Vision for Long-term Good and Prosperity for All
By Sunil Kumar
In this insightful piece the author talks about creating ‘systems’ which can produce ‘good’ people as our leaders and policy makers, who will strive for subjective or inner growth towards ‘Perfection’ and also for quality and perfection in work, done with an evenness of mind, for the good of society.
“Have our systems been able to produce leaders, policy makers and administrators who have care and concern for the environment and society as a whole, not just for parts?”
“Happiness is the common human desire, the universal ‘North’ towards which we all willy-nilly strive, knowingly or unknowingly.”
Problems of modern society:
Modern society is in a state of ‘perpetual purposelessness’. Modern systems have failed to inspire us to be committed to kartavya-palan; to Fundamental Duties (Art. 51A); to quality in work; to have love, care, concern for ‘others’; to work for good of ‘samaaja’; to develop self-control to strive towards our common, universal goal of ‘Perfection’, in and through our daily work and interactions.
Evolving a Shared Vision for Future:
As citizens and as a nation what is our common, shared vision? ‘Bharat’ literally implies that nation whose citizens are continuously striving for the highest ‘illumination’ – Perfection; Freedom; perpetual sukh, shanti, ananda; prosperity for all. The way forward has also been encapsulated in the principle of ‘Sanatana-Dharma’, i.e. striving to imbibe and inculcate those universal values and eternal principles, practicing which we remain on the critical path to our common, universal goal of Perfection.
Our status in society, money we earn, living standard, type of work, lowest or highest, etc. are not important; the question is: Are you on the growth path to Perfection? If so, you are in ‘Sur’ (harmonious growth), you are a ‘Srestha’ whether you are an unskilled laborer or the highest leader and professional; if not you are ‘Asur’.
Points for Reflection:
How do we judge the fruit of our modern civilization with its politics of democracy, excessive focus on economic growth and IQ based education? We must ask some fundamental questions:
• As Aristotle puts it: It is better to be governed by a good man than by good laws. Are our policy makers and administrators ‘good’ people? Are we producing the Srestha, the ‘good’ in all walks of life?
• Have our systems been able to produce leaders, policy makers and administrators who have care and concern for the environment and society as a whole, not just for parts?
• Have these leaders created systems where our ‘Result Producers’, i.e. the business leaders, industrialists, professionals, and the workforce, strive towards work excellence for good of society, externally, while striving towards ‘Perfection’, internally?
• Can divisive and destructive politics of democracy, inefficient, non-caring, self-serving governance and mere 3R’s education, ever produce the Srestha, the men of wisdom who love the ‘whole’, not just ‘parts’?
• How do we select, train, evaluate, and promote people based on their ability to solve issues fairly and justly?
• How do we educate, and develop people to be committed to duties? How do we determine who is good for which role? Are our systems designed to find and punish the wrongdoers?
• People tend to do what they are evaluated upon: So, how do we develop and evaluate enlightened citizenship? What syllabus and action plan are we following to build it?
• In our modern concepts of governance, education, democracy, bureaucracy, who is responsible and accountable for nurturing enlightened citizenship?
Time tested Wisdom:
Wisdom from across the world, say the same thing:
• St. Stephens College: Ad Dei Gloriam, ‘every action of ours should add to the glory of God’
• Plato (Republic): Ruler must be a philosopher
• Raja+Rishi= kingly without; sagely within. A ‘Raja-Rishi’ alone can deliver ‘Ram-rajya’ – pictures of an enlightened ruler and a well governed state.
• Life of Pi: Nil magnum nisi bonum – There is no greatness without goodness
• Bible: Kingdom of God is within you. Seek you first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything else will be added unto you. Be your Perfect
• Quran: An-al-haqq, I am the Truth; anyone who performs good deeds will enter paradise
• Ramakrishna Mission: ‘Atmano Moksartham Jagad hitaye cha’: Manifest the divinity within by working for the good of the whole creation; Shiva Jaane Jiva seva; Seeing the God within, serve the Living-beings. This is based on the principle that ‘Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest the divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal’.
The uniqueness and backbone of Indian culture, because of which we still survive as a nation, in spite of centuries of attacks on our societal systems, values and ideals, is our worldview that each soul is potentially divine, ‘Perfect’; i.e. we are not separate entities, but are interconnected. Thus our every action must help manifest more and more of our potential Perfection and Ananda or bliss, and expand us to feel ‘one’ with more and more. We remain on the path to ‘Perfection’ through commitment to kartavya-palan and, excellence in work when done in a spirit of worship, for the good of society, which calms the mind and is the passport to wisdom.
Defining our Shared Vision for Effectiveness:
Individual: ‘As one who continuously strives to make right choices, and develops strength, fearlessness, and ability to walk the talk towards Perfection’. For this we must be educated towards the lofty Vision of ‘Perfection’; learn to make ‘Right’ Choices; and strive to harmonize daily thoughts-words-actions towards the Vision of ‘Perfection’.
Managerial: ‘As one who initiates and Implements Changes and Continuous Improvements in Services, Products and Systems’. For this we must strive to identify and improve inefficient systems which give rise to unethical behavior and suggest ways for Continuous Improved Individual and Organizational Effectiveness, focusing on our ‘Area of Influence’ while striving to expand it.
Wisdom from Chanakya-niti:
Happiness is the common human desire, the universal ‘North’ towards which we all willy-nilly strive, knowingly or unknowingly. Based on this human instinct Chanakya Niti puts the role of different aspects of governance and work-life, succinctly:
• The root cause of Happiness is practice of ‘Dharma’ (Righteous conduct, quality work, Professional Values & Business Ethics, work in spirit of seva & worship)
• The root cause of Dharma is Artha, i.e. only if there is economic prosperity will people desist from adharma!
• The root cause of Artha is Good Governance
• The root cause of Good Governance is Victory over Sense-organs, i.e. striving for Self-control.
• The root cause of Self-control is Vinayam, humility.
• The root cause of humility is ‘Vriddh seva’, respect for seniority, serving the elders.
Indian ethos divides all human efforts and strivings into four ‘Purusarthas’: Through Dharma earn and fulfill desires, to remain on the critical path to ‘Perfection’. It is only when desires are thwarted that people fail to follow business ethics and human values while engaged in economic activities and fail to get Ananda, Peace. So, the very first step is to get educated and trained to acquire Dharma i.e. doing that which leads to consistent success, peace and perpetual bliss, which in the field of Economics implies sustainability, environmental concerns, and is now being addressed through courses on Business Ethics, Professional and Human Values, Corporate Social Responsibility, codes of ethics, etc.
While ‘Perfection’ may seem to be just an impossible ideal, far removed from our present problems, this ideal gives us a lofty vision, a higher direction, a common ‘North’, so that we can continuously reflect on our thoughts-goal-actions, and try to harmonize them towards this ultimate vision. If we are made to continuously reflect and explore the ideal of ‘Perfection’ as a desirable state of consistent success happiness, peace, Ananda; as the ultimate goal, aim and purpose of life; a state of total freedom from all dualities, then gradually the ideal will become more and more relevant.
Economic growth and development must be subservient to human growth:
The problem of modern society, politics, education, etc. is that, pursuit of money has become the ultimate goal and objective of all activities, and we have failed to create educational, social, and institutional systems and work culture, which could have regulated and controlled this greed for consumerism and undue focus on wealth creation, arising from the modern cultures.
We seem to have forgotten that throughout history, India was the land of plenty; our elders had set up systems, environment and work culture which could produce selfless teachers, rulers and administrators who had made India great by empowering the Indian workers and managers to produce world-class goods which attracted people from all over the world to India to partake in its glory and grandeur and to loot and plunder. With all modern education, technology and systems, India is no longer a leader and our people are labeled as corrupt, inefficient, unskilled, and lazy!
Even today it is mostly the common uneducated Indians (80%) who are not in the organized sector who ensure that wheat grown in north reaches a village shop in south. When Mahatma Gandhi had gone to attend the Round Table Conference in 1931 in London, he stated to the Press that when the British came to India, instead of supporting the existing systems, they uprooted the ‘Beautiful Tree’ of Indian systems and allowed it to decay and die. He gave the example of Vidya, Indian education system, and Vaidya, our health system, both of which were imparted by people who had a spirit of tyaga and seva, and which are now totally commercialized and materialistic. Of course he was soundly castigated by the British press then, but succeeded in making the emphatic point that subjective or inner growth is what ultimately produces quality work that is done with evenness of mind for the good of society.