Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
The Man: The founder of Isha Foundation loves his motorbikes, is as comfortable in jeans as in yogic garbs, and competes with businessmen on the golf course. His methods for self transformation are drawn from tradition. A regular speaker at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos. He says that businesses need to be governed by a simple set of rules where everyone knows what can be done and what cannot.
The Oeuvre: Has written and spoken extensively on spirituality and society; often weighs in on contemporary issues on television debates.
X-Factor: Charismatic; his mix of spirituality, science and common sense have found many takers in India.
The Message: A moral code doesn’t work for society and individuals. Ethics and morals only work in areas where there are no laws.
Whether you’re manufacturing a safety pin or a computer or a car or a pump, it doesn’t make sense to leave out fifty percent of the world. If you have any business sense, you would include the whole world. When this fifty percent eats well, your market base improves.
Existing laws were created by people who sought to keep a hold on the population. What we need now are laws that are simple and direct with very little room for grey areas that limit our dependency on individual values and ethics. The laws and values in place now constrain people and constraints never work. Instead, what is needed are laws that liberate people from pettiness.
It is very easy to preach morality. Everyone blabbers on about dharma according to their convenience. The husband says the wife’s dharma is to take care of him; the wife says the husband’s dharma is to take care of her; parents say the children’s dharma is to take care of them. These are all vested interests.
I know I am expected to offer a moral code in this article—one that you will anyway not follow. So, I’m not willing to preach another dharma for businessmen. Morals can always be subverted.
They may make you feel good, but everyone always ends up doing what they have to do.
Ethics and morals have great relevance only in those areas of life where there are no laws. There are many areas where laws are irrelevant—within a family, with friends, in certain trustful atmospheres. But when it comes to business, it is very important that as a nation and as a society, we set up laws which leave very little room for ambiguity.
Right now, we have laws which are so ambiguous that even experts in the field do not understand them. These laws were fixed by people who conquered this land, who wanted to keep a hold on the population, to curb anyone who is successful. The laws here are such that just about anybody can be picked up for something he doesn’t even know he’s done. Tomorrow, if I pick you up and put you in the lockup, I can always show you a reason why you could be arrested!
It is time we made the laws very simple and direct and reduced the grey areas, to limit our dependency on individual values and ethics. But instead of fixing the system, we try to fix individual morality and hope for results. This is never going to work.
You can never impose one standard morality on the whole population, because ideas of good and bad are always changing. Osama Bin Laden had his own fantastic logic about why he had to do what he had to do. Veerappan had his own logic. Ask a Maoist, who is right now blasting away a police van, and he has his own perfect logic.
So it is best that business is fixed by simple laws where everybody knows what can be done and what cannot. These laws can also be fixed in such a way that everything that you earn in some way benefits everybody.
Right now, nobody wants to pay their taxes because the tax goes into the pockets of a few. So it is important that the laws are not just fixed, but enforced. Now you may ask, don’t we need morality to enforce a law?
No, you don’t. All you need is humanity. That’s why it’s important for people in responsible positions—in society, politics or business—to have at least a drop of the spiritual process within them. Why? Because spirituality stirs up your humanity and when your humanity comes to the fore, you are naturally inclusive and you do what is best for everyone. It is a far better insurance than stirring your morality.
But instead of allowing humanity to overflow, you try to constrain it with ethics. Constraints never work. Curbing people is never the answer; liberating them is the only way. You have to liberate people from their petty needs rather than try to control them and make them feel guilty.
What Karl Marx offered was a fantastic dream in which everybody lives by his need, not by his greed. But this was a utopian ideal. Marx had a brilliant vision for humanity, but grossly underestimated the human need to be committed to limited boundaries. Our existing society is a consequence of existing human nature. Without working to transform human nature, you cannot transform society. Communism is wonderful if it comes voluntarily, but when it is enforced, it is the ugliest way to live.
Mark Twain, who was excited (like so many American thinkers and authors) by the Communist experiment, travelled to Russia. One day, he was walking on a country road when he saw a country gentleman walking with two hens under his arms.
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(This story appears in the 25 May, 2012 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)