Enlightened leaders thrive.
Each of us wants to thrive. So what’s stopping us? For most of us, there is only one thing preventing us from living a life that is truly inspired. I call that one thing “being dense.” So what can we do to be less dense, and create more of a clearing for living a great life?
I decided to start the year by reading biographies of great men. The first person who entered my mind was Mahatma Gandhi. I didn’t know much about him; only that he had liberated India from British rule and had resolved sectarian violence through a hunger strike. So I started reading Gandhi the Man by Eknath Easwaran. It was a short and delightful read. I recommend it highly.
In his youth, Gandhi’s ambition was to be a physician. But he lacked the aptitude and failed every medical course he took. His uncle financed his education in England to become a lawyer. Gandhi succeeded in mastering law, but was a lost soul. He attempted to take on the airs of a British gentleman; dressing and acting the part. He tried to become what he was not, an effort that undermined his self-confidence and power. When he returned to India to practice law, he was so shy and self-conscious that he would freeze up in court and be unable to speak. He became the laughing stock of the Indian court system.
Someone took pity on Gandhi and secured a job for him in Africa. It was in Africa that he began to discover his true self. He was burdened by the way Indians were segregated and mistreated. He began visiting the hospitals and tending to Indians who were sick. This was a time when his heart began to expand. It was also the foundation for his amazing power that was able to change the world around him.
Gandhi made a fascinating discovery. Rather than becoming great on the outside, he shifted his attention to become great on the inside. He believed that becoming a great human being would expand the greatness of his impact on the world far more than he could ever achieve through wealth and political power. So, he set off on a course to cultivate internal greatness. His method was simple. When he met someone who had inner greatness he would experiment with whatever seemed to create that greatness. If it helped Gandhi, he would stick with it. If it didn’t, he would give it up.
His first experiment with greatness resulted from his friendship with a student. The young man had much greatness but no money or possessions. Gandhi sold his things and moved his family into a one room apartment to experiment with the impact of simplicity of life on his greatness. He discovered that the less he possessed, the greater he became in is heart. From that point on, he lived in poverty, preferred to walk wherever he went and his influence on the world around him expanded.
This reminds me to the story of the monk whose only possession was a pot. He washed in the pot, cooked in the pot and ate from the pot. One day the pot fell off a rock and broke. The monk, seeing the broken pot said….”Finally, I am free.” When we root our identify in our possessions and wealth, we are off the path of true greatness.
Gandhi’s second great experiment was giving up caring for himself. He would say, “I trust God to care for me, or not, and either is fine.” In other words, Gandhi gave up concerning himself with his own wellbeing. It did not matter to him how he was treated, how well his life went or what others thought of him. Instead, he focused all of his attention on loving others. He loved those who were kind to him. He loved those who hated him. He loved those who oppressed him.
Gandhi’s experiments proved fruitful. He lived a very simple life in an ashram in the middle of nowhere in India. People came from all over the world to find him and spend time with him. He had no possessions, no political power, no wealth. But he was so powerful that the Prime Minister of England warned British ambassadors to India not to spend time with Gandhi because he would change them. He had no agenda other than to set an example of human dignity, peace and love. With that agenda, he changed the world around him forever.
Do you aspire to be a great human being? Do you aspire to be a great leader? If so, we have much to learn from Gandhi. He was able to clear away the clutter from within and be less dense – and served as a beacon of light for others. Leading teams within an organization is challenging. Aspire to be an enlightened leader like Gandhi.
What will YOU be able to do when you become less dense?