Covid19 Survey – US vs India

Covid-19 virus has unleashed mayhem in the world, and it has caused many deaths. The pattern of deaths has, however, been uneven. As of the date of publishing (May 18, 2020), there have been 30 times more deaths from #Covid19 in the US (90,000 deaths) than in India (3,000 deaths), even though the US has only one-fourth the population of India. I was curious to find out why it was so.

We conducted a quick 5-minute survey with a simple One-big-question of rank-ordering 9 factors in terms of their importance in causing this huge differential in death rates in the US and India. The 9 factors were: Demography (older population in the US); Sickness (high chronic conditions in the US); Immunity (Indian soil; Yoga, pranayama etc); Culture (greater social cohesion and family support in India); Public Policy (how seriously each country mounted a unified approach); Resources (availability of medical equipment); Genetics (difference in two populations); Diet (more vegetarians in India); Measurement (less reliable data from India). There was a None-of-the above option too. In addition, we added two question on their expectations of the way forward. One was about how long it will take to come out of Covid19 situation into normalcy. And the other was about what might be the markers for returning to normalcy.

We did convenience sampling using social media contacts of the researcher who should be in a position to compare and express their perceptions. 66 respondents from US, India, and other countries, filled out survey. Of the 66 respondents 60% were resident in India, 29% in the US, and 11% in other countries. The respondents including 55% from the researcher’s own age cohort of 55-64 years, while 42% were younger. A couple of respondents were over 65 years. The respondents were 71% male and 29% female.

Here are the main results (see bar chart below). Demographics (Older population) in the US was perceived to be the major cause of higher deaths from Covid-19 in the US than in India. Public policy choices and higher rates of Chronic sickness in the US were also identified as the next important causes for higher deaths in the US compared with India. Higher levels of Immunity was ranked highest as the major reason for lower death rates in India. Culture, Diet and Genetics received only moderate support. Surprisingly, availability of resources was ranked as least important cause.

66 Respondents’ ranking of 9 factors to explain differential death rates in USA and India

Moving forward, half the people (48%) said that it will take 1-2 years to return to normalcy. 31% of respondents said it will take less than one year, while 21% said it will take more than 2 years (see pie-chart below). US residents were twice as likely as Indian residents to think that it might take 2 or more years. For return to normalcy, the preferred enablers were availability of a tried and tested vaccine and a tested cure for Covid19, in that order (see bar graph below). Declining death rates were a lesser important marker, while availability of resources such as PPE was considered the least important marker.

66 Respondents’ expectations of time frame for return to normalcy
66 Respondents’ ranking of factors for return to normalcy

Here below is some more granular analysis.

Age: Respondents in 55-64 years ranked Public policy and Measurement issues higher, while those in 35-44 age group ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) higher, as factors for explaining the differential death rates.

Gender: Male respondents ranked Demographics (aging population) and Measurement issues higher, while Female respondents prioritized Immunity, Diet, and Availability of resources.

Location: Respondents living in Rest of the World (11% of total) ranked Public policy choices and Measurement issues by a wider margin than those living within the US and India. Indian residents ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) as more important. US residents ranked Public policy and availability of Resources as more important issues.

Additional comments from Respondents: One respondent wrote that it may be taboo in the Indian culture to report Covid death from a social stigma perspective. One reported that there is greater resilience to pain in India. One reported that traditional Indian homes include a central space to grow Ayurvedic plants such as Tulsi. Some reported that the cause as well as cure for Covid19 were unclear and should be thoroughly investigated.

Summary: This survey shows that there are different perceptions of what has caused dramatically lower death rates reported in India compared to the US. Development of immunity is considered the best ameliorating factor. An effective public health policy could be another.

Lessons learned: Healthy holistic lifestyle including Yoga Sutras based practices such as asanas, pranayama, and meditation are among the best ways to a create a strong platform of immunity on which specific vaccines can work effectively! In fact, the development of a special vaccine for Covid-19 is essentially a way to increase immunity against this specific virus.

Covid-19 is a very important world-transforming, life-and-death matter. Please write to us as to what you think. If you wish, you may also take 5 minutes to fill out this survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CovidAKM . Thank you!

Being vs Doing

No matter what we do, there is always a feeling of exhaustion and boredom after some time. Whether we are talking or walking, eating or reading, there is an exhaustion of sense organs and physical limbs. The only thing that does not bring an exhaustion, but brings in new energy, is to just Be. What is Being, and how is it different from Doing?  

Being is to just Be what one truly is. We are pure consciousness. When we witness our Self, there is a great effortless feeling of lightness and joy. Freedom from boundaries of space-time releases us into a light, open unbounded space where all is one, and it feels invincible and awe-inspiring. This awareness of our unbounded self brings us closer to knowing the truly limitless nature of our capabilities – be it creativity, imagination, ideas, knowledge, energy, or anything else.

How does one just Be? It is by first understanding that to be is not to see our physical body or to even to see our mind or feelings. These can be paths to Become, but Being ultimately transcends all these manifestations of body and mind. There are many paths to Being. Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras provides an eight-limbed path to Be. One can begin to Be by following the behavioral principles of non-violence and truth. One can begin to Be using physical asanas or the breathing practices of pranayama. One can begin with withdrawing the sense organs inward through pratyahara. One can also turn ones attention totally inwards through dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The last three techniques are totally internal activities that are done b turning the attention inward, after the body and mind have been stilled. Just as one can see a clear reflection of unbounded sky in a clear lake, so also one can see our unbounded consciousness reflected within ourselves when the mind has been stilled.

Doing vs Being vs Having thus becomes a matter of politics of goals. There are many goals competing for our attention. Being joyful and healthy is usually an obvious primary goal. However, the goals of having superior means (such as wealth) tend to have their own charm. The goals of personal development (such as widening one’s knowledge and experience base) have their own charm. Thus, there is a plethora of goals in the relative domain. While those goals remain useful to the extent we are an embodied Being, we should also not ignore the fact that the body is good only to the extent it houses our Being, our Life force itself. It would be good just Be, at least some of the time!

Yoga Sutras is Positive Psychology

Yoga means union or addition. Positive means on the growing side of the number line. Positive is represented by the same + (plus) sign as is addition or union. It is not a coincidence. Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is indeed Positive Psychology.

Positivity works on the principle of optimism about the future, and one’s confidence to grow and face any challenges in being able to enjoy life. Optimism comes from the implicit realization that the rest of the universe is working to guide us in the direction of growth and joy. Optimism is like finding a home in the inner Being, which is pure consciousness. This pure awareness is the unified field of all the laws of nature, which guides us through the principle of least action to do less accomplish more. The concept of inner strength comes from this self-realization of self as an unbounded invincible being.

Positive Psychology is the science of well-being. Dr. Martin Feldman of University of Pennsylvania started this field in 1997 with a speech as the president of American Psychological Association. He presents a five-factor model for wellbeing–  in the acronym of PERMA. The five letters stand for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning & purpose, and Achievements. Further research on positive psychology found that Self-discipline and Grit are more important than IQ or talent for achieving success and happiness. They also found that gratitude, hope and love are the most correlated with well-being. The single best predictor of well-being is gratitude, by far.

Yoga Sutras provide an eight-limbed path for union with unbounded pure consciousness. The first limb is yama. The relative world can be thought of in terms of the rules that govern relationships between individuals. The Yama, the master administrator, uses those rules to govern and see who has done how much good and should receive how much happiness. The five yamas are Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-attachment), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possession). These five yamas structure the unity of natural laws to govern. The second limb of Yoga Sutras is niyama, or a set of rules for personal conduct. The five main niyamas are Shauch (cleanliness or purity), Santosh (contentment or satisfaction), Tapas (purification through strong effort), Swadhaya (self learning), and Ishawarpranidhan (bringing god into one’s awareness).

Yoga Sutras are a great path to developing the qualities for gratefulness and happiness. Gratitude directly maps to god-awareness, or appreciation for the gift of life. I wrote earlier on this blog that “what makes people most happy is to be present, to be here now! We are happy when we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing at the moment. Gratitude and Forgiveness are other habits that bring happiness.”   I believe that Positive Psychology is a secular version of Yoga Sutras.

Mind Without Fear – A Book Review

I finished listening to Mr. Rajat Gupta’s [photo credit: Wikipedia] memoir ‘Mind without Fear’ in just two sessions. It is a compelling story of the Mind and the Times of an exceptionally accomplished person. He had the good luck to be the right person in the right place to become first non (white) American managing director of McKinsey & Co, when the firm was ripe to go global. He was the wrong guy at the wrong time when he entered the financial markets with the wrong guy, and got the wrong overzealous prosecutor thus getting jailed for two years. He draws inspiration from his father who was an Indian Civil Services officer during the British rule but resigned Mahatma Gandhi’s call for freedom and was jailed and beaten mercilessly with permanent damage. He also draws inspiration from the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose beautiful poetry threads the book and gives it the title of Mind without Fear. He also draws solace from his strong family and the many friends who stood with him and believed his story. He however deeply regrets not taking the stand and testifying in his own trial, as he received overwhelming advice from his lawyers and his loving family that allowing the prosecutor to question him directly will be too risky. At the end of it all, he comes out of the ordeal with his head held high, without much bitterness for those who deserted him including the McKinsey firm who dismissed him summarily and took his name off their alumni list.

I believe Rajat Gupta’s story, as I have done over the years. He is a fellow IIT-Delhi alumnus ten years my senior. I met him at Pan-IIT meets in 2007 and 2009. He looked handsome and seemed very honest and a good listener. I do remember some of the stories of the next few years as the attorney Preet Bharara with political ambitions set his sights on a fellow successful Indian. There was a story in the Indian press about Preet Bharara and Dr Sanjay Gupta, whose moms knew each other from India, about whose son is doing better in the US. I recall a feeling of a certain revulsion at that approach to achieving success by beating down an iconic fellow Indian. Some of my well-meaning friends however felt at that time that greed and power had gotten the better of Rajat Gupta.

Rajat Gupta has done much good work including seting up Indian School of Business and starting the Public Health Foundation of India. He also started the Global Fund against three major diseases. These inspirational stories are laid out in great detail in the book. That alone makes the book worthy of attention. What the book does not tell is that none other than Narayana Murthy, the founder of Infosys, compared Rajat Gupta with the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru for having started two world class organizations in India. I also salute Rajat Gupta for his great work. May God grant him strength to continue his good work. He wants to work on the American penal system which he observed from the inside and found deeply lacking. He should also write a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, the book that he read during his incarceration and which helped him come out stronger, with malice towards none and with his head held high!

Conversations with God: Bernie, Biden, & Tulsi

Conversations with God: Bernie, Biden, & Tulsi

GOD: Welcome my children. You all want to be leaders of the free world. Tell me why.

Biden: I have given whole my life to this country. I have served Obama for 8 years. That is a BFD (Big uh …you know). I love the Clintons. I followed her on the Iraq war vote. I can finish her unfinished work. I can beat Trump. I have been accused of plagiarism, but that was long ago. I supported Clarence Thomas, though I should not have bought his malarkey and should have supported Anita Hill. Look, the black people are supporting me. I will be the next black president. @joebiden

Bernie: The current system is not working for the majority of the American people. We need universal health care, and free college. We need Green New Deal.  I am consistently social democratic. My campaign is fueled by ordinary people and their small contributions. There is a revolution brewing in this country. I can beat Trump by bringing young people into the campaign. @berniesanders

Tulsi: I am young, healthy, fit, woman of color, and represent the future. I am a veteran put service above self by volunteering for defense services for 16 years, and deploying twice in the middle east. I have been on the right committees related to war and foreign affairs in Congress for over 7 years. We need to stop the wars, and invest at home.  I had the foresight to not vote for impeaching Trump, as that only played into energizing his base. I am not afraid of Trump. @tulsigabbard

GOD: Excellent. Some of you are like Mt Rushmore, as you have been around for a very long time. Why should health and age of your body not be an issue for this campaign?

Biden: I am fit, and thin. I usually remember what I am saying.

Bernie: I had a heart attack. But I am fit again. I am keeping a strenuous pace.

Tulsi: (smiles) It is the age of ideas I am most concerned about. We should reinvest savings from wasteful foreign wars into this country.

GOD: Will you support the eventual nominee of your party?

Biden: That would be me.

Bernie: It is up to the American people.

Tulsi: I think so. I am in this campaign to raise the right issues. I supported Bernie four years ago, and resigned from DNC to protest their favoritism towards the Clintons.

GOD: What would you do about Coronavirus?

Biden: Huh ? Corona … what? Whatever it is we can bring it under control.

Biden: We need universal health care. No one should live under the fear of not being being able to get the care they need.

Tulsi: This is a test of leadership. We need to be proactive in testing for this and other potential conditions, and then preventing it from spreading.

GOD: You are all doing well. Have a good time on the campaign trail. Stay healthy. Wish you all the best!

 

Tulsi Gabbard visits Vedic City

Presidential hopeful Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (#tulsi2020 #tulsigabbard) visited and stayed a night in the utopian town of Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa, on the auspicious days of Navratri and Dusshera (Victory Day), for two blissful and successful campaign events. World Peace is around the corner!

Tulsi did a large town hall meeting on October 7th in downtown Fairfield. More than 150 people attended and showered their love on her. She covered a broad range of topics in her opening speech. The meeting went on for over two hours as the people were hungry for answers to their numerous questions. There was a lot of humor and joy in the room. A large number of libertarians who resonate with her world peace (or anti-war) message also were present. As always, there was a long line of people waiting to take a selfie with her after the event.

Tulsi townhall Oct 2019. jpg

Tulsi and her core team spent the night in our house in Maharishi Vedic City. We had the privilege of feeding them some delicious paneer tikka, and yogurt lassi made from heavenly organic non-homogenized healthy milk from the neighborhood Radiance Dairy. They enjoyed fresh organic vegetarian food brought from our Maharishi University’s Annapoorna cafeteria. They enjoyed walking around the Mandala (or subdivision) and marveled at the unique structure and design of Maharishi Vastu houses. The visitors reported a deep and blissful night’s sleep. Vastu community and its vibrant silence have been scientifically shown to lead to enhanced creativity and other health benefits.

1746 Joy ave

It was fun to see how some of Tulsi’s videographers (including her husband Abe) work on the day’s video footage to create a media capsule for posting on social media by their digital media team. Tulsi and team now travel in a new big Mercedes van, which is more like an RV, with a built in bedroom and restroom. Tulsi said this new vehicle makes a huge difference considering how much time they spend on the road.

The next morning of the Dusshera day (October 8th), Tulsi visited the Raj, the premier Ayurvedic spa next door from our house, as the location for her inaugural small group meeting in a new format called toffee-and-coffee. Tulsi’s mom Carol arguably makes the world’s best macadamia nut toffees. The home-made mom-made toffee is symbolic of the tiny bit of intimate sweetness that deepens the relationship between the candidate and her staunchest supporters. The attendees were volunteers who will stand by her and caucus for her during the Iowa caucuses in February. I had the privilege of formally welcoming and introducing Tulsi to the couple dozen assembled strong supporters at this event. I essentially said we are 200% with Tulsi, who is destined for the White House. Everyone was sitting in very comfortable chairs in the large and cosy dining hall of the Raj. Tulsi answered in a calm and equanimous tone all the deeper questions, including around the political process, that do not come up during normal town hall meetings. People were super impressed with her integrity and equanimity, and stayed back for long chats amongst themselves, as Tulsi moved on with her caravan to do four more campaign events in Iowa that day!

Tulsi coffee-toffee Oct 2019. jpg

One of my dearest friends calls Tulsi a strong campaigner with good ideas. She is a little behind in the polls, but I know that she can catch up. She is already touching 4% in Iowa, 6% in New Hampshire. She will be back on the debate stage on October 15th. She is speaking truth to power. The mainstream media cannot hold the truth back for too long. The blissful vibes of Vedic City will provide her the subtle support from nature in her great mission to restore the government of, by, and for the people!

 

What is Ultimate Reality and how do we know it

The ultimate reality is that there is no separate Me. We are It; or as Vedas say, Tat Tvam Asi (Thou Are That, the all-encompassing Totality)! How do we know that? We can begin with accepting it as a conjecture from the ancient scriptures, written by ancient seers and the numerous seekers that have come before us, when they say that Tat Tvam Asi or Aham Brahmasmi (I am Totality). We then verify this truth for ourselves by experiencing in our own subjective lives.

Why should we trust the cognitions of ancient seers? Why should we trust our fallible subjective experiences? Why should we trust an objective truth about our subjective selves? These are three primary ways of verifying truth claims, also called darshanas in Vedas. These are also very good questions. All logical chains must with some axiom(s).

We can start with the axiom that Consciousness is primary. Consciousness is simply conscious of itself. It is all-pervasive, like a quantum field of intelligence. It is matter and energy in an interchangeable manner. Consciousness is the unified field of all the laws of nature and all those laws can be experienced in one’s own subjective awareness. It is the knower, the known, and the process of knowing, all rolled into one. Thus ‘we’ can know ‘ourselves’ by ‘ourselves’. The way to know one’s self is by stilling one’s mind and refining one’s perceptual ability to directly see the subtler reality, just as one sees the depth and clarity of a lake when it is calm. Newton inductively discovered the laws of gravity within his own consciousness when his attention fell on the falling apples.

Subjective personal experiences are usually the most powerful ways of knowing at a personal level. This can be just as empirical and personal data based as the scientific method. If doing some action, such as waking up early or doing a certain meditation regularly, makes one feel healthy or blissful, one would want to do it again and again. One’s personal experiences can override the received wisdom as well as scientific research and develop into personally useful habits.

Scientific method also relies of an axiom, that of materialism, i.e. material reality is primary. There is no such thing as subjective consciousness except as an ephemeral emergent property of materials. Thus, scientific inquiry precludes the existence of any such thing as an independent self that has a body and a mind? The organizing logic is that of self-preservation. What is the self that is being preserved? There is no cogent scientific theory of life beyond physical existence. There is no realizing the self, only a process of actualizing the ‘hidden true potential of the self‘ without objectively defining that potential.

It is best when all three modes of knowing reinforce each other. It is good to read the scriptures, undergo scientific education, and then verify the received truths in one’s own experience.