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The Bhagavad-Gita and its Relevance to the Psychology of Human Resource Development



In this paper, the author attempts to provide the relevance of the Bhagavad-Gita to the psychology of human resource development (HRD). HRD revolves around learning, training, development and education to enhance competencies and performance of employees in organizations. There is abundance of theories developed on psychology of HRD from various perspectives, viewpoints and disciplines, with most of the theories originating from the West. In the Bhagavad-Gita (a text originating from the East), the author noticed that some of the basic psychological component of HRD is present. The Bhagavad-Gita (a small part of the great epic the Mahabharata) is a synthesis of all Vedic ideas and wisdom and it was developed through the instructional process (Sri Krishna to Arjuna before the commencement of the Kurukshetra war). Although the Bhagavad-Gita is more than fifty centuries old, its message is still relevant and applicable in the present world and will also be applicable in the future. From time to time an ancient philosophy (such as the Bhagavad-Gita) needs intelligent re-interpretation to apply effectively in the context of modern times (Chinmayananda, 2003). Bhagavad-Gita presents that the HRD begins with the psychology of self-realization leading to self-development. The Bhagavad-Gita focuses on the self first, as the greatness in any field is never achieved without tremendous self-discipline (Avinashilingam, 1975).   Among the various psychological aspects of HRD, this paper deals with the interpretation of and the meaning of HRD found in the Bhagavad-Gita. Relevant concepts from the Bhagavad Gita such as dharma, karma, niskama karma, equanimity, mind management, guna theory, brahma-bhuta, renunciation, etc are useful tools for HRD, apart from the existing HRD models and tools. From a methodological perspective, the interpretation of the Bhagavad-Gita for HRD was done by using hermeneutics, which a qualitative approach used in the research of ancient or classical texts, combined with inputs from various discussions held by the author with HRD scholars, Bhagavad-Gita scholars and from the review of both literature over the last two decades. The Bhagavad-Gita advocates a consciousness and a spirit-centered approach to HRD and recommends an inside out psychological HRD approach which is exploring the inner world of ‘self” and “’self” realization. This paper is likely to provide some bases for comparative HRD in the East and the West. This paper is divided into three parts, with the first two parts of introductions to the HRD and the Bhagavad-Gita, and the final part providing the relevance of the Bhagavad-Gita to the psychology of HRD.

Human Resource Development

Human Resource Development (HRD) at is now a prominent and central part of the psychology of Human Resource Management (HRM). For many people HRD is synonymous with organizing training courses in the workplace. That is part of HRD, but there are also broader and deeper concerns. HRD itself has evolved over the years to meet the needs of the individual, organisation and society. HRD has been subjected to various definitions, interpretation and challenges since it was first introduced in late 1960s (Walton, 1999). Lyon (1996) describes HRD as a process of encouraging people to develop and grow from interdependency to independency. The basic purpose of HRD is to contribute directly to organizational goals through improved performance. HRD revolves around learning, training, development and education. In its broadest sense it is about development and change through learning; about how one acquires knowledge and what and how individuals learn to achieve development.

There is abundance of theories developed on HRD from various perspectives, viewpoints and disciplines. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of HRD, with contribution coming from disciplines such as psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, philosophy and even economics, there has been little agreement as to the underlying definition and primary theories that form the basis for the field of HRD. Therefore, defining HRD is not easy and up till now as there is no single point of view or framework of HRD that has been predominant. Ruona (2000) suggested that one of the main major challenges to define HRD is the misconception of what HRD stands for and that the works of HRD academics and professionals are not yet well understood by others. Nevertheless, it is still important to recognise that the early approaches of defining HRD is focus on the psychological and behavioural changes of individuals. For instance, Nadler (1970) defined that HRD is a series of organised conduct within a specified time and designed to produce behavioural change. Some of the common activities he identified within HRD are training, education and development.  He identified training as those activities intended to improve performance on the job, education as those activities intended to develop competencies not specific to any one job, and development is preparation to help the employee move with the organization as it develops.

This definition, however; contrasts with two other earlier researchers, Harbison and Myers (1964), who define HRD as the process of increasing the knowledge, the skills, and capacities of all the people in a society. They posited with the processes of human resource development, it could help to unlock the door to modernisation and advancement of society as a whole. In a revised definition Nadler (1984) defined it as organized learning experiences in a definite time period to increase the possibility of job performance and growth.  Nadler later coined the term human resource development and offered a model with three components: training, education, and development (Nadler and Nadler, 1991).

A recent review of the definitions of HRD by McLean and McLean (2001) provides a lot of insights into the field. The following are some of the highlights of this article:

  • While there have been many efforts to define HRD, no consensus seem to have emerged
  • The US definition of HRD seems to have influenced the definitions many other countries
  • It appears that definitions of HRD may vary from one country to another, and the national differences are a crucial factor in determining the way HRD professionals work
  • There appears to be differences in the perception and practice of HRD in local companies as compared Multinational companies
  • In several countries HRD is not distinguished from HR but is seen systematically as a part of HR.
  • Professional organizations and academics seem to contribute to the definition of HRD

HRD is a process for developing and unleashing human expertise through organization development and personnel training and development for the purpose of improving performance. HRD is any process or activity that, either initially or over the long term, has the potential to develop adults’ work-based knowledge, expertise, productivity, and satisfaction, whether for personal or group/team gain, or for the benefit of an organization, community, nation, or, ultimately, the whole of humanity (McLean & McLean, 2000). The purpose of HRD is to focus on the resource that humans bring to the success equation, both personal success and organizational success. The two core threads of HRD are (1) individual and organizational learning and (2) individual and organizational performance (Ruona, 2000)

Core beliefs vary across professions and disciplines. In term of in HRD professions, there are limited literatures that discusses on the core beliefs in this discipline. In among the HRD fields, Gilley and Maycunich (2000) were the first HRD practitioners who proposed a set of HRD guidelines and principles that guide the HRD. They proposed that effective HRD practice:

  • is based on satisfying stakeholders’ needs and expectations;
  • is responsive but responsible;
  • uses evaluation as a continuous improvement process;
  • is designed to improve organisation effectiveness;
  • relies on relationship mapping to enhance operational efficiency;
  • is linked to the organisation’s strategic business goals and objectives;
  • is based on partnerships and is result oriented;
  • utilises strategic planning to help the organisation integrate vision, mission, strategy, and practice;
  • is based on purposeful and meaningful measurement; and promotes diversity and equity in the workplace.

Swanson and Holton (2001) come out with three HRD core beliefs that they think are the guiding principles that motivate and frame the HRD profession. The following are the three core beliefs:

Core Belief #1 “Organisations are human-made entities that rely on human expertise to establish and achieve their goals”.

Under this belief, organisations are considered as changeable and vulnerable entities. Organisations are created by people who work in the system and it can be either soar or crumble. The important role of HRD is to make sure it is connected well to any organisation

Core Belief #2 “Human expertise is developed and maximised through HRD processes and should be done for the mutual long-and/or short-term benefits of the sponsoring organisation and the individuals involved”.

This belief signifies that HRD professionals have effective tools such as techniques and interventions that able to align all other for the benefits of the organisation.

Core Belief #3 “HRD professionals are advocates of individual/group, work process, and organisational integrity”.

HRD professionals carries a huge responsibility and integrity where they are able to access  the rich information that other do not have the privileged position of accessing the information such as from individuals, groups, work processes, and the organisation.

Our academia is familiar with HRD theories and thoughts developed in the West as much of the published literature on the definition of the field has been focused in the West originally, in the US and, increasingly, in Europe. However, globalization and cross-cultural interaction increasingly highlights the differences in national cultures, and it is clear that Eastern (Asian) and Western (North America & Western Europe) countries have different approaches, perspectives, norms and practices. Comparison of HRD practices in the West and in the East reveals that they differ significantly in terms of organizational structure, motivational programs, communication and conflict resolution. While HRD leaders have the dual role of focusing on process and person, Eastern nations tend to value the person over the process. HRD in the East often nurture their employees with HR policies that take advantage of cultural. Issues such as hospitality, loyalty and long-term employer-employee relationships provide fertile ground for HRD policies focused on retention, training and employee development.

In the East, from the countries such as India and China, there is abundance of literatures applicable to HRD. Using a holistic approach, these literatures address the process of HRD at both the micro and macro levels. In this chapter, the author has selected the Bhagavad-Gita, which is a part of the great epic of the Mahabharata and its significance to HRD.

The Bhagavad-Gita

The Bhagavad-Gita is a sermon given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna regarding the correct technique of life (Dharmaratnam, 1987). Over the centuries many renowned scholars and philosophers from all over the world have commented on the Bhagavad Gita and elucidated it’s teaching in many publications and lectures. It is universal and non-sectarian and its teachings are applicable not only to Indians but to mankind. The original version of the Bhagavad Gita is in Sanskrit language, which is one of the oldest languages in the world. Charles Wilkins translated the first English language version of the Bhagavad Gita in 1785 (Muniapan, 2015; Low & Muniapan, 2011). At present there are thousands English language versions and commentaries of the Bhagavad Gita written by many scholars in India and around the world. The Bhagavad Gita has also been translated into more than 500 world languages other than English. The Bhagavad-Gita has exercised an enormous influence, which extended in early times to China and Japan and lately to the western countries. The two chief scriptural works of Mahayana Buddhism – Mahayana Sraddhotpatti and SaddharmaPundarika – are deeply indebted to the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita. Mahatma Gandhi who preached the Bhagavad-Gita philosophy, said: “I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita” (Mahadevan, 2001, pp.1).

The background for the Bhagavad-Gita is the epic Mahabharata, extolled as the 5thVeda. Mahabharata is an encyclopedia of life and its central theme is dharma meaning occupational duty, righteousness and virtues. It deals not only with dharma but also artha, which is the acquisition of wealth, kama which is the enjoyment of pleasures and moksha which is the liberation. The Mahabharata was composed by Sri Vyasa Muni (son of Parasara Muni) and was written by Sri Ganesa more than 5000 years ago and it has 100,000 verses (Rosen, 2002). The Bhagavad-Gita appears in 700 verses in BhismaParva of the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata narrates the war between two cousins; the 5 Pandavas and 100 Kauravas to claim the kingdom of Hastinapura. Sri Krishna, the champion of dharma offered to go on a peace-making mission on behalf of the Pandavas (This is a lesson to the world that peace is preferred at all costs).  However the Kauravas refused to make peace and hence war became a certainty. Sri Krishna humbled himself into becoming the charioteer of Arjuna, the Pandava prince. In fact, Arjuna could choose unarmed Sri Krishna who would not engage in battle or Sri Krishna’s army consisting of great warriors. Arjuna decided to choose Sri Krishna unarmed, while Duryodhana (Kaurava) was happy to get the large army from Sri Krishna. He (Duryodhana) felt that, without the army, and without weapons, Sri Krishna not could be of much help to the Pandavas (Subramaniam, 2001).

The entire armies 18 divisions (7 Pandava divisions and 11 Kaurava divisions) of both sides were assembled at the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Thus the stage was set for the Bhagavad-Gita. The sermon was given on the battlefield before the commencement of the war. The battlefield also represent our body where an unending battle is raging between the forces of good and evil – the evil always outnumbering the good (5 Pandavas against the 100 Kauravas; or 7 Pandava divisions of soldiers against 11 Kaurava divisions). On a spiritual level, the focus is on the battle between the higher self and the lower self, the war between man’s spiritual calling and the dictates of the body, mind and senses for material pleasures (Rosen, 2002).

Many great thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Schweizer as well as Madhvacarya, Sankara and Ramanuja from bygone ages have all contemplated and deliberated upon timeless message of the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita’s intrinsic beauty is that its knowledge applies to all people and it does not confine to any sectarian ideology. It can also be approachable from the sanctified realms of all religions and is glorified as the epitome of all spiritual teachings. The proficiency in the Bhagavad-Gita reveals the eternal principles which are fundamental and essential for spiritual life from all perspectives and the esoteric truths hidden within all religious scriptures (Muniapan, 2014). The primary purpose of the Bhagavad-Gita is to illuminate the humanity with the realization of the true nature of divinity; for the highest spiritual conception and to attain love of God. Sri Krishna was said to have spoken the Bhagavad-Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra in 3102 B.C.; just prior to the commencement of the Mahabharata war. This date corresponds to 1700 years before Moses, 2500 years before Buddha, 3000 years before Jesus and 3800 years before Prophet Mohammed.

The Bhagavad-Gita comprises of 18 chapters, explaining the Karma Yoga (selfless action), Jnana Yoga (self-knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (unquestionable devotion). These are actions for detachment, transcendental wisdom, and knowledge of supreme (Chow, 2007). The Bhagavad-Gita presents some of the core values and principles of Dharma, Karma, Loka Sangraha, Kausalam, Vividhta and Jigyasa (Basin, 2010).

The Bhagavad-Gita starts with the word “dharma” and “dharma” is an important concept in the Vedanta philosophy and in the Indian context. In Vedanta, it means one’s righteous duty. “Dharma” is often translated as occupational duty, virtues, ethics, righteousness and religion. Besides “dharma” in Bhagavad-Gita, “karma” is the concept of “action” or “deed”, understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect.  “Karma” is considered to be a spiritually originated law of nature. “Karma” is not fate, for humans act with free will create their destiny. According to karma theory, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate response. Both concepts are also found in various other Indian philosophies such as Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Both dharma and karma are the core principles of Indian ethical teaching and are relevant to HRD as well.

The Bhagavad Gita and its Relevance to the Psychology of Human Resource Development

While much of the Bhagavad-Gita is filled with references to spiritual matters, strong moral advice and HRD lessons can be drawn from the text. The Bhagavad-Gita provides HRD advice in a number of general areas including the importance of maintaining one’s proper role and duties, being proactive and acting with wisdom, working for the greater good, and engaging in self-sacrifice. Relevant concepts from the Bhagavad-Gita such as dharma, karma, niskama karma, equanimity, mind management, guna theory, brahma-bhuta, renunciation, etc are useful tools for HRD.

The Bhagavad Gita was delivered by Sri Krishna to boost Arjuna’s declining morale, motivation and confidence.  Arjuna, seeing his grandfather (Bhisma), teacher (Drona), and other close relatives as his foes, suddenly became de-motivated and refused to fight the war (refused to do his duty). Arjuna’s feeling of despondency and dejection is very common in most of us and in the context of HRD. Arjuna appeared to have forgotten his duty (dharma) to fight a righteous war (especially because all peaceful negotiations had collapsed). Sri Krishna took the HRD roles as a mentor, guide and a coach to Arjuna by delivering his sermon (The Bhagavad-Gita). To revive Arjuna’s morale, Sri Krishna embarked on the following sermon: klaibyam ma sma gamah partha naitat tvayy upapadyate; ksudram hrdaya-daurbalyam tyaktvottisha parantapa – O son of Prtha (Arjuna), do not yield to this degrading impotence. It does not become you. Give up such petty weakness of heart and arise, O chastiser of enemy (Chapter 2:3). Sri Krishna desired that Arjuna as well as all the readers of Bhagavad-Gita could cast off weakness of heart in performing duties. Managers who are mentally weak cannot attain organizational goals, and the mind of the manager must be firm in driving the organizational resources (HR) towards vision and mission. In the words of Sri Ramakrishna (cited by Chidbhavananda, 1992, pp. 119) “he who is soft and weak minded like the puffed rice soaked in milk, is good for nothing. He cannot achieve anything great. But the strong and virile one is heroic. He is the accomplisher of everything in life”.

There is also a similar advice for managers to arise and awake from the Katha Upanishad. Nachiketa, a young boy was offered three boons (wishes) by Yamaraja. The first two boons asked by Nachiketa were given by Yamaraja. In the third boon (wish), Nachiketa asked Yamaraja for the knowledge of the Absolute (Brahmavidya). Yamaraja tried to dissuade him and offered all the other pleasures of life, however Nachiketa did not budge, and he was strong and determined. Yamaraja finally became pleased with Nachiketa and gave him the knowledge of the Absolute. In the process, he said “arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached. Although the path of realizing this goal is like walking a long distance on a razor’s edge in the middle of the night. That is what those sages say” – uttisthata jagrata prapya varan nibodhata ksurasya dhara nizita duratyaya durgaa pathas tat kavayo vadanti, Katha Upanisad 3. 14). In the practical world, managers have to fight so many opposing elements; it is certainly very difficult to control the mind. Managers need to use their intelligence effectively to direct their mind. In this aspect Katha Upanisad also for example describes the position of individual self as a passenger in the car of the material body, and intelligence is the driver. Mind is the reins and the senses are the horses. The self is thus the enjoyer or sufferer in the association of the mind and senses  –Atmanam rathinam viddhi, sariram ratham eva ca; buddhim tu sarathim viddhi, manah pragraham eva ca. indriyani hayan ahur, visayams tesu gocaran; atmendriya-mano-yuktam,  bhoktety ahur manisinah  (Katha Upanisad 1.3.3-4). Therefore it is essential that a manager uses his intelligence in an effective way to control the mind and achieve the equality of mind or even mindedness. Intelligence (buddhi) gives the power to the manager to discriminate and decide what it is good for and what is not. It is the force behind the manager’s wisdom. A manager of lesser intelligence is constantly driven by the senses and the desire for sense objects.

Bhagavad-Gita stresses that an individual must uplift himself by his own self and he must not let himself be weakened under any circumstances or when facing a crisis. HRD programs in organizations should focus in creating and developing managers and organizational members to be strong and be mentally fearless. An untrained mind is very weak and unstable; as a result even a small obstacle coming in its way may make it lose initiative. Even Arjuna found that the mind is not easy to control. He told Sri Krishna that his mind was restless, very strong and difficult to control. Arjuna said that controlling his mind was more difficult than controlling the wind – cancalam hi manah krsna pramathi balavad drdham; tasyaham nigraham manye vayor iva su-duskaram (Chapter 6.34). Sri Krishna agreed that the mind is not easy to control, however he said that it is possible to control the mind by constant practice and detachment – asamsayam maha baho mano durnigraham calam; abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate (Chapter 6.35). The practice as asserted by Sri Krishna to control and strengthen the mind in context of the HRD is training and development of self (internally).  This implies the importance of training and development in individual employees and organizational development in achieving competitive advantage. Sri Krishna also asserted that for one who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends, but for one who has failed to control their mind, the mind will be the greatest enemy – bandhur tmtmanas tasya yentmaivtmanjitah; antmanas tu satrutve vartettmaiva satruvat (Chapter 6.6)

The concept of duty (dharma) is given great importance in the Bhagavad-Gita.  Duty in the organizational context goes beyond contractual agreement in the employment relationship. Both employer and employee need to understand their duties in order to create good working relationship and harmonious industrial relations. Sri Krishna motivates and encourages Arjuna to do his duty and not to run away from the battlefield – niyatam kuru karma tvam karma jyayo hy akarmanah; sarira-yatrapi ca te na prasiddhyed akarmanah (Chapter 3.8) – Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work. Duty also needs to be done without expectation of rewards and this is known as niskama karma – You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty – karmany evadhikaras te ma phalesu kadacana; ma karma-phala-hetur bhurma te sango ‘stv akarmani (Chapter 2.47). Sri Krishna further stressed that duty needs to be done without attachment and for those who do their duty without attachment will attain the supreme goal – tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara; asakto hy acaran karma param apnoti parusah (Chapter 3.19). In his explanation, Sri Krishna gave the example of King Janaka (father of Sita and father in law of Sri Rama in Ramayana) who attained perfection solely by performance of his prescribed duties. Therefore Sri Krishna instructed Arjuna to perform his work (duty) for the sake of educating (HRD) the people in general – karmanaiva hi samdiddhim asthita janakadayah; loka-sangraham evapi sampasyan kartum arhasi (Chapter 3.20)

In management and business, the success and failures of any organization can be attributed to leadership. Leadership is an influence process; therefore, leaders are people who, by their actions, encourage a group of people to move toward a common or shared goal. A manager is a leader but a leader may not necessary be a manager. The manager (leader) in the context of organization needs to set example to their followers as whatever the leader does, the followers will follow and whatever standards or example the leader sets people in general will follow – yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah ;sa yat pramAnam kurute lokas tad anuvartate (Chapter 3.21). People in general always follow the leader and the leaders teach the public by their practical behavior. If the manager or the leader wants to create a healthy work environment by leading “no smoking campaigns” in their organization, firstly they should themselves stop smoking to set the example. The leader must not preach what he will not or cannot practice. He should not only be just, but must also appear to be just. A leader must sever his emotional links to establish his credentials before the masses. Sri Rama clearly exhibits this ability when he made the painful decision to banish Sita from Ayodhya. Sri Rama as an ideal king had to uphold the honor of his dynasty. He needed to set examples for all generation to follow. Although Sri Rama’s decision to banish Sita may seem to be harsh, the leader sometimes needs to be harsh, as the first duty of the leader is to rule his people while other considerations are secondary, even if they affect personal happiness. Many thousands of years latter, Henri Fayol, a French management writer in the early 20th century developed his famous fourteen principles of management and his sixth principle of management which is the subordination of individual interest to the organizational interest as above (Muniapan 2007).

The Bhagavad-Gita stresses the importance of self development first before development of others. Self development includes all aspects of development of oneself and it begins with self-awareness. The first aphorism of Vedanta-sutra leads to the inquiry about the self (athato brahma-jijnasa). This is the first stage in the process of awareness, understanding, realizing and development of the self. An inquiry into the self is therefore an inquiry into consciousness – the eternal cause and witness of everything occurring in the world around, as well as within us. The Bhagavad-Gita regards the real self or the soul as eternal and it is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. Understanding our self (self-knowledge) is as important as understanding the world. In this context, although leaders may (through technical skills) roll up the space like a piece of leather; still there will be no end to our sorrow without realizing the luminous spirit or the self within (Yada carmavat akasam, vestayisyanti manavah; Tada devam avijnaya duhkhasyanto bhavisyati (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.20).

The Bhagavad-Gita has elaborated many aspects of self management. In explaining the position of a self realized manager (Chapter 18.51- 18.53), among others, Sri Krishna stressed the aspects such as controlling the mind, determination, giving up sense gratification, being free from attachment and hatred, body and mind control, power of speech, free from false ego, false pride and anger as essential aspects of self management. In describing qualities of brahmanas (intelligent managers) (Chapter 18.42), Sri Krishna stressed the qualities such as peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness and in describing the qualities of ksatriyas (warrior managers) (Chapter 18.43), Sri Krishna identified qualities such as heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership. Sri Krishna also described that fearlessness; purification of one’s existence; cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance of sacrifice; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity; nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; renunciation; tranquility; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; vigor; forgiveness; fortitude; cleanliness; and freedom from envy and from the passion for honor are among the essential qualities which are needed for our self development.  These qualities are in the mode of goodness (satva guna) and are considered essential not only for managers but also auspicious for progress on the path of liberation.

As for the Gunas, there are three – Sattva (mode of goodness), Rajas (made of passion), and Tamas (mode of ignorance). Gunas are the fundamental constituents of every being and each being is composed of all the three Gunas. When one of the three Gunas is dominant in a person, that person is said to be characterized by that Guna. Sattva is is expressed in qualities like purity, wisdom, goodness, fineness, bliss, and a love for knowledge. Rajas is characterized by egoism, activity, restlessness, assumption of undertakings, craving, passion, lust, greed, and the need for power. Tamas is exhibited in sloth, delusion, ignorance, heedlessness, inertia, procrastination, confusion, and perversion in thought and action. A Sattvic manager will be effectively manage his self and will not easily fall to ignorance, lust, greed and anger. The control and management of anger for example is vital for any managers and they should not let anger gain control over them. Sri Krishna described that from anger, complete delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence will be lost and when intelligence is lost one falls down – krodad bhavati sammohah sammohat smrti-vibhramah; smrti-bhramsad buddhi-naso buddhi-nasat pranasyat, (Chapter 2.63). The control and the management of anger effectively, is also a vital aspect of human relations not only in organizations but also in our everyday life. Anger resides in Linga Sarira (astral body) but it percolates into the physical body just as water percolates through the pores to the outer surface of an earthen pot and just as heat melts lead, so also kroda (anger) melts the individual (Sivaanda 1990).

Besides anger, the manager in the organization must also be able to tackle his worries, anxieties, fear, stress etc. These are the enemies of a leader. Even Arjuna, before the commencement of the battle had worries, anxieties and fear and he was forwarding a lot of argument to Sri Krishna on the negative outcome of the war. Arjuna was speaking learned words, yet he was grieving for what is not worthy of grief. He was lacking in real knowledge, the knowledge of the self. One who is in knowledge would not grieve in any circumstances. The Bhagavad Gita defines this stage as brahma-bhutah or equanimity. At this stage one will becomes fully joyful. He will not lament nor desire anything. He will be in an equal and consistent state of mind and will be equal to all – brahma-bhutah prasannatma na socati na kanksati; samah sarvesu bhatesu mad-bhaktim labhate param (Chapter 18.54).

Roka (2006) describes the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita culminates with an important HRD lesson; this lesson is about renunciation. The Bhagavad-Gita defines renunciation as abstaining from selfish acts (sanyasa in Sanskrit) and detaching from the results of an action (tyaga in Sanskrit). Sri Krishna mentions specific areas where true renunciation must be practiced, such as:

  • Renounce negative thoughts, words, and actions
  • Renounce inequality and promote equality
  • Renounce selfish desires and exercise selfless service
  • Renounce indiscipline, dishonesty, and lazy attitude; and exercise integrity and pro-activeness
  • Renounce arrogance and ignorance, and be open-minded
  • Renounce momentary happiness that is derived from selfish behaviors. Instead, seek happiness that is long-lasting and beneficial to all.

The definition of renunciation, according to the Bhagavad-Gita, suggests that managers must practice selfless giving and strive for the common good. Practicing renunciation requires focusing on people and demonstrating compassion toward them. Today, we know ‘servant leadership’ as a popular leadership concept. Servant leadership is similar to the concept of renunciation. 

In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna defines the meaning of true renunciation. He says, true renunciation is one that is undertaken with courage and without selfish attachments. By acknowledging one’s responsibilities and doing everything in his capacity to fulfill those responsibilities, a person performs a true renunciation. When leaders acknowledge their responsibilities, there is no judgment of the nature of work. They do not worry about the pleasantness or unpleasantness of the nature of work.


After hearing the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna’s ignorance was dispelled.  He had regained his memory by Sri Krishna’s mercy, and he was free from doubt and acted according to Sri Krishna’s instruction – nasto mohah smrtir labdha tvat-prasadan mayacyuta; shito smi gata-sandehah karisye vacanam tava (Chapter 18.73). This is a transformation of Arjuna (and all of us) after hearing the Bhagavad-Gita. Arjuna stood steady on the ground with bow and arrow in hand, and he lifted his arms ready to fight the war. Sri Krishna used and demonstrated transformational HRD in developing and guiding Arjuna to victory in the war.

The Bhagavad-Gita is rich with several lessons in the psychology of HRD. In chapter chapter selected verses from the Bhagavad-Gita have been explored to provide psychological relevance to HRD. It is not within the scope of this chapter to explore every verse of the Bhagavad-Gita; however the author hopes that in future more studies will be conducted to further explore the mysteries of the Bhagavad-Gita in other areas of management.  Modern managers and consultants can benefit from the philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita, which can serve as a guide in the HRD process. The Bhagavad-Gita has remained and will remain to be relevant and continue to contribute to managers for many centuries to come.

And finally, wherever there is Sri Krishna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion – yatra yogesvarah krisno yatra partho dhanur dharahah tatra srir vijayo bhutir dhruva nithir matir mama (Chapter 18.78).


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