Spirituality and entrepreneurship

At the outset there does not appear to be any commonality between spirituality and entrepreneurship. Spirituality concerns liberated people who have found the path leading to peace, tranquility and ultimately God. On the other hand, an entrepreneur appears to be a person who has worked his way upwards in a material world. How then can a spiritual person become an entrepreneur or vice versa, if you like? Let us put it another way. Why does an entrepreneur need spirituality in order to be successful? This is the way this subject will be dealt with. In this treatment Hindu philosophy and spiritual manuscripts will be the basis. There will be an attempt to find hints in the Hindu scriptures to establish the link between spirituality and entrepreneurship.


An entrepreneur is one who has it in him (or her) to start his small business and thereafter go on to be successful as a businessman. If one studies the success stories of great entrepreneurs one will find that they all have some qualities in common. The essential qualities that help them climb the ladder of success are:

  • Focus
  • Survival and doggedness
  • Art of managing people
  • The ability to learn
  • The skill to sell
  • Confidence and
  • Reflection

While all the above qualities are important, focus, the ability to survive and doggedness are all indicative of one’s commitment to one’s final goal. One must be resilient however in order to survive and bounce back when the chips are down. The art of managing people and the ability to learn or the skill to sell are all necessary tools that a good entrepreneur will need in the achievement of the ultimate goal. Reflection is essential to ensure that one has been able to remain true to one’s objective.

Necessary Qualities

A single-minded devotion verging on meditative skills is required by an entrepreneur. In many ways this is perhaps the single most important quality he must have. He must be focused at all times with his eyes on his goal. As a matter of fact he must question each step that he takes as to whether or not the step is leading him towards the goal or away from it. There will be distractions that will be backed by powerful forces. But an entrepreneur will never relinquish his doggedness.

Spiritual Leaders:


If one takes a leaf out of the diaries of great spiritual leaders such as Swami Vivekananda and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar one will realize the truth behind this quality. Swami Vivekananda was born on 12 January 1863 in Kolkata. He died on 4 July 1902 in Belur, West Bengal. He was not even 40 years old. During this short span he completed his graduation, became a monk, travelled all over India more than once (this would not have been easy), established Maths, sailed to the US twice, addressed the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, founded Vedanta Society in New York, lectured extensively in the US, the UK and other countries in Europe and many more activities beside.

This would not have been possible had it not been for his highly concentrated focus. His intention was to bring Hinduism to the West and this he achieved. Before he died he gave Hinduism a new identity while unifying India as it had never been done before. He raised his voice in the defense of Hinduism and met the challenges from the materialistic life of the Western World. He said, “It is love and love alone that I preach, and I have my teaching on the great Vedantic truth of the sameness and omnipresence of the Soul of the Universe.”

Impressed with Swami Vivekananda Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose wrote “Swamiji harmonized the East and the West, religion and science, past and present. And that is why he is great. Our countrymen have gained unprecedented self-respect, self-reliance and self-assertion from his teachings”.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was born in 1956 in Southern India. At the age of four he could recite verses of the Bhagvad Gita and he was often found in meditation. He holds degrees in both Vedic Literature and Physics. In the 58 years of his life he has made Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique the center piece of the Art of Living (AOL) courses that have been formulated and executed by him. A non-profit organization, AOL and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV) which he founded as well, have reached out to 40,212 villages where his volunteers are bringing about sustainable growth in rural communities. A noted humanitarian, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s programs have provided succor to victims of natural disasters and survivors of terror attacks as well as children from marginalized populations in conflict. His Sudarshan Kriya has helped millions of people, in finding relief from stress and discover their inner reservoirs of energy and peace, in their daily life. During only 31 years he has been able to touch the lives of more than 370 million people in 152 countries.

Here too it is clear that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is no ordinary man. If he has been able to achieve so much within a very short time, it is because of the spirituality that he has attained. It is this spirituality that has given him the sense of drive so that he is able to bring peace to millions of people all over the world.

The Link Between Entrepreneurship and Spirituality

If you study successful ventures you will find that the person or group of people that are the brain of the venture had total commitment that verges on spirituality. It is this person or set of persons who are totally committed and who actually push the project towards its success. When we talk of focus, commitment and doggedness we imply spirituality.

In the Bhagvad Gita Lord Krishna advises Arjun:

Swe swe karmanya bhiratah sangsiddhing labhate narah

Swakarma niratah siddhing yatha vindati tachharnu (18.45)

According to Kesava Kasmiri “One who performs the natural prescribed duties as ordained by the Vedic scriptures according to qualification, accomplishes the four goals of human existence. These are kama or enjoyment, artha or wealth, dharma or righteousness and moksha or liberation from material existence. By devotion and wholehearted commitment to the performance of one’s natural duty, the highest perfection is achieved in the form of self-realization. It may be submitted that so many perform their duties perfectly and yet still do not achieve the highest perfection. This is seen to be true. But, the reason for not achieving self-realization is that they have not yet developed devotion to the Supreme wholeheartedly. That is why success eludes them. So this is how the natural duties of a human should be conducted.”

Total commitment is spirituality. When you are totally committed in whatever task is set before you, success is bound to be yours.

Dreams are Built on Values

Realizing a project is akin to parenthood. For a child to be born there is a gestation period. This is followed by the growth of the child into manhood and once the child comes into his own the parent’s responsibilities are over. A project is similar in many ways.

A project is like a dream. There has to be a passion in a project. It is a passion into which you pour your entire energy. One cannot reduce the project into a few process charts and plans because this will just not work. When you dream of your goal, you can see the result happening. This visualization is important so that the doer imagines seeing the project come alive. It is important to share this dream with your team and thereafter the team members may use their past experience and talents to solve the earthly problems.

Spirituality of Detachment

In Bhagvad Gita Lord Krishna advises Arjuna the warrior

uddhared atmanatmanam
natmanam avasadayet
atmaiva hy atmano bandhur
atmaiva ripur atmanah (6.5)

According to Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya and Ramanuja’s commentary

The word atmana refers to the mind. The mind must detach itself from the infatuation of sense objects by the association of those that are wise in Vedic knowledge and who possess spiritual knowledge. In this way the mind will be uplifted towards spiritual objective. But, if the mind is seeking worldly pursuits, it will be agitated and lose the path to the truth. Depending upon how the mind is conditioned it will either benefit the eternal soul or be the greatest enemy to the atma or eternal soul.

There is therefore total sync between entrepreneurship and spirituality. Spirituality demands total detachment from all diversions other than the truth. Similarly, entrepreneurship demands that focus must always be maintained on the final objective. However, the Bhagvad Gita advises that one must not be concerned about the benefits that may accrue at the end of your struggle. This is of course the biggest advice to the modern entrepreneur.

Problems of the Modern Entrepreneur

The modern entrepreneur, if he follows the western standards, will suffer from various distractions and diversions. The business manager from the West has been groomed to work with the aim of making profits. Nothing matters other than profits. This is totally at variance with what has been handed down the ages right from the Vedic times. Some of the best thoughts flow from Lord Krishna as He explains the facts about karma, detachment and the need to be a doer in life to Arjuna, the warrior.

Lord Krishna’s Preaching to Arjuna

The sole problem behind Arjuna’s delusion was removed by Lord Krishna’s preaching on the indestructible nature of the atman. His emphasis was on the fact that it is not inaction that is necessary but activity with a spirit of total detachment and sacrifice.

Sri Krishna says on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to Arjuna:

Yastvindriyaani manasaa niyamyaarabhate’rjuna;
Karmendriyaih karmayogam asaktah sa vishishyate.

“Whosoever, controlling the senses by the mind, O Arjuna, engages himself in karma yoga with the organs of action, without attachment, he excels”


Niyatam kuru karma twam karma jyaayo hyakarmanah;

Shareerayaatraapi cha te na prasiddhyed akarmanah.

“Do thou perform your bounden duty, for action is superior to inaction and even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for you by inaction.”


Tasmaad asaktah satatam kaaryam karma samaachara;
Asakto hyaacharan karma param aapnoti poorushah.

”Therefore, without attachment, do thou always perform action which should be done; for, by performing without attachment man reaches the Supreme.


This then is the link between spirituality and the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is definitely a spiritual process. Just as in spirituality one needs to lose oneself in the Lord, similarly in the case of an entrepreneur he has to be totally immersed in his project. We have seen how he needs to be focused and dogged in his endeavors. If one studies the lives of spiritual leaders one can see how focused they were in their aim. A similar dedication is necessary if one wishes to be successful in one’s business.

It is seen how a project is like a passion, like a dream that needs to be played out in the real world. The sacred manuscripts tell us to be detached and yet to be a doer. It advises us not to be interested in the fruits of one’ s labor. An entrepreneur similarly must do his bounden task and continuously work towards his goal without any distractions and diversions. Life is maya. One needs to do one’s dharma and will have to live out in repeated cycle of births and deaths according to one’s karma. It is only after one’s karmic cycles have been completed that one can attain salvation. As an entrepreneur therefore one can only strive for perfection but not for the fruits of one’s hard work. This may appear difficult but once one appreciates the real purpose of one’s life, it will all fall into place.