Posted by: Arjun Aiyar | January 6, 2010

Spiritual Capitalism!

On a recent visit to Mumbai, I sat excitedly with a group of friends relishing a fine ‘biryani’ in a popular establishment. The moment of truth finally arrived when it was time to order our dessert. The unequivocal response is by now almost predictable. Invariably, at every gourmet gathering, there are those that swear they will not have anything sweet, and will still succumb. This is the time when the air becomes saturated with quotes, statistics and gags on the merits or demerits of indulgence in ‘sugar therapy’. A humorous debate seems an almost necessity – such that due justification can be found to summon forth a dish of delight. Sigmund Freud would certainly find stimulation in studying this ‘love – hate’ relationship between man and his temptations. He would relish the analysis of the emotions that cause one to flip 180 degrees from an absolute No to a loud and resounding Yes. Indisputably, man would be accused of being a creature of controversies and conflict. Alternatively, a kinder verdict might even credit us with the ability to balance opposites and differing viewpoints.

The item of choice was a generous scoop of ice cream placed on top of a square chocolate brownie which in turn rested on a hot metal plate. At the time of serving, a small jug of chocolate sauce was carefully poured onto the ice cream – and the sauce was allowed to drip over the brownie onto the hot plate releasing a sizzling sound and an intoxicating chocolate aroma. The dish is thus an inundation of a brownie, hot chocolate sauce and ice cream. Once settled, this ‘hot – cold’ combination serves as a lure to the bravest of hearts.

Since time immemorial, a mix of opposites has never failed to gain human attention. From food & beverages to clothes, we humans take great delight in experimenting with contradictions. In recent years, oxymorons like ‘love – hate’, ‘hot – cold’ or ‘true – lies’ have created sizeable profits for the movie and advertising industry. The phrase ‘Opposites attract’ is now almost a cliché and continues to extend itself liberally to conversations and prophecies across the globe.

Pragmatists might however argue that while these oxymoron’s and contradictions serve well for fashion, dialogue or allegory, its business and economic applications are fraught with turmoil. The idea being that – in business, opposites may be apt for illustration, but not ideal for application.

In most minds, the term ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ conjures up a similar emotion. Spirituality and Capitalism are perceived as being on opposite ends of the spectrum and thus ‘never the twain shall meet’. Like the night and day – if one exists then the other cannot. Our modern society coupled with recent economic events has further polarized the two words, hence categorizing them as distinct and markedly divergent.

As a resident of Dubai, and thus a member of an international community, I have been witness to the disconcerting outcomes of the current global recession. Job losses and business shut downs have certainly been felt in menacing proportions. From bloom to doom, the last few months have adversely altered the reality of innumerable families and individuals. Any socialist could now delight in berating this system of extreme capitalism which has seemingly blown over like an overheated engine – now lying in pieces with steam still bellowing from its under belly.

As we pick up the pieces and gradually recover from this bolt out of the blue, it is interesting to observe how people across the globe are now suddenly engaged in deep contemplation. Questions like – what happened? Why did it happen? and Why did it happen to me? seem to dominate the mental landscape of the multitudes.

 The wise however have taken a slightly different path – a path that starts with asking slightly different questions.

An expression of gratitude to my mentor, Basil Harris, is in order here. In this instance, it is his wisdom that I humbly share with you. Basil teaches that one would gain by asking questions like – What did I learn? How can I recover? and What precautions must I take henceforth? It’s almost fascinating to observe how feelings can transmute from fear to cheer just by consciously and repeatedly posing these questions to oneself. Basil suggests that an exercise in actually writing down the responses to these queries will be far from futile. In fact, this act of writing will lay the blue print for your new success plan. If in doubt, here’s a piece of advice from one who has already ventured onto this path – ‘try it before you deny it’!

Thought leaders and icons from across the globe have shared some fascinating insights on managing yourself and your career in these trying times. Interestingly, much of their counsel correlates so distinctly with the scriptures of any religious text. This realization prompted the inception of this article on ‘Spiritual Capitalism’.

If we regard the words ‘Spiritual’ and ‘Capitalism’ as being on opposite sides of the ‘philosophy spectrum’, then placing them together would create an oxymoron. Interestingly, we are learning today that when we move just one step across the border of this pre defined spectrum, we find ourselves at its opposite end! That’s right – one step across and you arrive at the opposite side! Thus, what seems to be opposite or disconnected is in fact deeply entwined or entangled. Allow me to further elucidate this by listing some suggestions from the great gurus of our time. When reading these ideas – rather than looking for proof, endeavor to truly imbibe these philosophies and the results will be forthcoming. Jim Dornan says, ‘Don’t let the unexplainable keep you away from the undeniable’.

 1. Move from isolation to integration: Work with people not against them. Treat human beings as a resource rather than as a tool. Genuinely seek benefit for others and others will work to benefit you! People are more sensitive today than ever before, so satisfy their ‘need to belong’. Internationally acclaimed leadership author and speaker, John Maxwell said, ‘People don’t care if you know, until they know that you care’.

2. Imbibe a spirit of collaboration instead of competition: The new environment presents abundant opportunities for partnerships and alliances. Many others are in the same situation as you and looking to fill the gaps. They would be excited to discover your keenness to collaborate with them. Make the effort and attract like – minded people into your life. Ray Keller said, ‘We are each angels with just one wing and therefore we can only fly when we embrace one another’. Should you fear the concept of joint ventures, here’s a thought for you – I don’t deny that many partnerships fail but you can’t deny that many succeed!

 3. Have an attitude of gratitude: A fun exercise to do is to compare your challenges and situation to others who are worse off than you. Aren’t we grateful that we have food to eat, a roof over our heads and a few people who still love us? Even if you are challenged with these, remember, history is full of stories of people who navigated through much harsher conditions. In most cases, the solution to depression is – perspective. Recently, I was fortunate to be reminded by Shalini Verma – an accomplished executive, life and leadership coach, that many people would kill to be in my shoes! Think about it, don’t you have so much more going for you than millions of others out there? Get the joy back into your life. Be happy again and you will attract happy people and fruitful opportunities to you. In the words to the prolific author Wayne Dyer – ‘There is no way to happiness…..happiness is the way’.

4. Ideate, innovate and initiate: Every great business or corporation was once an intangible idea. Consciously put yourself in environments that foster creativity. Whether it is music, a walk in the park or just staring at the ceiling, do what works for you and deliberately ideate. A GREAT way to generate ideas is to pray or meditate. Prayer is nothing but focused thought or a higher state of mind. Taken to a deeper level, it may represent thoughtlessness or an empty mind. Whichever concept you subscribe to, scientists today have proven that focused thought actually has an effect on matter! They have also discovered a realm of consciousness that supersedes the subconscious mind – it is called the ‘super conscious mind’. Leading authors like Brian Tracy talk and write about this super conscious state as being one of the best tools for goal accomplishment. In a manner of speaking, super conscious thinking connects you with the infinite (more commonly referred to as God), thus allowing you access to the sea of boundless wisdom. Whatever your ideas, the final key is to initiate or act. I recently heard entrepreneur Prem Pillay say ‘There are two types of failures in the world– those who thought but didn’t do and those who did but did not think’. Let’s endeavor to be in neither category. Robin Sharma puts it another way. He says ‘Ideation without execution is mere delusion’. And so, in conclusion, you don’t have to be great to start but you have to start in order to be great.

With great change comes great opportunity. If history is any guide, inevitably the recession will recede and a new era will dawn upon us. Economic cycles are not vastly dissimilar to the weather. A storm or a flood arrives, wreaks its share of havoc and finally settles back to serenity. Norman Leonard said, ‘the bend in the road is not the end in the road, unless you fail to make the turn’! And so, there is great merit in now imbibing the philosophy of great minds i.e. the philosophy of ‘Spiritual Capitalism’. 

Spirituality endorses the view that we humans are all interconnected. In fact, it goes one step further and advocates that all matter is interconnected. Using the newly established field of quantum physics, scientists use the term ‘entanglement’ to scientifically establish this very notion. Supporters of the ‘Big Bang’ theory elucidate ‘entanglement’ by stating that at a sub atomic level, all of the universe is connected. Whereas science and religion (spirituality) were considered ‘oxymoronal’ in nature, the converse is being corroborated more and more today. Fascinatingly enough, today, both science and religion are advocating the same if not a similar philosophies.

In light of these revelations and in keeping with the success principles listed earlier, the phrase ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ is a tautology (i.e. the opposite of oxymoron) rather than an oxymoron. Over the years, ‘money’ and ‘people with money’ have earned a poor reputation and ‘spirituality’ and ‘spiritual people’ have been revered and respected. There is little paucity of individuals who have abused their powers, particularly the power that money brings. However, as my mentor so rightly points out – Money by itself is not good or bad; it’s what we do with the money that is good or bad. Time and again, it has been seen that capitalists that have sustained are the ones who have grown by consistently benefiting others.

World renowned author, coach and speaker Zig Ziglar says, ‘You can have anything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want’. This quote best personifies ‘Spiritual Capitalism’ – as being capitalism endowed with the character of compassion.

A recognition and application of this dogma can open the doorway to boundless treasures – material or otherwise.

(Arjun Aiyar is a corporate trainer, executive coach and motivational speaker based in Dubai. He has two training companies – one in India and the other in the UAE. His organizations cater to corporates and individuals by providing training and coaching in soft skills and behavioural areas. Learn more about Arjun’s business on or


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