Brahmacharya as the training for sustainable business community

While business literally means being busy, usually in trade or commerce, the Sanskrit word for it is vanijya (वाणिज्य) that is likely to originate from Vana (वाण) meaning arrow that are exchanged in a battle, similar to vani (वाणी) or speech that is exchange in a conversation. However, the real system of managing the life in a household (Oikos in Greek) is referred to as economy.

In Indian context the economy is referred to as the artha, and artha being meaning rather than money, and the economic system (vyavastha in Sanskrit) is referred to as artha vyavastha. It calls for the self-realization for which one has to study self or Swadhyay under all possible circumstances to realize what one is not. This is a typical way of the scientific approach in which scientists run control experiments to derive what is something, not to conclude what something is. The same way one has to examine all others, including things, to falsify what one is not, to conclude what one is.

In other words, one has to understand the entire universe without or minus self, (perhaps a new meaning of being self-less) to realize what others are or the meaning of others (perhaps call it par-aratha) to eventually understand the meaning of the self or swartha. When these are combined, that is the par-arartha and swartha, it becomes paramartha, which is the attainment of the brahma swarupa or the ultimate. Swartha is therefore good when realized properly, but swartha is bad without the parartha for its proper understanding. In this way, one can understand the meaning of the concept of artha, which is one of the four purushartha or goals of the lives mentioned in the vedic literature.

How is this artha then connected to business and trade? 

Well, it starts with the family. When one is born, one interacts with the mother, father, siblings, and other family members to meet one’s needs for hunger, thirst, and protection, which is initially provided by the mother, and is increasingly provided by other members of the family, and eventually by the community. This is the household management (oikos) for a baby, and the meanings of one’s life (swartha) and meanings of the family, quite early on in life. In a family, people work together or jointly to meet the needs through the joint family system. As family size expands in time, people still cooperate as the needs arise, such as at the time of celebrations and mourning.

As the horizon expands, and people develop individual expertise and specialties in skills, the cooperation turns into the exchange of services, leading to a primitive form of bartering. This was based on the trust one has in someone’s promise as the exchange of services were not necessarily simultaneous. At that point, business managers (vaishya) appear and help manage this exchange of the goods and services, that turns into the barter system, also to mean trading the materials. The barter system in its original forms works only within the local village system at the level of village haat (market), as bartering items may include perishable items and for services one may have to travel, both of which with problems over a period of time, especially for perishable items. This barter system gets confined to agricultural products and handicrafts, and some of these items could be transported to longer distances, but a metal coin with value was a better system.

Gold being valuable, in part due to its non-reactivity and aesthetics became the metal coin of choice, followed by silver, copper, zinc, and eventually turned into paper notes. It has now, of course, become an electronic currency that allows national and international trading of the promise accompanied by electronic verification. So, the trade of services that counted the weight one gave to someone’s promised word, which is similar to the word one gives electronically. 

Spoken words were through direct expression, generally expressed in open, whereas electronic promise is hidden, and seen indirectly. These differences open the door for unethical practices both in open as well as secretly.

Gold does not change as should the words, but the electronic world is quite different, and things electronically can disappear without any trace. Indian families in the US also are in heavy buying of gold, although the grip of pure gold is a bit loosening. 24 karat (or 22 for jewelry) is the standard.

While business experts would perhaps like the money for their stock and bond, instead of gold, but no one likes to be stocked or bonded, no one likes to be broke, but gold standards are available as standards in every field, every walks of life, and in every era or yuga, because the gold never changes even in the fire.

That is why those people who remain steady in all conditions and circumstances are referred to as having passed the agni-pariksha, and are the golden people of the society.

Balram Singh is a Professor and the President of the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, Massachusetts, researching Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedic education, and Vedic social and political traditions. He is also an adjunct faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi.

Images courtesy of (Quora) and provided

Share this post