The Bhagavadgita in Management Practice

Bhagavadgita Discourse in the battle field

by Jayaram V

Many people have written in the past how to apply the principles of the Bhagavadgita for modern management. The idea of using a religious scripture such as the Bhagavadgita for a materialistic activity such as Management poses many problems, because for that you have to reconcile two very different approaches. You have to bring them together to formulate a coherent workable strategy that can be applied universally in day to day situations and resolve work related problems to accomplish both individual and organizational goals.

The purpose of the Bhagavadgita is to achieve spiritual liberation, while the purpose of management actions is to ensure success in business or professional enterprise. The two follow different paths to accomplish chosen goals. Bringing them together, is like bringing water to fire or fire to water. Our difficulty is how best we can keep the fire alive and under control while we keep sprinkling water upon it as part of our daily ritual.

The first important lesson we all learn about workplace etiquette is not to talk about our religious or political beliefs. Both are taboo and potential sources of serious conflict. It has been my experience that if people perceive you as a spiritual or religious person and if they are not religious or spiritual type, they tend to stereotype you. This is true not only in work places but in other situations also. Somehow people are not comfortable dealing with religious people unless they share the same values and beliefs. There is a tendency among some to attribute religiosity to mental imbalance, depression and other abnormalities. Interesting a recent research done on this subject confirms that more religuios people suffer from depression than non-religious ones.

Under such circumstance, if a manager in a company declares to her team that she had decided to introduce the principles of Bhagavadgita to their team work, she is going to invite great trouble for herself and her reputation as a professional manager, besides public and prviate ridicule and disbelief. Judging by the way the world is going, perhaps she would be better off speaking about lady Gaga and her personal choices rather than Lord Krishna and His eternal teaching. The world is currently lost in superficiality, while the Bhagavadgita is a deep philosophy which aims to transform you in a very fundamental way, which not everone likes or comfortable with.

The conclusion we can draw from this discussion is you cannot openly bring your religious beliefs into your management practice. Our religious beliefs do influence the way we live, think and act; but we cannot make them very obvious in certain aspects of our lives, espcially in areas where we need to work with others in groups to achieve common goals. In a secular society, religious people are well appreciated their religious beliefs do not interfere with their communication, relationships and working styles. People in an organization belong to different backgrounds. It would be impractical to expect appreciate or follow the same set of beliefs and practices. Hence, the best course to follow in a group situation would to apply the values and ideas in which you strongly believe to your own work ethic and working style, without expecting others to follow and without infringing upon other people's religious freedom.

This discussion is necessary to understand the limitations we have in modern society to follow any religious scripture in work environment. The Bhagavadgita is a great scripture. But you cannot use it openly in your profession or business, unless your business is connected to religoin or spirituality. This is the reality in a work environment. In an organization you have to subordinate individual interests to those of the organization and the team for which you work. To survive and succeed, you have to run with the crowd and join the symphony or cacophony.

Bhagavadgita is a spiritual or religious scripture useful to those who want to spend their lives in the contemplation of God or in the service of God. It is a scripture for the Bhagavatas, the servants of God, who want to live selflessly and execute His will upon earth in various forms without seeking any rewards for their actions. It can help you to lead a stress free life, while doing your duties and living a worldly life. But there are limitations to what you can or cannot do with it in social or group situations.

In a business environment, the primary motive is profit. A business is done to make money, not to do charity. An employee works for an organization in return for remuneration, reward and recognition, not as an offering to God. That is the fundamental truth we cannot ignore. However, smart a person may be, if she does not show growth, profit and good leadership, she can count her days with the company. Work place is where the devil and his minions have greater chances of succeeding than God and His humble devotees. It is where none can really work without focusing on the results, whereas the Bhagavadgita teaches you not to focus on the results but on God, to do your work and duty. Thus, upon introspection you will find that situations such as these make the Bhagavadgita a very difficult philosophy to apply to the intensely competitive, self-promoting and profit driven business environment.

However, not all organizations are businesses or profit driven. There are many non government and non-profit organizations whose primary purpose is to help the community and people in meaningful ways. There are orphanages, charitable institutions and voluntary organizations, old age homes, free health clinics, wild life protection agencies, religious and spiritual institutions who want to help the poor and the needy. If you happen to be part of these organizations, you can apply the principles of the Bhagavadgita with greater freedom, although you may still have to apply discretion in your dealings with others and in your actions and decisions that may impact others. Even when you work with people who are deeply religious, it is important to remember that you cannot enforce your values and belief system upon them. You can practice them freely and with great conviction, faith and sincerity, as long as they are not going to impact others to the extent that they feel oppressed by it. Diversity is a very important and noticeable feature of today's organizations and in implementing any ideas and strategies that stem from your own religion or spiritual philosophy should be within bounds and in deference to other people's freedom to choose and believe.

Share This


Suggestions for Further Reading