Monday Musings – 29 – Learning knows no limit

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Dharmavyadha, the butcher in the story covered in the previous episode will end up teaching  leadership lessons for a learned rishi Kaushika, because Dharmavyadha attained that eminent status from the sincerity shown in his work.

What can current corporate leaders learn from a butcher? Is it possible in the first place? I shall include here some key learnings from Vyadha Gita to prove that it is very much possible. Learnings does not know any limit.

  1. Leave the people to decide their career, you may like it or not

Current generations are very clear about their career choice, and they take every possible effort towards the job they would eventually love. That is a positive change. Give your children enough exposure so that they can decide of a career which they would love. Unknowingly, many of us may fall prey to stereotyping and force our choices on our children. Don’t underestimate any job. It is possible to be the ‘best butcher’ in the world and rise to the level of teaching dharma to a sanyasin. Don’t fall prey to ‘stereotyping’.

Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he / she was born in another time – Rabindranath Tagore

Young sanyasin felt bad for dharmavyadha and discouraged him to be in the cruel profession (as per his thoughts) only to realize later that dharmavyadha is indeed doing the right thing. He learnt the secrets of success in his life from the same butcher.

brāhmaṇa uvāca karmaitadvai na sadṛśaṁ bhavataḥ pratibhāti me | 
anutapye bhṛśaṁ tāta tava ghoreṇa karmaṇā ||
Vyadha Gita 15 || 

The Brahmin said:– “I really don’t think that this profession is suitable for you. O butcher! I deeply regret that you should follow such a cruel trade.”

  1. Love your job, whichever job you may land up in

One need to be very focused and work towards landing up in a job which they would love. No second opinion on this. But, many a times, we may end up in roles, positions that is not of our liking. Unavoidable. There is no point in crying foul over destiny, politics, parity or fairness. Accept the destiny and start loving your job.

Dharmavyadha proved in ‘Vyadha Gita’ that one can love any job and can attain perfection in any job if done with sincerity and seriousness.

Dharmavyadha took up the job of a butcher as a family tradition and he never felt ashamed of being a butcher. He was able to deliver his responsibilities to the society and towards his family. He never shied away from his responsibilities destined to him. That gave him the power to learn and practice higher things in life.

  1. How well you perform your job matters than what you do

satyaṁ vade nābhyasūye yathāśakti dadāmi ca | 
devatātithi bhṛtyānām avaśiṣṭena vartaye ||
— Vyadha Gita 18 || 

O best of Brahmins! I always speak the truth, and never envy others; and I give charity to the best of my ability. I live upon what remains after serving the gods, strangers and the employees that depend on me.

na kutsayāmyahaṁ kiñcin na garhe balavattaram | 
kṛtam anveti kartāraṁ purā karma dvijottama ||
— Vyadha Gita 19 || 

and the I never speak ill of anything, small or great. O Brahmin, the actions (karma) of a former life always follow the doer.

Dharmavyadha continued to do his family tradition but performed the job still following complete dharmic principles. Your qualities matter and the qualities can be practised in all the jobs.

  1. Be the Best in all you do but don’t lose sight of the Best you can be

Dharmavyadha performed his job with sincerity and mastered the art. However, he never stopped developing the spiritual knowledge and did not let go of the opportunity to teach the young sannyasin.

Likewise, we need to be the Best in what we do to succeed now. Living in Present is important. However, it should not preclude us from the emerging opportunities. Focusing on learning, developing competencies, pursuing your passion and seizing the opportunities is also equally important.

  1. Every day is a new beginning

Every day is a new beginning in our life. We shall neither be influenced by the ego from previous successes nor be pulled down by the pressures of previous failures.

Kaushika, the sage, became aware of his special power of ‘reducing a crane to ashes’ by just staring at it. But he tried the same with the housewife and lost his face. The tricks you learn may not be helpful in all the situations. You must understand the situation and react as the situation demands rather than getting influenced by ego from previous success.

As leaders, we should be worried about not letting the pride develop into ego / arrogance. We deserve to “Celebrate, Feel proud of our skills, Share the success, Have fun”. No doubt.  But we need to “Move on”. We shouldn’t become obsessive to our past glory. 

Confidence is good. But the story brings out nicely the subtle difference between confidence and arrogance.

What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?

Confidence comes from having self-trust. Confident individuals know that they don’t know everything, but they know they can find the support they need.

Arrogance, on the other hand, comes from a zero-sum mentality. Arrogant individuals are reluctant to ask for help, since it threatens their self-sufficient identity.

Meaningful lesson.

  1.  Don’t be biased by the BIASes

Kaushika failed not once, but twice because of his BIAS. He could not understand and appreciate the ‘sincerity’ of the housewife and the butcher. He got angry with the delay of the housewife in satiating his hunger and underestimated the butcher’s power.

Why do these biases happen? Attention is a limited resource. This means we can’t possibly evaluate every possible detail and event when forming thoughts and opinions. Because of this, we often rely on mental shortcuts that speed up our ability to make judgments. But this leads to loss of face like what Kaushika faced in the story.

Leaders should not allow biases to influence important decisions.

  1. Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

Though Kaushika was biased initially, he went on to listen and learn from the butcher and put whatever he learnt to practice. Unlearning and Relearning is a big challenge for experienced leaders.

“The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
— Alvin Toffler

Unlearning is challenging. There are a lot of metaphors for unlearning. Chipping away at the old paint before you put on a fresh coat. Clearing away the vegetation before planting something new. The previous ideas, beliefs, assumptions, etc, must be completely removed for the new one to flourish. They cannot overlap. Kaushika did unlearn and thus succeeded in learning from the butcher.


Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.



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