The world’s largest epic – Mahabharata – has always been a great source of learning and life lessons. It narrates the story of the struggle between two groups of cousins known as Kaurava and Pandava. The power struggle between the two ultimately takes them to the battle ground known as Kurukshetra. Every character of the epic teaches us something that can redefine our understanding of life. The battle helps us differentiate between Dharma (right way of living) and Adharma. It also introduces us to the concept of Karma (deed or action), Moksha (liberation) and many other fruitful concepts.
More than 5000 years old, each chapter of Mahabharata brings forward a lesson that can reconstruct one’s personal and professional life. The chronicle brings forward the complex interpretation of success, expectations, life, death, humanity, perspective, ideas, wealth, and a lot more.
Let’s take a look at the quintessential lessons it has to offer to an entrepreneur:
1. Sacrifice, Pledge, and Devotion
In the world of business, sacrifice, pledge, and devotion are some of the rarest traits that a person can imbibe. When we talk of sacrifice, Devavrata aka Bhishma Pitamaha is the epitome of sacrifice. He took the pledge of celibacy, sacrificing his ‘crown-prince’ title for his father Shantanu- the Kuru king of Hastinapura. In a similar manner, when running a firm, you need to take decisions at a time that might not be best for you but will make others gratified. In entrepreneurial journey, a man of integrity goes a long way.
2. Say no to Nepotism
In Mahabharata Pandu was born feeble, Dhritarashtra was blind, but it was Vidhur who was born with all the required traits to be the king. The writer of this epic — Ved Vyasa — made it a point as to how Vidhur would be the rightful king of Hastinapur. In spite of all the qualities, just because of being born to a maid, he was not considered worthy of the royal throne. This is the blunder we often repeat in real life. The seed of nepotism leads to the fruit of ill-management in most cases. To run a business efficiently – knowledge, skill, and merit is what matters the most.
Unfortunately, for most, it’s the linage that holds the utmost importance. As an entrepreneur, you need to fathom that your company is your responsibility, not your property. For the making of a company, every person from the ground level is responsible. You have to understand that your employees need a good leader not your partiality towards your lineage.
3. Don’t hurt someone’s ego
Even after more than 5000 years of Mahabharat, nothing much has changed in all these years. Even in those days, hurting someone’s ego used to be a terrible act inviting the wrath of the opponent/s. In Mahabharat, Draupadi mocked Duryodhana (eldest of the Kauravas) calling him the blind son of a blind father. But she had no idea how much Duryodhana was disgruntled with her act.
Similarly, in our entrepreneurial venture, we at times make remarks that hurt someone’s ego. Our one silly remark can turn partners, employees, against each other. We need friends not enemies to make the business a success. An Entrepreneur requires the support of both big and small partners, growth can’t happen if one is missing.
4. Don’t gamble else be ready to lose all
One of the most crucial events of Mahabharat is the popular game of Chausar (dice) where Yudhishtira puts everything at stake including his wealth, brothers, kingdom, and wife Draupadi. What we can learn from the incident is that even virtuous king couldn’t think clearly and that holds water for the mighty tycoons as well. In corporate world, there are instances where in order to get instant success, even the smartest men in the office puts everything at risk just to win. The repercussion is you lose everything in a moment that took you years to build.
5. With power comes responsibility
While running a million-dollar business, people live under wrong impression that they control the world and people. But Mahabharata teaches us that Dharma is all about thinking of others’ welfare. There is an important chapter when Yudhishtira is given the option of saving only one of his siblings and he chooses Nakul (son of his stepmother Madri). The reason he gives is that Yudhishtira, one of Kunti’s three sons was alive, so one of Madri’s son should live too. The true worth of power is when you use it for others. The duty of those at the top is to think of those who work under them.
6. Pay attention to those who serve you
In the last year of their exile of 13 years, Pandava took up helpers’ job in a King’s kingdom to hide their identity. In that period, they realize the agony of servants. We can’t deny that a company is successful because of its think-tank. However, we should not forget those who serve and stand by us in building the foundation of the company. Those who are wealthy and privileged take the service of their servants and helpers for granted. You must not forget that from your watchman to the peon, from cleaner to the valet everyone is part of the empire you have to build.
7. The power struggle
Mahabharata wasn’t just about two brother clans fighting for power. The story reflects influential women fighting for individuality, recognition, and respect. The epic starts with Goddess Ganga that goes on to three queens — Kunti, Gandhari, and Draupadi. The three faced discrimination based on their birth. In a corporate setup, women are compelled to prove themselves. She is either objectified or spoken behind her back. When she rises in the hierarchy her ability and hard work are questioned. She is meant to earn respect, while it is naturally offered to men. Patriarchy still has a strong root in our society. Unfortunately, women always had to struggle to rise in power be it 4000 years ago or today.
8. Demonstration of Dharma
After the unfortunate death of King Pandu, Kunti on her way back to the Kingdom of Hastinapura brings along five other contenders to the throne. On their arrival, Dhritarashtra and his 100 Kaurav sons were not happy. However, it was the crowned King’s moral duty to educate and give Pandavas their right.
In the similar manner, an entrepreneur might not like certain people and their attitude but that shouldn’t overpower your judgment. Everyone in your company is your family, everyone is connected. As an owner/leader you are meant to take everyone together and treat everyone the same. The epic Mahabharata comprises 18 adhyay (chapters) and it gives us 18 lifechanging lessons. The beauty of each learning is such that it is relevant to every phase of our lives.