A Chronicle of Enlightened Citizenship Movement in the State Bank of India

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Social Responsibilities of Public Administrators

By Swami Ranganathananda

Based on a speech delivered by Swami Ranganathananda at the Indian Institute of Public Administration New Delhi in 1977

The happiness and welfare of the people in a state depends upon the type of administration they get and on the quality of administrators.

We have achieved political freedom. But, we have a vast un-developed population to whom not even elementary level of existence is available. What does this freedom mean to all these people who do not have basic necessities of life? This question should stimulate not only administrators, all organs of state legislature, executive and judiciary, but all sections of our citizen.

Being and Function
Every administrator is primarily a citizen of India and he should always be aware of what it means. Some of the mature citizens, who choose to be and are called upon to become, become our administrators for some years of their life. This means that they are essentially citizens of free India called upon to perform particular function in service of our nation. Hence, Citizenship constitutes our primary being and what do we do as administrators merely constitutes the function that we discharge, deriving inspiration from that being. Hence, we should not treat ourselves merely as functionary, for we will become defunct without any dimension, reduced to nothing when we retire or cease to perform function otherwise. “If one centers around being and pours his/her being into his/her functions, those functions become enhanced and glorified with the energy and grace of that fullness of being ; he / she continues to be full even when one ceases to be functionary.” This is fruit of a profound philosophy of man which we have in our own Vedanta.

The fullness of being of every one of us consists primarily as our inalienable status as Citizens of free India: all other functions performed by us are terminable and are like ‘zeros’ which get their value from the figure before them. It is by this awareness of basic being that one becomes a focus of intrinsic worth and dignity; and by thinking merely in terms of one’s functions, one tends to reduce oneself more and more to the status of ‘Zero’.

Hence, we should be aware of our primary being and allow that being to flow into and fill all our functions; such function will, thus, achieve new and significant new quanta of energy and grace.

We should find a motive that can enliven and energize our administration for its effective functioning and for being development oriented. A functionary need not be bureaucrat, static and wooden while working as a bureaucrat. A bureaucrat is wooden and static because he has no imagination and is only guided by rules and manuals, and can not respond to the human situation and urges.

A dynamic tradition inspired of the national urges and patriotic motivation can make a functionary responsive to human urges and aspirations. A functionary attitude makes one a mere careerist and job seeker, making him defunct even while functioning.

Bureaucracy: Static vs Dynamic
The difference in above two is of attitude. Static bureaucrat reflects low and poor state of man, as a mere functionary who draws from his functions to enrich his inner being which is otherwise empty. Such state of mind is prone to succumbing to corruption.

The dynamic bureaucrat represents a man inwardly rich in his being, in his strength of citizenship awareness and patriotic impulse and pouring out that richness into his function. This attitude fosters the spirit of service and retains much innate strength to resist and overcome corrupting influences.

A change of attitude can produce tremendous results. An attitude can be controlled, manipulated and can be made to grow. It can enrich both, one’s being and function. It can make one alive, vibrant, responsive and responsible.

We cannot but admire people who are moved by ideas and visions and who respond to human situations. It is they, who become great administrators, with imagination as their greatest asset. “Imagination’ is a remarkable value, making person dynamic and giving purpose to his life.”

Even after achieving freedom after long struggle, being ruled by sterile bureaucracy is a serious tragedy which has taken away poetry of life and ecstasy of freedom and has converted administration into prosaic business of seeking money, power and pleasure. It has brought in its wake social evils like corruption, various malpractices and unconcern for common man and his welfare.

We can transform the administration and society with dynamic functioning of bureaucracy where actions are surcharged with vision, energy, joy and enthusiasm for human growth and development, giving meaning and significance to all the actions.

Social life and administration should be conducted with spirit of service as a constant feature of one personality which expresses itself in inter-human relationship with spontaneous “What can do for you? How can I help you?”attitude.

When this learning is internationalized that person has achieved profound education and has achieved first stages of his spiritual growth “atma vikasa”.

Human Efficiency
After our greatest Upanisad, in importance and size, Brahadaranyaka Upanisad comes Chandogya Upanisad. They are about 3000-4000 years old. Chandogya Upanishad answers the above question in most inspiring and profound way.

“Yadeva Vidyaya Karoti,
Sraddhya Upanisada,
Tadeva Viryavattaram Bhavati”

It means that: First is to acquire Vidya (knowledge / know-how). But, it is not enough. Second is Sraddha, faith in the great urges and longings of the man in front of me, faith in the work I am called upon to fulfill those urges and faith in myself, in my capacity to rise to the occasion. But even this is not enough. Third is Upanisad, deep thinking and contemplation. Actions done with these three energies become Viryavattaram, more and more efficient.

Limitations of technical knowhow
At times, a person with “Vidya / know- how / adequate knowledge / high degree and top marks does not show the energy and efficiency to make for a dynamic and dedicated administrations. Why? Because, mere knowledge is static, it has no motivation. Motivation comes from emotions and sentiments, patriotism and national dedication which stimulate knowledge to develop into human purposes, character excellence and dynamics.

There is an urgent need for complete transformation in static politics and administrative functioning in a dynamic national milieu, as millions of people are fast awakening to their rights and dignity and are becoming focus of tremendous energies born of aspirations and desires for better life. The nation has to rise to the occasion to satisfy them and fulfill them. That is the role of administration in a democratic state which seeks to develop into a welfare state.

Need for Sraddha
“Sraddha” or faith is a precious value which is a stimulating force behind all human greatness in the field of physical science, the science of spirituality and social life.

A new India is taking shape all around us in the modern times. Our spiritual teachers welcome this change on human horizon. Swami Vivekananda visualized common man finding his own identity and dignity in modern period after being submerged in collectivity of class, caste etc for centuries, psychically asleep, inert, without any inner tension arising from desire, ambition and hope, ever resigned to accept any socio- political situation, and foreign conqueror or native oppressor to rule over them and exploit them.

In modern times people are getting education. He wants to grow, dissatisfied to remain victim of circumstances. He is focus of true human energy, awakened, self conscious, hope stirred with better future beckoning him. This human energy is required to be canalized with constructive national purpose. For this energy of imagination (human and patriotic emotions) has to be yoked to the energy of knowledge (our education) to galvanize the activity of our administration. Only such man-making process will give nation batches and batches of dynamic trained minds endowed with imaginative sympathy for common people and impersonal loyalty to our free State and constitution instead of the current mass production of self centered and static stuffed brains. Be man yourself and help others to be men of individuality, human worth and dignity. This is true politics, this is true religion.

‘Imaginative sympathy’ is required to make our administrators responsive and efficient. Files in secretariats move very slowly. Why? It is only dynamism and energy of the man handling the file who can make it move faster.

Need of Upanisad
The luminous attitude presented by Swami Vivekanand that the work that I do as an administrator or professional or housewife or student has got a tremendous human and national reference. I am instrument of serving a great human purpose has immense energy man-ward direction imparted by ‘Sraddha’ and ‘Upanisad’ to ‘Vidya’ that transform mere static opinion into dynamic lived convictions.

Why our education so stagnant? Because, our teachers are not awakened to the truth of their high status. Hence, they behave merely as performers of paid function as job-seekers and job-holders. A sense of mission and atma-sraddha flowing from it is lacking in their lives and in functions they perform. If only a teacher could think of what am I here for? They would realize the blessed privilege they have in being instrument of imparting light and life to the millions of children with their wealth of knowledge and inspiration. They have the capacity to address the mounting human urges and aspirations of the nation. This profound truth and conviction can transform a teacher into dynamic person whose each instruction will inspire and elevate millions of students. This is art of nation building and is relevant for all administrators, workers and professionals to think/contemplate/meditate and work with luminous attitude.

Buddhi Yoga
The Gita defines buddhi-yoga as “Endowed with buddhi, O Arjuna, a man can destroy all bondage arising from work”.

After finding job for leading a full life, every person must focus on the aspirations urges of the citizens of the nation with expansive luminous attitude as stressed in Gita in its philosophy of work, so that work may achieve double efficiency – social productivity externally and spiritual enlightenment internally. Your work should bring blessing to other people – your galvanic touch should brighten other lives. It should be the main over riding purpose of your occupying a position of authority and power. As per Gita, this state of raja and rsi in one is that of yogi;

Even a bit of this buddhi-yoga can make a administrator more and more dynamic and enable our nation to catch up with mountainous human problems day by day – thus becoming a welfare state.

Money Motivation
Many thinkers say that money motivation viz. higher salary, wages, perks etc. provide motivation for higher performance at early stages. For higher motivation, a fulfillment comes from stirring of inner depth of human spirit – a realization of having the proud privilege of being chosen to shoulder the national responsibility – this is beyond mere money or personal motivation, it is profound spiritual and human motivation.

The sense of pride, honour, duty, punctuality, social responsibility human responsiveness, attitude of helpfulness to others – is the hall mark of disciplined social functionary working with human excellence.

We must think ourselves beyond being ‘in India’ to “of India” and “for India” – this attitude will bring dynamism in administration.

The most intelligent men are not necessarily the most efficient, the most virtuous or most humane in any society. The whole personality is not covered by it. Other parameters are also necessary and, most essentially, that humanistic impulse which alone can give a human response to human situations. Such person even with less I.Q. can do wonders. So creative intelligence does not lie merely with I.Q. Creativity comes from imagination.

Imaginative Sympathy
Imagination is a quality that nature has blessed the human being with. It is not present in pre-human stages – not even in chimpanzees. Imagination is image making capacity in mind, capacity for reasoning, judging, speech, communication that makes human dominant species in nature.

All creativity is controlled in imagination. Since administration is science and art of human management, with a view to securing human development, the administrator needs to be gifted with this precious value of imaginative sympathy over and above intelligence.

With imaginative sympathy, an administrator while being in his office/desk can imaginatively experience the actual human problems and realize that his decision can impact thousands of people. This will make him respond to human situations with responsibility and efficiency tearing down the unnecessary, red tapes on the way.

The quality of administration depends upon the administrator behind it. When the feeling of human concern breaks down all genetic barriers – the individual spiritually grows into person. All efficient administrators are persons and not mere individuals. In such a personality, there is great reserve of energy and power along with imagination, making for the human touch and for that calm, silent and steady work which is one of the important test of efficiency.

In contrast, the individuals are noisy, fussy, jerky, ostentatious and inefficient.

Psycho-social evolution
Spiritual growth is beyond physical and intellectual growth and most crucial from the point of view of human fulfillment and for happy and fruitful inter-human relationships.

Gita says – “Svalpamapsya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat” – “Even a little of this philosophy can save man from great fear”. Hence, Sri Krishna exhorted in Gita ‘tasmat yogi bhavarjuna – “therefore, be a yogi, O Arjuna’.

The yoga of Gita is not a religion in narrow sense of creed, ritual and piety. It is a comprehensive philosophy of human growth, development, fulfillment – in which all creeds, rituals, piety, prayer, meditation, work and labour find place.

One half of humanity in India suffers from arrested spiritual development and another half suffers from arrested material development.

If our administration at all levels can capture imaginative sympathy and service attitude , a great blessing will follow for the good of our nation, increasing pace of social and economic development, bringing more happiness and welfare of our people; endowing great character strength to administrators.

Philosophy of human excellence
Yoga is beautiful vision of human excellence as taught by Gita through three definitions viz. yoga is equanimity. Yoga is efficiency, dexterity in action. The disconnection with all connection to pain is yoga.

Swami Vivekanand gave a clarion call, a challenge and blessing for profound inner transformation, a spiritual growth through love and service of man.

It means ‘Therefore, be a yogi O Arjuna’. So be a yogi all administrators. By being a yogi, your exterior, salary and wages do not change, but your inner being stands transformed with fullness; and that fullness of being will be poured out into the functions you perform for the state and the society, by which they become endowed with efficiency and a human touch. This is the root and fruit of buddhi-yoga of Gita. Yoga combines the role of raja (king) and rsi (sage) i.e. the person who achieves their spiritual growth in the context of their responsibilities of ruling and administering.

Vedanta identified three types of Bala (strengths) – Bahu-bala i.e. strength of hand, muscle or machine; Mano-bala i.e. strength of mind on intellect; Yoga-bala – energy of spirituality which is source of character-energy and dedication-energy which alone can transform the first two strengths to human purpose. Our country needs yoga-bali’s in all spheres of professions/administrations/enterprises so that they could become effective instruments of national and human purpose. Yoga-bala enables man to grow beyond his organic limitations and expand in love, sympathy and compassion – into infinite ‘Atman’. It enables the yogi to work efficiently for good of society outwardly and also advance spiritually inwardly.

Philanthropy and Philosophy
‘Gita’ deserves to become the main text book of philosophy of administration, by which alone our different departmental rules and manuals of administration become illuminated and energized. Gita is relevant for administration, management and statesmanship to raise these to high ethical and humanistic levels.

‘Work done with selfish desires, is verily, far inferior, O Arjuna, to that performed (in the light of) buddhi-yoga (yoga of enlightened reasons) ; krpanas (small minded) are they who work with the motive of selfish result.’

There is profound English saying ‘Great movements or causes and little minds ill go together’. When great men are entrusted with even small work, they raise that work also to greatness. Similarly small men reduce great work to small dimensions.

Let’s strive to provide that greatness to our position. Pour that greatness of being into the functions we are called upon to perform in the service of society. Such men always express the unique excellence of manliness.

Three ‘P’s
Instead of being engrossed in thoughts and discussion about ‘pay’, ‘prospect’ and ‘promotion’, we should be touched by the inspiration of higher national vision and ideology and strive hard to bring light and life to the millions of our people sunk in poverty, ignorance and exploitation – be guided by that motivation energy resource.

Kalidasa describes in Raghuvansam the welfare state achieved by the kings of Raghu dynasty to which belonged Sri Rama “It was only for the prosperity and welfare of the people that he (the king) took taxes from them, just like sun drawing moisture (from the earth) to give it back in thousand fold measure (as beneficial rain).” How is developmental and welfare administration able to do that. Men with energy and vision bring more and more out of money than men without it. High level of social welfare in a community reflects high level of ethical awareness, human concern and practical efficiency among its members. With the energy of yoga and imaginative sympathy and consciousness that they are called upon to perform tremendous national function and mission, good administrators are able to perform this miracle.

The philosophy of administration varies with the values upheld by people. It will be different in materialistic state, feudal setting, in totalitarian milieu, democratic state and where primary of values are spiritual. More-than-ordinary philosophy is necessary to light the path of life and work of a man of social responsibility. Vedanta provides vision, range and scope to such philosophy in Buddhi Yoga of Gita.

The Rajarsi
Rajarsi is a person who at once is both Raja (king) and rsi (sage). Raja is a person who is eminent in responsibility. In broader sense father, mother, teacher, every citizen is raja in their own capacity. In special sense, industrial magnates, administrators, ministers are raja’s, for on them depends the happiness and welfare of thousands. They should be guided by more-than-ordinary philosophy which reveals the heroism of saintliness.

This combination of a raja and a rsi in an administrator is synthesis of heroism of manliness and heroism of saintliness as desired by Gita for all people generally and politicians and administrators particularly. When one combines power with social responsibility and both with energy arising from character, clear thinking, dedication, and practical efficiency, one effects in oneself, in varying degrees this unique synthesis of Rajarsi.

The administrators need to combine the energy of vision with energy of action to lead people to all round greatness. This philosophy combines true politics with true religion which is search for power, with a view to service the mankind. Here, the first stage is character development through service and dedication. Hence, manlihood is to be achieved before seeking saintlihood.

Swami Ranganathananda (1908-2005) was a monk of the Ramakrishna Math order. He served as the 13th president of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. In 1986 he was awarded the first Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.


Abridged by Ms Gita Tripathi, State Bank Learning Centre, Lucknow

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