Leadership Lessons from Great Indian Personalities

Sage Vasishtha

Sage Vasishtha with Lord Rama
Sage Vasishtha was a personification of humility, purity of thought, immense knowledge, duty-mindedness and selflessness. Once Vasishtha appealed to Dasharatha thus, “Maharaj (King), I am a renunciant. I do not want anything that is worldly. Lord Narayana is going to incarnate as a member of your family (referring to Lord Rama) who is none other than God Himself. I wish to join your court to play the role as His Guru. I have come here just for that purpose and not with any other hidden agenda.” That was the essential character of Vasishtha. 

Sage Vishwamitra

Along with individual character, one is required to possess virtues like patience, sacrifice, valour, courage, boldness, compassion and many others. If you do not have courage, you cannot face the difficulties in life. Without valour, one cannot achieve anything. One has to exhibit indignation that will have no adverse effect on his national or individual character. 

Vishwamitra was a mighty person, who could not so easily acknowledge others’ greatness. Once, he came to know the merit of Sage Jamadagni’s cow known as Kamadhenu (wish fulfilling cow) and desired to take possession of that using force. He thought within himself that such a valuable cow should be with the rulers and not sages. He took away the cow using force. He insulted and tortured great sages with arrogance and attempted to grab all their precious belongings. As per the sacred texts, any person who covets others’ belongings would be construed as an animal and not a king.

On another occasion, in order to equal the powers of Sage Vasishtha, Sage Vishwamitra did severe penance and undertook several austerities. However, at that time Vishwamitra reflected thus, “Super human powers would not be possible to attain through penance alone. What is the goal of this penance? It is futile. Only Divine power is important and useful and the rest is useless.” The moment he realised this truth, he conceded the greatness of Sage Vasishtha and prostrated at his feet. As soon as he gave up his ego, he became eligible for receiving Brahma Vidya (highest wisdom). 
Sage Vishwamitra with young princes
Rama and Lakshmana
In the bygone ages, great personalities gave up their ego and greed and achieved great heights with confidence and determination. Determination does not mean obstinacy. You should have determination in doing good and sacred deeds. You should have determination to attain God’s grace. However, when people have such firm determination, they may encounter some hindrances on the path. But they are all to be construed as stepping stones to success. For instance, a painter uses a brush to paint. He cleans the brush with turpentine at the end of each day’s job. Likewise, all the acts which form a part of the daily routine of discipline would have to be construed as necessary prerequisites for development. 


King Harishchandra
An episode from the life of King Harishchandra
King Harishchandra lost everything (all his riches and kingdom), yet he adhered to truth very firmly. To uphold truth, he even parted with his wife and son. Even after this, he was not able to pay the interest part of the loan he promised to repay to Vishwamitra. He had nothing to eat or drink. His wife also followed him wherever he went. She assisted her husband in every effort that he undertook in order to pay back the amount he had promised to repay. One day, his wife told Harishchandra, “Oh Lord! We lost everything and we have nothing left with us to settle the balance of the loan. At last only you and I are remaining. Hence, sell me to someone for a price and with the sales proceeds repay part of the balance amount.” Does anybody today in similar circumstances behave the way the wife of Harishchandra did? Everyone should emulate Harishchandra.[i] Every husband and wife have to understand each other, support each other in troubled times and follow the path of truth and sacrifice.


Motilal Nehru

Motilal Nehru (1861-1931)
After returning from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi intended to establish a society imbued with values that guaranteed equal status to everyone. He also vowed to liberate India from the clutches of the foreign rule. He mustered the support of many people for this common cause. There was one high court judge at Allahabad named Motilal Nehru whose support was sought by people over there in view of his high rank in society. Motilal was an affluent person who used to earn a lot of money through his profession. Even in those days he used to earn INR 50,000 per month. His house was a mansion. In spite of all his affluence, he considered Gandhi’s injunction supreme, gave up his job and joined the freedom movement by sacrificing his house and donating the money for the freedom struggle. He entered into politics along with his wife Swaroop Rani. During the freedom struggle, he courageously faced many problems like going to jail.  


Jawaharlal Nehru
Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru, the son of Motilal Nehru, also entered politics. In 1942, Gandhi began the ‘Quit India Movement’. During this movement, some differences cropped up between Nehru and Gandhi. Gandhi removed Nehru from his post. But Nehru was not an ordinary person. He was tough-minded. Although he was not allowed to participate in the movement as an officer, he still worked actively. Gandhi observed the patience shown by Nehru and later reinstated him. When India got independence, Gandhi made Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. What was the first thing Nehru did as Prime Minister? He adopted the five-year planning system, inspired by the Russian model of development. However, because of following others’ models and methods, the effect of five-year planning system has reduced in our country. Nehru was in favour of socialism. Because of that, he established India as a social democracy with a secular outlook. He wanted every citizen to respect every individual and develop good traits. The rulers of yesteryears were straightforward and were able to create a permanent place in history, unlike the present day leaders who do not have purity.


Ancient Indian Kings
An episode from the life of Sage Dadheechi
If you want to read history and lead your life accordingly, you have to take such illustrative personages as examples. Similarly, Emperor Shibi, Emperor Bali and Sage Dadheechi also followed the path of sacrifice. It is because of such illumining characters that Indian history is considered sacred and enlightening. Socially, politically and geographically, the history of India has been outstanding. Even great personages wane from history if they lack character. It is hardly a few decades since India became an independent nation. Today, do we bear in mind all those people who played a very crucial role in India’s freedom movement? Perhaps we keep in mind only a few of those public figures. But what about the age to which Harishchandra, Satyavanta, Dharmaja (Yudhisthira) and such other people belonged? Even though they lived ages ago, their fame is eternal and immortal. Their lives were par excellence and such people alone create history. We ought to emulate such people, regarding them as ideals and role models.  
King Bali with his Guru Shukracharya and Lord Vamana (in the background)
In life, one should not buckle under pressure. One should face difficulties with courage and patience. One should leave the consequences of one’s actions to God with utmost faith in Him. If only one has this, one would be able to achieve anything in this world. Since time immemorial, it was not mere actions of the people alone that made them great, but it was their ability to strike a balance between their individual character and national character that made them great. Several great heroes and personalities like Vasishtha, Harishchandra, Dharmaraja, Bali Chakravarti, Shibi Chakravarti, Dadheechi, etc. personified these virtues. [ii]
The Story of King Shibi
In order to rescue a bird, King Shibi sacrificed his life. You have to sacrifice everything in order to protect good people and for the sake of a good cause. On the other hand, if you hanker after power, money and position, you will attain neither peace of mind nor happiness. Obsession for power, status, position and other status symbols is a weakness. Even in small day-to-day matters, people with a mean nature try to dominate others. 

Note:

[i] The events narrated with respect to King Harishchandra and his wife Chandramati have to be studied with reference to the period of Krita Yuga, which is supposed to have happened thousands of years back. In those times, the societal norms and social circumstances were entirely different and as such they cannot be evaluated by using the evaluation bench marks of current times. They have to be appreciated keeping in mind the reference norms of Desha (country), Kaala (relevant time frame), and Paristhiti (circumstances) in the words of Baba.


[ii] Vasishtha, Harishchandra, Dharmaraja, Bali Chakravarti, Shibi Chakravarti and Dadheechi are all the names of people in Indian theological history, who have gone through difficult experiences in their lives to uphold Satya (truth) and Dharma (righteousness). Sage Vasishtha was the Guru of Lord Rama against whom Vishwamitra harboured ill will because of which he lost his sons and suffered much. King Harishchandra was an ancestor of Lord Rama, who sacrificed his wife and only son, and worked in a crematory to uphold truth. Bali Chakravarti was the grandson of Prahlad who sacrificed his own life for the word given to Lord Vishnu who incarnated as Vaman. Shibi Chakravarti sacrificed a pound of flesh from his own body to save the life of a bird (who in reality was a demi-God come to test him). 

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