Need and Significance of Morality and Ethics in the World of Business and Finance – Part 1: Sri Sathya Sai Perspective

Sri Sathya Sai giving His Divine Discourse in Sai Kulwant Hall on August 29, 2009

The body is made up of five elements and is bound to perish sooner or later, but the Indweller has neither birth nor death.
The Indweller has no attachment whatsoever and is the eternal witness.
Truly speaking, the Indweller, who is Atman, is verily God Himself.
The Dehi (Indweller) has no bondages.
Dehi is also referred to as Atman or Brahman.

People worship God in several ways and develop faith in Him. However, God has no name or form. He is one and only one. Yet, people call Him by different names like Rama, Krishna, Allah, Jesus, etc. These are all their individual beliefs, but in reality, God has no particular name. God is one. Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti (Truth is one, but the wise refer to it by various names). The one God is referred to and worshipped by various names and forms. These forms attributed to God are the result of one’s imagination and as portrayed by some popular artists in some paintings. In fact, no one has ever visualized God. In whichever form one contemplates on God, He will manifest in that form. God is one, not two! Every individual refers to himself as ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. This ‘I’ refers to the individual ego, born out of attachment to the body. When this Deha Bhava is removed, one becomes the Dehi (Indweller). You become God, verily. Divinity transcends name and form. Since time immemorial, people contemplated, worshipped, served and longed for such a transcendental Divinity.


People have many desires in this material world. Emperor Dharmaraja [i] (another name for Yudhishthira, literally meaning the embodiment of righteousness) had only one weakness: playing the game of dice. He was very fond of this game. The Kauravas noticed this weakness of Dharmaraja. They contrived to trap him by making use of this weakness. Their maternal uncle Shakuni instigated and advised them, “You go and invite Dharmaraja for a game of dice”. Shakuni was an adept in this game, and he could easily defeat his opponents by dubious means. Duryodhana and his brothers were on one side and Dharmaraja was on the other. The dice used in this game was manipulated to enable them to score a victory each time the game was played. As a result, Dharmaraja lost the game every time. He lost his empire, his brothers, himself, and even Draupadi (wife of Pandavas). The Kauravas acquired the empire Pandavas and took control over Dharmaraja’s brothers and wife Draupadi. They dragged her to the royal court.

Draupadi then posed a question to the honourable members and elders in the assembly. She asked whether Dharmaraja pawned himself first and then lost her or vice-versa. If Dharmaraja pawned himself first and lost the game, he had no right to pawn Draupadi. Moreover, Draupadi was the wife of not only Dharmaraja but all the five brothers. Did they give their consent to Dharmaraja to pawn Draupadi in this game of dice? No one in that august assembly dared to answer the subtle queries raised by Draupadi and they all remained tight lipped. 

Dronacharya’s Way of Coaching

Dronacharya, (teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas) in his youth one day, went to King Drupada (father of Draupadi) to ask for the gift of a cow. Because the king refused to make the gift, Dronacharya in his anger left Panchala (Kingdom of Drupada) with his wife, child and belongings. As he was walking towards Hastinapura (the capital of the kingdom of the Kurus led by King Dhritarashtra, the father of the Kauravas), he encountered the Pandava and Kaurava children playing in a field near a well. Coming near the children, who had surrounded the well, Dronacharya enquired, “My dear children, what is the matter? Why are you all standing around the well in this manner? What has happened?” The children replied in one voice, “Master, our ball fell into this well.” 

Dronacharya then pacified them saying, “Do not worry, I will take the ball out”. So saying, he pulled a special type of grass called the Darbha grass and using it as an arrow, he shot at the ball. The arrow stuck to the ball. Then he shot another arrow which stuck to the first arrow. In this manner, he released a number of arrows one after the other and finally with the help of the arrows made into a rope, he pulled out the ball and handed it over to the children. Seeing this wonderful feat of Dronacharya, they fell at his feet. They realized that they had at last found someone who was an expert in archery. They conveyed this news to Bheeshma (the grand sire of the Kurus and the granduncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas), who appointed Dronacharya as the teacher of both Kauravas and Pandavas.

Forgiveness: An Essential Trait

Among the children, Arjuna excelled others as he learnt the skills of archery fast and became an expert in a short time, winning the affection and admiration of Guru Dronacharya. In fact, he made his Guru proud and famous by his skills. This had made Ashwatthama, the son of Dronacharya, jealous. From then onward, he bore a grudge against Pandavas, particularly Arjuna. During the Mahabharata war, he joined the Kauravas and fought against the Pandavas. One night, during the war, he stealthily entered the camp of the Pandavas and massacred the Upa Pandavas (young children of the Pandavas) mercilessly under the cover of darkness. As he was about to escape, he was tracked by Arjuna, who dragged him into the presence of Draupadi. Instead of becoming angry and cursing the evil doer and pronouncing punishment on him, she fell at the feet of Ashwatthama, the son of her husband’s most revered Guru and said: 

It is at the feet of your father Dronacharya,
That my husbands learnt all that they know. 
Being the son of Dronacharya,
Is it proper to kill my innocent children?
How could you have the heart to kill them,
who were unarmed, young, quietly asleep,
were not having any enmity against you
and were not contemplating any harm to you?

When Draupadi was thus pleading with Ashwatthama, Bheema (brother of Arjuna) could not bear to see this. Exploding with anger, he roared:

This Draupadi is a stupid woman,
For she pleads for the freedom of this wretch!
She feels no anger against this murderer of her sons.
This assassin is not a Brahmin (one of righteous conduct);
Do not release him, kill him. 
If you do not do that, I will myself kill him with my powerful fist.

Ashwatthama was trembling with fear and felt helpless. Consumed with rage, Arjuna was about to attack Aswatthama. Draupadi then raised both her hands and pleaded with Arjuna thus:

Oh, Phalguna! It is not righteous to kill a person who is afraid or has lost courage;
Who is asleep or intoxicated;
Who seeks refuge or is a female.
You should not kill Ashwatthama,
For, he is the son of your preceptor.

Draupadi then fell at his feet and reasoned with him: 

“Arjuna, will my sons be revived by killing Ashwatthama?
His mother would experience the same kind of sorrow that I am now undergoing.
Having studied the Vedas and Shastras (ancient Indian scriptures),
How is it that you are not able to maintain your tranquility?”

Thus, Draupadi pleaded with Arjuna to forgive Ashwatthama for his heinous act. Arjuna retorted, “You are preventing me from keeping up my vow”. Draupadi replied, “Tonsuring his head and removing the crown jewel from his head is equivalent to killing him”. Arjuna then agreed to her pleadings, and as a token of punishment shaved Ashwatthama’s head, extracted the crown jewel from his head, and set him free. “There is no use brooding over the past. Past is past; forget the past,” is the advice given by Draupadi to Arjuna. On the advice of Draupadi, Arjuna put a check on his grief.
Lord Krishna with the Pandavas and Draupadi in the epic Mahabharata
Relevance of Mahabharata in the Contemporary World

Just now, a delegate participating in the conference overviewed the theme of the conference entitled ‘Ethics and Finance’. In this context it should be noted that Arjuna followed morality and spared the life of Ashwatthama, pardoning the loss of the Upa Pandavas (the children of the Pandavas). To save the life of a fellow human being is far superior to accumulating wealth. Several such incidents of nobility are to be found in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata [ii]. There are many such noble women like Draupadi in Indian mythology. She was broad-minded and of noble character. It is only because of such women that the country of Bharat has achieved great progress and attained the pre-eminent position among the comity of nations today.


[i] The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of the Hindu Itihasa (or ‘history’). Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra war and the tales of the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four goals of life or Purusharthas. The five Pandava brothers who are the protagonists in this great epic are – Yudhishthira (the eldest brother), Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. These five brothers are married to the Princess Draupadi also known as Panchali – the daughter of the King of Panchala. Kauravas are the paternal cousin brothers of the Pandavas and are 100 in number led by Duryodhana – the eldest among them. They are the antagonists in this great epic.

[ii] The Bhagavata Purana also known as Shrimad Bhagavatam, is one of the Maha Puranic texts of Hindu literature, with its primary focus on Bhakti (devotion) to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, particularly Lord Krishna. The epic is attributed to Sage Vyasa.

Source: Chapter 26, Man Management: A Values-Based Management Perspective; Divine Discourse delivered during the Valedictory Session of the Conference on ‘Ethics and the World of Finance’ at the Sri Sathya Sai University on August 29, 2009

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