The Bhagavad Gita Approach To Dynamic Decision Making

Madhurima Basu & Kumkum Mukherjee
Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management (IISWBM)
Kolkata, India


The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the ancient Indian epic 'Mahabharata' which is attributed to sage Vyasa. The teachings imparted through the Bhagavad Gita are simple, to which an ordinary man can relate it with himself. 'The Bhagavad Gita is a book conveying lessons of philosophy, religion and ethics' (Radhakrishnan, 1966). The Bhagavad Gita is interpreted by Sinha (1992) as a book which mainly focused on ethics than on metaphysics. Authors like Sharma (2003) is of the view that the Bhagavad Gita is based on metaphysics, religion and ethics, and has been aptly called 'Gospel of Humanity'. The Bhagavad Gita reminds us of the fact that ancient India was the epicentre of knowledge cultivation. There will always be the custom of flaunting wealth as an act of supremacy; but it is simply through the 'way of knowledge' which is accessible to all that one can achieve intellectual supremacy. Radhakrishnan (1966) in his book Indian Philosophy, portrayed the ethos of the Bhagavad.

Gita, in the following way 'while only the rich could buy off the gods by their sacrifices, and only the cultured pursue the way of knowledge, the Gita teaches a method which is within the reach of all, that is bhakti, or devotion to God'. The essence of Bhagavad Gita is based on the principle of equality. The lessons conveyed by the Bhagavad Gita are universally applicable (Radhakrishnan, 1966). The conceptual framework of the Bhagavad Gita as illustrated in the book Outlines of Indian Philosophy as, 'the work is written in a simple and charming style, and is in the form of a dialogue which imparts to it a dramatic interest. But such formal excellences alone are not adequate to account for its great attractiveness' (Hiriyana, 2005).

Framework of the Present Study

Decisions serve as the channel through which emotions guide daily attempts at eluding negative feeling and enhancing positive feeling. Across the disciplines starting with philosophy (Solomon, 1993) to neuroscience (Phelps et al., in press) there has been an intensifying quest to identify the impact of emotion on judgement and the decision making process. Psychologists now assume emotions acts as the catalyst for the most meaningful decisions in an individual's life (Keltner, Oatley & Jenkins, 2014; Keltner & Lerner, 2010; Ekman, 2007; Gilbert, 2006; Loewenstein, Weber, Hsee & Welch, 2001; Lazarus, 1991; Frijda, 1988; Scherer & Ekman, 1984).

Decision making at any stage of life is crucial. The personal and professional life of an individual bears the consequences of the decision/s one takes. The present paper focuses on the decision making perspective as reflected in the selected verses of the Bhagavad Gita considered for the purpose of the present study.

Backdrop of the Bhagavad Gita

The battle of the Kurukshetra is a part of the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita gets decoded at the battle ground of Kurukshetra, the dialogue between the warrior prince Arjuna and his charioteer, Krishna. The author of the Bhagavad Gita depicts the teacher as an embodiment of the Supreme Being, descended into humanity. 'The teacher is the favourite god of India, who is at once human and divine' (Radhakrishnan, 1966).

The 'teacher' as described by Radhakrishnan (1966) addresses Arjuna at a phase when he had encountered with a great personal crisis. 'Arjuna comes to the battle-field convinced of the righteousness of the cause and prepared to fight his enemy. At the psychological moment he shrinks from his duty' (Radhakrishnan, 1966). Thus the discourse of dialogue commences between the prince and the charioteer. Krishna, the charioteer is perceived to be the voice of the supreme soul. Arjuna, in a dejected mood in despair begins the conversation (Chapter 1 of the Bhagavad Gita) with Krishna, as to why he is well convinced that fighting the battle will not bring any good. From the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita we find how Krishna patiently counsels Arjuna explaining him the need of the hour i.e. removing curtain of ignorance and empowering him to take the right decision. At the end of the eighteenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita we find Arjuna's melancholy gets eroded (Chapter 18, Verse 73)2.

The Bhagavad Gita is an outstanding example of the decision making process. Arjuna's decision to not fight the battle (Chapter 1, Verse 28)1 to his transformed world outlook (Chapter 18, Verse 73)2 determined to take on his enemies.


One of the most sorted for quality of a decision maker is selflessness. When the decision maker willingly absorbs the quality of being selfless in the decision making process as an outcome his/her mind attains tranquility. Krishna, the charioteer explained the meaning of 'stable minded individual' during his dialogue of discourse with Arjuna (Chapter 4, Verse 55, 56, 57, 58)3, 4, 5, 6. The counsel of Arjuna furthers the qualities of a stable minded person as one who is not influenced by his or her emotions. For example at a time of globalization decision makers in an organizational setting are bound to take risk and willingly explore the untraveled path. The verse (Chapter 4, Verse 56)4 reminds us as to how much essential it is to have command over ones emotions. Mastering emotions is a trait of a stable minded person. We find the essence of risk taking behaviour which forms the sub set of stable mindedness is reflected in (Chapter 4, Verse 57)5. It may also be interpreted as 'internals vs. externals' (Chapter 4, Verse 57)5. In the former case individuals remains indifferent to the unfavourable outcomes. The best decision maker is one who listens to his/her mind before taking the final call and is not governed by the external environment. This fundamental nature of decision making is explained with an analogy of the tortoise who withdraws into its own shell (Chapter 4, Verse 58)6. An individual needs to be mentally calm to take the correct decision. A person who remains unaffected by likes and dislikes attains mental peace as an outcome of it (Chapter 4, Verse 64)7. Mental peace leads to absorbing grieves thus self-controlled mind eventually becomes engrossed in the present situation (Chapter 4, Verse 65)8. Calm mind nurtures condensed thought process which results into the right decision.


Indian scholars through ages have maintained the legacy of benefaction to the world. Some of the ancient Indian texts are the Upanishads, the Vedas, and the epics: Ramayana and Mahabharata along with the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita written aeons ago is a noteworthy asset which the scholars of the Indian sub-continent gifted to the world. The lessons conveyed through the Bhagavad Gita holds true to this day. Decision making is an intrinsic part of human life. A stable and calm mind is required to make a flawless decision. The quintessence of the decision making is reflected in the selected verses of the Bhagavad Gita considered for the purpose of the present study. We have endeavoured to preserve the Indian tradition through our present work.

Bhagavad Gita Verses Extracted From: Ghosh, J.C. (2010). Srimad Bhaghabad Gita. 3rd Edition. Kolkata: Presidency Library.

  1. Chapter 1, Verse 28: Arjuna said: O Krishna, when I see these kinsmen of mine standing ahead of me, bent on battle, my body goes limp and my mouth goes dry.
  2. Chapter 18, Verse 73: Arjuna said: By Thy grace, O Acyuta (Sri Krishna), my delusion has been dispelled. I have gained knowledge about my duty; my mind is steadfast and free from doubts. I shall do Thy bidding.
  3. Chapter 4, Verse 55: O Partha, when a man surrenders all his innate desire and his spirit remains content in itself, he deserves to be describes as stable minded.
  4. Chapter 4, Verse 56: The man who remains unfurled in the midst of sorrow, indifferent to happiness, who has mastered passions, fear and anger, may be called stable minded sage.
  5. Chapter 4, Verse 57: Stable-minded is he who has no fondness for anything, who is not elated or provoked to disgust if good luck or bad overtakes him.
  6. Chapter 4, Verse 58: Him we call stable-minded who withdraws his senses from senseobjects much in the same way as the tortoise withdraws into its own shell.
  7. Chapter 4, Verse 64: But the self-controlled man, free alike from likes and dislikes, who moves about among sense-objects with his senses subdued, attains peace of mind.
  8. Chapter 4, Verse 65: With the calm of mind thus attained, all sorrows of man are set at rest, for the mind of such a tranquil person is soon concentrated.


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Authors Biography

Madhurima Basu

She is a Research Scholar and presently engaged in research work. She has completed her M. Phil in Management from Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), Kolkata under the University of Calcutta. She has completed her Bachelor of Art s in Philosophy from Presidency College under the University of Calcutta and thereafter obtained her MBA degree from Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata under the West Bengal University of Technology (WBUT). She has contributed chapters to various books. She has presented papers at national and international conferences in India.

Kumkum Mukherjee

She is a retired Professor at the Department of Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management (IISWBM), Kolkata. She did her masters in Applied Psychology under the University of Calcutta and obtained her Ph. D in Organizational Behaviour from the department of Applied Psychology, University of Calcutta. She has a number of publications in both national and international journals to her credit and has authored three books apart from contributing chapters to various books. She has presented papers at numerous conferences both in India and abroad.


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  • The Bhagavad-Gita is a conversation between the great warrior Arjuna and his guiding force lord Krishna. The lessons and words of wisdom spoken in the holy book of Gita still holds today. There is a saying in bengali, “যা নেই ভারতে তা নেই মহাভারতে” which directly means that whatever is not in the Mahabharata, does not exist in India. The Mahabharat was not just a war, it was a fight for justice, it was a long awaited re-establishment of Dharma over adharma. It talks strongly about the inexplicable unity that the pandavas had to defeat the kauravas for the sake of justice and to follow the path of righteousness. In this world collective action and unity is slowly taking a back seat and isolationism is emerging. Countries, states and the people are now working upon their own and not collectively. The countries should work together in peace and harmony to make the world a better place. Creating a divide and not helping the underprivileged are not the lessons that we imbibed from Mahabharata and Gita. According to chapter 2 and verse 47, we should work tirelessly to achieve the righteousness and not to look for the gains that we might get. The cause of our good deeds or Karma should not be attached with the lust for good results. Heading towards the basic knowledge system of Gurukul that we see in Mahabharat where the education is practical oriented and not rote learning is the best possible way to achieve the ultimate knowledge. The transparency of this education system and the innate relationship with the teacher or Guru remains pure, free from any malice. I believe these certain changes in ones mindset, way of living their lives and empathy for others can change the world to a better place , which is sustainable.
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