Mythologist | Author | Speaker | Illustrator

May 20, 2008

First published May 19, 2008

 in  Economic Times

The Vishwaroopa Complex

Published on 16 May 2008 in Corporate Dossier, Economic Times, as ‘We are the World’

Vishwaroopa is the form taken by Krishna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra when Arjuna asked him to reveal his true form. In this form, Krishna no longer looks familiar. He is neither cowherd nor charioteer.He is a magnificent being with countless legs and countless arms and countless heads, breathing fire, containing within himself all the things that exist — all the worlds, all the animate beings and inanimate objects. It is an awe inspiring sight. Containing everything that Arjuna imagined and also everything that was beyond Arjuna’s imagination

Increasingly, people, especially those who have been touched by success, are trying to become Vishwaroopas — expanding and trying to become everything and everyone simultaneously. Product manufactures are become service providers. Manufacturers are become Marketers. Industrialists are become Retailers. Hoteliers are becoming Teachers. Because, Organizations are developing countless arms and countless legs to ‘satisfy every element of the value chain’.

Dr. Ramesh is a case in point. He was a celebrated cardiac surgeon. He performed six heart surgeries in a day. He charged rupees one lakh as his consulting and operating fee per procedure. That did not include the cost of the operating theatre or the cost of hospital services or the drugs. That did not include the commission he gets from everything that is spent on the operation. He was undoubtedly a very talented plan with a 99% success rate. Every patient brought in more patients. Everyone loved him. Everyone wanted to felicitate him. He was a much sought after teacher and mentor. Every day he looked at the adoring eyes of the patients, their families, his students, his staff, the nurses, the paramedics, the hospital administrators. And soon he concluded, he was perfect, he could do no wrong. Why was he then satisfied working in a hospital? Why could he not build a hospital of his own? He had hardly expressed this thought than the funders arrived and the land was made available. Before long his day was filled not with patients but with builders and funders and architects and administrators. He was talking business plans, growth, and profit and loss. He realized his opinions not only mattered, they were good. Soon he was full time involved in the building of his hospital. Then he realized why be satisfied with one hospital. Why not build a chain in every city of his state, maybe the country? And then he thought what good is a medical hospital without a medical college. And why not a nursing college? And then he thought why buy branded pharmaceutical products which were so expensive — why not buy a generic company that could make all the products needed in the hospital at a fraction of the price? In a short time, he had plans on pharmaceutical business, on a medical device business, on medical education, on hospitals, and even on retail pharmacies. He did not feel the need to perform heart surgeries anymore. Students who trained under him were as brilliant and could replicate what he did. Now he is focusing on his grand vision — providing heart surgeries to all who need it. But slowly he is inching towards an ever grander vision, beyond heart surgeries — providing all health facilities to all those who need it. In fact he is already in talks with people who believe his hospitals should provide treatment even to patients with joint problems and kidney problems and respiratory problems. Because the opportunities are huge, and his brand value that attracts funding is great.

This meteoric transformation is awe-inspiring and commendable, but when Arjuna saw Krishna’s true form, he was scared and confused. He begged Krishna, “Please come back to your original form. Vishwaroopa dazzles me but I want my friend back.” At once, Vishwaroopa became Krishna, complete with cherubic smile and mischievous eyes. This was not Ram with the bow or Parashuram with the axe. This was not Shiva smeared with ash. This was not Lakshmi bedecked with gold and lotus flowers or Kali with blood-smeared tongue. This was a unique form of God, dark with a peacock feather and yellow dhoti, satisfying Arjuna’s particular needs.

In Hindu belief, when all gods and goddesses, each with their distinguishing symbols, are combined into one whole, they become formless — nirguna, without form and beyond form. This is a grand concept but rather intangible and unfathomable for the common mind.
Even Vishwaroopa, a form that contains everything, is rarely worshipped. Certainly not as much as a Krishna or a Ram. Each Hindu deity has his or her own identify manifesting as unique symbols. And while everyone knows that each one of them is part of the whole, attention and devotion is given to the part and not the whole.

In the Upanishads which celebrates the oneness and unity of all things, there is also great value given in identifying what distinguishes one from rest. Who are we? Iti — iti, this too and that too. Or neti-neti, not this and not that. This is one aspect we forget when success sparks within us the desire to expand and become Vishwaroopa. We start believing we are capable of everything. And as we plunge into our journey, we lose our individual characteristic symbols — the core of our being. As Krishna starts becoming Vishwaroopa, he becomes increasingly disconnected from Arjuna.

While Dr. Ramesh’s transformation from a surgeon to an entrepreneur is indeed awe-inspiring, he needs to step back and ask himself what he desires to become eventually. Does he want to totally stop connecting individually with patients? Does he want to focus exclusively on statistics and balance sheets? More importantly, he needs to ask himself — what does he desire NOT to become. Where does he draw the line? Krishna must never be confused with Ram. Krishna never tries to be also Shiva and Lakshmi with Kali. Krishna is as much about what he IS and what he IS NOT. This clarification will ensure that Dr. Ramesh, in his expansion to become everything and everyone, does not end up becoming nothing and no one.

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