Ancient Management

ANCIENT INDIAN  MANAGEMENT: DECISION MAKING in RAMAYANA

“As long as the mountains and even rivers flourish on the surface of the earth,

so long the legend of Ramayana will flourish in this world”

– Valmiki Ramayana, Chapter 2, Verse 36

The studies to explore Vedanta, Ramayana, Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita ,  Mahabharata and Arthashastra were made by management researchers. One of the literatures which need to be explored in the context of management is Valmiki Ramayana, considered to be the most glorious Indian epic in the world.

The Ramayana has been the source of spiritual, cultural, sociological, political and artistic inspiration for ages for the people of India and also to the people of South East Asian countries especially Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Valmiki Ramayana

The Valmiki Ramayana is the standard history of Sri Rama became the source for many other popular versions of Ramayana such as Adhyatma Ramayana (Sanskrit), Tulsidas Ramayana (Hindi), Kamba Ramayana (Tamil), Ezhuttachan Ramayana (Malayalam) and many other versions of Ramayana in all the languages of the states in India as well as in South East Asian languages such as Burmese, Cambodian, Thai, Javanese, Khotanese Laotian, Malay, Indonesian and Tagalog.

The Ramayana is called Ramakien in Thailand, Serat Rama in Indonesia, Hikayat Seri Rama in Malaysia, the Yama Pwe in Myanmar and the Maharadia Lawana in the Philippines.

The Valmiki Ramayana contains much wisdoms and lessons in all aspect of human life. There are lessons in dharma (righteousness), artha (economic development), kama (fulfilment of desires) and moksha (liberation).

Valmiki Ramayana is a majestic epic, expounding dharma (righteousness, occupational duty) by way of depicting the great heroic life of the ideal person, Sri Rama. The narration of Valmiki Ramayana revolves around the life and character of Sri Rama who was born to King Dasaratha – the King of Ayodhya.  Sri Rama acted as an ideal king, ideal son, ideal brother, ideal husband, ideal friend and ideal student and even as an ideal enemy.

Managerial effectiveness

There are numerous definitions of ‘management’. However, the most quoted definition is ‘to get things done through people’.

The earliest civilization flourished because of the organized human efforts, so management of men has naturally received much importance and attention in human society. In management, often references of ancient scholars and philosophers of Egypt, Rome, Greece and China are made but there is seldom any reference to the thoughts of Indian thinkers on this subject. Applicability of ancient Indian concept in modern business management is of relevance because of the fact that without strong management techniques India could not have seen an organized and culturally advanced civilization like Indus Valley.

The Indian culture throughout ages was very much organized and had its own leadership style and management system. The Indian epics and Vedic literatures are full of such evidences.  The Vedic literatures also provide the background for Hinduism , which is the oldest living organized religion in the world; and it was not founded by any individual prophet and is not compose of teaching of any particular group of them. The Indian epics and the Vedic literatures inspire every manager and leaders to reflect, investigate, search and cogitate.

There are basically three types of managerial skills, which include:

Technical skills

Technical skills refer to the ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise. Managers can learn the special knowledge and practices in their field of study through formal management education in universities and colleges, and not all technical skills have to be learned in schools or formal training programs. Many people develop their technical skills on the job. A lot of technical skills related to management requires on the job training and education.

Human skills

A human skill is the ability to work with, understand, and motivate other people, both individually and in groups. Since managers get things done through other people, they must have good human skills to communicate, motivate and delegate their people to achieve organizational goals.

Conceptual skills

A conceptual skill on the other hand is the mental ability to analyze and diagnose complex situations. Different managers at different levels in the hierarchy of management within an organization do not need the same combination of the three sets of skills. In general, managers at lower levels need to have more technical skills while the managers at higher levels should have stronger conceptual skills

Valmiki Ramayana and managerial effectiveness

The Valmiki Ramayana and the Vedic literatures of India are thought to be showing only the relationship between men with the creator. As a result, most of the people have been impressed by the astoundingly wide range of subjects and philosophical thoughts expressed in the literatures and epics of India.

But what they have forgotten to notice is that the literatures and epics such as the Valmiki Ramayana also believe in the principle of work life and effective management which can be applicable even today.

Valmiki Ramayana is vast and covers all range of subjects. Besides management, Valmiki Ramayana also encompasses religion, statesmanship, international relation, wars, treaties, administration, collection of revenue, rules of taxation, agriculture, mining, forestry, etc.

Decision making in Valmiki Ramayana

Managers are required to make decisions about appropriate solutions for the problems and act to utilize organizational resources to implement these solutions.

A manager plans, organizes, staffs, leads and controls the organization by executing decisions. The effectiveness and quality of those decisions determine how successful a manager will be. For a good manager problem solving and decision making skill is very much needed. The health of an organization or a kingdom does not depend upon its economy and productivity alone rather the most important factor, which leads to better organizational health, is the satisfaction of the people and customers.

The main purpose of problem solving and decision making is to transform the internal and external forces, that is, environment, customers, people, policies, etc. into friends and helpers to achieve the above-mentioned goal or objective.

Managers are constantly called upon to make decisions in order to solve problems. Decision making and problem solving are ongoing processes of evaluating situations or problems, considering alternatives, making choices and following them up with the necessary actions.

According to Swami Someswarananda  the Director, Vivekananda Centre for Indian Management, when a decision is made and implemented, it can, produce four types of results:

  1. developing own organisation
  2. harming own organisation
  3. helping other organisation
  4. harming other organisation.

What most organisation can do is to grow and help others to develop. So the ideal decisions are always directed towards this goal. The best strategy to achieve the goal of what has been said earlier is to concentrate on solving the deeper problem of the people and customer. “Instead of competing with others one should try to excel in one’s own area and concentrate on how best it can be utilized toserve the people.

The Indian ethos is based on cooperation to grow along with others and to share with others. For that reason, Swami Vivekananda  while establishing the Ramakrishna Mission highlighted upon the principle of ‘Atmano-mokshartham jagat-hitaya cha’. This means, one should try for the betterment of the self along with the betterment of the whole world.

Unfortunately, today decisions are taken to compete and people think that through competition only one can grow. The term healthy competition is a misnomer since competition always means to ‘beat others’.

On decision making Sri Rama says, “The source of victory for kings indeed comes from a concealed counsel by ministers, who are well-versed in political sciences and who can hide their thoughts within themselves.”

mantro vijaya muulam hi raajnaam bhavati raaghava, susamvR ito

mantra dharair amaatyaiH shaastra kovidaih 

Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 100, Verse 16

In Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 100, Verse 18, Sri Rama again says to Bharata, “I hope that you do not deliberate alone or indeed with numerous men. I hope your decision arrived at by you through such deliberation does not flow to the public.”

Sri Rama has clearly stated that the decisions should not be taken alone. To encourage organizational democracy and to avoid the limitations like lack of information, discovering alternatives to the problem, choice of rational solutions, multi objective solutions generation and other organizational variables such as philosophy of the organization, power structure, existence of informal power groups, etc. a collective decision-making process should be evolved.

According to him even one wise, valiant sagacious and efficient minister alone can cause to secure a great prosperity to the king or to one who enjoys royal authority

eko apy amaatyo medhaavii shuuro dakSho vicakShaNaH

raajaanam raaja maatram vaa praapayen mahatiim shriyam 

Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 100, Verse 24

In the process of collective decision making, a large group of people should be avoided. The decision-making group should consists of experienced and intelligent people with positive attitude since people with negative intelligence always tries to thrust their ideas upon others and cite references in support to their view.

They always debate with a negative biasness and pose themselves to be learned but are fools in reality. Sri Rama says, “I hope you are not honoring the materialistic brahmanas, my dear brother! These men are skilled in perverting the mind, ignorant as they are and thinking themselves to be learned and reaching to their logical acumen, these men of perverted intellect preach meaninglessly, in the presence of eminent books on righteousness.”

kaccin na lokaayatikaan braahmaNaamH taata sevase,

anartha kushalaa hy ete baalaaH paNDita maaninaH.

dharma shaastreShu mukhyeShu vidyamaaneShu durbudhaaH,

buddhimaan viikShikiim praapya nirartham pravadanti te

Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 100, Verses 38 and 39

Dharma (Virtue, Righteousness) always takes precedence over two other life goals – Artha (wealth) and Kama (enjoyment). Sri Rama says,“A wise and learned king, having obtained and ruled the entire earth, properly by righteousness and by administering justice to the people, indeed ascends to heaven when detached from the mortal body.”

Protecting Dharma is the most sacred duty of the king and leaders in all the segments and institution. Dharma is the key to success and prosperity.

The main teaching of Valmiki Ramayana is  that Dharma, upholds the fabric of the society and helps us eventually to achieve Moksha (Transcendence).

avaapya kR itsnaaM vasudhaaM yathaava, ditashchhyutaH svargamupaiti vidvaan.

Ayodhya Kanda, Chapter 100, and Verses 76

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