Management Thoughts In Indian Epics

One of the greatest contributions of India to the world is Holy Gita which is considered to be one of the first revelations from God. Bhagavad Gita means song of the Spirit, song of the Lord. The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the enfoldment of one’s life. In the days of doubt this divine book will support all spiritual searches. This divine book will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one’s inner process. Then life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and joyful—no matter what the circumstance.

May the wisdom of loving consciousness ever guide us on our journey? What makes the Holy Gita a practical psychology of transformation is that it offers us the tools to connect with our deepest intangible essence and we must learn to participate in the battle of life with right knowledge?

The Holy Gita is the essence of the Vedas, Upanishads. It is a universal scripture applicable to people of all temperaments and for all times. It is a book with sublime thoughts and practical instructions on Yoga, Devotion, Vedanta and Action.

It is profound in thought and sublime in heights of vision. It brings peace and solace to souls that are afflicted by the three fires of mortal existence, namely, afflictions caused by one’s own body (disease etc), those caused by beings around one (e.g. wild animals, snakes etc.), and those caused by the gods (natural disasters, earth-quakes, floods etc).

Management has become a part and parcel of everyday life, be it at home, in the office or factory and in Government. In all organizations, where a group of human beings assemble for a common purpose, management principles come into play through the management of resources, finance and planning, priorities, policies and practice. Management is a systematic way of carrying out activities in any field of human effort.

The general principles of effective management can be applied in every field, the differences being more in application than in principle. The Manager’s functions can be summed up as:

  • Forming a vision
  • Planning the strategy to realize the vision.
  • Cultivating the art of leadership.
  • Establishing institutional excellence.
  • Building an innovative organization.
  • Developing human resources.
  • Building teams and teamwork.
  • Delegation, motivation, and communication.
  • Reviewing performance and taking corrective steps when called for.

Thus, management is a process of aligning people and getting them committed to work for a common goal to the maximum social benefit – in search of excellence.

The critical question in all managers’ minds is how to be effective in their job. The answer to this fundamental question is found in the Bhagavad Gita, which repeatedly proclaims that “you must try to manage yourself.” The reason is that unless a manager reaches a level of excellence and effectiveness, he or she will be merely a face in the crowd.

The Bhagavad Gita, written thousands of years ago, enlightens us on all managerial techniques leading us towards a harmonious and blissful state of affairs in place of the conflict, tensions, poor productivity, and absence of motivation and so on, common in most of Indian enterprises today – and probably in enterprises in many other countries.

The modern (Western) management concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, decision making and planning, are all discussed in the Bhagavad Gita. There is one major difference.

While Western management thought too often deals with problems at material, external and peripheral levels, the Bhagavad Gita tackles the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking. Once the basic thinking of man is improved, it will automatically enhance the quality of his actions and their results.

The management philosophy emanating from the West is based on the lure of materialism and on a perennial thirst for profit, irrespective of the quality of the means adopted to achieve that goal.

This phenomenon has its source in the abundant wealth of the West and so ‘management by materialism’ has caught the fancy of all the countries the world over, India being no exception to this trend.

My country, India, has been in the forefront in importing these ideas mainly because of its centuries old indoctrination by colonial rulers, which has inculcated in us a feeling that anything Western is good and anything Indian, is inferior.

The result is that, while huge funds have been invested in building temples of modem management education, no perceptible changes are visible in the improvement of the general quality of life – although the standards of living of a few has gone up. The same old struggles in almost all sectors of the economy, criminalization of institutions, social violence, exploitation and other vices are seen deep in the body politic.

Management guidelines from the Bhagavad Gita

  • Ÿ  There is an important distinction between effectiveness and efficiency in managing.
  • Ÿ  Effectiveness is doing the right things.
  • Ÿ  Efficiency is doing things right.
  • Ÿ  Forming a vision
  • Ÿ  Planning the strategy to realize the vision.
  • Ÿ  Cultivating the art of leadership.
  • Ÿ  Establishing institutional excellence.
  • Ÿ  Building an innovative organization.
  • Ÿ  Developing human resources.
  • Ÿ  Building teams and teamwork.
  • Ÿ  Delegation, motivation, and communication.
  • Ÿ  Reviewing performance and taking corrective steps when called for.

Thus, management is a process of aligning people and getting them committed to work for a common goal to the maximum social benefit ‐ in search of excellence.

In the mythical Ramayana, the battle leading to the climax was being played out. Would the exiled Rama edge out the evil Ravana, rescue his wife Sita whom the latter had abducted, and return home to reclaim kingship, or would he face defeat at the hands of Ravana’s massive army?

Rama’s motley group of men and monkeys were no match for the evil Ravana’s forces and weaponry. Or so thought Vibhishan, Ravana’s brother who had defected to Rama’s side. Unable to contain his concerns, he questioned Rama: How will you defeat this huge army with your limited resources? The reply that Rama gave stands out as a great lesson in leadership, more on the role and importance of EI as one can ever come across.

As a charioteer, he told Vibhishan who listened with rapt attention; you have to make sure you have a clear vision, and a cause worth fighting for. In the case of Ramayana, the cause was to rescue his beloved Sita and the vision was to defeat the evil forces.

Many prominent industry leaders today opine that you need not necessarily have a vision; rather, taking one step at a time could be a much more practical way of going about, but I think that unless you have a vision, you will never be able to follow a trajectory.

In the words of the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, “The world steps aside to a person who knows where he or she is going.” In that parlance, unless you know where you are going, how will the world step aside and aid you in your pursuit?

Coming back to the battlefield of Ramayana, Rama narrated to Vibhishan, that the four wheels of the chariot are character, courage, ethics, and valor. Character is the most fundamental thing for a leader. As a leader, you must know who you are and what you stand for and communicate the same to your people through actions rather than words. It is essential for a leader to walk the talk; leadership doesn’t come from a business card, nor does respect.

It is the ethics, the value system you embody that does the needful. Courage in this scenario would be the ability to take unpopular decisions, while valor is the courage to defend those very decisions.

In the event of an unpopular decision, and such decisions are a part and parcel of a leader’s life since leadership begins where logic ends, it surely gets lonely out there, but you show the valor, walk the talk, and your teammates are sure to follow you.

Rama continued to enumerate what the horses drawing the chariot stood for. They are, he said with gusto, strength, energy, and passion. In a battle, you must have the strength to discriminate between the right and wrong, and the zeal and perseverance to keep working towards your goal.

The four reins of a horse, he went on to say, are forgiveness, compassion, consistency, and equanimity. It is essential to touch the hearts before you ask for the hand. Touching heart needs compassion and forgiveness. Consistency and equanimity are hallmark of character which creates trust with the followers.

The chariot’s wheels, the horses, and their reins are among the most important of a warrior’s (and therefore a leader’s) repertoire: The weaponry: knowledge, strategy, intelligence, skills, commitment, and a restraint of ego—these are the weapons that will help us win this mammoth battle, proclaimed Rama to his army and Vibhishan before leading them into the epic struggle.

“Arm yourself with these and no war will be lost,” he told them. After a spirited battle, his army—the motley group of men and monkeys defeated the heavily equipped Ravana and his forces.

The way the Ramayana portrays the essential attributes of a leader is a revelation. Many of today’s thinkers analyze too much and thus lose the charm of simplicity. You need not analyze and complicate things; what the HBR and the statement of Rama in the Ramayana say are one and the same; that EI, an embodiment of all these things mentioned above, is what makes victory possible against any opposition.


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