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One of our employee is leaving the company and we had to setup a lot of knowledge transfers sessions so that we could get all the knowledge that the employee would be parting off with. I could see my manager setting up long long meeting sessions with this employee to get it all. I was thinking if this is how it has been from the past until the present. What is that people want to give back before they leave? When I was reading stories from the hindu myths, the puranas, I saw a striking similarity between the two main spics in hinudism – The Mahabharat and The Ramayana.

In both the epics, after the war was over, there was a transmission of knowledge from the defeated to the one who was victorious! It was mostly the lessons that the defeated had learnt. No matter how strong the enmity was, there was always a parting of knowledge. It was really interesting to see this that I decided I would share it with you all. So here the story from the Ramayana first.

In the Ramayana, Ravana lies mortally wounded on the battlefield and themonkeys are celebrating their victory, when Rama turns to his brother, Lakshmana, and says, “While Ravana was a brute, he was also a great scholar.Go to him quickly and request him to share whatever knowledge he can.”  

The obedient Lakshmana rushes to Ravana’s side and whispers in his ears,“Demon king, all your life you have taken not given. Now the noble Rama gives you an opportunity to mend your ways. Share your vast wisdom. Do not let it die with you. For that you will be surely be blessed.” Ravana responds by simply turning away. An angry Lakshmana says “He is arrogant as he always is and is too proud to share anything”.

Rama looks at his brother and asks him softly, “Where did you stand while asking him for knowledge?” “Next to his head so that I hear what he had to say clearly.” Rama smiles places his bow on the ground and walks to where Ravana lies. Lakshmana watches in astonishment as his brother kneels at  Ravana’s feet.With palms joined, with extreme humility, Rama says, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I see you now as you are known across the world, as the wise son of Rishi Vishrava. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.”To Lakshmana surprise, Ravana opens his eyes and raises his arms to salute Rama, “If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, unlike your rude younger brother, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for  you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things are actually good for you fail to attract you; you shun them creatively, finding powerful excuses to justify your procrastination. That is why I was impatient to abduct Sita but avoided meeting you. This is the wisdom of my life, Rama.”With these words, Ravana dies.

Now lets see what happens in the Mahabharata.

The war is over and the Kauravas are all dead. As the victorious Pandavas areabout to assume control of Hastinapur, Krishna advises them to talk to Bhisma,their grand uncle, who lies mortally, wounded on the battlefield. As a result of ablessing, death would elude him for some time. “Make him talk until his last breath. Ask him questions. He has a lot to tell,” says Krishna.Sure enough, when prompted, the dying Bhisma spends hours discussing various topics: history, geography, politics, economics, management, war,ethics, morality, sex, astronomy, metaphysics and spirituality. Bhisma’sdiscourse is captured in the Shanti Parva (discussions of peace) and AnushasanParva (discussions on discipline) that makes up a quarter of the Mahabharata. After listening to their grandsire, the Pandavas have a better understanding of the world, and this makes them better kings.

Both these stories draw attention to the value of knowledge. In triumph, it is easy to claim the material possessions of the defeated but it is not easy to claim one’s knowledge. When someone dies, their knowledge and all the experience goes along with them. It is made sure that the knowledge outlives death in both these cases. Regardless of victory, the winners make sure that they get the knowledge even if they have to let go of the ego.

Now here is a question for all of us – are we ready to get knowledge from the fallen one when we win and are we ready to impart knowledge to the winner when we fall? Something to ponder on…