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Spirituality, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

(There is a higher spiritual dimension to sustainability and corporate responsibility. This article brings out this higher dimension in the concept of ‘sustainable evolution’.)

Our Sustainable Evolution

‘Sustainability’ has become a catchword in contemporary thought. According to present understanding, in simple terms, sustainability means to attune human life with the laws of Nature in such a way that it leads to sustainable economic development. However, we need a deeper and broader understanding of sustainability based on a better understanding of Man and Nature. Here comes the role of spirituality and the spiritual vision of ancient and modern seers in steering our sustainable development. According to this spiritual vision, neither human nor Nature is entirely physical. The human organism is multidimensional, made of physical, psychological and spiritual energies, which are in turn derived from corresponding dimensions in universal Nature; or in other words, for our sustainable evolution we need a greater ecology which can help us to attune our outer life not only with the laws of outer physical Nature but also to synchronize our inner being with the laws of the psychological and spiritual dimensions of Nature. This cannot be done entirely by the scientific and rational mind. We must have the spiritual intuition of the seer and the sage. If we do not have it, we have to draw upon the spiritual wisdom of the past and the present seers, and based on it use our scientific, rational and pragmatic mind to arrive at a feasible framework of thought and practice.

Here comes the importance of the ethical and spiritual principles and practices discovered by the spiritual traditions of the world, especially the Indian spirituality and the great science of yoga. What else are modern ecological practices such as recycling to our physical sustainability or the path of yoga is to our psychological and spiritual sustainability? In this spiritual perspective, we have to replace the term ‘sustainable development’ by the term ‘sustainable evolution’. In modern thought, the term ‘development’ is associated with economic and social development. But economic and social development, even when it is pursued with ecological principles, is not sufficient to steer the evolution of human race and our planet to our higher and future destiny. The prophetic insights of evolutionary thinkers such as Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin indicate that the future evolution of our race lies not in the material, economic or even the ecological domain but in the moral, psychological and spiritual realms. This requires a rethinking of the aims of development, which is already happening.

The New Thinking

One of the most forceful exponents of this new thinking in economics is the Swedish economists E. F. Schumacher. In his well-known and influential book Small Is Beautiful, Schumacher presents a powerful critique of the traditional paradigms of development based on endless material growth and consumption. He calls modern humanity to return to the eternal values of truth, beauty and goodness and to Buddhist economics which aims at ‘maximum well-being with minimum consumption’ and a work culture where there is less toil for acquiring more and more material wealth and as a result ‘more time and strength is left for artistic creativity’.1

Commenting on the biblical passage “Seek first the kingdom of God, all else will be added on to you”, Schumacher argues that the modern humanity, afflicted with maladies like ‘terrorism, genocide, breakdown, pollution, exhaustion’, is in such a condition that “unless you seek first the kingdom of God, these other thinks which you need will cease to be available to you”. In the concluding paragraph of his book, Schumacher delivers the following message to modern humanity:

“The type of realism which behaves as if the good, the true, beautiful were too vague and subjective to be adapted as the highest aims of social and individual life or the automatic spin-offs of the successful pursuit of wealth and power, has been aptly called ‘crack-pot realism’… People ask ‘What can I actually do’. The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting; we can each of us, work to put our own inner house in order.  The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology—but it can be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind.”2


In the field of environment also many thinkers have come to a more or less same conclusion as Schumacher. One of them is Dr. Maurice Strong, a former chief of the UN Environmental Agency, who states:

“We desperately need a new body of ideas, a new synthesis. This must centre on the need for a new attitude towards growth…. It will require a major transition to a less physical kind of growth, relatively less demanding of energy and raw materials. It will be one, which is based on an increasing degree on the satisfaction of people’s intellectual, moral and spiritual needs and aspirations in such fields as culture, music, art, literature and other forms of individual self-development and fulfilment. These are the areas in which man can achieve his highest level of growth in human terms.”3

This means priorities of sustainable development have to shift from material, economic and ecological sustainability to psychological and spiritual sustainability. This requires a human development and organizational strategy based on the principles of yoga. But there is much misunderstanding on the meaning of yoga. The popular understanding of yoga tends to equate yoga with the asanas of Hatha Yoga, but the asanas are a very secondary and physical aspect of yoga. The true meaning and principle of yoga may be described as ‘growth of conscious through accelerated inner evolution’. Yoga speeds up the inner progress of the individual through a focused concentration of the psychological energies in the human being. The principles of yoga can also be applied to the inner development of the collective, which has not been done so far in the history of humanity, but it can be an important part of the evolutionary experiments of the future.

The Law of Oneness: Spiritual Source of Our Sustainability

As we grow in consciousness through the path of yoga, one day we will rediscover the greatest ecological principle discovered by Indian seers—‘unity of life’ and ‘oneness of all existence’. Modern science has discovered this unity in the form of connectedness and interdependence of things at the physical level—new physics at the subatomic level and modern ecology at the biological or macro level in physical Nature. Indian seers perceived this in its essence as a Unity of Consciousness pervading all the levels of creation—physical, vital, mental and spiritual.

In our individual human existence we can feel this unity in our own highest self beyond our mind, where we can experience all others and all creation as part of our own self, as concretely as we feel our body as our own self. This is our highest spiritual destiny and to make our whole life and every activity of our life into a conscious and progressive journey towards this Unity of Consciousness is the aim of yoga and the path of evolutionary sustainability.

In this spiritual perspective corporate social responsibility has to be based on this perception of the Unity of Consciousness and the connectedness and interdependence of all life. In practical terms, it means our individual well-being is dependent on the well-being of all others and the well-being of the larger whole of life. An act of goodness which brings wellness to others returns upon me, enhancing my own wellness because I am one with all others. Similarly an act of exploitation or violence also returns upon me with painful consequences. The other aspect of corporate responsibility is towards the people who work in the organization. A company which looks towards the future has to regard their higher evolution towards their ‘Self of Unity’ as a part of their corporate responsibility and create an outer environment favourable to this evolution.


  1. E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, Harper Perennial: New York (1973/2010), pp. 44–52.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Maurice Strong, ‘New Growth Model’, in Ritchie Calder (ed.), Future of a Troubled World, Heinemann, London, 1983, p. 141.

M. S. Srinivasan




Into Great Depth of Your Being by Arul Dev

I got familiar with the author and the draft content of the book, when I attended his course on Self Awareness. Mr. Arul Dev teaches in a style that is personal and lively. He emphasizes on experiential knowledge as opposed to rote learning. Today, I am delighted to have received a copy of the book Into Great Depth of Your Being, and feel honoured to write a few words about it.

The book opens with an understanding of our ‘Being’ – physical, life energy, mind and deeper Self. The author states that “The goal of this book is to touch and nourish your ‘being’ layer”. The first half of the book deals with the following: a) Development of the physical – body and habits, b) Purification of the sensory experiences, c) Harnessing of the dynamic energy in a healthy way, d) Emotional development by caring, giving and connecting. These can be treated as the initial steps for the development of ourselves, young and elderly alike.

The second half of the book covers the subtler aspects: a) Enhancement of the objective mind, to speak words and collate data based on awareness, b) Nurturing creativity and imagination, c) Synthesis of pure mind that aspires for the truth, d) Connecting with the deeper Self – the ‘embodiment of the Divine Presence’.

The book is written in a lucid language, which reflects the erudition of the author, his capacity to communicate with the reader and his service towards holistic education for the students and professionals. There are nice anecdotes with which the reader can associate in her/his personal and professional lives. Aspects of life skills such as time management, communication skills, development of concentration, problem solving ability, relationships, have been deftly handled. The art of learning by practicing and teaching are nicely indicated. Without being dogmatic, the book directs us towards our spiritual growth in a unique way. The author emphasizes Sadhana as the daily practice for the development of our ‘Being’.

Amlan K. Sengupta


Department of Civil Engineering

Indian Institute of Technology Madras.




Spirituality at Work—A Review by Arul Dev

Spirituality at Work is an opportunity to connect with, reflect upon and integrate within the kernel truth of the Gita and apply its insights in our work and action, in modern and post-modern times. The book has a clear preference for the higher aspects of the spirit, for example—ego-transcendence, freedom from desire, developing equipoise and one-pointed concentration. The focus is to locate and identify the Divine indweller within the cave of the heart and to maintain this inner contact while engaging in liberated action. The invitation is to experience true fulfillment by living a life based on one’s inner nature and calling. The objective of the book is to enable the reader to bring forth the Divine within him or her.

Sufficient purification and transcendence has been emphasized in the first portion of this book. A comprehensive knowledge of various insights to guide us in our spiritual journey has been gleaned from the Gita and shared. The mid portion of the book aptly focuses on the devotional element. It discusses the path of remembering and offering all of our work and actions to the Divine—within and without. This has been described as the yagna and is pointed as an inner attitude to uphold in our work. The later portion of the book explores deeply into the three fundamental qualities or gunas—tamas, rajas and sattva that we all possess. It describes their nature, explores nuances of their interplay and provides a psychometric guna chart, to understand and transform our gunas. The book then helps us to dwell on the higher nature of soul forces, the Mahashaktis—integral knowledge and wisdom, courageous strength and power, harmonious prosperity and enjoyment, and devoted service and perfection. By increasing the living connection with our soul forces, the opportunity is for us to become an instrument and a manifestation of the Divine.

The author Devdas Menon’s voice and energy carry us forward throughout the book. His energy is gentle, wise and non-invasive, but certainly invokes something deep within the heart. It gives space for remembrance of our Divine connection and qualities and serves as an inspiration to bring forth the attitude of spirituality in our work. The book is an expression of Devdas Menon’s vision of inspiring people to raise their aspiration—from experiencing satisfaction from the lower pulls of life to experiencing true fulfillment by opening to one’s higher nature.


Resurgence of the East or the Triumph of Western Capitalism?

(What is the significance of the emerging economic resurgence of the East? This article examines this question from a deeper perspective.)

In one of its recent reports, the well-known consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) presented some interesting facts about the emerging economic power shift from West to The East. Here are some interesting details from the report:

  • The global economic order is expected to shift from advanced to emerging economics over the next few decades and by 2020 India could edge past the US to become the world’s second largest economy in terms of Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). China has already overtaken US to become the world’s largest economy in PPP terms.
  • E-7 (Emerging 7) economies, comprising Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Turkey, would grow at an annual average rate of almost 3.51 over the next 34 years compared to just 1.61 for the advanced G-7 (Group of 7) nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA.
  • Vietnam, India and Bangladesh would be three of the world’s fastest growing economies over this period. E-7 could comprise almost 50% of the world GDP by 2050 while the G-7’s share declines to only just over 20%.

Do we, Asiatics, have to be proud and happy about it? It depends on the angle at which we look at it. From one angle yes because it is perhaps the beginning of a decisive shift of the power and centre of civilization from the West to East or to be more precise, back to the East, because domination of the West is a modern phenomenon, only for the past few centuries. In the ancient world, East was the main centre of civilization for many millennia.

However, viewing the scenario from another perspective, this only means a triumphant entry of western capitalism and its values into the East, because all these new waves of prosperity in the East are the result of adopting western capitalism with some modifications to suit the unique economic and cultural flavours of eastern nations. Most of the new generation of young people in these eastern nations such as India, Korea and China are aggressively dreaming or pursuing the American/western dream of wealth, success, career and enjoying all the high-tech gadgetry and gizmos, most of which are originally invented in the West.

Our role models are an indication of our values. Today, who are the role models of most of the educated young men and women in India or China? They are Bill Gates, Jack Ma the founder of Alibaba, some Silicon Valley entrepreneur, some media or sports star. The West still dominates the East by its values.

The real shift to the East will happen only when the mental, moral and spiritual values of the East begin to govern the material and economic values of the West, and as a result there is also a shift in the role models of the future generations. The discovery of our spiritual self beyond our body, including:

  • Inner growth of life and mind through work
  • Self-expression of this inner growth in the outer life
  • Utilization of body, mind and vital as the instruments of the spiritual self
  • Mental, moral and aesthetic refinement of the mind and the heart as the preparatory discipline for the higher spiritual awakening
  • Shaping the outer life in the image of the inner values of the spirit

These are the Eastern spiritual values. When these values begin to shape, govern and dominate the world, this will be the beginning of the true Asiatic century.

When true spiritual progress happens, the present hierarchy of values and the role models will also change and the conditions will be somewhat like those that prevailed in ancient India; humanity will develop to what Sri Aurobindo describes as “spiritual man greater than the thinker and thinker greater than the man of action.” However in the future, the spiritual man may not remain apart from the world of thought and action and there may not be any clear-cut distinction between these three types of people—spiritual, thinkers and doers. The spiritual consciousness will emerge in the thinker and the man of action.

This spiritual awakening is not yet happening on a large scale in Asia. The economic resurgence of the East may be the first step but it has to be followed by the spiritual awakening, especially in countries such as India and China which have the highest spiritual potential inherent in their higher mind and soul.

M. S. Srinivasan