Hinduism and Business

Hinduism and Business

Hinduism, on its own, has no origin but has unfolded and developed through stages and is based largely on the Vedic scriptures. To reiterate, the Vedas, which are the primary scriptures this ˜-ism’ is based on, derive from the Sanskrit root ˜Vid’ meaning knowledge.


There are four Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Atharva veda. Simply put, these books of knowledge later inspired many commentaries and analyses, all of which may be found in various combinations in the Upanishads, vedantas, etc that came down the line. Contention is that thousands of years of contemplation by highly learned Rishis distilled to form these works that are considered universal in nature, as they don’t talk of a specific form of God.


Purely from an intellectual point of view, the knowledge in these books is aimed at helping foster unity between mankind and nature, so that a general atmosphere of love, peace and progress may prevail – a common refrain of almost all world religions.


Therefore, I personally make a case for the larger role that Hinduism has to play in this era of globalization as I mention in my earlier post that the Vedas are considered by a majority of scholars to be universal in nature, not alluding to any particular faith or God. The use of an ˜-ism’ could appear an irony.


Given below is a fairly well-known part of one of the several hymns in the Yajur Veda that stands for the universal nature of the concept of the Almighty:


O creator of the universe, bearer of all wealth, giver of all happiness; please take away from me all that is bad, immoral and cause of sorrow; give me all virtues, attitudes and things which are good.


With a good society and good governance as its aim, Yajur Veda lays down the responsibilities of the king/leader of the community organization thus:



The leader should shower more wealth and riches specifically on teachers, scholars, army officers, and diplomats to keep them motivated for performing better.


Considering the philosophical credit of Hinduism, it can be said to be based on the four pillars of Dharma (way of life), Artha (wealth and prosperity), Kaam (desires) and Moksha (nirvana). Further, the teachings of Vedas, Smriti (especially Manusmriti), the two epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and other religious literature have played an important part in the development of the society from every conceivable perspective.


˜Karma’ (action) is one of the salient features of Hinduism and the teaching of Gita viz.


A person has the right to do his karma but not to think of its fruits


The philosophy talks about action with a sense of detachment and selflessness, the fruits of which are subservient to the goal of common good and fundamental duties of the human beings.


The Mahabharata critically examines the role of the leader as in


It is important that leaders take special care of their behaviours since they are followed by others


This stress on behaviour, unlike that on appearance of behaviour as with Machiavellian thought, undoubtedly has strong implications for the modern organisations and their functioning. In my view, it resonates with the outrage that recent times have seen with top biz honchos and political brass of the world.


There are insights also on gender equality as reflected by the following lines spoken by a queen to the king:

Just like you make decisions for the men of your kingdom I may have the ability to make decisions for the women of my kingdom.


The scriptures lend great importance to the study of ˜Artha’ (wealth and prosperity), as a resource for not only personal betterment but also that of the society. Quoting from Manusmriti


Of all the scruples, the ones in dealing with money are the most important


Here, Kautilya’s ˜Arthashastra’ needs a special mention. The book bases the art of governance on the two pillars of nyaya (justice) and dharma (ethics). The book explained in 4th century B.C., what is now propounded as the organizational justice theory and the study of ethics. For instance, in the area of public services it indicates that records should be audited for all Government employees on a weekly basis and assignments should be task oriented, not target oriented.


It would be worthwhile to discuss the case of the Tata Group here. With 80 companies operating in the sectors of Services, Materials, Engineering, Energy, Consumer Products, Chemicals, Communication and Information Systems, it is among the most respected business house in India.


Having created institutes of excellence both in the Indian industry and the social world, this group symbolises the true essence of Indian ethics. To begin with, 63 per cent of the capital of the parent firm, Tata Sons Limited, is held by Tata (Philanthropic) Trusts, which have sponsored and promoted a variety of public institutions of excellence including hospitals, education and research centres, and scientific and cultural establishments. The five core Tata values that underpin the way they describe their business processes include:


Integrity: To conduct business fairly, with honesty and transparency such that everything done stands the test of public scrutiny.


Understanding: To be caring, show respect, compassion and humanity for colleagues and customers around the world and always work for the benefit of India.


Excellence: To constantly strive to achieve the highest possible standards in their day-to-day work and in the quality of goods and services they provide.


Unity: To work cohesively with colleagues across the group and with customers and partners around the world, building strong relationships based on tolerance, understanding and mutual cooperation. This value is amply encouraged in Vedas in the form of Sangathan Sutras (formulae of unity), which demonstrate the value and need of unity both in thought and action.


Responsibility: To continue to be responsible, sensitive to the countries, communities and environments in which they work, always ensuring that what comes from the people goes back to the people many times over.


All these five elements shine out in the work philosophy propagated by the scriptures and other such books.


Hinduism provides a rich framework within which the dimensions of business and business ethics find their own footing. Globalization has led to a great deal of restructuring, as also a rise in job insecurity, leading to a great number of somatic complaints, intention to leave, lower organizational commitment, reduced job satisfaction, etc.


This is where religion not only provides guidelines for organizational behaviour but also acts as a buffer to absorb stress and the other negative fallouts. The salient ethical dimensions of sharing, respect for age, social networks, selfless work, honesty and truthfulness, etc are likely to manifest at the workplace as attitudes and behaviors.


As can be seen in the Indian organizations, hierarchical perspective, the power play, preference for personalized relationship, social networking through own-other dichotomy, and collectivistic orientation, play a significant role in determining organizational effectiveness.


These ethical dimensions as suggested through reflections on religion and religious scriptures need to be assimilated with the values of industrial democracy to make Indian organizations more effective

43 thoughts on “Hinduism and Business

  1. Religion can have a positive effect on Business, by providing several “rules”, but Business does not necessarily need Religion to go well. For example, in France, a secular country, Business and Religion are two very different things, never mixed together, and yet french business is going well. As for me, Religion should not be too much involved in Business, it has to stay two very different things. It would be better to speak about Morality, and about “ethical” Business, than about Religion involved in Business.

  2. The Bhagavad Gita, written thousands of years ago, enlightens us on all managerial techniques leading us towards a harmonious and blissful state of affairs in place of the conflict, tensions, poor productivity, absence of motivation and so on, common in most of Indian enterprises today – and probably in enterprises in many other countries.

    The modern (Western) management concepts of vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, achieving goals, giving work meaning, decision making and planning, are all discussed in the Bhagavad Gita. There is one major difference. While Western management thought too often deals with problems at material, external and peripheral levels, the Bhagavad Gita tackles the issues from the grass roots level of human thinking.

    Once the basic thinking of man is improved, it will automatically enhance the quality of his actions and their results. Something that will lead to better organizations.

  3. A few days back I came across this article which only further strengthens the role of Hinduism in running organizations:

    “Rasanath Das, an ex-investment banker, is now a Hindu Saint and was helping Occupy Wall Street protesters in meditation. So what pushed the ex-banker to take up Hindu teachings? – greed, unethical competition and remorseless methods adopted to reach the top by people in his business.

    He now aims to build character in managers and help avoid disastrous decisions made for short-term goals.”

    The Holy Gita has become a secret driving force behind the unfoldment of one’s life. In the days of doubt this divine book will support all spiritual search.This divine book will contribute to self reflection, finer feeling and deepen one’s inner process. Then life in the world can become a real education—dynamic, full and joyful—no matter what the circumstance. Revelation of the Self is crucial to break boundaries and give rise to successful organizatons.

  4. As it was stated, religion affects people’s behavior. Business could be run thanks to people who work on it. Consequently the religion directly affects business. This is the logical relation that links private and work life. From the social point of view, we can see the religion as part of the culture and the values that parents hand on sons. Thus future managers are made of the knowledge acquired during academic carrier plus values and behavioral patterns with which they grown up. For this reason I agree with the assumption that religion may affects business, and Tata Group is one of the best examples of Indian Ethic applied to business. On the other hand we cannot deny the fact that in the world just few companies behave as Tata. The reason is that in front of money and power sometimes values and ethics are underestimated. Moreover some managers don’t understand that people make the business so taking care about them means having better economic performance. Following the example of Tata, these companies should move from the “tyranny of OR” to the “glory of AND” combining profit maximization AND corporate social responsibility.

  5. When capital for tata steel was accumulated a jubilant dorab tata apparently wrote : “It was the first time that the raw materials of India did not go out and return as finished articles to be sold in the country. Above all, it was a swadeshi enterprise, financed by swadeshi money, managed by swadeshi brains”.
    How do we look at this in today’s globalised tata which is no more confined to india and has made acquisitions like corus or jaguar etc. Does Swadeshi really matter anymore now? In the framework you have provided above where do we put globalisation and how do we understand the ethics of globalisation ?

  6. I think that religion could enter in business issues, but this is true just for those populations who have a very particular connection with the religion. In fact, as I was able to see during my experience in India, Hinduism is considered as a sort of guide, and people never break rules of Hinduism just to gain business advantages. Instead, the Western societies are less prone in connecting the religion and the business, because they consider these ideas belonging to different worlds. For example some Western managers can be very religious during Sundays but when they have to close a deal they would do whatever it is necessary in order to gain money.

  7. I believe that the way in which Tata is now appreciated must be credited to the history of the company, and in particular to one (J.R.D. Tata ) or even more members of Tata family who were able to maintain profitability and growth of the company while respecting ethics codes and taking care of philanthropic donations. This is a very good example of how businesses can mix profitability with values dictated by the religion. Still, for Tata group, just respecting the five core leading values was a thing to be proud of. Other companies should study the way in which Tata grew, in order to understand how religion and business can join together in a peace way.

  8. When it comes to Vedas and Hinduism, Swami Vivekanand deserves a special mention. He is considered a key figure in the introduction of Hindu philosophy of Vedanta to the rest of the world. Swami Vivekanand professed Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) and that all religions are true, and service to man was the most effective worship of God. It was Swami Vivekananda who inspired Jamshedji Tata to set up Indian Institute of Science, one of India’s finest institutions.

  9. Every religion, not only Hinduism propagates respect for age, sharing, honesty, truthfulness etc. but all the religion does that. Applying these in the business environment suits in the Indian context – basically, high power distance countries. Whereas in countries like US, where people are target oriented, this may not be applicable. Hence what I feel is Hinduism and Business are not compatible universally.

    A person has the right to do his karma but not to think of its fruits

    The action with the sense of detachment and selflessness, I don’t think will fit in today’s context. When we take business and industries, though the employees are paid for the work/ karma they do additional incentives are required to keep them motivated. The rewards and recognitions generates a positive stir and everyone is motivated to excel in their performance thereby taking the organization to a greater level.

  10. “‘Karma’ (action) is one of the salient features of Hinduism ……The philosophy talks about action with a sense of detachment and selflessness, the fruits of which are subservient to the goal of common good and fundamental duties of the human beings”. JRD, during his tenure, started a program of closer “employee association with management” to give workers a stronger voice in the affairs of the company. He, for the first time, pioneered the system of developing ‘employee welfare schemes’ in corporate India and steered the principles of an eight-hour working day, free medical aid, workers’ provident fund and accident compensation schemes. These showed his effort towards working towards the common good of his employees. This again resonates with “understanding” which is one of the 5 core values of Tata.

  11. The two great Indian epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ ascribe to two different school of thoughts. On one hand, Ramayana clearly brings out the difference between Good and Bad, Satya and Asatya through legends like Rama and Ravana. Lord Rama is considered to be ‘Maryada Purushottama’ i.e. a perfect man in all respects devoid of all sins. But on the other hand, Mahabharata shows a more pragmatic side of life, where things cannot be classified as right or wrong altogether, rather there are shades of grey in every anecdote that this epic puts forth. Lord Krishna, the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, through his actions showed that though he was not a perfect man on this earth, but for dharma to win even deviations from truth/moral activities is justified.

    These principles taught by Lord Krishna in ‘Bhagwad Gita’ are applicable in business context too. The five Tata values summarise that ideally what should Dharma be for modern day organisations. The success of Tatas for more than a century can be attributed to their firm belief in these values and the practices derived out of it. There have been many instances where they could have been in a better position by going ahead with business moves which would have fetched them higher profit. This is what any forward looking organisation does, but Tatas didn’t. Such deviations are justified for their dharma to survive as it is ‘elixir of life’ for them.

  12. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion that believes in the transmigration of the soul. Karma is a major concept in that it explains to people that they are born into a social level because of good or bad deeds that they did. The idea is that if you do good deeds all your life you will be rewarded by socially moving up in your next life. That social level is the organizational structure called the caste system. The caste system basically defines people’s roles, status and social order (Robinson). That’s the very basic skeleton of Hinduism. Here are some of the affects that Hinduism has on India’s business:
    • Slows growth
    • Dampens Ambition
    • Promotes Specialization
    • Inefficient Implementation
    • High Power Distance

  13. Linking business to religion can be one of the most destructive and destabilizing forces to be seen by the corporate world. Religion is a lot about interpretations as the saints who gave birth to the Vedas/Upanishads/Koran/Bible etc are no more there to shed light on the true meaning of their writing. This enables vested interests to mould it according to their need which has led to mass bloodshed and spread of hatred across the citizens of India.
    If such an impasse were to occur in business the next thing we will see will be “Sales Executives Needed : Only Hindus need apply”

  14. Hinduism is known to be a religion which is not constrained but is widespread in terms of accepting difference of opinions. The religion entertains and welcomes all kind of people to question it and the books on Hinduism seem to have answers to all queries. We can take the example of India which is predominantly a Hindu nation having people from different regions who are believers of different Gods but are united as being a Hindu. The same mindset of adaptability, ethics, politeness, acceptability & respect towards employees are found in Indian business houses also, spearheaded by the Tata or Bharti groups. These are the qualities which have helped Indian business houses to differentiate itself in the era of globalization and guided to set its own standard in the eyes of people.

  15. I am not sure that I quite really understand the link between Hinduism and business when we talk about the Tatas. The five core values on which stands their entire business empire, are the values which every person associated with this great company identifies with. Does this post imply that these core values are from Hindu Scriptures or for that matter any religion ? Religion can be an additional pillar but as I understand these values are the values of the Tatas and their people (of varied religions) who are responsible for the stupendous success of this business

  16. Hinduism has existed for centuries together and it has almost percolated through each and every person atleast in India. However, Tata is the only example which comes to mind when you can think of any firm which has followed Hinduism to full extent. This is a sad situation. How was Tata able to manage this? Was it only personal beliefs or is that they were better placed than others to gain access to resources or to gain government’s approval? This is something we should ponder upon. If Tatas had emerged out of a lower economic status, would they have been able to achieve the same level of dignity? Again, religion should not become a matter of convenience where you observe fast when you are comfortably placed at home and you do not in less comfortable conditions. However, nothing to take away from Tata! The fact that next chairman of the Tata’s Group is a non-Tata says a lot about Tata’s ethics!

  17. Tata has stayed true to his upbringing in spite of the pressures of business. This in turn can be interpreted as Hinduism in business. Same can then be extrapolated for Gandhiji, he developed his principles and stuck to them – thus showing an example of principled religion guiding even politics. The tendency of business setting allowing us to forget our core ethics/values and allowing us to adopt a new code of conduct called “professionalism” might be the reason for this lacuna.

  18. To my understanding, religion does plays an important role in shaping the business ethics of any organization. But this is more to do with the general sensibilities of the people who operate it. Tatas for that matter have been pioneers in ensuring that the local sensibilities of the people who work with the organization are not ignored, in the geographies in which they operate. This might be one reason why they do not believe in overwhelming the management of the companies which they have acquired outside India, by indian management teams. Such practices ensure confidence in the acquired firms, and as per organizational behavior would be the strategies which should be followed to ensure that a acquisition becomes a merger to derive the fullest synergies.

  19. The Hinduism philosophy talks about action with a sense of detachment and selflessness, the fruits of which are subservient to the goal of common good and fundamental duties of the human beings. This is in contradiction to the implicit goal of most corporate organizations where the end objective of profits is first kept in mind and thereafter actions are taken. It is commendable that the Tatas had the goal of doing CSR activities, the goal of the common good in mind. They had no end objective of creating ‘brand value’ by conducting the CSR activities that they did, unlike many organizations today who do it for the sake of compulsion and for publicity purposes.

  20. There indeed seems to be a lot of correlation between Hinduism and managing business. I believe that the concept of ‘dharma’ (righteousness) alone can guide an organization to success. It teaches us integrity, excellence, understanding, unity and responsibility. The moment a leader realizes this, he is sure to steer his organization towards success. Though we cannot attribute this realization to the principles of Hinduism, scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita have already spoken about this secret. The ‘right’ path is more often discovered through experience, trial and errors rather than following preachings of a religion.

  21. I would like to give a few instances from the bible on the topic discussed on this thread as exactly in the words of Weaver.
    THERE IS A LATIN PHRASE caveat emptor, meaning “let the buyer beware” or “that the buyer buys at his own risk,” Another similar one that runs parallel with it is caveat venditor or “let the seller beware.” So, it works both ways.
    That either or both should be appropriate for our time is an indictment of the business practices so commonly employed today. Apparently some have fallen for the shallow pretext that religion is one thing and business another; that the two cannot be merged without getting in each other’s way since they are supposed to be antagonistic to each other. There was the fellow who claimed that he had “done got religion.” When asked if he was going to church and reading the Good Book, he resoundingly replied, “Yes sir!” When asked if he intended to pay his debts and stop cheating, he replied, “Now you are off the subject of religion and are talking about business!” To many, that is the relationship that business and religion sustain.
    This attitude is not the result of what the Bible teaches nor a deficiency in God’s word that fails to cover all of life’s problems. The scriptures propose to be a perfect guide, “furnishing completely unto every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), Its discipline is in righteousness and prohibits making provisions to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Romans 13:14). This is not an imaginary state but real and practical guidance to everyday living,
    In order to measure up to this indenture, it must provide adequately for all activities in the business realm, as well as all other relationships, This is not to suggest that the scriptures will deal specifically with each individual, personal problem.
    On this basis the Bible would be too voluminous to read, much less make application of what it says. It does, however, guide in paths of righteousness and helps one make the proper choices that should be made, not only in the things specifically stated, but also by divine principles that apply to more than one situation, If one would live acceptably to God in the kind of world in which we find ourselves, scriptural principles must be learned and allowed to prevail in all activities and relationships.
    It has been said that “honesty is the best policy.” This no doubt would be true if honesty were only a policy, but honesty is not a policy. Policies may be altered according to circumstances, but honesty cannot be so handled. Honesty is a principle and principles never change. In business, whether a buyer or a seller, a merchant or a customer, if divine principles regulate us, we can make it in this world and anxiously look forward to the big reward in the world to come.
    A close companion to honesty must be generosity. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38). This is not just something that sounds good theoretically, but it is practical and it works, But one has to work it, and there are times when it requires the very best within us to see that it does. Making these principles work requires patience, stedfastness, and even a willingness to be “taken advantage of,” mistreated, and perhaps abused—but victory will be ours. We can do it!
    A preacher once was asked to address a group of business men in a near—by city, and he chose for his subject the Lord’s statement in Matthew 5:38·41, with emphasis on “Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” He made application to business practices. As would be expected, most of the business men took it with a grain of salt as mere preacher talk.
    However, there was one exception- a man who operated a tire store. Upon returning from the luncheon where he had listened to the preacher, he was confronted by an angry customer demanding a new tire or his money back. It was obvious that the supposed defective tire had been abused by running it flat and it had been chewed up by the rim. The business man’s first impulse was to bawl out the customer and throw him out the door, Then he remembered the preachers talk and decided that he would give it a try even if it cost him a new tire, so he told the customer to pick out a new tire and it would be installed on his car “free for nothing,”
    The customers attitude immediately did a 180 degree turn and he replied, “Well, l guess I did run a little too long on that tire after it went flat.” The business man pressed the advantage he had going for him; “That’s all right, we stand behind our merchandise. Just select the tire you want and it is yours free of cost.” The customer walked up and down the row of tires with his hands stuffed down in his pockets up to his elbows. Then he said, “That damage was not altogether the tire’s fault.” Well, to shorten a story, an hour later the customer left with four new tires on his car, happy with his purchase, and the business man had the money for all four of them in his cash register, The business man had established the practicality of a divine principle and had learned first-hand that when one “smites you on the right cheek, it does not hurt nearly as much as one might think, to turn the other also!

  22. Religion is reflecting a complexity of culture, beliefs and social values. When embedded in the mindset of people, a causality will develop between these reflections and the ways of doing business, especially in dealing with ethical issues. As religion is more prominent in some countries as for example India, the impact and connection between religion and business will also be greater here than for example Europe, where religion as a moral institution to a large extent has been substituted by legal institutions.

  23. Indeed , religion plays an important role in our lives, right from our birth to death,like what name we have, who do we marry and what kind of job we do. However, the religion is used by politicians and people with vested interest for gaining mileage in their personal ambitions and most of us are skeptic to talk about religion when it comes to business. So being secular is considered the best form of belief , at least to portray in front of the world.
    However, in my opinion, one does not follow ‘his’ religion till s/he has a respect and tolerance for ‘other’ religion.
    Given that, why not we accept religion as potential source of inspiration and guidance to carry out business and form the value system in our organisations. Tatas have shown us a bit and there is a lot more to do.

    Hope someday our organisations will reflect a true picture of our society in terms of our rich Indian values , culture and diversity. So much so that , we dont have to buy Jain food on a price premium and move out of a restaurant in want of halal or kosher food.

  24. Gandhiji said that no religion was perfect and every religion was subject to interpretation of the followers and, since humans are imperfect, interpretation too is imperfect. This is one of the reasons why it might not be right to inspire business philosophy from religions. Secondly, in some cases the ideology of religions might neither be good for the business, nor society. For example, traditional Hindu philosophy propagates that only Vaishyas (one of the four classes of society) should get themselves involved in business. If practised, wouldn’t it create another divide in society on religious grounds?

    As this article highlights, Hinduism has been distilled from the ancient wisdom and spiritual concepts. But equally true is the fact that it is not free from follies due to human intervention. If at all, it might make much more sense to inspire businesses directly from spiritual concepts which are mostly universal and for the larger good. Why use the secondary source (religion) when the primary (ancient wisdom and philosophy) is available.

  25. The spiritual scriptures and books of Indian origin have been subjected to immense scrutiny in the recent years. There have been efforts to link the Hindu texts with modern management concepts. One person has started a chain of institutes riding on his success from a book on similar lines. I see a lot of ‘over interpretation’ happening in this front. Even innocent verses are pumped with extremely complex and intelligent interpretations.

    We have had the ‘Nostradamus’ experiences to understand how any verse can be interpreted to one’s immediate needs by tweaking the myriad meanings of words and their combinations.

    But India has lived under the clouds of reverence for anything western. We as a collective have little respect for anything ‘Indian’. These new colors might help foster a sense of self-belief, confidence and attitude in youngsters by giving them proud glimpses to the past. Though this is no panacea, it at least lends value to a possible package which might be.

    As for the management concepts, leave the holy books alone.

  26. Religion & Business will only go as far as Discipline is concerned; disciplining of the self through religion in order to be successful in your endeavours (business or whatever). Beyond that, I advice that religion be treated as a personal affair, not to be brought to the work desk. It gets complicated when someone you work with find it distasteful.

    On a different note however, I often used to think that maybe Christians make bad businessmen. I have my own reasons to believe so. But I am still looking for the answer.

  27. I am not sure I will go so far as to try and derive business knowledge from religious texts. This is for several reasons. Primarily, religion, for those who associate closely with it, provides them some sort of template with which to lead their lives and this includes every aspect of their living. Ethics are so ingrained in an ethical man’s psyche that searching for business wisdom in his religious text would seem redundant to him.

    Second, religion, rather people’s reading of it, has a tendency to get didactic. So it’s about “How to be good while also making profits?” On stretching this argument, one finds that one must look for a middle ground between the need to grow as a venture and the need to maintain the sanctity of one’s beliefs. Here’s the catch: The moment we try and walk the thin line between business interests and religious beliefs, we give up the very essence of our religiosity, namely, spiritual consistency.

    There are others!

  28. That’s true that in France you can’t mix Religion and Business together because officially it’s a laic country. But in reality, I’m sure that there is a big importance of Religion in Business. Religions are part of our history and culture and we can’t do without it. We are very often influenced by our faiths and a lot of people is tried to work with somebody of his or her own community. In France, the Jew community is one of the most important in media for example.

  29. “A person has the right to do his karma but not to think of its fruits”- I somehow feel that this very thought holds the key to happiness in today’s hyper-competitive work environment. Work hard for the sake of working hard. In hindsight, expectations always seem unfulfilled. Hence, why expect at all? Get attached to the work itself, not what it could lead to, or what personal benefits might be derived out of it. I admit its easier said than done. However, just imagine how much lighter we can feel if we abide by this thought…no feelings of animosity, no grudges, nothing to demotivate us, and it would certainly take a big load off us. Quoting Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors- “What we seek is some kind of compensation for what we put up with”. Why put up with it in the first place? If we undertake a task which is close to our heart, do we even think of personal gains and benefits? We don’t need to be compensated then, do we?

  30. One can learn ethics and integrity from religious texts.The vedas do teach us what is dharma i.e the way of life and desires in form of indriyas.In the modern world of business they help in following correct direction in face of many opportunities which may not be correct to pursue and to be able to identify oneself.This self discipline when imbibied in the organizational systems and processes like Tatas helps in gaining positive results for society and stakeholders.

  31. Religion needs to serve as a template and not as a rule for guiding our actions. Once it gives us a strong foundation to build upon, this way of life would work for both personal and professional life. I believe, Hinduism works in this way, being open and subject to interpretations. Here, I would like to mention the work, Thirukkural, a beautiful piece of writing by Thiruvalluvar. Not only does it stretch far and wide across almost every topic under the sun, but also offers lessons in management of both business and personal life.

  32. Different Religions form different cultures – or is it vice versa?

    I don’t know yet enough to comment on the importance of Hindusm for the Indian corporate world. I am still learning and only slowly grasping an understanding of Hinduism. Therefore I can only talk about my country and to a certain extent Europe:

    Some values in Indian organisations would be the same as in Swiss organisations. In other values there would be differences. But also the Swiss organisations, entrepreneurs and workers are in general trying to do the “right” thing. They have their personal ethic foundations who build on the society level the values of a nation. Some might base their values in Catolizism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism or other (rarer) belief systems. Others might not believe in a higher power at all. I used the word “might” because in general I wouldn’t know the religous belief of an entrepreneur, manager or worker. In Switzerland it is considered a very private matter and it is rarly spoken about. I, as a member of the Swiss society, value this.

  33. The connection between Hinduism and Business seems tenuous at best. The journey of the Tatas can be cited as an excellent example of ethics and integrity in business; however Hinduism , or for that matter, any other specific religion, cannot be said to have a monopoly on promoting ethics and integrity. Also the thousand year old contemplations of learned rishis, though helpful in giving us insights into the evolution of hinduism, cannot be really said to compare with more modern research in the behavioural sciences. Sciences like anthropology, psychiatry, neurology and sociology. Understanding the mind of man and reasons for human motivation has always been a preoccupation of the civilised. Though even today with so many powerful tools and sciences at our disposal, that task is not quite complete. How then can we credibly look for answers in texts from a much more primitive era?
    How can a society go forward if it uses centuries old texts and chants to help it solve complex problems of the 21st century? These texts are no doubt indispensable in studying the cultural history of Hinduism, but India today needs much stronger intellectual capital than that to move forward.

  34. To answer the question “How is globalization explained in the framework?”, ‘Vasudhaika Kutumbam’ (Whole world as a single family) is an ideology which is incorporated into Hindu scriptures. Hinduism talks, in general, about universal acceptance.
    As I reflect, I am reminded by Swami Vivekananda’s quote “Hinduism is not a religion. It’s a way of life.” Yes, business too is a part of life. So it’s not surprising that the tenets of Hinduism can be easily applied to modern day businesses as well.
    Any religion owes its refinement to the millions of followers who, in the due course of their practice, make suitable changes to address the contemporary contextual challenges facing the society. Hinduism being one of the oldest and widely followed religions of the world has only accumulated all that wisdom through the millennia and shaped up to robustly support the modern day context.

  35. In hinduism, there are three main Hindu deities: Vishnu, the god of preservation; Shiva, the god of destruction; and Brahma, the god of creation. In todays business scenario developing strategies that address tomorrow’s business realities is challenging. Strategic actions that companies take belong in one of these three – managing the present, selectively abandoning the past and creating the future. The correspondence between the three strategies and the three Hindu gods is clear from the depiction of these characters in ancient writings. Preserving or managing the present: Vishnu; Destroying or selectively abandoning the past: Shiva; Creating the future: Brahma. According to Hindu philosophy, preservation-destruction-creation is a continuous cycle without a beginning or an end. The three gods play an equally important role in all three phases of that process. Further, Hinduism states that, while changes in the universe can be quite dramatic, the processes leading to changes are often evolutionary and involve smaller steps. This is just the challenge for large companies: to create their future while managing their present. To take small steps that lead to big change. The analogy of strategies with characters and various events from epics like Mahabharat gives us interesting perspective.

  36. As mentioned in the post; “Purely from an intellectual point of view, the knowledge in these books is aimed at helping foster unity between mankind and nature, so that a general atmosphere of love, peace and progress may prevail – a common refrain of almost all world religions.”
    I guess this is exactly what J. N. Tata had in mind for Jamshedpur (home to India’s first steel plant). He said, “Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees, every other of a quick growing variety. Be sure that there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens; reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks; earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches.” For him, his employees were like family and he wanted to provide them with all the comfort and convenience that a city could provide for.
    This again went in sync with the fact that leader should shower his wealth upon the people to motivate them to work and gave them a sense of belonging. It is a very known fact that anyone who has stayed in Jamshedpur gets spoilt and does like to move out of it.

  37. If we dive deep and try to look into the purpose behind the origin of relation, some where we will find that it was because of man’s search for meaning in his life, his quest for peace, love and prosperity…he always wanted a guiding force that always helped him finding ways to do it. Religion was one of the greatest force. Our own religion, Hinduism which is also referred to as the Sanatana dharma…caters to the same purpose. The tenets on which Hinduism is based, do not basically emphasize on god or any other supernatural power…rather the power inside a human being. How can he/she find ways within to make their life more coherent with nature and make it comfortable and peaceful. Our religious texts are filled with such worldly wisdom. The only problem if of misinterpretations. Sometimes people try to mold the meaning to get favors for them and try to justify it on the basis of religion. A very ancient saying goes “Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaah”…!!!

  38. We may find some useful pointers from Hinduisms as we can from all religions. But I couldn’t find a common theme or the Hinduism way of doing business. Why do we even need to look? Imho when we try to look for business insights in religion..all we are doing is trying to retro-fit the learning(s) from our experiences with hinduism and be proud that our religion is very pragmatic and profound. Few objections:
    – Is being ethical the most successful or efficient way of doing business? May not be..
    – Even if it was so..imho ethics are independent of religion. An ethical person may not be religious and vice-versa.
    – “The leader should shower more wealth and riches specifically on teachers, scholars, army officers, and diplomats to keep them motivated for performing better.” tells us to use reward as a mechanism to motivate the key employees… at the same time if employees follow “Karmany ev adhikaraste…”, they are not exactly getting motivated by the rewards. What i mean to say is..it could be confusing..and the different contradictory texts(even the vedas) can be interpreted differently.
    – As a result of globalization, there are people from different cultures and religions. All employees in cross cultural organizations may not agree with all the philosophical underpinnings of any particular religion. Therefore it is gud to take inspiration but one should not follow all the tenets(even if they were clearly known)
    – In any case the world have changed beyond reckoning, as much as one would like vedas to be relevant forever. They come with an expiry date.

  39. Dear Mr. Rai,
    Read with interest your blog on hinduism and business. What you state is very much true even in present times.
    There is a concept of family deity being a partner in business in hindu law.
    An unique concept, which no other religion in the world accepts.
    I want to know by what name is it called and is it allowed as a practice now legally.
    D. Chowkhani

    1. To my knowledge, the Hindu law does not have any such provision, and hence I would say that there is no legal standing to this practice. The concept, however, is indeed followed in some parts of the country, where the Kul-devata or Isht-devata is made a business partner to remove obstacles, and their share goes in to make big temples for them. According to some, the Shri Sanwaliya Temple in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan is one such example.

      1. Dear Mr. Rai,

        Thanks for your clarification. Very useful.
        This is what is written in Business India, issue dt. Oct 28 to No 10 , 2013, on Page 92, about a roundtable on philanthropy.
        ” Hindu law, unlike any place else, recognises the concept of a family deity being part of Business.”
        Do read it.
        Maybe Business India should be asked for a clarification.
        Reading this , I tried to find more on this and got your reference on net.

        D. Chowkhani

      2. Dear Sir,

        This is what I got a reply from Mr. Sanjay Agarwal a chartered accountant, from Delhi, he has written a book titlted Daan, which gives details of religious charity in detail in hinduism and also for all other major world religions. His reply:
        Thanks for your mail and reminder. According to customary Hindu law, recognised by modern courts (Ram Janaki vs. State of Bihar AIR 1999 SC 2131), the deity is a juristic person, who can act through the Shivayat, just as a minor acts through the guardian. From this perspective, it would indeed be feasible for a person to take a particular deity as a partner in the business, and provide a share in the profits.

        However, there are some technical issues due to which Income Tax Department often rejects such partnership deeds. See enclosed case law for an overview of the issues.

        A related practice is levy of dharmada on customer invoices – the amount collected is set apart in trust for use in charitable activities.

        I am also unable to recall any reference in the Smritis etc. to this practice, which might have come up as a tradition, not necessarily mandated by law.

        Trust this is useful.

        Best wishes


        Similar to your reply, he says there is no legal or other traditional sanction to this practice.
        The surprising thing is that if it so, why everyone knows about it, but do not know its roots or full details.
        Have written to Business India too, if they can help.
        The court judgement could not attach. it is very interesting too.

        1. This is the final reply on this issue from Mr. Sanjay Agarwal, want to share it with you.
          : 3. We also must note that there is a difference between ‘being part of a business’ and ‘being a partner in the business’. The first is an actual living practice – the second is rare and is also untenable under modern tax law.

          With regard to the deity being part of the business, most Hindu business establishments invoke Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. Many owners see the seat (gaddi) they occupy as belonging to The Lord – the owner himself / herself is only an agent. This is the concept of Trusteeship of wealth, which the entire Hindu thought is suffused with. The conception of Hindu society with Brahmans constituting the mouth (sages and pundits), the Kshatriyas (soldiers) as the arms, and Vaishya (farmers, cattle-owners, traders) the stomach, and the craftspersons as the feet, reflects this view. The businessperson then becomes an agent of The Lord / Society and is trustee for ensuring the society is fed.

          4. Based on the above, I would say that while there are isolated instances of people taking on a family deity as a formal business partner, there is no scriptural mandate or sanction for this. Indeed one view is that the deity should not be invoked for blessings on business. Business activity is uncertain at the best of times – such invocation exposes the deity to the risk of being blamed for business losses as well! In any case, such invocations make one’s daily worship a very material and motivated affair (rajasik), which affects its usefulness for attaining moksha.

          I feel the points raised by him are very relevant.

          D. Chowkhani

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