Business Sutra 3: Dharma Sankat

Business Sutra: CNBC, Videos 22 Comments

Telecast in CNBC on 19 June 2010

The term ‘dharma-sankat’ is used to denote various ethical and moral dilemmas in life. The word dharma is open to all kinds of interpretations. I feel wallowing in interpretations is for academicians. People need clear answers. I try to provide clear frameworks that explain dharma in a manner that is functional and can be used in daily life. Dharma for me is the human ability to outgrow the animal instinct born of fear of survival, manifesting as domination, territoriality, and migration.  Dharma is a human concept. Animals and plants belong to Prakriti or nature, where no one has choices. Everyone is fettered to their nature. Purusha or humans have the unique ability to make choices and hence reject what is ‘in their nature’ – from this space comes the idea of dharma, which is beautifully illustrated in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Dharma is a principle, not a rule, which is why in Ramayana rules are upheld and in Mahabharata rules are broken. Beneath the actions of Ram and Krishna is dharma – which may result in rule making or rule breaking, depending on the context.

Find below youtube videos of Episode 3 telecast on CNBC

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

  • E.Nagender

    Dear Sir,
    You said Duryodhana followed rules but violated princliples.Here I want to narrate the following incident which everyone knows.

    At the martial exhibition where the Kaurava and Pandava princes demonstrate their skills before their elders, their guru Drona and the people of the kingdom, a great and effulgent warrior, Karna appears and challenges Arjuna, who is considered by Drona to be the best of the warrior princes. But Karna is humiliated when Kripa asks him to ascertain his caste, as it would be inappropriate for unequals to compete.

    Duryodhana immediately defends Karna, and makes him king of Anga so that he is regarded as Arjuna’s equal Karna pledges his allegiance and friendship to Duryodhana, as Duryodhana had rescued him from the source of continuing humiliation and hardship for him.

    Here Duryodhana did not follow the rules but followed principle, i think so, justify.

    • ok…you right, me wrong…Duryodhana=Krishna….be happy….:-)

    • Badrinath

      Duryodhana crowned Karna only for his beneficiary. He wanted someone that could challenge Arjuna. Never read anywhere that he crowned several others similarly that were considered lower caste. So i dont think he had any principles.

    • Prabhakar Kambli

      Dear Sir,

      Can you comment on if, the rules and principles implemented and followed in this modern times. Can you believe and create the world based on and will act on right rules and right principles? Please explain.

      According to me, minority is trying to set every thing right but the majority is trying to bend the rules and principles in this modern times, In democracy and society as institute majority is always right even if they are wrong. With help of ten wrongs you can not defeat one right but with the help of ten wrong votes you can defeat the one right and it is accepted as correct in this modern world. What is the solution for this???

      Modern principles and rules are and can be bend by any body at any given time who is called a leader or in charge of that post and still it is accepted by majority. Thanks.


  • E.Nagender

    Dear Sir,
    I am not saying Duryodhana=Krishna.
    In some situations Duryodhana was right

  • Apurva Gundecha

    Hello Sir,
    I have been very curious about how business and beliefs could connect… and on your show u made it so simple and clear for the world to understand it in the correct context, thanx a lot. The relevance of myths and their morals to multi-parametered circumstances seemed diminishing and difficult until business sutra was born!
    In an organisation how dharma-sankat situations are dealt with…here can dharma be preserved at the cost of rules?

  • Bharat Salokhe

    Duryodhana Krishna.

    Main missing point here is, Krishna is creator,proporiter and maintainer of everything (including Duryodhana). So rules and principles does not apply to him.

    Just to enhance this understanding, In India rules and principles do not apply to Gandhi family members(National level).And Each state in India have their own Ghandhi family which is above all rules and principles.

    Just to understand in corporate context,
    In Relience Industies there is lots of rules and principles for Relience Employess, But Mukesh Ambani is above these rules.

    • But even those without rules have to pay for actions….Krishna is cursed by Gandhari leading to destruction of his clan

  • Amazing !! I really enjoyed this show, Devdutt.. You have a knack for explaining philosophical and mythological concepts to the layman.

    About the dispute about Duryodhan, it is not his love for principle that makes him embrace Karna. It is his flair for seeing an opportunity. Duryodhana hates the Pandavas, and he knows that none of his mates are match for Arjuna’s prowess in archery. So he adopts Karna. He is not uphelding dharma by any means there.

    But Karna is a far more interesting character. He is “daana karna” – one who cherishes in giving away his wealth. This way he is much closer to dharma. But unfortunately, he doesn’t have the guidance of Krishna to judge between what is rightfully to be given away and what not. So he often falls into “adharma”.

    All the characters of Mahabharata are easily understood when you look at their Vedic counterparts. Karna is Surya (and just like the sun, he shines in brilliance and gives away his light), Duryodhana is an Asura, Bhima is Vayu, Yudhishtara is Yama etc.. They behave exactly as what their vedic counterparts would specify. By the way, Asuras are also exalted beings – they are influential in the “sagar manthan”. They are the exemplification of following the letter of the rule. You derive great strength as you upheld the letter of the rules, but you often stray into “dharma sankats”. This is why Asuras are symbolification of “adharma”. But as exalted beings, they still reside in heaven. This is why Yudhishtara sees Duryodhana in heaven in the “swargarohana parva” of Mahabharata.

  • Ravi

    Hello Sir,

    Your comments in Business sutra are really eye openers.

    I have one question that why the people at top in most of the companies do not respect people of lower designations.

    They call them for meetings,hr sessions assuring them that they are doing fantastic job but they do not respect from the bottom of their heart.

    Masters should respect their obedient servants and should get appropriate honor in my view.

    Even in Mahabharata,many of them apart from people in royal pandav family sacrificed their lives whole heartedly but they did not get any rewards/honor for that.

    Also in Ramayana only Hanuman was well-deserved and why not the peers of Hanuman who almost at the same spirit of Hanuman supported Ram in battle.

    Is Hanuman’s impressive feet took edge about others or was it really his work far better than his peers.

    What’s your take on this??

    Do Employees who just generate the revenue are just taken for granted by top management of the Companies.???

    • Complex question…..the point is not about masters or servants or respect, it is about discovering one’s full potential irrespective of acknowledgment…..its not quid pro quo (something for something)….in the end, if one does not explore one’s full potential, who loses?

  • Himanshu Aggarwal

    I agree with the comment that in Duryodhan’s handling of Karna, he followed principles and broke rules. We expected better answer from you then “ok…you right, me wrong…Duryodhana=Krishna….be happy….:-)”, or if you agreed appreciating the reader’s intelligence would have been appropriate rather than (sarcastically) dismissing it.

  • Ravi

    Thanks for your insight sir!!

  • Manoj Nayyar

    What does a chief belief officer do ? Does he carry his belief to people in an organisation or does he help to align organisation to “management’s belief system” ? Or enable somekind of ” human ” change to an otherwise mundane number crunching pursuits ?

    Isn’t belief a very individualistic experience and expression of mind that one alligns to and does it not keep changing based on one’s journey of life and his encounter with varied ” belief options”.
    Don’t u feel ” Good / Bad” or ” Right / Wrong ” are all relative. So is belief at organisation level best left to individuals.

    Excellent narrative of your perspective !!

  • Praveen Sahni

    Hello Sir,

    I have almost every time agreed with your thoughts, almost – because not every time I could comprehend your in depth verbiage. But, there is a contrast in this “Ramayana vs Mahabharata” video. I think in that 2/2 matrix ‘Shakuni’ should be diagonalized with ‘Shri Krishna’ not ‘Duryodhana’ because both Shri Krishna as well as shakuni were contriving the plan of action. where as, Duryodhana was only at the execution level.

    Sir, please comment….where I am going wrong, if am not right ?

    • Badala

      Shakuni was in a foreign land. Hastinapur was not his kingdom. He is not following DHARMA, because by his action he is neither doing any good to Gandhar or Hastinapur citizens. Infact he corrupted the minds of Kauravas. He made many plans to murder Pandavas. It was his desire to see Duryodhan the king so that he can derive some mileage from being Mama of a King. Or probably he had his own agenda to see Hastinapur in the dust as his sister married a blind person and he probably did not like it and wanted to take revenge.

      • Praveen Sahni


        I almost totally agree with your comments. But my concern is in specific that matrix. If you are saying that “Shakuni was from a foreign land”, then so was “shri Krishna”. This way they both are more suited be diagonalized.

  • pardeep K batra

    great to go through this new series. hats off to Devdutt for bringing synergy in mythogy with current business. would love to buy the videos


  • Debasish Dutta

    I liked your explanation on ‘Dharma Sankata’. In Mahabharata when Sri Krishna is faced with the situation of degradation in the Yadava race and to that of upholding the principles of Dharma, he chooses to take the tough decision without thinking about either his own image or even personal bonding and destroys the entire race which he himself had protected and nurtured for a very long time.

    I don’t know a lot like you but I hope I am right in drawing my own conclusions on Dharma Sankata.

  • I just brought two of your books from Flipkart. Loved your show. Any chance that I might get them autographed by you ?
    O by the way Me is Oriya too :D

  • Hemendu


    Cowhered takes care of cow.

    Kripa asks for ‘a’ cow – and was humiliated.

    Well, in South India there is a game called “Pallankuzhi”. Played as a trade indoor game between 2 or 3 players, it is played across 2 rows of 13 hollows scooped out of a wooden block.
    Twelve tamarind seeds or sea-shells are filled in each hollow and players start dealing – distributing- one bead at a time – from scoops owned by them.

    Two central hollows are called ‘Kashi’ – common currency pool.

    And when a hollow is emptied and filled again with successive rounds, a player takes as ‘his’ 6 beads or currencies, as they get filled and this 1/2 dividend of 12 is called a “PASHU” or “COW”.

    . . .