GHHF Speech at World Hindu Economic Forum
(This is an expanded version of the ideas presented at WHEF)
April 27, 2013
M. Brieux, a member of the French Academy, writes: "The noble minds of India, without having had the necessity of having recourse to experimental science like us, discovered the truths which we discover after them. By the unaided power of meditation, they have given an explanation of the universe which appeared ridiculous to us for a long time, but which our scholars are now beginning to accept."
It is my pleasure to share my views about the richness, glory, and grandeur of Sanatana dharma. It’s preservation by all of us will only guarantee and assure universal peaceful coexistence. Otherwise, as Arnold Toynbee said if we do not embrace the universal principle of Ahimsa, universal destruction is imminent.
Just imagine our great Maharishi’s concentration, achieved by meditation and yoga, could dissect every conceivable aspect of the entire universe with no scientific tools or laboratories, such as, the origin of cosmos, trigonometry, algebra, mathematics, biology, chemistry, calculus, human anatomy, physics, engineering, technology, medicine, dentistry, time scales, speed of light, and so on. It is difficult to find a subject that has not been pondered, deliberated, contemplated, investigated, dissected, and probed. They have done it through their power of concentration and laser like focus. Hindu mind is ingenious, inventive, imaginative, creative and inspirational. It is known as Yogic mind, Dharmic mind, Atmic mind, Vedantic Mind, etc. Hindu mind invented zero and calculated the Phi. It penetrated into every nook and corner of the cosmos. Nothing is left out. Not only the Hindu mind analyzed them but they have done with accuracy that surprises the most modern scientists. The late astrophysicist Carl Sagan (1980) noted that "Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of births and deaths. It is the only religion in which the time cycles correspond, no doubt by accident, to those of modern scientific cosmology. It’s cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long, longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still."
Hindus have always been independent thinkers. Thousands of centuries ago they exercised their freedom to explore, expand, and travel to areas that are unknown to even the present modern scientist. And this is the mind you have inherited. You need to be the champions of this freedom to move forward and help the human race to live in peace and prosperity, not fear, terror and torture.
Unlike other faiths, there is no conflict between religion and science. Our sages have integrated them to support each other, reinforce each other and sustain each other. They are in perfect harmony in the mind of a Hindu laboratory. Sanatana dharma is the only religion that is not afraid of science. No body has disapproved what our Rishis have written in our scriptures. In fact we encourage all the scientists in any field to conduct research knowing fully well that they will establish the hegemony of Hindu mind. T. S Elliot rightly observed when he said: "Indian Philosophers' subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys.” Hindu mind has always pushed every conceivable idea and every known theory to the ultimate with no inhibitions or no dictums or restrictions from the higher authorities. Sister Nivedita observed that “For the fully developed and focused mind, there could be nothing hidden. Like a search light or an X-ray, it should pierce the densest veil of matter. It should be able to penetrate into the heart of all things, above all into the nature and constitution of man himself. The perfect scientist must be a SEER.”
The whole Hindu philosophy is rich with ideas that enhance skills, talents, capabilities, management, and other abilities. Hinduism is not exclusive; it is always inclusive. Every thing in the universe is related and interrelated. There is harmony in the cosmos. Vedanta takes to a level where you will find unity, perfection, purity, and synthesis. Hindu scriptures are replete with many examples where we can find solutions for every conceivable problem.
ADVISE TO BUSINESS MEN
What is it that our Sanatana dharma can offer to somebody who is engaged in business and/or planning to enter a new business venture. On a daily basis we realize the sacrifices we have to make, stresses we have to go through, the competition we have to face, collision of personal morality with corporate ethics we experience, family obligations, burn out syndrome, anxiety to reach the goals of the corporations, perpetual demands to meet the expectations of the stockholders, and many other issues. Fortunately, our scriptures have delved into all these issues and gave many means to maintain sanity in the insane society. Following are some of the ideas that business people may consider for proper direction, guidance, wisdom and insight in the business management.
1) Follow Purusharthas
For millennia, Hindu philosophers have always talked about four purusharthas that synthesize the various dimensions of human existence. Our scholars have always been interested in understanding the unity of things rather than separation and exclusivity. They were trying to tie up the social, economic, emotional and spiritual life. These four ideals are Dharma (righteousness, morals), Artha (economics), Kama (desires, emotions) and Moksha (spiritual). Integration of all four would lead to the all round development of human personality and social uplift.
Dharma is described as the universal principle of law, order, harmony, all in all truth. In Shanti Parva, Vidura said that dharma constitutes study of the various scriptures, asceticism, gifting, faith, performance of sacrifices, forgiveness, sincerity, compassion, truth, and self-restraint. Bhishma says whatever creates conflict is Adharma, and whatever brings about unity, integration and harmony is Dharma. Anything that helps to unite all and develop pure divine love and universal brotherhood is Dharma. Anything that creates discord, split and disharmony and foments hatred is Adharma.
Artha (wealth) is seen as a means to the attainment of Moksha. The objects of the world need not necessarily be evil or wrong. It is evil only to the unwise but not to the wise. Kathopanishad says “No man can be made happy by wealth.” It is used for the sustenance of the society. Need for social welfare is appreciated while greed is apprehended. Wealth should not be craved, coveted. Tiruvalluvar says, “Those who desire to be happy in the real sense, do not turn to what is not legitimate, which at the most can give but transient pleasure.” Greed should not be allowed to dictate business or profession.
Kama means desire, wish, passion, longing, pleasure of the senses, aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, and love. Desires are essential and the driving force of creativity and progress. Upanishads say that God himself desired first when He said “Let me be many.” Discretion or discrimination is essential to make a difference between false desires and true desires. Dr. S. Radkakrishan rightly observed: “Kama, which we are asked to renounce, is not desire as such, but only the animal desire, lust, the impulsive craving of the brute man. Freedom from Kama is enjoined, but this is not blank passivity.”
One's desires (kamas) in this lifetime need to be fulfilled without harming anyone in the process. For a person to evolve spiritually and to attain Moksha, desires need to be either fulfilled or sublimated. Any person who is engaged in Grihastha ashram, suppressing of desires is certainly not recommended since it can erupt unpredictably causing undesirable consequences. As one starts fulfilling his desires consistent with certain ethical standards over a period of time, one will be able to subjugate them.
Ekam (oneness) is emphasized among these four Purusharthas. The objective of each of the four Purushardhas is not to examine them as independent entities. They support each other. They are mutually interdependent.
2) Sakama vs Nishkama
A well-known verse from Bhagavad Gita describing a concept in Sakama Karma is explained as follows:
“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (II:47)
Bhagavad Gita teaches us to act and work for humanity, not for oneself. The spirit of nishkama-karma is to remain free from attachment to the fruits of one’s actions.
The wisdom, virtues, character and fundamental truths espoused in our scriptures are eternally guiding man to work for the welfare of human existence. It is selfless action. Motives behind this principle are passion, detachment, and mindfulness. Duty for the sake of duty is its essential component that should lead one to calmness, serenity, tranquility and equanimity. It is more like to Sattva guna (quality of purity). Here we are beckoned to learn from all the Pancha bhutas – air, water, earth, fire, ether – sun, moon, trees, and mountains in fulfilling their appointed duty with no expectations. It is all giving, providing, rendering, and offering; not getting only. Happiness and fulfillment are achieved through giving.
Sakama Karma means doing with some purpose in mind. Attachment to the results such as profit, success, name, fame, power, control and excel become pivotal in discharging Sakama Karma. Motive for Sakama karma is motivation for results. Rajasic Guna (aggressive, deliberate, result oriented) predominates this principle.
The difference between the two is that Sakama is done because of motivation, incentive, reward, and expectation of fruits while Nishkama is done by inspiration, passion, vision, and spirituality.
3) Sthitha pragnatha (equanimity)
By nature, man is always steady in wisdom. Because of the multitude of desires and the pressures imposed on him, he does not realize his calmness, stableness in wisdom. When he subdues his desires and chooses the desires that are manageable, he realizes his true real nature. One has to make every effort to concentrate on controlling his mind. Bhagavad Gita says, “Mind is restless, forceful and strong, O Krishna, it is more difficult to control the mind than to control the wind.” One who is able to control the mind is considered Sthitha pragna. “One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.” (II:56)
In any business, steady, balanced, calm, composed and stable mind is very important. It gives proper perspective to focus on making the right decision. Decisions can be made easily with this kind of mind set. Anxiety, fear, wavering mind, ego, jealousy and greed cloud our thinking and affect our wrong decisions. One has to be guarded against external influences and be cognizant of them before decisions are made.
Sthitha pragna helps one to balance between morals that are individual centered and ethics that are group (society, group, corporation) centered. Naturally a businessman encounters a conflict between individual morality and corporate ethics. The Corporate greed, bypassing it’s own ethical compass, may demand the employees to choose between a stressful, nerve-racking, and demanding work ethic, and family responsibility seen as moral obligations to spouse and children.
In every organization there are some outstanding performers, be it in research, manufacturing, sales or support. If you are aspiring to emulate that performance it is best to study that person’s behavior and be able to replicate his success. It is such that even the great warrior Arjuna was keen to know the true nature of a being and hence asked a question regarding Sthitha pragnatha to Lord Shri Krishna.
4) Yoga / Meditation
Yoga / Meditation are the panacea for all the stress, anxiety, tensions and pressures of day to day work. It is very difficult to understand the workings of mind. In one of the scriptures it is stated that it is easier to go all the way to the sky, fold it and bring back to the earth than understand the mind. Mind becomes agitated, aggrandized, tensed up, impatient, restless and listless. Our Rishis have understood the nature of mind and devised a plan to bring quietude, calmness and tranquility.
Yoga and meditation have helped millions of people across the globe. Patanjali Yoga Sutra has brought revolution in the way we can bring the wild mind under subjugation. It says “yogashcitta-vrtti-nirodah.” That means yoga is the cessation of fluctuations created by the subconscious mind. Meditation helps one to focus on a given task allowing us to exclude all kinds of non-relevant thoughts, ideas, tasks, and responsibilities. Much research has been done all across the globe that has provided enough evidence for all of us to enjoy the fruits of meditation. Businessmen, athletes, actresses, TV personalities, coaches, and celebrities, are reaping the benefits of doing yoga and mediation. Research has shown that mediation reduces the anxiety level, stress and tension, heart disease, and enhances the performance levels, builds confidence levels, increases concentration, enhances the energy and vigor level, and improves general health resulting in overall peace and calmness.
Many CEOs have stressful jobs creating physical, mental and health problems. Now there is trend for many business people to embrace mediation to find solace and also introduce meditation to their employees. The CEO’s who practice mediation include Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, Marc Menioff of Salesforce.com, Andrew Cherng of Panda Express, Bob Shapiro of Monsanto, Bill George of Medtronic, Russell Simmons of Def Jam, Opra Winfrey, Roger Berkowitz of Legal Sea Foods, Robert Stiller of Green Mountain Coffee Roaster, Ramani Iyer of The Hartford Financial Group, Steve Rubin of United Fuels International, Nancy Slomowitz of Executive Management Associates, Marnie Abramson of Tower Companies, and Rick Goings of Tupperware.
CEO’s comments on the usefulness of Meditation include, “it burns off stress and gives me fresh eyes to clarify what’s really going on and what really matters”; “a TM course for your employees is probably the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way of getting more out of your workers than you could ever imagine,” "TM produced tangible, practical benefits in both their professional and personal lives,” “The workplace environment soon grew from toxic to harmonious among other positive changes. And surprisingly, the company’s cost of healthcare insurance actually went down due to a reduction in sickness claims.” “I have the mental clarity and alertness for both laser-like focus on the details as well as broad comprehension.” “It has demonstrably reduced my stress and helped to maintain my good health, and has immeasurably benefited my family and business relationships. Importantly, it has helped me to make clearer, more effective decisions on the job.” “Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks.”' “I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes, closing my eyes, clearing my mind, and repeating my mantra until I'm in a semiconscious state. Sometimes, I'm wrestling with an issue before meditation, and afterward the answer is suddenly clear.” “I enjoy meditation, which I've been doing for over a decade — probably to help relieve the stress I was going through when I was working at Oracle."
5) Chanakya’s Artha shastra and Business Model
It is amazing to know that Arthashastra was written by Chanakya advising King Chandragupta Maurya as to how to rule the kingdom. What was suggested at the time is as relevant today as it was 24 centuries ago. Many of his ideas can serve as guide for any business to establish themselves by preserving the integrity, honesty, and solidarity of the Company. He advised the King to rule the kingdom with clear vision, broad mission and proper motivation. The objectives to rule the kingdom are acquisition of wealth, consolidation of what is acquired, expansion of the wealth and enjoyment of what is acquired. He also advised the king to avoid the six emotional evils identified as lust, anger, greed, vanity, arrogance, and overjoy.
Chanakya observed that, “The king, the minister, the country, the fortified city, the treasury, the army, and ally are the constituent elements of the state.” A closer look at the sentence can be applied to the modern business management. There are seven pillars that establish the business. The King is like a Founder or CEO who is a trail blazer with vision and a mission to achieve the envisioned goals; the minister is like the Manager of the company who is on the go to execute the plans; the country is like the market that provides the revenue for the operation of the firm; the fortified city is like head office where all major decisions are made based on the perceived demands from the market; the treasury is the financial hub and the heart of financial organization; army is like team members consisting of skilled people, salesmen, and wide variety of people with diverse talents; and the ally is like consultants and confidants who can be counted on when the problems occur in the market.
6) Bhishma on the Characteristics of a Minister (Manager)
Bhishma in Mahabharata expounded a detailed and lengthy discourse of Raja Dharma (code of conduct for Kings). Lord Krishna and all the Pandavas went to see Bhishma who was lying on the bed of arrows waiting to close his eyes at the commencement of Uttarayana. After hearing the essential nature of Raja Dharma, Yudhishtira asked thus: “O Grandsire Bhishma! What are the qualities and characteristics of a Minister?”
Bhishma said that a Minister should possess the following characteristics.
- He shall be wise
- He shall have friendly relations with citizens
- He must be a good administrator
- He must possess vigor and valor
- He shall be of clean mind without any cruelty
- He shall have love and affection towards King
- He should regard pleasures and sorrows equally
- He shall not spare any effort in discharging his duties
- Even if the King accuses him, scolds him with anger, he shall remain peaceful and keep good relations with King till the King realizes his mistake. He must be capable of explaining the truth, tactfully and patiently to the King
- He shall not disclose his faults to the enemies and shall always find faults of enemies
A person with the above qualities alone is entitled to be a Minister. The King also shall show respect towards such Ministers.
Every businessman should learn some of these salient features to be successful in business. These characteristics are applicable to all the CEO, CCO, and any body in any Managerial positions if they have to be successful in managing any business operations.
7) Business Sutras from Mahabharata and Ramayana
Devdutt Pattanaik’s book, “Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management”, describes the relevance of so many stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other scriptures to be successful in Business. He usedstories, symbols and rituals drawn from Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology to understand a wide variety of business situations that range from running a successful tea stall to nurturing talent in a large multinational corporation… If we believe that wealth needs to be chased, the workplace becomes a rana-bhoomi - a battleground of investors, regulators, employers, employees, vendors, competitors and customers; if we believe that wealth needs to be attracted, the workplace becomes a ranga-bhoomi - a playground where everyone is happy. Business Sutra presents a radical and nuanced approach to management, business and leadership in a diverse, fast-changing, and increasingly polarized world.”
Many myths, stories, images and symbols that we have heard, read, and seen leave permanent imprints on our minds and impact our way of thinking and influence our decision making process whether it is in business or in family life. Since business is about peopleand their needs, we have to pay attention to their thought process and their cultural background.Businesses should balance the wealth (Lakshmi), emotions and power (Durga) and knowledge and wisdom (Saraswati). Any time we concentrate only on wealth and concentrate on targets without due consideration for the emotions and knowledge; businesses will run into hardships. Hindu scriptures provide enough resource material to dive deep into the ocean of knowledge to guide the businesses as well private life.
Charity is an essential component of Hindus
Kabir (c1398-1470), one of the great mystics and critics of religion and morality, challenges human beings saying: “You came into this world with fists closed and you go away with open palms. So even while living stretch your hand open and give liberally.” (muttibandhe aye jagat me hat phasarejaogebhai).
Hindu scriptures talk about Dana (charity, giving) as an important method for purifying one’s own the quality of life, building up the good karma for this and next life, and providing service to the upliftment of community. We should be sensitive to the extensive poverty that is gripping India, sympathize with the human sufferings and social injustice and provide services to the needy. Let us commit ourselves to provide certain percentage of our wealth to reduce suffering of the less fortunate.
The Taittiriya Upanisad says: “Give. Give with faith. Do not give without faith. Give with sensitivity. Give with a feeling of abundance. Give with right understanding.”
Mahabharata gives detailed instructions as to how one should gift such items as food, water, clothing, shelter, knowledge, skills, money, silver, gold, cows,and land. Detailed instructions as to the appropriate occasions, appropriate individuals and suitable places the gifts should be donated.
Ishavasya Upanishad clearly states “Every one is only a trustee or custodian for the wealth lying with oneself; he cannot enjoy all of it.” Manusmruti states that it is people’s obligation to share with others whatever they possess. In fact the best help is the one that is given to strangers where there is no reciprocity.
Rig Veda: “Bounteous is he who gives unto the beggar who comes to him in want of food and feeble. Success attends him in the shout of battle. He makes a friend of him in future troubles. (10:117:3) Let the rich satisfy the poor implorer, and bend his eye upon a longer pathway. Riches come now to one, now to another, and like the wheels of cars are ever rolling. (10:117:5)
Many Hindu businessmen, politicians and ordinary individuals have donated large sums of money for the construction and maintenance of numerous educational institutions, Kalyana Mantapas, hospitals, Temples, Annadana facilities and other activities. Some have started a number of departments in educational institutions and built buildings in memory of their beloved ones in a number of places. Many Ashrams, Dharmasalas and spiritual leaders have always provided similar facilities along with needed help for the poor villages, handicapped people, poor women, and others.
The philanthropic contributions by Hindu business are believed to be insignificant in comparison to their wealth. According to the 2012 Forbes list, the wealth of the 100 wealthiest Indians is around $ 250 billion---13.89% of India’s GDP. But, according to the estimates of a 2010 report of Bain Company, the charitable donations of Indians is only 0.6% to 1% of the GDP, when the charitable contribution of Americans is around 2.2% of the GDP.” (Shanu Athiparambath)
Either fortunately or unfortunately, they have never started any Departments of Hindu Studies in any of the Universities in USA like other religious people who have started religious departments to propagate their religions. “A part of the philanthropic donations in India is to institutions abroad, like the universities and think-tanks. This is partly for visibility. But, many of them have studied abroad, and feel indebted to their alma mater.” Bibek Debroy says that their contributions to their homeland do not match their foreign donations. The concept of Nishkama Karma has been either absent or taken back seat.
Tata Group: It is appropriate to remember the charitable work of Tata (Philanthropic) Trusts, which have sponsored and promoted a variety of public institutions of excellence including hospitals, education and research centers, and scientific and cultural establishments. It is befitting to highlight the core values Tata group followed in conducting their business enterprises.
All the budding Hindu businessmen should ponder to emulate these values to be valuable members of a society they live in. They are:
1) Integrity to conduct business fairly, honestly and openly
2) Understanding to show respect, compassion and humanity for colleagues and customers
3) Excellenceto achieve the highest possible standards in the quality of goods and services they provide
4) Unity to work cohesively with colleagues, customers and partners
5) Responsibility to be responsible to the communities and environments in which they work, always give back what is acquired
These five core values are emphasized in all our scriptures. All Business people should embrace similar core values to enshrine the richness of eternal values that have filled the Hindu sacred landscape. Hinduism provides a rich framework within which the dimensions of business and business ethics find their own traction around the world.
Many Hindu businessmen do not take pride even in calling themselves as Hindus and talk about the richness, glory and grandeur of their faith. All of you who have assembled here should serve as role models, champions, warriors, guardians, protectors and practitioners as you succeed in your respective businesses. You should start the revival of Hinduism by providing necessary means to transmit our Hinduism to the next generation, create pride, and the freedom we are enjoying before it is gone. Be cognizant of the government policies that undermine Hinduism, destroy Hindu Temples, denigrate Hindu Gods, and insult Hindu sentiments.
It is my earnest request to all those who are attending this brain storming session of World Hindu Business Forum in Dallas to stand up for the preservation of our Sanatana dharma, stand by our scriptures to achieve the universal peaceful existence, stand with people and organizations that are working relentlessly for establishing Hindu Rashtra and stand tall with our morals and ethics that guide our Hindu edifice, and stand for independence, freedom and intellectual mind.
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