Vedic Management – Introduction, Shreyas and Preyas


by Satya Chaitanya

Satya Chaitanya, a professional cooperate trainer, has taught for many years Management and Leadership from the Eastern perspective in some of the top institutions of India including the XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur, one of the top ten, and oldest, business school in India. He has taught Indian Ethos in Management to senior MMS students at Xavier Institute of Management and Research, St Xavier’s College, Bombay.

Let me begin with something far from the world of the Vedas: with a movie that I saw recently at an international film festival.

Andres Leon’s¬†More Than Anything in the World¬†[M√°s Que a Nada en el Mundo] is a powerful film from Mexico that won the Best First Film awards both at the Guadalajara and the Montreal Film Festivals. Directed by Andres Leon Becker, it is the harrowing tale of a divorced young mother and her seven-year-old daughter living in a suffocating tiny apartment in the urban jungle that is Mexico City. Such is the apartment that once you enter it, you are completely cut off from the outside world. There are no trees to be seen from the windows, no sky, no streets, nothing. The only thing you can see is the backsides of other apartments on your left, right and across that you feel are so near you will be able to touch if you stretch out your hand – mostly drain pipes, tiny ventilators and some windows, all curtained off to keep the outside world away. No breeze ever comes in, and not more than a tiny bit of dim light if you keep the windows open.

The young mother is lonely. She has no social life, no significant relationships to satisfy her emotional and physical needs. Her only relationship is with her daughter who is totally dependent on her for everything. To support themselves, the mother has to work and her work keeps her so busy she is invariably late everyday to take the child to school and to bring her back. In touching scenes the film shows us the watchman of the school refusing to admit the child, on the orders of the principal, because she has already been late so many times in the past. In another scene we see the child, a shadowy figure, sitting all alone on the floor of the school veranda very late in the evening, darkness all around her, with not a human being anywhere in sight – she is waiting for her mother to come and pick her up.

It is not that the mother does not care. She does care for her – she loves her “More than Anything in the World.” But she is so harrowed by her work she has no time for anything else – not even for her daughter.

In her loneliness, the mother starts allowing men to visit her at home and when the men are there, the girl has to remain in her small room so that they get privacy.

And the little girl – Alicia – is scared. She is scared to be alone, she is scared to be separated from her mother, and the only way she can stand her fears is to keep her mother in sight, if not hold on to her. She walks into the room in which her mother is with her lovers, and relationship after relationship breaks down, making her mother take out her anger on her daughter in frustration.

One of the reasons for Alicia’s fear is because she believes the man living in the apartment beind hers is a vampire in the guise of an old man and he is out to get her mother. She does not know much about Vampires, but her best friend in school – her only friend, another little girl her age – is an expert. Vampires drink blood from the necks of women, she tells Alicia, leaving a mark there. And then there are two possibilities – either you die or you become another vampire. The little friend confirms that the sounds Alicia has been hearing throughout the night are the sounds made by the vampire.

Alicia is terrified for her mother. She inspects her mother’s neck closely when she comes back after a session of lovemaking and sure enough, there is a bite mark on her neck. Little Alicia shivers in fright, but hides her fear in herself – she does not want her mother to discover it. And she gets a crucifix to get rid of the vampire – her little friend who gives it to her tells her the only way to kill a vampire is to place the crucifix on his chest. One night while her mother is asleep, the seven year old child climbs out of her window, walk on toilet pipes and narrow ledges and in a scene no one will be able to watch without holding his breath and will never be able to forget once he has seen it, reaches the window of the old man and climbs in.

Now she is alone with the vampire at night in his own house. But she wouldn’t allow her fears to overcome her. She has to save her mother from the clutches of the vampire. She crosses rooms, opening doors noiselessly, and eventually reaches the room in which the man is lying on his bed and succeeds in placing the crucifix on his chest.

Unknown to her, the man is already dead when she reaches his room. She imagines him to be asleep and waits for a while to see the effect of the crucifix. The man does not move. She has achieved her goal and she goes back to her home.

The man she is sure is a vampire is actually a lonely old man who once had a wife and a little daughter but who are no more with him. He had been diagnosed as being in an advanced stage of cancer around the time Alicia and her mother move into the new apartment and has been living a life of utter loneliness and suffering. The man has forgotten to smile. His only pleasure in life is the occasional peep he gets into little Alicia’s room from his window – and Alicia takes his attempts to stand at his window and look into her room as his attempts at stalking her mother.
More than Anything in the World is a powerful portrayal of modern man’s loneliness and the utter meaningless and joylessness that his life has become, shown from the standpoint of a young mother, a little child and an old man. And these three are not alone in being lonely and joyless and in losing all meaning in living – a vast majority of people living today in modern urban jungles are like that. And if our lives are not already like that, we are fast moving in that direction.


It so happened that a few hours before I saw¬†More than Anything in the World¬†at a local film festival, I had read about “the world of little kings’ in Lawrence G Boldt’s¬†Zen and the Art of Making a Living¬†and my mind linked the film and the book.

“About the time the Industrial Revolution was really getting into gear,” says Lawrence G Boldt, “political revolutions were everywhere replacing kings with parliaments, presidents and promises. The key promise was that the common man would one day soon be king. He would possess for his own the kingly prerogatives of power, leisure, and security – power over his station in life, the liberty of leisure, and the security of property….

“Every man would be king, enjoying the goods of life made possible through machines and mass production. There would soon arise whole nations of little kings, each at home in his castle; if not a palace, then perhaps a country estate; if not a country estate, then a home in the suburbs; in not a home in the suburbs, then perhaps a condo, an apartment, a mobile home – any kingdom, no matter how small. This is what we worked for. We laboured for a kingdom and the promise of the leisure to enjoy it.

“We aspired to the kingly life of leisure, a life of ease, a life to do with whatever we pleased, to be as irresponsible as we imagined the aristocracy to be.”

Leisure and opportunities to enjoy life were central to that world vision. I remember reading in Alwyn Toffler in the seventies, and later teaching about a future in which the main worry of governments would be that they wouldn’t know what to do with all the leisure people have.
And where we have ended up at the beginning of the twenty-first century is the world More than Anything in the World shows us. A world in which most men and women have to toil for fourteen to sixteen hours a day in their workplaces and then bring work home. A world in which there is no time for relationships. A world in which we do not know our next door neighbour. A world of broken families. A world of loneliness and meaninglessness, of isolation and closedness, of airlessness and suffocation. A world in which happiness is becoming a more distant dream every day.

This certainly is not the world of little kings.

The promises made by science and technology were not false. Science and technology can truly enrich our lives and make leisure possible beyond our dreams. The problem is not with technology, but with our attitude towards life, towards work and the world.


The Vedas are products of a rich society, a very rich society indeed. And what is amazing is that there is no suffering portrayed in this oldest literature of the world. There is no loneliness there, there is no world weariness and there is no suicidal rejection of the world. Instead, what we find is an unbelievable eagerness with which everyone embraces life, the spirit of festivity and celebration that permeates everyone and everything. This might come as a surprise to many: the Vedas have no concept of a hell. They speak of heaven, but there is no hell!

And yet they did not have the possibilities created by modern science and technology. Imagine a world where we have the possibilities created by science and technology and have the same attitude towards life and work and the same harmony with the world in which we live!

We can be beautiful people living happy lives in the middle of beautiful things. We need not be ugly people living meaningless lives in the middle of beautiful things.

This is what Vedic Management would mean to us today.

India, together with China, controlled about sixty percent of the world’s economy until about the time of the European conquest of Asia [the first world, and not the third world; to me the first world is Asia, the part of the world that became civilized first; the second world is Europe and America is the third world.] We are speaking of economic domination for a few millennia, unlike the economic domination of the west which is only as old as the Industrial Revolution.

And the East did this without leading to the tragedy that modern life has become.

The tragedy of modern life is not only at the personal and social levels. It is as much a tragedy at the global level as it is at the personal and social levels. Today we are talking of the world we are living in facing extinction – the nuclear threat, global warming, the energy crunch, deforestation, and the million other problems that are threatening to wipe out human and other life as we know it from the face of the earth.

We are now seriously considering migrations to other planets as a survival strategy.

HBO recently aired a documentary called¬†The Eleventh Hour¬†at the prime time – and the documentary deserved the prime time. In the documentary, the world’s foremost experts in different fields talked about what we have done to our planet in the short period of the last two hundred years or so – our mineral resources are fast being depleted, our oil reserves are running out, our rivers and oceans are polluted, much of our drinking water is toxic, animal, bird, tree and plant species are disappearing from the face of the earth at an alarming rate never to reappear again, our forests are disappearing, the air we breathe is poisonous over much of the earth, the greenhouse effect is making the snows on our mountains and on the north pole melt, ocean levels are rising, islands all over the world are slowly sinking into the seas and tomorrow much of our continents will follow, temperatures are rising so high so fast that much of the world will soon become inhospitable for human beings and animals.

It is these disasters that we discussed in the recent Copenhagen Summit.

But the Vedas tell us that economic progress is possible without causing these disasters.

Vedic Management can help us achieve economic progress without bringing the world to the rink of extinction.


W.W. Jacobs has written a powerful short story called¬†The Monkey’s Paw¬†which has haunted readers ever since it was published in 1902.

When the story opens, we are with the Whites in their home. Outside it is a dark and stormy night, but inside everything is calm and serene. Mr White and his son Herbert are playing chess and Mrs White is knitting by the fire.

Soon a family friend arrives on a visit: Sergeant Major Morris. Morris has just come back after spending years in India. Among the things he has brought back from India is a monkey’s paw. The paw, explains Morris, has the power to bring to fulfilment three wishes of three persons – it has been empowered by an Indian fakir. Morris has already had three wishes fulfilled and another man before him – his third wish was for death. Sergeant Major Morris tosses the paw into the fire, telling that the best thing to do with the paw is to keep as far away from it as possible. He wants it to be destroyed before it made more people suffer.

Mr. White jumps up and rescues the paw from the fire. He is fascinated by the paw and the story behind it. None of the warnings by Morris will make him give up the paw. Eventually the Sergent-Major explains how to make wishes on the paw.

After Morris leaves, the Whites make fun of the powers of the paw. They do not seriously believe such things are possible. Herbert suggests that his father should wish to become an emperor – that way he would be able to escape the nagging of his wife. Mrs White chases her son about in mock anger.

Herbert considers seriously what wish to make, though he still does not believe in the powers of the paw. Herbert playfully suggests that they should wish for two hundred pounds – that would pay off the money for their house. Mr White makes the wish.

The moment he makes a wish, Mr White gets a shock. He is sure the monkey’s paw moved in his hand.

Soon all three of them go to bed after putting out the fire.

The next morning they all joke about the monkey’s paw and its powers and then Herbert White leaves for his job. It was later that day that Mrs White notices a man hesitantly approaching their house. The man reluctantly reveals who he is. He has come from the factory where Herbert worked. There had been a fatal accident at the factory and Herbert has been killed. The factory sympathizes with the family. The company does not hold itself in anyway responsible for the accident, but as an act of kindness, they would give an amount of money as compensation.
Mr While is sure he knows how much the compensation would be. “How much?” he asks. And he is told, “Two hundred pounds.”

The amount they had wished on the monkey’s paw.

Days pass in the gloom of the horrid death. Mrs White is almost mad with grief. One day she asks her husband, “Where is the monkey’s paw?’

She wants Mr White to make another wish: their son should come back.

Mr White is horrified at the thought. He hasn’t told his wife that Herbert was caught in a machine in the factory and was mashed totally out of shape. He could be recognized only through his clothes.

Mrs White forces her husband to make a wish on the monkey’s paw that their son comes back. He makes the wish, and as he does so., suddenly the candle in the room goes out. There are strange noises in the house – perhaps a mouse, they think. Mr White strikes a match to light the candle and that too goes out. Before he can strike another, there is a knock at the front door.
Mr White begs his wife not to open the door and holds her back. She struggles to get free of him. “You’re afraid of your own son,” she accuses him, crying. “Let me go. I’m coming, Herbert; I’m coming.”

There is another knock, and another. The old woman with a sudden wrench breaks free and runs from the room. Her husband follows her to the landing, and calls after her appealingly as she hurries downstairs. He hears the chain rattle back and the bottom bolt being drawn slowly and stiffly from the socket. Then the old woman’s voice, strained and panting. “The bolt,” she cries loudly. “Come down. I can’t reach it.”

But her husband is on his hands and knees groping wildly on the floor in search of the paw. If he could only find it before the thing outside got in. A perfect fusillade of knocks reverberates through the house, and he hears the scraping of a chair as his wife puts it down in the passage against the door. He hears the creaking of the bolt as it comes slowly back. At the same moment he finds the monkey’s paw, and frantically breathes his third and last wish.

The knocking ceases suddenly, although the echoes of it are still in the house. He hears the chair being drawn back and the door being opened. A cold wind rushes up the staircase, and a long loud wail of disappointment and misery from his wife gives him courage to run down to her side, and then to the gate beyond.

The street lamp flickering opposite was shining on a quiet and deserted road.


What has happened to humanity during the last hundred and fifty or two hundred years is exactly what happened to the Whites. Here was Science and Technology, which looked all powerful to grant any wish of his, and he made those wishes. And now we are facing the threat of extinction.
But there are ways of getting what we want without paying the price the White family had to pay for the fulfilment of their wishes in¬†The Monkey’s Paw.

The Vedic Management way.

Vedic Management is about progress without paying the terrifying price modern man is paying for it. It is about work habits that do not alienate man from man and engender loneliness in life. It is about transforming work itself into a celebration, a process of growth and transcendence. It is about growing in harmony with nature rather than depleting it for achieving growth. It is about achieving economic prosperity and progress without exhausting our mineral resources and oil reserves, without polluting our rivers and oceans, without making our drinking water toxic, without making the air we breathe poisonous, without destroying our biodiversity, without causing the greenhouse effect that is making the snows on our mountains and on the north pole melt, without making ocean levels are rise, without making islands all over the world sink into the seas, without making global temperatures go up. It is about progress without destroying family and social life, without transforming the heaven that is the earth into hell.


Shreyas and preyas

by Satya Chaitanya

Satya Chaitanya, a professional cooperate trainer, has taught for many years Management and Leadership from the Eastern perspective in some of the top institutions of India including the XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur, one of the top ten, and oldest, business school in India. He has taught Indian Ethos in Management to senior MMS students at Xavier Institute of Management and Research, St Xavier’s College, Bombay.

Vedic management recommends the path of shreyas as against the path of preyas to individuals and organizations. The path of shreyas always wins even when it appears to lose, say the¬†Vedas; and the path of preyas is a loser’s path, they say, even when it appears to be winning. Vedic wisdom tells us that management based on the path of preyas will eventually lead to disaster whereas management based on shreyas will lead to lasting good.

Let’s take a look at what shreyas and preyas mean.


This is a story told by Kanika, Dhritarashtra’s minister in the¬†Mahabharata, by way of advising the Kuru king on administrative policy. After narrating the story, Kanika sums it up saying: “If kings always act in this way, they can be happy.” According to Kanika then, the story teaches us the way to achieve not only organizational and personal goals, but also happiness. Let’s now listen to Kanika’s story, which he calls the story of ‘a wise jackal fully acquainted with the science of polity.’

Once upon a time there lived five friends in a jungle: a jackal, a tiger, a wolf, a mongoose and a mouse. One day they saw a mighty deer in the prime of his youth – he was the leader of the herd, powerfully built, fleet of foot and majestic in every way. The friends were tempted and the tiger, the fastest and mightiest of the friends, made many attempts to kill it but he failed every time as the stag was always on the alert and it ran swifter than him.

Eventually the friends sat in counsel over the matter. It was the jackal who came up with the idea. They will wait for the deer to sleep and when he sleeps, the mouse will stealthily crawl to him and bite his leg. Once wounded, the deer will no more be able to run as fast as he does and then the tiger can hunt it down easily and they can all feast upon it.

And that’s exactly how they went about it. Soon the just killed deer was lying before them, its young meat making their mouths water. However, before they began their feast, the jackal, the wisest of them all, said, “Friends, we have done that. Now go, perform your ablutions and come back. In the meantime, I shall guard the kill.”

Everyone knows a bath is important before a meal. Especially when it is a special feast.

The tiger was the first to come back. When he reached where the deer he had killed lay, he saw the jackal sitting beside it lost in deep meditation. “What’s wrong, friend?” asked the tiger. “You look so sad.”

“Well,” said the jackal, “it’s what the mouse just said. He was saying “Fie on the strength of the king of the beasts! I have killed this deer and the mighty king of the jungle shall gratify his hunger today by the might of my arm!'”

When the tiger heard this, he became so indignant he turned around and walked away in disgust. He was not going to touch the meat if that’s how the mouse felt. He vowed never to eat meat in future unless he himself had made the kill.

The mouse was the next to come. And the jackal told him, “Listen dear friend, to what the mongoose has said. He said, ‘The carcass of this deer is poison since the tiger has touched it with his claws. I will not eat of it. On the other hand, if you, O jackal, will permit it, I’ll kill the mouse and feast on him.'” The mouse heard this and bolted into the nearest bush, running for his life.

Now came the wolf and the jackal told him, “O my dear wolf! The king of the beasts is angry with you. Evil is sure to fall on you. He is expected here with his wife any moment. Do as you please.” The wolf fled from the spot as fast as he could.

It was then that the last of the friends, the mongoose, came. The jackal looked sternly at him and said, “Look mongoose. With the might of my arms I have driven away all the others. If you want to have the meat, fight me first.” The mouse decided not to fight the jackal that had driven away the tiger, the wolf and the mouse with his might and slunk away.

And the jackal had the entire deer to himself.

Kanika concludes the story: “If kings always act as the jackal did, they can be happy.”


It is the Kathopanishad, belonging to the Yajur Veda, that tells us of shreyas and preyas. Speaking of the two, the¬†Upanishad¬†says: “Shreyas is one thing and preyas, another… Of these two, the one who chooses shreyas comes to good and the one chooses preyas misses his goal. Both shreyas and preyas appear before man and wise men distinguish between the two. The intelligent ones choose shreyas over preyas and fools choose preyas hoping to attain and retain things.”

Preyas here is immediate good and shreyas, lasting good. Preyas is the transient and shreyas, the enduring. Preyas is short term satisfaction and shreyas, long term good.

Fools choose preyas and intelligent ones, shreyas, says the Upanishad.

Now let’s take a look at the jackal in the story whom Kanika, the narrator, calls a wise animal, fully acquainted with the science of polity. Is the jackal really wise?

Taken superficially, the jackal indeed appears wise. He gets his friends to kill the deer and gets the whole deer for himself through his polity. The jackal appears admirable and his path promises success and happiness. As Kanika puts it, “If kings always act like the jackal, they can be happy.”

However, when we look at the story a little more deeply, we find the jackal is not all that wise or intelligent. True he gets the whole deer for himself, but does he need it? Except satisfying his vanity, his ego, his greed, does it serve any purpose? Can he, for instance, eat the whole deer, which in all probability is larger than him? Can he preserve it for the next day in the jungle? Wouldn’t the meat start rotting soon and become inedible by the next day? Can he share it with his friends, if not preserve it? But he has no other friends – it is from the friends he had that he has snatched it away.

Remember all five of the animals were friends living together in the same forest. What if the other animals talked among themselves? What happens when they learn that they have betrayed by the jackal to satisfy his greed? Made them look like idiots? What happens when they learn that he has played them against one another?

Even as it is, the team, which was their strength, has been destroyed. So long as the wolf believes the tiger is out to get him, he is not going to go anywhere near the tiger. And the mouse will always be suspicious of the mongoose from now. And the mongoose will never help the jackal in another hunt because he believes he will then have to fight the jackal for his share of the meat.

The jackal by himself is not capable of killing another deer like this.

By creating suspicion against one another in the minds of his friends, the jackal has not only destroyed the team but has also sowed seeds of mistrust and darkness in the hearts of every one of them.

All this so that he can have the whole deer to himself, though he can neither eat it all, nor preserve it for future, nor share it with others.

This precisely is preyas – immediate satisfaction as against long term good.

The jackal’s action is stupidity itself. As a team they could have killed hundreds of deer but now all he has is that single deer.

This is what the Upanishad means when it says fools choose the path of preyas.


The entire Mahabharata, from which we get the story of this deer-slayers, could be seen an epic essay on preyas vs. shreyas.

Of the two Bharata cousins, Duryodhana consistently chooses preyas and Yudhishthira always goes for shreyas.

The kingdom of the Bharatas actually belongs to Yudhishthira. On completion of his studies, Yudhishthira was made crown prince initially as the successor of his father Pandu who was king before him. But Duryodhana gets rid of him through treachery and occupies the throne. Eventually as Yudhishthira becomes strong again, as a compromise solution, the kingdom is partitioned, Duryodhana getting the prosperous part of the kingdom with its original capital and Yudhishthira, a wilderness. But so good is Yudhishthira as a king that he succeeds in transforming that wilderness into a powerful, rich kingdom in a few years and then Duryodhana once again snatches it away from him through treachery in a game of dice. As per the conditions of the dice game, Yudhishthira and his brothers, along with their common wife Draupadi, is forced to live in jungles for twelve years, following which they had to live a year a life in disguise, during which if they were found, they would have to repeat the cycle. Even though they complete the thirteen years successfully, Duryodhana refuses to give their kingdom back to them and war becomes inevitable. And in the war, Duryodhana not only loses all of his kingdom, but also all his brothers and near and dear ones, and eventually loses his own life.

Duryodhana throughout follows the path of preyas. It does give him immediate satisfaction, but eventually he is the loser. Had he followed the path of shreyas even at a later stage, he could have remained king all his life and at his death, his successors could have become kings. Choosing preyas destroyed all these possibilities. Besides, he led the land of India to unspeakable loss. Such was the devastation caused by the war, it took ages for it to resurrect again.

It is interesting that Kanika tells the story of the jackal in answer to a question by Dhritarashtra about how to destroy foes. Here it is friends who are destroyed, and not foes – the Pandavas were not really Duryodhana’s foes but cousins, and under different circumstances could have become his best friends, especially Yudhishthira. Perhaps there is a lesson there – greed erases the distinction between friends and foes.


The current world situation that we are experiencing, forcing us to think seriously of survival plans as we recently did at Copenhagen Summit, is a result of our consistently choosing preyas over shreyas. If our natural resources are fast coming to an end, not to be created again for millions of years to come, it is because we have chosen preyas over shreyas. If we are polluting our air, polluting our water, creating the greenhouse effect and causing world temperatures to rise and making glaciers all over the world to melt, it is because we have chosen preyas over shreyas.

Vedic literature gives us three consumption models: the angaraka [angarika], the malakara and the madhukari models.

The angaraka model is based on the profession of the coalseller. He goes to the jungle, cuts down trees, burns them down to make coal and sells this in the market. To him each tree is worth only the coal it can provide. The oxygen the tree provides, the shade and shelter it provides, the flowers and fruits it gives season after season, and its capacity to reproduce practically an endless number of young tress – none of these amount to anything to him. He reduces the tree to coal and sells it. In his hands, an entire forest is soon reduced to coal, never to bloom again, never to give oxygen to the world, never to have flowers and fruits, never to grow and reproduce.

This is the world’s model for consumption today and this is how we have been consuming the earth’s resources since the industrial revolution. And if this pattern of consumption continues, time is not far when the earth will become a totally inhospitable planet, as there are strong possibilities that it may any day become.

Malakaropamo rajan bhava ma’ngarikopamah, says the Mahabharata, asking us not to behave like the angaraka and suggesting to us a different model for consumption – that of the malakara, the garland maker. The garland maker goes from plant to plant and plucks flowers from them but he does not destroy the plant. And since he does not destroy the plant, there will be more flowers tomorrow. He never depletes his resources, unlike the angaraka.

What the Mahabharata is suggesting to us here is the sustainable of model of consumption. Taking from the world in such a way that we do not exhaust it in our greed and blindness. The Mahabharata is talking here about not making the forests of the world disappear. The Mahabharata is talking about not making plant, animal and bird species not disappear from the world.

I saw recently a programme on, I believe, the Discovery channel. In some part of Africa birds eat paddy crops cultivated by local farmers. These birds live in large groups in trees around farmlands. What the local farmers do in order to protect their crops is set fire to all the jungles around simultaneously, using explosives. A single explosion and the resultant fire frequently kill as many as three million birds at one go.

Because of the sustained use of chemical sprays on farmlands, honeybees are disappearing from many parts of the world, including India. What we are doing is suicidal. Apart from other facts, such as the honeybees’ right to live in this world and so on, even for farming honeybees are essential – they are the main pollinators for many crops. Honeybees are among the farmer’s best friends and yet what the chemicals he sprays does is kill them en masse.

Following the malakara approach to consumption of the earth’s resources would mean avoiding such blind brutalities committed against nature.

The Mahabharata does not stop at giving us the example of the malakara as a wise model of consumption. It goes further and asks us to follow a model still superior in our consumption practices – the madhukari vritti. The madhukari is the same honeybee that we are destroying all over the world. The Mahabharata holds them up as an ideal for the best way we should live in harmony with nature.

Madhukari vritti is the way of the honeybees. The honeybee goes from flower to flower and what it takes from each flower is a tiny bit of honey. In return, the honey makes the survival of the plant or tree itself possible. What it takes is so little, and what it gives back is so much. This is the ideal form of consumption according to our ancient ethos.

India has always lived, until very recent times, by the madhukari vritti – the honeybee way. Ours kings were always asked to take as little from their subjects as possible and give them as much as possible and the vast majority of kings – unlike today’s politicians – strove to live up to that example. Our monks – the rishis, the sannyasis and the bhikshus – lived by that example. What they took from the society was a meal a day from the society – some of them, like the legendary philosopher-sage Kanada, refused to do even that and lived on what they could pick up grain by grain from the floor after crops have been harvested. And what they returned to the world was the highest gifts possible – knowledge, guidance and care. In the gurukulas of ours, great masters to whom students came from all over the world lived in unbelievable simplicity and gave the world everything they can. Chanakya, the first empire builder of India and the chief minister of Chandragupta Maurya, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, continued to live in a simple hut even as the most powerful chief minister in India at that time, refusing to take anything more than the bare minimum from the king-emperor he had made. And once he saw that the empire and the emperor were established, he refused to take event that and went back to his original profession of teaching. Chanakya’s management thoughts, by the way, have guided India for around two thousand three hundred years. His monumental Arthashastra, the book of statecraft, is unsurpassed even by today’s works on the subject.

And this is the vision we have consciously tried to live up to until recent times, though that style is fast disappearing.

The father of a friend of mine, a senior IAS officer, refused to take medical reimbursement from the government, though as a senior IAS officer he had a right to do this for his own and his family’s medical treatments. He believed that it is unethical to claim such reimbursement – diseases were the result of our wrong styles of living and we have no right to claim from others, including the government, expenses incurred on account of them.

The Indian ideal has from the time of the Vedic sages been the madhukari vritti. If we cannot follow the madhukari vritti, we should follow at least the malakara vritti and never the angaraka vritti. We owe this to the world, to ourselves and to our future generations.

I remember a recent television commercial in which two boys are talking. One boy says when he grows up he would like to be a wild life photographer. The other boy laughs at this and says there would be no animals then. Then the first boy thinks a little and says in that case he would like to be a forest officer – and his friend reminds him there will be no trees left by then. At that time the first boy hears the sound of a car and says in that case he would be a fast car racer – and his friend laughs at him again, saying there will be no petrol left by the time they grow up.

If we do not want this to happen, then we have to follow the wisdom of our ancients and follow the madhukari vritti or at least the malakara vritti.

Vedic management is management that leads to shreyas – both madhukari vritti and malakara vritti lead to shreyas. Our current management practices lead to preyas – immediate satisfaction, followed by lasting disaster.

Vedic management would take corporate social and environmental responsibilities far more seriously than we do now. To a vast majority of industries and businesses today, CSR and CER are no more than things that fetch them good grades, things they have no option but to do.

Here is something one of my students from XAVIER INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT AND RESEARCH, BOMBAY wrote in response to an assignment I had given them in a course I taught there in INDIAN ETHOS IN MANAGEMENT earlier this year.

“Very few corporations are working to protect the environment. It is against their interest to take initiatives to reduce consumption and most corporations oppose laws designed to protect the environment because they hurt their business. Corporations have caused environmental destruction globally for many years and the scale of the problem is increasing. The industries are seen to contribute to emissions of green house gases, noise pollution and release of toxic waste into the water bodies. Untreated water from the manufacturing units released into the water bodies have also endangered the marine life species. Corporations do not have a deliberate intent to harm the environment. Greed and laziness are behind their destructiveness. For example the Bhopal gas tradegy that occurred because of the Union Carbide’s negligence to follow the safety standards of the industry came to take the lives of so many innocent people living in the nearby vicinity.

“Few companies like the Tata and Godrej have come to take measures to save the environment. The Tata ethos places a special emphasis on environmental and ecological issues. And thus is engaged in harmonizing environmental factors by reducing the negative impact of its commercial activities and initiating drives encouraging environment-friendly practices. Its efforts to preserve and regenerate the environment can be seen in an array of projects and programmes it has undertaken in and around its facilities and operations. Similarly CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre has been set up as the “Centre of Excellence” for the organization in terms of energy efficiency, “green buildings”, renewable energy, water, environment and recycling and climate change activities in India. Organizations when drawing the resources from the environment should also make concerted effort to preserve and protect the environment.”

Following the path of shreyas will make sure that our future generations will find the earth a place on which they can live – and live a life of happiness and contentment. And if we continue to follow the path of preyas as we have been doing since the industrial revolution, they will be forced to seek sustenance in a world that has been turned into an inhospitable desert.