Qualities of Spiritual Leadership: The Life and Style of Leadership as Demonstrated by Dadi Prakashmani
Ms Devindree Pillay
First Prakashmani Scholar and BKUN Intern for 2012
My first encounter with Dadi Prakashmani was in the year 2000. I recall sitting in Harmony Hall, a large auditorium that could accommodate 2000 people, (at BKWSU Headquarters, Mt. Abu, Rajasthan) it was packed to capacity. We were all enjoying a multi-cultural entertainment event, and suddenly, not of my conscious effort, in the midst of the explosion of sights and sounds, I was pulled into a deep introverted state of peace and felt like a warm, invisible blanket of love was being wrapped around me. It was a moment to treasure, but I also found myself being confused about this spontaneous experience. Just as suddenly as I had begun wondering, an announcement was made that Dadi Prakshmani had just been driven in and was about to enter the hall. As she made her humble but graceful entrance on stage, the same incredible feelings I had began to intensify, and I marveled at this woman standing before me, who could transform the atmosphere and generate such divine feelings, just by her presence in a space.
I observed my thoughts and feelings, and much to my surprise, did not find myself impressed by her as much as I was inspired to be able to create the same experience for others and have the same uplifting impact. At the time, and actually for my whole life’s journey up to that point, I have always had a desire to be loved and to be loving, and I engaged in many different ways and means to achieve this, which to the contrary often left me and many others exhausted and in pain and distress! And there was this individual who was just being herself, without saying a word, able to invoke such a genuine feeling of love within and inspire a sense of benevolence by introducing me to a silent, powerful approach to be truly loving to others. This was proof enough for me, that Dadi Prakashmani was a great leader. All of this happened in literally a few minutes … she had the natural ability to move something inside of me, and I was receiving the solution to one of my life’s greatest mission from her quiet, unassuming presence!
My compass was then set on her, and I wanted to know more about this extraordinary woman, and study her modus operandi and see what made her tick. And so I made every excuse thereafter to visit Pandav Bhavan, which was where she lived, because I knew that she conducted the daily morning classes there, and sat out in the courtyard during the day. A few days later, being the inquisitive person that I was, I overheard her effectively conducting an emergency meeting with a team who were responsible for water and sanitation, because there was a critical water shortage in the entire region. I was really impressed because from the bits and pieces I could pick up from the conversation, she was completely aware of all the specific facts and figures of every accommodation block in every campus and she didn’t even have the statistics or spreadsheets with her! I loved this… she was so effective in her communication as a manager – absolutely practical and hands on, yet so subtle and introverted at the same time. Of course the meeting ended with all team members beaming from ear to ear, walking away with a toli (home-made sweet) that was placed in their mouths by Dadi Prakshmani, or Dadiji as she was affectionately called by most who knew her. You could sense that more than the practical solutions they attained, they were completely nourished and uplifted on a spiritual level by their interaction with Dadiji and that this was what would spur them on to pursue whatever work she had negotiated with them.
I was never one who revered others because of their status or position, but on the contrary, kept caution with most leaders, because my instinct for truth and justice left me alert and reactive to any abuse of power. I suppose this was the influence of living in South Africa during the time of apartheid. But Dadi Prakshmani healed this bitterness and rejuvenated my sense of hope in leadership. On a physical practical level, I was aware of this international organisation that was successfully progressing in achieving its aims to expand and reach out to people of all corners of the world, but I could see no loud, dynamic, forceful person driving things from up front. All I could see in front of me was a soft, gentle, humble presence that was the catalyst for all of the success – she was not passive, a bright and enthusiastic spirit no doubt, but all the while being gentle and non-imposing. The contrast was mind-blowing!
I cannot say that I am fully aware of all Dadiji’s insights and how these guided her approach to leading the Brahma Kumaris, but I have definitely recognized two areas which are of equal importance to me.
The first was her emphasis on her own spiritual empowerment, and how this was the necessary foundation for being effective in the huge responsibility that she shouldered. Dadiji was completely surrendered to the Divine, and very firm on her principles of purity and simplicity. She gave time and attention to early morning meditation and spiritual study, and took power and energy from her connection with the Divine to fuel her during her many and varied interactions and engagements in service. It was almost as if she understood some deep secret, that “being” was the key to “doing”. You never really got the impression from her that she was stressed, or rushed or irritable, even though she constantly had to face so many demands and expectations. Her spiritual development from the days of being a young woman, and her ongoing spiritual replenishment ensured that she was always naturally an image of courage, resilience and inner power. Her powerful mindset and the sincerity and stability of her feelings were so intense, that they were able to penetrate any soul who came in front of her. This served, not only to comfort and nurture, but also to inspire and empower – so that many others could experience their own goodness and greatness and feel confident enough to also become benevolent and responsible leaders in their own right. And so Dadiji in this way didn’t have to try and manage thousands of juniors and followers, but she allowed souls to spread their wings and fly to new heights and bring their own talents and specialties into the organisation to enable its service to expand to great levels.
The second aspect of leadership that I admired in Dadiji, was her focus on relationships, understanding that practical outcomes are not possible just with clear project plans and efficient skills and knowledge. But that every task and project is designed and implemented by people, who have their own hopes and dreams and goals, their own thoughts, feelings and ideas – and so she honoured that, and lived and worked by the principle of love, respect, generosity and hospitality. Her genuine care was demonstrated in her ability to truly listen, and hear more than just the words spoken by an individual, but to also catch the feelings being expressed, and so her response was one of empathy. Any advice she gave for personal transformation or instructions for service were well received because they carried with them the fragrance of true benevolence and a higher vision of the person concerned. The emphasis on ensuring that no relationship was compromised for the sake of a task and that the spiritual, emotional and physical welfare of all were catered for, under all circumstances, demonstrated love in action.
Such impeccable qualities, and such strength of character almost to perfection, makes you wonder how it all happened… leaders cannot possibly be born that way, even though they may be somewhat inclined to a certain approach. Dadiji did not aim to become the leader of the Brahma Kumaris, she was simply obedient and faithful to the Divine, and dedicated to serving humanity. I once heard her humbly mention “I don’t know why I was chosen…” But she was none the less selected to continue with the responsibility of guiding the organisation forward, after it’s founder, Brahma Baba passed away. It was obviously not the glory of the position, but the sacred sense of responsibility that was her motivation to step into her role, with faith and courage as her armour, she allowed her heart and mind, in balance, to guide her decisions and ensuing actions.
She has left a legacy of leadership that is unmatched, and even though she is not physically present anymore, the enduring power of her example and vision is still apparent and reflected in the way in which the organisation continues to function today, and will certainly be the silent guiding force that moves the organisation towards its ultimate aim of world transformation.