brahmana, he becomes a better businessman. Many are the things that a businessman can learn from the brahmana - his serenity, his search for understanding himself, his independence, his freedom, his equanimity in gain and loss, his fearlessness, his art of listening, his ability to understand people, and countless other things.
'The merchant's attempts to convince Siddhartha that he was eating his, Kamaswami's, bread were also in vain.'
A brahmana is grateful to people for the things he gets from them. But he also knows they are not the real givers - the true giver is existence itself, life itself. They are mere instruments.
There is a beautiful saying in my mother tongue, Malayalam. Throw a piece of bread to a dog, and it will wag its tail before you all its life. Give an elephant something to eat, it will be grateful to you for sure, but it will not wag its tail before you.
The rich and the powerful in India, the wealthy merchant, the moneylender and the zamindar, have always forced the poor and the powerless to kneel before them and call them their mai-baap and God after throwing a morsel of bread before them - a morsel of bread produced by the poor man's efforts. But Siddhartha is not one to bend his knees either before money or before power.
'Whether there was a business deal going on which was in danger of failing, or whether a shipment of merchandise seemed to have been lost, or a debtor seemed to be unable to pay, Kamaswami could never convince his partner that it would be useful to utter a few words of worry or anger, to have wrinkles on the forehead, to sleep badly.'
Krishna tells Arjuna in the Gita: sukhaduhkhe same krtva, labhalabhau jayajayau tato yuddhaya yujjyasva. 'Treating happiness and sorrow, gain and loss, and conquest and defeat with equanimity, get ready for battle.'
Words of immeasurable wisdom! Words that form the very core of Indian philosophy of work!
This is how a warrior battles. He puts his life at stake every time he enters the battlefield and yet he keeps his equanimity. He wants victory, no doubt, but he remains equanimous in victory and defeat; he wants happiness and not sorrow, yet he is equanimous in happiness and sorrow; he wants gain, but he is equanimous in gain and loss.
Every businessman knows it is impossible to beat a rival who is not afraid to lose.
The Kamaswamis of the world and the Siddharthas are made of different stuff. Where the Kamaswamis are under constant threat and insecurities, filled with mistrust and suspicion, the Siddharthas live their lives in festivity and celebration, in utsava bhava. Stress is a way of life for the Kamaswamis, but the Siddharthas dance through their life.
Just as Siddhartha wouldn't allow Kamaswami to become his master, he wouldn't allow business affairs to rule over him. Business is not life for him, it is one of the requirements of life, means of earning money.
There is a Sanskrit verse I love - love beyond words can explain. Says Janaka, our greatest ancient ideal for the sage king, the rajarshi, in the verse: mithilayam pradiptayam na me kinchana nasyati. 'If Mithila burns down to ashes, nothing of mine is lost.' No, this is not Nero playing the lyre while Rome burns. Janaka is not a hard-hearted ruler who did not care for his subjects. This is a ruler to whom each of his subjects was like a son. A king with total commitment, total dedication, a paragon of virtues, to whom nothing is more important than the welfare of his people. And yet he could say that, because at one level, he was beyond all these things.
That is exactly what it was all to Siddhartha. To him it was all a game he was playing.
Siddhartha is the sthitaprajna the Gita talks about. Well, almost.
Says the Gita about the sthitaprajna:
yah sarvatranabhisnehah tattad prapya shubhashubham
nabhinandati na dveshti tasya prajna pratish?hita.
A sthitaprajna does not feel the kind of possessive attachment other people feel everywhere. And as good things come to him he does not become overly elated, nor does he grieve it when bad things happen to him.
And that is exactly how we see Siddhartha at this stage in his life. He is muktasangah - free from attachments.
Siddhartha loves. But it is not money Siddhartha loves. It is not things Siddhartha loves. He loves people. Welcome was the merchant who offered him linen for sale, welcome was the debtor who sought another loan, welcome was the beggar who told him for one hour the story of his poverty and who was not half as poor as any given Samana. And he treated them all equally. He did not treat the rich foreign merchant any different than the servant who shaved him and the street-vendor whom he let cheat him out of some small change when buying bananas.
And Siddhartha loves life. He visited the beautiful Kamala regularly, learned the art of love in which, more than anything else, giving and taking became one.
In Siddhartha we find the beautiful ancient ideal of India: balancing dharma, artha and kama. Kama is pleasure; artha is wealth; and dharma is goodness, thought for the other, not exploiting others, giving others at least as much as we take from them.
The lesson Siddhartha learns from Kamala about love is equally applicable to business too. Business is at its best when giving and taking become one. When giving becomes taking and taking becomes giving. So long as the two are different, you are only an inferior businessman.
One day with Kamala, Siddhartha makes an invaluable observation. He tells her, 'You are like me; you are different from other people. You are Kamala and no one else, and with you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself, just as I can. Few people have that capacity and yet everyone could have it.'
Siddhartha observes that he, a former samana, and the most famous, the most beautiful, the most talented prostitute of the day are alike.
And he tells her in what way they are both alike. She is Kamala and no one else, just like he is Siddhartha and no one else. Both of them are original people, and not of the faceless masses. Each lives his and her life in his and her own way, and not the way the faceless masses live. They have retained their individuality, their uniqueness.
This is the meaning of the word swadharma at its deepest level. Practicing swadharma means being what you are, living what you are. The dharma of a thing is what makes the thing what it is - dharayati iti dharmah; dharanat dharma ityahuh; and so on. The dharma of fire is to burn, the dharma of water is to find its level. When fire burns, it is practicing its swadharma; when water seeks its level, it is practicing its swadharma. The swadharma of fire maybe to destroy through burning, and the swadharma of water maybe to nourish through flowing; but when fire destroys through burning, it is practicing its swadharma, just as when water nourishes through flowing, it is practicing its swadharma.
Each one of us is born to practice our dharma, our swadharma. Spiritual growth is possible only when we practice our swadharma. All growth is possible only when we practice swadharma. Practicing swadharma is the highest virtue, says all of Indian culture. The Bhagavad Gita goes to the extent of saying that it is better to die in swadharma than to practice paradharma, what is not one's dharma; for, terrible is [the practice of] paradharma [in its consequences]: swadharme nidhanam sreyah, paradharmo bhayavahah.
Swadharma is when you become what you are, when you live what you are. When you become authentically what you are and live an authentic life as what you are.
And such is the stress Indian culture lays on swadharma that it never tires of extolling the virtues of swadharma and telling stories about those who practice their swadharma.
Like the famous story of dharmavyadha, the sagely butcher, that appears in the Mahabharata and is repeated in numerous other places, including the Shukasaptati, where I unexpectedly came across it earlier this morning. He is a butcher by profession, and yet he is a great saint too - saintliness acquired through the practice of swadharma.
One of the most beautiful stories I have come across about swadharma is the lesser known story of Bindumati, a prostitute like Kamala. The story says that one day Emperor Ashoka was taking a walk along the Ganga in Pataliputra. A couple of his ministers were with him, as was Bindumati. As they were walking along, an idle thought occurred to Ashoka and he spoke it out. 'I wonder,' he said, 'if anyone can turn the current of the mighty Ganga backward.' There was silence for a moment or two and then Bindumati spoke. 'If I have your permission, Maharaj,' said the prostitute, 'I can turn the Ganga backward.'
Ashoka was stunned. The ministers were stunned. The woman must have gone mad! Who can make the Ganga flow backward!
But Bindumati looked serious. She was waiting for the emperor's permission.
'Show me,' said Ashoka. 'Do it now.'
And, says the story, Bindumati closed her eyes and stood in utter silence for a few moments. The emperor and the ministers watched her and then looked at the Ganga. And they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Mother Ganga was slowing down. The greatest miracle of their life was happening right before their eyes. Soon the Ganga became absolutely still. Like a long, endless lake. There was not a movement in the water.
They all turned back and looked at Bindumati with unbelieving eyes. And when they looked back at the Ganga again, the water had slowly begun flowing backward. And soon the roaring, mighty river was flowing backward with the same power with which it had flowed downward!
'How could you do that?' asked the emperor. It was more a shout than a question.
'Because of the power of my swadharma,' answered Bindumati, in a voice as serene as could be. 'I am a prostitute and I practice the dharma of the prostitute with total commitment.'
That is the Indian attitude towards swadharma. About being what you are and living what you are.
And Siddhartha tells Kamala: you are what you are and live what you are, just as I am what I am and live what I am.
That is one thing that makes them unique and separates them from the rest of the people around them.
And, he tells her, another thing: she has within her a stillness, a sanctuary to which she can retreat any time.
An inner sanctuary to which one can retire and cut off the world and be oneself.
I do not think there is anything in life as precious as that.
Every one of us feels the need to have a room of our own, into which we can go and close the doors and be ourselves. Virginia Woolf wrote a book by that name: A Room of One's Own. I believe it is one of every human being's basic needs.
I believe the need for solitude is as important a need as the need for self-actualization or self-transcendence or belongingness or the other basic human needs Abraham Maslow speaks about. Personally, it has always been with me. Even as a child, I had this need to spend hours all alone. If I couldn't do that at home, I walked to solitary places and spent hours there. Like the attic of the gopuram of our village temple - it was a large one with a tall gopuram in south Indian style - where I could spend as many hours as I liked all alone. Or other solitary places in our valley.
And yet I believe the need for an inner sanctuary is perhaps even more important than the need for outer solitude. With that inner sanctuary, you can be in solitude even in the middle of a crowd.
Few people have that. Kamala has that. And so does Siddhartha. Having that most precious of human possessions is another common thing they have between themselves.
Sometimes in my executive training programmes I conduct an exercise in building an inner sanctuary to which a person can retire when he needs it. I think more than anything else, it is this that keeps a man sane. In the absence of that, I believe, there is the chance of our turning insane. We all need occasionally to get Far from the Madding Crowd.
To nourish ourselves. To give time for our souls to catch up with us.
James Truslow Adams writes in Time for the Soul: 'A friend of mine, a distinguished explorer who spent a couple of years among the savages of the upper Amazon, once attempted a forced march through the jungle. The party made extraordinary speed for the first two days, but on the third morning, when it was time to start, my friend found all the natives sitting on their haunches, looking very solemn and making no preparation to leave. 'They are waiting,' the chief explained to my friend. 'They cannot move farther until their souls have caught up with their bodies.'
The modern man has great need to give time for his soul to catch up with him. Particularly men in the business world.
Speaking of sanctuary, Margaret Blair Johnstone says: 'It gives more than refuge and release; it gives renewal. Essentially, sanctuary is a means of finding the power to face life on lifted wings. It is this power which enables men to renew their strength 'mount up with wings as eagles' run and not be weary- walk and not faint.
Sanctuaries are opportunities to get in touch with our inner wisdom, to turn away from the world's chatter and to listen to our inner silence, the silence of our being, its music. The busier you are, the more you have the need for an inner sanctuary. I do not think anyone has ever needed inner sanctuaries as today's busy executive does and the higher his position, the more is his need for a sanctuary.
Having a sanctuary is as important as having a vision and a mission in life, as being motivated and connected with people.
One last thing.
One day Kamala and Siddhartha played the game of love, one of the thirty or forty different games Kamala knew. Her body was supple like that of a jaguar and a hunter's bow; whoever learned about love from her, learned many pleasures, many secrets. For a long time, she played with Siddhartha, repulsed him, overwhelmed him, conquered him and rejoiced at her mastery, until he was overcome and lay exhausted by her side.
The courtesan bent over him, took a long look at his face, at his eyes, which had grown tired.
'You are the best lover I have ever had,' she said thoughtfully. 'You're stronger than others, more supple, more willing. You've learned my art well, Siddhartha. At some time, when I'll be older, I'd want to bear your child.'
No one can love as beautifully as a Buddha can love. Or a Buddha-in-the-making can love. Even when it comes to physical love, sexual love.
In business, Siddhartha becomes more effective than Kamaswami, the merchant. In love, Siddhartha becomes the best lover the courtesan Kamala has known.
That is what happens when the Buddha enters the business world. He excels in whatever he does.
To be a Buddha is to excel in everything you do.
Krishna, the Buddha who excelled in everything he did, the great master of yoga, the yogayogeshwara, defines yoga as excellence in action: yogah karmasu kaushalam.
No matter what that action is, you excel in it.
For those who are not familiar with Hermann Hesse's book, Siddhartha here is not the historical Buddha, though he too is a character in the book. This Siddhartha is a Brahmin youth who leaves home in search of the truth, as the Buddha himself did.