Human Resources

Spirituality in technology - an Indian experience

Did you know that Steve Jobs’ inspiration to name his company ‘Apple’, was an Indian spiritual guru? According to legend, Neem Karoli Baba, Jobs’ spiritual guru, lived in the foothills of the Himalayas and loved apples. Imagine what would have happened if the baba had loved pineapples? I suppose we would be using Pineapple iPhone 6.

But humor aside, India is not only known for the export of IT services but also of spirituality. In fact, our spiritual past has been appreciated more by outsiders than Indians. Maybe reclaiming the spiritual space is going to be difficult? On the other hand, why should Indians try to reclaim something which now belongs to the universal brotherhood…

My particular spiritual journey began when I met Samir Dadia at a startup event where he was making an elevator pitch to attract investment. He approached me diffidently and enquired whether I would be interested in attending a summit on spirituality and IT. As it turned out, I was lucky to have accepted, otherwise I would have missed a fascinating interactive session.    

The CXO dialogue was enabled by SPIR-IT (Spirituality in IT) and was held in Pune. The organizers dubbed it as an inspiring conference aimed at merging the crossroads of deeper human health, wellbeing and technologization. Perhaps the discussion which followed went deeper than the stated objective. We began the dialogue with a few questions – Is spirituality compatible with the dog-eat-dog world of technology? Can spirituality enhance productivity in a highly charged tech environment? Are we now moving up the human value chain - from IQ to EQ and now SQ? What can we do in our own corporate work environment to facilitate spiritual quest?

The CXO dialogue was led by Sister Jayanti with a soothing prayer to prepare our mind for the evening.  BK Jayanti Kirpalani is the director for Europe and Middle East of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU) and its NGO Representative for the United Nations, Geneva. She also assists with the overall co-ordination of the organization’s activities in more than 100 countries outside India.

Sister Jayanti’s message was simple and clear. She wished that there was more harmony in our actions, especially the CXO’s of IT organizations. She sought more compassion and understanding. She emphasized the need for reflection in our lives and taking a moment off from our hectic schedule. Am I doing everything according to my conscience? What are my core values? She wanted us to listen to our inner voice more than what we are usually used to.

To a question about the value of constructive criticism and healthy competition in a corporate environment, her riposte was gentle. There is a mistaken management concept that we have to fight for success. She suggested that cooperation, mutual respect for each other and value based goal setting can achieve what accepted corporate behavior cannot. There is harmony and tranquility in an environment which is supported by spirituality, which in turn leads to higher productivity and achievement.

Sister Jayanti’s message may sound new to those who live in a corporate cocoon but meditation and mindfulness have been accepted worldwide. Spirituality does not mean religious bigotry but an instrument to elevate our thinking and lead to a better world. In 2014, 60 delegates attending the World economic Forum at Davos got a taste of meditation in the presence of Goldie Hawn, the American movie star.

In 2015, Davos went a step further by introducing a regular 10-minute session on meditation. A panel at the event explored how meditation changes the brain and how it can benefit workers. The spike in interest does not look like a fad. It’s an outcome of our hectic life story which is repeated time and again – tired and exhausted minds trying to cope with an ever increasing complexity in the office and at home. Possibly the only escape is to envelope ourselves in a dose of meditative silence.

The CXO dialogue concluded with various groups suggesting ways to include spirituality in everyday corporate life. Creating meditation rooms just like gyms and recreation centers in the office was one recommendation. It seems that many organizations already have such facilities. There was general consensus that music and group chanting can enhance productivity. Conducting regular guided sessions on mediation and spirituality was another idea which found resonance with the group.

Overall, I’m glad I attended and found myself in a very contemplative mood on the way back home.


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Sankarambadi Srinivasan

Sankarambadi Srinivasan, ‘Srini’, is a maverick writer, technopreneur and a geek. He writes on transformational social processes and technology trends which influence our daily lives.

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