Governance Lessons in Ancient Indian Ethos

India, the most ancient land, the land of culture and diversity, is the mother of the entire world in terms of ethics and values. Indian history has given the world various lessons of morality, bravery, honesty, faith and elevated lifestyle. It is the Indian culture that teaches us the lessons of ‘Ahimsa Parmodharma’ – non-violence is the greatest religion, ‘VasudhevKutumbkam’- entire world is one family and ‘SarveBhavantuSukhina’- may everyone be happy. Each and everyone would nod in agreement if we say that Indian culture is one such culture that gives highest importance to giving, helping and praying for others, selflessly and in an unbiased way. Such is the picture of ancient Bharat and its culture.
But unfortunately, today we see this picture fading off under the dust and dirt of selfishness, ego and depleting values in today’s lifestyle. A very less percentage of the ancient culture is being practised. Even though the roots of ethics in India are very deep and strong, today we are unable to see the fruits of peace and happiness. Even in today’s world, we find people in India who are spiritually and religiously inclined, they pray, and read scriptures but yet are very different from the ideal lifestyle these scriptures teach us. What is the reason behind this?
Like if we do not water and nurture a tree, no matter how deep its roots are, the tree starts losing its strength and leads to depletion. Similarly, today, not realizing the importance of ethics, we have sort of stopped practising them in our day to day lives, in a way they are meant to be. Some of us even justify it by saying that they are old teachings which cannot work in today’s fast-moving and competitive world. When were a child, we were taught the basic ethics, but the irony is that those lessons remained in the books because neither the person who is teaching really follows it nor does the child have the opportunity to see any live example. As a result, when the child grows up, the ethics remain limited to discussions, debates and preaching for others but are rarely communicated through actions and lifestyle.
Because of this, the foundation of our lives has become weak. Whatever is built on a weak foundation is in turn weak and one day stumbles into adverse situations. Similarly, today, whatever relations, environment, society and administrative systems we have built are all so weak that one small situation is enough to shake it. We see that happening everywhere, be it in families, society, the workplace or governance. If we introspect, we shall realize that today, somewhere or the other, we carry different faces in different places. We are not even 100% true to ourselves. It is this reason why we try to build external support for this weak structure of relations, society and administrative systems, without really focusing on the root cause. The temporary structures do support but are short-lived and so an endless search for external support continues.
So, let us again turn towards our ancient ethics and see what fruits can be reaped by actually practising those ethics in daily life. India has given the world an entire basket of ethics, but today let us focus on some of the most important ones which make governance a ‘Good Governance’.
1. Truth & Honesty
The National Motto of India ‘Satyamev Jayate’ tells us that Truth alone Triumphs. It is a mantra from the ancient Indian Scriptures. This, in just two words, explains why we should practice the value of truth to be successful.
When we talk of governance, the foundation of good governance is truth. We have seen it in Indian history. When a simple act of standing by the truth was done with honesty, integrity, virtue and pure feeling of not causing hurt to anyone (non-violence) it made Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi into Mahatma Gandhi. He got the title of ‘Father of the Nation’ because of the ethics he followed and taught by example. It was with the strength of these that he could give India and its citizens the greatest gift of Independence.
Governance involves the process of decision making and implementing those decisions. Unless and until the decisions are taken with truth and honesty, they shall not lead to development, whether it is at family level, society level, organizational level or national level.
It is the greatest irony today that in a country with such a great National Motto, people often say that with truth one cannot succeed. There are multiple reasons behind this.
Today people lack the power to walk on the path of truth. The false way seems to be short and giving immediate results, while the path of truth is of sacrifice, selflessness, obstacles and patience but the false path leads to nowhere. No matter how fast we run and how many we leave behind, if on a wrong path we cannot attain success.Secondly, we live in dualities. The inner nature and outer behavior does not match. Because of the depletion of ethics in our inner self, we are afraid to demonstrate our inner self in our actions. Fear and attachment also takes over. The fear of defamation, lacking the power to face and attachment or greed makes us to follow the false path to hide our own shortcomings and unethical nature.
So, to practice the virtue of truth and honesty, first we need to have a clean inner self. Our thoughts should be true and for the benefit of everyone. They should be free from greed, selfishness and attachment. And we should in the real sense practice honesty- which is not just limited to refraining from corrupt means but also involves being same inside and outside. It teaches us transparency.
Honesty without truth can be misleading. For example, if a person who does not follow the path of truth is transparent; he does not hide it from people, then even though he is honest, it is of no benefit to the person or system.
So, imbibing the value of truth and keeping the courage to practice it is the only way to succeed. If each one at individual level practices this, then there would not be any need to say that truth does not work in today’s world.
2. Trust
Trust means to have faith and belief. In entirety, practicing the value of trust means to have faith in ourselves, in others and in the system.
Today, due to lack of connection with our inner self, we lack the realization of our inner potentials. We, unaware of our own capacities tend to lose faith in ourselves. Where there is lack of faith, comes doubt. And doubt increases the possibilities of failure. A person with a doubting nature, not only doubts his own potential, but also applies it on others. This is the biggest cause of discouragement. In an environment of doubt, neither can we perform at our best, nor will others feel encouraged to do so.
For example, if a child is going out for an adventure with family and the mother has faith in herself that in case of a difficult situation, she will be able to protect her child and also that the child will definitely learn and come out of any situation, then they shall enjoy their adventure while being safe. On the other hand, if she has doubts, neither will the child feel encouraged to learn and explore new things, nor will the mother be able to enjoy with free mind.
Same is applicable in our administrative systems. Each and every member of the system needs to have faith and trust in themselves and one another. This is a two way responsibility of each one of us. We need to have such a code of conduct that people can easily have trust on us. We by following the path of truth and honesty can develop a sense of trust in others towards us. A person who receives trust can also trust others and vice-versa. Trusting others is the means to develop a feeling of responsibility within them to maintain that trust. A good administrator wins the trust of everyone, has faith in his people and system and empowers them. This is the way to collective progress and achieving success.
3. Power
‘Power’ is the mark of the administrators. It is by the exercise of power of their role, that administration is conducted. But real power does not derive from position, prestige or pay, but by the ability to positively influence others to follow the system laid by the administration and give in their best. It does not lie in dominating or controlling others but in supporting and standing high in every situation, being ready to face challenges and overcome any situation where some goal is unfulfilled. Every time the winds may not flow in favourable direction. The power of an administrator is showcased by his ability to keep intact the entire team and sail when the winds are in the opposite direction.
Excellence in administration depends upon how the power is used, and whether it results in the empowerment of everyone in the system or not. Power if used with the foundation of ethics shall lead to overall development of self as well as the system but power without the base of ethics only leads to misuse and results in a society with inequality, bias and anarchy.
Power can be rejuvenated by focussing on our responsibilities along with abiding by the values and ethics. Following the path of truth, gives us power and keeping trust in fellows empowers them hence frees everyone from the feeling of fear and selfishness. The stronger the roots are, the powerful the system shall be. Hence
Hence real power for governance further depends on how powerful the administrators are internally?
4. Patience
It is said that ‘patience is bitter but its fruits are sweet’. But what if we learn the art of being patient in such a way that the time of patience is also felt as sweet?Somewhere or the other, due to lack of understanding what patience means, we have a perspective about it which is very different from reality.
Patience does not merely mean waiting for the result and meanwhile doing nothing. It means to prepare ourselves and work for things to happen at the right time. For instance when we sow a seed, it takes time to become a tree and bear fruits. But meanwhile we cannot sit idle. We need to prepare for the tree’s growth. We need to water it and nurture it. All throughout the time we wait for the sapling to grow, we have faith and positivity that it will certainly grow to become a huge tree and then will come the time to reap fruits. Even when the fruits start coming, it is not the time to pluck them and eat. Once they are ripe, only then is the plucking and eating recommended otherwise, instead of sweet fruits we may land up eating sour ones.
Similarly,in life when we have the quality of patience, we are more concern about ‘what do I need to do now’ instead of worrying about ‘when will this happen’ or ‘whether it will happen or not’. This shift makes our mind more positive, active and increases our attention to the present instead of past and future. It is then that we actually get the best fruits out of our hard work. Like if we keep plucking the fruits when they have just started to come, we shall never be able to taste sweet fruits and our hard work and wait will go unrewarded. Similarly, in day to day life, when due to impatience we get sour fruits, we often put the blame on people, circumstances etc. and keep giving clarifications why we could not achieve what we had desired. So to receive the full result of our hard work, and increase the efficiency and success of any administrative system, working with patience is very essential.

5. Compassion
Compassion is the base of all religions and actions. Any thought, word or action without compassion is just like a land without water on which no flower can ever blossom. A person without compassion shall always be unable to follow any virtue or quality fully with a true heart.
Where there is love & compassion, there is no effort. Like when a simple act of serving others was done with the virtue of unconditional love, compassion and selflessness, it made Agnes GonxhaBojaxhiu into Mother Teresa and further into Saint Teresa.
A mother is ready to do any task for the benefit of her child or family no matter how much tired or incapable she is. She may not know how to completely do some job, but because it is her family’s or child’s need, she does not even hesitate in learning the job and doing it. From where does this feeling come. It is merely because of the love and compassion she has. But this is just limited to her family or at the most relatives.
Compassion in the true sense means having unconditional spiritual love for each and everyone without seeing whether it is someone who is near and dear to us or not.
Today in our administrative system, if each one of us has compassion and pure love for one another, we shall be able to perform every job as if it was my own. Our behavior towards everyone would be like they all are our family members.This would take us to a new level of mutual understanding. The internal clashes would end. Ego shall vanish and what will remain is true, pure and transparent relations heading towards success at every step.

Till now we have seen how ethics and values when practiced religiously lead to a better life and better governance of an administrative system. These ethics have been talked about in the most ancient scripture of India – The Geeta. It teaches us the lesson of following all virtues and yet fulfilling our responsibilities. It clearly defines that without practicing ethics, we cannot achieve victory (success). But it also says that to practice these virtues and ethics, one needs a positive and stable mind which is in our control i.e. obeys our orders. We all know that it is not the case today with our mind. Some say that mind is like a horse and it is very difficult to control it, because it constantly wanders. But the fact is that a beautiful art of befriending our mind exists in this world, which is again a gift given by India to this world, called ‘Yog’ or meditation.
Rajyoga Meditation- the art to lead an ethical life
RajyogaMeditation is the art of connecting to one’s own self, rejuvenating our values and original qualities and connecting with the supreme source of energy to fill ourselves with the treasure of divine virtues. This method of re-establishing divine connections, strengthens our mind and intellect.
We all are aware that we are not merely these bodies but Souls driving these bodies. So, the first step in Rajyoga Meditation is Self-realization and the next step is connection with the Supreme- who is the father of all souls. Like a mobile gets charged when connected to the electricity source, similarly the Soul gets charged with the virtues when its consciousness is connected to the Supreme Consciousness- the source of all virtues. It is not merely a method to be practiced while sitting silently in a room, but on the contrary it is the easy technique of being in that virtuous stage and practicing them daily along with doing the day-to-day tasks. It is more a way of living than merely a method to be followed. Meditation transforms the way of thinking, interacting and doing work. It makes an ordinary person into a divine and valuable individual who by his own ethical life inspires the world to lead a life full of virtues and ethics- gaining back our real strength and roots of good governance.