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Anti-Corruption Teachings from World Religions: The Hindu Scriptures

By 16th Jan 2022Feb 2nd, 2023No Comments

World Religion Day sees the launch of an occasional Ethicalways series that aims to identify the key anti-corruption messages from the world’s religions.

In our work with diverse groups in organisations, we are always struck by the extent to which delegates from different backgrounds hold shared values when it comes to ethics and corruption. We take the view that understanding the origin of this strong similarity, regardless of religion, nationality, race and socio-economic status amongst other factors, can help us craft ethics and anti-corruption awareness messaging that has wide-spread resonance and positive impact.

We have found invaluable insights into the origins of these similarities from fields such as neuroscience, cognitive science and social anthropology. Observing the ease with which workshop delegates, regardless of religious background, achieve a shared, values-based vision of the need to combat corruption, we became interested in researching the specific teachings on corruption in the scriptures of the world’s religions.  In this series we hope to share what we have learned with others working to promote anti-corruption awareness.

Deciding to start my research with a religion that seemed most different to that in which I was raised, I reached out to followers of the Hindu faith as a first step. Through these enquiries I was directed to an outstanding, easy to read resource that articulates the Hindu position on corruption clearly. Interestingly, it’s a publication developed as part of a recent collaboration between Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the religious community in this East African country, including the Hindu Council of Kenya.  Before I introduce you to it, here’s what I have come to understand from my reading:

  • The need to live a life of integrity is the central theme of the foremost sources of teaching on Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita, considered the most sacred of the Hindu scriptures, sets out how we should go about making daily choices between good and evil – a discipline that is essential if we wish to live a peaceful life that is progressively closer to God.
  • These scriptures are unequivocal in their rejection of corruption, including bribery. No need to ‘read between the lines’ or struggle to find an anti-corruption message, this is explicit and repeated in direct teachings – while being well illustrated by vivid tales of those who have succumbed to or risen above temptation.
  • Acts of wrongdoing are in the main understood as being the consequence of selfish desires that the wrongdoer has not been able to conquer. The overriding lesson is of the need for each of us to lead a good life by controlling our minds. Rather than be overcome by the allure of comforts, wealth, luxury and power, we must each learn to control such impulses.
  • However advanced we are on our spiritual journey and our commitment to a life of integrity, we are all vulnerable throughout our lives to the temptation of corruption.
  • When we fulfill our duties in a manner that is consistent with the Hindu teachings we will be rewarded, but we must never seek illegitimate, personal reward through our efforts. One of the key texts states that those who take unlawful gifts will go to hell.
  • Aparigraha, the non-acceptance of bribes, is one of the five great universal vows propounded by the Ancient Indian sage Patanjali (died 150 BCE).
  • The consequences of our actions will determine our happiness, not only in this life but in our future lives. They will not only affect us, but our children and their children.
  • When we tolerate great wealth disparities in our society, we are abusing the value of tolerance and allowing corruption to persist.

I hope to have done some justice to the inspiring learning journey that was my research into the Hindu teachings on corruption, and to have interested you similarly. If so, and if you read nothing else, please take a look at the online booklet, Hinduism Against Corruption. Developed on behalf of the Hindu Council of Kenya as their contribution to a collaboration between the various religions and the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission, you cannot imagine an easier way to learn about the subject.

Written by Penny Milner-Smyth | Director, Ethicalways (

Have we got anything wrong?

If in your opinion we have inadvertently misrepresented the teachings of Hinduism please let us know in the comments or by email to so that we can update our article.

Help us share anti-corruption lessons from your religion

Can you recommend or share a resource that sets out your religion’s position on corruption? We’d love to hear from you! Send your contributions, which must include references that enable us to access the resource for verification purposes, to In future editions we hope to do justice to the anti-corruption positions of as many religions as possible.

Need content for your ongoing workplace ethics and anti-corruption awareness campaign?

Keeping the importance of integrity, ethics and compliance top of mind in the workplace requires on an ongoing, campaign approach. Ethicalways provides prepared content aligned with international awareness days that you can distribute widely in your organisation. Move beyond the ‘one and done’ approach to ethics and anti-corruption training with our cost-effective approach. Monthly resource packs include pre-drafted email awareness content, poster and infographic content and related resources that achieve high impact for low effort. Contact Ethicalways Project Manager Leanne Logan,, for more information.

For all your workplace ethics and anti-corruption training and advisory needs contact Ethicalways. If you want to use your influence as an employer to promote anti-corruption awareness, you will want to learn more about ‘Don’t Feed the Octopus’, our impactful video-based anti-corruption eLearning programme, available in English, as well as with French or Portuguese sub-titles.


Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission, 2019, Hinduism against Corruption,, accessed January 2022

Penny Milner-Smyth

Author Penny Milner-Smyth

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