India has perhaps the world’s richest heritage in the form of scriptures. Definitely, no country can boast of an unbroken chain of manuscripts, as well preserved as, in our country. At once, Hindu literature is both the most ancient and the most extensive religious writings in the global context. The interesting part is that unlike in other religions, Hinduism cannot be said to have been derived from one book. Its treasures include the Vedas and the Upanishads as well as the Epics Ramayana and Mahabharata besides the Bhagvad Gita and the Puranas.
Our religion, if one can call Hinduism a religion, has evolved from all these treasures. What is significant is that all these manuscripts exist even today and they are read almost on a daily basis throughout the land. This is in spite of the fact that these priceless pieces of heritage go back thousands of years. What is pertinent to this subject is how relevant these scriptures are in shaping our modern ideas on management. Since the subject is vast, the treatment cannot be very deep and only the very obvious areas will be touched upon.
The Vedas and the Upanishads
According to one school of thought the Vedic tradition in India is dated between 10000 and 7000 BCE. The Vedas were not written down initially. The contents were the thoughts of Rishis and Munis, or sages. Consisting of four volumes, these were initially transmitted from one to the other through generations before these were finally written down much later. It is understood that European philosophers were amazed with the beauty of these writings when these scriptures appeared as the first translations of the Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita sometime in the 18th century.
The Vedas represent the incessant search of the Vedic sages to define divinity and find the ‘truth’. In this process one can find pearls of wisdom that must be used by the modern man to bring the best out in him. Only then can he be successful in his family, in his society as well as in his workplace or anywhere else.
The entire focus of the Vedas and the Upanishads is on various aspects of existence. This encompasses Shrishti or creation, the Brahman or the divinity, the atman, the innermost self and all the other related aspects of spiritualism.
Being in Communion with Nature
The Vedas emphasize on the elements and the power of nature. To direct the common Vedic man to his environment so that he could be in communion with it and learn to respect it, these elements were deified. One therefore had to worship the god of clouds and thunder as well as that of the seas and oceans. One had religious references to the fish in the same manner as there were references to the elephant. The Vedas spoke of the Vahanas of the gods among who were the peacock and the swan and even the humble rat.
At Variance with Western Philosophy
This was in total contrast with the early western philosophy that talked more of enjoying the fruits of labor and exploiting natural resources to the fullest. This is a very important aspect the modern man must realize. The Vedas and the Upanishads exhort the common man to sing paeans in the glory of the gods. These gods were the spirits that lived in the animals and trees as well as in the mountains and rivers and the stars.
One is not expected to go back to the Vedic times. However, the basic message from those days is that man needs to maintain the balance of nature. Even today Agni is worshipped in every Hindu household. You will find the use of Agni in Upanayana, Vivah and Sradh. You will also find the use of Agni in Aarti, a ceremony that is a part of the normal family prayer. Similarly, water is used as an essential tool to clean all that is unclean. It therefore finds use in all Hindu ceremonies.
In many ways the modern man in India has not forsaken these aspects of Hinduism and this is indeed a good factor that helps in maintaining one’s balance in life. It is unfortunate but true that the Western philosophy has become too hedonistic. Today business in the west is all about making money in the shape of more profits. Although today there is a great temptation for the average Indian to also follow suit, if one were to follow the basic precepts of life during the Vedic times, one can maintain the balance that is so important in today’s life that moves at a breakneck speed.
Vedic Rituals are Pertinent
During Vedic times rituals were required in order to maintain the order of Cosmos. Sacrifices were needed and yagnyas were performed. Although sacrifices are legally banned, the basic Vedic ritual including the use of shlokas finds use in all religious ceremonies. While in the Vedic times ceremonies were performed without questioning their need, the advent of the Upanishads signaled an age of inquiry and confirmation. The days of blind faith were gone forever. The modern Hindu understands the need of Vedic philosophy in guiding his life and the life of his family members.
The Age of Questioning
The men that brought about the philosophy of the Upanishads were those that questioned. They questioned the reason why they were in existence. They also questioned about The Ultimate Truth. In the words of Rishi Aurobindo “The Upanishadic hymns are the epic hymns of self-knowledge, world-knowledge and God-knowledge”. The Vedas were about unquestioned faith, about deified nature and the need to worship the various gods. The Upanishads asked different questions. It is in the Upanishads that the true meaning of the Vedic texts is made lucid and simplified. It is also in the Upanishads that the Ultimate Truth is unraveled and the mystery of Shristi clarified. It is here that we know as to who created Samsara or Jagat, what or who is Brahman and what is Jiva or Jivatma. It is in these scriptures that man gets to know the reason of his birth and why he must strive eternally to reach moksha.
The Sublime Nature of Vedanta
It is absolutely essential for man to appreciate the sublime nature of Vedanta. Man must realize that the only reason for his existence is to come out of the eternal cycle of birth and death by attaining moksha. He must appreciate that the world itself is a maya wherein he must play the part assigned to him and live out the effects of the karma from his previous births. Once this self realization comes to him he will also realize the lack of significance in the chase for more money. It is in Vedanta that man is made to realize that God is not in the rituals and that the truth lies in merging of the self in Atman with the Brahman or the Divinity. The importance of Vedanta does not dilute the significance of the Vedas. It only stresses upon the fact that one needs to look inwards. It is meditation that will ultimately help one in finding oneself.
Meditation and the Need to Look Inwards
The Upanishads guide us to meditate and look inwards. They affirm that the real truth lies within us. The Vedic man performed rituals in order to rid him of the demons. The rituals according to the Upanishads are now to help us attain salvation or moksha. The Upanishads tell us that man must shed his identity and all falsehood. Thereafter, he must raise himself above worldly pleasures before finally renouncing karma itself. At the final stage man would also need to get away from all rituals too.
There is yet another interesting feature of The Upanishads. The Upanishads ask that we break the veil of Maya. This task demands that man shed his very identity, false attributes and worldly pleasures and finally renounce Karma itself. At the ultimate level therefore The Upanishads would have man dispense with all rituals. The Upanishads represent the crux of the Vedas and are humanity’s first perception of the oneness of man and God. These scriptures have been the guiding light of millions of Hindus and non-Hindus as well. These have influenced not only the greatest Indian philosophers such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and Dr S Radhakrishna but also some of the finest Western thinkers such as Gothe, Schopenhauer and Emerson. Not bound by theology or dogma the Upanishads state that while karmas give us fruits that are perishable, gyana or knowledge will lead to moksha.
The Practicality of Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagwad Gita represents the ultimate teaching of Lord Krishna to man. In this Lord Krishna says to Arjuna:
“I am the Self seated in the heart of all creatures.
I am the beginning, the middle and the very end of all beings” Sloka 20, Ch 10.
In this magnificent collection of shlokas Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna why be must do his duty as a warrior and fight the battle. This fine collection explains of disciplined performance ‘with self-knowledge and detachment’. If one analyzes Lord Krishna’s teachings one will appreciate the fact that these teachings are equally applicable to one and all. It reflects a struggle that the common man faces in his everyday life. It is also the perfect guide to the modern man in his search for answers.
Active and Selfless Defense of Dharma
According to Rishi Aurobindo “Gita certainly does not advocate war, what it advocates is the active and selfless defense of dharma”. The very basis of Lord Krishna’s instructions is that all the events we see around us are only the “different manifestations of the same ultimate reality”. This reality or divinity called Brahman is a unifying concept. Despite the large number of gods and goddesses Hinduism has, it is this concept that does not differentiate among human beings with diverse religious leanings. This is quite clear when Lord Krishna says:
“Whatsoever devotee seeks to worship whatsoever divine form (rupa) with fervent faith, I, verily, make that faith of his unwavering.”
Dharma must be done with total self-detachment, it must therefore remain God’s most powerful teaching as much for the modern man as it was to Arjuna many thousand years ago on the battlefield of the Mahabharata.
The Superiority of Atman
The other important direction in the Gita for the modern man is the shloka from Lord Krishna when he says:
Manasastu para buddhirjobuddhehparatastusah (3.42)
This means that
The senses are said to be superior to the body, the mind is superior to the senses, and the intellect is superior to the mind and that which is superior to the intellect is He (self, Atman).
The Perfect Directions to the Modern Man
This then represents the ultimate guideline for the modern man.
- Man has to do his dharma.
- Dharma is possible without renunciation.
- Man must realize that he has his intellect to guide him irrespective of his state of indecision.
- The Atman is above his intellect and Atman is divinity.
- In Moksha man will find his freedom from the futility of birth and death.
This then is a very brief appreciation of what our scriptures tell us about the way man must fight his battle, do his dharma and find moksha with Divinity after living out his karma. When one applies all these factors into the life of today’s managers, a strong logic evolves. Man has been given his intellect. He must train himself to listen to his inner self. This can only come through disciplined meditation. It is only when he abides by the guidance of his Atman that he can rise above the cycle of birth and death. In all this there is no scope of greed and hunger for more wealth or jealousy and petty rivalries. Man has to rise above all that even as he fights his daily battle on the path of righteousness.
- Ancient Indian Scriptures
- A Tribute to Hinduism
- Foundations of Indian Management as Envisaged by Swami Vivekananda
Sunita Singh Sengupta, Ph.D.