-By Abhishek Veeraraghavan,
Student Media Cell,
On July 26th, IIM Bangalore hosted Gaur Gopal Das, an Electrical engineer, and former HP employee, for a talk as a part of the EPGP Seminar Series. The talk saw a packed auditorium with faculty members, students from the EPGP programme, PGP2s and a smattering of PGP1s (who could carve out an hour from their hectic schedule). What set this talk apart is the fact that Guru Gaur Gopal Das moved on from corporate life to become a monk. He is currently a “lifestyle coach” (in his own words) who regularly addresses a global audience, delving into yet-to-be-decoded topics like happiness, spirituality, and the purpose of life. His talks are laced with a generous dose of humor while managing also emphasising matters of profound importance. The talk here was no different with the audience left in splits throughout the talk. It was interspersed with anecdotes, science, management principles and everyday experiences which everyone could relate to. It revolved broadly around his “Sutras for a happy life,” which were the following:
1.Focus on your destination but don’t forget to enjoy the journey
Though this is a cliché, Gaur Gopal das asked a very pertinent question about the number of people in the audience who were truly happy and were having the time of their lives. To nobody’s surprise, barely any hands were raised. He pointed out that before joining IIM B, most of the people would have been thinking about how happy they were going to be. Likewise, most people might harbor dreams of being happy when they marry, or on getting their dream job, but they never get down to it. “Happiness seems like a butterfly – oh so close, but eluding us when we try to grab it.” He stressed upon this later as well, that things will not change for the better in the future simply out of our hopes and dreams.
2.Do not link your happiness with what you have
Swami ji had two variables on the slide – “Happiness” and “what we have” and asked how they could be related. Most people would assume that they are directly proportional while the saints of the world would suggest that they would be inversely proportional. He, on the other hand, believes that they need not be related at all! Happiness is a state of mind, and we should learn to be happy irrespective of our material possessions. While responding to a question from the audience, he warned against resting our happiness on the external environment, be it in the form of drugs, alcohol or money.
3. Emotional, Functional and Spiritual Support
He stressed on the fact that life is not a journey to partake alone. Having a valuable support system is essential. Emotional support in the form of love from your family, support from your friends and spiritual advice from a Guru, can go a long way in making our lives easier. However, he cautioned against having a spiritual master just for the sake of association with a high profile name. On a question from the audience whether emotional support could also become a hindrance at some point of time, concerning career growth, he agreed and said it was about maintaining a balance and the circumstances one was in.
4.Living a life of Purpose
At one point during the talk, the presentation had a series of slides with images of Aamir, Shahrukh, Salman Khan with Gaur Gopal Das asking whether people found them handsome. At the end of it, was a slide titled “the most handsome man in the world” with a picture of an old, unassuming man. The picture was that of ‘Paalam’ Kalyanasundaram, a librarian from Chennai who has donated every penny from his earnings to the poor for over 20 years now.
Swami ji also compared an ice cream with a candle. Both of them eventually melt, but a candle gives light to the world while doing so. He asked the people to be candles and if not candles, mirrors at the very least – reflecting the light from the candles, if not generating light itself. This need not mean giving up all our material possessions.
The talk ended with a few questions from the audience. On a question regarding the common problems he has seen with our generation in the times we live in, he spoke about the sense of entitlement amongst the rich and a myriad of distractions faced by millennials. Another question dealt with the inability of focus and concentration for which he wanted us to practice earnestly. Many more questions lay in store, but a shortage of time brought the enlightening, engaging and an enjoyable talk to the end. Towards the end, he urged the audience to be “selflessly selfish” for one can only give to others what one has himself! A food for thought indeed!