Business Ethics & Lessons from Ramayana

Yes, Ramayana has a few episodes which may have relevance to business ethics.

First let me narrate the relevant parts of the story from Ramayana which relate to business ethics.

Ravana, in Valmiki Ramayana, received several solicited and unsolicited advice from his kith and kin. Let us see who all dared to advise him on what is morally right:

It was the turn of Maricha to advise Ravana first. When Maricha was ordered to take the form of a golden deer to entice Sita,
he told Ravana in no uncertain terms that the power of Rama is unparallelled and therefore Ravana should simply patch up with the lord to save himself and his race. This advice was given in the background of the severe blows he received from Rama on a different occasion. However, when Ravana gave him an ultimatum, Maricha decided to go ahead and obey his command which ended his life.

However, not all Rakshasas gave him good counsel. Several Rakshasas including Mahodara(a renowned counselor of Ravana), readily supported Ravana glorifying his strength and giving him extraordinary confidence to face and defeat Rama. Vibhishana , on the other hand, had a totally different advice to offer. He talked at length about dharma and Rama’s divinely stature and advised what was the right thing to do for his own sake and for the sake of his race. As Ravana refused to budge and on the contrary rebuked Vibhishana for moralising, the latter had no hesitation in switching sides, though surreptitiously. Vibhishana, in fact, gave away valuable state secrets to the enemy camp!
Kumbhakarna’s response was markedly different and somewhat interesting. When Kumbhakarna woke up from his sleep lasting over months, Ravana explained the background to the situation leading up to Rama’s invasion of Lanka along with Sugriva’s army of monkeys. Kumbhakarna did not mince words and his immediate response was that Ravana ought to have consulted his ministers and close relatives before he abducted Sita, which is an immoral act. Curiously, though, after pointing out his immoral act, he threw in his lot with his elder brother and vowed to defeat Rama.
Clearly one can see a widely diverging viewpoints and advice being offered here.

I am tempted to draw parallels to business ethics in our corporates and the moral dilemma faced by senior executives. I am sure several of us, as senior managers, might have faced such ethical dilemmas wherein the organizations go astray and indulge in unethical and sometimes downright fraudulant methods to make money. Faced with such a situation,the moral dilemma is whether one should conduct oneself like Maricha & Kumbhakarna or like Vibhishana or like Mahodara? One might think the obvious answer is Vibhishana. But I am not too sure. One can readily dismiss Mahodara type of conduct. But it is difficult to support Vibhishana type of behaviour or that of Kumbhkarna or for that matter Mareecha. Vibhishana’s conduct is not above-board because of his secret dealings with Ravana’s enemies. Kumbhakarna condemned Ravana’s unrighteous act but decided to go with him for war against Rama because of a feeling of unquestionable allegiance to Ravana. I think Ramayana does not offer an ideal solution to such a problem. It would have been nice to see someone like Vibhishana with guts to cross over to the enemy camp openly. Perhaps the other great epic Mahabharata with its several intricate plots & counter plots would provide satisfactory answers.

The real dilemma in business arises because of the times we live in. In the present day context, it is hard to believe that any business can be run without resorting to unethical conduct in some degree. If a company deliberately chooses to conduct business unethically (like in the case of Satyam), it is obvious that one should desert the ship if one’s good counsel goes unheeded. On the other hand, in most situations, it would be difficult to apply absolute standards of morality and ethics, given the kind of business compulsions. To take one well-known fact about manufacturing companies, even when a company complies with all regulatory requirements, corrupt factory inspectors have to be bribed to get a clean chit.

Published in: on July 29, 2017 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One plus one equals one – Tyagaraja’s perspective on Ramayana

This may be poor Maths but it is profound Vedanta. It epitomizes the very essence of Advaita or non-dual reality. Let us see how. All experiences of ecstasy in life are experiences of Advaita. For instance, let us consider the experience of listening to some great music. The extraordinary quality of the music makes you lose yourself completely and become one with music. Mathematically speaking, you+music=music. This is an experience of advaita. This is true of any truly ecstatic experience in life. Thus the great beauty and breathtaking view of the Niagara falls or the spectacular sight of Grand Canyon can evoke an experience of oneness with the object of admiration. Extending the logic further, you plus the jagat=jagat(the world). If you replace jagat with Eswara, then you are Eswara or God Himself. This is advaita. The message of advaita is beautifully conveyed by saint Tyagaraja in the following composition depicting Ramayana.

In the brilliant composition, E VARAMADIGEDERA RAMA NI, Tyagaraja portrays a gradual transition of thought process from DVAITA to ADVAITA, that is, from Dual nature to non-dual nature of reality. Dualism proposes that God and the individual are separate and non-dualism proposes just the opposite, that is the individual is non-separate from the Lord. Let us now see how the composition develops.

Tyagaraja addresses Rama thus:
“Oh Rama! What boon should I ask of You? What role can I ask You to offer me? All my options are foreclosed by your close devotees. Hanuman has monopolized the role of carrying out all that You wish. Your brother Satrughna has assumed the role of looking after the welfare all your devotees and he takes care of them as well as You would. Bharata has taken on the happy role of worshipping Your blessed feet and living blissfully listening to Your glories. Lakshmana has the exclusive privilege of following You and Your thoughts constantly and serving You without even caring to have food or sleep.
Finally, Sita has taken the role of identifying herself with You completely transcending body and Mind. Keeping You in her heart constantly, she has become one with You.

The use of the Vedic expression “Soham” in the song while describing Sita’s role is significant. It’s translated as: I am He. This expression of Tyagaraja, taken straight from our Upanishads, is considered to convey the non-dual nature of reality.

In this composition, one can clearly see a gradual transition of roles (from Hanuman to Sita)from DVAITA to ADVAITA. Starting from Hanuman right up to Lakshmana the separate identities of Rama and His devotee are maintained. This is Dvaita. When Tyagaraja describes Sita’s role, there is a clear departure from Dvaita to Advaita. The descriptions and expressions used unambiguously point to Advaita or non-dual reality.

To me, this is a brilliant composition lending itself readily to a new perspective on Ramayana.

Published in: on October 2, 2015 at 10:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Most of us would be familiar with what the title of this post stands for. It is ‘Business to Business transactions’. This is nothing but e-commerce wherein transactions are carried our between two business units. What has this to do with the present post? Virtually nothing except for the letters.

I am merely using this familiar terminology to discuss a totally different theme in the domain of Spirituality. For the present discussion one B stands for ‘BEING’ and the other one for ‘BECOMING'(Both the words are used as nouns). In the philosophical jargon BEING is nothing but the very core of our existence from which the entire creation(or the BECOMING) originates. In other words the manifested world that we all feel and see may be referred to as BECOMING while the unmanifest is the ‘BEING’. Clearly the BECOMING or the Manifested world draws its sustenance from the BEING. One is the cause and the other is the effect.

To put it slightly differently,BEING is essentially the Core of our Conciousness while BECOMING is the entire creation or the universe. BEING is the substratum which supports and sustains the entire creation. And therefore the two B’s are always ‘connected’ to each other whether we are aware of it or not. It is entirely upto each individual either to activate the association or to keep it passive and in the process either gain or lose.

The word transaction, in this context,merely signifies constant rememberance of our CORE BEING during our daily lives and challenges,which alone is the means to achieve one’s spiritual and material aspirations. This is because it is this CORE BEING which is the source of our physical,mental and spiritual energy.

Our scriptures abound in examples of great souls who excelled in virtually living in this state of ‘Consciousness’. One great example that would readily come to everyone’s mind is that of the mythological character Hanuman. I will touch on a few instances from Sundarakanda(of Vaalmiki Ramayana) to demonstrate how remembering this association with the Almighty by Hanuman gave success to his great mission in Ramayana.

At the very beginning of Sunadarakanda one would find a narration of Hanuman embarking on the mission to leap across the ocean to cross over to Lanka to find Sita. As all of us know this was the all important mission entrusted upon Hanuman by Sugriva.

Hanuman himself was quite aware of the criticality of the mission and as he was taking leave of all fellow monkeys,Sugriva,Rama & Lakshmana,he salutes first the Sun-God,the Lord Indra,Brahma,the devotees of the Lord,his own father(the Wind-God) and then mentally paid obeisance to Rama and Lakshmana. He then bowed down to all the rivers and oceans before embarking on the mission. The following lines from Sundara kaanda nicely captures the scene:

“Sa Suryaya Mahendraya pavanaaya svayambhuve —- Anjalim—pavanaayatmayonaye manasaa vandhya Ramaya Lakshmanaya maha harih. Saritah saagaramschapi pranamya sirasa harih.

Hanuman realizes that he needs everyone’s cooperation and blessings to accomplish his mission ( Gods as well as the natural forces like rivers and oceans). The manner in which Hanuman starts his mission is indeed exemplary. It is a lesson for all of us on how we should initiate any critical mission.

Then as Hanuman crosses over to Lanka and starts his search all over Lanka,he gets into a deep state of depression for not being able to find Sita . At that point again he realizes that the only way out would be to pray. He remembers and salutes Rama,Lakshmana,Sita,Rudra,Indra,Yama,Vaayau,Chandra,Surya etc.(“Namostu Ramaya salakshmanaya—Namostu Rudrendriya—“) As soon as he completes his salutations,he finds a route to get into the famous Ashoka Groove,where, he believes, that all his wishes would be fulfilled. He enters the Ashoka Groove and seeks the blessings of all the Gods to guide him to achieve success in his efforts. Immediately after his entreaties,he finds Sita in the Ashoka Groove. In Sundarakanda,the following lines gives us a description of his entreaties at a time when he was in a state of deep depression:

“Sidhim me Samvidhasyanti devah —Brahma Svayabhuh Bhagavaan Devaschaiva Dishaantu me Sidhim Agnischa Vayauscha —“

The next prominent episode in Sundara kaanda is when Hanuman was taken as a prisoner into Ravana’s court and Ravana orders his tail to be set on fire. The fire did not hurt him at all – again due to the fact of his constant association with the divine – the wind-God,the Fire-God, Sita, Rama – all helped him to cope with the situation. In Sundara kanda,in Hanuman’s own words we can see the explanation for the fire not hurting him:

“Sitaya scha Aanrshamsyaena,tejasa Raghavaschasa pitruscha mama sakhyena na maam dahati pavakah”

He says: “Because of the compassion and grace of Sita, the power of Rama and my father’s friendship with him,the fire diety is not hurting me.”

Here again one can clearly see that even a highly adverse circumstance can be overcome by remembering basic association with the Almighty.

Finally at the end of Sundara kanda Hanuman, having completed his mission successfully,returns and meets all his fellow bretheren,Sugriva,Rama & Lakshmana. Firstly, he breaks the news about the success of his mission saying that he did find Sita. He,then,narrates the whole story of his journey to Lanka,his experiences etc . At the end of his narration,very interestingly, Hanuman has the following words on the success of his mission:

“Because of Rama’s prowess and the energy and enthusiasm of you all,I have accomplished the mission that Sugriva entrusted to us.( “Raghavasya Prabhavena Bhavatam chaiva tejasa,Sugrivasya cha kaaryartham maya sarvamanushtitam”). This is an example of highest humility on the part of Hanuman as he attributes his success to evryone over there and to the prowess of Rama. This conduct is highly exemplary to all of us especially in modern day life wherein each one of us is out to grab attention and credit.

Published in: on November 23, 2008 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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