Professionalism at work व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः

I got a diagram of “Ways to be professional at work” from a post on Facebook by my friend Mr. Dattatray Shelke. I thought the theme of the diagram “Ways to be professional at work” connects well with the phrase व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः

ways-to-be-professional-at-work

व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिरेकेह कुरुनदन |

बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम् (2’41)

पदच्छेदैः व्यवसाय-आत्मिका बुद्धिः एका इह कुरु-नन्दन | बहु-शाखाः हि अनन्ताः च बुद्धयः अव्यवसायिनाम् ||

अन्वयः – कुरुनन्दन इह व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः एका | अव्यवसायिनाम् च बुद्धयः बहुशाखाः अनन्ताः हि ||

For interpretation of the verse one needs to check up

  1. what is बुद्धिः and where or when does one apply बुद्धिः
  2. How and when can it be called व्यवसायात्मिका ? For that, what is व्यवसाय ?
  • बुद्धिः f. [बुध्-क्तिन्] 1 Perception, comprehension. -2 Intellect, understanding, intelligence, talent; तीक्ष्णा नारुंतुदा बुद्धिः Śi.2.19; शास्त्रेष्वकुण्ठिता बुद्धिः R.1.19. -3 Information, knowledge; बुद्धिर्यस्य बलं तस्य H.2.122 ‘knowledge is power’; P.I.4.52. -4 Discrimination, judgement, discernment; विदेशेष्वपि विज्ञाताः सर्वतो बुद्धिनिश्चयाः Rām.1.7.17. -5 Mind; मूढः परप्रत्ययनेयबुद्धिः M.1.2; so कृपण˚, पाप˚ &c. -6 Presence of mind, readiness of wit. -7 An impression, opinion, belief, idea, feeling; दूरात्तमवलोक्य व्याघ्रबुद्ध्या पलायन्ते H.3; अनया बुद्ध्या Mu.1 ‘in this belief’; अनुक्रोशबुद्ध्या Me.117. -8 Intention, purpose, design; मन्दीचकार मरणव्यवसायबुद्धिम् Ku.4.45. (बुद्ध्या ‘intentionally’, ‘purposely’, deliberately’). -9 Returning to consciousness, recovery from a swoon; Māl.4.1. -10 (In Sāṅ. phil.) Intellect, the second of the 25 elements of the Sāṅkhyas; एषा ते$भिहिता सांख्ये बुद्धिर्योगे त्विमां शृणु Bg.2.39. -11 Nature (प्रकृति); Bhāg.3.27.18. -12 A means, way (उपाय); किं करिष्याम भद्रं ते बुद्धिरत्र विचार्यताम् Rām.1.4.9. -13 N. of the 5th astrological mansion.
  • From Apte’s dictionary – व्यवसायः 1 Effort, exertion, energy, industry, perseverance; करोतु नाम नीतिज्ञो व्यवसायमितस्ततः H.2.14. -2 Resolve, resolution, determination; मन्दीचकार मरण- व्यवसायबुद्धिम् Ku.4.45 ‘the thought of resolving to die’; व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः Bg.2.41; व्यवसायो$स्मि 10.36. -3 An act, action, performance; व्यवसायः प्रतिपत्तिनिष्ठुरः R.8.65. -4 (a) Business, employment, trade. (b) Following a particular profession or trade. -5 Conduct, behaviour. -6 Device, stratagem, artifice.
  • This is from verbal root व्यवसो 4 P. 1 To strive, endeavour, try, seek, attempt, set about; यथा मे गौतमः प्राह ततो न व्यवसाम्यहम् Mb.3.185.9; ध्रुवं स नीलोत्पलपत्रधारया शमीलतां छेत्तुमृषि- व्यवस्यति Ś.1.18; V.4. -2 To think of, wish, desire; पातुं न प्रथमं व्यवस्यति जलं युष्मास्वपीतेषु या Ś.4.9. -3 To exert strenuously, be industrious or diligent. -4 To resolve, determine, settle, decide; य आत्मनो दृश्यगुणेषु सन्निति व्यवस्यते स्वव्यतिरेकतो$वुधः Bhāg.1.3.18; प्रथमपरि- गृहीतं स्यान्न वेत्यव्यवस्यन् Ś.5.19. -5 To accept, undertake; कच्चित् सौम्य व्यवसितमिदं बन्धुकृत्यं त्वया मे Me.116. -6 To be convinced or persuaded. -7 To reflect.

In the diagram, the words “at work” should rather be understood as related to doing every job, every task, every action.

When reading the phrase व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः and the diagram together, because, one meaning of व्यवसाय is profession, obviously for being professional at work, बुद्धिः has to be व्यवसायात्मिका. At work, meaning, when doing every job, every task, every action, बुद्धिः should be व्यवसायात्मिका.

But is there a good definition of what व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः is ? Possibly the diagram summarises a definition of what व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः is, by identifying ten faculties in the ten circles.

  1. Competence
  2. Reliability
  3. Honesty
  4. Integrity
  5. Listening carefully
  6. Staying work-focused
  7. Supporting others
  8. Being positive
  9. Self up-grading
  10. Respect for others

As a diagram, it looks good and one would be impressed at first glance. But thinking deeper on the ten faculties, I wonder what the difference is

  • Between (1) Competence and (2) Reliability – If the person is not competent enough you will always doubt relying on him.
  • Between (2) Reliability and (3) Honesty – If you now that the person is not honest, you will not rely on him.
  • Between (3) Honesty and (4) Integrity  
  • Between (4) Integrity and (6) Staying work-focused.
  • Between (5) Listening carefully and (10) Respect for others or
  • Between (8) Being positive vis-a-vis (1) Competence (2) Reliability (3) Honesty (4) Integrity (5) Staying work-focused

Actually nine out of the ten faculties can be considered as characteristics of human intellect बुद्धिः. The first one ‘competence’ seems to include aptitude, skills and learning or training, which in turn are related to mind, body and intellect.

Analysis in Gita identifies three entities body इन्द्रियाणि mind मनः and intellect बुद्धिः [इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः | मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्योबुद्धेः परतस्तु सः (3’42)] – These three entities have faculties, which then make up one’s personality and character.

Faculties of intellect are qualified to be सात्त्विक, राजस and तामस – प्रवृत्तिं च निवृत्तिं च कार्याकार्ये भयाभये | बन्धं मोक्षं च या वेत्ति बुद्धिः सा पार्थ सात्त्विकी (18’30) यया तु धर्ममधर्मं च कार्यं चाकार्यमेव च | अयथावत्प्रजानाति बुद्धिः सा पार्थ राजसी (18’31) अधर्मं धर्ममिति या मन्यते तमसावृता | सर्वार्थान्विपरीतांश्च बुद्धिः सा पार्थ तामसी (18’32) From this analysis one can read that the most important faculty of बुद्धिः is to exercise right discretion in respect of both, do’s and don’ts कार्याकार्ये.

This right discretion is further detailed in

नात्यश्नतस्तु योगोस्ति न चैकान्तमनश्नतः |

न चातिस्वप्नशीलस्य जाग्रतो नैव चार्जुन (6’16)

युक्ताहारविहारस्य युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु |

युक्तस्वप्नावबोधस्य योगो भवति दुःखहा (6’17)

न अति-अश्नतः योगः अस्ति, न च एकान्तम् अनश्नतः | न च अतिस्वप्नशीलस्य जाग्रतः न एव च अर्जुन (6’16)

  • न अति-अश्नतः योगः अस्ति = It cannot be observance of योग for one who eats too much
  • न च एकान्तम् अनश्नतः = (It cannot be observance of योग) also for one who totally abstains from eating
  • न च अतिस्वप्नशीलस्य = (It cannot be observance of योग) for one who sleepy or dreamy
  • जाग्रतः न एव च = (It cannot be observance of योग) for one who stays awake (i.e. who does not sleep at all, has lost his sleep)

युक्त-आहार-विहारस्य युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु | युक्त-स्वप्न-अवबोधस्य योगः भवति दुःखहा (6’17)

  • युक्त-आहार-विहारस्य = For one whose intake of food and indulgence in enjoyment are appropriate
  • युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु = For one whose actions employ appropriate activities
  • युक्त-स्वप्न-अवबोधस्य = For one whose sleep and attentiveness are appropriate
  • योगः भवति दुःखहा = for such person योगः alleviates all sorrows and discomforts.

It comes to mind that appropriateness is needed even in running and use of machineries. For example machineries have bearings and bearings need lubrication. Lack of lubrication or inadequate lubrication is of course harmful. But excessive lubrication is also harmful. If lubrication is the food आहार for the bearings, it has to be युक्त, neither excessive nor starving.

Pumping systems are often designed, say with 3 pumps (A, B and C), of which 2 are to be running and one standby. This does not mean that one pump, say, pump C has to be designated as the standby pump. It only means that at any time two of the three pumps will be running. Running and idle times have to be so distributed that all pumps will have equal running and idle times. This will ensure that all pumps are “available” at any time. Here the running and idle times are the same as स्वप्न and अवबोध states, both of which have to be युक्त appropriate for all pumps.

I translated the word विहार as indulgence in enjoyment. I think congenial environment at work is also part of professionalism at work. Indulgence in enjoyment helps to make work-environment congenial. At the end of the episode of “Whitewashing the fence” in “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” Mark Twain summarises the moral of the episode as “Work is what one is obliged to do. Play is what one is not obliged to do”. Work should never appeal as an obligation to be discharged. It should appeal as play, Work and work-environment have to be only so “designed”. So युक्तविहार is also essential part of professionalism at work ! Considering teaching profession, that too teaching mathematics, are there not teachers of mathematics, who make the subject of mathematics also so interesting that students who were once dull, start shining. I would think that such teacher indulge in युक्तविहार. They do not just indulge in enjoyment, they create enjoyment. That is professionalism. I think creativity is inherent to युक्तविहार. In fact, I think that the diagram misses out on creativity, which is certainly an essential part of professionalism.

The phrase युक्तचेष्टस्य कर्मसु brings to mind an observation made by my colleague, who was the Production Supervisor. Two turners Ram and Shyam were doing identical jobs on their respective lathes. At the end of the shift both had done equal work. But Shyam seemed to be more exhausted than Ram. The reason was obvious. Shyam was more vigorous in his actions. When retracting the boring tool, the tool would come out 6 cms. Ram’s actions were ‘cool’. In his case the tool would retract only 2 to 3 cms. To be कर्मसु युक्तचेष्टः includes working with economy of motions, not to overexert. To the company it did not matter, as long as both were giving equal output. But for himself, why should Shyam overexert himself ? In the least, overexertion is inefficiency, spending more energy for the same output. Overexertion is not व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः. 

We need to also deliberate on the second line of (2’41) बहुशाखा ह्यनन्ताश्च बुद्धयोऽव्यवसायिनाम् (पदच्छेदैः अन्वयेन च) – अव्यवसायिनाम् बुद्धयः बहुशाखाः अनन्ताः च meaning, those who are not professional at work have intellects endlessly digressing in many directions.

  • One does not have to see very far for explanation of this edict. For any group-discussion to be fruitful, everyone of the group needs to have व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः. Many meetings end up with inconclusive discussions, simply because there is no dearth of people who cause the discussions to digress variously and endlessly.
  • Both, participating in a meeting and conducting a meeting very much demand professionalism.

Professionalism at work is of three types – (1) to work in a group (2) to do a job by oneself (3) to get work done. The third type is supervisory or managerial function. Once when preparing a speech on “Management Challenges in the third millennium” the topic involved making a forecast or prediction of what the management challenges would be, that too, over a period of 1000 years. I got an idea to do statistical extrapolation of management thought. To do statistical extrapolation I needed records or mentions of management thoughts as old as possible. I got some fairly old management thought in

पञ्चैतानि महाबाहो कारणानि निबोध मे |

साङ्ख्ये कृतान्ते प्रोक्तानि सिद्धये सर्वकर्माणाम् (गीता 18’13)

अधिष्ठानं तथा कर्ता करणं च पृथग्विधम् |

विविधाश्च पृथक्चेष्टाः दैवं चैवात्र पञ्चमम् (गीता 18’14)

First of all, I contend that these verses delineate management thought, because they detail elements कारणानि which need to be provided for सिद्धये सर्वकर्माणाम् fulfilment of tasks.

Date and reference of the thought is mentioned as साङ्ख्ये कृतान्ते प्रोक्तानि i.e. quoted in the साङ्ख्य-philosophy, which is dated as of कृतान्त end of कृत-युग. The war was towards the end of द्वापारयुग. The period between कृतान्त and the war was of almost two युग-s, त्रेता and द्वापार. By this dating, this management thought is thousands of years old.

Five elements are identified (1) workplace अधिष्ठानम् (2) doer कर्ता (3) materials, tools and equipment करणं च पृथग्विधम् (4) energy-systems विविधाश्च पृथक्चेष्टाः (5) organization of these in right proportion, in right time दैवम्. In the theory of production in the classical theory of economics, mention is made of four factors of production – land, labor, capital, organization. In modern management concepts, there is mention of six ‘M’s – Men, Machines, Materials, Methods, Money, Market. One can see quite some one-to-one correspondence in the elements of management. One may hence predict that in any furtherance of management thought over another millennium, may not identify any new element. But weightages of the elements may vary. For example, in a software development company, since development of software requires strong logical thinking which is really व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः, one employee will not be much different from another intellectually. In such a situation, man-management is really a challenge of managing among equals. In Marathi there is a proverb उंटावरून शेळ्या हांकणे managing a herd of sheep, when riding a camel. That often will be simpler than managing a horde of camels, when riding one of those camels. A man-management function of managing among equals is certainly challenging. Once I had an assignment to conduct a half-day program on Supervisory Development. I wanted a ready crisp list of Supervisory functions. I got it in

शमो दमस्तपः शौचं क्षान्तिरार्जवमेव च |

ज्ञानं विज्ञानमास्तिक्यं ब्रह्मकर्म स्वभावजम् (गीता 18’42)

I derive from this that a good supervisor or manager needs to cultivate and promote (1) शमः = peace, to make peace, to maintain peace, to ensure positive environment (2) दमः = regulation, control (3) तपः = readiness to do hard work (4) शौचम् = purity of thoughts विचारशुचिता and purity of means साधनशुचिता (5) क्षान्तिः = capacity to tolerate and pardon (6) आर्जवम् = transparency (7) ज्ञानम् = knowledge, know-how (8) विज्ञानम् = know why (9) आस्तिक्यम् = faith

In respect of the other aspect of professionalism at work, i.e. doing a job by oneself, I contend that professionalism at work is योगः, which is defined as योगः कर्मसु कौशलम् (2’50) and also as समत्वं योग उच्यते (2’48). Actually (2’48) merits to be studied and understood more completely. The complete verse is

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनञ्जय |

सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते (2’48)

अन्वयेन – धनञ्जय, सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा योगस्थः कर्माणि कुरु | (यतः) समत्वं योगः उच्यते |

Oh Dhananjaya, perform tasks devoid of attachment, equanimous of success or failure and as one settled in योग, i.e. with steadfast conscience. Equanimity is योग.

Thomas Alva Edison confessed that he succeeded in making the light bulb only after 1000 failures. He said, ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.’. Thomas Edison was certainly a योगी. He had cultivated व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः

However in Gita, there is one very challenging advocacy सहजं कर्म कौन्तेय सदोषमपि न त्यजेत् | सर्वारम्भा हि दोषेण धूमेनाग्निरिवावृताः (18’48) Any कर्म which can be called as सहजं कर्म must not be forsaken, even if it prima facie appears to be malafide, rather, devoid of bonafides. This advocacy appeals to be challenging because of the phrase सहजं कर्म. The challenge is in understanding, first of all, what सहजं कर्म is.

  • Certainly a task planned and then undertaken cannot be called as सहजं कर्म. A task planned and undertaken is संकल्पितं कर्म.
    • In (6’2) Gita denounces the very concept of संकल्प. See न ह्यसंन्यस्तसंकल्पो योगी भवति कश्चन (न हि असंन्यस्तसंकल्पः योगी भवति कश्चन = असंन्यस्तसंकल्पः कश्चन योगी न हि भवति) Note असंन्यस्तसंकल्पः = one who has not renounced संकल्प. Such असंन्यस्तसंकल्पः cannot become a योगी.  
    • In fact in (6’4) सर्वसंकल्पसंन्यासी योगारूढस्तदोच्यते reiterates संन्यास of सर्वसंकल्प.
    • It comes to mind that the reason for denouncing संकल्प must be, because संकल्प implies “I plan and undertake”. Thus संकल्प has अहंकार inherent. Anything which has अहंकार inherent is wrong, it is bad.
  • In Apte’s dictionary meaning of सहज is given as “.. inborn, natural, innate ..” and exactly this verse (18’48) is quoted.
  • Idea of सहजं कर्म seems to be that it is that कर्म, which just presents itself.
  • Simple example of how सहजं कर्म presents itself is this instance of my compiling my thoughts on व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः. I saw that diagram on Facebook and got the prompt for this write-up.
  • I did not at all plan, how this write-up was going to proceed from one point to another. I must admit that the thoughts kept flowing and the write-up kept evolving. Should I put in a ‘disclaimer’ इदं न मम !

Certainly, Professionalism at work व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः has been delineated in Gita both philosophically and practically, rather, in terms of practical philosophy. May such fraternity of people with व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः grow !

शुभमस्तु !

-o-O-o-

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2 thoughts on “Professionalism at work व्यवसायात्मिका बुद्धिः

  1. भवतः लेखाः सदैव मनसि चिन्तनं जनयन्ति। यद्यपि गीताज्ञानं यात्रिकयुगे आधुनिकव्यवसाये साक्षात् प्रयोक्तुं न शक्यते किन्तु यदि तेन माध्यमेन गीताध्यनं भवति तर्हि नैके लाभाः जायन्ते। धन्यवादः।

  2. Thank you sir ji, Excellent article , great learning , which is true universally , since thousands of years and also for the next thousands of years . – DHANYAVAAD – with respect and regards – Dipak Ashar

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