Bhagavad Gita and Management

Work culture

An effective work culture is about vigorous and arduous efforts in pursuit of given or chosen tasks. Sri Krishna elaborates on two types of work culture – ” daivi sampat” or divine work culture and “asuri sampat” or demonic work culture.

  • Daivi work culture – involves fearlessness, purity,self-control, sacrifice, straightforwardness, self-denial, calmness,absence of fault-finding, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty,absence of envy and pride.
  • Asuri work culture – involves egoism, delusion, personal desires, improper performance, work not oriented towards service. Mere work ethic is not enough. The hardened criminal exhibits an excellent work ethic.  What is needed is a work ethic conditioned by ethics in work.

It is in this light that the counsel, “yogah karmasu kausalam” should be understood. “Kausalam” means skill or technique of work which is an indispensable component of a work ethic. ” Yogah” is defined in the Gita itself as “samatvam yogah uchyate” meaning an unchanging equipoise of mind (detachment.) Tilak tells us that acting with an equable mind is Yoga.
(Bal Gangadhar Tilak, 1856-1920, the precursor of Gandhiji, hailed by the people of India as “Lokmanya,” probably the most learned among the country’s political leaders. For a description of the meanings of the word “Yoga”, see foot of this page.)
By making the equable mind the bed-rock of all actions, the Gita evolved the goal of unification of work ethic with ethics in work, for without ethical process no mind can attain an equipoise. The guru, Adi Sankara (born circa 800 AD), says that the skill necessary in the performance of one’s duty is that of maintaining an evenness of mind in face of success and failure. The calm mind in the face of failure will lead to deeper introspection and see clearly where the process went wrong so that corrective steps could be taken to avoid shortcomings in future.
The principle of reducing our attachment to personal gains from the work done is the Gita’s prescription for attaining equanimity. It has been held that this principle leads to lack of incentive for effort, striking at the very root of work ethic. To the contrary, concentration on the task for its own sake leads to the achievement of excellence – and indeed to the true mental happiness of the worker.
Thus, while commonplace theories of motivation may be said to lead us to the bondage or extrinsic rewards, the Gita’s principle leads us to the intrinsic rewards of mental, and indeed moral, satisfaction.
Putting the accent on “sticking to ethics in the workplace”, all organizations should attempt to instil the values of honesty, moral virtues of hard work and diligence as preached in the Bhagavad Gita, which has now emerged as a guidebook for motivating numbers-driven managers.   So to help enhance the spiritual quotient of the employees and to ensure that they steer clear of dishonesty and vice, there are frequent yoga lessons, talks and lectures by motivational gurus and a handbook with relevant messages.

Work results

The Gita further explains the theory of “detachment” from the
extrinsic rewards of work in saying:

  • If the result of sincere effort is a success, the entire credit should not be appropriated by the doer alone.
  • If the result of sincere effort is a failure, then too the entire blame does not accrue to the doer.

The 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, the cause of the modem managers’ companions of diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers.
Assimilation of the ideas of the Gita leads us to the wider spectrum of “lokasamgraha” (general welfare) but there is also another dimension to the work ethic – if the “karmayoga” (service) is blended with “bhaktiyoga” (devotion), then the work itself becomes worship, a “sevayoga” (service for its own sake.)
Along with bhakti yoga as a means of liberation, the Gita espouses the doctrine of nishkamya karma or pure action untainted by hankering after the fruits resulting from that action. Modern scientists have now understood the intuitive wisdom of that action in a new light.
Scientists at the US National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, found that laboratory monkeys that started out as procrastinators, became efficient workers after they received brain injections that suppressed a gene linked to their ability to anticipate a reward. The scientists reported that the work ethic of rhesus macaques wasn’t all that different from that of many people: “If the reward is not immediate, you procrastinate”, Dr Richmond told LA Times. (This may sound a peculiarly religious idea but it has a wider application. It could be taken to mean doing something because it is worthwhile, to serve others, to make the world a better place – ed.)

Manager’s mental health

Sound mental health is the very goal of any human activity – more so management. Sound mental health is 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 mind.
Some of the impediments to sound mental health are:

  • Greed – for power, position, prestige and money.
  • Envy – regarding others’ achievements, success, rewards.
  • Egotism – about one’s own accomplishments.
  • Suspicion, anger and frustration.
  • Anguish through comparisons.

The driving forces in today’s businesses are speed and competition.
There is a distinct danger that these forces cause erosion of the moral fibre, that in seeking the end, one permits oneself immoral means – tax evasion, illegitimate financial holdings, being “economical with the truth”, deliberate oversight in the audit, too-clever financial reporting and so on. This phenomenon may be called as “yayati syndrome”.
In the book, the Mahabharata, we come across a king by the name of 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 thousand years. However, he found the pursuit of sensual enjoyments ultimately unsatisfying and came back to his son pleading him to take back his youth. This “yayati syndrome” shows the conflict between externally directed acquisitions (extrinsic motivation) and inner value and conscience (intrinsic motivation.)

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Comments

  1. says

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