[Presentation at the First Global PROUT Conference in Venezuela, “Building a Solidarity Economy based on Ethics and Ecology”, July 7-9, 2011, Caracas]
I’d like to talk today about the concept of leadership in Prout. Sometimes I think of leadership as the magnet that makes all the iron filings on a piece of paper face the same direction. Leadership is what helps us to organize ourselves so that we get where we want to go.
I think it’s important to start by looking at mediocre leaders. Where do leaders fail us? Some leaders want power for personal gain and they feel that they’re better when they’re the leader. They feel that they want something for their own selves out of it. They want the recognition, the adulation that comes from it.
Some mediocre leaders aren’t clear about where they’re going. They may take people in one direction, and then in another direction. They don’t have the ability to look at what they’re doing from a bigger perspective. They may lose their direction, and take people to the wrong place.
Some leaders can be bought out by other people, they’re very influenced by other people. If their basic desire in being a leader is to be recognized and to be looked up to by others, it may be easy for them to be bought out by others. Or if their desire is for personal gain, to have more money in their pocket, they can be bought financially.
Some leaders lack skills to organize groups. They are in a leadership position, yet they don’t pull the whole group together. They may not know the balance between structure and direction that’s needed by the group.
Social change and real revolution requires excellent leadership. Not just leadership that is mediocre, that doesn’t know the direction, that gets lost, that’s for personal gain, but truly excellent leadership. So I’d like to spend some time talking about what that excellent leadership looks like.
According to Prout founder P.R. Sarkar: “Those spiritual revolutionaries who work to achieve progressive changes for human elevation on a well-thought, pre-planned basis, whether in the physical, metaphysical or spiritual sphere, by adhering to the moral principles of Yama and Niyama, are Sadvipras.”
So, let’s look at that together. Some qualities of excellent leaders is that they’re physically fit, their body is in good shape to do the kind of leadership that is necessary, to do whatever is necessary: to carry things, to handle hard situations – it really helps to be physically fit. They’re mentally developed: they have the capacity to look at things from a number of different perspectives, to take the information that is around them and put it together in ways that makes sense. They have this capacity in an exceptional way. And they’re spiritually elevated. When we understand things from a spiritual perspective, we have a bigger picture of things. We understand things from the point of view of the universe and not just the point of view of our own selves.
Excellent leaders, sadvipras, as P.R. Sarkar calls them, are well-rounded in their development. They’re not just intellectually very bright and good at looking at facts, but they’re also good at putting those together and making them work into something. They have control of their emotions, and yet they feel very much for the people around them. They are capable of both doing things themselves and of leading others in doing them. They’re able to physically work hard, a lot of leadership requires rolling up your sleeves and doing it, and no amount of telling other people to do it does the job. You need to demonstrate, you need to lead, you need to show that you are part of all the other people and willing to work hard and do the work yourself, too.
It’s important to people be able to protect family and community and knowing the skills of protection, the skills of caring for others. It’s an important part of leadership, because if we don’t care for each other, if we don’t protect each other, we won’t have people to lead. It’s important that all the needs get met.
To be intellectually knowledgeable is an important part of being a good leader. We need to have the knowledge and the understanding. We need to really be able to think as leaders in order to give directions to others that make sense. Things are so complex in our society today that it requires a very settled and active mind.
It helps to be entrepreneurial and organized. Somebody who is entrepreneurial has a lot of new ideas, they can look at things from a new perspective, they can come up with the idea to meet the conditions of the moment. If you are organized, you are able to direct other people, to guide people, and to know when to sit back and listen, and when to step forward and speak. You can look ahead if you’re organized and see what the needs are going to be in the future, and not just in the present. And when people look to you as leaders, that’s what they’re looking for.
Another quality of a sadvipra is living a moral life. It’s vitally important as leaders that people be able to look to us and say, I totally trust that person, I truly know that they will do what’s right and correct in this situation. And when people see that you are not following moral principles, that you are doing things that are different from what you say, that there is a disconnect between the two of those, then they’ll lose respect for you and it’ll be harder for people to follow you.
In our history of leaders, there are people who have concentrated so much on their moral life and their moral responsibilities to each other, that they have gained a tremendous amount of respect from the people who have followed them or who have worked with them.
Following a spiritual path can be a wonderful way to feel a sense of unity with the universe. And when you have that sense of unity, then you know more clearly where you’re going, and you know why you’re going there. And if you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re going to be much more likely to get there.
Following a spiritual path also gives us a method for dealing with the stress that comes up when we are working with social change. It’s very easy for people to get burnt out if they don’t have a way to go back and recharge themselves. Sometimes I think of my meditation as a recharging process. Just as I have to plug in my cell phone at the end of the day to make sure that it will be fully recharged for the next day, I also have to plug in myself to that divine universe and recharge myself.
Leaders need to be balanced and clear in their thinking. If we are muddled in our thinking, if we are not balanced, if we are quick to anger, if we are easily depressed, it would be hard for us to be good leaders.
Of course, meditation helps with this. Any kind of spiritual practice helps us to be balanced and clear in our thinking, because it helps to clean out our minds on a daily basis. Our practice makes us clear with that, too. The more that we work at having a clear perspective, dealing with the ways that we feel we have not done things correctly in our lives, the more balanced and clear we become.
Living a life of service is important for leaders. When we serve other people all the time, we gain a feeling of what their needs are, we gain more respect in the community and we feel as individuals like we are truly contributing to society. This helps us to be better leaders. Of course, living a life of service is itself leadership.
How do sadvipras lead society? A sadvipra is a person who has all-round development, who thinks ahead, who watches what’s happening around and reaches out and influences things at just the right time. Not somebody that elbows other people down so that they can stand on the top themselves, but somebody who watches with satisfaction when leaders emerge from society, and helps and supports them in growing because their ultimate care is for the progress of human society.
Some of the ways that sadvipras lead is that they’re actively involved in social change. They’re always at the cutting edge of change, looking for the ways that society needs to move in order to become more progressive, to become more successful, to lead more humans towards their rightful way of expressing themselves in society.
P.R. Sarkar says: “The spirit to fight against all odds alone can solve the problems confronting human beings. March ahead and wage war against all difficulties, every impediment. Victory is sure to embrace you. Difficulties and encumbrances cannot be more powerful than your capacity to solve them. You are the children of the great Cosmic Entity. Be a Sadvipra and make others Sadvipra also.”
I wanted to talk about two people who are favorite leaders of mine. As I put together the photos for this power point presentation, I ran into several people that I thought were really great leaders. The first one I am going to introduce you to is Dada Daneshananda. He works in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. The picture here is a water reservoir. He developed the plans for it, dug it out and filled it up with rain water with a dam. Then it is filtered and piped to provide pure drinking water to dozens of villages where people used to have to walk. The women used to have to walk with their jars on their head very far in order to get muddy water and bring it back to their families. And the water was infested with a worm that caused intestinal problems for people and eventually killed many people. So this has been a really great thing for the villages in the area of Ghana in the Volta area.
He works in Nigeria now organizing medical clinics. He has set up traditional birth attendant training programs in Ghana, has worked with villages who elect a health educator in their village. The health educators come monthly and learn more things about caring for the health of their villages, then go back and educate their fellow sisters in the village.
The other person I wanted to introduce you to was a woman that I knew in India. I met her one day at the home that she runs where she has about 60 children. Here you have pictures of about 11 or 12 of the children in the home. Here I am holding a baby that she has rescued. This baby is maybe 4 to 6 months old, and she told me the story of this baby. The baby was brought to her by the local police department, and they often bring children to her that have been abandoned in the street. This baby was found in the river floating, and had marks around its neck where somebody tried to suffocate it before finally throwing it into the river. The baby was rescued from the river alive and she took the baby in. She said her parents came and helped her run the children’s home, she has other women there who help her with the home, and they helped to take care of the home so she could devote herself to the baby. I think she is just an amazing woman who does this without any pay; she runs this home for 60 children in India.
Thank you very much. I hope this has been helpful for you and you’ll do some thinking about how to become the kind of leader that you want to be. Thank you. Panel 2 questions and answers.