Managerial Effectivenes-A Holistic View from The Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita and Managerial  Effectiveness                               
The basic principle behind this  fundamental transformation is found in the Bhagavad Gita which repeatedly  proclaims that ‘you try to manage yourself’. In this context the Super  Management Guru Bhagavan Sri Krishna enlightens us on all managerial techniques  which will lead to a harmonious state of affairs as against conflicts,  tensions, low efficiency and productivity, absence of motivation and lack of  work culture etc common to many enterprises. His focus is on rational thinking  and not emotional reaction, stressing the importance of management more on values  than revenues.

We find in the Gita a holistic  theory of managing human affairs. Behind holism (also wholism) lies the  theory that the whole is greater than the sum  of its parts. The holistic approach is treats the whole person rather than the  symptoms of a disease. It is the Rational Emotive Therapy of the modern  management jargon.

An attempt is made here to examine some of the modern  management concepts in the light of the Bhagavad Gita.

Utilization of  available resources
The first lesson in the  management science is to choose wisely and utilize optimally the scarce resources.  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  which is confirmed by the final outcome of the war.

Attitude towards Work
I shall narrate a story here which will show different  facets of the relationship between man and his 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 for the common good  in performing one’s own duties.

Work Commitment 
The popular verse 2.47 of the  Gita advises non- attachment to the fruits or results of actions performed in  the course of one’s duty. Dedicated work has to mean ‘work for the sake of  work’. If we are always calculating the date of promotion for putting in our  efforts, then such work cannot be commitment-oriented causing excellence in the  results but it will be promotion-oriented resulting in inevitable  disappointments. By tilting the performance towards the anticipated benefits,  the quality of performance of the present duty suffers on account of the mental  agitations caused by the anxieties of the future. Another reason for  non-attachment to results is the fact that 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 surely 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. 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 as detailed in the first chapter of the Gita in  performing his swadharma.

Bhagavad Gita is full of advice on 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 ones accepted duty, does not absolve anybody of the consequences  arising from discharge of his responsibilities.

This verse is a brilliant guide to the operating Manager  for psychological energy conservation and a preventive method against stress  and 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 for Self-actualization.

Now even in the country of its origin this theory is being  considered as nothing but self-aggrandizement and a means to convert  interpersonal relationships into institutional business transactions for  self-advancement at the cost of common welfare. The recent instances of  Financial Institutions in the U.S.A. granting bonuses to the top executives  despite their receiving State Aid for their own survival is a case in point.

What is the Indian picture? It is the common experience  that the spirit of grievances from the lowest to the highest is identical and  only their scales and composition vary. It should have been that once the  lower-order needs are more than satisfied, the top echelons should have no  problem in optimizing their 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.

This paradoxical 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-actualizing  person is that he is a man who aims at his own aggrandizements 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. They are achievers  like Hanumanji, Mahatma Gandhi, and Tilak.


A Western scholar speaks about  the Gita as “It is the spirit of God speaking to the Spirit of man and teaching  him how to conduct life. That is why it is a practical book.’ The Gita says  ‘You suffer, but you do not give way to suffering. You have inner balance, a  harmony of mind. This then is the first condition, not to seek the fruit of  one’s work. This does not mean indifference to the work. 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.  This is not merely a theory of Motivation but  it is a theory of Inspiration as well. The Gita further advises to perform  action with loving attention to the Divine implying redirection of the  empirical self away from its egocentric needs, desires, and passions towards creating  suitable conditions for performing actions in pursuit of excellence. Tagore  says working for love is freedom in action which is described as disinterested  work in the Gita.

The holistic vision of work tells  that all work irrespective of its nature have to be directed towards a single  purpose namely promoting the good of all beings - lokasangraha. This  vision was presented to us in the very first mantra of isavasya Upanishad which says that whatever exists in the Universe is enveloped by God. How can  there be any individual happiness, if all are one? The answer it provides is to  enjoy and strengthen life by sacrificing one’s own selfishness by not coveting  other’s wealth. The same motivation is given by Sri Krishna in the Third  Chapter of Gita when He says that ‘He who shares the wealth generated only  after serving the people, through work done as a sacrifice for them, is freed  from all the sins. On the contrary those who earn wealth only for themselves,  eat sins that lead to frustration and failure.’

The disinterested work finds expression in devotion,  surrender and equipoise. The former two are psychological while the third is  the strong-willed determination to keep the mind free of and above the  dualistic pulls of daily experiences. Detached involvement in work is the key  to mental equanimity or the state of nirdwanda. This attitude leads to a  stage where the worker begins to feel the presence of the Supreme Intelligence  guiding the empirical individual intelligence. Such de-personified intelligence  is best suited for those who sincerely believe in the supremacy of organizational  goals as compared to narrow personal success and achievement.

Receive Site Updates