Executives Learn Business Savy from Gita


Oct 26, NEW YORK CITY (BUSINESS WEEK) — Times have changed since Gordon Gekko quoted Sun Tzu in the 1987 movie Wall Street. Has the Bhagavad Gita replaced The Art of War as the hip new ancient Eastern management text?

Signs of worldly success abounded as members of the Young Presidents' Organization met at a mansion in a tony New Jersey suburb. BMWs, Lexuses, and Mercedes-Benzes lined the manicured lawn. Waiters in starched shirts and bow ties passed out vegetarian canapes. And about 20 executives - heads of midsize companies selling everything from custom audiovisual systems to personal grooming products - mingled poolside with their spouses on a late September evening.

After heading inside their host's sprawling hillside house the guests retreated to a basement room, shed their designer loafers and sandals, and sat in a semicircle on the carpet.

The speaker that evening was Swami Parthasarathy. With an entourage of disciples at his side, all dre ssed in flowing white garments known as kurtas and dhotis, the lanky 80-year-old scribbled the secrets to business success - concentration, consistency, and cooperation - on an easel pad. The executives sat rapt. "You can't succeed in business unless you develop the intellect, which controls the mind and body," the swami said in his mellow baritone.

At the Wharton School a few days earlier, Parthasarathy talked about managing stress. During the same trip, he counseled hedge fund managers and venture capitalists in Rye, N.Y., about balancing the compulsion to amass wealth with the desire for inner happiness. And during an auditorium lecture at Lehman Brothers Inc. 's Lower Manhattan headquarters, a young investment banker sought advice on dealing with nasty colleagues.

Banish them from your mind, advised Parthasarathy. "You are the architect of your misfortune," he said. "You are the architect of your fortune."

The swami's whirlwind East Coast tour was just one small manifestation of a significant new trend: Big Business is embracing Indian philosophy. Suddenly, phrases from ancient Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita are popping up in management tomes and on Web sites of consultants.

Top business schools have introduced "self-mastery" classes that use Indian methods to help managers boost their leadership skills and find inner peace in lives dominated by work.


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