Spirituality, Sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility

Spirituality, Sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility

This conference paper was prepared by the Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay (MAV) also known as the Maharshi University of Spirituality Goa, India. The paper was presented at the 12th IBA (Indus Business Academy) International Conference in Bangalore, India from 20 to 21 September 2019. The focus of the conference was Corporate Spiritual and Social Responsibility (Redefining Human, Society and Corporate Relationships). The paper was given the ‘Best Doctoral paper’ award. The paper has been repurposed in a web format for the SSRF website.

This article is meant for our readers who have a background or interest in business management, the environment, sustainable development and/or corporate social responsibility.

Abstract

Ask any business school (B-school) graduate about the main aim of a corporation and the most likely answer would be enhancing shareholder value. The push for sustainable development in corporate culture has been a welcome change, but the concept of shareholder value is so engrained in a corporate’s collective psyche that it will always be the primary goal, often to the detriment of society and the environment. The team at the Maharshi University of Spirituality has 38 years of spiritual research experience and has undertaken extensive research into how the spiritual dimension affects people’s lives. It was found that while sustainable development is a noble concept, it is just a step towards the larger altruistic spiritual role that corporates should pursue. In line with ancient Indian culture, a basic requisite for any entity should be to increase spiritually positive vibrations in people and the environment, or at the very least not add to the negative vibrations. Unfortunately, this understanding has been lost over time and is not included in B-school curricula. This paper elaborates on a few examples of how corporates consistently ignore these spiritual rules in various fields such as entertainment, food, beverages, jewellery and garments to the detriment of society.

1. Introduction to Corporate Social Responsibility

Ask any business school (B-school) graduate about the main aim of a corporation and the most likely answer would be ‘enhancing shareholder value’.

Practically however, with the stresses and strains of day-to-day business operations, the pursuit of profit and enhancing shareholder value often supersedes employees’ well-being, the environment, and any social obligations.

The idea of corporate social responsibility attempted to rectify this, and it gained traction with the publication of Freeman’s stakeholder theory in the mid-1980’s. In the traditional view of a company – i.e., the shareholder view, only the owners or shareholders of the company are important, and the company has a binding duty to put their needs first, to increase value for them. The stakeholder theory instead argues that there are other parties involved, including employees, customers, suppliers, financiers, communities, governmental bodies, political groups, trade associations, and trade unions (Freeman, 1984).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a concept that incorporates sustainable development into a company’s business model and suggests that it is the responsibility of the corporations operating within society to contribute towards economic, social and environmental development that creates a positive impact on society at large. This concept differs from basic philanthropy and charity where there is not much accountability or responsibility attached. CSR activities quite simply suggests that businesses cannot succeed in isolation, especially when society is failing (unido.org, 2019)

This requirement from companies is becoming more mandatory across the world. India is the first country in the world to make CSR mandatory, following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 in April 2014 (Shira, 2019). Also, the earnestness with which a company follows CSR affects the way their clients and customers see them and also affects the attraction of future employees.

Corporate social responsibility generally includes :

  • Environmental efforts
  • Philanthropy
  • Ethical labour practices
  • Volunteering for social causes

However, even if these aspects were followed conscientiously by all companies, are these aspects sufficient for the well-being of society ? Will these aspects bring happiness in society, which is one of the most basic goals in society ?

2. The role of Spirituality and Corporate Social Responsibility

For human beings, the quest to experience long-lasting happiness of a superior quality, is the underlying driving force behind all their endeavours and pursuits. This need is in fact the common denominator behind all the advancements in technology, laws, social systems, etc.

In the sacred Scripture Vishnu Purana, the concept of the 4 Purusharthas is given which provides direction for the well-being of society. The concept of Purushartha which literally means ‘an object of human pursuit’ holistically defines the purpose of life and also provides direction to leadership. The 4 Purusharthas are Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desires) and Moksha (Final Liberation).

According to the revered Saint Adi Shankaracharya from India (8th century AD), Righteousness (Dharma) is that which accomplishes the 3 tasks of :

  1. Keeping the social system in an excellent condition
  2. Ensuring the worldly progress of every living being
  3. Making spiritual progress as well

This means that in the pursuit of wealth & prosperity (Artha) and fulfilling one’s desires (Kama), people should adhere to Righteousness if they want to attain the highest pursuit which is Final Liberation (Moksha). Sustainable development or CSR advocated nowadays, is a step in this direction (and takes care of the above points ‘a’ & ‘b’). However, it still does not take into account the spiritual factor (which is ‘c’). Lastly and importantly, the pursuit of Final Liberation (Moksha) is what all people knowingly or unknowingly pursue. As stated earlier, everyone wants happiness and it is the need to experience happiness that drives their desires, thoughts and actions. Moksha is the final stage of spiritual evolution where one merges with the Divine. At this stage, a person permanently experiences Bliss (a superlative form of happiness) and serenity.

A leader should therefore be the one, who has the ability to foster and nurture an environment of Righteousness within his organisation or area of influence. Unless the spiritual growth aspect is taken care of, it is impossible to experience lasting happiness. Therefore, as per the Sacred Scriptures, any CSR strategy implemented by a leader or CEO should ideally include the spiritual upliftment of people.

To accomplish this, he himself needs to have a strong spiritual base, which means, ideally, he needs to be spiritually evolved or have a higher spiritual level.

The Maharshi University of Spirituality uses a scale between 1% and 100% to evaluate spiritual level. 1% would refer to the spiritual level of an inanimate object, while 100% would refer to the pinnacle of spiritual growth for a person, which is self-realisation or becoming one with the Divine. The spiritual level of an average person in the current Era of Kaliyug is 20%. Spiritual level increases only with spiritual practice. When a person attains the spiritual level of 70% and above, he or she is known as a Saint or a Guru and is considered a true spiritual guide.

Even if one is not a leader by designation, at some point anyone may assume this role in decision-making or in a discussion, etc. Therefore, this concept is applicable to everyone.

3. Building a spiritual base

In a fast-paced world, economic and technological development has its pros and cons. While it may provide a better standard of living to the citizens of a country, the quality of life is often compromised. For example, despite the US having the highest GDP in the world, 3 out of 4 Americans report experiencing at least one stress symptom in any given month (Winerma, 2017). 45% report lying awake at night, 36% report feeling nervous or anxious, 35% report irritability or anger, and 34% report fatigue due to stress (Winerma, 2017). In 2017, it was reported that in the past year, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults (NIH, 2017).

To set the stage for spiritual upliftment – there is a famous saying which expansively defines one objective of Hinduism and is, in fact, the need of the hour for the world – ‘Hinani Gunani dushyati iti Hindu’.

For this one must understand the concept of Sattva, Raja and Tama provided below.

The concept of Sattva, Raja and Tama (Shrimad Bhagawadgeeta 14:5), Shrikrushna speaks of the 3 subtle components of the universe namely Sattva, Raja and Tama that are in all of creation, visible and invisible. Sattva is the component that represents spiritual purity and knowledge; Raja represents action, while Tama represents ignorance and inertia. The subtle vibrations emanating from anything and everything are dependent on the predominant subtle basic component they are comprised of.

This saying means that which destroys (dushyati) the inferior Raja-Tama subtle components (gunas) is a Hindu. Thus, to be a Hindu is to follow a way of life that enhances the spiritually pure Sattva component and engenders Sattva predominant qualities like love, humility, tolerance, courage, expansiveness, etc. and overcomes the spiritually impure Raja-Tama predominant attitudes like anger, attachment, jealousy, greed, lust, pride, etc. Such spiritually impure attitudes and characteristics in an individual’s personality create situations of conflict and stress at every step in peoples’ lives (Athavale, 2016). However, this principle is not limited to just people but also extends to the choices they make in their lives and the types of activities they indulge in.

Figure 1 - Spiritual Research Centre and Ashram, Goa, IndiaThe Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay (MAV) also known as the Maharshi University of Spirituality is situated in Goa, India. Its research team has 38 years of spiritual research experience. It specialises in conducting research into how the subtle world, spiritual vibrations and the 3 subtle components affect the lives of people, along with how to progress spiritually.

Using aura-and-energy scanners and an advanced level of sixth sense of seekers, the University has undertaken extensive spiritual research into practically understanding the nature of the 3 subtle components and how they affect people, animals and the environment.

Below are a few experiments that have been conducted to show how products and services emit subtle vibrations which impacts the people who use them.

Dress and Colour

Aesthetics and the creation of trendsetting designs are probably uppermost in a fashion designer’s mind when designing the next season’s collection. Arguably, no designer would be considering the spiritual vibrations associated with their clothing. However, in the following experiment that was conducted, it was observed that the style of clothing one chooses to wear has an impact on one’s aura.

One lady-seeker was asked to wear various garments (shown in the picture below) for 30 minutes each and her aura was measured before and after using the Universal Thermo Scanner (UTS). It is an instrument that has been developed by Dr Mannem Murthy (a former nuclear scientist) in India. It measures the type of subtle-energy (whether positive or negative) and the aura around any object (living or non-living).

Experiment to study the subtle effect of clothes on a person's aura

In the picture above, the dresses have been ordered according to how the subject was affected by them as per the UTS readings. The leftmost garment had the most negative effect, while the rightmost was the most positive. The 9-yard saree and the 6-yard saree were the only garments that generated high levels of positivity in the wearer.

Also, the use of black coloured clothes is prevalent around the world. However, in some cultures like in Indian culture, the wearing of black is considered inauspicious. In the above experiment, the lady seeker wore black and white sets of a t-shirt and pants. Even though the shape of the garments was similar, the black set of clothing negatively affected her to a much larger extent compared to the white set.

This experiment indicates that the styling and shape of clothing, along with the colour of clothing have the potential to affect society at large at the spiritual level. The onus lies not only on the garment companies but on the consumers too (who generate the demand for various fashion trends) to understand this concept and choose their clothes and accessories accordingly, keeping the spiritual repercussions in mind.

Jewellery

Jewellery is something that gives rise to a plethora of emotions and holds high sentimental value. Yet when purchasing, gifting or passing down jewellery both the person giving and receiving it does not take into account its spiritual value. No one would want to deliberately put a necklace around their necks if they knew it would detrimentally affect their aura.

The research team conducted an experiment to study the vibrations of jewellery to shed further light on its spiritual worth. Three pieces of jewellery were selected for the experiment and they are shown below.

Experiment to study the subtle vibrations emitted by jewellery

Necklace A was costume jewellery, while necklaces B and C were made of 22-karat gold. UTS readings showed that Necklace A emitted negative vibrations. Interestingly, even though necklace B was made of gold (which is a spiritually positive metal), it was also found to emit negative vibrations. Only necklace C emitted positive vibrations. Analysing the same necklaces through an advanced level of sixth sense confirmed these results. It was found through the sixth sense that even though necklace B is made of gold, its design is spiritually negative, so as a whole it emits negative vibrations, thus nullifying the spiritual positivity of gold. This shows the importance of choosing a spiritually pure design when making jewellery.

In a follow-up experiment, two individuals were asked to wear each of the above necklaces for 30 minutes each and their auras were measured with the UTS. Both necklace A and B increased negativity in the auras of the two subjects while Necklace C had the opposite effect. What this shows is that wearing jewellery for just 30 minutes can significantly impact the spiritual state of a person, and this would have impacts at the physical and psychological levels as well. Through spiritual research, it was found that the type of metal, design, gemstone and the spiritual state (whether positive or negative) of the craftsman are among the factors that affect the spiritual purity of a piece of jewellery. Jewellery is dear to many people’s hearts, and people can pay great amounts for a piece of jewellery that they want. However, if the jewellery is not designed in a way so that it emits positive vibrations, it affects the wearer negatively regardless of how much they paid for it.

The global jewellery market size (which is part of the global fashion industry) is expected to reach USD 480.5 billion by 2025 (Grand View Research, 2019). According to the McKinsey Global Fashion Index, the fashion industry itself (which includes garments and accessories) is worth an estimated USD 2.4 trillion. The larger question for corporations in the fashion industry is that even if they are practising CSR, all factors considered (in the present times), a high proportion of that multi-trillion-dollar amount will emit negative vibrations, thus adversely affecting the auras of billions of people.

Music and dance

William Shakespeare once said – ‘If music be the food of love, play on.’ This famous quote highlights the world view of music and its emotional appeal for people.

Out of all of the forms of entertainment, music arguably has the widest appeal and crosses cultural boundaries with ease. Almost everyone has some type of music that they prefer to listen to. However, a key finding from the spiritual research conducted by MAV is that the experience of emotional happiness does not necessarily translate into spiritual well-being. The research has shown that any musical piece emits subtle vibrations, which paradoxically can mean that a person can like a piece of music but be adversely affected by it at the spiritual level.
Using the UTS, an experiment was conducted to study the effect of listening to 4 separate genres of music on the aura of a subject. The 4 genres selected were heavy metal, a clip of relaxing music, Indian classical music and devotional songs sung by a Saint of the highest order.

The following table summarises the overall effect of each of the genres on the aura of the subject.

Genre Effect
Heavy metal Negative
Relaxing music Neutral
Indian classical music Positive
Devotional songs sung by a Saint Highly positive

Interestingly, the clip of ‘relaxing music’ – a compilation of sounds by Marconi Union called Weightless, has been given the title of the most relaxing music ever by scientists (Passman, 2016), but it just had a neutral effect spiritually. This indicates that listening to relaxing music does not necessarily equate to any spiritual benefit. Also, the piece of Indian classical music was sung by a highly celebrated artist who has received extensive musical training, while the Saint who sung the devotional song has not received any formal training. The difference in their effects on the listener indicates that conventional musical training may not be the main factor in determining the spiritual positivity of the music sung.

MAV has conducted extensive research into musical genres and the types of vibrations they emit. The spiritual attributes of any musical piece are affected by various aspects such as the rhythm, melody, harmony, the type of instruments used and also the spiritual vibrations of the performer. It was found that Vedic mantras, some devotional songs and Indian classical music were the genres that were most likely to emit positive vibrations, whereas many other genres even emitted negative vibrations.

IFPI’s Global Music Report 2019 stated that total revenues from the global recorded music market for 2018 were USD 19.1 billion (IFPI, 2019). In 2017, the live concert industry generated USD 5.7 billion (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2018). However, as per spiritual research findings, only a small fraction of this music emitted positive vibrations. Concerningly, with the ubiquitous use of online digital media, the spread of music (that emits negative vibrations) is instant and can multiply by the viral effect.

Food and beverages

There is a saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ This is true at a physical, psychological and spiritual level.

With advances in medical sciences, the understanding of what constitutes a healthy diet (at a physical level) has gained prominence in recent times. However, for all the advances in medical sciences, the subtle aspects of diet (food and drink) are largely unknown.

Many experiments have been conducted by MAV to study the impact of various food groups and beverages on people. The following are some key findings :

  1. Regardless of their nutritional value, some food groups such as meat have been found to have significantly detrimental effects on a person’s aura which can last for many days.
  2. The manner in which animals are slaughtered can produce higher levels of negative vibrations that are retained in the meat until it is consumed.
  3. Vegetarian food and fruits have a much higher level of spiritual positivity as compared to meat.
  4. Raw food and vegetables can be spiritually affected by the land they are grown on.
  5. The aura of the cook also affects the spiritual vibrations of the final meal.
  6. Amongst the beverages that were analysed, Indian cow’s milk, buttermilk, coconut water and fruit juice were found to be more spiritually positive. Drinks like colas, wine and alcohol were found to be spiritually detrimental and increased the negativity in a person’s aura.
  7. Water which is a necessity for human life is affected by the subtle vibrations prevalent in the environment. The human race is instrumental in impacting the subtle vibrations in the environment.
  8. Up to now, from 15 different brands of mineral/bottled water that were tested for their subtle vibrations, it was found that all of them emitted negative vibrations.

Continuous ingestion of food and beverages that are Raja and Tama predominant invariably affect the human psyche and lastingly reduce the sattvikta of people and society at large. According to spiritual science, there are also karmic repercussions when one eats meat. What is most concerning is the scale of the issue, with over 90% of the world’s population consuming meat (Figus, 2015). This means that with every meal, the vast majority of humanity is likely to add to the negativity of their aura. The responsibility lies on both manufacturers and consumers of food to ensure that spiritually purer food and beverages are consumed, and that meat is eliminated from one’s diet.

4. Character and personality

The human race is instrumental in the production and consumption of all goods and services. An individual’s personality (whether Sattva or Tama predominant) will guide his behaviour, choices and actions both in terms of production and consumption. There is a spiritual principle that states, ‘like attracts like’. This means that people who are Tama predominant will gravitate towards Tama predominant practices.

This principle becomes even more pertinent in the case of leaders of organisations who (despite practising traditional CSR) due to their lack of spiritual understanding/ability will continue to make spiritually impure decisions which will adversely impact the people in their organisations and the end consumers at a spiritual level.
At the root of the incorrect attitudes of people are personality defects such as greed, selfishness, laziness, etc. along with a lack of spiritual practice. It is only by doing spiritual practice as per universal principles (SSRF, 2006) that one’s personality can change permanently for the better.

5. Indications of failures in the current system

One may wonder, do spiritually impure vibrations or negative auras really affect a person to such an extent ?

From a spiritual standpoint, every choice that is Tama predominant adds to the spiritual negativity of oneself and society. When Tama increases in society and the environment, it cascades into problems at various levels. Looking at the world around us is a testimony to the fact that the human race has brought life on earth to a nadir (all-time low). With the increase in rates of depression and mental health problems, corruption, conflicts, neglect of the environment, climate change, etc., it is evident that we as the human race are doing something wrong and we do not have the brakes to arrest this downward spiral.

In Janapadodhvansaniya Vimana of the Charaka Samhita, it is stated that when there is an increase in unrighteousness, the signs are reflected in a reduced quality of life, increased epidemics, a spate of natural disasters along with war and conflict leading to the annihilation of communities.

The research team has conducted over 25 such experiments similar to those given above where it was found that modern trends more often than not increased negativity. Ancient Indian traditions due to their spiritual basis were found to generate more spiritual positivity, thus positively influencing people and the environment.

A seminal study was conducted by MAV on the subtle properties of soil and water samples, which were collected from over 30 countries (which included developed and under-developed countries).

Type of subtle vibrations emitted from Soil and Water samples

Analysing close to 800 samples with the UTS, it was found that over 85% of the soil and water samples emitted negative vibrations. India, however, was the exception. It was the only country whose samples showed high levels of positivity (close to 70% of samples were positive).

Despite the various social issues plaguing India such as corruption, pollution and poverty, such a study shows that India is doing something right, that the rest of the world is not. The spiritual research team attributed this to the presence of highly evolved Saints who preserve the spiritual foundation of India. Many of the prevailing customs and traditions in India are steeped in this spiritual foundation and were actually devised to increase spiritual positivity and reduce negativity, so as to facilitate spiritual growth. In this regard, the world can learn much from the spiritual knowledge of India. It also shows how spiritual practices are a powerful and effective way to positively influence the environment.

6. Initial critical success factors to combine Spirituality and CSR

From the above examples, it becomes clear that while the current policies and thinking around CSR are an important step in the right direction, it is imperative that the spiritual well-being of consumers and society be taken into account.

The scale of the issue touches every discipline and is so vast that one may wonder how to start. The following include some of the things that need to happen for CSR to really add value to the overall well-being of society.

  1. To begin with people would need to be provided with some broad guidelines as to what is sattvik. One example of a guideline is – to make garments of lighter colours such as whites, light blues, light pinks, etc. as opposed to black, dark green, etc.
  2. There needs to be an overall education process that helps leaders of companies, industry influencers, educational institutions and consumers to understand this aspect and the repercussions of not including Spirituality in CSR.
  3. People need to practise Spirituality as per Universal principles. Regular spiritual practice increases the overall spiritual purity in a person and hence positively influences his choices and decisions.
  4. One outcome of spiritual growth is that one is able to perceive spiritual vibrations and thus can discern between products and services which are spiritually pure vs. spiritually impure.

7. Conclusion

In this paper, only a few industries and how they are detrimentally affecting society spiritually have been touched upon. However, the principle applies to any industry. Taking part in activities that are Raja-Tama predominant or developing products and services that emit Raja-Tama vibrations will inevitably increase the spiritual impurity in a consumer and society. Continuous exposure to Raja-Tama vibrations brings about degradation in a person’s character, and as a result, diminishes the fabric of society and spiritually pollutes the environment. It is essential that the world understands this concept and practises Spirituality, as the future of the world depends on it.

8. Bibliography

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Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic Management – A Stakeholder Approach. Pitman Publishing.

Grand View Research. (2019, June). Jewelry Market Size Worth $480.5 Billion By 2025 | CAGR: 8.1%. Retrieved from https://www.grandviewresearch.com: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-jewelry-market

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Passman, J. (2016, November 23). The World’s Most Relaxing Song. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanpassman/2016/11/23/the-worlds-most-relaxing-song/

Pricewaterhouse Coopers. (2018). The Live Music Industry Will Be Worth $31 Billion Worldwide by 2022. Retrieved from Digital Music News – PWC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023: https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/10/26/latest-live-music-revenue-31-billion-2022/

Shira, D. (2019, 08 22). Corporate Social Responsibility in India. Retrieved from India Briefing: https://www.india-briefing.com/news/corporate-social-responsibility-india-5511.html/

SSRF. (2006, January). Basic principles of spiritual practice. Retrieved from ssrf.org: https://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/spiritual-practice/spiritual-principles/6-basic-principles/

unido.org. (2019, 08 31). What is CSR ? Retrieved from United Nations Industrial Development Organisation: https://www.unido.org/our-focus/advancing-economic-competitiveness/competitive-trade-capacities-and-corporate-responsibility/corporate-social-responsibility-market-integration/what-csr

Winerma, L. (2017, Dec). By the numbers: Our stressed-out nation. Retrieved from American Psychological Association : https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/12/numbers

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