From Managing the Self to Managing Others: A glimpse of Organizational Behaviour in Ancient India

By Anitya Anasuya Mohanty

(B. Sc. (Hons.)In Psychology and Contemplative Studies,Sri Sri University)

Ancient India has been the land of genesis for most kinds of arts, culture, languages, festivals known to mankind. The essence of it all being, to embrace the diversity of nature and allow the self to grow through the process. As a place where a plethora of people and functions were involved in its functioning; understanding people, learning about the inner workings of the mind, managing the crowd has always been in practice in the land of Bharat.

Modern subjects in management include a very peculiar blend of psychology and management techniques called organizational behaviour. Although, it must be noted and pondered upon that the very birth of such techniques have been unsaid and unwritten since the golden ages of Bharat. Perhaps not formally stated, but informally used in daily activities through the management of the masses and the management of the self through various strategies and practices – spiritual and logical in nature.

Management of the self was particularly sought throughout the history of Ancient India. It was believed that until the inner-self of the people is managed and tuned, the outer material world of organizations would not be possible to organize. Therefore, understanding one’s own behaviour and patterns was the first step in the field of management as well.

Countless branches of the Indian philosophy have always focused on the inner management techniques and strategies such the Yoga Darshan, the Vedantic Darshan and many more. The harmony of the body and the mind was believed to be of utmost importance in field of life.

However, as time passed by, we saw a chain of people who have formally stated and embellished the nature, techniques, ethics, strategies, techniques, etc for management in the pages of history. Chanakya (also known as Kautilya), during the period of Chandragupta, wrote the Arthashastra – the book for good governance and management of the masses – not only describing the duties of a king, but of all stakeholders, also emphasizing on regulation systems by listing out a series of ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’ for obtaining the desired behaviour.

It must be noted that the same techniques are known today to be theorized by Western psychologists such as James Watson, Ivan Pavlov, B F Skinner, and the entire School of Behaviourism, despite the same being formalized and applied in practice since the time of Kautilya.

Going further back in time, the management strategies and ways of motivation, ethics, duties of a king (leader, manager) given by Vidura during the times of the Mahabharat (mentioned in the text called Vidura Niti), portrays the existence of management strategies and techniques, covering a lot of modern-day concepts and topics under organizational behaviour. The very usage of particular words in shaping Dhritarashtra’s thinking, motivation, influence, learning, etc. have been embedded in that short dialogue. Although, due to the lack of formalized words and ‘labels’, these concepts remained hidden until its re-emergence by the modern-day scholars.


उद्धरेदात्मनात्मानं नात्मानमवसादयेत्| आत्मैव ह्यात्मनो बन्धुरात्मैव ररपुरात्मन: ||6.5||

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet | ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ ||6.5||

By the self thou shouldst deliver the self, thou shouldst not depress and cast down the self (whether by self-indulgence or suppression); for the self is the friend of the self and the self is the enemy.


Sri Krishna himself speaks of Mind-management - often a subject given very less importance despite its unequivocal value. Management of one’s mind is the first stepping stone to manage anything around. The entirety of the Bhagavad Gita is all about management if looked at through the lens of organizational behaviour. Likewise, there are countless texts and incidences in the ancient history of Bharat that speak of the skills and techniques required to manage the masses as well as to manage the self.

The Ramayana, popularly known for its elements on love and sacrifice, also contains various incidences on teamwork, communication, leadership, control, and direction. The very saga of building a team and going to retrieve Sita from Lanka required a lot of man power and powerful strategies. Working with diversity and harnessing the strengths of different people was also a very powerful yet unpopular learning that one receives from the Ramayana.

The concept of motivation is yet another theme that has been discussed through various texts and incidences. Taking concepts and strategies provided in the ancient Indian texts have given insight into the reasons why one feels demotivated, what to do as a motivator and how to remain motivated even without the presence of extrinsic factors. The Bhagavad Gita, Arthashastra and the Vidura Niti throw light on the importance of motivation, with underlying depth of finding one’s True Self and thereby maintaining poise and equanimity even in times of hardship

While emphasizing the importance of inner silence, ancient India has seen real-life examples of people with absolute dynamism – people who have achieved their highest potential with inner peace and worked for humanity with complete surrender – the popular as well as the unsung leaders. The essence of it all it to present to humankind, the importance of managing one’s own mind for the successful management of anything that is external – another individual, a group, or an organization.

Kangle, R.P. (2000). The Kautilya Arthashastra. Part III. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi

Vande Matram Library Trust. (n.d.). Bhagvad Gita - In the Light of Sri Aurobindo.

Bhagvad Gita - in the Light of Sri Aurobindo.

Vidura Niti (Mahabharata Udyogaparva) (2nd ed.). (2017). [English]. Gita Press, Gorakhpur Weerawardena, S. D., Priyasad, K. P. M.,

& Weerasinghe, T. D. (2018). Managing lives at work: Lessons from Bhagavad Gita. N.a