The popular contemporary belief amongst political and business leaders world-wide, that economic prosperity is a solution to most current problems, has led to two crises.
First, personal crisis: with individuals facing stress, poor physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, low happiness quotient, insincerity and dishonesty in work and relationship areas.
Second, social crisis, with leaders, organizations and nations, facing challenges of dictatorship, corruption, nepotism, terrorism, exploitation of masses and destruction of environment.
The above two crises, point to a deficit in ethics, personal and social values. An imperative need for a complete and adequate guiding philosophy is felt, leading to problem definition -
Which philosophy, if any, is complete and adequate in itself to be applied in the areas of values and ethics to management, such that it can transform the individual (manager) and reform the society (organization), leading to economic prosperity?
Choice of Philosophy - The Gita:
The Gita was chosen to address the Problem, because –
First, the Gita is ancient wisdomand its’ philosophy is universal, since it covers everything - individual (vyashti), society (samashti), nature (srishti) and divinity (parameshti) .
Second, the authority of the Gita is undisputed in Indian Philosophy, as one of the prasthana-traya of Vedanta and samasta-vedartha-sarasangraha-bhutam (quintessence of the teaching of the Vedas).
Third, the philosophy of the Gita is endorsed by management academicians and practitioners -
Natesan et al (2009) say, “The Gita’s essence of Yoga, Dharma, Dhyana, Samabhava, Nishkama Karma, and Tat-Twam-Asi provides the keys for influencing contemporary management thought and global business practices’. ; Senge (1990), world-renowned management guru says, “It is not surprising that many are renewing serious study of ancient wisdom traditions of all sorts, including timeless texts like the Bhagavad Gita”. 
Fourth, the Gita as shown by Agarwal (1995) offers solutions to social, political and spiritual problems of large scale and scope. 
Fifth, the Gita has had such a tremendous influence and impact on mankind that great leaders, scientists, philosophers and intellectuals have looked upon it as a source of guidance. 
Values and Ethics in the Gita:
The Gita is interspersed with numerous personal values. The key social value of lokasamgraha (social well-being) is given in Chapter III - 20 to 26. Gupta (2006) has identified personal values (or virtues) in the full text of the Gita, as below -
1. abhayam (fearlessness, X-4; XVI-1)
2. adambhitvam (sincerity, XIII-7)
3. ahimsa (non-violence, X-5; XVI-2, XVII-14)
4. adrohah (amity, XVI-3)
5. acapalam (modesty, XVI-2)
6. advesa (non-hatred, XII-13)
7. akrodah (non-anger, XVI-2)
8. aloluptvam (freedom from greed, XVI-2)
9. amanitvam (humility, XVI-2)
10. apaisvnam (absence of fault finding, XVI-2)
11. arjavam (uprightness, simplicity, XVI-2, XVIII-42)
12. brahmacharya (abstinence, VIII-11, XVII-14)
13. damah (self-control, XVI-1, XVIII-42)
14. dana (charity, X-5, XVI-1, XVII-7, XVIII-5, 43)
15. ksama (forgiveness, X-4, III-4, XVI-3)
16. ksantih (patience, XIII-7, XVIII-42)
17. karuna (compassion, XII-13)
18. maitri (friendship, XII-13)
19. mardavam (gentleness, XVI-2)
20. samah, samya (evenness, equanimity, balanced indifference, sameness, II-15, 38, 48; IV-22, V-3, 7, 18-21, VI-7, 9, 13, 29,30, 32; IX-29; 12:13, 14, 18-19; XIII-27-28; XVIII-54)
21. santih (peace, XVI-2)
22. satyam (truthfulness, X-4, XVI-2)
23. saucam (purity, XVI-3, 7, XVII-14; XVIII-42)
24. sauryam (heroism, XVIII-43)
25. samkalpa (determination or resolve, VI-2)
26. sraddha (reverence, piety, XVII-2, 3, VII-21)
27. tapah (penance, VII-9, X-5, XVI-1, XVII-5, 7, XIV-19, 28; XVIII-5, 42)
28. tejah (vigor, XVIII-43)
29. titıksa (endurance, II-14)
30. vairagyam (detachment, XIII-7, XVIII-52)
31. vinaya (humility, V-18)
32. vinigrahah (control, restraint, XIII-7)
Application of Values and Ethics in the Gita by the Individual (Manager):
An individual or manager relies upon his personal values to guide him. However, knowing values without knowing how to apply them in life makes them impractical.
In this context, Swami Vivekananda says, “We hear ‘Be good,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not tell a lie,’ but nobody tells the child how he can help doing them. Talking will not help him…Only when we teach him to control his mind do we really help him”. 
Sharma (1995) says, “In the Gita, the focus is on the decision maker’s mental state during the moments of decision-making. This can be contrasted with management, which focuses more on decision-making rather than the mental state of decision maker.” 
‘Control of mind’ points to Yoga; defined as –
1. Samatvam yoga uchayate (The Gita) - ‘Equanimity is Yoga.’
2. Mana prashamana upayah (Sage Vashistha) - ‘Yoga is a way to calm down the mind.’
3. Tam yogamiti manyante sthiram indriyadharanam (Kathopanishad) - ‘Yoga is calming down the mind.’
With eighteen chapters the Gita offers an individual, eighteen types of yoga, to control the state of his mind for meaningful application of personal values, thereby transforming him into an able sthitaprajnaor responsible rajarsi leader.
Application of Values and Ethics in the Gita by the Society (Organization):
The key social value in the Gita is lokasamgraha -
Lokasamgraham eva pi, Sampasyam kartum arhasi (III-20)
Keeping in view the protection of people, perform action. Agarwal (1993) says on lokasamgraha –
“The concept of dharma has two distinct aspects, namely individual or particular, and social or universal. Arjuna’s confusion is about his dharma (XI-7). This is the individual aspect of dharma. The social or universal aspect of dharma, is lokasamgraha or people’s welfare, when Krishna argues that the purpose of avatara (incarnation) is to protect dharma.” (IV-8)
Chakraborty (1998) points the manager towards the concept of yajnarth-karma from the Gita to achieve the dual goals of svadharma with lokasamgraha. Hence, by applying the Gita, an individual (manager) can transform himself through yoga and personal values, and reform the society (organization) through lokasamgraha, to bring economic prosperity. This leads to a solution of the Problem as stated below –
Conform (to the Gita) >>> Transform (the Individual/Manager) >>> Reform (the Society/Organization)
Testing the Philosophy the Gita:
For the Gita to qualify as an applied philosophy for management, which is poorna or complete and adequate in itself, it has to pass the following tests -
1. The Perennial Philosophy Test
Huxley (1944) says “The Gita is one of the most clear and comprehensive summaries of perennial philosophy ever revealed”.  The Gita passes all the three tests of perennial philosophy, as enumerated below :
a. It is closely aligned with the post-modern method of deconstruction, and addresses the manager’s need to continually question her or his assessments.
b. Consistent reports of practitioners from all parts of the world are so numerous and so closely aligned that they serve as testimony to such reports being not merely a subjective experience.
c. It not only points to an abstract ‘philosophy of unity’ but suggests that the kinds of perception it brings can radically alter the quality of our experience in everyday life.
2. The Completeness Test
‘Completeness’ is defined as ‘the state of being complete and entire; having everything that is needed.’ The scale and scope of the Gita’s philosophy is unparalleled – its’ impact is universal – it can influence, transform and reform, individual (vyashti), society (samashti), creation (srishti) and Creator (parameshti). Swami Chinmayanada (1999) says - “The Gita is complete because it offers a solution to all problems of humanity – at least this is the repeated claim of all scholars.” 
3. The Adequacy Test
The Gita meets the five Criteria of Adequacy of a hypothesis as stated below –
a. Testability - A hypothesis is scientific only if it is testable and must predict something more then what is predicted by the background theory alone. The Gita passes this test for e.g. yoga can lead to better decision-making by the manager.
b. Fruitfulness - Successfully predicts new phenomena and opens new lines of research. Makes the most successful novel predictions. The Gita shows how the concept of lokasamgraha can be used innovatively to solve the problem of economic prosperity.
c. Scope - The amount of diverse phenomena explained and predicted by the hypothesis. The gunas theory in the Gita covers the full diversity of use-cases and application of values, virtues and applied ethics for an individual or manager.
d. Simplicity- The simpler a theory the more it unifies and systematizes knowledge, the less likely it is to be false as there are fewer ways for it to go wrong. The beauty of the Gita is its’ simplicity of application, which is known by countless examples.
e. Conservatism - Hypothesis is best if it fits with established beliefs. The Gita is a perennial philosophy in the history of mankind which adapted with the beliefs of the time whenever applied.
4. The Practicality Test
Scholars, academicians, practitioners and business leaders endorse the view that the Gita is a practical philosophy. Kane (1998) says “Managers can look at the Gita, not as an abstract theory that can be tested in a laboratory, but as a way of life that can only be ultimately tested by being lived.”  Sharma (1999) has summarized the application of the Gita to management, classifying it in four approaches, viz. (1) Empirical Testing Approach (2) Corporate Shlokas (3) Revisioning the Gita (4) New Age Management Models.  Further, there are many case studies of Indian and multinational companies who have adopted and applied the philosophy of the Gita.
The Gita is a poorna philosophy for management.
1. Sai Baba, Satya, “The Primordial Force,” Radio Sai Listener’s Journal, Sept. 2008, Vol.6, Issue 9.
2. Natesan, Chinna N., Keefe, Michael J., and Darling, John, “Enhancement of Global Business Practices: Lessons from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita,” European Business Review, 2009, Vol. 21, No.2.
3. Senge, P.M., T”he Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization,” 1990, Doubleday, New York.
4. Agarwal, Satya P., “The Social Message of the Gita: Symbolized as Lokasamgraha,” Motilal Banarsidass, 1995.
6. Gupta, Bina, “Bhagavad Gita as Duty and Virtue Ethics,” Journal of Religious Ethics, 2006, 34.2: 373-395.
7. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 8 vols., Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1973, 171, 1.
8. Sharma, Subhash, “Corporate Gita: Lessons for Management, Administration and Leadership,” Journal of Human Values, 1995, 5, 103.
9. Agarwal, Satya P., “The Social Role of the Gita – How & Why,” Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1993, 275.
10. Chakraborty, S.K., “Ethical Vision of Management,” Management Tips From The Gita, Chinmaya Mission, 1998.
11. Huxley, Aldous, Introduction of the book, “Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God,” as translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, 1944.
12. Smith, Charles, “Working from Inside Out,” Management and Leadership through the Lens of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 26, No. 5, 2007.
13. Chinmayananda Swami, “The Geeta – A Scheme of Life,” The Art Of Man Making, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, 1999.
14. Kane, Robert, “Dimensions of Value and the Aims of Social Inquiry,” The American Behavioral Scientist, Jan. 1998, 41, 4.
15. Sharma, Subhash, “Corporate Gita: Lessons for Management, Administration and Leadership,” Journal of Human Values, 1999, 5: 103.
First presented and published -
World Philosophy Congress, Athens, Greece, August 2013
Followed by - Click here to view
The Gita: On Startups, SMEs & Entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur I get to interact with many founders of startups and thus am closely associated with the startup ecosystem. The most frequently asked question which these founders have is, "So, what problem are you trying to solve?” Most founders are able to answer this question by articulating a technology enabled, innovative solution which addresses the chosen problem.
In my experience however I am yet to meet a founder who has the clarity of purpose about why he or she is attempting to solve that problem in the first place. I believe that most startups are created because they are a good vehicle for an entrepreneur to create wealth in a reasonably short period of time compared to conventional businesses. If we ask an SME entrepreneur why he is running his enterprise, the answer might be - "to earn an honorable livelihood." The reasons to run a startup or an SME are both noble, but not inspirational enough.
The Gita says that sole and core purpose of an organization is 'lokasamgraha' or social well-being. Startup and SME entrepreneurs should make 'positive social impact' their business goal, even whilst running their businesses profitably. The inspiration that an entrepreneur can draw from positive social impact can be both - a perpetual source of inner energy and a guiding compass for him. Entrepreneurs must identify real problems faced by people, and attempt to solve them, with the singular success metric being the number of lives positively impacted. Other important goals like 'protection of the environment' are subsumed in the concept of 'lokasamgraha' or social well-being.
Instead of chasing profits alone or doing the bare minimum for the society under mandated CSR duties, entrepreneurs should make 'lokasamgraha' their core strategy - profits will follow as a corollary. In the words of Darden school of management professor and Conscious Capitalism, Inc trustee Ed Freeman, “We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).” While making money is essential for the vitality and sustainability of a business, it is not the only or even the most important reason for a business to exist. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit.
The Gita provides the core guiding philosophy for all Entrepreneurs, and shows us that the purpose of our existence is to work for social well-being through excellence in action, while performing duties that are natural to us –
"Strive for Yoga which is excellence in action, through commerce which is natural to you, for sake of educating people; you should perform your work for social well-being."
yogah karmasu kausalam (The Gita 2.50) Strive for Yoga which is excellence in action
vanijyam vaisya-karma svabhava-jam (The Gita 18.44) Through commerce which is natural to you
loka-sangraham evapi, sampasyan kartum arhasi (The Gita 3.20) For sake of educating people, you should perform your work
cikirsur loka-sangraham (The Gita 3.25) for social well-being
First Published Click here to view
Dr Milind R Agarwal is an entrepreneur & teacher. Education - B.E.- Electronics & Comm. (Mangalore Univ.), MBA -Logistics (Michigan State Univ., USA), Ph.D.- Philosophy (Mumbai Univ.) Doctoral thesis on "Srimad Bhagavad Gita: Search & Application of Values to Management." Occupation: Founder & CEO, Marketune - Intelligent Distribution Platform for SMEs. Also teaches - entrepreneurship, logistics, and philosophy.