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Rashmin Sanghvi & Associates

Chartered Accountants

109, 1st Floor, Arun Chambers,
Tardeo Road,
Mumbai - 400 034,
Maharashtra, India.

Tel. Nos.: (+91 22) 2351 1878, 2352 5694.

Fax : (+91 22) 2351 5275.

Email : [email protected]

Home Philosophy & Charity         Share :

Art of Debate

International Tax and Finance Groups' Convention 1998

14th August, 1998 to 16th August 1998
The Meadows, Aurangabad

Rashmin Sanghvi

Bombay Chartered Accountants' Society

I am submitting two presentations :

1. Art of Debate.

2. Sentiment Dominated Economy.

Annexure South East Asian Crisis.

The enclosed material is not a full-fledged paper or essay. It is largely a series of issues which may provoke discussion & thinking and lead us to some better knowledge.

The presentation will be slightly different in style. Shri N.K. Bhat & Shri Shalin Divetia - both have kindly agreed to be panelists. As I will go on presenting one after another issue, they will raise their own doubts & views and the presentation will be a discussion amongst three of us. All participants will be welcome to raise their issues at any time.

Attempt is, to have a full fledged debate.

The Art of Debate

If we want to learn by debating at a conference, how should our minds work! What are the human weaknesses, which obstruct clear & faster learning!

One weakness which affects a large number of people is lack of appreciation of - "lateral thinking" - or in simpler words a "democratic thinking" or in philosophical words "Un-Ekant-Vad".

Let us see a few examples.

I. Democratic Thinking

Mr. A tells to Mr. B. -

1. Democratic thinking at the highest level :

"I disagree with you. However, I am prepared to fight for your right to - say what you want to say; and do what you want to do."s

2. "I disagree with you. I believe, I am right. But I am open to correction. If you can logically convince me, I am prepared to change my opinion. At the same time, I do hope, you are prepared to listen to my views."

3. "I disagree with you. I will do it my way. You go ahead on your own way. We can still be friends."

3. Fascism

"I disagree with you. Hence you are wrong. I will not allow you to proceed on your wrong ways of working."

Now consider several different people and situations - your home. Your friends, relatives, your colleagues at office. Even people at different non-profit organisations where you may be working.

How many people come at the highest democratic level! And how many people come at the fascist level?

Now think of yourself. Are you a true democrat?

It is not that any one person is in one category at all the times. In different matters, at different times & with different people; a person may behave differently.

Leave aside the outwardly behaviour. Consider your mental process. Do you want to learn? Are you open minded?

If yes, your future is great.

II. Lateral Thinking

Can you think differently?

Can you listen to some one who has thought differently ?

What is the extent of your tolerance in just listening to contrarian thinking?

Example 1

1. RTO havaldars are nice people. They look after Mumbai’s efficient transport system. If you closely look at the way they work at the signals, you will notice that it is their human touch that improves the efficiency beyond the electronic signals.

2. Rest of the India wonders – “how in Mumbai, every day morning and evening – a few million people are transported to and from ……….”.

The traffic havaldar has a significant contribution in this wonder.

3. Consider – has any havaldar ever asked for a bribe when you have not committed a violation of traffic rules?!

Consider – how many times you have committed a violation and the havaldar/inspector has knowingly allowed you to get away with it!

4. If you can come so far with me, now try and give a smile to a havaldar. Any havaldar. Just as you would give to any other common Mumbai citizen – in those common circumstances. More often than not, you will be surprised with their sweet smile.

I have had a 100% success rate.

Example 2

A Hypothesis :

1. “The percentage of honest and decent chartered accountants – is same as – the percentage of honest and decent income-tax officers”.

Do you find the very thought as “explosive”?

If yes, are you a "democrat"?

2. If you were appointed as an advocate to argue the department’s case about honesty – would you be able to argue?

If not, isn’t it fair when the department does not listen to your representations?

3. If someone can boldly say –

“Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”;

But can not love the tax officer and the traffic havaldar –

Isn’t his 1st statement hollow?!

4. Consider the fact that bribe taking and giving is a petty dishonesty. Intellectual dishonesty is the high order of dishonesty.

Do we indulge in it?


Can each one of you express one thought – which, till yesterday, you found abhorrent; but today you are prepared to consider it with reason?

Example 3

A. I have written repeated essays on my submission : The western world is exploiting India and other developing countries by forcing an economic system. This system gives low price for all that the developing countries have and charges phenomenally high price for all that the developed world has.

Devaluation of our currencies and high valuation of their currencies is one part of the strategy.

How long will this exploitation continue?

B. Mr. Sharad Joshi of Pune has cried hoarse to communicate that – India has an exploitative economic system. The terms of trade are so designed that the urban industrialist and even urban worker gets more than the farmer and the rural worker. And a bureaucrat gets far more than what he gives to the society.

The communists have cried from the roof top that it is not the destiny of the poor to remain poor. They must work and have a strategy to end this exploitation.

Can you see a similarity between the two exploitations?

My hypothesis is –

The day India resettles its internal terms of trade to end the internal exploitation;

It would have ended the external exploitation also.

Can you give your considered views on the subject?

III. Un Ekant Vad

Modern Rationalistic Thought says that on any issue, there can be only one right decision. And if one view is right, the contrary has to be wrong.

Modern Rationalistic Thought says that on any issue, there can be only one right decision. And if one view is right, the contrary has to be wrong.

Indian Rationalistic Thought is different. There can be a thousand different thoughts. And each thought may be right for one person while wrong for another person. And all thoughts may be right simultaneously. God has not decreed that there should be a unanimity amongst all the persons in a society.

Every soul has different functions. Every soul is progressing in different directions & is at different levels of progress.

What could be right for one could be wrong for another.

What could be right for a person in particular circumstances at a time may not be right for the same person … in different circumstances or at different times.

For example, when a beggar begs, it may be right for him. If a king begs, it may not be right for him.

A young girl at the age of 16 would have fashion suitable to her. When the same person grows to the age of 36, she may have a different liking. At the age of 76, she will have quite a different sense of dressing.

These are very simple examples.

When we look at life around us, there will be more complex examples.

Let us consider one example in some details.

Two different manners of discussion between two persons with different cultures are given below.

Analyse for yourself both the discussions.

Discussion amongst : A vegetarian and A non-vegetarian.

First manner of Discussion :

1. Veg : Hello friend, how are you!

Non-Veg : I am fine. Thank you. How are you!

2. Veg : Fine. Thanks. I am searching for answer to some perplexing issues. Can you help me!

3. Non-Veg : I will definitely try. Certainly, I will be the beneficiary at the end.

4. Veg : As a child I thought killing animals for food is bad. But now I see more. My mother does not eat green Vegetables throughout monsoon. Why? It is a reminder that there is life in all Vegetables. Which means : 'everyday that I eat Vegetables and grains and anything, I am continuously committing "himsa". And yet I have to eat. How do I stop committing "himsa"?

5. Non-Veg : Oh God! I never thought that way. But surely, eating is most natural. How can something that is natural be "himsa" or an offence against nature?

6. Veg : I don't know. I have no answers. I am seeking answers. What I know is that if I hurt someone, there is something wrong somewhere.

Non-Veg : You are absolutely right. Let us not worry about great theories. Let us see what our hearts tell us.

To think of that, I do agree that we must cause minimum harm to any life.

7. Veg : I think both of us do not have final answers. Let us go to some good saint and seek his advice.

Non-Veg : Yes. Before we go to a great thinker, let us prepare ourselves to be fit enough to talk to him. So let us read Gandhiji's autobiography and Khalil Jibran's philosophy.

Then we will go to a philosopher.

8. Veg : Yes, you are absolutely right. We will prepare ourselves.

Till then, I will fast once a month to do the "Prayaschit" for whatever wrong I might be doing unavoidably. Thanks for your help.

Consider an alternative manner of discussion.

1. Veg : You are killing animals. You are committing great "Himsa". You are a sinner.

2. Non-Veg : There is nothing wrong in killing for food. My religion permits me.

In any case you Vegetarians commit greater "himsa" by ..... 1) ...... 2) ........ 3) ......

3. Veg: My religion is the greatest. Thousands of philosophers have meditated and continuously refined the philosophy. Your religion is ...... 1) .......2).......

4. Non-Veg: I may kill one goat and our whole family will eat for one week. We would have killed only one soul.

Your religion says that every soul is equal and that there is life in every grain of wheat.

For your food, you individually kill everyday hundreds of lives. (grains, Vegetables, etc.)

5. Veg: You are a great sinner. You will rot in hell.

The end of the discussion is predictable.

Consider for yourself, why one discussion is bound to be more successful than the other.

In the first discussion :

1. Both the participants want to learn. No one wants to impose his views on the other.

2. Both know that their knowledge is limited. They have a desire to know more. They are open-minded.

3. Both are humble & courteous.

4. They know that to understand higher levels of knowledge; they must bring themselves up to that level. They must qualify to learn at the higher levels.

What are the wrongs in the second discussion?

1. The discussion is not with a view to learning the other person's view point.

Both are convinced about their own viewpoints.

Both want to defend their own viewpoint and attack the other person's viewpoint. They end up attacking the other person.

2. Ordinary human weakness -

When you can't answer something which is apparently logical (paragraph 4), when you are cornered, you react violently with allegations.

An attempt to see reason, patience, an inner and deep thinking would give much better results.

3. The Vegetarian is at a level of thinking where he thinks only killing animals is "himsa". The "himsa" that he himself is committing by hurting another person's feelings goes entirely unnoticed by him.


I. If you want to make tremendous progress, understand that :

i. Different people will have different views. That is no reason for anxiety, anger or quarrel. Accept differences of opinions.

ii. Most people around you will not believe in the above statement. They will try to impose their views on you and will dislike you for your different thoughts. You will not be able to explain to them the principles of Un-Ekant Vad.

No body said life will be easy.

If you are convinced that you are right, go ahead to succeed. And use your vivek to avoid friction.

II. Why we find that -

"As an individual, an Indian is great. But an Indian team is bad".

The core reason is that we have forgotten the Indian deep philosophy of Un-Ekant Vad and have gone after the flat modern rational thinking.

People with different views and different capabilities, different levels of thinking - when put together - can mean disaster.

If you want to make progress at an aggressive speed, create an exclusive team of like-minded people who are broadly at the same level of capabilities, commitment & sincerity.

It is difficult to find a large group of like minded people. That is why, an exclusive group has to be a relatively small group.

Date: 6th October, 2001

I am Sorry

I remember the days of my articleship. (Year 1973)

A nice old gentleman had came to the office for tax work. Let me write what I could not see then & what I do realise now :

He had great knowledge and hence depth.

I was a bubbling youth.

He had come to me for work - so I presumed myself to be the superior.

Our discussions drifted to religion.

He said “Religion is Sanatan (infinite) - dates back to the origin of the universe”.

I just laughed at him. “Man made the religion. If the man’s history is X years; how can religion be older than man!”

He tried to say something; then looked at me & left the attempt. He did not say anything.

I considered it as the victory of my logic.

Now I realise that he had realised that -

i. I was ignorant; and
ii. I was not capable of learning his ideas.

Now I realise that :

He was referring (by religion) to God’s Law, which existed much before our earth or solar system existed. The laws which are infinite.

When the other party becomes silent; it does not mean I have won the debate. I am sorry that I did not know this at the age of 23.

Rashmin Sanghvi

Sentiment Dominated Economy

To read Part II : "Sentiment Dominated Economy", click here.


To read the annexure on the South East Asian Currency Crisis, click here.