Soul traders

Businesses
are turning increasingly to spiritual guidance, so you may feel it’s time to
gen up on some genuine philosophical gurus. Here are a few to start you off on
the path to enlightenment, by Jane Lewis

Business
has a habit of taking words and re-engineering them to suit its own needs. So
it is with “guru”. Test this out by asking a colleague to name two gurus who
have made an impact on the business world. The odds are that they will come out
with Peter Drucker, Charles Handy, Tom Peters or, if they are feeling
patriotic, Sir John Harvey-Jones. You’ll cast around in vain for a mention of
the Baghwan.

But
recent developments suggest all that might be about to change. A growing number
of unashamedly spiritual philosophers – real gurus, if you like – are making
inroads into the business world. When an organisation as traditionalist as the
CIPD can make room at its conferences to discuss the impact of shamanic
techniques on morale and performance, you know the issue has become a
significant one.

What
is at the root of this growing quest for spirituality in the workplace? No
doubt it owes much of its momentum to Western society’s wider adoption of
Eastern meditation and self-improvement techniques.

As
the boundaries between home and working life blur, an overspill of some kind is
inevitable. As many US organisations demonstrated in the 20th century,
companies can often flourish on a common set of ethics frequently grounded on a
shared system of spiritual belief.

But
the real problem with gurus will always lie in sorting the wheat from the
chaff. No-one needs reminding that this is an area in which charlatans
flourish.

In
recent years, some decidedly questionable organisations have specifically
targeted the corporate world in their recruitment campaigns. They have managed
to capitalise on the blurred ground between management “self-improvement”
techniques and something more sinister.

Here,
we offer a potted guide to some of the more obviously benevolent gurus that
have emerged in recent years. Enjoy the karma.

Dalai Lama

CV
His Holiness Tenzin Qyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the exiled spiritual
leader of Tibet and has an impeccable Buddhist pedigree. Held to be the
reincarnation of the previous 13 Lamas, he can trace his spiritual line back to
Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig – holy early followers of the Bodhisattva, or
Buddhist way. Plucked from his peasant family for a life of spirituality at the
age of five in 1940, he was forced into exile in 1960 after the Chinese
government announced the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet. Subsequent brave
efforts bringing about the bloodless withdrawal of the invader won him the
Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989.

Disciples
Everyone loves the Dalai Lama. He’s up there with Mother Theresa and Nelson
Mandela on the world super-icon stakes, and countless celebrities, politicians
and royalty (including the Prince of Wales) have gained inspiration from him.
More recently, he’s been making strides in new economy circles: Mark Benioff, head
of salesforce.com, is a fan.

Message
“Why do we need to cultivate the thought that other sentient beings are
precious and valuable? Because they are really the principal source of all our
experiences of joy, happiness and prosperity… Our feelings of comfort and sense
of security are dependent upon other people’s perceptions of us and their
affection for us. Human affection is the basis of our existence. Our life
cannot start without affection, and our sustenance and proper growth depend
upon it.”

Sacred
Text
The Bodhicaryavatara, or guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, on which
he has commented extensively. The text of his Nobel Prize speech.

Pros
The adoption of Buddhism, with its emphasis on altruism, would make
everyone in the office much nicer to work with.  Good value for money: you can attend a three-day course with the
DL for just $150 (excluding service charge).

Cons
 Too much emphasis on being nice may
take the edge off competitiveness. Buddhists in business can appear unbearably
smug (Anita Roddick).

Buzz
Words
Peace and non-violence, compassion, altruism, ethics, precious freedom,
lamrinm chenmo (path to enlightenment), madhyamakavatara (guide to the Middle
Way).

Bottom
Line
If you’re going to get into Buddhism, you may as well follow the main man.
The Dalai Lama’s status as an exiled national leader also means you can combine
spiritual satisfaction with concern for human rights.

Peter
Koestenbaum

CV
A former philosophy professor, Koestenbaum decided 25 years ago to apply
the insights he had gained in philosophy and psychiatry to business strategic
management. Since then, he has emerged as “one of the global economy’s most
trusted sages, therapists and secular priests”. Founder and chairman of PiB and
the Koestenbaum Institute, his message is that the key to achieving business
results lies in the development of the leadership mind. To that end, he has
developed the Leadership Diamond methodology, which “compresses the complexity
of universal themes into a simple but not simplistic model”.

Disciples
Koestenbaum has won many admirers in blue-chip corporate circles. He claims
to have advised “with intensity” IBM, Electronic Data Systems, Ford, Citibank,
Volvo, Amoco and Xerox, to name but a few. An extensive author, his books
include The Heart of Business, Managing Anxiety, and Is There an Answer to
Death?

Message
“The Diamond distinguishes four interdependent leadership imperatives or
‘orientations’: Ethics, vision, courage and reality. These orientations are
your inner resources, always available to help you if you access them. The
space within the Diamond is your leadership capacity, which is called
‘greatness’.”

Sacred
Text
Leadership, The Inner Side of Greatness.

Pros
Links philosophical insight with bottom-line business issues.  Gives advice on how to break through “stuck
points” and gain maximum impact with the least effort.

Cons
The notion that you can improve your leadership qualities with the “least
effort” by cultivating your “leverage corner” or weakest orientation may be
overly simplistic. And he bears a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders of
Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

Buzz
Words

Relationship, orientation, bottom line, stuck points, strategic, systemic,
transformation, teamwork, principles.

Bottom
Line
You have to admire his determination to create a win-win relationship
between business results and human values. Anyone wanting to combine online
leadership learning with applied wisdom and historical depth should sign up
with this “rare and valuable father figure” forthwith.

Deepak
Chopra

CV
Hailed by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the “top 100 icons and heroes of
the century”, Chopra has done more than any other individual to familiarise the
American people with the tenets of Eastern mysticism. Born in India, he is a
qualified doctor who combines his spiritual message with practical suggestions
for physical well being and self-improvement. In 1996, he opened the Chopra
Center for Well-Being in La Jolla, California, offering everything from yoga,
chanting and meditation, to Ayurvedic and conventional detox treatments.

Disciples
“The poet-prophet of alternative medicine” is a prolific author and
translator of mystic classics. His 25 books, translated into 35 languages, have
won him a strong global following, but his heartland is still California.

Message
“Everything that we experience as material reality is born in an invisible
realm beyond space and time, a realm revealed by science to consist of energy
and information… We are now ready to understand divine intelligence directly.
In many ways, this new knowledge reinforces what spiritual traditions have
already promised… Unless some small part of God touches the material world, he
will remain inaccessible forever.”

Sacred
Text
Too many to name. His website is currently giving prominence to “How to
Know God”.

Pros
Easily accessible. Bridges the gaps between spirituality, science and
modern commercial imperatives. Provider of imaginative package holidays.

Cons
Can you cope with all that “primordial sound meditation” (aka chanting)?

Buzz
Words
Energy, quantum soup, information, miracles, darshan (blessings), pujas
(rituals), dormant potentialities, detox.

Bottom
Line
If you’re seeking a more holistic approach to life, this is the guy for
you. You could read his On the Shores of Eternity, new English versions of
poems by Rabindranath Tagore, while undergoing colonic irrigation at the Center
for Well-Being. Either way, you’re bound to emerge feeling positive about life.

Leslie
Kenton

CV
Kenton hurtled on to the HR sphere when she told the CIPD that companies
should follow shamanic techniques to improve morale and performance. This
former Harpers & Queen editor is clearly a renaissance woman, combining
advice on achieving health, beauty, personal development and spiritual power
with an undoubted entrepreneurial streak. Kenton achieved sales of £2.3m within
two years of launching her regenerative skin product onto the UK market.
Daughter of the late US jazz musician Stan Kenton, she is also a social and
environmental activist and TV cook.

Disciples
Everyone from Estée Lauder, through Unilever to the European Parliament.
Kenton’s insistence that good health boosts creativity, power and autonomy –
both personally and in the business environment – has found fertile ground in
corporate circles. Other clients have included Guinness, Boots and L’Oreal.

Message
“Real health, creativity and power come from within. The only true ‘guru’
is the human soul.” She can provide tools and techniques to help you release
your potential for energy, health and personal freedom, and thus improve your
home and working life.

Sacred
Text
Choose from more than 30 best-selling books. Passage to Power sounds
promising for business types.

Pros
Learn how to be beautifully effective at the same time as being effectively
beautiful.

Cons
May not appeal to unreconstructed males who don’t use moisturiser.

Buzz
Words
Natural healing, vibrant, passion, raw, origins, ageless ageing.

Bottom
Line
A breath of fresh air on the management consulting circuit, Kenton’s
obvious ability to practise what she preaches attracts admiration. Sign her up
if you’re serious about work-life balance issues and want advice about healing
the planet.

Yefim
Shubentsov

CV
Testament to the continuing power of word of mouth recommendation, this
former professional artist – known by some as the “Mad Russian” – has been
curing addicts of all kinds for 20 years. Now based in Brookline,
Massachusetts, Shubentsov claims his gift for healing springs from a
“heightened energy field”. Nobody knows how he does it, but his efficacy has
been scientifically corroborated. He treats around 500 people a month.

Diciples
Desperate individuals from all over the US and, increasingly, Europe.
Shubentsov has a strong following in international fashionista and celebrity
circles. Clients have included Courteney Cox, Fran Leibovitz and the novelist
Amy Tan.

Message
“I am the eraser. Physically, I transform energy. I remove the mistakes in
energy fields that surround addicts. I correct it like it’s supposed to be.”

Sacred
Text
Cure Your Cravings, co-authored by Barbara Gordon.

Pros
An ardent believer in the virtues of common sense, toughness and patience.
Reasonable rates, and excellent follow-up service.

Cons
Possibly too many similarities with that other mad Russian, Rasputin.
According to one observer, Shubentsov has “all the subtlety of a professional
wrestler”. He personally admits to “zero diplomatic ability”.

Buzz
Words
Eraser, your last chance, energy, electromagnetic field, sixth sense,
don’t.

Bottom
Line
Could be a useful means of prolonging the lives of talented but dissolute
senior executives.

Dr V

CV
Based in the remote Indian town of Madurai, 82-year-old Dr Govindappa
Venkataswamy is the most admired cataract surgeon on the subcontinent. Since he
opened his first eye hospital in 1976, he has given sight to more than 1
million people, usually for free. Yet Dr V is so productive that his hospital
enjoys a gross margin of 40 per cent. Achieving this feat has led to him being
credited with solving the mystery of leadership: how you go about translating vision
into reality. As one follower has remarked, “He is a doctor to the eyes and a
leader to the soul. Dr V teaches that work can be a vehicle for
self-transcendence.”

Disciples
A growing band of US business writers who trek to Madurai to see the doctor
in action.

Message
“If Coca-Cola can sell billions of sodas and McDonald’s can sell billions
of burgers, why can’t I sell millions of sight-restoring operations and,
eventually, the belief in human perfection? With sight, people can be freed
from hunger, fear and poverty. You can perfect the body, then perfect the mind
and soul, and raise people’s level of thinking and acting.” He believes that if
you understand the deeper principles of your work (and your purpose in the
game) and follow those aims, you achieve a power that draws resources – money
and people – to you.

Sacred
Text
Dr V is a doer, not a pontificator. No sacred text has emerged to date.

Pros
Fantastic. Dr V has cracked how to find the path to ultimate spiritual
perfection, give to the poor, and still be profitable. The ultimate in utopian
volume marketing.

Cons
Message doesn’t go down too well on Wall Street.

Buzz
Words
Perfection, vision, self-knowledge, self-transcendence, giving,
non-violence, truthfulness, light.

Bottom
Line
Dr V is living proof that the reward for work is not what you get out of
it, but what you become from it. Still, signing up to all his ideals may be a
bit of a long shot for most.

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