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HARNESSING THE HEART - PART 18
Living Up to the Challenge of Conscience in Daily Life

Harnessing the Heart
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Dear Readers, in this series, we offer you real life stories from contemporary heroes who have demonstrated the courage to follow their conscience when confronted with difficult dilemmas or challenging circumstances in their daily lives. This segment is an ode to the strength of the brave-hearts who chose to listen to the voice of their conscience, thereby abiding by the values of Right Conduct, Truth, Love, Peace and Non-violence, even though the choice had appeared tough.

In our previous issues, we brought you inspiring stories from around the globe. These included the experiences of Mrs. Priya K-Alldis, Mr. Dev Taneja, Mr. C. B. S. Mani, Mr. Karthik Ramesh, Mr. Amar Vivek, Mr. Krish Venkatasubramaniam, Mr. Hiten Morarji, Mr. N. Prabhakar, Mr. Sathya Jambunathan, Mr. U. Pardha Saradhi, A courageous woman executive (Part 11), Mr. Shalabh Mittal, Mr. P. S. Kannan, Mr. Sai Mudigonda, an anonymous charity board member (Part 15), Mr. Vivekananda Sahoo and Mrs. Annapurna Shankar.

What do you do when you are confronted with a situation where you have to choose between surviving in your company and confirming strictly with your personal values? Can you be firm like a rock following your principles while your career takes a downspin putting your entire life in disarray? What is the wise and practical thing to do? Read this real life account of Mr. Venkatraman Krishnamoorthy and you will have plenty to ponder which will lend greater clarity to your life.

THE MIGHT TO FOLLOW THE RIGHT
…at the cost of money, position, power or whatever

By Mr. Venkatraman Krishnamoorthy

An alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai University, Mr. Venkatraman Krishnamoorthy joined the Prasanthi Nilayam campus to pursue his Masters in Business Management during the years 1998-2000. After completing this degree, he joined one of the largest private sector banks in India. Currently he is the Associate Director at Standard Chartered Bank and is based in Mumbai. Additionally, he plays an active role in the service projects of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Maharashtra.

In grueling moments, we realize that the competence which our ordinary business books provide is not enough to enable us to make the right decisions. It’s then we feel the need to reach the source of all knowledge – our heart – and draw from there the required solution.

As Prof. William Miller, a respected management consultant, says: “Our conscience provides guidance that comes directly from our inherent spiritual nature. It is more than just discerning right from wrong. It is the voice of our spiritual heart, our truest Self.”

A Commitment in Letter and Spirit

This incident is from the time when I was with a leading private sector bank. I had joined in August 2000 and had spent almost a year in the new electronic banking team and with the buildup we had created, the bank decided to hire 3 more people to handle the volume we expected. The recruitment was completed in September 2001 and on the basis of the strength of the new team our management took up a large number of projects.

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Our immediate business head had committed the team to the new targets with the bank’s Managing Director. But to everyone’s surprise the three newly recruited employees in the team left the bank one after the other in a gap of 15 days.

Each of them mentioned a reason such as a better offer, or the new job was different to that described to them, or they had to move due to family reasons. The organization realized the consequences of their loss and tried to stop them from leaving, but with little success.

Our bank was already committed to its customers on certain time bound projects on the basis of the new staff strengths and there was no way to get out of those commitments. We looked for temporary resources but that too did not work. The next 3 months were going to be a struggle for my boss and I, since we both were the only ones left in the team.

Two of us had to do the work of five. I was already putting in many hours overtime and this extra workload I realized would push me to the limit and I wondered how I was going to cope. My manager spoke to me for half an hour about the difficult times ahead and told me how we had to take things in our stride and get through it as best as we can.

It was at that meeting that I told him I had an offer from a leading MNC bank (an offer I had without attending an interview, since a few colleagues from my bank who had joined the new organization had spoken about my performance in the current bank). But I also informed him that I had decided to stay on despite the tough conditions, since it would be highly importune if I too left at that critical time.
I silently remembered Bhagavan Baba’s words when He spoke to us in the Institute auditorium on the MBA Anniversary Day:

“You should work hard in an organization for a minimum of five years to prove your competence. Never demand an increase in salary and don’t change jobs every now and then
for a few more rupees.”

My boss was at a complete loss for words, and seemed rather emotional. He was just silent for 5 minutes and then quietly said, “I have worked for 25 years, but this is one moment I will always carry in my heart.” It was evident that he was bowled over by my decision to stay and help the company, but frankly I had no other choice, as it was the voice of my conscience that was telling me not to be selfish but to apply the sacred principles of loyalty, conscientiousness and diligence. I knew that I had made an important choice which not only would affect my future but also defined me as a person. Truly it is in these times of crisis that we discover who we really are and I was convinced that I made the right decision.

I knew that I had made an important choice which not only would affect my future but also defined me as a person. Truly it is in these times of crisis that we discover who we really are and I was convinced that I made the right decision.

We struggled hard for the next 5 months reporting to office at 8:45 a.m. in the morning and returning home at 11:00 p.m. at night, sometimes stretching to 1:00 a.m. It was a testing time for both of us, but we were highly motivated and fired up by the challenge. In the end we completed all the outstanding commitments to the full satisfaction of our customers and only then could return to a normal working environment.

I stayed in that bank for 6 years and finally moved to Standard Chartered Bank. My boss too moved to another department but before I moved, on the last day, he took me out for lunch and as we walked towards the exit, he kept his hand on my shoulder and reflected on that day and said, “Four years after that incident has passed, my mind still lingers on that one moment. Not one person of your age would have taken that decision. I have seen many hardworking compatriots come and go but none of them practice the axiom of ‘Keeping the organization interests before one’s own interest. This mettle does not even come after many years of work. You were able to do it only due to your educational background at Sri Sathya Sai University”. He held my hand for a minute and said, “Your Sai Baba will be very happy with the way you have worked here. You have fully lived by HIS words”.

Courage is the greatest of all the virtues. Because if you don’t have courage, you may not have an opportunity to use any of the others.

Morality and Principles vs. Money and Position

During the early days in my career as an Assistant Manager I was dealing with a very important client, one of India’s largest private sector conglomerates. The business from this client used to be extremely valuable and hence was earmarked as an important and prestigious business relationship.

Along with a female colleague I used to visit different departments in the corporate head quarters of this client. While returning from one such visit, the girl burst into tears and confided that she was being harassed by a Senior Vice-President of that company. I was shocked and felt that this issue must be addressed immediately. However my colleague was uneasy to take up this matter with our boss. I felt indignant at this lewd behaviour and took courage to bring the issue to light, despite knowing that my career might be at stake for taking on this powerful corporate honcho. My courage however came from doing the right thing, from following the Master within. 

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Harnessing the Heart

When the matter was raised, our business head advised the female colleague not to visit this particular client, and so I had to take up her role. When I visited Senior Vice President he was livid and behaved indecorously. He even threatened that he would no longer have business with our bank unless the girl came instead of me to deal with the company.

The client went further and complained to the country head about me, alleging that I had misbehaved with him. It was a tense time for me as I was at the mercy of powerful interests that did not care two hoots about me or my female colleague – money was the god here and not the feelings of any individual or morality.

To placate the client and safeguard the business relationship, my bank removed me from that particular assignment. The business head called me and said, “I have no option but to shift you from this role because if we don’t, the bank will be hit and we can’t afford to lose this important and profitable client.”

I felt I had taken the ethical course of action but I had to live with the repercussions on the worldly plane. My career took a downturn with promotions suffering for the next two years. My colleague then adjudged that my course of being truthful and practicing values had cost me dearly, promotion as well as career wise. She seemed to be preaching from the school which believes that “Good guys finish last”.

But in all sincerity I was hardly perturbed by the turn of events, as I knew this was just a temporary setback and the path to virtue was always strewn with stones. What is the chance for greater remuneration compared to keeping my heart’s cherished values? I do not ever want to compromise on these precious principles to jump up the career ladder. I recall my stand for Dharma with a glow, as I know that if I had not acted according to my conscience I would not be the man I am today, and being true to myself is what is most essential to me.

What is the chance for greater remuneration compared to keeping my heart’s cherished values? I do not ever want to compromise on these precious principles to jump up the career ladder. I recall my stand for Dharma with a glow, as I know that if I had not acted according to my conscience I would not be the man I am today, and being
true to myself is what is most essential to me.

I made this right decision as my values have never been corroded by desire for money. My attitude has always been Spartan. I have learnt not to be interested in the accumulation of money for the sake of luxury or power. As Bhagavan Baba says, “Money is like blood and it should be in circulation if our health has to remain good”. I am never elated by material profits. I think this is a very important trait, particularly when one is working in an industry which is driven only by hard crunching numbers. Looking at my stressed colleagues I realize that this quality keeps me in a state of absolute peace.

In any case, to continue my story, a few months later I received a new offer from another leading MNC bank which compensated me twice over, not only in terms of salary but also in designation.

Justice seemed to be done when after some time the same Vice President’s misbehavior with another lady employee came to light and led to a huge uproar in that company. He was demoted and sent packing to a remote place to operate.

Getting the Correct Marks and Remarks

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When I look back on my life I can see that receiving grounding in values right from childhood has what helped me greatly in the development of my personality. Without early value education, how can these virtues take root in our lives?

I am reminded of an incident that happened while I was studying in my 4th grade in the primary school. Though I was only 8 at the time, I was able to pass through a challenging situation in the class room with flying colours, thanks to my parents’ training and family values which were engraved deep in my heart right from my childhood.

I had scored 31% in the Geography paper examination. As per the school practice, every student was given the corrected answer sheets to verify the answers. When I received my paper, I went to a corner of the classroom and focused, calculating the exact marks, and to my dismay found that the result actually summed up to only 11 out 100!

At that point I could see the beeline of students trying to increase their marks. But even at that young age, my heart directed me to take the paper to my teacher to let her know that the marks were wrongly calculated and was much below the accepted criteria.

My teacher was pleasantly shocked and very appreciative of my honest and truthful approach. And despite my low marks, she made me stand right next to her and addressed the whole class lauding me and the example that I had set. It is this righteousness which has helped me succeed in my life till date.

The Unfolding of a Glorious Journey…

I was unaware that the Avatar of the age was walking on two feet in a humble village in South India, till one day He decided to intervene. My younger sister was a Bal Vikas (Sai Human Values Education) teacher and one fine day she brought a MBA application form of the Sri Sathya Sai University for me to apply to.

I submitted my application and was miraculously selected. In as much as I was in love and awe of witnessing the gurukula system of education, it was very difficult for me to understand the concept of Avatar and accept that God indeed is walking in flesh and blood right in front of me. I struggled to establish a relationship with Bhagavan Baba in the first few weeks. I had searched and studied the scriptures for months to make sense of all that I "knew" about God and our relationship with Him. I understood the basic tenets of spirituality but had never been touched by any moving experiences.

But under His lotus feet as time went by, I came to find significant insights into life and truths about myself that I had never before understood. And the greatest insight of all is this: My blossoming relationship with God. Through this new found awareness, something changed deep inside of me, leading me to grow in ways I had never imagined.

But under His lotus feet as time went by, I came to find significant insights into life and truths about myself that I had never before understood. And the greatest insight of all is this: My blossoming relationship with God. Through this new found awareness, something changed deep inside of me, leading me to grow in ways I had never imagined.

Looking back, I know what happened to me is the most beautiful thing anyone in this Universe can experience. It was real, but I also know that I probably wouldn't have believed it unless I had experienced it myself. And what I have shared in this article are a few insights and experiences of this wonderful journey, an odyssey of pure love and righteousness that only gets exciting and illuminating every passing day.

Illustrations: Mrs. Annapurna Shankar


Dear reader, if you have such inspiring tale or know somebody who would like to share his story, we would only be too happy to feature it in this section of Heart2Heart. After all, what is Heart2Heart without tales of love, inspiration, values and compassion? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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Vol 7 Issue 06 - JUNE 2009
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