I arrived in Mumbai, India for my first time yesterday afternoon, after winning a place on a trip called Digital India. This trip run by IndoGenius and sponsored by the British Council is to broaden our perspectives of Indian startup and entrepreneurial culture, as well as to put British entrepreneurs in touch with Indian business who can facilitate our needs, be it in the Medical, Agricultural, Technical, Business or Pseudo-science fields. Today our group of 45 young British undergrads and graduates visited the Indian Institute of Technology, The British Council, and were treated to a traditional Indian performance of Kathak dance and Live music. Apart from the stunning contrast from western society that has me taken aback, it is the life lessons I am being taught in the most humble and unsuspecting of ways which have really hit home.
Nick Booker, the Co-founder and CEO of IndoGenius has been accompanying us on the trip and today gave us a speech about India’s forecast for the future. With a population of 1.25bn people – 22m of which inhabit Mumbai alone, India is one of the largest countries in the world, making up around %15 of the earth’s population. India is projected to have the the world’s third highest GDP by 2050 (in bearish predictions) with an estimated annual growth of 7% – Nick then went on to speak about culture, which brings us to today’s life lesson.
Lesson 1: ANEKANTAVADA
Anekantavada’s Jain meaning is literally “no one, singular doctrine.” Which is the simultaneous acceptance of multiple, diverse, or even contradictory viewpoints. Anekantavada teaches us that each of us has, at most, merely a restricted grasp of the bigger picture. In other words, I might have a completely and thoroughly different understanding of my own viewpoint to you, where you have just as much a thorough understanding of your own. Each individual viewpoint remains but a pixel of the greater picture.
In the Jain version of the tale, six blind men are told about an elephant nearby. Not yet knowing what an elephant is, they decide to go and, using their hands, discover what an elephant “looks” like. As they approach the massive elephant, each man places his hands on a different part of the elephant’s body – one man touches the trunk, another touches a leg. One touches a tusk, the stomach confronts another. One has the tail, another an ear. They begin to describe to each other their newly acquired understanding of the elephant.
Because each man experiences a different part of the elephant and has their own perspective of what it is they are feeling, one man compares the elephant’s leg to a tree. Another is sure that it’s trunk is a rope, where as another believes that it’s ear is a piece of cloth. The six men begin to bicker, arguing over who is right.
A king sees the commotion, and the entirety of the elephant and interrupts the bickering blind men and informs them that they are all indeed, correct, but in their own limited views. The king explains that they are all giving real, truthful accounts of the elephant, but because they are only describing a limited view of the elephant they cannot perceive it as a bigger object.
The lesson I’ve taken from Anekantavada is that I, nor anyone knows everything. We all have our own perceptions in a certain context and must accept this in order to grasp the big picture.