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Stages of Self Development – A Hindu Perspective

Source | LinkedIn : By Prasad Kaipa

Dr. Mohan Rao, my teacher, recently talked about different types of people we encounter day after day. I found his wisdom to be very meaningful and have been reflecting on it and thought it fits in well with the theme of codifying Ancient Indian Wisdom for 21st century. If you want to read the other blogs about vedanta management, you can check out

I tried to reference what he said to me in various scriptures but no where I found these to be so clearly articulated so they stand by themselves. 

One day, we were talking about how I use Vedantic wisdom in my work as a management professor and a consultant. He made fun of me saying that as a professor I am just touching the first stage of development on the spiritual path and instead of just teaching what I do, I will get more benefit if I focus on practicing. While admitting that I have to do more of practice, I asked him to tell me about development stages or types of people on spiritual path. What he said about spiritual development applies very well to self development of leaders and hence this blog.

Pracharaka: First one is ‘pracharaka’ which literally means an evangelist. Not always necessarily related to religion but enthusiastic propagator of whatever s/he believes in. Many avid Facebook posters belong to this category. Whenever we see something that is interesting, we share it with others without sometimes reading, digesting, reflecting and validating what is written. Nothing wrong with being Pracharaka and we all are at some stage or another but he challenged me to go beyond that stage. Why?

Our knowledge is superficial in pracharaka mode though our intent may be good. Many times, I realize, as an academic and consultant I consciously fall into this category and focus more on teaching and helping others rather than applying it to myself and reflecting deeply on it. In this stage, propagation is OK but not recommended because our intention might have a shadow element in it. We probably became pracharaka because we want name or fame or recognition. Many evangelists and educators have second hand knowledge either from our teachers or books and and not really having deeper understanding of the topic or subject. When we are learning, second hand knowledge is useful but when we want to teach others, we have to watch out whether we are propagating wrong knowledge or knowledge that is outdated or out of context. Our deep beliefs and convictions prevent us from distinguishing and examining the second hand knowledge deeply because we are busy ‘selling it’ and it can become dangerous, Dr. Mohan Rao warned me. It is true, I realized because many theories I learned in management in 80s and 90s are not valid in the 21st century complex, global organizations with diverse millennial workers. My baby boomer approach to life and work is not shared even by Generation Xers let alone young people who are getting into workforce now. We have to re-contextualize and reexamine what and how we engage them, motivate them and ignite their genius within because if just become ‘pracharaks’ they turn off and stop responding. I know this well with my two children — they quickly put a stop to my stories that begin with “when I was your age…”

Saadhaka: Second category are ‘saadhakas,’ which means practitioners. When pracharakas become more reflective or provoked to stop spreading their beliefs without paying attention to the context of the other, they might start becoming saadhakas. Others, don’t focus on the first stage at all and detest evangelism and directly go to practice when they hear or learn something meaningful. In this stage, knowledge has a chance to mature and one could potentially develop a process of gaining subjective knowledge on the topic and gain deeper understanding of what it means. Saadhaka stage allows one to speak with authority about to topic because they have worked with it and practiced it and have experience behind their teaching.

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