Zoroastrian scriptures show us that the road to salvation actually winds through the marketplace, writes KERSI LIMATHWALLA
the good man, who shows us the righteous path which brings profit,
whether in this world or the next, enjoy the greatest of good’
— Yasna XLIII. 3, Ushtavad Gatha
The ethos of Zoroastrian scriptures is that the road to salvation winds through the marketplace and not through asceticism. The emphasis is on karma yog, righteous action. This philosophy is the basis of modern day concepts and practices of human rights, gender equality, environmental protection, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility — of fairness, accountability, transparency, risk management, and respect for law, where ethical standards play a pivotal role.
According to the Visparad XV.1, “Industry and self-help paves the way for a life of honour and self-respect”. This is underscored by the old adage, ‘Give a man fish and you will feed him for one day, teach him how to fish and you will feed him all his life’.
A closer look at the philosophy of work reveals that in order to do justice to the job at hand, one must first acquire the necessary skill and then back it with concentration and consistency. The impatience to reap the fruits before they have ripened is a tendency we need to guard against. The dictum ‘you get what you deserve’ has to be unquestionably respected. A benevolent approach makes work sacred, which is why we say, ‘work is worship’.
To provide for ourselves and our family is the beginning, not the end of any human exertion. The obligation to pay back to society and the environment from which we have benefited and drawn so much, needs to be appreciated and remembered. The sense of gratitude that our efforts could have been reduced to nought had it not been for His grace and the wonderful support system. Under corporate governance, regulatory measures in the form of reporting, disclosures and approvals have become necessary, as we do not function in an utopia. In spite of this, financial crisis strike the corporate world like a periodic cyclone without any forewarning. The most recent being the collapse of leading banks in the US, igniting a global financial crisis which was averted by timely government intervention.
At the centre of all crisis is human greed, which numbs the mind to an objective approach and foresight. Integrity needs to be the cornerstone of a governance module, as stated by Yasna X6 VIII.5, Spentomad Gatha, “May good kings rule over us with wisdom, May bad kings never rule over us.”
Although there are several definitions of governance, what has evolved is the ethical management from an authoritative position. At the core of governance, the starting point is the self. Before we start exercising our authority on anyone, we must impose it on ourselves. Be analytical and critical of ourselves to the point of being harsh, if we are serious of instilling discipline across the board. Yasna XXVIII.7 Ahunavad Gatha, highlights this and states: “Ahura Mazda, the Beneficent, created prosperity for the world and discipline for the righteous.”
The best form of governance emanates from exemplary conduct. This is what management gurus call ‘Inner Engineering’. The necessity, therefore, to recognise inner governance vis-a-vis the superfluous external governance, for it is the inner governance that is responsible for the quality of external governance. The awareness, recognition and mandatory implementation of CSR is of recent origin, but the moral obligation towards workers, society and environment have been there for those who have valued it. Way back in 1902, Jamshedji Tata wrote from the US to his son Dorab, who was looking after the Jamshedpur project, “Be sure to lay wide streets planted with shady trees… Be sure there is plenty of space for lawns and gardens… Reserve large areas for football, hockey and parks… Earmark areas for Hindu temples, Mohammedan mosques and Christian churches.”
Environmental protection is also interwoven in corporate governance. We have to go through nature to Nature’s God and be environmentally friendly and conscious. It is incumbent upon us to preserve this balance in nature and not disturb it. For this Yasna XXX.9 Ahunavad Gatha says,“May we be surely like those of our predecessors, who made this world prosperous. May the chosen leaders of Mazda be helpers and supporters of the world.”