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Ancient Indian wisdom for management

The Indian civilization, with recorded history of more than 5000 years is one
of the oldest civilizations in the world and the contribution of India and
Indians to this world is enormous in various fields of knowledge including
management field also. Several classics such as Vedas, Puranas,
Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. offers several managements
lessons which can be useful even in modern context.

Management lessons from Vedas:

Oh God, may we with our ears listen to what is

good, with our eyes see what is good and may we with firm body composed
of healthy strong organs, work the mission bestowed upon us as long as we
are alive (Rig-Veda). Every management book instructs us to learn from
others by listening and watching and doing the mission oriented work using
the health.
Rig-Veda again gives the beautiful message:
Oh God bestow on us the best treasures: the efficient mind and spiritual
luster, the increase of wealth, the health of bodies and sweetness of speech
and fairness of days. (These are integrated management principles. The
integration of prosperity, wealth, mental, communicative and spiritual
enlightenment is expected in Vedas and also in modern days.

Principles of ancient Indian management

1. The Basic Principles:

Each soul is essentially divine. Discovering Divinity is the purpose of work.

a.Tat Tvam Asi: You are That (Supreme) - Everybody can make himself a

b. Aham Brahmasmi: I have immense potential. I can make the impossible


2. Why Work?
a. Atmano Mokshaya Jagat Hitaaya Ca:
- For my personal growth
- For the Welfare of the World (Synchronies your private benefits with
public benefits)
3. What is work?
a. Yagnayacharatah karma: Work is to be done with the spirit of Yagna
(Teamwork, Selflessness).
b. Parasparam Bhavayantah: Nurture each other (Win-win approach).

4. How to work?
a. Seva + Tyag:
Serve others. Give your best for the good of others.

5. Spirit of Work:
a. Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam: Dexterity & Excellence in action is Yoga.

6. The Resources:
a. Sukshma/Subjective or subtle factors are more important than
Sthula/Objective or gross factors.
b. Karma-Kshetra is Dharma-Kshetra, Making the workplace sacred, clean
and bringing orderliness and regularity.

Team work or Yagna

Yagna means sacrifice. In a Yagna conducted in the Vedic period, the
members of the community came together in a spirit of dedication and
sacrifice for the purpose of a co-operative spiritual and divine endeavor to
invoke the grace of the Presiding Deity for the blessings of the community,
for the peace of the world, for the prosperity in wealth etc. The yagna-spirit
is seen everywhere in nature: The Sun shines, the moon appears, the sea
throbs, the earth bears – all in a spirit of sacrifice and self-dedicated
motherly love, never with even a trace of attachment or any kind of self-
arrogating motives.
The law-of-seva is faithfully followed by every sentient and insentient
member of the cosmos instinctively. Man alone is given the freedom to act
as he likes and to the extent he disobeys this Universal Law-of-sacrifice
(yagna), to that extent he comes to suffers because of his arrogant and
egoistic actions, brings discord in the harmony of the existence around him.
The Purusha Sooktam describes the process of creation and how the
entire creation has been created through the Yagna.

In modern context, a yagna means

a. Any self-sacrificing work undertaken in a spirit of self-dedication, for the
blessing of all.
b. Any social, communal, national or personal activity into which the
individual is ready to pour himself forth entirely in a spirit of service and

Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs is generally Upanishad of Indian Scriptures not only
followed by many organizations to motivate encompasses Maslow’s theory in itself, but
their employees by fulfilling the different needs also reveals the transcendental aspect of one’s
of the employees. The Pancha-kosha personality. Mentioned below are the
description in the Taittiriya similarities and limitations.

Maslow’s Theory of Needs Pancha Koshas(Taittiriya Upanishad)

Food Sheath – Body is made up of food,
Physiological needs – food, air, water, sleep,
sustains, grows by food and at death goes back
sex & other basic needs.
to food.
Vital Air Sheath– consists of physiological
Safety needs – Home, Job security, insurance,
systems which keep one alive – respiration,
pension etc.
excretion, digestion, circulation, assimilation.
Love/Social needs – Need to be loved, toMental Sheath– Faculty of emotion, feeling,
belong to social groups, status, recognition etc. sentiments etc.
Self esteem needs – Need for self-respect, senseIntellectual Sheath – faculty of thinking,
of achievement, self-confidence, prestige etc. discriminating, analyzing, decision- making etc.
Bliss Sheath – Experience of joy, bliss
Self Actualization needs- Fulfilling one’sespecially in dreamless sleep when one is not
potential and being the best one is capable of. conscious of Body, Mind, Intellect
Nothing to represent Divinity OM or Truth is subtler than the 5 sheaths.
Human beings are considered as “wanting”Human beings are considered Divine and
organisms. different from the 5 layers of matter.
One discovers one’s finite potential throughOne discovers one’s Infinite potential through
self-actualization. Self-Realization.

Ancient Indian views of management were related to every field of life.

Such as;
Stress management:
1. Perform the duties without attachments & insistence on particular results.
Accept the results gracefully, gratefully.

2. Spend sometime in doing pranayama.

3. Follow the Moderation-Yoga. Moderation in food, sleep, speech, exercise,

recreation & meditation eliminates stress.

4. There is nothing which is more purifying than Knowledge. Clarity in

Thinking about the roles that we are playing and the Essential Reality that
we are is important.

5. Faith in the Higher Reality is a great source of strength. A man is what his
faith is. As the faith so will be our desires, thoughts and action.

6. Few minutes of Prayers & Meditation daily, go a long way in building up

reserves of Peace and happiness within.
Just when the war of Mahabharata was to begin, Arjuna, the greatest archer
of his times, breaks down when he sees Bhishma, Drona and other
‘relatives.’ Physically he was shivering & sweating. He could not hold his
bow – Gandiva. His mouth was parched. His skin was burning. He had tears
in his eyes. Emotionally he was overcome with attachment. Intellectually he
was deluded about his duty. This stress is the Arjuna-disease each one of us
go through when faced with a challenge. Bhagavad-Gita Gita is the Krishna-
cure for this disease. After listening to Gita, Arjuna regained his clarity &

Modern psychology says that there should be ‘healthy stress’ in life, which
motivates one towards action. Indian Masters say that all stress is unhealthy
and one can be totally stress-free. The Sthita-Prajna lakshana in the second
chapter of the Bhagavad Gita mentions the characteristics of a person who is
completely free from Stress.

Time Management
1. High Priority Tasks:
“O Bharata, there are tasks, where the investment is small, the returns are
high. Hope you identify such High Priority Tasks.”– Sri Rama’s advice to
his brother, Valmiki Ramayana. Never give-in to urgency syndrome,
neglecting what is truly important.
2. Most important 2 words for Time management are: No and Now

For action – ‘Now’ is the time. Never procrastinate.

For distraction – ‘No’ is the right word. – Valmiki Ramayana
3. The Bhagavad Gita in Ch.6 Verse 17 says – “Moderation is the best
policy.” Moderation in food, sleep, action & meditation increases one’s
efficiency and alertness. Fatigue and illness are major time-wasters.

The Ashrama system of Indian culture helps one to plan the time of one’s
life. Assuming that one would live for 100 years, they divided life-span into
4 quarters. First 25 years – student life, next 25 – household life, next 25
years – Retired life, last 25 years – life of a renunciate. Whatever be the life
span, we find that this pattern of living is universally applicable in any era.

Fear Management
1. Understand the Law of Karma – “As you sow. so you reap.” We get
what we deserve. No one can give us what we don’t. No one can take away
what we deserve.

2. Vairagya Shatakam says- Detachment alone leads to fearlessness.

Attachment causes fear of losing the object of attachment.

3. Mundaka Upanishad says- Honesty and noble virtues give us inner

strength and fearlessness.

4. Bhagawad Gita says - “O son of Kunti! Go and declare to the world that
my devotee shall never perish.” Faith in a Higher Power makes one fearless.

5. Bhagawad Gita says - Even a little bit of prayers, meditation, giving up

insistence on results etc. releases one from fear.

6. Bhagawad Gita says - It is better to die doing one’s own duties according
to one’s temperaments

7. Taittiriya Upanishad says - Where ever there is duality, there is fear. In

Non-duality alone there is fearlessness.

Management lesson from Ramayana

Teamwork is an important principle in management, and Rama applied the
same in search of Sita and was successful in the mission. Another one is in
an organization one must be treated affectionately which Rama did when he
met Guhan and Vibhishana.
If we describe Rama as a leader and as a manager we can say that Rama was
independent assertive buy also respectful, was firm in his decisions, was
open and frank, did not misuse power, delegated power to lieutenants
motivated troops honorably and led from the front.

Management lessons from Mahabharata and GITA

Pitamaha Bheeshma, when he was lying on the bed of arrows, had given
certain advices to Yudhisthir on better management of public services.
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 is
the essence of Vedic Literature and a complete guide to practical life. It
provides "all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest
possible level." Arjuna got mentally depressed when he saw his relatives
with whom he has to fight. (Mental health has become a major international
public health concern now). To motivate him the Bhagavad Gita is preached
in the field Kurukshetra by Lord Krishna to Arjuna as counseling to do his
battle duty while multitudes of men stood by waiting. It has got all the
management tactics to achieve the mental equilibrium and to overcome any
crisis situation.
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.
Now 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.

Utilization of available resources

the first lesson of management science is to choose wisely and utilize scarce
resources optimally. 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 the nature of the effective manager - the former chose numbers, the
latter, wisdom
Work commitment
A popular verse of the Gita advises "detachment" from the fruits or results of
actions performed in the course of one's duty. Being dedicated work has to
mean "working for the sake of work, generating excellence for its own
sake." If we are always calculating the date of promotion or the rate of
commission before putting in our efforts, then such work is not detached. It
is not "generating excellence for its own sake" but working only for the
extrinsic reward that may (or may not) result.
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.)

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 "karma yoga" (service) is blended with "bhaktiyoga"
(devotion), and 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.

Management needs those who practice what they preach

"Whatever the excellent and best ones do, the commoners follow," says Sri
Krishna in the Gita. The visionary leader must 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.

Conclusion: all time utility of ancient wisdom:

The theories and concepts of modern management from the west have
dominated management literature over the last two centuries. However, a
careful analysis of many of the western management theories reveals that it
has been in practice in India for centuries although these practices were not
in the context of organizational management but in the context of state or
political governance.

Today there are many professionals and industrialists who are great
achievers but unfortunately suffering from stress, competition, jealousy and
psychological problems. On the other hand there are people who are
contended and happy but are not achievers. what is needed today is a
combination of these two qualities. One should be a greet achiever and at
the same time should live a peaceful life. For this purpose Indian Ethos has
given a management of a mission of a life to achieve-“PURUSHARTHA”.
They have given parameters of life:

1. DHARMA: it is the governing rule in nature.

2. ARTHA: it is the way of generating wealth.

3. KAMA: is sensual zing as living being through action, and

4. MOKSHA: is freedom from all bondages of life and death.

Management of these all together is called “Purushartha”. No culture of the

world has given such comprehensive mission of life.

Thus we can say that ancient Indian wisdom as contained in Vedas, Puranas,
Upanishadas etc. is total integration of management for all walks of life. The
Vedic seers emphasized on single minded efforts, co-operation and human
welfare. They were fully aware of resource management in private as well as
public life. They also laid down compendium of guidelines for effective
management of these resources.

Thus we find ancient wisdom for management was unique, practical and
effective. It was effective for the society of Vedic age, is equally effective
for the present times and will also cater to the needs of future society with
equal effectiveness. We need only to interpret and implement it according to
the call of the times.

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