“Am I productive at work?” “Am I giving my best?” I asked these questions a few years back. After reading numerous bestselling self-help books and watching multiple motivational videos with millions of likes, I came across a 5-minute video clip on WhatsApp. It caught my attention instantly, and I ended up watching it daily on my way to work for six months. But who was the speaker? After six months of suspense, I searched on the internet for “worries of the past and the anxiety for the future” and found Gautamji, the man who would change the direction of my life. To my surprise, I found he conducts weekly classes in New York, almost next to the train station on my travel route. I learned how to be productive at work, but gradually became drawn to Vedantic (ancient, universal wisdom that contains the eternal values of life and living) principles about life he teaches. Because those principles are for all humans, I find them more appealing.

This article is my tribute to Gautamji — not about him as a person but to share two key lessons that all of us can relate to.

                                           Intellect Not Intelligence:

Until I started learning Vedanta, I thought these words had a similar meaning. That misconception was broken in my first class. 

How does Vedanta define “intellect”?  A human is made up of body, mind, and intellect. Mind and intellect are the unseen parts of us. The mind is made up of various emotions like joy, sorrow, anger, hate, love, compassion, passion. Intellect gives us  reason, logic, and clarity in thinking. It is not the same as intelligence. We get intelligence from books, tutorials, e-learning, and university courses. Intellect is the one that helps us to convert information to transformation. That is why millions of people go to medical college, but a handful of them discover life-saving drugs. When the whole world was focusing on reducing the size of the computer disc, Steve Jobs asked why we need a disc. The intellect enables your original thinking. This is the crux of success. That is why companies like Airbnb and Uber brought revolution as they found a unique way to solve a daily problem. 

How to develop an intellect? There are two ways: Never take anything for granted and question everything. Developing intellect not only takes you to the pinnacle of your professional success, but it also makes you a successful spouse, parent, responsible citizen, and above all a perfect human being.

 The development of intellect requires a systematic daily study early in the morning. Multiple studies have shown that most CEOs get up early to think and plan their days, as they have minimum internal and external disturbances at that time. I would highly recommend to read Gautamji’s guru A.Parthasarathy’s ”The Fall of the Human Intellect” to start the process.

First Change Yourself

You need to change yourself first, Gautamji responded to a question on societal injustice prevailing today.  Some of us are wondering how we can change society for the better amidst COVID-19 and racial discrimination. Gautamji’s response to the question made me think to myself: “Wait. I need to be a better version of myself before I try to change anything around me. Let me work on that first.” 

One common attribute among all great leaders is that they live higher values, which lead to change in others. Once you change yourself with higher values of life, people will automatically come to you and that’s how it will become a movement. It’s like there are 1000 unlit candles in a dark room and to light all of them, you need to light your candle first. Gautamji shared a quote which drives home the point:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it too seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would have then been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.”-

Quote by by an Anglo-Saxon Bishop whose words of wisdom were written on his tomb in the crypts of Westminster Abbey

What started as a quest to know how to be more productive at work, now turned into a full-fledged process of imbibing positive living.

Learning Vedanta takes time and effort, like any other skill. Perhaps it’s the only discipline which brings you success and peace simultaneously. 

If you would like to join Gautamji’s weekly classes, please feel free to check out VedantaUSA.org