Conflict Situation in “The Parable of the Sadhu”

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The Parable of Sadhu (McCoy, 1997) involves an ethical dilemma where the actors would have to make a choice between individual ethics and corporate ethics. The actors were part of group of people or travelers who would have to pass an 18,000-foot pass in order to reach a pilgrim village but on their way to the peak of their travel, they met a sadhu who was shivering and suffering from hypothermia. Not having a leader nor an organization guides them at least govern in their actions, each of these actors or travelers decided to just do what each can do to the sadhu without neglecting their goal in their travel.

This paper seeks to apply the three dimensions of the “tripod” someone, situation and self to characterize and analyze the situation of conflict confronted by Mr. McCoy and the other travelers during their trip as described in the article. By identifying the person of “McCoy” and other travelers for the self and “the sadhu” for the someone and the conflicting choices with the surrounding circumstances as the situation, this researcher asserts that making a hard decision is better than not having to make a decision at all and the effectiveness of the decision depends primarily on the accomplishment of the objectives or purposes set (Massie, 1987; Plunkett and Attner, 1985) and satisfies the ethical principle of utilitarianism.

Analysis and Discussion

Describe the conflict as viewed along each of the three dimensions of the “tripod”

The conflict as viewed along each of three dimensions of the ‘tripod’ include the dilemma as the situation that is then faced by the McCoy and other travelers, which represent the ‘self’, and the ‘someone’ which may refer to the sadhu. A choice must be made towards the someone in the situation where said sadhu appeared or situated to be in need of a help and the provision of such help and fulfillment the purpose of the journey for McCoy and for each of the travelers. Such differing needs and demands from the self and someone were creating a conflict between that of the self, the someone and the situation. The self could not just leave the someone or sadhu not doing anything since the former felt the need to help in a way not beyond self-imposed responsibility. The situation was part of the conflict because had the situation not required a sacrifice of some important matters under the circumstances, McCoy and the other travelers could have been more willing to view the situation just like how Stephen was looking at it or there could have been other options to settle the conflict or respond to the situation.

Using this framework once again, analyze the situation, and make a recommendation on what should have been done to resolve this conflict

This paper has analyzed the situation and recommends an action to resolve the conflict using the same framework. There is a need to look at the greater objective of the people why they are there in the first place and whether the objectives will change if conditions change. As argued by McCoy and Stephen have their own way of looking at things but attaining the purpose of the travelers would provide a guide in telling the self has attained its objective.

The parable admits that Stephen was a committed Christian with deep moral vision who felt that what happened with the sadhu was good example of the breakdown between individual ethics and the corporate ethic. Stephen explained that no one was willing to assume ultimate responsibility for the sadhu so that each was willing to do his just so long as it was too inconvenient (McCoy, 1997). He noticed that when it got to a ‘brother’, everyone just passed the buck to someone else and took off. He just argued that Jesus was relevant to a more individualistic stage of society in a world filled with large, impersonal organizations and groups. It is clear that Stephen was looking at it from Christian philosophy’s point of view (McCoy, 1997). Although there are strong reasons to take the side of sadhu, what happened or what was done to sadhu can appear to have attained the purpose of the self in making the trip to the Himalayas. Thus, McCoy defended the decision made that would sound too reasonable for the larger group. He asserted that all of them (the travelers) cared about the sadhu and that each gave aid and comfort and everyone did his or her part. Those from New Zealand carried the man down below the snow line, while McCoy took his pulse and suggested treating him for hyperthermia while Stephen and Swiss gave him clothing and got him warmed up while the Japanese gave him food and water. The guides carried him down to the sun and pointed out the easy trail toward the hut until the sadhu was well enough to throw the rocks at a dog. Given such things that were already done, McCoy was asking Stephen what more could they do to the sadhu. Stephen replied by explaining that such was a typical Western response to a problem which is throwing money as represented by food and sweaters, but not solving the fundamentals (McCoy, 1997).

McCoy (1997) asked what would satisfy Stephen given the that a group of different nationalities had never meet before but was able to do something to a stranger while these people were at the apex of the most powerful experience of their lives. It was such a rare opportunity to experience the thing given that there were times that the pass was so bad sometimes that no one was able to have the experience that was given them at that point in time. He questioned the right of the almost naked pilgrim who he contended to have chosen the wrong trail have to disrupt the lives of the travelers. He even mentioned the fact that their guides had no interest in risking the trio to help the sadhu beyond a certain point. He was of course strengthening his utilitarian theory as basis or justification for what he and the travelers had done (McCoy, 1997).

But since Stephen has a different framework on how should thing had been done posed a hypothetical question by knowing what would have been the response if the sadhu was a well-dressed Asian or western woman. This of course prompted McCoy to ask where is the limit of man’s responsibility in a situation when people had their own well-being to worry about. He mentioned the fact that no one was willing to commit himself beyond certain self-imposed limits (McCoy, 1997). Of course Stephen still tried to defend his framework that could only add more possibilities in approximating his Christian ethics.

As far as this researcher is concerned, the self-representing the position taken McCoy has actually resolved the conflict by having completed the trip in the Himalayas and still left the Sadhu in a better situation than when sadhu was initially found because they had still attained the good of greater number of decision-makers.

Briefly discuss two lessons from this article that can be applied to business situations

One lesson that could be learned is the capacity to make a hard choice in certain choices, so that there is really no perfect decision that will entail no disadvantages at all. Such is the thing to do in ethical dilemma as to what was done by the different travelers from different nationalities in the given situation. In the case of sadhu, different nationalities had to decide how much sacrifice to themselves for them to make to take to a stranger like the sadhu whom they just presumed to be in need of help. Given the circumstance of travel in the Himalayas, they needed to make a group decision, not an individual one.

Another lesson is that there are different approaches to a problem. McCoy may not just be considered bad just because he was not acting what Stephen wanted to happen since the two persons were approaching the problem using two ethical principles. Stephen felt that he had to do everything he could to save the sadhu’s life, in accordance with his Christian ethics of compassion while McCoy had a utilitarian response by doing the greatest good for the greatest number. That prompted Stephen to state that they could have done a different thing but McCoy responded by asking the limit of one’s responsibility in such situation. The fact that that many of the travelers were able to minimize the sadhu’s exposure to more problems while at the same time making it possible to fulfill the objectives of each of the parties in the travel, the same may still be considered good or not bad given the choices that they would have to make.


It can be concluded that making a choice is difficult and it is better than not making a decision at all. This difficulty lies in knowing the consequences of each option. But since decision will just have to be made, there was only one way of doing make the hard choice with the assurance the consequences would be most preferred outcome among competing results of the options the effectiveness of the decision depends primarily on the accomplishment of the objectives or purposes of the travelers. Since different groups of persons may view things differently, it is important that a decision will use a framework from which the decision will have to be made for purpose of meeting the objective or purpose.

How people act in response to that question tells the kind of people (Schaefer, 2002). Whether these people acted ethically or not depends on the ethical theory applied. As far as the self-representing McCoy and other travelers are concerned, their people are still ethical from a utilitarian point of view since the greatest good was attained for the greatest number of people. Choosing an ethical option that would meet an objective is akin to choosing strategy that would meet business objectives that would ensure meeting one’s mission and vision (Pearce II and Robinson, Jr., 2004).


  1. Massie, J. (1987) Essentials of Management, Prentice-Hall International (UK), London
  2. McCoy (1997). The Parable of Sadhu. Harvard Business Review
  3. Pearce II, J._ and Robinson, Jr. R. (2004), Strategic Management (Ninth Edition). London: McGraw-Hill, London
  4. Plunkett and Attner (1985). Introduction to Management. Boston: PWS-Kent Publishing Company
  5. Schaefer, Richard (2002). Sociology: A brief Introduction. London: McGraw-Hill

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