Management Lessons from Sri Sathya Sai – By Dr. N. Sivakumar

Dr. Sivakumar with Sri Sathya Sai at Kodaikanal - April 1988
Our dear Bhagawan defined the Vision of the Faculty of Business Management (later rechristened as SBMAF) in His Inaugural Discourse on 21st August, 1986 stating, “All over the world there are numerous Institutes of Management. They confer the Master’s Degree in Business Administration. In our Institute, we should turn out Masters in Man Management (MMM). Our students should develop a broader outlook and prepare themselves to serve the society with sincerity and dedication. They must set an example in morality, bringing credit to the country by their work and by their contribution to the development of the nation”.

This vision of the SBMAF has been fostered by Bhagawan personally over the years. He takes personal interest in the selection of students for the course, showers His abundant Love on the students pursuing their MBA degree and even takes care of them once they leave the portals of this sacred Institute. It is due to Swami’s infinite Love and Grace that the SBMAF has been able to scale great heights in these twenty years.

I have learnt several managerial lessons from my long association with the SBMAF as a student, researcher and later as a faculty member. Here are some nuggets which I consider very precious and valuable. 

It was Swami who Blessed me with an admission to the MBA programme. In 1986, when I was in my third year B.Com., I came to know about the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted for the IIM’s and started preparing for the same. In December 1986, when Swami had come to Brindavan, I took courage and asked Swami for blessings and permission to write this test. Swami asked me “What is the admission test for?” I replied innocently, “Swami it is for joining MBA in the IIM’s”. Swami continued, “But don’t we have MBA in our Institute itself? Why do you want to go out to study?” Pointing to a dog which suddenly passed by, Swami remarked, “If you go out, you will have to roam like that dog”. It was only then that I realised the importance of continuing my studies in our Institute. 

Later Swami granted an interview to my father and myself during which He Blessed me that He would grant me a seat in MBA in our Institute, the next year in 1987. Thus I was fortunate to be selected among the second batch of students who pursued their MBA degree in the Institute. The first managerial lesson I learnt was that, a manager must have faith in his internal systems. Trying to imitate others blindly can lead to disaster.

Swami is the Divine Manager. He demonstrates that no work is low or demeaning. All acts become Divine when imbued with love. In 1988, our batch of students was Blessed by Swami to be taken to Ooty and Kodaikanal. In Kodaikanal, which is a cold place, one of my classmates suddenly took ill. He was lying in the bed room adjacent to the hall, and could not take part in the proceedings of the day. In his weak state, he prayed to Bhagawan to cure him. Swami responded immediately. He asked for a cup of coffee to be brought. Swami carried this cup to the place where the boy was sleeping and asked him to get up. The boy got up and was about to take the cup from Swami’s hands. Swami stopped him and took the cup near the boy’s lips. Swami asked the boy to sip the coffee as He held the cup. We have only heard of Mother Parvati feeding saintly children, when they were in distress. However this was an incident where even the demigods would have felt jealous witnessing the fortune of the boy being personally fed by the Poornavatar Himself. Indeed it is a unique bond of Love between Swami and His students.

Every action of Bhagawan is mysterious and has profound significance. We may not be able to appreciate its implications immediately, yet over a period of time we realise the value of Swami’s actions. In another incident at Kodaikanal, I had a sudden attack of cough and cold. Being an asthmatic, it was but natural that I got an attack in that cold place. Once when Swami was talking to all of us, I started sneezing and coughing loudly. Swami turned towards me and chided saying, “Chhi”. I felt distressed because the cough was not under my control and it was involuntary. Later I controlled myself with great difficulty and eventually forgot the incident. 

We stayed in Kodaikanal for several days, and after returning to Brindavan, we were posted on our summer projects. The company I was assigned, was very far from Brindavan and it entailed travelling in bus and train through heavy pollution, for atleast four to five hours everyday, for nearly a month. At the end of the summer project, we were taking stock, when my friend, who was an asthmatic too and myself remarked that we never faced any asthma problem during the past several days, even though we were in a heavily polluted place. It was even more interesting when we found that not even one of our classmates had an asthamatic problem during that summer. 

It was only then that I recalled the chiding “Chhi” that Swami had pronounced in Kodaikanal. It was not a chiding for my involuntary coughing. That chiding was for the asthma trouble itself. It vanished not only from me, but from all my classmates having that problem for more than a month, allowing us to enjoy Swami and do our summer projects peacefully. As a manager we must have a long-term view of things and events. Such a perspective will help us to understand and appreciate others’ actions correctly.

Swami always remembers our achievements and takes great pride in encouraging us. Once in my first year MBA, Swami was annoyed with the students in general. He had stopped talking to us. The senior students decided that all of us would beg Swami for pardon and pray to Him to talk to us. We surrounded Bhagawan that evening and prayed for pardon. Most of us were in tears. Suddenly in that din, Swami turned towards me and remarked, “Aih! Neeku five occhindi ra”. I was perpelxed for a moment. Only then did I realise that the MBA first semester results had been announced and I had secured a GPA of five. Swami was ready to appreciate me even in the midst of all us begging for His pardon. He truly is our Divine Teacher, who always encourages us in all circumstances. A manager must take all opportunities to appreciate and encourage his subordinates. That is true motovation.

A manager must be unbiased. He must treat everyone with equal care and love. I learnt this important lesson straight from Swami. I was Blessed by Bhagawan to do my Ph.D after the completion of my MBA. In 1989, in Kodaikanal, He called my parents and told them, “I will Bless your son by giving him admission to Ph.D”. My parents were overjoyed. I completed my Ph.D in 1994 and with Swami’s Blessings joined the SBMAF as a faculty member. My learning did not stop with my Ph.D. It continued beyond that, even as a faculty member. On August 21, 1995 the MBA Anniversary day, Swami called all the students for taking Padanamaskar. The students formed a neat line and were taking Namaskar. As a faculty member, I approached Swami out of line to take Namaskar. Swami saw me approaching and remarked, “Are you somebody special? Come in line and take Namaskar”. I immediately joined the line of students. For Bhagawan, both students and faculty are alike. All are His dear children. His Love is showered equally on all.
Sri Sathya Sai with the MBA students at Kodaikanal - April 1988
We are fortunate to be the alumni of this Divine Management School, SBMAF. Let us always remember the Vision that Swami holds before each one of us. Let us strive to play our role perfectly, in the Divine Mission of our dear Lord.

- Dr. N. Sivakumar
Student and Research Scholar (1987-1994), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Associate Professor, Department of Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Brindavan Campus


Source: Fragrance 2005

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