Growth is Divine

Myth Theory 10 Comments

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET, June 24, 2011

Tantra uses geometrical patterns to communicate wisdom. A dot, the most elemental geometrical pattern, like a woman’s bindi, represents potential. Lines swept horizontally, seen on Shiva’s forehead represent death and destruction. A vertical line stretched upwards, the tilak, as on Vishnu’s forehead, represents growth. At face value, the path of Shiva and the path of Vishnu seem to be the opposite of each other. Shiva, the hermit, favors renunciation. Vishnu, the king, favors growth. But before one jumps to this convenient conclusion, one must notice something peculiar about Vishnu’s sacred mark.

Vishnu’s tilak, stretching upwards, is located with a deep cup made of sandal paste. The tilak, in red paste, represents material growth, no doubt. But the cup of sandal paste anchors this growth with intellectual and emotional growth. And this can only happen when one is willing to ‘destroy’ fears that inhibit intellectual and emotional growth, fears that stir our animal instincts of survival, of territoriality, of domination and control, and prevent us from being human.

That the sacred marks of India, whether a dot or a horizontal line or a vertical line painted on the forehead is significant. It reminds us of the one organ that humans have that no other creature on earth possess, the neo-frontal cortex, located just behind the forehead, one that allows us to imagine. Imagination can amplify animal fears and make us worse than animals. When we behave like frightened animals, despite having the human advantage, then our behavior is deemed adharma. When we use our imagination to outgrow our fear, grow intellectually and emotionally to empathize and include others, it is dharma.

Modern management speaks of growth only in material terms. In other words, growth of Lakshmi alone. But traditional Indian wisdom is wary of this. With Lakshmi comes her sister, Alakshmi, the goddess of quarrels. To prevent this, Lakshmi must be accompanied by Saraswati, the goddess who makes us wise, and Durga, the goddess who can make us secure. Unless wealth is accompanied with wisdom and emotional security, society will, beneath the veneer of civilization, continue to be ravaged by the law of the jungle.

Sankirtan became a CEO after twenty years of struggle. And he knew that unless the balance sheet showed a positive trend in the next two years, he would be kicked out by the Board of Directors. He had to grow at any cost. It was a question of survival, and so he drove his people up the wall, with demands and late working hours and tight control of expenses. Everybody called him ruthless and ambitious and greedy. He achieved what he set out to achieve in three years, not two, but the directors figured out he was good for the business.

In the following year, based on trends and market forecasts, the directors demanded an 8% growth. This would demand further controls, further pressure, more late nights and ruthless reviews. This is where Sankirtan challenged the Board. “Maybe a slightly lower target, maybe 7%. Our survival is no longer at stake. We can use our resources to make life a little better for our team and our vendors. Give a better salary hike, better bonuses, be a little more flexible with processes and controls. We need to focus on quality of life.” The Board snarled, “Why can’t you give this with 8% growth? No compromises on target. No compromises on topline and bottom line. People will adapt.”

With this display of belligerence, Sankirtan realized his Board cared only for Lakshmi. No room for Saraswati and Durga here, he realized. Clearly, they did not care for him, only the money he brought in. These were not people who cared for the organization, only their pockets. So when he went home that night, he picked up the phone and spoke to the headhunter. He expressed his interest in the job offer that made him 60% more. The current job did not make him feel secure and happy any more.  His vertical line had just turned horizontal.

  • Darshan

    Great article- even great insight… this is a situation at almost all office’s people run after Laxmi (money), in this run they tend to mislook at that Alaxmi (Audasa) that follows and completely ignore Saraswati and Durga…. one reason we can see why & how India survived the global financial crisis.
    May be it is time for Corporate’s to re-look, re-work, and re-build their strategies.
    Thank you very much.

  • Great Read. It was very good to know how India Survived the global financial crisis and the Tantra Geometrical pattern

    I just couldn’t understand the last sentence “His vertical line had just turned horizontal.”

    Can you please explain ?

    • Mohit

      “Vertical line had just turned horizontal ” is with respect to the job he was doing,Srikant could grow in the company,he realized that the company did not care for him of the people, there fore srikant gave up the job(Horizontal line refers to renunciation)

  • Dilip

    Unusually superficial.. Dr Pattanaik, please work on understanding tantra.. In tantra, death is the ultimate symbol of growth……

    • Mohit

      Dear Dilip, The “.” represents the end of one journey and start of the other,growth comes only when you “stop” thinking in the wrong direction :)

  • Mohan Ramchandani


    ” Lines swept horizontally, seen on Shiva’s forehead represent death and destruction. A vertical line stretched upwards, the tilak, as on Vishnu’s forehead, represents growth ”

    This is from the article above.
    I hope it answers your querry.

  • kartik

    So very true! Does this always happen? Does it happen in all situation? If the answer is yes the learning is that yes you have to prove with results to your Board by bringing in whatever it takes. The question is how do you then convince your Board to listen to their company people? Was is right on the part of Sankirtan to look after himself when he would have been the instrument of ruthless actions on people? Does he not have a responsibility to the same people whom he was ruthless with and when he does believe himself that something needs to be done for them?
    Can he or should he change his vertical line to horizontal


    But, at the end, its clear that he also chose to run after Lakshmi wherein he gets 60% more. Thus, it proves that he was not satisfied with his current company not listening to his views rather than the point that they did not care for him but money.

    So, it was more about job satisfaction and leadership Ego rather than the Growth and Vertical or Horizontal line part.

    Finally, whatever we humans do, we cannot really control our Animal instinct even after Growth !!!

  • ‘The current job did not make him feel secure and happy any more. His vertical line had just turned horizontal.’

    Comparison of tantra to a real work scenario, I would say is interesting. I could follow your line of thought to the end of the article. But your last line of conclusion or your assessment of the situation cannot necessarily be so. That is your opinion. He was not happy in that job anymore. Choosing a job which would pay 60% more does not imply that his line had ‘turned horizontal’. It could perhaps mean that he would now try to follow his belief in the new job where (hopefully) all three goddessess were respected and he would feel secure and happy. It is still growth and his line vertical. Why would he change and become like his arrogant uncaring bossess???

  • Krishnan Raman

    Sankirtan also seems to have followed Goddess Lakshmi. He could have taken support of Goddess Durga and shown courage and conviction in what he said. By moving away, he showed fear & weakness. He could also have taken support of Goddess Durga to articulate his point in a better way and connect with the intellect of his Directors. His Directors never said they shouldn’t take care of people, they asked him why he can’t do both.

    With the market challenges today where Directors are responsible not only to employees but also to Stakeholders, it is a challenge to address both, but there lies the skill in balancing.

    Would Sankirtan have accepted less than 8% salary increment?

    To conclude, I totally agree we need to balance Lakshmi, Durga & Saraswati. And we need the Mindset and Skill to do that.