Jaajali wanted to be recognized as the one Rishi with the most revered record of penance, devotion to the Lord and achievement in spiritual advancement. His many years of spiritual practice under most difficult circumstances had earned him a lot of respect in the comity of fellow Rishis. But he wanted to achieve even more. Being not satisfied with the progress made in the normal course of penances, he increased the rigor followed in his rituals. In his quest for spiritual advancement, he went to the ocean and stood in the middle of the sea waters for a considerable time and continued his penance. Not satisfied with this success, he went to a forest and stood still among the trees like another tree and continued his tapas. He controlled his hunger, thirst and resisted even his body's nature calls. He pursued the penance with a singleminded objective of achieving an unprecedented record in penance and tapas.
His standing still among the many trees like yet another tree was so successful that the birds in the forest took him for a real tree. A pair of little birds started living in the multiple braids of hair on his head. They made a nest on his head and eggs were laid in the nest. Jaajali continued to stand still fearing that his movement would disturb their living. In course of time, the eggs hatched and the little ones were nursed by the parents. The little ones gained strength and flew away from the nest. Jaajali continued to stay still and waited for several months looking for their return. He did not want to disappoint them when they came back in search of their nest.
The Law of Supply and Demand explains the relation between the supply, demand and the price of a item or commodity in the market. As the demand for an item increases, its price increases if the supply is constant or comes down. If the item is in high supply and the demand is low, prices come down. Ultimately an equilibrium will be reached and the market finds a price for the item. This is fine as long as all factors of supply and demand are on natural lines in the market. If intermediaries are able to influence flow on either supply side or demand side, prices fluctuate accordingly. There are even violent fluctuations in prices. Essential commodities are more susceptible to increase in prices when confronted with scarcity.
Today's market players are able to stock up the items and reduce supply side to make prices rise. Their financial strength enables them to hold on to the items till the prices reach the levels desired by them. By continuing to regulate the releases of items for sale in the market, these agencies or forces make huge profits to the detriment of the hapless consumers. Modren markets have introduced the concept of trading in derivatives. The price of pulses has now reached very high levels and trades hoarding these items are making a killing in the market.
Ethics in business is much talked about, but in reality it is the profits that really matter. Traders use all methods and resources at their command to make profits in the various markets they trade in. Definition of ethics also changes depending on who is talking about ethics! Efforts made by regulatory authorities is not yielding desired results. Prices continue to rise though inflation is said to be coming down. Economists confuse us by saying that prices are rising, but rate of rising of prices is indeed coming down. Little consolation indeed.
Rishi Jaajali stood still like a tree and waited for the little birds to return to their nest. The birds did not return even after several months. Jaajali then felt that his duty was over. He was now a satisfied man. He could stand like a tree for such a long time! That he was standing like a tree was confirmed by the birds nesting on the braids on his head and even giving life to their next generation. A sense of fulfillment overtook him. He felt that he had accomplished what he had aimed for. In that moment of ecstasy he loudly exclaimed about his achievement.
Birds flying above him in the forest heard his words. They came near him and laughingly told him, "Rishi Jaajali, do not feel arrogant about your achievement. Your achievement is insignificant in comparison to many others. If you are indeed interested in meeting a true achiever, go to the city of Kashi and meet Tulaadhara there. Then you will really know how people achieve greatness in different ways!"
Rishi Jaajali was so surprised by the utterance of the birds. Who is this Tulaadhara? What has he done to achieve greatness? What is the type of penance he has made? Has he done something more than me? What is the extent of his knowledge? How is it that even the birds know about it? Who can tell me all these details? These were the many questions in his mind. He decided to go to Kashi and learn the secrets directly from Tulaadhara himself. He was on his way to Kashi without any loss of time.
How much profit should a trader make? We often hear about farmers committing suicide due to failure of crops or not getting a decent price when there is a good crop. When the yield is low, farmer suffers due to lower income. When the yield is high, he suffers since the prices fall. Either way farmer suffers. But middlemen and agents make profit. Trader's selling price is fixed depending on his purchase price. Does he keep the same profit margin always? Or does he increase his margin when the item is in short supply? The pace of price rise is not the same as the pace of its coming down. In many cases, prices never come down to original levels even when the next bumper crop arrives. Traders thrive when there is short supply and they have already stocked the items. It is at such times that they can increase their profit margins. Profit margins are directly proportional to the jacked up demand and helplessness of the consumer.
There are also issues of adulteration and cheating in weight and measurements. Cheaper items or similar looking items, often harmful to the users, are mixed before selling the items with a view to make higher profits. Buyers regularly find that the quantity they receive is much less than what they should have actually got. Profits made from adulteration and cheating in weights and measures is undoubtedly unethical. Despite efforts by the administration to control these evils, they are still thriving. Often enforcing authorities are themselves hand in glove with the traders.
Rishi Jaajali reached Kashi and went to Tulaadhara's place after making enquiries. Tulaadhara was sitting in his shop, busy attending to his customers. Contrary to Jaajali's thoughts, he did not find any special features in Tulaadhara's appearance. He was not a scholar or Guru surrounded by seekers and learners. Tulaadhara saw Jaajali, smiled and welcomed him. "Please come Rishi Jaajali. I am blessed by your arrival at may shop. The birds in the forest must have sent you here. Please be seated for a few minutes. This is my business time. I have to attend to my customers now. I will talk to you as soon as I am done with my work", he said and returned to his work. Jaajali was flabbergast. How did he identify me? How did he know that the birds sent me here? Is not a Rishi and guest like me more important to him than his small customers? With many questions in his mind, he patiently waited for Tulaadhara to finish his business.
Tulaadhara turned to the Rishi after his work was done. He told Rishi Jaajali: "I know the questions in your mind. I am not a learned man and scholar like you. I am a simple man like all the traders and others here. I am carrying on the family business as a trader. Tula (The weighing scale) is the foundation of my business and my life. That is why I have been given the name "Tulaadhara" which means one who is living with its support. The weighing scale (Tula) looks after everyone equally. It does not differentiate between a learned man or a child. Whoever comes to my shop will get a fair treatment. I do not cheat in weight or measurement. I have to keep a profit margin on the items I trade in since I have to make a living. I take only such justified fixed margin on the items irrespective of what others do. There is no adulteration in the items I sell. Even if the item is scarce, I do not charge more to earn higher profits. I sell it at the same rate as long as the item is available in my shop. I am happy with this level of earning. During business hours I do not do anything else but attend to my customers. This is all I know. This is what I have followed all my life. I believe that carrying on my business honestly and ethically is the best penance in the world for me".
"What was wrong with my penance standing as a tree? Did I not help the birds? Does it not have any value?", asked Jaajali. Tulaadhara smiled. "Were there no other trees in the forest? Did the birds have no other place to nest? What was your goal? To do penance or nest the birds? In your eagerness to help the birds, you wandered away from your goal. How much did you think of the Lord in all those months? You were only thinking of the birds and forgot the Lord. You gave up the basic purpose of your penance. That answers all your questions. Do your duties honestly and diligently. That is what the Lord expects of all his subjects", Tulaadhara concluded.
There are many dimensions to "Business Ethics" in the modren world. It is much more complicated than what it was several centuries ago. Even then, this Jaajali-Tulaadhara episode detailed in Mahabharata answers many questions on business ethics issues confronting us today. Business ethics are not achieved by discussing them. They are achieved by diligently practicing them by all concerned.