This was presented at 1st International Conference on Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership, University of Delhi, India, 8-10 February 2007. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to read the full paper
SRW with Reference to the Bhagavad-Gita & Human Resource M anagement (HRM) By Balakrishnan Muniapan Email : [email_address] Sungai Petani, Kedah MALAYSIA.
Abstract In line with the growing interest in SRW, this paper explores the Bhagavad-Gita and its contributions and relevance to the field of HRM. Although several studies have been done to integrate other schools of thought such as Christianity, Islamic, Confucianism into HRM, limited studies have been done to explore and also to integrate the Bhagavad-Gita (Vedanta) into HRM. The Bhagavad-Gita is an ancient Indian spiritual and philosophical text and is more than 51 centuries ago. Chinmayananda (2003) asserted that from time to time an ancient philosophy needs intelligent re-interpretation to apply effectively in the context of modern times. Based on text and content analysis of selected verses from the Bhagavad-Gita , some relevance and contributions of the Bhagavad-Gita in HRM is explored in this paper.
Introduction (1) People, today is exploring philosophy, transpersonal psychology, meditation, yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism, Taoism, and many other spiritual schools of thought. There has also been an increasing interest in integrating spirituality and management as the numbers of articles on spirituality in management journals are increasing (Kale and Shrivastava, 2003). The Bhagavad-Gita is a sermon given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna regarding the correct technique of life. It is universal and non-sectarian and its teachings are applicable not only to Indians and Hindus but to everybody
The background for the Bhagavad-Gita is the epic Mahabharata. The Mahabharata was composed by Sri Vyasa Muni (son of Parasara Muni) and was written by Sri Ganesa and it has 110,000 verses. The Bhagavad-Gita appears in 700 verses (of which 575 are uttered by Sri Krishna) in Bhisma Parva of the Mahabharata and consists of 18 chapters. The Mahabharata narrates the war between two cousins; the 5 Pandavas and 100 Kauravas to claim the kingdom of Hastinapura. The Bhagavad-Gita was given on the battlefield before the commencement of the war. The battlefield represent our body where an unending battle is raging between the forces of good and evil. Introduction (2)
Objectives of the Paper The broad purpose of this paper is to explore the contribution and the relevance of the Bhagavad-Gita, which presents one of the Indian ( Vedic ) views on HRM. The philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita should not be viewed from spiritual perspectives only but also as a guide in developing HRM effectiveness as HRM is culture specific and culture has a great impact on HRM and each country and community has to develop its own system of HRM (Sharma, 2001).
Methodology Qualitative research methodology called hermeneutics, which is the interpretation of ancient literatures. Hermeneutics is also concerned with the usage of language and the process of using language. The Mahabharata was written in the Sanskrit language, one of the oldest languages in the world. The translation of the Bhagavad-Gita requires a good mastery of Sanskrit . As a result the main English translation of the Bhagavad-Gita verses quoted in this paper is based on the authoritative translation of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The author of this paper, also has the knowledge and experience of HRM as a lecturer, consultant and of the Bhagavad-Gita as a student for many years.
Limitations The Bhagavad-Gita is perceived as a spiritual and philosophical text, as such it is not directly related to HRM The Bhagavad-Gita is also perceived only as an Hindu scripture, as such other Indians who are not Hindu will find it difficult to accept the Bhagavad-Gita However, there is no doubt that the principles propounded in the Bhagavad-Gita are useful for managers to mould their character and strengthen the self in improving their HRM effectiveness
HRM HRM is an interdisciplinary field with contributions from various fields such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics and finance (Muniapan, 2005) Dessler and Tan (2006, p. 4) defines HRM as “the policies and practices involved in carrying out the ‘people’ or human resource aspects of a management position, including recruiting, screening, training, rewarding, and appraising”. HRM activities in organization can broadly classified into four namely acquisition of human resources, development of human resources, rewarding human resources and maintenance of human resources (Mondy et al (2000).
Bhagavad-Gita and HRM The Bhagavad-Gita was delivered by Sri Krishna to boost Arjuna’s declining morale, motivation, confidence and to increase his (Arjuna) effectiveness due to his (Arjuna) intra-personal conflict, which was to fight or not to fight the war at Kurukshestra Sri Krishna gave not only spiritual enlightenment but also the art of self management, conflict management, stress, anger management, transformational leadership, motivation, goal setting and many others aspects of management which can be used as a guide to increase HRM effectiveness. Unlike the western approach to HRM, which focuses in exploring the external world of matter and energy, the Bhagavad-Gita recommends a HRM approach, which focuses on exploring the inner world of the self.
When Arjuna saw his friends and relatives, he was de-motivated Sri Krishna, played the role of teacher (HR trainer, guide, developer), to revive Arjuna’s motivation
Strengthening of the Mind as the Essential HRM (1) Sri Krishna, embarked on the following sermon:- “ O son of PrthA (Arjuna), do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of enemy” (B.G. 2.3) Sri Krishna desired that Arjuna as well as all the readers of Bhagavad-Gita could cast off weakness of heart in performing duties. The mind of the manager must be firm in driving the organizational resources (HR) towards vision and mission. In the words of Sri Ramakrishna (Chidbhavananda, 1992, p. 119) “he who is soft and weak minded like the puffed rice soaked in milk, is good for nothing. He cannot achieve anything great. But the strong and virile one is heroic. He is the accomplisher of everything in life”.
A rjuna said: F or the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind. (B.G. 6.34) S ri K rishna said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti (Arjuna), it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment. (B.G.6.35)
Strengthening of the Mind as the Essential HRM (2) HRM programs in organizations should focus in creating and developing managers and organizational members to be strong and be mentally fearless as an untrained mind is very weak and unstable , as a result even a small obstacle coming in its way may make it lose initiative. Sri Krishna also described that for one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends , but for one who has failed to control their mind, the mind will be the greatest enemy. (B.G. 6.6) In defining ‘ Shitaprajna’, a person with stable intelligence, Sri Krishna described that when a man gives up all varieties of desire for sense gratification, which arise from mental concoction, and when his mind, thus purified, finds satisfaction in the self alone, then he is to be in pure transcendental consciousness. (B.G. 2.55)
I n the chariot of the body, the five horses represent the five senses (tongue, eyes, ears, nose and skin). The reins, the driving instrument, symbolize the mind , the driver is the intelligence , and the passenger is the self . M anagers should use their intelligence to control the mind, they should not let the mind to be controlled by the senses.
HRM through Duty and Setting Example (1) Duty is given great importance in the Bhagavad-Gita . Duty in the organizational context goes beyond contractual agreement in the employment relationship . Sri Krishna motivates and encourages Arjuna to do his duty and not to run away from the battlefield. Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work (B.G 3.8) Sri Krishna further stressed that duty needs to be done without attachment and for those who do their duty without attachment will attain the supreme goal (B.G 3.19) Sri Krishna instructed Arjuna to perform his work (duty) for the sake of educating the people in general.
HRM through Duty and Setting Example (2) The manager (leader) in the context of organization needs to set example to their followers as whatever the leader does, the followers will follow and whatever standards or example the leader sets people in general will follow . (B.G. 3.21) When Sri RAma was faced with similar situation ( Uttara Kanda of Ramayana ), he exhibited his role as an ideal king when he banished his beloved wife SitA. The organizational interest or the duty must always be above the self (Muniapan, 2005). This lesson in leadership given by Sri Krishna is not only limited to leaders in the work organization but each and every leader, including kings, ministers, community leaders, fathers or teachers.
Personal Management (1) The Bhagavad-Gita stresses the importance of personal management first before personnel management (HRM) . Personal management includes all aspects of management of oneself such as managing life, time, stress, anger, fear and self-control In explaining the position of a self realized person (B.G. 18.51- 18.53), among others, Sri Krishna stressed the aspects such as controlling the mind, determination, giving up sense gratification, being free from attachment and hatred, body and mind control, power of speech, free from false ego, false pride and anger as essential part of self management. Sri Krishna described that from anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence will be lost and when intelligence is lost one falls down (B.G. 2.63)
Personal Management (2) In describing qualities of brahmanas (intelligent managers) (B.G. 18.42), Sri Krishna stressed the qualities such as peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness and in describing the qualities of ksatriyas (administrative managers) (B.G. 18.43), Sri Krishna identified qualities such as heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership. The Bhagavad-Gita gives the importance to personal management before personnel management (HRM).
HRM & the Need for a Teacher In the Bhagavad-Gita (4.34), Sri Krishna highlighted the need for a teacher when he told Arjuna to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master and inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self realized masters could impart their knowledge because they have seen the truth. For Arjuna, Sri Krishna was not only his friend but also his mentor and teacher. Arjuna, taking the role of student, asked Sri Krishna for guidance and Sri Krishna guided not only Arjuna, but also the entire Pandavas to win the war. The need to create a learning culture and learning organization is an important task of the manager. The manager as a mentor or teacher should have the knowledge and experience to develop their student’s ability to perform their duty towards the organization.
HRM & Motivation The term “motivation” refers to the driving force (internal and external), which explains behavior. In the organizational context, Robbins, S (2003, p. 444) defines motivation as “the willingness to exert high levels of effort to reach organizational goals, conditioned by the effort’s ability to satisfy some individual need”. Motivating employees towards high performance is the task of every manager. Although the level of motivation varies among individuals, the manager firstly must understand the employee’s need. In many verses of the Bhagavad-Gita , Sri Krishna motivates and energizes Arjuna to do his duty. Sri Krishna focused on the internal (intrinsic) motivation more than external (extrinsic) motivation.
Transformational Leadership After hearing 575 verses from Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita , Arjuna was motivated, energized and acted according to Sri Krishna’s instruction. This is transformation management (leadership), as quoted by Narayana (1998) who explained what happened after the Bhagavad-Gita . He (Arjuna) stood steady on the ground with bow and arrow in hand. He lifted his arms ready to fight the war. Sri Krishna demonstrated transformational HR leadership qualities in developing and guiding Arjuna to victory in the war. Transformational leaders (HR managers) exhibit charisma, encourage followers to question their own way of doing things, and treat followers differently but equitably based on follower need (Bass and Avolio, 1993) cited in Krishnan and Srinivas (1998).
Conclusion Modern HR managers and consultants can benefit from the philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita , which can serve as a guide in HRM. Mere imitation of western HRM approaches may not be appropriate in the Indian (Asian) context due to differences in the cultural environment. Many new western HRM approaches will continue to emerge, however the Bhagavad-Gita has remained and will remain to be relevant and continue to contribute to HRM for many centuries to come.
Arjuna's illusion has now gone. He is motivated to win the war for the Pandavas. This is due to Sri Krishna, who became the adviser for Arjuna and transformed him (Arjuna) and the Pandavas to victory. This is a lesson in HRM .
Wherever there is Sri Krishna and Arjuna, there will be Victory Thank You B alakrishnan M uniapan [email_address]