The Indian Ethos to Management

(A review and a commentary of the book on “Conversations on the Remaking of Managers” by Dr. Daniel Albuquerque and Dr. Subhash Sharma, IBA Publications, with suggestions for implementation.)

Our modern seers of India like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda have repeatedly emphasised that for building a new India, we have to rediscover the vision, values, ideals and methods of our ancient Indian seers who have built the Indian Civilisation on spiritual principles and reformulate and reapply these principles for building a glorious future for India.  This has to be done in every activity of life – culture, society, politics, business, management, philosophy, art, literature, science, technology, and environment.  This book under review by Daniel Albuquerque and Dr. Subhash Sharma is a quest in this direction in the field of business and management – towards an Indian ethos to Management.

Dr. Subhash Sharma is an accomplished scholar and educator in management and an institution builder.  Through his books and scientific papers he has established a distinct identity for Indian Management Education.  Dr. Daniel Albuquerque is a student of economics, literature and philosophy.  He has a doctorate from The Julius Maximilian University, Würzburg, Germany, a member of the Franz Brentano Research Centre of the same University and a visiting professor at the Friedrich Schiller University, Jena, Germany.  His experience spans across academic, corporate, political and cultural fields both in India and abroad.

Towards Indian Synthesis:

The entire book was in the form of a conversation between the authors Subhash and Daniel and covers subjects very relevant to the present condition and future potentialities of management and development like harmonising material and spiritual heritage, holistic economic development, environment and sustainable development, enlightened corporate citizen, leader as seer, seat of wisdom.  The authors present many interesting ideas, theories, models and formulas based on the Indian ethos to management.

In the first chapter, “Initiation to Intuition” the authors quote a striking and beautiful passage from Albert Einstein.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Subhash and Daniel state, “the West relies on analytic thought and East depends upon synthetic reflection.  The very word ‘Darshan’ for philosophy implies intuition or ‘Direct perception’ of the truth”.  They sum up their philosophy in terms of three principles:

1. A synthesis of the spiritual values and the scientific achievements of the East and West.

2. Management as a combination of the rational-analytic and intuitive holistic approaches based on the equation: Wisdom = Reason + Intuition.

3. Holistic development of an individual through a balance of five aspects viz. Physical, practical, aesthetic, moral and intellectual.  A blending of traditional and modernity rooted in Indian ethos.

The authors of this book conceive the aim of Indian ethos to management as “self-evolution into a cosmic being” and the process or path to it as “from the outer to the inner, from the natural to the supernatural, from the conscious to the spiritual consciousness.”  In the chapter on environment and sustainable development, “Mother Earth and Her Tenets,” the authors conceive a path of integration of Ethics, Ecology, Equity and Efficiency as the aim of what they call as “Earth Shastra.”  With regard to the meaning of spirituality, Subhash states:

Spirituality is a manifestation of subtle and soft powers hidden in all human beings and even nations.  In fact, there are four powers in consonance with Body, Heart, Spirit and Hope (Higher Order Purpose of Existence)….spirituality is manifested through subtle, suprasubtle and HOPE powers”.

We, who are part of the team at SAFIM, greatly appreciate these ideas which are holistic and elevating and very much in harmony with our own thinking and the work we are doing for evolving an integral approach to management.  This book by Subhash and Daniel is a valuable contribution towards bringing the dharmic and spiritual ideals of India to Management and Human Development.

A Framework for Implementation

However, we need some kind of a blue-print for the implementation of these ideas in every activity of human life.  Here comes the importance of an Indian principle which needs to be understood, disseminated widely for an effective implementation of the Indian ethos to management or development.  This principle may be described as ”From Within Outwards,” which means whatever that needs to be realised in the outer life has to be first internalised within, in the consciousness of the people, and then flow out spontaneously in the outer life in suitable forms.  This means the primary focus or the key result area of Indian ethos will be Education and Communication, which implants the ideas deep in the consciousness of the people.

The central idea to be conveyed is the meaning of spirituality.  The concept, which needs to be communicated, is that there is a higher consciousness within every human being, which is beyond the rational mind, which can bring the highest fulfilment to human being, which is the source of all higher values and aspirations like truth, beauty, goodness, harmony, love, unity, and perfection.  It has to be conveyed that this consciousness is not something idealistic or abstract with no connection or practical implications for the world.  When this higher consciousness is awakened in human being and made to manifest in human life and the world, it can lead to the highest wellbeing and perfection of human life, in every sphere, in economics, politics, society, and business.  People have to be told that this higher consciousness knows the truth of the world better than the greatest scientific expert of the world because it knows the deepest, highest and the inner most truth of the world in its holistic totality with a clear vision of the immediate and long-term consequences of each action for the wellbeing of human life and the world, which a scientific expert may not know.

The most essential quality of this higher consciousness is unity and oneness.  This consciousness is our own universal Self where we can feel all others as part of our own self, as concretely as we feel our body as our own self.  As we become more and more open and receptive to this consciousness of oneness, we begin to feel the unity and interdependence of all life and know with deep, intuitive feeling that our own progress, wellbeing and fulfilment is closely linked and connected with the wellbeing, fulfilment and progress of all others and the larger whole of life.  This concept of spiritual unity of all being and life and its consequences for conduct, action and decision making have to be communicated with clarity in simple words, and with images, symbols and stories to make the idea tangible to feelings and sensations.

Concepts and ideas, though important, are not enough.  We must also provide the method for awakening of this higher consciousness in the individual and also in the collectivity.  This is the essence of Indian Yoga.  The main methods which are to be conveyed  are inner purification of the mind and heart from all negative thoughts and feelings like anger, jealousy, lust, violence and conversely, cultivating sattwic thoughts and feelings like kindness, generosity, benevolence, practice of inner calm, peace and silence; aesthetic refinement of mind and senses through art and music and developing the inner sensitivity for beauty and harmony in all activities of life; intuitive perception by listening to the inner guidance in silence.  Work in the spirit of Karmayoga, as an offering to the Divine without seeking for anything in return.

This is the task in the sphere of education, which is the most important work to be done for awakening the higher nature and the spiritual self in people, but this is also not enough.  There is the other part of the work of management and organisation, which is to create an outer environment favourable to the inner progress of the individual in the higher mental ethical, aesthetic and spiritual dimension – and also helps to express this inner progress in the outer life of work and action.  This work involves creating motivation systems, organisational structures and education and training programmes.

In this domain of outer organisation, we have to explore the practical implication of ancient Indian values in the modern context.  First is the Indian concept of Swadharma.  One of the basic principles of the ancient Indian social organisation is that each individual has to find an outer occupation, which is in harmony with his inborn inner nature and temperament called as Swadharma.  This principle later degenerated into the caste system, but the principle is both psychologically and logically sound.  The modern psychometric test conducted by many organisations is only a method to assess the swadharma of the individual.  We have to build methods and in the school, college, and work, by which each individual can discover his unique swadharma, talents and capacities and find an outer occupation which matches his inner constitution.

There is one more Indian idea which can be of great help in implementing the spiritual ideal; it is the concept of graded evolution through various stages called as Adhikari Bedha, which means, roughly translated, “differentiation according to fitness.”  All are not capable of living the highest spiritual ideals.  In fact, only a few have the inner moral and spiritual resources to live this higher ideals with an entire dedication and sincerity and still few have the inner capacity to realise the ideal in their consciousness.  Others have to grow towards it slowly through intermediary ideals and stages.

Every human being has to be given some basic understanding of the higher ideals and aims of life, but for practical motivation, she has to be guided through lesser ideals and progressive stages to her highest destiny.

The leadership task is to understand each individual and groups as they are in their present condition and help them to take the next higher step in evolution.  The general pattern of this evolution is from physical, vital and mental to spiritual.  Those who live predominantly in their physical or bodily consciousness remaining satisfied with the basic needs of their body have to progress towards their vital consciousness by awakening them to their vital needs for relationship, power, wealth, achievement and enjoyment, but with some ethical restraints.  Similarly, those live in the vital consciousness driven by the need for power, wealth, achievement have to be awakened to the mental ideals of truth and knowledge, beauty, harmony and unity, love, compassion and kindness.  For those who have attained the heights of mental development and live in their well-developed intellectual, ethical or aesthetic being have to be awakened by their highest spiritual aims.

M.S.Srinivasan

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