Karma Yog in Business: From Transaction To Trust

Audrey Lin, Dec 30, 2022 in Karma Yog

[Many of us were deeply inspired by Siddharth M.'s share at our "Spiri-Ted" evening during the retreat. Delighted to share a recording and transcript. Very grateful for the reminder that we can build a sacred space wherever we are.]

Thank you.

I had been working in my family business since long and, being an owner, I would always encounter this conflict of deciding salaries and packages for people. And that used to put me in conflict, because nowhere I was able to find right answer for the question “What is the right payout for anyone?” How can I measure the contribution of that person actually?

On either side, there would be dissatisfaction because there is no right and wrong. The person who is working can only decide what contribution he has given. No other person can decide. So I would always encounter a situation where someone was asking for something and I had some power to give something, and neither of these positions was agreeable to me.

I did not like the other person asking me because it is his labor. When someone would ask for a pay raise or so, being an owner, my ego was being satisfied that I am able to give. So it was not agreeable to me. I was really in big conflict.

Then Covid came and you are looking for answers. Like Nipun says you are looking for apple. But the answer may come in oranges. So, it came like that. There was lock down and I was coming across news after news. I assume everybody was feeling so low, a feeling of deep helplessness that we can not do anything.

We are sitting at home and see thousands of people are walking home and where they would be eating, where they would be going, how they would be traveling, there are no answers. People are not able to pay salaries on time, so it was a feeling of deep helplessness. And, at that time, a thought also came in mind that, the biggest thing that we can take away from someone is their self-respect and self-esteem.

To give, of course, you need a giver's heart, but if I can make someone to be on his own, that is, serving his self-respect and self-esteem. That is the biggest gift. That is the last thing we should take away from someone. So, I was looking for, answers and sitting. I did not have anything to do.

So suddenly, an idea came up. I was reading that in lockdown, because the vegetable markets were closed, farmers could not sell their produce, they kept their fields open. Whoever wants to come, can come and take vegetables. They were just taking out all the vegetables because if they do not pluck them in few days, it'll be of no use.

So again, my heart was thinking about the people who are feeding us. No one is there to feed them. Also, because poor farmers could not sell their produce. Okay. There were so many farmers who can sustain. And again, this thought was going in my mind that how to protect self-respect and esteem of people. So, I called few of my colleagues and told them like, what about an idea that we buy vegetables from those farmers?

And here in the city, people are not able to get vegetables. So, if we can connect them, it would be good.

So, we thought we will buy vegetables from those farmers who are in need. We will buy at market price. So, they will not lose anything. Part of the produce, we will give to all the food kitchens that were preparing food for the migrant and needy people, and part of it will bring in city and we will offer to various societies/apartment complexes and that also we will tell them that they can take whatever they want and pay whatever they want.

We will not put even weighing scales. People can take and they can decide how much they want to pay and let us see what happens. Let us see what happens. I will not say it was done through me because as a person, it was not my capacity to execute this project.

I still don't know how many of them worked on that project because I was just sitting in my home, and we were coordinating. People offered their tractors to take to the farm to bring the vegetables. The farmers help to find the right farmers from where the vegetable can be procured. The bigger farmers are telling, “no, no, don't take vegetable from us - after two kilometers, there is a small farmer, a family who is dependent only on vegetable farming. Please take their vegetables so they can sustain for a week”.

From farms, the tractors would bring vegetables up to the highway. Few volunteers will take their cars, collect the vegetables from highway and bring into the city because they had that special permission from government.

And then to my surprise, architects, doctors, engineers, businessmen were coming to our building, taking vegetables in their car and offering those vegetables in their localities. I could see cars like Mercedes filled up with vegetables and they will ask me how much price we should take from who they are giving to. We would say, tell them whatever they want to give, is the price. No need of weighing scale. Let them decide. Just tell them that this will go to the farmers from where we are bringing and it will circulate in the form of more vegetables. That's the only thing we are doing.

And, soon, in three, four days, we were getting calls for more vegetables, more vegetables, more vegetables. And it happened. And things started moving again. We prepared some food kits and all, but it was not enough for me because that self-esteem and self-respect question was still running.

I thought people will need lot of masks. So, there may be some people in my factory who would know how to sew. There were a lot of people who knew tailoring. So I asked one of my friends from where I can get the material for mask, he told me he has enough material, I make lots for Nike and all those companies, and I have enough material in my stock. You take whatever material you want, for free.

And tailors started sewing masks and we were distributing them. We also distributed to officers, police and whoever wanted to take them. Whoever wanted to buy, they can buy. Whoever wanted to take, they can take.

So, this strengthened my belief. This state of helplessness and this participation of the ecosystem helped me. It gave me a deep belief that yes, I could find a solution for (bringing spirituality in) this commerce part also.

I need not quit. I need to stay here and ask deeply that what else can be done and how can I free myself from this and them from this, and how we can be companions in prospering in commerce. So, I thought, let us do one more experiment, and I wanted to put faith in the consciousness that is there in each one of us.

There is an inner self, which tells what the truth is, and if I trust that, then I don't need any other system. So, I told my key people that from January, you will decide what is your salary. I will not. I will not, and you don't tell me what your salary is. You just decide and take your cheque from the accounts department. Now it is up to you. And they were like, “How we can do that? Can you find a way?”

How can I give you a small system? If you like, then you continue. If you don't like, you don't continue. You write on a paper what you will do this month that will give you satisfaction. Put it in an envelope, seal it and give that envelope to me.

End of the month, take that envelope. I will not open it during the month. Take that envelope, open it, read it, and then write what you want as salary for that month. Give it to the accounts department and take the salary.

Do not, discuss your renumeration with anybody. Only you should know what you have written, what you have decided, and why you have decided. I don't want to know either.

And then a few of them come and say “Please stop this”. And I say “No. If you feel another person is taking more than you, you also take. If you feel that you are working hard, take more. If you feel bad about your work, then take a little less.”

And I could see that change in the way they approached their work, the way they started talking, the way they started dealing with this. And I thought, there is something. Something is here that is looking at what I am deciding what I am doing and that is awake even when we are sleeping. So, it will always tell the truth then why should I worry, when the real system is there inside him, deep inside him?

Why should I worry? I should have more faith in that. And that has brought me back and with more energy to find a way where a workspace is co-created, co-owned and co-operated by everybody. Also, everyone who works here can participate and have a voice. These voices can be heard and honored. I'm looking for these answers. I found a lot of them here and even I found beautiful questions to hold, being here among all of you.

And, thanks to all those people who brought me here. All those people who created this space and atmosphere, and all those who are here, who shared their stories. Everyone is part of it, and I need everybody's blessing for this pursuit of Spiritual Commerce.

I found that, “I want to do it and I will do it” is the biggest obstacle. Let it happen through me. Let this be expressed through me and not by me.

I do not know what form it will be take but I'm also eager to see how it gets expressed.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

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