The Notion Of Bharatiya Management

by Ramnath Narayanswamy - Nov 3, 2019 12:42 PM +05:30 IST
The Notion Of Bharatiya ManagementThe churning of the ocean, where two opposing camps had to work together and cross many hurdles before the objective was achieved (Wikimedia Commons) 
  • Management, according to the West, is an extensive concept, aimed at mastering the world as we see it.

    But Indian, or rather Bharatiya Management, is an intensive idea, aimed at self-mastery.

    It lays emphasis on the ‘interiorisation’ of human focus, leaving the exterior to be sorted organically.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam: “The whole world is one family”
Chapter 6 of the Maha Upanishad

The notion of Bharatiya Management is rapidly gaining currency in our country. In broad terms, it seeks to denote a body of thought that is inspired and informed by our spiritual heritage that focusses on seeking a specifically Indian way in management thought and practice.

At the heart of the matter lies the question: Is there an Indian way of doing things? Are there insights in the Indian heritage arsenal that can inform current management thinking of the ability to speak and reflect a modern idiom that Indians can relate to in their lives and context?

Can we think ‘global’ to find local solutions that impact the world of practice? Can these insights be presented in a way where the ‘global’ informs the ‘local’ and the ‘local’ is leveraged to elevate global discourse?

The term Bharatiya Management specifically refers to an Indian way of approaching management thought and practice.

It is distinguished by the fact that, in contrast to the evolution of management thought in the West, which has traditionally focussed on the ‘outer space’, Bharatiya Management focusses on the ‘inner dimension’.

Management thought in the West prefers to view the company or the firm as the principal unit of social and economic transformation, whereas Bharatiya Management prefers to view the individual as a primary unit of all transformation in society.

In the former case, it is the ‘corporate entity’ that is the driver of this process, whereas in the latter, it is the ‘individual’ who drives the change.

In the former, the world is changed when corporate entities like firms drive change. Whereas, in the latter, society changes when individuals change the way they view society and the universe around them.

In Bharatiya Management, the term engineering refers to an ‘outer engineering’ and an ‘inner engineering’, the term ‘management’ refers to an ‘outer management’ and an ‘inner management’ and the term ‘education’ refers to an ‘outer education’ and an ‘inner education’.

In the framework of Bharatiya Management, education, management and engineering have an ‘outer’ and an ‘inner’ dimension. No investigation is complete without including an inner dimension to these domains.

Secondly, it is important to ask what is the outer and the inner? The outer dimension refers to the world as we experience it through our five senses.

It refers to the three dimensions of perception, deduction and inference. It is symbolised by the head as it refers to the intellect or buddhi. This is the world occupied by knowledge.

It necessarily belongs to the past, because it is inextricably bound by it. What is important to note is the fact that all knowledge is limited by memory, and for that reason alone, it is limited by time, space and circumstance.

If there is no memory, there is no knowledge. The triad of the individual, universe and God disappears. The concept of God or divinity cannot, for example, be grasped if there is no mind to comprehend it.

In contrast to knowledge of the outer world, there is the concept of Satyam or truth that belongs to the inner world. This is not limited by memory, but is, in fact, directly rooted in individual experience; it is ever present, constant and self-luminous.

It refers to delving into the inner world and takes the form of a relentless search for our real identity.

In Sanatana Dharma, this is called ‘self-realisation’. In our dharma, this is the principal objective of the human birth.

Accordingly, a life that is not spent in the pursuit of self-realisation — which Socrates once called ‘the unexamined life’ — the gift of life is wasted and frittered away.

In simple terms, the ‘unexamined life’ is one that is not worth living.

Thirdly, in contrast to conventional management thought, Bharatiya Management does not confuse the search for knowledge with the search for truth.

Bharatiya Management clearly differentiates the search for knowledge driven by the intellect from the search for truth that is driven by individual experience.

Once this distinction is accepted and grasped, the domain of management science opens a world of thrilling, exciting and tantalising possibilities.

Leadership development, emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence, creativity and self-development, not to speak of ethics, philosophy, public policy, jurisprudence and sustainability suddenly acquire an altogether different dimension of intellectual and practical engagement.

‘The-whole-world-is-one-family’ is a critical concept that is at the core of Sanatana Dharma.

This not just a pious homily. It means that wherever there is injustice in the universe, we must not only feel diminished but engage positively and resolve it. The sweep of ancient Indian wisdom was at once universal, inclusive and caring.

Few wisdom traditions come close to Sanatana Dharma in these three essential respects.

Fourth, philosophically speaking, Bharatiya Management anchors itself on the twin principles of dharma or righteousness and satyam or truth, as outlined by Krishna in the sacred Bhagavad Gita.

How are these two concepts defined? Any thought, word or action that promotes harmony in the universe can be qualified as promoting dharma. Truth is, however, another matter.

In the paradigm of Bharatiya Management, truth is the search for reality and reality is consciousness.

Yoga and meditation are instruments that help aspirants achieve that objective.

What is relevant to point out in this connection is the fact that consciousness must be experienced. Viewed in this perspective, truth is entirely subjective.

Unlike Western notions of rationality and science, which dismiss individual experience as “subjective” (this has done immense harm to recognising the search for truth as a valid and legitimate means of inquiry), Bharatiya Management recognises self-inquiry as the highest vehicle for taking the road to self-revelation.

This helps explain why spiritual practice is so integral to Bharatiya Management. All forms of spiritual practice, irrespective of whether they be japa or chanting the name of the Divine (Nama Smarana), dhyanam or meditation or puja or worship, heighten the facility of intuition, which in our dharma, is often viewed as the gateway to the inner Self.

Finally, the head and the heart are metaphors that capture knowledge as a means of understanding the world around us and truth as a vehicle of self-revelation through experience.

Bharatiya Management is unique because it treats both knowledge and experience as legitimate paths to self-realisation. It does not treat worldly engagement and spiritual advancement as contradictory; on the contrary, it encourages the view that one should complement the other.

Among the nine major wisdom traditions in the world today, it is unique and exceptional in this respect.

A poem by the great Sufi poet, Jalauddin Rumi, powerfully captures the spirit underlying the inner and the outer:

There are two kinds of intelligences: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, in addition to collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.

With such an intelligence, you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others with regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of the fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its spring box. A freshness in the centre of the chest. This ‘other intelligence’ does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid, and doesn't move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.

Bharatiya Management draws its inspiration tacitly and explicitly from all the six systems of Indian philosophy such as Nyaya-Vaisesika, Sankhya-Yoga and Mimamsa-Vedanta .

Of these six, two are particularly important and they include the Sankhya and Vedanta schools as taught by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, to Arjuna. There are other systems and philosophies as well and they too can be included under the umbrella of Hindu heritage.

Similarly, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are equally included, as are the Vedas, the Srutis, Smritis, the twin epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad Gita, the itihasas, the Puranas and folk tales such as the Jataka and the Panchatantra that have so decisively contributed to shape the Hindu mind.

By seeking inspiration from them, it seeks to isolate the insights contained in them and locate them in a contemporary setting, in a way where they are easily grasped and understood.

Wisdom is celebrated in our scriptures in the form of reverence to the Guru.

The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru is Maheswara; the Guru is the Eternal Witness, He is the Parabrahman, My salutations to such a Guru.

The meaning of this powerful invocation is magnificent. If there is one principle that rules this universe, it is that of the Guru. The universe will collapse without the support of the Parabrahman. He exists everywhere (Lord Brahma is akin to air); He exists in all living beings (Lord Vishnu is akin to light) and He is above all beings (Lord Shiva is akin to water). There is no place where He is not.

The term Guru is often abused both in India and abroad. In Sanatana Dharma, He is not the body, the mind or the intellect. Wisdom has no form or name. He assumes a form to communicate the truth that He is above all form.

He is without limitation, above limitation and beyond limitation. Four paths have been prescribed in the Gita to experience Him, but in reality, there are as many paths to Him as there are letters in the Gita.

Such is the nature of His power and glory, and it is for this reason that obeisance is paid to Him and He is venerated in our scriptures.

Swami Vivekananda once said of Sri Ramakrishna that even a particle of dust from His holy feet could have created a thousand Vivekanandas.

In the Vaishnava tradition, the Guru is known as Acharya. In Sufism, the Guru is known as Murshid or Sheikh or Pir.

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak and the last Guru was Guru Gobind Singh. Sikh temples are called Gurudwaras, clearly pointing to the fact that the Guru alone is the gateway to God.

Moses taught the Ten Commandments to the Jews and showed them the path to liberation.

Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount that gave birth to Christianity.

Mohammad became the last Prophet after a series of divine revelations that gave him the tenets of the Quran.

After attaining self-realisation, both Buddha and Mahavira preached their respective codes of conduct, to guide their followers.

All spiritual and religious traditions rightly emphasise the oneness of God and exhort their followers to live a noble life. The principle of Guru tatvam is, therefore, universal.

This is why the Guru Gita emphatically proclaims:

There is no greater Truth than the Guru. There is no Penance greater than the Guru, and there is no wisdom greater than the Guru.

On 14 August 2006, Mata Amritanandamayi (or Amma as she is fondly known by her devotees) said:

There are no schools of thought or philosophies that have not been explored in India. However, our greatest misfortune is that we have failed to make practical use of this knowledge. And, therefore, even though we attained Independence on the 15th of August 1947, our minds and intellects are still enslaved and in chains.

“India,” she concluded, “has given three great teachings to the world: if we protect dharma, dharma will protect us. It will protect the whole world. This is the first teaching.

Whatever action we undertake, it should be done for the benefit of the whole world. It should be done as an offering to God — That is the second teaching. This attitude of selfless offering should underlie all our actions.

Everything is an expression of the one Atman. No one is separate from us. God pervades all of creation — This is the third teaching.

If we are able to imbibe these teachings in our lives, it will bring about an end to all wars. Peace and contentment will spread throughout the world. We will be able to experience supreme peace and bliss in our lives. We will become a source of light to all others.

It is this hallowed and sacred tradition that Bharatiya Management seeks as the source of its inspiration and articulation.

Indian scholars are gradually becoming sensitised to the rich heritage that has been bequeathed to them.

They now carry the responsibility of contemporising the valuable insights contained in their spiritual heritage and presenting them to the modern world in a language that is comprehensible, digestible and market-ready.

In India, we are many centuries combined in one. I am not suggesting that Western conceptions are wrong because they are Western. I am simply suggesting that they do not necessarily reflect our realities.

This, perhaps, explains why they are better appropriated through the lens of what in future is likely to be known as Bharatiya Management.

By integrating the inner and outer, it will make management literature robust, relevant and real.

Ramnath Narayanswamy is a senior professor at IIM Bangalore.
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