Bhagavadgita In Business Management

Bhagavadgita Discourse in the Battlefield of Kuruksehtra

Summary: The relevance of the Bhagavadgita to the management functions and how it can be useful to managers in their administrative and managerial duties.


One of the misconceptions about religious scriptures is that they are meant only for pious and religious people who devote their lives in the contemplation of God. It is not entirely true. A worldly person is also expected to live religiously and perform his or her duties according to the established norms and the values the religion inculcates.

The Bhagavadgita has been one of the most popular scriptures of Hinduism, which is followed by millions of people. It contains practical wisdom, apart from religious and spiritual knowledge, which can be followed by both spiritual people and worldly people. The scripture is useful to religious people as well as those who are engaged in mundane duties.

Worldly life is not disconnected from spiritual life. In a holistic way of life, they complement each other. In Hinduism, this is one of the foundational principles. According to it, human beings who choose to live as householders or worldly people have to pursue four chief aims namely Dharma (knowledge of religious duties), Artha (wealth), Kama (sexual pleasure) and Moksha (liberation). The wisdom of the Bhagavadgita can be used in the pursuit of all the four aims.

By the same logic, its knowledge can also be used in management by senior managers, middle managers and junior managers, who are responsible for the day-to-day administrative and business functions of the organizations for which they work. In the following discussion, we will examine the relevance of the Bhagavadgita to the management functions and how it can help managers in their daily tasks.

The Wisdom of the Bhagavadgita

According to the Bhagavadgita, life and duty (dharma) are inseparable. You are here to do your part in life to ensure the order and regularity of the world. If you ignore it, you will contribute to the chaos of the world and become a disrupter, with consequences for yourself and others. God himself engages in actions to ensure the order and regularity of his creation. He does it, although he has no desires, preferences and expectations. If things go out of control or the worlds fall into disorder, he personally descends upon earth to establish order.

God is thus the role-model and the ideal person for humans in this world. They should live and act upon earth as his representatives, doing his duties for his sake, not for their selfish desires. Human beings are modeled upon God himself in his aspect as Purusha, the cosmic being. Therefore, there is no better way to fulfilling your destiny and earn the right to enjoy peace and happiness and all the good things in life than by doing your part in the order of things to exonerate yourself from any consequences that may arise out of those duty-bound actions.

Inaction is not a solution to the problem of karma that arises in the performance of duty, just as selfish actions or egoistic actions or actions performed with evil intentions. They all produce sinful karma and suffering. To escape from karma and suffering, you must rise above selfishness and attachments and focus upon selfless duty. You must engage in actions, abiding in the rules and norms, following the moral and spiriutal discipline and doing your obligatory tasks in the larger interests of your family, society, world or God, rather than living just for yourself or your selfish enjoyment.

The Bhagavadgita offers two basic choices to humans, either give up the desire for the fruit of their actions and execute the will of God, fate or destiny, or act on their own for their selfish enjoyment or to fulfill their own selfish desires. In the former case, they will be exonerated from all blame since God becomes responsible for their lives and actions, whereas in the latter case they become responsible for all their selfish actions and suffer from the consequences. The former is the road to freedom, and the latter to bondage and suffering.

The scripture clearly emphasizes that you must do your part without selfish motives and without worrying about the result or the fruit of your actions. Your essential purpose upon earth is to perform your obligatory duties for which you are born. The duties are not of yours but of God. Hence, you should not ignore them, nor should you try to profit from them. You must sincerely do your duty, without desires and expectations and leave the results to God.

The outcome of your actions depends upon many factors such as the actions of others, fate, circumstances, and your own karma. They are not in your control. Therefore, it is wise not to be solely guided by the result of your actions but focus upon the actions which you are expected to perform, and do them, without selfishness, as a service and an offering to God, leaving to him their merits and demerits and their consequences.

Further, on many occasions we have to perform difficult actions and take difficult decisions which may affect others or hurt them or cause them inconvenience. You cannot avoid them because they are painful to undertake. In all such cases, you have to remember that duty is more important than all other considerations. As a representative of God upon earth, it is not up to you to decide what is moral or immoral or ethical or unethical. If it is a part of your obligatory duty, you have to execute whatever that you are destined to execute.

We also live in an ambiguous world. Things are not always clear, as our perceptions and thinking are clouded by many deluding factors. We may therefore make mistakes and engage in sinful karma. Through self-destructive actions we may become our own enemies and sabotage our peace and happiness or delay our liberation. You can resolve this problem in two ways. Firstly, by performing your actions without desires, and secondly by cultivating discerning wisdom, the higher mind, or buddhi, through self-purification by practicing various types of yoga which are mentioned in the scripture.

 Bhagavadgita wisdom for modern managers

By management we mean the collective body of people who are in charge of managing a company or an organization and responsible for its main functions and day-to-day administration. The five basic functions of the management are planning, organizing, staffing, coordinating and controlling. The wisdom of the Bhagavadgita can be applied to all the five areas of management. The following are a few important suggestions for the managers who are responsible for them.

1. Duty is most important: You exist in an organization for the sole purpose of performing the duties or functions for which you are hired. Everything else comes next. Therefore, never ignore them. You make yourself redundant in the organization if you neglect your duties and focus your energies elsewhere.

2. Duty flows from above: Your duties flow from the higher management. Therefore, in performing your duty, you have an obligation to follow the plans and programs of the organization or your department, rather than your own agenda. It also means you have obligation as a trustee of the management.

3. Maintain order and regularity: A manager should be a good organizer and facilitator rather than a disrupter. He should go with the flow, follow the rules and regulations and respect the chain of command and control, so that the normal flow of work is not interrupted by his egoism and selfishness.

4. Obligations to others flow through duty only: Managers may have to take controversial and difficult decisions as a part of their duty which may affect others or rupture their emotions. They should not be afraid of taking such decisions as long as they are not violating any laws or going against norms.

5. Stay on the right side of things: Virtue is an important factor in life. A manager should have exemplary qualities, and should not be guided by selfish agendas, shortcuts, unethical practices or personal considerations for short term gains. They will make life more complicated and ruin one’s happiness.

6. The interests of the organization come first: A manager has an obligation to work for the organization and fulfill his duties. Therefore, the interests of the organization always come first. However, he may align his interests with those of the organization so that he too can grow with it and be a part of its success.

7. Do your duty without selfish motives: If a manager takes his own decisions without consulting others or acts with selfish intentions, he becomes solely responsible and accountable for his actions and their consequences. He should therefore act in coordination and consultation with all the stakeholders.

8. Focus upon the process: Results are not in our hands, while we can do our best and aim for excellence in the execution of things. A manager should therefore mindfully focus upon executing the processes and functions, and monitor progress with attention to detail, rather than worrying about their outcome.

9. Take rational decisions with clarity: It is difficult to take effective decisions with a troubled and unstable mind. With detachment, equanimity, sameness and discretion (buddhi), a manager can discern things and take effective decisions, without being influenced by likes and dislikes, emotions and other mental filters.

10. Avoid self-destructive behavior: You can be your own friend or your worst enemy, depending upon whether you are in harmony with your highest ideals. Managers too have a choice to succeed by using their talents with discipline and dedication or fall down due to self-destructive habits and tendencies.

Bhagavadgita for practicing managers

Whatever we have discussed so far is about people who may or may not believe in God or in the sanctity of the Bhagavadgita. However, the Bhagavadgita is immensely valuable to those who believe in God and have no problem accepting it as their spiritual guide. Managers who believe in the Bhagavadgita and study it as a part of their spiritual practice, can benefit even more.

Firstly, they can lead a God centric or a divine centered, holistic life and seek his guidance and help in every aspect of their lives, including their careers. Secondly, they can align their career goals to their Dharma and pursue the four chief aims of human life without conflict and confusion. Thirdly, by exemplifying its ideals and teachings, they can improve their knowledge, thinking and decision making.

Fourthly, by practicing concentration and contemplation and other forms of Yoga, they can improve their health and wellbeing. Fifthly, by taking refuge in their higher minds (buddhi), they can listen to their intuition or inner voice and bring the power of God and the wisdom of the scripture into their daily lives. Most importantly, by offering their actions to God and attributing their failure and successes to him, they can become free from egoism, fear, pride, anger, guilt, delusion and anxiety, and experience peace and happiness.

Conclusion

A scripture must be useful to everyone and to people in  all wakes of life. Only then, you can consider it a great scripture. Whether it is a sinner or a saint, a man or a woman, an adult or a child, or an ignorant person or an educated person, they all must draw inspiration from it and find it useful for their religious, spiritual and temporal needs. What is the use of any scripture if it is not relevant to the lifestyles of the people and the times in which they live? It is possible only if the scriptures possess timeless wisdom, which can be applied in all ages. The significance of a religious book also depends upon your knowledge and understanding of it.

There are many wonderful scriptures in the world in which great wisdom is hidden. The Bhagavad-Gita is certainly one of the best. It contains many valuable lessons for modern people about how they can manage their lives and their duties, without becoming involved with the world and its countless snares that steal our peace and happiness. By reading it and practicing its teachings, you will not only develop spiritual wisdom, but also learn how to live safely with discernment and clarity of purpose amidst problem and challenges.

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