Institute director R.P. Banerjee traces the Indian epic’s influence on the fundamentals of doing business
A webinar on management studies explored how a thorough reading of the Mahabharata can unravel new lessons in the subject.
The virtual session titled ‘Rajarshi: Kingship in Socio-Economic Context: Management Lessons from the Mahabharata’ saw R.P. Banerjee, the chairperson and director of EIILM-Kolkata, focusing on the Indian epic and how it helps develop values like sincerity and cooperation as essential features of management studies.
The session, organised by EIILM-Kolkata, was moderated by S.K. Dutt, senior adviser at the Empretec programme in India by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development.
Excerpts from the event...
Management studies and the Mahabharata
Many theories of management have some kind of cultural resonance, apart from economic and political relevance. As human beings, we always learn from the people in our lives. Ancient Indian texts, including the Mahabharata, document how the dynamics between different people have evolved into social and political ideas. This is an area that falls within the domain of modern-day management.
The Jajali-Tuladhar episode
This is one of the many tales told by Bhishma to Yudhisthira to teach him rajdharma — the duty of the king — just after the Battle of Kurukshetra. All these tales form the basis of Shanti Parva, which heralds a long period of peace after bloodshed and tears.
In this specific episode, Bhishma narrates the story of a sage called Jajali, who thought he had achieved supreme knowledge and must spread his learnings among others. After a while, another sage guided him to Tuladhara, a well-known trader in Varanasi, who would distribute his wealth among people every day as he treated everyone equally. The man also lived a simple life with his wife and children in a cottage in the woods.
Both Jajali and Tuladhara ascended to heaven on the merit of their respective acts. While the sage earned a place in paradise through deep meditation and austere penance, the trader reached there by simply doing his duty as a human being.
The story mentioned above contains the seeds of modern-day ideas like liberty, equality and fraternity. Tuladhar’s ascendance to heaven shows us how an individual’s eventual success lies in the pursuit of the collective. This moral lesson throws light on the importance of certain principles such as prioritising others’ needs. When facing any dispute among themselves, companies can take inspiration from the epic and adopt an affirmative approach towards working together. In this way, our great epic gives us the fundamentals of how to do business by fulfilling all our basic duties.
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