Business Sutra |8.3| Loyalty and Dharma

Business Sutra |8| Family Feuds

We have covered five episodes of Devdutt Pattanaik’ TV serial on CNBC 18:  Business Sutra.

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd episode relates to the Business Ethics and Morals:  business ethics and dilemmas, relationship between owner and the organization  and The Right (Dharma) – the Ramayana way and the Mahabharata way. The 4th episode deals with Conflicts, of the Board and the CEO and that of the means vs. ends. The 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.  The 6th episode has taken up the oft-discussed topic of ‘measurement’, wherein in the Part 1, What Can Be Measured, dealt with the definitive need for not ‘only measurement’, but for ‘also measurement’ too and Part 2 dealt with mutual importance and dependence of Objectives versus Subjective Reality, whereas Part 3 evaluates ‘What is Your Worth?’ from these measurements perspectives. The 1st segment – Nature is destroyed when culture is created – of 7th episode establishes the inverse relationship between Environment and the human development. 2nd segment – The Environment Strikes Back – describes what happens when human growth goes beyond the natural resources.

In the episode 8, Devdutt Pattnaik has picked up a very interesting subject of Family Feuds, beginning with Three pairs of brothers in segment 1, and then linking up it with Self and Self-Image in segment 2.

Business Sutra |8.3| Loyalty and Dharma

First let us look at two definitions of Loyalty:

Loyal. … Someone who is loyal is reliable and always true, like your trusty dog.Loyal comes from the Old French word loial which means something like “legal,” but if someone is only loyal to you because the law requires him to be, that’s not true loyalty, which should come from the heart, not a contract.

In the article, Loyalty Is Very Important To A Relationship !!! , Wally Horton states that, “Being loyal is defined as “Being faithful to one’s oath, engagements or obligations. Being faithful to one’s allegiance to a government or state or to a person conceived as imposing obligation”. This definition seems formal and obligatory. I suggest that loyalty is not an obligation imposed by outside influences, but internal moral characteristics and decisions that are given freely.”

Even as we do understand that loyalty is more of one’s volition, our mind conjures of phrases like Customer Loyalty, Supplier Loyalty or Employee Loyalty in the field of management practice. One would find a wide ranging literature on the psychological and managerial aspects of these loyalties as well benefits of having the loyal interested parties. We would have come across enough experiences in our own professional life where these loyalties have created, from ripples to storms, both positively and negatively.

So one can possibly connection of Loyalty with Family Feuds. But what has that do with previous episode presented Self and Self-Image – what we are and why we are – appears to be hazy. Our crucial senses become eager enough to turn to Segment 3 of the episode 8  to see what Devdutt Pattanaik has to present on the subject of Loyalty and Dharma and how does Loyalty links up with s subject of the present segment from the point of view of Indian mythology.

I’m curious. All the three instances, the stories that you’ve told us are of brothers warring over property. We agree that may not completely strictly be applicable in case of Ram and Bharat, Well, they didn’t quite war, but the rift between them which caused Ram to leave was property. What is the idea of brotherhood then? These are issues that are always going to plague us. Is Ram and Lakshman the ideal Brotherhood?

I think the scriptures are not interested in how ideal brothers should behave. It is about who you are. If you are okay then your relationship with your brother will be okay, then your relationship with the organization will be okay. You will then know how to behave in different situations because you have figured yourself out. The whole narration therefore focuses on the person who has figured himself out. In fact,  that is why there is a very interesting relationship between Rama and Lakshmana.

Why do you call it interesting? Lakshamana followed Rama every step of the way. Therefore, to some extent he was an ideal brother on comparison to Bharat. Bharat was willing to give up the kingdom or not rule and give up kingship and we wait for Ram to return.  Lakshman went a step ahead and said I will follow you always and live the same hardships that you do.

The question is we celebrate Lakshmana, He is such a good brother, a loyal brother, a loving brother. But does Ramayana celebrate him as such?

Doesn’t it?

Well, I have my doubts. How does Ram relate to Lakshmana? It is a very interesting narrative.

I thought that was as some as an older brother, who is very fond of his younger brother.

Fond, yes, but as an elder brother his job is to tell Lakshmana what is really important and loyalty is not really important. Where does loyalty come from? Does it come from an animal nature where brothers become territories? Or, is it coming from a human, or the potential divine, nature where we look beyond territoriality, where all human beings are my brothers; not just the one who is biologically connected to me.

So, was loyalty was a negative attribute of Lakshman?

Let us listen to a story and figure this out. It is never stated very explicitly. Mythology never states things explicitly but it implies things.

Let’s look at what happens to Lakshmana and Rams relationship after they return to Ayodhya. That reveals something very different. After Ram has become King and he IS the great king of Ayodhya. The story changes dramatically. The loyalty of Laxmana has been tested repeatedly based on conditions put by Ram. Why is Ram testing his loyalty? For instance, Rama takes one of the toughest decisions of his kingship when he decides to abandon Sita as his queen. It is a very complex narrative. But who does he tell to convey this message? Ram tells Lakshmana to convey this message to Sita, to take her to the forest and leave her there and then tell her not to come back, not to identify herself as my wife.

Why is he giving Laxmana this responsibility? Lakshmana always represented the average human being. He is a passionate man, he talks from his heart. Laxmana was obviously horrified with this decision. The elder brother still looks calm and composed. He tells Lakshamana just do this. Lakshman honors him, but nonetheless is angry with his brother. His loyalty is being tested. Is this the brother he respects?

Is this the brother he followed into the forest?

Is he really a great man he followed with in the forest? Why is he doing this?

Later we are told when Ram loses the only battle in his life to his children and Sita then after  goes back under the earth and the children come back to live with Ram. At this stage, the gods come to Ram and tell him that it is time for you to die. Ram says I have one more task, just one task to complete. I will tell you about it shortly. He then looks at Lakshmana and says I want solitude, I want the room to be shut and I want to stay alone. Lakshmana like a loyal brother says, don’t worry if anybody dares enter your chambers I will guard your chambers. If anybody dares to enter I will kill them. The moment the doors are shut, Rishi Durvasa comes in and tells that I want to meet Ram, now. Lakshman very respectfully submits that you can meet him now, because Ram has chosen to be in the solitude. Rishi Durvasa is known to be an angry sage. He looks at Lakshmana and says if you don’t let me meet Ram I will destroy the city of Ayodhya. now Lakshman is in a Dharma Sankat – at a make or break decision stage. He has to decide whether he has to obey his brother or allow for the destruction in our city. He takes a decision, opens the door of his brother’s chamber and inform Ram that Rishi Durvasa has come to see you.  Ram is visibly upset and tells Lakshamana that I did tell you that I want solitude. Lakshamana replies that Iknow that but it was the city of Ayodhya which was at the stake, so I had to disturb you. Then Ram smiles and they turn around. But, there is no Rishi Durvasa there. Lakshman realized it was just an apparition. He looks at his brother. Ram smilingly tells him that you finally realize what matters more. It is Ayodhya, the kingdom, our basic duty to it which matters more than me. Now that you have decided and broken your own now, keep your word that you will kill whoever disturbs my solitude. It is time for you to die. Lakshmana then goes into the forest to give up his life.

Why this punishment of death?

It is not the punishment. Who took that vow that I will kill whoever breaks Ram’s solitude?

Lakshman himself did so.

So he has to keep that word. It is the family tradition – Raghu Kul Rit – that the word has to be humored, even at the cost of one’s  life. It was the word which made Ram leave the city of Ayodhya and go into exile, the same word which forced Ram to give up his wife. Lakshmana is now made aware of  the value of the word which creates civilization, a commitment, a contract when  you give your word.

Is this not a bit too harsh, considering the fact that it was created by Ram to teach his brother, about the need to prioritize your duty towards the kingdom more than your brother?

The story is not for Lakshman  or Ram. The story is for us.  It is a mythical narrative  which is trying to tell people what matters more. This is the story where Lakshmi is told loyalty doesn’t matter, your word matters, Ayodhya matters more, your wife doesn’t matter, your kingdom doesn’t matter, but what matters more is the people whom you serve as king. They matter the most. In other words in the modern management, it’s not the leader that matters, it is the institution that he builds matters more.

Now that is very interesting. Till now Lakshman was always held up as the ideal brother and now you are telling me that Ram in fact teaches him a lesson that loyalty to your brother cannot be a priority.

What is important is Dhama, the principles. Why do we value loyalty? Because when I say I have loyal followers I am still thinking of what I have, not what I am.

So it is still territorial.

It is still the property, It is not the physical property, this is property of relationships. I have brothers, I have followers, I have vote banks. These are properties that tell more about what we have it does not tell us anything about who we are.

The episode thus affirmatively puts forth that loyalty is a desirable intangible asset if it is not person oriented, after a stage, not even institution-oriented for ‘what they are’ but for the basic principles for ‘why they are’. Only when the loyalty is for the principles, then the loyalty becomes sustainable and only the organization who continue to get such principle-based loyalties of its stakeholders sustain themselves in the long run.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the first segment Gender of 9th Episode, the Discrimination, in our next episode.

Note: The images used in this post are the irrevocable property of their respective creator. They have been taken up courtesy the internet, so as to illustrate the point under discussion.