Management - the Bhagavad Gita way - Part I
One of the greatest contributions of India to the world is Bhagavad Gita which is considered to be one of the first revelations from God. It is the essence of Upanishads and a complete guide to practical life. It provides "all that is needed to raise the consciousness of man to the highest possible level."

To motivate Arjuna, who got mentally disturbed upon seeing those near and dear ones whom he had to kill in the war of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna told him to perform his duty. In the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad Gita, one discovers wonderful management guidelines which are applicable even today.

The general principles of effective management can be applied in every field 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 organizations where the aim is to reach a given goal through a Chief Executive or a Manager with the help of a group of workers. The Manager's functions can be briefly summed up as under:
  • Forming a vision and planning the strategy to realize such vision.
  • Cultivating the art of leadership.
  • Establishing institutional excellence and building an innovative organization.
  • Developing human resources.
  • Communication and Team Management
  • Motivation, Delegation, Appraisals.
  • Taking corrective steps when called for.
Thus Management is a process of aligning people in search of excellence ensuring their commitment for the corporate goal. The critical question in every Manager's mind is how to be effective in his job. Bhagavad Gita suggests 'one should always try to manage oneself'. The Manager must reach a level of excellence and effectiveness which sets him apart from those whom he is managing, he must be an achiever.

In this context the Bhagavad Gita enlightens us on all managerial techniques that lead to a harmonious and balanced state overcoming conflicts and contradictions which lead to lower efficiency productivity, absence of motivation and lack of work culture. Most of the management concepts like vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, goal seeking, work ethics, nature of individual, decision making, planning etc., are discussed in the Bhagavad Gita. The ideas contained in the Bhagavad Gita tackle the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking as against the typical Western thoughts on management which tend to deal with the problems at superficial, material, external and peripheral levels.

Bhagavad Gita and Managerial Effectiveness
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 in the management science is to choose wisely and utilize 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.

Attitude Towards Work
Three 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. 'I 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.

'Well, 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.

'Oh, I want to build the most beautiful temple in the country,' said the third one with a visionary gleam.

Their 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.

Work Commitment
The popular verse 2.47 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." One of the main reasons for non-attachment to results is because workings of the world are not designed to positively respond to our calculations and hence expected fruits may not always be forthcoming.

So, 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. Some 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.

Bhagavad Gita discusses in great details 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 responsibilities.

Stress management principles are described in details in several verses acting as a brilliant guide to the operating Manager for psychological energy conservation and avoidance of burn-outs in the work situations. Thus 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 or losses.

It 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 management.

It 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 optimizing his contribution to the organization. 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- order needs.

This situation is explained by the theory of Self-transcendence or Self-realization 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-realizing 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. 'The work must be done with detachment.' This is because it is the Ego which spoils the work. This is the backbone of the Theory of Motivation which the modern scholars talk about.

- October 11
- December 09

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