In today’s modern world, every step is guided by modern managerial precepts. Management guides all subjects, whether it is finance and banking, the corporate sector, the manufacturing industry, the military and agriculture, the vast engineering field, or health services. We have recently seen how poor management practises have caused chaos all over the world.
The Western management philosophy is based on the allure of materialism and a perpetual thirst for profit, regardless of the quality of the means used to achieve that goal. This phenomenon stems from the West’s abundant wealth, and as a result,’ management by materialism’ has piqued the interest of all countries around the world, including India.
India, has been at the forefront of importing these ideas, owing to centuries of in doctrination by colonial rulers, who instilled in us the belief that anything Western is superior and anything Indian is inferior.
As a result, despite large sums of money being invested in the construction of temples of modern management education, no discernible changes in the general quality of life are visible, despite the fact that the living standards of a few have risen.
The same old struggles in almost every sector of the economy, criminalisation of institutions, social violence, exploitation, and other vices are visible deep within society.
The term Veda itself is derived from the root ‘vid’. It means both to know and to obtain or to attain. The Vedas are the most ancient literature of mankind. Vedic stanzas are called mantras. Vedic culture is the indigenous culture of India.
It is not merely a code of religion, but a way of life with something for anyone, regardless of what level of consciousness or inquiry into spiritual truths a person may have. Vedic culture is trillions of years old.
The Vedic management system as elaborated in the Vedas and Upanishads is a normative system. It is a decentralized system integrated by Riti and Dharma. In the first stage of the Vedic system, Indian culture was focussed outward and had its foundations in the views on the mind and the physical human being. During this period, there was a natural faith in objects which were physical, could be sensed, could be seen, had a concrete presence and represented the external pursuits and aims of a material world.
In mediating between the spirit and the human mentality, the people of this early civilization focussed on external physical things such as symbols, rites and figures.
Vedic religion recognized great living powers and godheads behind the manifestations of Nature. Though the inner truth of the godheads was not known, individuals worshipped them. During this period, God was viewed as a divine force which sustains and directs life. Another central feature of the Vedic religion was the act and ritual of physical sacrifice, based on the notion of a constant interchange between the individual and the universal powers of the cosmos as the main driver of Nature’s actions.
The primary thought in the Vedas is a mystical conception of the universe. The whole effort of the Veda is directed towards one goal ~ to achieve union of the individual Self (Atman) with the world Self (Brahma).
Vedic literature provides the spiritual knowledge and instructions for assisting all living beings in their material and spiritual development and understanding. According to Peter Drucker, while management is a discipline ~ that is an organized body of knowledge and as such applicable everywhere ~ it is also a culture. Management is a social function and embedded in a culture, a society, a tradition of values, customs, and beliefs, and in governmental and political systems.
The Vedas radiated the light that illuminated the world by teaching those universal, eternal truths and principles that help mankind to realise the nature and correlation of God with the soul and the creation.
Through Upanishads, the Vedanta seeks to know the ultimate reality (Brahman) and the cause behind everything. In this pursuit it seeks to detach from the “Maya” and the material world and unite with Brahman (God or supreme consciousness). The Bhagwad Gita is a poem which depicts lessons on spirituality and ethics through a dialogue between Lord Krishna and the warrior Arjuna who faced a great crisis in his life.
The Ramayana depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king. According to Patanjali, Yoga is the control of the modifications of the mind. It is the mind that leads to liberation; that most human problems are mental and that the only remedy to solve them is mental discipline.
In Sanskrit, Veda means, ‘To Know’. The application of Vedic wisdom is natural strength, which is the religion or the code of discipline for humanity at large, without any exception of cast, creed, and country. In the Vedas, a definite outlook towards life is given.
There are prayers for worldly things. Besides, there are prayers for higher things. The Gayatri mantra is an example of this approach to life. Vedic culture is a very dynamic, living, breathing reality.
The Indian ethos has a very rich tradition which is more than five thousand years old as against the modern management principles which are at a stage of relative infancy.
The Bhagwad Gita is the most systematic statement of spiritual evolution of endowing value to mankind. It is one of the clearest and most comprehensive summaries of the spiritual thoughts ever to have been made. Gita offers counterintuitive ideas on work issues.
The axioms of work proposed in the Gita are also relevant in modern management style. The Veda has a twofold interest: It belongs to the history of the world and to the history of India.
In the history of the world, the Veda fills a gap which no literary work in any other language could fill. The Vedas contain injunctions for ensuring wellbeing in this world and the world to come. It guides the actions of a person from the moment of the birth to the moment of death and thereafter to ensure his salvation.
Organization and management systems have been there since the beginning of human society. As globalization takes place and the problems of management, whether in government systems or commercial undertakings, have not to be multinational but also multicultural, the need to study other cultures arises.
The roots of human motivation lay in cultural values so a study of management principles that flow from there are a prerequisite for a globalized management system. Management is about making these exchanges efficient and effective.
When there are decent exchanges, relationships thrive, and society prospers. That is the direction in which the first hymn of the Veda takes us. Fredrick Winslow Taylor and Henri Fayol are two persons who have shaped management as a subject taught in most business schools today. Taylor focused on task while Fayol was more concerned about managing people. But the Vedic view of life is based on the idea that man is an integral part of the global family ~ Vasudhaevakutumbakam.
Also, the law of Karma (causation) is heralded as a law of nature. It suggests that every action of an individual leads to set consequences. Therefore, it also offers a path for peaceful coexistence. This path is called Karma Yoga.
Vedic wisdom fosters the idea of integrating ethics, awareness, responsible behaviour, and good governance in management education through experiential learning, mentoring, dialogues, spiritual discipline, cognitive learning, observation, and reflection.
We as Indians suffered a heavy loss economically, socially and spiritually owing to ignorance of our great Vedic literature. It is time to put our focus back on Vedic knowledge so that our youngsters grow on all fronts especially research, development, skills and knowledge building to make India great again and lead the world with balanced growth.
(The writer is associated with Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management, Kolkata)