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BHAGAVAD GITA AND MANAGEMENT
has become a part and parcel in everyday life, be it at home, office, factory,
Government, or in any other organization where a group of human beings assemble
for a common purpose, management principles come into play through their various
facets like management of time, resources, personnel, materials, machinery,
finance, planning, priorities, policies and practice.
is a systematic way of doing all activities in any field of human effort. It is
about keeping oneself engaged in interactive relationship with other human
beings in the course of performing one's duty. Its task is to make people
capable of joint performance, to make their weaknesses irrelevant -so says the
Management Guru Peter Drucker.
strikes harmony in working -equilibrium in thoughts and actions, goals and
achievements, plans and performance, products and markets. It resolves
situations of scarcities be they in the physical, technical or human fields
through maximum utilization with the minimum available processes to achieve the
The lack of management will cause disorder, confusion, wastage, delay, destruction and even depression. Managing men, money and material in the best possible way according to circumstances and environment is the most important and essential factor for a successful management. Managing men is supposed have the best tactics. Man is the first syllable in management which speaks volumes on the role and significance of man in a scheme of management practices. From the pre-historic days of aborigines to the present day of robots and computers the ideas of managing available resources have been in existence in some form or other. When the world has become a big global village now, management practices have become more complex and what was once considered a golden rule is now thought to be an anachronism.
Guidelines from The Bhagavad Gita
is an important distinction between effectiveness and efficiency in managing.
is doing the right things and
is doing things right.
general principles of effective management can be applied in every fields the
differences being mainly in the application than in principles. Again, effective
management is not limited in its application only to business or industrial
enterprises but to all organisations where the aim is to reach a given goal
through a Chief Executive or a Manager with the help of a group of workers.
Manager's functions can be briefly summed up as under :
a vision and planning the strategy to realise such vision.
the art of leadership
the institutional excellence and building an innovative organisation.
building and teamwork
motivation, and communication and
performance and taking corrective steps whenever called for.
Management is a process in search of excellence to align people and get them
committed to work for a common goal to the maximum social benefit.
critical question in every Manager's mind is how to be effective in his job. The
answer to this fundamental question is found in the Bhagavad Gita which
repeatedly proclaims that 'you try to manage yourself'. The reason is that
unless the Manager reaches a level of excellence and effectiveness that sets him
apart from the others whom he is managing, he will be merely a face in the crowd
and not an achiever.
this context the Bhagavad Gita expounded thousands of years ago by the Super
Management Guru Bhagawan Sri Krishna enlightens us on all managerial techniques
leading to a harmonious and blissful state of affairs as against conflicts,
tensions, lowest efficiency and least productivity, absence of motivation and
lack of work culture etc common to most of the Indian enterprises today.
modern management concepts like vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in
work, achieving goals, meaning of work, attitude towards work, nature of
individual, decision making, planning etc., are all discussed in the Bhagavad
Gita with a sharp insight and finest analysis to drive through our confused grey
matter making it highly eligible to become a part of the modem management
may be noted that while Western design on management deals with the problems at
superficial, material, external and peripheral levels, the ideas contained in
the Bhagavad Gita tackle the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking
because once the basic thinking of man is improved it will automatically enhance
the quality of his actions and their results.
management thoughts emanating from the Western countries particularly the
country has been in the forefront in importing those ideas mainly because of its
centuries old indoctrination by the colonial rulers which inculcated in us a
feeling that anything Western is always good and anything Indian is always
inferior. Hence our management schools have sprung up on the foundations of
materialistic approach wherein no place of importance was given to a holistic
result is while huge funds have been invested in building these temples of modem
management education, no perceptible changes are visible in the improvement of
the quality of life although the standard of living of a few has gone up. The
same old struggles in almost all sectors of the economy, criminalisation of
institutions, more and more social violence, exploitation and such other vices
have gone deep in the body politic.
reasons for this sorry state of affairs are not far to seek. The western idea of
management has placed utmost reliance on the worker (which includes Managers
also) -to make him more efficient, to increase his productivity. They pay him
more so that he may work more, produce more, sell more and will stick to the
organisation without looking for alternatives. The sole aim of extracting better
and more work from him is for improving the bottom-line of the enterprise.
Worker has become a hireable commodity, which can be used, replaced and
discarded at will.
workers have also seen through the game plan of their paymasters who have
reduced them to the state of a mercantile product. They changed their attitude
to work and started adopting such measures as uncalled for strikes, Gheraos,
sit-ins, dharnas, go-slows, work-to-rule etc to get maximum benefit for
themselves from the organisations without caring the least for the adverse
impact that such coercive methods will cause to the society at large.
we have reached a situation where management and workers have become separate
and contradictory entities wherein their approaches are different and interests
are conflicting. There is no common goal or understanding which predictably
leads to constant suspicion, friction, disillusions and mistrust because of
working at cross purposes. The absence of human values and erosion of human
touch in the organisational structure resulted in a permanent crisis of
westem management thoughts although acquired prosperity to some for some time
has absolutely failed in their aim to ensure betterment of individual life and
social welfare. It has remained by and large a soulless management edifice and
an oasis of plenty for a chosen few in the midst of poor quality of life to
many. Hence there is an urgent need to have a re-look at the prevalent
management discipline on its objectives, scope and content.
should be redefined so as to underline the development of the worker as a man,
as a human being with all his positive and negative characteristics and not as a
mere wage-earner. In this changed perspective, management ceases to be a
career-agent but becomes an instrument in the process of national development in
all its segments.
Gita And Managerial Effectiveness
let us re-examine some of the modern management concepts in the light of the
Bhagavad Gita which is a primer of management by values.
of Available Resources
first lesson in the management science is to choose wisely and utilise optimally
the scarce resources if one has to succeed in his venture. During the curtain
raiser before the Mahabharata War Duryodhana chose Sri Krishna's large army for
his help while Arjuna selected Sri Krishna's wisdom for his support. This
episode gives us a clue as to who is an Effective Manager.
stone-cutters were engaged in erecting a temple. As usual a H.R.D. Consultant
asked them what they were doing. The response of the three workers to this
innocent-looking question is illuminating.
am a poor man. I have to maintain my family. I am making a living here,' said
the first stone-cutter with a dejected face.
I work because I want to show that I am the best stone-cutter in the country,'
said the second one with a sense of pride.
I want to build the most beautiful temple in the country,' said the third one
with a visionary gleam.
jobs were identical but their perspectives were different. What Gita tells us is
to develop the visionary perspective in the work we do. It tells us to develop a
sense of larger vision in one's work for the common good.
popular verse 2.47 of the Gita advises non- attachment to the fruits or results
of actions performed in the course of one's duty. Dedicated work has to mean
'work for the sake of work'. If we are always calculating the date of promotion
for putting in our efforts, then such work cannot be commitment-oriented causing
excellence in the results but it will be promotion-oriented resulting in
inevitable disappointments. By tilting the performance towards the anticipated
benefits, the quality of performance of the present duty suffers on account of
the mental agitations caused by the anxieties of the future. Another reason for
non-attachment to results is the fact that workings of the world are not
designed to positively respond to our calculations and hence expected fruits may
not always be forthcoming .
the Gita tells us not to mortgage the present commitment to an uncertain future.
If we are not able to measure up to this height, then surly the fault lies with
us and not with the teaching.
people argue that being unattached to the consequences of one's action would
make one un-accountable as accountability is a much touted word these days with
the vigilance department sitting on our shoulders. However, we have to
understand that the entire second chapter has arisen as a sequel to the
temporarily lost sense of accountability on the part of Arjuna in the first
chapter of the Gita in performing his swadharma.
Gita is full of advice on the theory of cause and effect, making the doer
responsible for the consequences of his deeds. The Gita, while advising
detachment from the avarice of selfish gains by discharging one's accepted duty,
does not absolve anybody of the consequences arising from discharge of his
verse is a brilliant guide to the operating Manager for psychological energy
conservation and a preventive method against stress and burn-outs in the work
situations. Learning managerial stress prevention methods is quite costly now
days and if only we understand the Gita we get the required cure free of cost.
the best means for effective work performance is to become the work itself.
Attaining this state of nishkama karma is the right attitude to work because it
prevents the ego, the mind from dissipation through speculation on future gains
has been presumed for long that satisfying lower needs of a worker like adequate
food, clothing and shelter, recognition, appreciation, status, personality
development etc are the key factors in the motivational theory of personnel
is the common experience that the spirit of grievances from the clerk to the
Director is identical and only their scales and composition vary. It should have
been that once the lower-order needs are more than satisfied, the Director
should have no problem in optimising his contribution to the organisation. But
more often than not, it does not happen like that; the eagle soars high but
keeps its eyes firmly fixed on the dead animal below. On the contrary a lowly
paid school teacher, a self-employed artisan, ordinary artistes demonstrate
higher levels of self- realization despite poor satisfaction of their lower-
This situation is explained by the theory of Self-transcendence or Self-realisation propounded in the Gita. Self-transcendence is overcoming insuperable obstacles in one's path. It involves renouncing egoism, putting others before oneself, team work, dignity, sharing, co-operation, harmony, trust, sacrificing lower needs for higher goals, seeing others in you and yourself in others etc. The portrait of a self-realising person is that he is a man who aims at his own position and underrates everything else. On the other hand the Self-transcenders are the visionaries and innovators. Their resolute efforts enable them to achieve the apparently impossible. They overcome all barriers to reach their goal.
work must be done with detachment.' This is because it is the Ego which spoils
the work. If this is not the backbone of the Theory of Motivation which the
modern scholars talk about what else is it? I would say that this is not merely
a theory of Motivation but it is a theory of Inspiration.
Gita further advises to perform action with loving attention to the Divine which
implies redirection of the empirical self away from its egocentric needs,
desires, and passions for creating suitable conditions to perform actions in
pursuit of excellence. Tagore says working for love is freedom in action which
is described as disinterested work in the Gita. It is on the basis of the
holistic vision that Indians have developed the work-ethos of life. They found
that all work irrespective of its nature have to be directed towards a single
purpose that is the manifestation of essential divinity in man by working for
the good of all beings -lokasangraha. This vision was presented to us in the
very first mantra of lsopanishad which says that whatever exists in the Universe
is enveloped by God. How shall we enjoy this life then, if all are one? The
answer it provides is enjoy and strengthen life by sacrificing your selfishness
by not coveting other's wealth. The same motivation is given by Sri Krishna in
the Third Chapter of Gita when He says that 'He who shares the wealth generated
only after serving the people, through work done as a sacrifice for them, is
freed from all the sins. On the contrary those who earn wealth only for
themselves, eat sins that lead to frustration and failure.'
disinterested work finds expression in devotion, surrender and equipoise. The
former two are psychological while the third is the strong-willed determination
to keep the mind free of and above the dualistic pulls of daily experiences.
Detached involvement in work is the key to mental equanimity or the state of
nirdwanda. This attitude leads to a stage where the worker begins to feel the
presence of the Supreme Intelligence guiding the empirical individual
intelligence. Such de-personified intelligence is best suited for those who
sincerely believe in the supremacy of organisational goals as compared to narrow
personal success and achievement.
culture means vigorous and arduous effort in pursuit of a given or chosen task.
When Bhagawan Sri Krishna rebukes Arjuna in the strongest words for his
unmanliness and imbecility in recoiling from his righteous duty it is nothing
but a clarion call for the highest work culture. Poor work culture is the result
of tamo guna overtaking one's mindset. Bhagawan's stinging rebuke is to bring
out the temporarily dormant rajo guna in Arjuna. In Chapter 16 of the Gita Sri
Krishna elaborates on two types of Work Ethic viz. daivi sampat or divine work
culture and asuri sampat or demonic work culture.
work culture - means fearlessness, purity, self-control, sacrifice,
straightforwardness, self-denial, calmness, absence of fault-finding, absence of
greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of envy and pride.
work culture - means egoism, delusion, desire-centric, improper performance,
work which is not oriented towards service. It is to be noted that mere work
ethic is not enough in as much as a hardened criminal has also a very good work
culture. What is needed is a work ethic conditioned by ethics in work.
is in this light that the counsel 'yogah karmasu kausalam' should be understood.
Kausalam means skill or method or technique of work which is an indispensable
component of work ethic. Yogah is defined in the Gita itself as 'samatvam yogah
uchyate' meaning unchanging equipoise of mind. Tilak tells us that performing
actions with the special device of an equable mind is Yoga. By making the
equable mind as the bed-rock of all actions Gita evolved the goal of unification
of work ethic with ethics in work, for without ethical process no mind can
attain equipoise. Adi Sankara says that the skill in performance of one's duty
consists in maintaining the evenness of mind in success and failure because the
calm mind in failure will lead him to deeper introspection and see clearly where
the process went wrong so that corrective steps could be taken to avoid such
shortcomings in future.
principle of reducing our attachment to personal gains from the work done or
controlling the aversion to personal losses enunciated in Ch.2 Verse 47 of the
Gita is the foolproof prescription for attaining equanimity. The common
apprehension about this principle that it will lead to lack of incentive for
effort and work, striking at the very root of work ethic, is not valid because
the advice is to be judged as relevant to man's overriding quest for true mental
happiness. Thus while the common place theories on motivation lead us to
bondage, the Gita theory takes us to freedom and real happiness.
Gita further explains the theory of non- attachment to the results of work in
Ch.18 Verses 13-15 the import of which is as under:
the result of sincere effort is a success, the entire credit should not be
appropriated by the doer alone.
the result of sincere effort is a failure, then too the entire blame does not
accrue to the doer.
former attitude mollifies arrogance and conceit while the latter prevents
excessive despondency, de-motivation and self-pity. Thus both these dispositions
safeguard the doer against psychological vulnerability which is the cause for
the Modem Managers' companions like Diabetes, High B.P. Ulcers etc.
of the ideas behind 2.47 and 18.13-15 of the Gita leads us to the wider spectrum
of lokasamgraha or general welfare.
is also another dimension in the work ethic. If the karm ayoga is blended with
bhaktiyoga then the work itself becomes worship, a seva yoga.
ideas mentioned above have a close bearing on the end-state of a manager which
is his mental health. Sound mental health is the very goal of any human activity
more so management. An expert describes sound mental health as that state of
mind which can maintain a calm, positive poise or regain it when unsettled in
the midst of all the external vagaries of work life and social existence.
Internal constancy and peace are the pre- requisites for a healthy stress-free
of the impediments to sound mental health are
-for power, position, prestige and money.
-regarding others' achievements, success, rewards.
-about one's own accomplishments.
anger and frustration.
driving forces in today's rat-race are speed and greed as well as ambition and
competition. The natural fallout from these forces is erosion of one's
ethico-moral fibre which supersedes the value system as a means in the
entrepreneurial path like tax evasion, undercutting, spreading canards against
the competitors, entrepreneurial spying, instigating industrial strife in the
business rivals' establishments etc. Although these practices are taken as
normal business hazards for achieving progress, they always end up as a pursuit
of mirage -the more the needs the more the disappointments. This phenomenon may
be called as yayati-syndrome.
Mahabharata we come across a king called Yayati who, in order to revel in the
endless enjoyment of flesh exchanged his old age with the youth of his obliging
youngest son for a mythical thousand years. However, he lost himself in the
pursuit of sensual enjoyments and felt penitent. He came back to his son
pleading to take back his youth. This yayati syndrome shows the conflict between
externally directed acquisitions, motivations and inner reasoning, emotions and
tells us how to get out of this universal phenomenon by prescribing the
sound philosophy of life.
with inner core of self-sufficiency
out of the habitual mindset towards the pairs of opposites.
for excellence through work is worship.
up an internal integrated reference point to face contrary impulses, and
this understanding by a manager would lead him to emancipation from falsifying
ego-conscious state of confusion and distortion, to a state of pure and free
mind i.e. universal, supreme consciousness wherefrom he can prove his
effectiveness in discharging whatever duties that have fallen to his domain.
advice is relevant here :
sarveshu kaaleshu mamanusmarah yuddha cha"
under all circumstances remember Me and then fight' (Fight means perform your
Management Needs those Who Practise what the Preach
the excellent and best ones do, the commoners follow, so says Sri Krishna in the
Gita. This is the leadership quality prescribed in the Gita. The visionary
leader must also be a missionary, extremely practical, intensively dynamic and
capable of translating dreams into reality. This dynamism and strength of a true
leader flows from an inspired and spontaneous motivation to help others. "I
am the strength of those who are devoid of personal desire and attachment. O
Arjuna, I am the legitimate desire in those, who are not opposed to
righteousness" says Sri Krishna in the 10th Chapter of the Gita.
Ultimate Message of Gita for Managers
despondent position of Arjuna in the first chapter of the Gita is a typical
human situation which may come in the life of all men of action some time or
other. Sri Krishna by sheer power of his inspiring words raised the level of
Arjuna's mind from the state of inertia to the state of righteous action, from
the state of faithlessness to the state of faith and self-confidence in the
ultimate victory of Dharma(ethical action). They are the powerful words of
courage of strength, of self confidence, of faith in one's own infinite power,
of the glory, of valour in the life of active people and of the need for intense
calmness in the midst of intense action.
Arjuna got over his despondency and stood ready to fight, Sri Krishna gave him
the gospel for using his spirit of intense action not for his own benefit, not
for satisfying his own greed and desire, but for using his action for the good
of many, with faith in the ultimate victory of ethics over unethical actions and
truth over untruth. Arjuna responds by emphatically declaring that all his
delusions were removed and that he is ready to do what is expected of him in the
Krishna's advice with regard to temporary failures in actions is 'No doer of
good ever ends in misery'. Every action should produce results: good action
produces good results and evil begets nothing but evil. Therefore always act
well and be rewarded.
finally the Gita's consoling message for all men of action is : He who follows
My ideal in all walks of life without losing faith in the ideal or never
deviating from it, I provide him with all that he needs (Yoga) and protect what
he has already got (Kshema).
conclusion the purport of this essay is not to suggest discarding of the Westem
model of efficiency, dynamism and striving for excellence but to make these
ideals tuned to the
the taste of living waters and the light of the sun and the moon. I am OM, the
sacred word of the Vedas, sound in silence, heroism in men... I am the pure
fragrance that comes from the earth and the brightness of fire I am. I am the
life of all living beings... (7:8-9) ...I am the sacrifice and the offering, the
sacred gift and the sacred plant. I am the holy words, the holy food, the holy
fire, and the offering that is made in the fire. I am the father of this
Universe, and even the source of the father. I am the mother of this Universe,
and the creator of all... I am the Way and the master who watches in silence;
thy friend and thy shelter and thy abode of peace. I am the beginning and the
middle and the end of all things... The heat of the sun comes from me, and I
send and withhold the rain. I am life immortal and death; I am what is and I am
what is not. (9:16-19)
[Excerpted from The Bhagavad Gita] )