Social Responsibilities of Public Administrators By Swami Ranganathananda


Based on a speech delivered by Swami Ranganathananda at the Indian Institute of Public Administration New Delhi in 1977

happiness and welfare of the people in a state depends upon the type of
administration they get and on the quality of administrators.

We have achieved political
freedom. But, we have a vast un-developed population to whom not even
elementary level of existence is available. What does this freedom mean
to all these people who do not have basic necessities of life? This
question should stimulate not only administrators, all organs of state
legislature, executive and judiciary, but all sections of our citizen.

Being and Function

administrator is primarily a citizen of India and he should always be
aware of what it means. Some of the mature citizens, who choose to be
and are called upon to become, become our administrators for some years
of their life. This means that they are essentially citizens of free
India called upon to perform particular function in service of our
nation. Hence, Citizenship constitutes our primary being and what do we
do as administrators merely constitutes the function that we discharge,
deriving inspiration from that being. Hence, we should not treat
ourselves merely as functionary, for we will become defunct without any
dimension, reduced to nothing when we retire or cease to perform
function otherwise. “If one centers around being and pours his/her being
into his/her functions, those functions become enhanced and glorified
with the energy and grace of that fullness of being ; he / she continues
to be full even when one ceases to be functionary.” This is fruit of a
profound philosophy of man which we have in our own Vedanta.

The fullness of being of every
one of us consists primarily as our inalienable status as Citizens of
free India: all other functions performed by us are terminable and are
like ‘zeros’ which get their value from the figure before them. It is by
this awareness of basic being that one becomes a focus of intrinsic
worth and dignity; and by thinking merely in terms of one’s functions,
one tends to reduce oneself more and more to the status of ‘Zero’.

Hence, we should be aware of our
primary being and allow that being to flow into and fill all our
functions; such function will, thus, achieve new and significant new
quanta of energy and grace.

We should find a motive that can
enliven and energize our administration for its effective functioning
and for being development oriented. A functionary need not be
bureaucrat, static and wooden while working as a bureaucrat. A
bureaucrat is wooden and static because he has no imagination and is
only guided by rules and manuals, and can not respond to the human
situation and urges.

A dynamic tradition inspired of
the national urges and patriotic motivation can make a functionary
responsive to human urges and aspirations. A functionary attitude makes
one a mere careerist and job seeker, making him defunct even while

Bureaucracy: Static vs Dynamic

difference in above two is of attitude. Static bureaucrat reflects low
and poor state of man, as a mere functionary who draws from his
functions to enrich his inner being which is otherwise empty. Such state
of mind is prone to succumbing to corruption.

The dynamic bureaucrat
represents a man inwardly rich in his being, in his strength of
citizenship awareness and patriotic impulse and pouring out that
richness into his function. This attitude fosters the spirit of service
and retains much innate strength to resist and overcome corrupting

A change of attitude can produce
tremendous results. An attitude can be controlled, manipulated and can
be made to grow. It can enrich both, one’s being and function. It can
make one alive, vibrant, responsive and responsible.

We cannot but admire people who
are moved by ideas and visions and who respond to human situations. It
is they, who become great administrators, with imagination as their
greatest asset. “Imagination’ is a remarkable value, making person
dynamic and giving purpose to his life.”

Even after achieving freedom
after long struggle, being ruled by sterile bureaucracy is a serious
tragedy which has taken away poetry of life and ecstasy of freedom and
has converted administration into prosaic business of seeking money,
power and pleasure. It has brought in its wake social evils like
corruption, various malpractices and unconcern for common man and his

We can transform the
administration and society with dynamic functioning of bureaucracy where
actions are surcharged with vision, energy, joy and enthusiasm for
human growth and development, giving meaning and significance to all the

Social life and administration
should be conducted with spirit of service as a constant feature of one
personality which expresses itself in inter-human relationship with
spontaneous “What can do for you? How can I help you?”attitude.

When this learning is
internationalized that person has achieved profound education and has
achieved first stages of his spiritual growth “atma vikasa”.

Human Efficiency

our greatest Upanisad, in importance and size, Brahadaranyaka Upanisad
comes Chandogya Upanisad. They are about 3000-4000 years old. Chandogya
Upanishad answers the above question in most inspiring and profound way.

“Yadeva Vidyaya Karoti,

Sraddhya Upanisada,

Tadeva Viryavattaram Bhavati”

It means that: First is to
acquire Vidya (knowledge / know-how). But, it is not enough. Second is
Sraddha, faith in the great urges and longings of the man in front of
me, faith in the work I am called upon to fulfill those urges and faith
in myself, in my capacity to rise to the occasion. But even this is not
enough. Third is Upanisad, deep thinking and contemplation. Actions done
with these three energies become Viryavattaram, more and more

Limitations of technical knowhow

times, a person with “Vidya / know- how / adequate knowledge / high
degree and top marks does not show the energy and efficiency to make for
a dynamic and dedicated administrations. Why? Because, mere knowledge
is static, it has no motivation. Motivation comes from emotions and
sentiments, patriotism and national dedication which stimulate knowledge
to develop into human purposes, character excellence and dynamics.

There is an urgent need for
complete transformation in static politics and administrative
functioning in a dynamic national milieu, as millions of people are fast
awakening to their rights and dignity and are becoming focus of
tremendous energies born of aspirations and desires for better life. The
nation has to rise to the occasion to satisfy them and fulfill them.
That is the role of administration in a democratic state which seeks to
develop into a welfare state.

Need for Sraddha

or faith is a precious value which is a stimulating force behind all
human greatness in the field of physical science, the science of
spirituality and social life.

A new India is taking shape all
around us in the modern times. Our spiritual teachers welcome this
change on human horizon. Swami Vivekananda visualized common man finding
his own identity and dignity in modern period after being submerged in
collectivity of class, caste etc for centuries, psychically asleep,
inert, without any inner tension arising from desire, ambition and hope,
ever resigned to accept any socio- political situation, and foreign
conqueror or native oppressor to rule over them and exploit them.

In modern times people are
getting education. He wants to grow, dissatisfied to remain victim of
circumstances. He is focus of true human energy, awakened, self
conscious, hope stirred with better future beckoning him. This human
energy is required to be canalized with constructive national purpose.
For this energy of imagination (human and patriotic emotions) has to be
yoked to the energy of knowledge (our education) to galvanize the
activity of our administration. Only such man-making process will give
nation batches and batches of dynamic trained minds endowed with
imaginative sympathy for common people and impersonal loyalty to our
free State and constitution instead of the current mass production of
self centered and static stuffed brains. Be man yourself and help others
to be men of individuality, human worth and dignity. This is true
politics, this is true religion.

‘Imaginative sympathy’ is
required to make our administrators responsive and efficient. Files in
secretariats move very slowly. Why? It is only dynamism and energy of
the man handling the file who can make it move faster.

Need of Upanisad

luminous attitude presented by Swami Vivekanand that the work that I do
as an administrator or professional or housewife or student has got a
tremendous human and national reference. I am instrument of serving a
great human purpose has immense energy man-ward direction imparted by
‘Sraddha’ and ‘Upanisad’ to ‘Vidya’ that transform mere static opinion
into dynamic lived convictions.

Why our education so stagnant?
Because, our teachers are not awakened to the truth of their high
status. Hence, they behave merely as performers of paid function as
job-seekers and job-holders. A sense of mission and atma-sraddha flowing
from it is lacking in their lives and in functions they perform. If
only a teacher could think of what am I here for? They would realize the
blessed privilege they have in being instrument of imparting light and
life to the millions of children with their wealth of knowledge and
inspiration. They have the capacity to address the mounting human urges
and aspirations of the nation. This profound truth and conviction can
transform a teacher into dynamic person whose each instruction will
inspire and elevate millions of students. This is art of nation building
and is relevant for all administrators, workers and professionals to
think/contemplate/meditate and work with luminous attitude.

Buddhi Yoga

The Gita defines buddhi-yoga as “Endowed with buddhi, O Arjuna, a man can destroy all bondage arising from work”.

After finding job for leading a
full life, every person must focus on the aspirations urges of the
citizens of the nation with expansive luminous attitude as stressed in
Gita in its philosophy of work, so that work may achieve double
efficiency – social productivity externally and spiritual enlightenment
internally. Your work should bring blessing to other people – your
galvanic touch should brighten other lives. It should be the main over
riding purpose of your occupying a position of authority and power. As
per Gita, this state of raja and rsi in one is that of yogi;

Even a bit of this buddhi-yoga
can make a administrator more and more dynamic and enable our nation to
catch up with mountainous human problems day by day – thus becoming a
welfare state.

Money Motivation

thinkers say that money motivation viz. higher salary, wages, perks
etc. provide motivation for higher performance at early stages. For
higher motivation, a fulfillment comes from stirring of inner depth of
human spirit – a realization of having the proud privilege of being
chosen to shoulder the national responsibility – this is beyond mere
money or personal motivation, it is profound spiritual and human

The sense of pride, honour,
duty, punctuality, social responsibility human responsiveness, attitude
of helpfulness to others – is the hall mark of disciplined social
functionary working with human excellence.

We must think ourselves beyond
being ‘in India’ to “of India” and “for India” – this attitude will
bring dynamism in administration.

The most intelligent men are not
necessarily the most efficient, the most virtuous or most humane in any
society. The whole personality is not covered by it. Other parameters
are also necessary and, most essentially, that humanistic impulse which
alone can give a human response to human situations. Such person even
with less I.Q. can do wonders. So creative intelligence does not lie
merely with I.Q. Creativity comes from imagination.

Imaginative Sympathy

is a quality that nature has blessed the human being with. It is not
present in pre-human stages – not even in chimpanzees. Imagination is
image making capacity in mind, capacity for reasoning, judging, speech,
communication that makes human dominant species in nature.

All creativity is controlled in
imagination. Since administration is science and art of human
management, with a view to securing human development, the administrator
needs to be gifted with this precious value of imaginative sympathy
over and above intelligence.

With imaginative sympathy, an
administrator while being in his office/desk can imaginatively
experience the actual human problems and realize that his decision can
impact thousands of people. This will make him respond to human
situations with responsibility and efficiency tearing down the
unnecessary, red tapes on the way.

The quality of administration
depends upon the administrator behind it. When the feeling of human
concern breaks down all genetic barriers – the individual spiritually
grows into person. All efficient administrators are persons and not mere
individuals. In such a personality, there is great reserve of energy
and power along with imagination, making for the human touch and for
that calm, silent and steady work which is one of the important test of

In contrast, the individuals are noisy, fussy, jerky, ostentatious and inefficient.

Psycho-social evolution

growth is beyond physical and intellectual growth and most crucial from
the point of view of human fulfillment and for happy and fruitful
inter-human relationships.

Gita says – “Svalpamapsya
dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat” – “Even a little of this philosophy can
save man from great fear”. Hence, Sri Krishna exhorted in Gita ‘tasmat
yogi bhavarjuna – “therefore, be a yogi, O Arjuna’.

The yoga of Gita is not a
religion in narrow sense of creed, ritual and piety. It is a
comprehensive philosophy of human growth, development, fulfillment – in
which all creeds, rituals, piety, prayer, meditation, work and labour
find place.

One half of humanity in India
suffers from arrested spiritual development and another half suffers
from arrested material development.

If our administration at all
levels can capture imaginative sympathy and service attitude , a great
blessing will follow for the good of our nation, increasing pace of
social and economic development, bringing more happiness and welfare of
our people; endowing great character strength to administrators.

Philosophy of human excellence

is beautiful vision of human excellence as taught by Gita through three
definitions viz. yoga is equanimity. Yoga is efficiency, dexterity in
action. The disconnection with all connection to pain is yoga.

Swami Vivekanand gave a clarion
call, a challenge and blessing for profound inner transformation, a
spiritual growth through love and service of man.

It means ‘Therefore, be a yogi O
Arjuna’. So be a yogi all administrators. By being a yogi, your
exterior, salary and wages do not change, but your inner being stands
transformed with fullness; and that fullness of being will be poured out
into the functions you perform for the state and the society, by which
they become endowed with efficiency and a human touch. This is the root
and fruit of buddhi-yoga of Gita. Yoga combines the role of raja (king)
and rsi (sage) i.e. the person who achieves their spiritual growth in
the context of their responsibilities of ruling and administering.

Vedanta identified three types
of Bala (strengths) – Bahu-bala i.e. strength of hand, muscle or
machine; Mano-bala i.e. strength of mind on intellect; Yoga-bala –
energy of spirituality which is source of character-energy and
dedication-energy which alone can transform the first two strengths to
human purpose. Our country needs yoga-bali’s in all spheres of
professions/administrations/enterprises so that they could become
effective instruments of national and human purpose. Yoga-bala enables
man to grow beyond his organic limitations and expand in love, sympathy
and compassion – into infinite ‘Atman’. It enables the yogi to work
efficiently for good of society outwardly and also advance spiritually

Philanthropy and Philosophy

deserves to become the main text book of philosophy of administration,
by which alone our different departmental rules and manuals of
administration become illuminated and energized. Gita is relevant for
administration, management and statesmanship to raise these to high
ethical and humanistic levels.

‘Work done with selfish desires,
is verily, far inferior, O Arjuna, to that performed (in the light of)
buddhi-yoga (yoga of enlightened reasons) ; krpanas (small minded) are
they who work with the motive of selfish result.’

There is profound English saying
‘Great movements or causes and little minds ill go together’. When
great men are entrusted with even small work, they raise that work also
to greatness. Similarly small men reduce great work to small dimensions.

Let’s strive to provide that
greatness to our position. Pour that greatness of being into the
functions we are called upon to perform in the service of society. Such
men always express the unique excellence of manliness.

Three ‘P’s

of being engrossed in thoughts and discussion about ‘pay’, ‘prospect’
and ‘promotion’, we should be touched by the inspiration of higher
national vision and ideology and strive hard to bring light and life to
the millions of our people sunk in poverty, ignorance and exploitation –
be guided by that motivation energy resource.

Kalidasa describes in
Raghuvansam the welfare state achieved by the kings of Raghu dynasty to
which belonged Sri Rama “It was only for the prosperity and welfare of
the people that he (the king) took taxes from them, just like sun
drawing moisture (from the earth) to give it back in thousand fold
measure (as beneficial rain).” How is developmental and welfare
administration able to do that. Men with energy and vision bring more
and more out of money than men without it. High level of social welfare
in a community reflects high level of ethical awareness, human concern
and practical efficiency among its members. With the energy of yoga and
imaginative sympathy and consciousness that they are called upon to
perform tremendous national function and mission, good administrators
are able to perform this miracle.

The philosophy of administration
varies with the values upheld by people. It will be different in
materialistic state, feudal setting, in totalitarian milieu, democratic
state and where primary of values are spiritual. More-than-ordinary
philosophy is necessary to light the path of life and work of a man of
social responsibility. Vedanta provides vision, range and scope to such
philosophy in Buddhi Yoga of Gita.

The Rajarsi

is a person who at once is both Raja (king) and rsi (sage). Raja is a
person who is eminent in responsibility. In broader sense father,
mother, teacher, every citizen is raja in their own capacity. In special
sense, industrial magnates, administrators, ministers are raja’s, for
on them depends the happiness and welfare of thousands. They should be
guided by more-than-ordinary philosophy which reveals the heroism of

This combination of a raja and a
rsi in an administrator is synthesis of heroism of manliness and
heroism of saintliness as desired by Gita for all people generally and
politicians and administrators particularly. When one combines power
with social responsibility and both with energy arising from character,
clear thinking, dedication, and practical efficiency, one effects in
oneself, in varying degrees this unique synthesis of Rajarsi.

The administrators need to
combine the energy of vision with energy of action to lead people to all
round greatness. This philosophy combines true politics with true
religion which is search for power, with a view to service the mankind.
Here, the first stage is character development through service and
dedication. Hence, manlihood is to be achieved before seeking

Swami Ranganathananda (1908-2005) was a
monk of the Ramakrishna Math order. He served as the 13th president of
the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. In 1986 he was awarded the first
Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration.

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