As the title suggests, this article is about trying to understand and explore- what really does it mean when we call or refer people that we work with “Guru” and what makes or doesn’t make one a “Guru”. Well certainly enough, you can always say, who am I to take a shot and define this space, well I am not doing that and neither do I intend to do that! This is about reflecting upon the true essence of the word “Guru” and how that can be appreciated in the times that we live in! So let’s begin!
We have all walked through those so called “aces” at work in our work areas, someone good at sales, someone good at marketing, few others ace it with numbers, few dealing with people so on and so forth, but very few and rarely you will find people around you, when you come across them , seem to be institutions within themselves! These are radically different, they may not always have that coveted expensive degree, nor always will they have that infectious personality and neither will they always seem to be all that spic and span – almost ready for the next shoot of a corporate magazine cover! These are the ones’ who hold us in awe, and respect by virtue of being who they simply are and these, my friends are the real “Gurus” that we have around our workplace! I am sure you would have encountered a few, I had the privilege to be lead by a few and that’s what makes our lives all that more enriching!
This is beyond that help your senior provided you with and you repaid the same with an evening beer, this is beyond that odd shift you took up to help that unlucky junior who had a bad bout of food poisoning, it is different from saving the job of that finance rookie who had posted wrong entries on the forbidden side of the balance sheet! So, by now if you are still wondering, if it’s none of this, not the managers, not the seniors, not the work, not the help, not the guidance, then what is it about? Well, my friend to begin with, let’s start by understanding the philosophical concept of the very word that we are trying to understand here- “Guru” – One of the many golden words from the ancient Sanskrit Language from the Indian sub-continent (often referred to as the language of the Gods) , the word Guru primarily has two parts- Gu- which implies Darkness and Ru which implies Light. This word primarily has been used to anyone and everyone who has had a profound capacity and ability to guide and direct the life or people away from darkness and usher them into the area of light! As the old masters say, The Guru never tells what to see, The Guru just tells where to look!
Now, with this new information at your disposal, I am certain your mind has already started to get into an overdrive to possibly evaluate who are or have been your “Gurus” and for whom you think you have been, well hang in there, there is much more to be understood before you actually end up offering the title or receiving the same!
The genesis or the importance of the “Guru” evolved and developed through the rich ancient history of what is today India, back then historically societies, in terms of complexities were far simpler than what we are today and largely worked around the dignity of labour and definition of the work that an individual did within the contextual frame of the prevailing society, so you end ed up being a priest, a soldier or a farmer or a tradesman or a social worker based on the competence that was derived on basis of one’s lineage- well there would have been benefits and adverse impacts around this- but that is not for the current topic. So once you had these defined sets of social class, meant to perform tasks with exceeding levels of competence to rise and ensure the safety and well being of the society- read kingdom, the onus was only on one vocation- it was the Teachers- The “Gurus” were the only people who stood between a society- kingdom being assured a continual supply of aces across the work areas or incompetent people joining the work areas which would eventual result into the disintegration and falling apart of the kingdom- because once Incompetence sets in- sooner or later- collapse will be certain- whether it be an individual- a society or a kingdom!
Now that the onus of ensuring safety and well being of each and every soul firmly resting on the wise teachers, what do you think would have manifested further? Well yes, good teacher’s created good enough students who were able to hold on to the societies and kingdoms for a few generation perhaps and when extraordinary teachers created geniuses among students, their kingdoms had legacies which last centuries and in some cases have left an impeccable mark on the way we carry out our modern live as well- don’t believe me- well think about the India’s National Emblem you will possibly get a hint at what I mean here! The real “Gurus” have always been able to influence and create value for time periods lasting centuries- long after their physical presence has been lost by way of their structured teachings and eclectic followership- with only one goal- serve the larger and greater goal of the society and replenish the capabilities of an individual! So now that you have got the context, let’s come back to the “now” and what do you see now, do you still find an equivalent or a close comparison to these ancient “Gurus” within or around you? May be you do or may be you don’t, either ways, that’s fine-because that’s the irony of the times that we live in!
In the time that we live in, at the most what majority of the people involved in working around glass clad offices experience is the modern day concept of mentoring- that fabled mentor- mentee relationship- well it lasts as long as the objective of the organisation or the task at hand are met, post that no one really cares for the other! Nothing right or wrong with this aspect as this how the norm has been set whether we like it or not! Certainly there are ramifications for this, it works for that specific problem to be solved, but leaves both of them devoid of any learning which can set them up for future failures- as their focus is too focused and entrapped into one specific aspect- without considering the need of learning in depth of the mentee! The modern day office settings have invariably created pressures of work and time which simply don’t allow to foster in- depth understanding, which is needed for the real Gurus to present themselves, as the students too are almost never ready! There is an old saying, which I had read somewhere along, When the Student is Ready the Master arrives! Well in the modern day office where everyone is working from one pay check to the other, this wait of the students ends up becoming an eternal one, sometimes the Guru is there with no students and yet other times, the student is wailing for help with no Guru’s around! So what can be done about this, is there anything that can be really done?
For the Gurus to arrive and the student’s to thrive, we need to consider a radically different approach to work, an approach which thrives on debates, discussions and experimentation- with an emphasis to fail- rather than succeed (sure enough I am not suggesting the organisations to go bankrupt with this approach- whatever is within the limits of allowable failure). The ancient “Gurus” always had a great tenacity to teach through this approach and it worked because no one ever told the student what to do, they were always told what was required as a result- not how to get it done! The student who would have been the most creative and effective in providing the solution, would than be able to set a standard process for the given challenge for others to follow- this encouraged learning, competitiveness knowing well that- there is never only ONE right way and this ensured that students and Gurus alike ever remained humble! You see, Humility is the anchor stone to Learning and applicability of what is being learnt- Without humility, knowledge will just slip away like grains of sand from the fingers of your palm!
Another important way of knowing you are in company of a true Guru- “Gurus are not bonded to their designation/labels/business cards,they have a strong sense of assumed ownership and will jump straight into the challenge at hand and start providing directions for resolving the challenge- this will be needles to say, to the delight of many and the horror of a few others! Unlike the modern concept, people often misread the part tat the “Guru” has to be a senior person- your boss- or someone in the office who is about to get an heart attack or fade away or retire; well it doesn’t have to be that way! On the other extreme end, actually it could be that new intern sitting and smiling away in all glory to your dumbness! You see,- Guru- as the word implies- the ability to dispel darkness and show the light- also has an intrinsic aspect of common-sense woven into it, you don’t always need to have a deep philosophical bondage to it, just because the word and the manifestation of it have such deep rooted civilization tagged to it!
The fact remains though, for the master to appear, there has to readiness among the students!; You see businesses hire based on consideration sets of the services that have to be provided to the society, and unlike earlier times, we have warped workplaces cloaked and hidden away into far too much of incompetence- which is hidden not because of anything else but the pressure of loosing the livelihood– If businesses ensure that incompetence management is an anchor stone of their business turnaround policy- more than ever students will present themselves to be trained, retrained and skilled and for that to manifest, the masters’ the Gurus’s will appear like magic- This simple shift in the mindset of people to deal and engage with incompetence and not negate or hush it up will do a lot good not only to save livelihoods but create finer and sharper work force which in times ahead can unleash new ways of excellence pertaining to their work!
Well, if you ask me, the presence or absence of the real “guru” in a workplace speaks a lot about the place itself! All great places which have created an impact on human lives have been fortunate to have these unsung masters always around- some famous, many not so famous and it is these tiny elements that go on to make a big difference for an organisation to be considered among the best and being THE BEST! Not to forget, there is a “Guru” within each of us, perhaps you may be struggling with what you do, but something within you, can make a whole big difference in someone else’s life! It is about taking those pauses at work and reflect to see, what is that you know and what is that you know- that you don’t know- when you reach this space- you will have the Guru paying you a visit and at the same time you will end up being a Guru to someone else too!
I will leave you here, with these quasi-philosophical aspects around the concept of “Guru”, I have intentionally stopped short of getting into mundane examples of our office lives and will leave all of that for your imagination and experience to play it around for you! What is important is to have the realization that without The Guru- there is no light and without Light there is no Life! The Guru is sometimes within you and at times around you- You just need to seek THE GURU! Yes, I read this somewhere, never forget- The Guru doesn’t ever tell you what to see, but always guides you where to look! Think around this!
Ciao for now, will be back with another article and once again, Here’s Wishing Everyone A Very Blessed Guru Purnima!