In the past 100 years, especially following the rise of scientific economic philosophies such as capitalism and communism, business is increasingly seen as a materialistic, corrupting and polluting evil force. To make money (enterprise) is bad, but to distribute it (charity) is good. The wealthy are continuously pitted against the ‘common man’ who was seen as essentially poor. Those with money are considered certified oppressors.
This assumption influenced Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and their socialist policies and even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, hence the great value placed on the simplicity, poverty and celibacy of its missionaries, the sangha pracharak, the most prominent of whom is our current prime minister, whose cavorting with the rich discomforts many in his own party who are suspicious of people with money. The Brahmin-educated bureaucracy shares this suspicion as they have watched from the side lines vaishya traders engage in crony capitalism with kshatriya politicians in the neo-caste order that has been emerging since later 20th century India.
Ironically, even the business communities of India such as the Jains, Marwaris and Gujarati Vaishnavs endorse this assumption that money is evil and make it a point to atone for the sin of business by being vegetarian and funding temple-building projects and making huge donations to gurus, who fast on their behalf. And saffron-robed gurus, who travel in fancy cars and oversee vast FMCG, healthcare, hospitality and spa empires, hide their shrewd consumer insight and insist they own nothing and that their luxury lifestyle is just the generosity of devotees. To admit they enjoy their hard-earned wealth would be career suicide.
For we are placing wealth-chasing Indras and wealth-clinging Brahmas on pedestals as our role models, not the wealth-attracting Vishnu who does not need wealth to validate himself.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.