Man-Agement: The Sanatana Approach

Management Training — in ever-new garbs — is big business, possibly the very biggest, in the training arena today, ever since it was started off in the early 20th century in America. Its dernier cri is ‘Human Resource Development’, as if human beings were insentient “things” to be “developed” like a piece of real estate! In India the business revolves round parroting theories and aping techniques spawned and practised in the West, trying to transplant alien concepts and practices into an ethos whose very basis and substance are radically different.

The results of this wholesale importing have been not only discouraging but on several occasions disastrous. The enthusiastic propagation of the “T-group”, hastily abandoned by Indian companies in the 1960s disconcerted with the sudden turnover of middle-management personnel that followed, is now attempting a come-back in the new guise of “Applied Behavioural Science Laboratory”. Once again the human being is brought down to the level of a guinea-pig. MBO [Management by Objectives] came and went with the euphoria of a Madura Coats case-study as it failed to take into account the need for individual transformation. Theory X and Theory Y, the Hierarchy of Needs, the Hygiene and the Motivation Factors, Organisational Development — every western con cept and its inevitable camp-follower, the techniques [e. g. the Management Grid, Firo-B, Johari window, Thomas-Killman Conflict Resolution Mode, Transactional Analysis, Interactive Skills, Quality Circles, Sensitivity Training, a plethora of simulation games, Action Learning] were quickly picked up by Indian entrepreneurs intent on making a quick kill and marketed assiduously. Blooming like hot-house plants, they withered away as swiftly. Despite the existence of several national management institutes manned by Indians, the vision remained obstinately blinkered and wholly Harvard / Tavistock / Manchester Business School oriented. The concept of evolving from within   the Indian matrix a system of managing the self and of self-development peculiar to Indians appeared to be something so utterly alien to the intellectual equipment of the Management Schools that no organised attempt was made in this direction.

The 1980s saw the glimmerings of a new light creeping over the murky training horizon shrouded in clouds of western fumes and the next decade heralded the dawn of a new birth: of a concept and a technique which are our very own, which have existed over the millennia as sanatana, eternal as man’s very soul, which is not circumscribed by geographical and temporal boundaries but can span the continents to reach the innermost being of anyone who desires to evolve into a Manager, a human being who manages himself, and thereby influences his environment.

The watershed in MAN-agement development, which is in essence the growth of the individual human being, has come about through the tireless search of a professor of financial management and MBO who asked himself why this country, with one of the oldest living civilisations in the world, should not be able to provide the answers foxing management experts frenetically grafting foreign techniques onto Indian minds and finding them failing to fructify in their hearts. This delving into the heart of our heritage for a solution to the modern problems did not start in thegurukuls of the north or the ashrams of the south with their repository of traditional wisdom but in Calcutta. Perhaps this was quite in the fitness of things. For it is in Bengal since the 19th century Renaissance that the questing soul has dived into the still oceanic depth of our sanatana heritage to come up with pearls beyond price in the work of Ram Mohun Roy, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo.

This attempt took the shape of Management Development Workshops on “Management Effectiveness and Values Systems: Indian Insights” by Dr. Sitangshu Kumar Chakraborty, professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. The concept is based on the postulate that whereas the characteristic of management training curricula is obsolescence of topics and techniques, human values endure the flux of change. These are workshops focussed on the mind and the individual, working with the mind for the mind on the mind. Over 8000 participants from nearly 40 private and public sector organizations located in different regions of the country have participated, and the results documented in books published by Tata McGraw Hill, Wiley Eastern, Himalaya Publishing, Wheeler, Rupa, Oxford University Press, Sage, ICFAI University. I was the first and, for quite some time, the only government bureaucrat to have attended these courses. The only government organizations to have gone in for the workshop are also from West Bengal, namely, the Directorate of Industrial Training, the Administrative Training Institute and the Health Directorate. The National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, restricted itself to sending a couple of faculty to attend the annual international workshop at the MCHV.

The programme takes the shape of three modules. Module-1 runs for three successive forenoons, concentrating on establishing the “Pure Mind” through the practise of chitta shuddhi. It is based on Patanjali’s finding that there are five mind-states: inert (mudha), scattered (vikshipta), wild (kshipta), concentrated (ekagra),beyond mind (niruddha), of which the first three are the usual mental conditions. This is a remarkable revelation of the decision maker’s state of mind which determines the degree of effectiveness of his functioning. Techniques and systems come much later in the process. Swami Vivekananda Raja- yoga provides a picturesque description of the main instrument of managerial functioning. The mind,he says, is like a monkey (restless, fidgety) which is drunk (with ambition, greed), has been stung by a scorpion (jealousy, envy) and is possessed by a demon (pride, vanity). The problem, then, is how to produce effectiveness out of this frenzied situation. The first module is founded on an understanding of seven elements of Indian philosophy:

  • rising from the Lower Self to the Higher Self;
  • practicing dis-identification with the former and re-identification with the latter;
  • the dynamics of the three gunas [sattva, rajas, tamas];
  • the doctrine of karma [cause and effect];
  • the concept of samskaras [residual impressions];
  • the theory and method of work;
  • the giving model of motivation.

This module starts with the basic question: How to increase organisational effectiveness? It is followed by an input on the relationship between Values and Skills. Generally, skills are over-exercised and values are neglected. If values are not in good order, high order skills will be used in malicious, destructive ways.
The original framework of this module was as follows:

Through two experiential sessions daily, now called Quality Mind (Rishi) Process, early morning and before dinner on an empty stomach, the module culminates in the Mind-Stilling exercise through the following steps lasting about forty minutes. For the exercises participants are requested to wear white loose clothing to encourage harmony with the sattvik spirit sought to be developed within:

  • mindful breathing concentrating only on slow, deep (fully filling the chest and stomach), silent breathing through alternate nostrils without holding the breath in or out, the exhalation and the inhalation being equally slow, for 10-15 cycles in a seated posture on a chair (in case sitting on the floor is uncomfortable), the spine kept erect, the feet planted firmly flat on the ground eyes closed. This pranayama helps to centripetalise the centrifugal mind that is constantly dissipated outwards.
  • imagine breathing in a sattvik quality and breathing out a rajasik or tamasikone. These two steps are drawn from Patanjali/Raja Yoga.
  • imagine that the brain space is empty, a void, using the image of a clear blue sky, and experience a sense of peace, freedom. Thoughts that come are imagined as clouds floating across the sky, without paying attention to them. A helpful image is imagining the head as a tightly corked bottle and uncorking it to let out all the effervescent fizz, leaving behind a calm serenity. In the third step of this exercise one silently repeats “Let go” while exhaling to aid bringing calm serenity to the mind.
  • imagining opening up an entrance at the crown of the head, like the mouth of the body-bottle being uncorked, with the aspiration for the Universal Energy-Consciousness-Bliss to descend into one’s being, using the image of a many-petalled lotus at the top of the head blooming in the morning sun’s rays and welcoming that radiance into itself. These two steps are taken from Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.
  • concentrating on the psychic centre in the middle of the chest, imagine a dark, cool, cave there with a blue-golden sphere glowing within and try to identify with it, repeating five times the dis-identification and re-identification statements from Shankaracharya’s Atma-shatakam which is recited at the beginning of every session, to act as a refrain inter-linking all the exercises:

“I have a body but I am not the body; 
I have senses but I am not the senses;
I have a mind but I am not the mind;
I have an intellect but I am not the intellect.”

I am Eternal Consciousness, luminous, pure, complete and Blissful.

This luminous sphere is the Higher Self with which identification is sought. The concept is taken from Jnana Yoga, aiming at replacing the hunger for having more by the idea of the self being innately complete and full. Concentrate on the luminous bluish-golden sphere within the heart-cave and bringing into its effulgence all the good and the bad inside oneself, imagining that this radiance is suffusing every nook and cranny of the cave, cleaning it up. An alternative is to imagine one’s chosen deity seated here and offer up to it all that one is, in total surrender. This concept is taken from Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.

The afternoons are occupied with studying selected readings such as Sri Aurobindo and The Mother’s Right Attitude to Work, On Self Perfection, Living Within, Growing Within, Swamy Vivekananda’s The Secret of Work, Rabindranath Tagore’sSadhana, Personality, Shantiniketan. Participants are urged to maintain silence throughout to assist consolidation of experiences, introspection and internalization of the concepts.

For the next three to four months the participants are requested to hold fortnightly meetings, with a rotatory leadership of each session, in which these exercises are repeated and the experiences written down individually, including problems that come up in applying the concepts in daily life at home and in the work-place. Each individual is also supposed to do the exercise every morning and night by himself.

This module has now been renamed as “Workshop on human values and ethics – achieving holistic excellence”. A schematic representation of this revised module is as follows:

Module 2 lasts for 2 forenoons on the theme of Leadership and Teamwork for bringing home the following concepts:

Process Elements Love Discipline

(impartial embracing all,even antagonists)

Team Members
(build trust, sharing,laterally)

Impersonal Love (to all)
Higher Self
Sattva Guna
Maitri (friendly to the happy)
Karuna (friendly to the unhappy) 
Mudita (joy in the virtuous)

Self control 
Hierarchy (familial not structural)
Rituals, Symbols
Danda-niti (punishment)




The basic features of this leadership module are as follows:

  1. The Indian concept of leadership is based on the ‘Rajarshi’ model which is a combination of “Raja” and “Rishi”. Rishi (seer, visionary) is the base and Raja (who ensures the happiness of the people) is the superstructure.
  2. Following are the characteristics of a Rishi:
    a) Gives priority to ‘ROLE’ over ‘SELF’ (e.g. role of Raja in Sri Ram in the Ramayana while banishing Sita). 
    b) Translates cosmic order into social order. Cosmic order has four components: wisdom, power, protection and work. These were translated into – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras.
    c) Has solitude, silence and sincerity in his character.

The seven-step exercise of Module 1 is supplemented by the following for experiencing a sense of unity:

  • Imagine radiating from the psychic centre waves of rays of peace, harmony and bliss to everyone, friend or foe; imagining sharing one’s inner serenity with all without exception, particularly those who are antagonistic (pratipaksha bhavana) without any expecta tion of any sort of return. This concept is taken from Buddhist psychology and linked to Karma Yoga.   

These uses of the dynamic imagination are Prof. Chakraborty’s own creation.

Module 3 takes place after about three months for two successive forenoons, the theme being “Managing Stress, Communication and Counselling.” It emphasises that identifying the causes of stress is the most important factor for managing stress and for this he has emphasised on the following points:



Work pressure Selfishness
Obsolescence of technology Egotism
Unkind boss Jealously
Family problem Unethicality
Transfer Consumerism
Fluctuation in the stock market Competitive careerism
Natural disaster Greed

All these are uncontrollable variables

All these are controllable variables

The Panchakosha tattva or the Five-Sheath Model (taken from the Taittiriya Upanishad)

Panchakosha means five concentric outlines of the human frame:

1. Annamaya Kosha: The outermost material sheath. 
2. Pranamaya Kosha : The vital life force and protected by the Annamaya Kosha
3. Manomaya kosha: The mental sheath. 
4. Vijnanamaya kosha: The wisdom sheath.
5. Anandamaya kosha: The sheath of bliss.

Stress belongs to the first three sheaths i.e. from Annamaya to Manomaya kosha. The remaining two i.e. the Vijnanamaya and the Anandamaya koshas are absolutely stress free. Our problem is that we jumble up these five sheaths and thereby stress is produced.

The exercise involves concentrating on two sets of imagery for tackling stress after going through the steps described above:

  • Imagine praise being poured into one ear and abuse into the other, remaining unmoved in the midst of both, centered in the luminous heart-centre to achieve steady inner poise. Prof. Chakraborty has given this final module an intricate conceptual design:

Prof. Chakraborty has given this final module an intricate conceptual design:

––––     Samatva (Poise)    ––––    Ananda (Bliss)
     Duality                                 Equality                        Unity

     Torment                              Equanimity                   Bliss
Secular                               Sacro-Secular              Sacred


     Executive Self                     Witness Self                Divine Self  
     Objective Reality                Subjective Reality         All is Reality
Leela                                   Nitya                             Leela — Nitya

These psycho-physical exercises aim to achieve the following goals:

  • strengthen will-power;
  • increase the power of penetrating insight;
  • develop the holistic, synthesising, expansive capability;
  • acquire a tranquil inner world;
  • enable the mind to provide its own authentic feedback;
  • pursue ethico-moral fitness;
  • capture the awareness of unity. 

As for the principles of communication, these are derived from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother [On Self Perfection parts II, IV and On Work]:

  • “Never utter a word when you are angry”;
  • “outburst of anger or temper means the tongue is projecting bad vibrations into the atmosphere. Nothing is more contagious than the vibration of sound”;
  • “Don’t allow the impulse of speech to assert itself too much or say anything without reflection—speak always with a conscious control”;
  • “if there is gossip about others and harsh criticism, don’t join—they only lower the consciousness from the higher level”;
  • “cultivate the habit not to throw yourself out constantly into spoken words”;
  • “the less one speaks of other—even praise—the better it is. Already it is difficult to know exactly what happens in oneself, how to know then with certainty what is happening in others”;
  • “you must criticise nothing unless you have at the same time a conscious power and an active will in you to dissolve or transform the movements you criticise”;
  • “to discourage is wrong. But false or wrong encouragement is not right. Very often if an inner communication has been established, a silent pressure is more effective than anything else”;
  • "What is needed for success in the outward field is the power to transmit calmly a Force that can change men’s attitude and the circumstances and make any outward action at once the right thing to do and effective”;
  • “one must state only what one wishes to see realized.”

The entire question of Effectiveness is seen as a combination of Values and Skills. The former is the process of Becoming in the inner world through which the Skills for Doing in the external world are processed. That is why honing Skills alone cannot possibly lead to effectiveness. Values themselves can be seen in a two-fold manner; as means (i.e. HOW to act) and ends (i.e. WHAT to aim for, the goals). The experience of management is that most organizations have personnel who are strong in skills and weak in values. Questionnaires administered to a wide spectrum of practising managers has elicited the same response time and again: they would prefer to have personnel less skilled but with a strong base in the right values because they realize that management devoid of values becomes mere manipulation just as politics bereft of philosophy degenerates into opportunism. In graphical terms, the Value-Skills configuration can be represented as follows:

Values + (Strong)

(Preferred State


S-V- S+V-                  A
(Majority of                P

Values - (Weak)

The common factor in all the four quadrants is the differing nature of values. Therefore, the operative objective is to bridge the gap between weak and strong values, to increase sensitivity to and sustenance of values founded on interiorisation of discipline (the centripetal process) using mindful breathing; and Mind Purification or chittashuddhi. These are opposed to the relentless exponential process of exteriorization (the centrifugal tendency) which is the existential situation for mankind, egged on by increasingly higher standards of consumption imposed by the Consumer Society. The individual consciousness is being constantly plucked out of the centre of one’s being by relentless application of all the tricks of Consumerism. This leads to a harried life-style which creates an environment hostile to the growth of sensitivity to values. Hence the need of a counter-balancing movement, a centripetal revolution. The management of breathing, our most existential activity, the conscious control of our breath, is the starting point of the management of self that is the secret of self-control.

The question is, how does one build up the storehouse of wisdom of self-knowledge on the foundation of the mind which is a collection of seventeen defilements such as greed, covetousness, malevolence, anger, malice, hypocrisy, spite, envy, stinginess, deceit, treachery, obstinacy, impetuosity, arrogance, pride, conceit, indolence? Hence the need for chittashuddhi, purifying the foundation. “Mind” here is an inadequate translation of “Chitta” that embraces emotions, feelings, impulses as well as thoughts. The concentration has to be not on sharpening the intellect, the reason, but on purifying the vast emotional area that is infra-rational, underlying the veneer of rationality.

Man is primarily driven by emotions that use the intellect as an instrument. As Sri Aurobindo pointed out, “human reason is a very convenient and accommodating instrument and works only in the circle set for it by interest, partiality and prejudice.” Bertrand Russell had warned, “Even more important than knowledge is the life of emotions.... given knowledge and competence combined with folly, there can be no certainty of survival (of the human race).... It follows that unless men increase wisdom as much as knowledge, increase of knowledge will be increase of sorrow.” Again, Einstein pointed out “The intellect has a sharp eye for methods, and tools, but it is blind to ends and values”.

Education today is primarily emphasizing the intellect, mass producing Shakunis, and neglecting the culture of emotions that produces a Vidura. Both Shakuni and Vidura were counsellors in the royal court and equal in buddhi, intellect, but it is the quality of their emotions that made all the difference. Purity of heart spills out into purity of the intellect. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

Generally people are altogether blind to the ugliness of their own actions... and the smaller one is, the more natural appears the sacrifice offered to one’s smallness...One must be very much higher on the scale to see that what one does is ugly. One must already have at the core of himself a kind of fore-knowledge of what beauty, nobility, generosity are, to be able to suffer from the fact that one doesn’t carry them within oneself.

The world of emotions, the subjective, is the cause and the objective its effect. It is obvious that the objectivity of a decision is a function of the purity of the subjective of the decision-maker, for all decisions are, in the ultimate analysis, subjective. Mahatma Gandhi wrote,

“The heart accepts a conclusion for which the intellect subsequently finds the reasoning. Argument follows conviction. Man often finds reason in support of whatever he does or wants to do.”

Hence the imperative need for cleansing the emotional sphere, as purity of heart will spill over into purity of the intellect. In the words of Swami Vivekananda,

“The intellect is only the street-cleaner, cleansing the path for us, a secondary worker, the policeman...It is an inactive, secondary help; the real help is feeling, love...Intellect is like limbs without the power of locomotion. It is only when feeling enters and gives them motion that they move and work on others...It is the heart that takes one to the highest place, which intellect never reach.”

Hence the need to stress not just analytical abilities of reason, but synthesising abilities in which the secret of creativity lies. Since the mind is an “arch-divider of the indivisible” (Sri Aurobindo), how can this defiled mind envisage wholeness? It is typical of it that it can only define wholeness through a negative: “That which is not fragmented”, a-khanda. The Mother says, “with intelligence come all the skill and cleverness and corruption, calculation...the moment his mind is active he tries to get some advantage out of his beauty and cleverness; he wants it to bring him something...this kind of wish to gain by what one has or does is truly one of the ugliest things in the world and it is one of the most widespread.”

So much stress is laid on Creativity in management literature ignoring the fact that the individual spark of creativity is a part of the Creator himself. Yoga establishes that legitimate contact between the individual spark and its source. Hence the necessity for stressing the right-brain which intuits supra-logically, as against the overwhelming left-brain approach of education which only analyses. It is by quietening the left brain that we allow the right half to come up. In a conversation with Rene Weber, the physicist David Bohm stated that the mathematician’s creative perceptions take place when “The veil of the mind is parted. The mind is caught in things that it takes for granted. The ordinary low-energy mind just goes through things over and over and takes its old assumptions for granted, but this high-energy dissolves the veil so that the mind can function on a new level.”

As Tagore wrote, “keep your flute empty so that the flute player can play his tune through it.

Brain-storming becomes most effective if preceded by brain-stilling.

This is the flute of the heart and mind of the individual that Tagore speaks of which has to be cleansed of impurities so that the music of the Creator can flow through it. This is the aim of the exercises described above.

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More by :  Dr. Pradip Bhattacharya

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