Ramayana & Mahabharata and the complexities involved in those epics has always drawn me, inspired me and left me thinking. Though most of spoken about Ram or Dharmraj, every character has something to teach you. I happen to cross some interesting reading in recent economic times, written by DEVDUTT PATTANAIK, author of Jaya..I enjoyed reading it. sharing it.. don’t get into the right or wrong or ethical or not ethical discussion, just gulp the truth and reality in it. read on..
The oldest Greek stories, Iliad and Odyssey , deal with the triumph of the heroic leader who breaks all the rules. The oldest Biblical narratives, Genesis and Exodus, deal with the value of compliance to the rules of the institution. In contrast, the oldest Indian epics, Ramayana, Mahabharata, revolve around family dramas.
Another epic, the Bhagavata, often considered a prequel to the Mahabharata, tells the story of Krishna’s early life in Gokul. Together these three epics deal with every possible family-related issue from inter-generational conflict to succession planning to talent management to sibling rivalry. It is filled with thoughts and ideas that are considered timeless, hence of value even to modern family businesses as they go through dharma-sankat, or ethical dilemmas in the new world order where the demands of institutional business tower over traditional family assumptions.
What is a family?
Families in Ramayana and Mahabharata, significantly, are not defined by blood. Ram and Laxman are half-brothers, with a common father but different mothers. Of the five Pandava brothers, three have a common mother, and none have a common father. Krishna is raised by foster parents, and even his brother Balabhadra is actually his half-brother. What defines a family then is not blood or law or custom, but trust. In a family governed by trust, there are no rules; only love defines all actions, as in the Bhagavata. In a family with no trust, rules have no role; only power defines all actions, as in the Mahabharata. In between, stands the Ramayana, where there is love but also rules.
How critical are rules to bind a family together?
Rules are the fundamental building blocks of an institution. Members of an institution can be either the sheep, who follows the rule or the independent goat, who challenges the rules. Greek narratives understood the freethinking goat. Biblical narratives celebrated the sheep and equated the goat with the Devil. In Indian epics, however, rules play second fiddle to intent. More important than compliance or defiance is the reason behind the compliance or the defiance.
Ram, hero of the Ramayana, keeps rules, and so does Duryodhan, villain of the Mahabharata. But Ram does it to ensure stability in Ayodhya while Duryodhan does it for his own satisfaction and this results in the war at Kurukshetra. Krishna, hero of the Mahabharata, breaks rules but so does Ravan, villain of the Ramayana.
Krishna does it to bring joy in Gokul with his many pranks as he goes about stealing butter and with his ruthless war strategies to get justice for the Pandavas, while Ravan does it for his own satisfaction and causes the burning of his island-kingdom of Lanka. Family businesses need Rams and Krishnas who work for the welfare of the kingdom (symbol of business), not Ravans and Duryodhans who work for themselves.
What should be the relationship between family and the business?
In the Ramayana, the kingdom of Ayodhya is more important than Raghu-kula the family that govern it. In the Mahabharata, the Kuru-kula family is more important than the kingdom of Hastinapur it is responsible for. In the Ramayana, Ram, son of King Dashrath, upholds the tradition of the Raghu-kula, goes into exile so that the integrity of the royal family is never questioned and Ayodhya feels secure under its leadership. In the Mahabharata, Bhisma, son of king Shantanu, gives up conjugal life, not for the sake of his kingdom, but so as to satisfy the lust of his father who wishes to marry Satyavati, the ambitious daughter of an ambitious fisherman. The kingdom of Ayodhya plays a key role in all decision-making in the Ramayana. This is not so in the Mahabharata, which is why the kingdom of Hastinapur is divided and the kingdom of Indraprastha is gambled away.