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