“Do not make success the criterion but faithfulness – faithfulness to God, to your company, to your clients and customers, to your family and to yourself” says L T Jeyachandran in an interview with Jerry Thomas. L.T. has been working as Executive Director of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (Asia-Pacific) Ltd.
L.T. Jeyachandran hails from Tamil Nadu in South India. He graduated from PSG College of Technology, affiliated with University of Madras (Chennai), and later received a Master of Technology degree in Structural Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chennai. L.T. worked in several parts of India for 28 years as a Senior Civil Engineer with the Central (Federal) Government. The last position he held was that of Chief Engineer in charge of 13 states of India in the Eastern Zone while based in the city of Calcutta.
Jerry Thomas (JT): Many of us fail to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Is there a difference between the two? What according to you is the difference between religion and spirituality?
L.T. Jeyachandran (LT): It all depends on how you define these words. Every religion defines spirituality in its own way. If you consider atheism as a religion, it would define spirituality purely as engagement with the material world because this system does not accept anything beyond the material world. You may have other religions which may consider the material world as illusion or evil; for them, spirituality would be to escape the material world somehow and obtain enlightenment. I would consider in the light of your following questions, that true spirituality should combine the material and spiritual – the latter should throw light on how the former is handled. If relgion is meant to be belief in God, I would think the belief that God who is Spirit creating a material world out of nothing would offer the best definition of true spirituality. Thus my life will be governed by decisions that will integrate materialtiy with morality.
JT: What are the challenges faced by the world of business today? Can spirituality play a role in overcoming these challenges?
LT: In answering this question, I would move forward to make some more definitions. A belief that the material world is illusion can result in two opposite conclusions in running a business:
Since this world is illusion, I should not take anything seriously and therefore I may not engeage in the business seriously.Since this world is illusion, I can adopt any method – ethical or unethical – in running the business because after all everything is illusory.If, however, my understanding of God is One who is morally holy, then I would consider that true spirituality should include the whole gamut of life including my business. Therefore, I would strive to be ethical and not relegate morality to the 'religious' sphere only.
JT: Companies like ServiceMaster in the US states one of its company objectives as "To honor God in all we do", while Kyocera from Japan has its corporate motto as "Respect the Divine and Love People." Even leaders from Indian companies are speaking about application of spirituality in business. What is the reason behind this increasing interest in spirituality? Is it a fad?
LT: An interesting off-shoot of success is that people begin to realise that when you succeed in everything, there could be an emptiness – when you get to the top of the mountain, you find that there is nothing there! That can be an unnerving discovery. People do therefore have begun to seek some touch with the transcendent. The motto of ServiceMaster is obnviously reflecting the belief the God is honoured by ethical business – in other words, God's characrer as the One is morally holy requires His followers to reflect His character in their business dealings. The Kyocera motto, in my opinion, belongs to a different category – the divine and the human are put in separate compartments. The standard of loving people is left undefined. It is purely subjective and can be dependent on the whims and fancies of individuals.
JT: Is concepts like 'spirituality at workplace', 'organization renewal' etc meant only for mature organizations which have financial and human resources to support such activities? What about start-ups/ small scale industries etc?
LT: The answer to this question is again dependent on our understanding of Ultimate Reality. If you allow for an Infinite-Personal-Moral God to whom we area accountable, my desire to honour God cannot be relegated to any compartment of my life – it will have to be for the whole of my life – personal, family, profession (mature or start-up company would be irrelevant). Therefore this is not a pragmatic issue but of utmost importance. If, on the other hand, I do not allow for this kind of God but for an unlimate force or energy, moral matters would not matter, because energy and force as impersonal entities would be indifferent to moral issues. Thus it will be a matter of my conscience, which in itself would be quite relative.
JT: Are there experiments/studies to show that tapping spirituality at work has resulted in a positive impact on business? Can you cite examples of companies boldly engaging in spiritual dialogues inside and outside the organization? Any specific examples you would like to share…?
LT: I understand that Levi Jeans ran their company on absolutely ethical lines and that did help them succeed. On the other hand, I know some individuals in our country who tried to be moral could not succeed. Or course, by spirituality I mean being ethical. For some people, being spiritual means being religious without necessarily being ethical. Also, in our country, some business houses are praised to the sky without considering the fact that they made their money by being absolutely corrupt! Again, the issue is not whether pragmatism is the driving force or whether there is really a moral God to whom we are morally accountable!
JT: Your messages to a business leader who would like to tap spirituality at her/his workplace…
LT: "Please get your understanding of reality right. Do not make success the criterion but faithfulness – faithfulness to Jesus our God, to your company, to your clients and customers, to your family and to yourself."
JT: Any other thoughts / views you would like to share with our readers?
LT: In a pragmatism-criven world, truth is no longer important. This is a profound tragedy. My advice, for whatever it is worth, is that we should find out what the ultimate meaning of our life is. And that question cannot be answered except in the context of what reality – Jesus – is and what is our relationship to Him.