The issue of the need for value based management is a recent one. The reason for the requirement of values in management is not hard to seek. We just need to look back a couple of years. We shall see the subprime case as the perfect example in recent times when the bare minimum standard in business ethics was found lacking. It was quite transparent to all that plain and simple greed for greater profits egged some of the best financial institutions in the US to take steps that were devastating in terms of effects that followed. It is evident that some of the most revered financial institutions “have called into question the very premise of value based management”.
This is not to say that India’s track record has been any better. Almost every day’s newspaper bears a sad testimony of the poor ethical standards observed at the highest levels of management in some of our best business houses. Today, value based management coupled with corporate social responsibility (CSR) is known as values based management. Clearly therefore, there is a need to enforce these values in management. This treatment will be directed towards Indian scriptures to try and find out if we can use these to guide management practices and if so to what extent can this be achieved.
Indian Values in Modern Management
Indian values or Indian ethos in modern management will therefore be our subject of discussion. It is proper to seek out Indian ethos since these traditions go back to more than 3500 years, way before the days when modern management took root. This ethos has been derived from our ancient Indian scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads, the Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as the Bhagwad Gita and Arthashashastra among other manuscripts. But, before we do that, let us see in what way Indian management has reacted to the needs of value based management.
Response from the Indian Corporate World
The most important requirements suggested by top Indian corporates related to inspiring standards of leadership and governance. The management had to decide between value based approach and rule based approach depending upon diverse situations. It was felt that in the case of a new strategy, it had to be spelt out clearly along with the “ways of measurement, governance and leadership commitment”. There was also a need to ensure that the group had to be aligned so that the goal was achievable. Among the other important issues were office discipline and this included office timings and maintaining an office dress code. However, the need for the leader to uphold each of the values, “each day under any circumstance, in spite of being in a position to take liberties” was undoubtedly a need that was appreciated by team members.
Some of the other values the Indian corporate world held in esteem included team spirit, discussion of “company’s vision, mission and values and how these help perform better in the market”. Yet others impressed upon inspiring trust among customers, being open and keeping it simple as well as telling it like it really is, discussing and finally delivering.
Therefore, leadership, governance, team work, discussing mission and vision besides high standard of human values such as inspiring trust and inculcating discipline are some of the requisites necessary to run an efficient organization. Let us now turn to Bhagavad Gita to study the manner in which Lord Krishna preaches to Arjuna on the fields of Kurukshetra in the epic Mahabharata.
Ego and Envy
Krishna addresses Arjuna:
maitrah karuna eva ca
santustah satatam yogi
yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah
That man who does not envy, who is a friend to all living beings, who is free from ego and who is equally at ease in happiness and distress, one who is ever satisfied and who engages himself in selfless service with full determination and whose intellect is in agreement with mine- he is very dear to me.
Lord Krishna further says:
yasman nodvijate loko
lokan nodvijate ca yah
mukto yah sa ca me priyah
The man, who takes care never to place anyone into a difficult situation and who is never anxious or stressed but equally relaxed whether in happiness or distress, that man is dear to me.
Not Striving for Results
Krishna advises Arjuna:
anapeksah sucir daksa
yo mad-bhaktah sa me priyah
A devotee who is independent of the natural course of events, one that is pure and who does not have any cares and is free from pains of any kind and one who does not strive for results, that person is dear to me.
Free from Desires
The Lord preaches to His disciple:
yo na hrsyati na dvest
ina socati na kanksati
bhaktiman yah sa me priyah
That disciple is dear to me who neither craves for pleasure or succumbs to grief, one who neither desires nor does he lament and one that renounces things that are both auspicious and inauspicious.
Speaking on the need of man to be impartial Lord Krishna addresses Arjuna:
samah satrau ca mitre ca
santusto yena kenacit
bhaktiman me priyo narah
The devotee who treats his friends and enemies equally and who holds himself in poise in honour and dishonor, heat and cold as well as happiness and distress besides fame and infamy, one who is ever free from improper association, who always holds his silence and yet is in great knowledge besides being involved in devotional service, he is very dear to me.
The Perfect Devotee
In Chapter 13, Shlokas 8-12 of Bhagvad Gita is listed a set of qualities the perfect devotee of Krishna must have. Krishna addresses Arjuna:
ahimsa ksantir arjavam
anahankara eva ca
nityam ca sama-cittatvam
etaj jnanam iti proktam
ajnanam yad ato ‘nyatha
These shlokas are among the most significant for a manager who wishes to follow the path of righteousness according to Indian scriptures. The perfect devotee according to Lord Krishna should have the following qualities:
- Absence of false pride
- approaching a bona fide spiritual master,
- steadiness and
- renunciation of the objects of sense gratification;
- absence of false ego,
- the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease;
- nonattachment to children, wife, home and the rest and
- even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events;
- constant and unalloyed devotion to Me,
- resorting to solitary places,
- detachment from the general mass of people;
- accepting the importance of self-realization, and
- philosophical search for the Absolute Truth
All these I thus declare to be knowledge and what is contrary to these is ignorance.
Slokas According to Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya
As these are very important shlokas from the point of view of indicating values in modern management, it is appropriate to analyze the characteristics through the eyes of Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya, an authority in Indian scriptures. The greatest trait perhaps is that of total reverence for Divinity. Lord Krishna says that the best path to attain this reverence is by ensuring that there is total absence of craving for honor besides the absence of pride and hypocrisy. The ideal devotee is one who performs spiritual activities confirming to the Vedic scriptures. This person follows ahimsa while possessing tolerance towards all others irrespective of the fact that they may be “antagonistic”.
There is a need for the model devotee to be straightforward without any duplicity. He must render undivided devotion to the master that lights up the path and thereafter guides him on the right track to the acquisition of spiritual knowledge. Here, Lord Krishna stresses on the need of an acharya or spiritual guru. This guide is one who is well-versed in the Vedic scriptures and has been initiated in an appropriate parampara from an acharya devotee of Lord Krishna or His avatars. Such a guru will be one who is pure of heart, learned in sacred rituals and holy mantras and with an unwavering faith in the Vedic scriptures besides total devotion to chanting the holy names of Lord Krishna. It is only such a learned spiritual master who can be the guide of the perfect devotee.
Purity of the Mind and Body
The model devotee, according to Lord Krishna, is one who is pure both externally in the body created of earth and water and internally in the mind by removal of the impurities that pollute the consciousness. The perfect devotee is calm on the path leading to moksha even in conditions that may otherwise cause stress. He remains steady on this path and does not get swayed into rushing down tracks that are forbidden by Vedic instructions. He is therefore totally disinterested in the bright and misleading sights and sounds of this world and even the attraction from the delights present in the heavenly planets.
Lord Krishna further states to Arjuna that the devotee selected by Him will not be spoilt by a sense of ego. He will not believe that he is superior in any manner because of a misconception due to his noble or distinguished lineage. There must be proper spiritual development without which these misconceptions do not carry any meaning.
Lord Krishna says that his favored devotee is one who is aware of the problems of material existence in respect of the suffering and misery that must surely accompany with birth. These problems relate to that of old age, disease and death and the perpetual cycle of life and rebirth. All jiva is subject to both pleasure and pain from which there is no exemption. Because of this reason the devotee will have to avoid all attachments to his family such as those with his wife, children or other family members as well as the other material possessions that include his wealth, home or property. He will be undisturbed by the reversals of life and will maintain his calm through circumstances that are both for and against his favor.
Lord Krishna seeks unwavering, undiluted and exclusive loving devotion from his devotees who will worship his form both from within their hearts and also externally in the temple. Such devotees must be happy while living in places that are secluded and holy as these are devoid of people that are worldly and who lack interest in spiritual matters and do not have any affinity with the Divinity. It is important to be associated with people with a saintly nature since this helps one in achieving spiritual development.
The extent of total development must be stretched to observing the Lord anywhere and in everything. Only when one attains this level can one hope to overcome ignorance and gain eternal bliss from communion with the Lord.
Today the world is talking about Value Based Management. Our rich spiritual heritage has enough guidelines indicating the path that should be taken by man. If there has been failure in the way top management has discharged its responsibilities whether in India or in the West, it has been due to greed and in foregoing the path of righteousness. Ultimately, the failure of the management is due to a failure of leadership. When we turn to the scriptures we find a treasure trove in the principles laid down by Lord Krishna speaking to a confused Arjuna on the battlefield of Mahabharata. It is these principles alone that need to be followed by the leadership in any modern management.
- Indian Ethos & Values in Modern Management by Himadri Barman (http:// himadri.cmsdu.org/documents/IndianEthos.pdf)
- The Hindu: Building a Value-based Culture (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-opportunities/building-a-valuebased-culture/article4049096.ece)
- Bhagavad Gita Ch 13 Shlokas 8-12 (http://srimadbhagavadgita.net/bhagavad-gita-chapter-13-verse-8-12)
- Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya: Kesava Kasmiri’s Commentary (http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-13-06.html)