By Nilooka Dissanayake
This is the kind of article I wish my favourite columnist, Stanley Bing in the Fortune magazine would come up with. He probably never would because he probably does not know what we know of the role of sand in daily conversations, both business and personal.
Last week, we discussed how we fill our lives with things other than our priorities, goals and aspirations. I referred to all the insignificant meaningless things we do, as sand.
Now let us think of all the sand in our conversations. While doing so, it occurred to me how nice it would be to have a conversation with a Buddha. A real discussion. Let me ponder upon the many aspects. I leave it to you to relate it to your daily discussions, official and unofficial, and compare.
My converstation with Lord Budhha would not include lies, telling tales, harsh words and meaningless topics. It would be strictly business—pertaining to the point rather—and professional; and completely serious. It would be most interesting.
Take the Jataka stories and the Sutras for example. Jataka stories are all life stories; past lives of Gautama before enlightenment. The stories are so rich in imagery. Many of the Sutras are stories too. In management parlance, you can call them case studies. They are often stories meant to illustrate a point.
Take the story of Patachara. She runs naked through the streets grieving the loss of husband, kids and parents due to floods and fire until she comes upon the Lord Buddha. He does not preach to her, but gives psychotherapy instead. He promises to bring her dead infant to life with one condition. He asks her to bring some mustard seeds from a home where no one known to the householders have died. She goes from door to door to find that all householders have known death; and slowly realizes that death is common to all.
With such stories at his disposal to illustrate each point, and a faultless memory, the conversation would be most entertaining and enlightening. How I wish others who ‘preach’ and teach had similar qualities. And I don’t mean the religious preachers; I mean those who ‘preach,’ in other ways, give lectures and make presentations that bore us to death.
Secondly, Lord Buddha would not worry about a hidden agenda on my part because he would be able to read my mind. And I need not worry because he, of all people, would not have hidden agendas. So, all the cards would be on the table from the start. It would be a pure dialogue to exchange ideas, clarify points, teach and learn.
Thirdly, he would not withhold information for own advantage. He would tell all, after figuring out my level of intelligence. He would tell what is relevant and in a way it can be understood clearly.
Fourthly, I need not fear about damaging his fragile ego and landing myself in his bad books as a result. He has no ego and no bad book either. He would simply feel compassion for my ignorance. He would not get mad at me and vow revenge upon me for a slip of the tongue.
He would not jump to conclusion about me or about what I say. He would neither judge nor stereotype. He would not have baggage carried over from the past. He would not mean one thing and say another. You could take his word. He would not promise what could not be delivered. Don’t you think this conversation would be pleasurable and productive?
Best of all, he would not, try to force his theories down my throat. Nor would he insist he were the only right one; that he alone has all the answers and solutions. It is another matter that he knows all there is to know; that my knowledge compared to his would be a drop of water compared to the mighty oceans. It is Lord Buddha who said, to never take anything he says on his word alone. Listeners should question right and wrong and strive to understand according to their capacities instead. How different from many so-called ‘experts’ we come across!
My analysis ends here. A Buddhist scholar could probably develop it to higher levels of subtlety and detail. The corresponding MBA module would be: Interpersonal communications. I can assure you, it would not have anything more to add!
My point is this: Compare these factors I mentioned and think of the daily conversations you have with your bosses, coworkers, subordinates, family and friends. How different could they be from what they are today, with a bit of thinking, foresight, preparation and caution? How much more meaningful can we make our conversations with a little bit of care? How much sand can we reduce daily? How would that contribute to improving the quality of conversations, time management and our lives?