The Goals of Human Life and their connection with Business - Part 1

The pursuit of money as an end in itself is making people greedy and commercial-minded. For instance, many farmers are switching over to cash crops to earn more money. However, this is not the kind of management we should have. We should be concerned with ‘Man Management.’ The proper study of mankind is man. Man should learn to be pure in thought, word and deed. This is the highest virtue. We do not require slogan-makers, platform speakers and ‘sensational’ journalists. What we need today are leaders with integrity and character. Therefore, the aim of Business Schools should be to produce such leaders. The courses and programmes offered in Indian Business Schools should be based on Indian culture and values.[i] Along with other courses in remaining functions of management such as production, marketing, finance, human resources, etc., we should have a course in ‘Indian Ethos and Values’. We should focus on meeting the basic needs of our country. Our programmes should be in accordance with our resources that factor-in our constraints and limitations in achieving such pre-determined goals. We have also to integrate morality with spirituality, in business and other spheres of societal pursuits.


It has been observed that Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are the goals of man. They are called Chatur Vidha Purusharthas [ii] (four-fold goals of human beings). At any time, in any nation, or under any circumstances, these are equally applicable for every person. Treatises have been created for each one of the four fold goals of humans. Manu’s treatise on Dharma is known as ‘Dharma Shastra’; Kautilya’s exposition on Artha is known as ‘Artha Shastra’; Vatsyayana’s work on Kama is known as ‘Kama Sutra’; and Vyasa’s aphorisms on Moksha are known as ‘Brahma Sutras’.[iii]

Goals of Human Life
Dharma Shastra

The Dharma Shastra (codes of Dharma), were first expounded and codified by Manu who is revered by Hindus as the ancestor of the whole mankind. People are ideally expected to follow the principles of Dharma as laid down in the Dharma Shastra. The present Dharma Shastra (moral code) is a combination of Bhrigusmriti and Manusmriti. It lays down laws in relation to individuals, family, society and nation. There are two types of Dharma: Atma Dharma (nature of one’s own Self or moral code of the Self) and Samaja Dharma (moral code of the society). The former pertaining to the nature of spirit is permanent and changeless. The latter relating to the society modifies in accordance with the time and place.

Artha Shastra  

Artha Shastra is a comprehensive treatise on different disciplines such as economics, administration, ethics, diplomacy, etc. It deals with matters concerning how to earn wealth, spend money, enjoy with money and to expend wealth. The author of this great work was Chanakya. He was from Bihar (a state in India) and was also called by other names - Kautilya and Vishnu Gupta. Vishnu Gupta was the name given to him by his parents. As he was born in the Gotra (lineage) of Kautil, he was called Kautilya. He also had ‘Kutila-Chitta’, a manipulative mind and one having a shrewd way of dealing with each problem. This also caused him to be called ‘Kautilya’. As he was born in the village Chanak, he was also called by the name ‘Chanakya’. In the olden days, there was a tradition of attaching the name of the village where one was born as prefix or suffix to one’s own given name, which is known as surname. Therefore, Chanakya got this name as he was born in that village.
Share of Personal Expenditure
Artha Shastra suggests a tax of 4% on agricultural produce worth and 6% on equivalent business income. These work out to be below the existing tax rates. Artha Shastra strongly disapproves government’s excessive concentration on the cities and possible neglect of rural areas. Government must never spend all the money it collects by way of taxes. Kautilya maintained that some part of the income should be saved to provide for exigencies. He was not in favour of the practice of debt financing. Similarly, householders must not spend in excess of their incomes. The golden formula is 25% of income to be spent on personal needs, 25% given away in charity, 25% for public and social causes and 25% to be saved for future needs and exigencies (natural calamities, disasters, etc.), old age etc. The endeavour should be towards self-sufficiency. Businesspersons must be devoted to their business even though profits are low. These days, people buy and sell shares to make personal gains which works against the interests of companies and the nation. Government must maintain a buffer stock of food grains, which would be useful during downturn times. Value of human beings is superior to any amount of wealth.


[i] This observation/suggestion is contextual and it also would mean that the courses in management in other societies should factor in their respective cultures which make them more relevant to their needs.

[ii] In conjunction with Ashram Vyavastha, the Chatur Vidha Purusharthas are Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation). Ashram Vyavastha comprises of four divisions of human life on earth: Brahmacharya (celibate stage), Grihastha (householder stage), Vanaprastha (forest-dwelling stage) and Sanyasa (renunciant stage). In Brahmacharya, during the learning stage, the individual gets acquainted with all the four Purusharthas intellectually/academically at the Gurukula. During householder stage, one would find the scope to put into practice in daily life the first three: Dharma, Artha and Kama, i.e. pursuing Artha and Kama in accordance with Dharma, and keeping the goal of Moksha as the undercurrent. During Vanaprastha stage (preparatory stage for final renunciation); one would focus on Dharma keeping at the back of mind Moksha as the ultimate goal. Once one retires from the world and gives up all responsibilities one would devote all time only for Moksha (liberation/Self-realisation).

[iii] Manu was the author of Manusmriti, which is also known as ‘Manu Dharma Shastra’ - the moral code or Law. In various Indian traditions, Manu is a title accorded to the progenitor of mankind, and also the very first king to rule this earth, who saved mankind from the universal flood. He was absolutely honest, which is why he was initially known as ‘Satyavrata’ (one with the vow of Truth).
Chanakya was an adviser of the first Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta (c. 340–293 BCE), and was the chief architect of his rise to power. Kautilya and Vishnugupta were his other names. Chanakya has been considered as the pioneer of the field of economics and political science. In the Western world, he has been referred to as the Indian Machiavelli, although Chanakya’s works predate Machiavelli’s by about 1,800 years. Chanakya was a teacher in Takshashila, an ancient centre of learning, and was responsible for the creation of the Mauryan Empire, the first of its kind on the Indian subcontinent.
Vatsyayana is the name of a Hindu philosopher in the Vedic tradition, who is believed to have lived during time of the Gupta Empire (4th to 6th centuries AD) in India. At the close of the Kama Sutra, this is what he writes about himself, ‘After reading and considering the works of Babhravya and other ancient authors, and thinking over the meaning of the rules given by them, this treatise was composed, according to the precepts of the Holy Writ, for the benefit of the world, by Vatsyayana, while leading the life of a religious student at Benares, and wholly engaged in the contemplation of the Deity. This work is not to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A person acquainted with the true principles of this science, who preserves his Dharma (virtue or religious merit), his Artha (worldly wealth) and his Kama (pleasure or sensual gratification), and who has regard for the customs of the people, is sure to obtain the mastery over his senses. In short, an intelligent and knowing person attending to Dharma and Artha and also to Kama, without becoming the slave of his passions, will obtain success in everything that he may do.’
Vyasa is a central and revered figure in the majority of Indian traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa (the one who compiled the Vedas) or Krishna Dwaipayana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). He is the author as well as a character in the Indian epic Mahabharata and is considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas, and the supplementary texts such as the Puranas. The festival of Guru Pournima, is dedicated to him, and is also known as Vyasa Pournima, as it is the day, which is believed to be his birthday and also the day he divided the Vedas.

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