Prahupada, Bombay, January 4, 1973 — “We are trying to pour water in the leaves. The leaf will dry, and his labor will be frustrated. That is happening. So-called humanitarian service, social service, without any touch with Krishna…Just like watering on the tree without touching the root — it is useless labor. Similarly, you do whatever service you can do to the society, to the community, to the nation, but do it in Krishna consciousness. Then you’re perfect.”
Sustainable Happiness | Times of India
SONAL SRIVASTAVA | The Times of India, Holistic Living | Dec 12, 2011, 12.10PM IST
The quality of our lives depends on how well or badly we understand and manage the economic, social and environmental challenges before us, writes Sonal Srivastava.
A verse from the Katha Upanishad talks about happy co-existence: “Om saha navavatu, saha nau bhunaktu, saha viryam karavavahai, tejasvi nav adhitam astu ma vidvishavahai” – “May He protect us together, may He nourish us together, may we work diligently, let our learning be brilliant, may there be no conflict between us.” Isn’t the Upanishad talking about Utopia, where there are no conflicts, where sustainable values are co-created and where there is room for everyone to evolve? Sure, it seems unrealistic. Yet the ideals are worth striving for. We’re facing daunting challenges in the social, economic and environmental spheres. They are interlinked; our well-being depends upon on a sustainable combination of all three, bolstered by sustainable business practices and political support.
Sustainability is the key
“All problems that the world faces today should be viewed from the perspective of this triple context,” says Anant Nadkarni, vice-president, group corporate sustainability, Tata Group. The concepts of corporate sustainability and co-creation of value are now at the centre of business strategies. Such an approach generates long-term value for all in the triple context.
Co-creation implies generation of value for the company as well as the consumer and a happy co-existence for both.
“The word ‘company’ means people working together in collaboration; the meaning becomes slightly deeper when people come together in a way in which being together isn’t simply about making money,” says Tony Manwaring, CEO of UK-based ‘Tomorrow’s Company’. He recently co-organised a conference on ‘Success Through Corporate Sustainability’ in Mumbai.
With good intentions
To adopt a holistic approach to problem-solving, we need corporations that work with good intentions. Nadkarni stresses on niyat (intention). He says that good intentions are the most important thing for “they are like a national asset and it’s impossible to quantify them.”
Everything flows from the inherent goodness of humankind. We only need to capitalise on that. “Any company can start practising sustainability at the smallest level. In fact, an individual can start from himself, from his work station and introduce it in his factory. Whatever the type of company, it must have sustainability at its core rather than just dole out some charity at the periphery,” adds Nadkarni.
In switching to sustainable practices, corporations need to take care of the way they use natural resources and manage waste, climate change and biodiversity. Wasteful business practices that result in over-consumption of energy, undermine communities or contaminate surroundings can no longer be justified for creation of value for share holders.
Investors have turned smarter; they are keen to stake their money in projects that ensure long-term safety and good returns.
“Three important factors that should influence investor’s choice are a company’s strategies related to water conservation, energy management and forestation. A good investment would be in a company that takes care of its carbon credits in both production and consumption,” says Ravinder Pal, an executive working with a ‘green’ hotel chain. For most investors, “Investment in companies that are exploiting people or environment is unsustainable investment,” says Nadkarni.
Clarity of purpose
To keep in step with rapidly changing social and environmental conditions, corporations will have to rethink their business strategies. It is of paramount importance to connect profit with the well-being of people. “The style of autocratic leadership will work no more,” says John Knights, Chairman of LeaderShape, a UK-based firm.
Along with the readiness to adapt to change, Gen X leaders will have to transcend ego and rise above narrow self-interests, making decisions that include other stakeholders.
“Business leaders will have to be very clear on their purpose. It’s the culture and behaviour that enable a system to be created. We need clarity of purpose and the capabilities to achieve it,” Tony Manwaring adds.
All our actions create an impact on our immediate environment and our well-being is dependent on our surroundings.
The Bhagavad Gita clearly states the advantages of rising above selfish ends. Krishna says: “Work for the common good without selfish interests; the rewards of selfless work will take you to a supreme state.” Acharya Mahapragya, in his seminal discourses on Economics of Mahavir would say that economic development should be guided by purity of means, non-erosion of moral values and limits to self-interest.
Most participants at the PHD Chamber-organised ‘Acharya Mahapragya Memorial Lecture on sustainable development through ethics and value-based education’ in New Delhi in November agreed that sustainability and spiritual principles go hand-in-hand.
“Creation of wealth should be concurrent with inculcation of ethics, values and spirituality. If, in the process of development, we lose our character and culture, it is only a matter of time that we will lose our development as well,” says Arun Gupta, president, ISKCON Temple, Idaho, US.
Scriptures stress five values to promote a sustainable, ethical lifestyle: ahimsa or non-violence, satya or truth, asteya or not stealing, brahmacharya or restraint and aparigraha or non-possessiveness, “These values should be understood in a broader context today,” says Swami Nikhilananda of Chinmaya Mission. “Many new products are introduced in the market; we use and throw. This is sheer waste that could be avoided. We must save resources for future generations,” he says.
The bottom line
What is the bottom line? Whatever we do, we must think of others as well. When you think of yourself, your home and your children, you also have to think of society and the environment. If everybody around you is happy, the same happiness will reflect in you, too.
And this is conveyed in Vedic wisdom: “Sarveh bhavantu sukhinah” – “Let the whole world be in happiness.”