As a young boy I read a short story which left a deep impact on me at that time, even though I did not understand its full significance. The story was about a Pauranika (a person who gives religious discourses), who was considered to be an expert with regard to discourses on the Bhagavatha. He approached the king of Benaras, which was then considered to be the highest seat of learning, and told him that while he had given discourses in several courts, he had one desire left, that of giving a discourse in the Benaras king's court. The king was very pleased, but got down from his throne and, with folded hands, told him how it would be a great honour for him to listen to him but could the Pauranika please read the Bhagavatha once more before starting his discourse? The Pauranika was angry but as his anger would be of little avail in the presence of the king, he had no option but to go back and read the epic once again. As he did so, he found deeper meanings in the various passages. His anger evaporated as he realised that the king had good reason to make the suggestion that he did. After completing his reading he once again approached the king with the same request, only to be told by the king to read the epic once more before starting his discourse. Dejected, he came back home and plunged into reading the Bhagavatha once again. As he delved deep into it, he found that he was getting gradually transformed. His sense of ego left him and the desire to display his prowess before the king also disappeared. He read and re-read the book many times. Realising that the Pauranika was not going to return, the king rushed to his home, prostrated himself, and requested the Pauranika to begin the discourse as he had at last found a worthy teacher.
I was introduced to the Thirukural at the very young age of seven. I was staying with my maternal uncle and used to accompany him in the evenings to the house of a Tamil scholar who was an authority on the Thirukural. His exposition of several of the kurals inspired me to read and understand the text in its entirety. As a young boy it was possible for me to grasp only the superficial meaning of the book, but that was adequate enough for me to regulate my conduct in a meaningful way. As I persisted in my learning process, I found that the very same kural which conveyed a particular meaning to me as a young boy seemed to shed an entirely different light as I grew up. When I was barely fourteen, I remember asking my teacher why the Thirukural dealt with only three aspects of life, that is, virtue, wealth creation and enjoyment of life, and excluded the fourth aspect - that of achieving enlightenment. I did not get a very satisfactory answer at that time. It was only when I turned sixty that I realised that every one of these kurals dealt with the aspect of enlightenment and in view of this, a separate treatment of the subject was redundant.
The limited success I have been able to achieve in my life and career is largely influenced by the teachings of Valluvar. I made a genuine and deliberate attempt to apply the teachings of this great saint both in my life and career. Therefore, on receiving a request from Srinivasan to write a preface to his book on management philosophy as embodied in the Thirukural, I found myself in sync with his thought process. I read his book with considerable interest, given my familiarity with the subject, and was delighted with the way in which he was able to organise and summarise the various teachings of the great saint and articulate their relevance in the current context. I particularly enjoyed his comparison of the kingdom with the corporate organisation, and the various functionaries of the kingdom with the executives of the organisation. This rather innovative attempt establishes the relevance of the ancient text to current times.
This, in fact, is the greatness of the Thirukural, its ability to transcend times and propound the universal Truth, which has applicability across time and borders. Thiruvalluvar is generally considered a Hindu but the Jains say that considering his teachings, he cannot but be a Jain. Buddhists believe that he must be a Buddhist, while the Christians consider him to be a Christian given the similarity of his teachings to the Bible. The very fact that nearly two thousand years after his time he is still being claimed as part of different religious groups is proof of the universality of the Truth espoused by him. In fact, I would go one step further and say with a degree of confidence that this also establishes that all religions in their essence are one and the same; the differences, if any, being merely superficial.
Srinivasan indeed has excellent credentials to outline management concepts and link them to the teachings of Valluvar. I came to know him as a young executive of ICICI and have seen him rise to great heights within the organisation. The manner in which he put 3i Infotech on the growth path, successfully dealing with many challenges the company faced in its formative years, is testimony to his emergence as one of the young corporate leaders in the country. The book not only incorporates the results of his rich experience in corporate organisations but also reflects his deep understanding of ancient Indian philosophy. I am greatly impressed by his ability to link the teachings of Valluvar with the various concepts propounded by the management gurus of the day. This comparative analysis would be of great interest to students of management.
I would, without hesitation, recommend this book for reading by young and aspiring corporate executives.
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