March , 2023
The Shrimadbhagavadgita: Military Leadership and Ethos
11:48 am

Padma Shri Professor Dr. Ravindra Kumar

‘The Shrimadbhagavadgita: Military Leadership and Ethos’, is, in fact, a perspective, the relevance of which is no less in the present than the time of preaching the Gita (about five thousand years ago) by Yogeshwara Shrikrishna Himself. How or why? It is natural that this question arises in one’s mind. For clarity of perspective, therefore, we must first understand the words, ethos – Lokaachar and leadership involved in the basic theme or subject with their basic spirit; thereafter, military leadership and ethos must be analyzed in the context of the Shrimadbhagavadgita, to reveal its relevance.

The word ethos –Lokaachar is, in fact, a broad form of human practice or conduct. In general, when the conducts or behaviors of people of a particular class, community, society, or a nation are almost identical, especially in terms of common interest and welfare, then in such a situation they transform into ethos. Ethos, is, thus, a set of practices or behaviours of the people of a particular class, community, society, or a nation; prescribed rules and duty-bound morality, both are associated with them. Hence, in a way, they become ethos manifesting good or righteous acts –Sadachar.

Even after this state, i.e., despite being useful to the people of a particular class, community, society, or a nation within its periphery, it is not necessary that the same ethos remains welfaristic in the same manner to any other class, community, society or people (outside its domain). Also, it is not possible for an ethos to remain equally useful or beneficial forever after it comes into existence. One after the other ethos can be instituted and accepted as per the demand of time and space. The new one may be superior and more welfaristic than the previous, or may not be; similarly, the second may be the exact opposite of the first. In this context, in the Shantiparva (259/17-18) of the Mahabharata it has been clearly mentioned:

“Na Hi Sarvahitah Kashchidaachaarah Sampravarttate/

Tenaivaanyah Prabhavati Soaparam Baadhate Punh//”

That is, “There is no such conduct –ethos, which is always equally welfaristic for all people (or in public interest). If one conduct is accepted, the next one may not be superior to it; the third may be completely opposite to it…”

However, many types of ethos become relevant and welfaristic for a long time if they are adopted in behaviours or practices in their refined or modified form according to the demands of the time and space while remaining intact in their basic spirit. Some of them even become significant and welfaristic forever. Not only this, such types of ethos become more important in the coming times than the time of their inception. We must make a brief analysis of this all-timely aspect predominantly revealed about ethos in the Shrimadbhagavadgita, but before that it would be better if we discuss a little about the word ‘leadership,’ appearing in the theme in hand, and that too having the ethos in the centre.

There have been many kinds, categories, areas, and levels of leadership since time immemorial; it may be so currently as well. But leadership is always, in its true and most concise definition, an ideal form to be followed by others for the greater good. It is, in other words, for the greater public welfare. People work under the guidance of that leadership.

About a leader –a Shreshtha Purusha, Yogeshwara Shrikrishna truly says in the Shrimadbhagavadgita (3/21) says:

“Yadyadaacharati Shreshthastattadevetaro Janah/ Sa Yatpramaanam Kurute Lokastadanuvartate//”, i.e., “Whatever action is performed by a leader –great man, others follow his footsteps; whatever standards he sets by his own exemplary acts, others pursue and behave accordingly.”

In the creation of an ethos, its acceptance by people and following according to the basic spirit of it, the role of leadership also remains very important. As mentioned already, by setting examples leadership itself paves the way in ensuring that the ethos is followed by the people appropriately. Large-scaled people’s welfare through mutual co-operation is necessarily associated with it. Along with discipline and obedience, duty-bound morality, which plays a decisive role in leading man to overcome the evils like temptation, lust, greed and desire, and moving him towards achieving the true or ultimate goal of life.  

Yogeshwara says (the Shrimadbhagavadgita: 2/71), “The man who, abandons all desires, greed, lusts and wishes, behaves without attachment, affection and ego (and only by being dutiful, thus, following the basic spirit of morality that itself lies at the root of ethos), he attains the goal of life –peace.”

“Vihaaya Kaamaanyah Sarvaanpumaanshcharati Nihsprihah/ Nirmamo Nirhankaarah Sa Shaantimadhigachchati//”

The Shrimadbhagavadgita not only repeatedly emphasizes the importance of ethos –Lokaachar in human life, but also that of leadership through this Celestial Song, Yogeshwar Shrikrishna has also conveyed an all-time message related to a leading role of ethos in making human life worthy and meaningful. The ethos of the Shrimadbhagavadgita is, undoubtedly, in the indulgence of righteous acts by all. It is in the justful involvement of Karmas existing in nature. Selfless and fruitless action is the first Dharma of man. It is upholding the highest morality. Indolence is the opposite state of ethos. It is a deviation from the pathway of the Dharma and immorality. This ethos-related message of the Shrimadbhagavadgita makes it all-timely – significant in every age and in every country. Leaders, it does not matter to which walk of life they belong, for the sake of people’s wellbeing, especially justice and equality for one and all, should step forward selflessly on the pathway of life taking it as their prime duty and the Dharma. This is a major call of the Shrimadbhagavadgita.   

For military leadership, whose commitment remains in people’s security on priority and safeguarding the nation in all situations and all manners, taking it as the ultimate duty of life, ethos, and leadership related to the message of the Shrimadbhagavadgita is very important.       

It is the best and all-time guide for the military leadership and soldiers who are ready to defend compatriots, the nation and humanity with a selfless spirit in line with the following call of Yogeshwara Shrikrishna Himself (the Shrimadbhagavadgita: 2/47) while keeping their life at hand and staying away from all worldly relations, pleasures-sorrows, achievements-non-attainments and desires etc.:

 “Karmanye Vaadhikaaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadaachana/

Maa Karmaphalaheturbhurmaa Te Sangoastvakarmani// –You have the right to work –to perform your duty only, but never to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.”

-*A Padma Shri and Sardar Patel National Awardee Indologist Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a Former Vice Chancellor of CCS University, Meerut; he is, currently the Ombudsman of Swami Vivekananda Subharati University, Meerut (India).

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