In Indian business establishments one usually comes across the words, “shubha-labha” written at or near auspicious places. Shubha-labha means pious profit. It implies that profit which is incurred through righteous means. Profits thus earned are always beneficial and leads to further prosperity and well being of the society. Such inscribed words are a reminder and a source of motivation to the people of the enterprise to act in a right dutiful way.
However, in present times it is increasingly felt that the word ‘shubha’ in ‘shuhba-labha’ has lost its significance and ‘labha’ has become the focal point of achievement by whatever means; pious or impious. Negative values like self-centeredness, corruption, untruthfulness, exploitation of people and natural resources are on a rise everywhere, despite enormous progress in the education. Profits thus earned have got its own negative impact on the individuals and society. The breeding ground of such negativity is the ignorance of the reality of self and the world around us.
Teaching of Bhagavad-Gita can help in understanding the concept of ‘shubha-labha’ in an effective way. Bhagavad-Gita, commonly known as ‘The Gita” is a dialogue between lord Krishna and his friend Arjuna which took place in the midst of the battlefield of Kurushetra at the dawn of the great war. The objective of this dialogue was to bring clarity in Arjuna’s mind regarding his duties as a warrior and the attitude with which to carry on his work; here ‘fighting’. These teachings can also be beautifully applied to another kind of work arena; that is ‘business’.
One of the primary objectives of a business enterprise is to earn profit. Earning profit is not bad but what matters is how it is earned and spend. Hindu philosophy believes in the law of ‘karma’. This law emphasises that every right action reaps good results and every wrong action brings about harmful results. This triggers endless cycles of viscious circles in which a person finds himself trapped in these complex times as it is not easy to determine what is right and what is wrong. What is right in one culture, it may be wrong in another culture or visa-versa. Also every action is like a coin; having both sides of good and bad results.
In Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna; “Be a yogi and fight”. Had there been a businessman in place of Arjuna, Krishna would have said “Be a yogi and do your work". Who is a yogi then? Gita says, yoga is the equanimity of the mind. A yogi is one who has an equinomous mind and remains undisturbed in all circumstances and dualities of life, whether it be pleasure or pain, gain or loss, victory or defeat. The question then arises, how such a state of mind can be achieved and maintained? Krishna answers this question by explaining Arjuna that under illusion you think and feel that you are your body and mind, limited and mortal, but in reality you are the soul; the universal consciousness, which is ever existant, infinite, immortal and one. Krishna tells Arjuna,"I am Arjuna and you (Arjuna) is Krishna only. Learning this truth, overcome your fears and doubts; arise and fight." This knowledge of being infinite, immortal and one and firm abidance in it leads one to be a yogi.
Krishna also explains how a yogi goes about doing his work. He says, a yogi does that work which is in accordance to his nature (swa-dharma), following the spirit of exchange and interdependence (yagna); a concept necessary for the functioning of the world; without any attachment to the results of his action (nishkam-karma), and for the well-being of the world and its people (lok-sangraha).
A businessman thus performing his work with full awareness of the reality of his being is fit to be called a yogi and the profits (labha) thus incurred will always be pious (shubha). Infact, it can confidently be said that the outcome of the activities of a true yogi will always be pious. This is stated very clearly in the last shloka of the Gita, where Sanjay, narrator of the Gita to Dhritrashtra says; "where there is Krishna, lord of the Yoga and Arjuna, the archer; there fortune, victory, abundance and morality exist.” It implies work performed with yogic mindset will always be pious (shubha).