Time To Re-Energise And Re-Engineer Ethical Modules In Modern Economics And In Business World

Posted: 29.06.2007
Updated on: 30.07.2015


Humanity is at crossroads today. With enormous achievements in the domains of knowledge, politics, diplomacy, economics, culture, science and technology, human beings are surrounded by the threats and problems of terrorism, insecurity to their lives, deep frustrations and lurking fears of even ultimate destruction of mankind in case the nuclear arsenal falls in the hands of unscrupulous extremists and hard-headed fundamentalists, who do not respect 'swadharma' or 'adhyatma' or 'self-realisation' at all.

There is a growing consensus amongst the right thinking persons today that something is gravely missing in the lives of all humans today. That sole missing factor is ignorance about ethical norms, ethical conduct, ethical behaviour and ethical principles. Ethics can be regarded as the first step towards the path of ‘spirituality’. One need not go into deep philosophical precepts to understand the ground realities and rules of basic moral values and moral behaviour, because normally everybody, men & women, old & young, literate & illiterate, rich & poor, rural and urban, can understand 'what is right and what is wrong ', 'what is just and what is unjust ', what is dharma and what is adharma' on the basis of the prevailing good social conduct and behaviour and his/her philosophical and religious beliefs. But in Jain philosophy, the word 'equanimity' (evenness of mind or temper) sums up the goal of the highest achievement for mankind, although other religions have also emphasised similar noble objectives and ideals, but Jain philosophy gives a complete, comprehensive and holistic view about it, so much so, that it transcends other noble virtues like restraint, truth and non-violence as well, which are at best sub-divisions of 'equanimity'. Therefore, we should adopt Jain Ethics for Economic Liberation (JEEL) for mankind.

Today, we find that modern globalised world has given rise to more problems than it has solved. The developed and the developing countries are diverging from one another, rather than converging with one another. Inequalities between nations, and within nations, are increasing at a rapid rate. The latest Doha Development Round (started in 2001) of World Trade Organisation is not nearing its completion due to the self-centeredness and obstinacy of developed and developing countries. Both are sticking to their original rigid and uncompromising stands, and do not yield at all from their original positions. They give an indication of coming closer today, but fall far apart tomorrow. Thus, something fundamental is missing in the global fora. Similarly, at the national level, there are differences between political parties on various national political, economic, social and other issues which stand in the way of their resolution in the near future and which do more harm to the poor and the disadvantaged groups in society. Thus, society is always in a state of fundamental inequality due to the pursuit of self-interest by some groups in society.

Therefore, the time is now ripe to introduce ethical norms in resolving problems in various fields, more particularly, in the economic domain, which affects directly and profusely lives of the teeming millions of the people across the world. Ethics propels and promotes economic activity and economic activity reactivates and refines ethical modules & models.

It is suggested that an international dialogue should be organized to discuss the adoption of ethical norms of 'Right & Wrong' in a more pragmatic, detailed, schematic and down-to-the-earth fashion, so that the complex economic problems are resolved without further loss of time. It is now clear that the goals of that high growth & inclusive growth are not reachable through the so-called technological, scientific and innovative routes only.

As according to Alfred Marshall, 'Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life’, it would be more appropriate and desirable to study the relation between 'Economics and Ethics' so as to include the domain of 'Business Ethics' and 'Management Ethics' in a wider perspective. It would be in the fitness of things to indicate how ethical norms can be incorporated in economic issues so as to lead to their durable and lasting solutions in the shortest possible time. Though it is admitted that the process is very complex and complicated, at least a directional approach can be spelt out to resolve all the outstanding global, national, regional and local economic issues with the blessings and guidance of divine personalities like H.H. Acharya Mahapragyaji who is deeply concerned about the plight of the poor in this globalised race for amassing wealth by a few individuals who control the economy of the world. He is of the view that greed knows no bounds and unless it is capped with self-restraint, the problem of hunger will assume a dangerous proportion. Jainism is not opposed to prosperity but it should be achieved through just means, through integrity and transparency. Acharya Mahapragya is of the view that this problem of disparity, which is the mother of hunger and abject poverty, can be combated successfully if ethics becomes an integral part of economics. He has propounded a new concept of economics i.e. ahimsa-sapeksha arthshatra or what we call nonviolence-oriented economics. Nonviolence consists in compassion and restraint. Disparity in society cannot be ended but can be minimized. Nonviolence-oriented economics will naturally safeguard the interests of the marginalized groups in society. Let us listen to what he says:

'If economics continues to remain merely the economics of utility, it will not be possible for us to remove disparities. If the basic human values like nonviolence, purity of means, self-restraint as propounded by Lord Mahavira are integrated with the modern economic principles, it will bring about a big change in social outlook towards production, distribution and consumption. It the primary needs of the poor and weaker sections of society'.

Mahaprajna’s economic model puts a brake on man's tendency to acquire wealth beyond a limit. It will mean that some resources of the earth will reach the poor too. His model also strikes at the root of the evil i.e. man's propensity for possessiveness. In a message to the German Management Association Acharya lays down a seven-fold code of conduct for business administrators i.e:

  1. Non-absolutist attitude
  2. Good behaviour
  3. Alertness
  4. Control over impulsive acts
  5. Self-restraint
  6. Faith in the unity of mankind
  7. Freeing oneself from tension.

If the businesspersons of the world can observe the above principles in their day-to-day interactions, the world will become a better place to live. This attitude of a CEO of a multinational company looked in the seven ethical norms as elucidated by Acharya Mahapragya will always remind him of the poorest of the poor - the last man in the queue. If the poor are not lost sight of in this gale of globalization, the companies will find their road to prosperity smooth.

The entire mankind is seeking an answer to a trillion-dollar question as to who, when and how some phenomenon can bring lasting peace and prosperity for mankind. It appears that it is now time to think beyond Economics, Politics and Governance and as mentioned earlier, to build a brave new world, probably 'Jain Ethics for Economic Liberation (JEEL) can lead us to the goal of Sambodhi - enlightened knowledge, faith and conduct (as explained by Mahapragyaji in his famous book). It shows us the path of paradise of economics (along with other walks of life), which can be reached only through the ' pushpa-viman of Ethics of Ramayana-era which will lead us through the passage of serenity and divinity'.

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