Business Sutra |8.2| Self and Self Image

Business Sutra |8| Family Feuds

We have covered five episodes of Devdutt Pattanaik’ TV serial on CNBC 18:  Business Sutra.

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd episode relates to the Business Ethics and Morals:  business ethics and dilemmas, relationship between owner and the organization  and The Right (Dharma) – the Ramayana way and the Mahabharata way. The 4th episode deals with Conflicts, of the Board and the CEO and that of the means vs. ends. The 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.  The 6th episode has taken up the oft-discussed topic of ‘measurement’, wherein in the Part 1, What Can Be Measured, dealt with the definitive need for not ‘only measurement’, but for ‘also measurement’ too and Part 2 dealt with mutual importance and dependence of Objectives versus Subjective Reality, whereas Part 3 evaluates ‘What is Your Worth?’ from these measurements perspectives. The 1st segment – Nature is destroyed when culture is created – of 7th episode establishes the inverse relationship between Environment and the human development. 2nd segment – The Environment Strikes Back – describes what happens when human growth goes beyond the natural resources.

In the episode 8, Devdutt Pattnaik has picked up a very interesting subject of Family Feuds, beginning with Three pairs of brothers in segment 1.

Business Sutra |8.2| Self and Self Image

What Exactly is a Self-Image? Here’s What You Need to Know… begins with the quote:

It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power! – Robert Kiyosaki

And then goes on describe Self-image as ‘The self-image is the impression you have of yourself that forms a collective representation of your assets and liabilities’. In other words, your self-image is how you see yourself based on your strengths and weaknesses.

This article is part of an 8 part series to help you develop more confidence in the pursuit of your goals. Here is a list of all articles within this series:

  1. Improving Self-Esteem
  2. Transform Your Self-Concept
  3. Boosting Self-Confidence
  4. Developing Self-Worth
  5. Building a Healthy Self-Image
  6. Pursuing the Ideal Self
  7. Fake it ‘Til You Make it!
  8. Developing Superhero Courage

The previous episode had ended at the point wherein the ground for the ‘right to the property’ was laid – at the level of morally and ethically what is right. In order to understand the relevance of self-image, its linkage with property, and with the subject of Family Feuds, we will need to turn to Segment 2 of the episode 8 wherein Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of Self and Self Image and links up the subject, in continuation of the previous segment of Three pairs of brothers

What is the purpose or the reason for why property is at the heart of all these three disputes? May it be that Ram and Bharat did not really fight but property was at the heart of Bharat’s mother’s desire to make her son the king? For each one of these disputes properties was at the heart. What was the message in that?

We have to understand the notion of property, and to understand the notion of property we will just look back at evolution of it. Now what do we have to look back?

There is man on one side and there are animals on the other. The animals display very highly territorial. They are territorial because if they are not territorial their survival is at stake. The human beings are 99 percent animals, almost the animal, and a small part of us is not animal, because of a larger brain. Since we are mostly animals, our territorial instinct exists even within us. So we also seek survival.

Where does the property come in this matter?

When the territory becomes the property?  The difference between man and animal is that human beings have imagination. We imagine who we are. We have a notion of who we are. This has two components – what we are and what we have. I am Devdutt Pattanaik and I am also what I possess. I may die. This is mortal me. What I have is immortal – so in a way through property I will outlive me. My name will outlive me, my achievements will outlive me, my memory will outlive me, and my property will outlive me.

Property will outlive us?

That is a great delusion of a man. In a way I have something called a self-image which is comprised of not only who I am but what I have too .If I have more I have a bigger image than you. If I want to expand my self-image I have to have more and more property.

But it is also the source of the maximum amount of friction.

The wise man knows that this is delusion. The wise man knows that what you are has nothing to do with what you have. So when you look at the Ramayana you see three different characters. You have Ram on one side and you have Ravan on the other.  Ram knows who he is, his character, his personality is not defined by the property.

Which is why he is so easily able to give it up.

Bharat on the other hand also knows who he is, so his self-image is not dependent on his position as king of Ayodhya.  He does not need the kingdom. The kingdom is something else. The difference between what I am and what I have is very clear with the two brothers. They are the wise brothers; they know who they are. But Ravan is not the wise one. He believes that who he is is measured by what he has. So he wants what his brother has, he wants what Ram has; he wants what other men have. He wants everything that others have because he measures himself by what he has. This is 90% or 99% of humanity today. What the scriptures are trying to tell you that so long as you value yourself on the basis of what you have you are on a troublesome path.

Would you apply that in materialistic terms?

We have to ask ourselves why we want what we want. There is a survival need – you need food, clothing, and shelter. You need a comfortable life. These survival needs are well recognized. In fact, in Ramayana there is a scene in which a sea monster looks at Hanuman and says I am hungry, so if I eat you I have not done any sin because I have eaten you in hunger but if I eat you in sport then I’ve done something wrong…

or in gluttony……

Ramayana is asking what is man’s relationship with property, that with his self-image. I am fighting not for the survival of the self. The animals are very innocent. The animals are looking at the survival of the self, their physical body. They fight for it. Human beings are fighting for the self-image, their imagined body, not the physical body.

Isn’t it so easy to give up when you have it to begin with? Let’s assume for a moment that we wanted to be empathetic towards Ravan, who wanted what he did not have. Only thing is he used the wrong means to acquire it. But desiring in itself was not incorrect or bad or wrong because he didn’t have it. When you have it it’s so easy to take the higher moral ground.

It is not a question of wanting it or not wanting it. The point is to discover who you are, find out who you are. In that process I will acquire wealth or I will lose wealth. Am I the person I am because I have wealth or I am the person who I am irrespective of what I possess? Because fortunes will come and go. It is not that if I have a lot I will be generous. There is no correlation between wealth and generosity. Generosity is who you are and wealth is what you have.

Let’s not make that mistake that if I have a lot I’ll be generous. That is corporate social responsibility.

The episode thus build a case for linking the property with one self-image and ends with a tongue in cheek statement that CSR is more a matter of self-image than what the corporation is.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 3rd segment, Loyalty and Dharma, of the 8th episode of The Family Feuds, in our next episode.

Note: The images used in this post are the irrevocable property of their respective creator. They have been taken up courtesy the internet, so as to illustrate the point under discussion.


In July 2011, I opted to retire from my active career as a practicing management professional. In the 38 years that I pursued this career, I had opportunity to work in diverse capacities, in small-to-medium-to-large engineering companies. Whether I was setting up Greenfield projects or Brownfield projects, nurturing the new start-ups or accelerating the stabilized unit to a next phase growth, I had many more occasions to take the paths uncharted. The life then was so challenging! One of the biggest casualty in that phase was my disregards towards my hobbies - Be with The Family, Enjoy Music form Films of 1940s to mid-1970s period, write on whatever I liked to read, pursue amateur photography and indulge in solving the chess problems. So I commenced my Second Innings to focus on this area of my life as the primary occupation. At the end of four years, I am now quite a regular blogger. I have been able to build a few very strong pen-relationships. I maintain contact with 38-years of my First Innings as freelance trainer and process facilitator. And yet, The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

10 thoughts on “Business Sutra |8.2| Self and Self Image”

  1. Dear Sir,

    Superb & meaning article on excellent subject. I am trying to learn from these type of material from any of resource available to me. Thanks for sharing.

    “Happy New Year Sir”

    Best Regards

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