Just a century ago, Max Weber, declared that the Hindus and Buddhists remain backward because they believed in their ancient, faulty faiths!
Weber was a celebrated socio-economic thinker of the West. He counselled that belief in Karma - in which, he believed, fatalism hid - led people to accept their lot as their fate. He thus saw the Hindu-Buddhist faith in Karma as fatal to development itself. He diagnosed that Karma-centric faiths, which denied hopes to individuals, rendered their adherents unfit for modern development process.
Indian intellectualism, particularly in free India, carbon-copied Weber’s thesis and almost accepted that the traditional Indian beliefs are the nemesis of India. This turned the Indian establishment thinking apologetic about not just ancient Indian faiths but about ancient India itself!
Under the pressure of Weber’s interpretation, some bright Indian minds sidestepped the Aurobindo-Vivekananda view on ancient India as world’s future hope. They took refuge in socialist and secular ideas and delegitimised and drove the ancient Indian ideas underground. This enabled free India’s secular intellectualism, which saw ancient Indian thoughts as its principal adversary, declare everything about ancient India - whether it was Patanjali’s Yoga or Krishna’s Gita – as saffron toxic and anti-secular. In the end, Weber prevailed over free India.
Now comes, a full century after Weber theorised on how fatal is Karma, a surprising U-turn in the West. The very idea of Karma, which Weber had diagnosed as the nemesis of India, seems to be emerging as the life vest of the West! The West, fatigued with the ‘greed-is-good’ capitalism for over a century, is now looking for an alternative to the greed-based capitalism.
What is the alternative, which it sees or seeks? Believe it. It sees the alternative in Karma, the very idea Weber had condemned as anti-development. International Business Week in its recent issue (Oct 20, 2006) sees the emergence of ‘Karma Capitalism’, that is, capitalism founded on the idea of karma! The magazine defines karma capitalism as a gentler, more emphatic ethos that resonates in the post-Enron and post-technology bubble in the West.
“Big business is embracing Indian philosophy,” says the “Business Week”. Look at what it sees as Indian philosophy. “Phrases from ancient Hindu texts such as the Bhagwat Gita are popping up in management tomes and on web sites of consultants,” it says. And it goes on: “Top business schools have introduced “self-mastery” classes that use Indian methods to help managers boost their leadership skills and find inner peace in lives dominated by work”.
Not only that. Bhagwat Gita, according to “Business Week”, has replaced the 6th century BC Chinese classic Art of War of Tsun Tsu, which dominated business schools two decades earlier. The magazine says that while it used to be ‘hip in management circles’ to quote from the Chinese classic, the ‘trendy ancient Eastern text on Thursdayis Bhagwat Gita”, which the magazine says “more introspective”.
Earlier this year, says the magazine, a manager at Sprint Nextel Corp penned the inevitable how-to guide: “Bhagwat Gita on Effective Leadership“. More important, the magazine says, Indian born strategists are helping to transform the US corporations. It names several Indians who are among the world’s hottest business gurus. About 10 percent of the professors at business schools such as Harvard, Kellogg, and others are of Indian descent, it says. The senior executives who come to these schools are exposed to the Indian values that are reflected in how these professors of Indian origin think and articulate, the magazine says.
The most influential ones, the magazine says, acknowledge that common themes pervade the work of these professors of Indian origin - like that executives should be motivated by broader purpose than money; that there should be a holistic approach that integrates needs of the shareholders, employees, customers, society and environment; and that the shareholder-driven agenda must be replaced by stakeholder-focused approach. The Business World says that “Indian thinkers are affecting not only the way the managers run companies. They are also furthering their search for personal fulfilment”. In short, it says that the Indian thinking and Indian thinkers are greatly influencing Corporate America.
Corporate America’s influence on the political and economic philosophies of the West is well acknowledged. Economic globalisation has only deepened that influence. The US corporate think tanks exert considerable influence over global media and politics. In effect corporate America is the trend setter for the world. Ironically it was the US that proclaimed itself as the living model of Weber’s prescriptions as the foundation of modern ideas of capitalism and development. And that is where, surprisingly and unbelievably, the U-turn is taking place.
For secular India Bhagwat Gita and Karma Yoga are toxic substances to be kept out of the Indian discourse. The Indian management gurus and spiritual leaders are doing what Swami Vivekananda did over a century ago - namely proclaim that greatness of the Indian thought in the US and import it from the US to India. They are actually validating in the US what has been driven underground in secular India.
If the Indian management gurus did something similar in India it would attract the abuse of the seculars that they are toxifying even business and economics with saffron concepts! It may even charge that the corporate America is becoming addicted to toxic saffron. That is the measure of its hate for thoughts and things Indian. Yes the secular India dismisses as toxin what secular America realises as nectar.