Utilitarianism, Krishna & Indian Business Environment

As an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna has had an unparalleled influence on the Indian psyche. His enchanting childhood full of adorable naughtiness as well as his debonair youth rinsed in platonic romance; his statesmanship and bravery filled political endeavors as well as his aloofness in enjoying its fruits; his role in the unfurling of psychological masterpiece in the form of Gita as well as his divine presence tilting the balance of war in the favor of relatively lesser evil side – very few other mythical characters would have enjoyed such a gigantic adulation of billions of Indians over hundreds of generations. Though most of his political expeditions were designed to outmaneuver the ‘realpolitik’ of then strongmen like Kans or Jarasandh or Duryodhan and to establish the balance of power, one can cite numerous examples of Krishna’s non hesitant approach in adopting utilitarianism in promoting and protecting the cause which he believed was just. The blatant contrivance which he advocated to ensure the fall of Bhishma, Drona or Karna in a war named as nothing but Dharmyuddha; instead of riling the means conscious Indian devotees, has instead resulted in further endearing of Krishna as his divinity is seen as something which is laced with human imperfection and founded on Karmyoga! This approach of pursuing victory (for a just cause) over virtue by / and ruthless adoption of strategy and tricks to enmesh the opponent in delusory lies, has perhaps helped many mortals in answering their own moral dilemmas and justifying moral lapses arising out of one’s convoluted compulsions in present day kaliyug.

Utilitarianism as a philosophy is usually understood as adopting of a choice which results in greater good of greatest number of people. As a form of consequentialism, it judges the morality of an action solely based on its resultant consequences. It can be applied easily, and it also results in maximum possible happiness, pleasure and common good of maximum possible people. While it obviously sounds the most practical solution when faced with more than one contradictory options, it is also fraught with the fact that its unabated implementation would certainly land one on the wrong side of the moral spectrum. How should a person balance his karmayoga and the interests of innocents who might be prone to adverse effects arising out of his actions? Political and business leaders are compelled to find answers to such questions every day. When an eloquent and revered leader like Krishna chooses deceit, decoy and deception to get rid of Kaurava leaders who might pose threat to the ‘ just’ cause of Pandava’s win, one can infer that such a choice has a genesis in his failed efforts of pursuing fair means and he has also concluded that such an approach is just unavoidable. From his actions, Krishna is obviously advocating utilitarianism to ensure that evil does not triumph over the just and as a corollary he is willing to commit few small wrongs to ensure a monstrous blunder is not committed.

Barring a few respected exceptions, we find a lot of case studies in the Indian business environment where people have chosen utilitarianism and managed to triumph by creating humongous tangible wealth in the process. The perennially grim Indian business environment arising out of the socialist framework and legal labyrinth perhaps compel almost all the business leaders to seek refuge in utilitarianism at least once in their business careers. When a keen-eyed businessman spots a gap in the competitive offerings, the potential opportunity to serve the huge market size of Indian populace would make him restless till he is able to resolve all the supply side constraints. Also, those who are eager to challenge the existing aristocracy would find merit in the nobility of utilitarianism and every new industrial development becomes easy to substantiate by applying the provisions of utilitarianism. In a country like India which manages to grow despite the government machinery and not due to it, I wonder whether any other viable option exists for entrepreneurs who are keen to make an impact and improve the living standards of their own family and other stake holders. Would the use of utilitarianism with its associated pitfalls needs to be forgiven when a business leader resorts to decide on the morality of an action by the sole criterion of quantum of common good that it may produce and his actions eventually, indeed, produce a behemoth operating in textile to telecom and grossing one of the largest revenues in India – no easy answers. But those who wish to condemn such an action based on the assumption that all such actions ultimately dilute the moral compass of the society at large, should also offer a solution to the challenges of rigid aristocracy, insufficient wealth creation and inefficient distribution of the same coupled with insatiable jugaadu business practices running in this country since generations.

Incidentally, Krishna’s (now submerged) Dwaraka lies on the western coast of India and Vaishnavism also thrives prominently in adjoining states. Perhaps Krishna’s teachings have been imbibed so deeply by these people that the vanity with which Jai Srikrisna still rages on in most Indian board rooms is just unparallel!

The sly Krishna may have been an inspiration to millions, but it should not be forgotten that the same Krishna has unequivocally propounded the inevitable law of karma by accepting unremorseful death from a discreet hunter. And perhaps India’s Tax to GDP ratio would notch up a bit higher when no one is allowed to gloss over the fact that Krishna never had an iota of selfishness in his actions and the only goal for which he devoted his life was to ensure that the maximum common good of maximum possible persons was always restored and protected.