All our institutions are based on Western principles. Our economic and political systems are based on Western principles. We have mocked and rejected the traditions of the country that have been around for thousands of years. And we expect such activity to work. It will work in China and Korea, where the central authority is all powerful and ruthless. But it will not work in a democracy where every individual's opinion matters
After having acquired training to be a medical doctor, Dr Devdutt Pattanaik spent 15 years in healthcare and pharmaceutical industries before taking on the role of a Business Advisor in Ernst & Young. It was on Kishore Biyani's (of Future Group) behest that Dr Pattanaik thought of converting his hobby of writing to his vocation.
Currently he serves as Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group and has more than two dozen books to his credit. He is a leadership coach and inspirational speaker to many organisations besides the Future Group and is a regular columnist.
As far as mythology and management go, how do you see these two or rather how do these two appear to you?
Mythology is study of stories, symbols and rituals that reveals the beliefs and assumptions of a people. These beliefs and assumptions shape management principles of those people. Today's management principles are based on Western (a combination of Greek and Biblical) beliefs and assumptions. They cannot be global.
You once stated, "We are eager to correct people, Rama (gods) included, rather than understand them." What do you think should be the right approach in understanding the gods?
The definition of God varies in different cultures. Because of our education and dominant Western influence, we think of God either in biblical terms (an external all-powerful force) or in Greek terms (a deified hero or a force of nature). In Hinduism, the definition of God varies depending upon our intellectual evolution: it can be an external all-powerful force, a force of nature, a deified hero. But for the evolved mind, it is the human potential: What we are capable of becoming. Hence the Upanishadic maxim: "Aham Brahmasmi" (I am the creator of my world) and "Tat tvam asi" (so are you).
What part of your vocation do you enjoy the most?
Writing. It opens up my mind to patterns that are hidden in the scriptures and sacred stories.
We Indians are known for our strong belief system but the image of an Indian is fast getting tarnished as a corrupt and dishonest person. How do you see this change and what are the factors that are responsible for this transition?
India is a vast country, with over 1.2 billion people, that is 17 per cent of the world's population. That has less than 5 per cent of the world's wealth. We are an extremely crowded and poor country and highly diverse too. Compare this with Denmark, that has a population of 5 million, 80 per cent of the same ethnic group. Or Singapore that also has 5 million people, 80 per cent of the same ethnic group. In most societies all over the world, the rich make fun of the poor, mock them for being dirty and not having values. So it is in the global village: India is being mocked at for not behaving as rich people do, especially by Indians who have migrated to the richer countries. No one appreciates the complexities of making democracy work in this vast, complex, and diverse country where everyone has an opinion. All our institutions are based on Western principles. Our economic and political systems are based on Western principles. We have mocked and rejected traditions of the country that have been around for thousands of years.
And we expect such activity to work. It will work in China and Korea where the central authority is all powerful and ruthless. But it will not work in a democracy where every individual's opinion matters.
In your opinion, how relevant are the teachings of mythological stories in current context - for individuals in various roles?
Mythologies are not teachings. In the West, mythology is instructive (Bible) and inspiring (Greek). Indian mythology aims to evoke thoughts that are already present in our mind.
The stories, symbols and rituals are like the rays of the sun that seek to help the lotus of the mind bloom.
When the mind blooms, we understand people around us. Until then we try to change them, control them. Until wisdom blooms, we assume that mythology belongs to the past and our current context is unique, special, needing new ideas. Until wisdom blooms, we do not realise that despite growth in technology we are no different from humans a thousand years ago.
Among the various hats that you so brilliantly don, how would you want Devdutt Pattanaik to be remembered as?
I don't want to be remembered. Eventually all are forgotten and that is the natural way of things.
What kind of books do you like to read and who is your favourite author (Indian/non-Indian)?
I like reading data. So Wikipedia is my favourite haunt.