Social Business for a Post-Covid Compassionate World

Nobel Peace laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank) delivered a beautiful bold talk this morning to the International Humanistic Management Association. Here is the link to the video, https://youtu.be/WFwK8bzIKW0 … and a summary of my notes.

The global economic machine is broken. Coronavirus has done us a favor. We should create a bank for rural entrepreneurs. Call it emerging, or potential sector instead of an informal sector. Young people should not have to go to cities and face harassment. Rural economy should not be a footnote to the urban economy. These are social businesses. More than 50% of people work in the informal sector. Urban economy consumes rural labor and makes money for themselves. Rural economy should not become a footnote to urban economy. Distance has become unimportant. The business idea has become important. We don’t want to go back to the old economy. We want to go forward and design a new world.

This is a crisis, but also a great opportunity to create global social businesses for coronavirus solutions. Globalization has deepened. e.g. the same virus impacts everyone. The narrow view is about how to make money. There are only a few companies who own a chunk of medicine business. The medicine solution should be for the benefit of the people, not to make a profit.

Rural areas don’t need to wait for urban buyers. We will process our produce here. We are not at the mercy of the urban buyers. We will deal on equal terms. Governments have not done much for the informal sector. Bangladesh has Ministry of Labor at all levels of the government. We will create our own chambers of commerce. Rural social businesses have full rights.

Academics have had a big role in creating this misery. We have contaminated the young minds with wrong ideas about a selfish world. There are social businesses that are not motivated by private interest but by common interest. We have to take care of the future of the world and our children and grandchildren. Social businesses can be in rural areas as well as urban areas.

How to get the economic machine to come out of coma, and put it to good use? We are pouring trillions of dollars into the machine, so the money is there. We should not pour into the fossil fuel industry. We should move into a new world. Scaling up is not a problem because the money is there. Invest in the companies that are solving the problem. Anyone who can help lead to this new world will win Nobel Prizes. Business education should not be only to make money for others. That is the conventional MBA for a soldier (general, gladiators) to make money for corporations. The alternative is the social MBA. Its purpose is to solve social problems of the world in the fastest way. How to inspire people to do that. This is a good time to start a social MBA program.

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!

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!

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Increasing self-awareness

Do I know the context around me, the neighborhood and the neighbors, the friends and family, now and over the many decades of my life? The answer is that I hardly know things and people around me. I barely know my own full reactions to most of the situations I found myself in. I have a few pet theories of who I am, and who were responsible for guiding me. These are super simplifications that do not help come up with productive and promising ideas for the future. I think it is important now to know all or more around me.

What does it mean to know a person? How does one define a person? By their accomplishments or their goals, by their friends, or by how they carry themselves? We can seek out and learn about their interests. And accept whatever they are, positive or negative. It can take a long time to know people.

What does it mean to know a neighborhood or a situation? The neighborhood is about its support for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Safety. Limited regulations. Liveliness of activity. Plenty of wealth around. The situation would depend upon its difficulty and its impact on oneself, and how much one can do about it.

I think it is important to retain a sense of personal agency about oneself and the situations one finds oneself in. It is helpful to stop obsessing about one’s own interests and goals and accomplishments. The world is deeply interconnected and there is hardly anything one can accomplish without support from and alignment with the context around oneself.

 

#MeToo for a Blissful, Peaceful World

The #MeToo movement is going global. It is creating new conversations that are somewhat discomforting, but which can be opportunities for discussing the undiscussable and raising the collective consciousness of the world. Recently a classmate of mine who is a professor in a university in the US found the courage to share in a public group, during an ongoing charged conversation on sexual insensitivity and harassment, that she had been a victim of sexual abuse/assault. This revelation could have polarized the group, but the group decided to pursue it to its logical end. But very soon the intensity of the topic died down. The topic is still the phantom 800 lb gorilla in our WhatsApp group and is impacting the language being used in the conversations. It is also making some men in the group uncomfortable as they are having to watch their every word. What is the point of the conversation, they ask. They just want to be themselves. However, they will necessarily have to change their tonality moving forward because status quo is not acceptable any more, and having friendly conversations with longtime classmate buddies is just too pleasurable to give up.

Sexual abuse and assault and harassment are just one of the categories of buried injustices in the world. Racial profiling and injustice in the US, and caste-based exploitation and injustice in India, are a couple of other prominent examples. This buried injustice and anger is finding its way out through social media. These eruptions threaten to rip apart all societies and their cherished models of control, just like it brought about Arab Spring. In some ways, just getting heard is highly cathartic for the individual and the society. Free from this heavy emotional baggage, hitherto disadvantaged people can have the opportunity to purify their perceptions. They will find bliss within. They will become the peace they want to see in the world. And the world will be blissful and peaceful!

Transcendence in Life and Society

In some ways, transcendence is the recovery of the primal innocence we were all born with. We all emanated from some womb, through a similar process. Then we gathered the elements which bulked up our body. We gathered sensations that grew our mind. Then we began to develop our bodies and minds … making them sharp, beautiful, strong. We fell in love with these growing things, and we began to totally identify with our body and mind. We forgot our own selves, the little seed of awareness within. We began to worry about the potential loss of the body and the mind. We frantically began to covet resources of all kinds to protect the body and mind. At some point, we forgot our body and mind also and began to love the growing riches of stuff and resources Then we began to live in the dream state of life. Our coworkers became resources. Relationships became assets too. Instead of transcending to the state of freedom from thoughts and things, we began to become a thing ourselves. The objectification is almost complete. Then we enter the slumber state.  We are now manipulated by legal drugs, junk food, mindless entertainment, and constant interruption. Shhh … what/who is manipulating us? We will soon become automatons. Robots impress us as nearly as good as ourselves. We are being enhanced by robots. Soon robots will decide if they need us sleeping hydrocarbon blobs.

Suddenly some one wakes up from slumber. Oh my! This is not me. I am aware that this is not me. I am eternal awareness. I can’t be destroyed. I don’t have to worry. I don’t need much. I am invincible. I am unbounded. What’s going on, I wonder. Air does not need to be toxic. The water either. We can grow little wholesome food in our backyard. We have plenty of sunlight. We can be free. Autonomous. We can live on endlessly. And blissfully. Let’s spread some bliss around. However, others don’t believe our bliss. They live in Plato’s caves. We try telling them that they are seeing is the shadows, and that they should venture out in the open to see enjoy free life. They laugh it off as cranky and weird. Well, some of them muster the courage to try it. And voila! They find it different. Refreshing. Unbounded. Lively. Healed. Happy. Joy and Bliss. Our growing numbers and energies are now devoted to work on liberation of all, and on the healing journey for all. That is all there is to do. Everyone can be free to be compassionate. And slowly the world begins to become blissful again. And then exponentially so. And the world is happy and healed ever after.

P.S. What happens to robots? Well, they continue to grow more powerful and useful. They clean up our soil at our command. They plough and tend to our vegetable gardens. They do all the chores we want done. What happens to the information machines and Artificial Intelligence? Well, they are rolled into robots. Finally, what happens to the evil empire who wants to keep us all hooked and dependent in the caves? Well, the liberated ones scared the crap out of it. Little innocent children can scare the big bad bully out of its evil ways. Watch the Pixar movie ‘A Bug’s Life’ for inspiration.

 

Experiencing the Vedic City

We today completed 3 months living in our new Vastu house in Vedic City. Here is one anecdotal report on the benefit.

A friend of my daughter’s visited us in Vedic City, Iowa, to join in the celebration of my daughter’s graduation from college last weekend. She spent two days and nights here. We discussed about how this place is special. When she returned back to her home in Dallas, she sent a message that she was ready to learn Transcendental Meditation.

  1. She said that she observed that during her visit, people communicated very differently than in her home town. They hugged differently, and shook hands differently. The experience made her feel that the niceness must be because of the environment, i.e. because all the people here are meditators.
  2. I had also had a brief conversation in which I impressed upon her the knowledge of Consciousness, that beneath all our differences, at the transcendental level we are all one. That we have infinite power of creativity and invincibility within us. And how that is the way to survive and thrive creatively in a world of robots and drones.
  3. This friend had stayed with us in our Vastu house, so my daughter feels that also must have made a difference in shifting her consciousness. This same friend had earlier felt that TM will be incompatible with her faith, and that they were overselling the practice.

Our university offers a free ‘visitors weekend‘ program to help people experience this place for themselves. Once one has experienced the total peace of the environment here, one wants to be associated with it. Of course, this place is not for everyone, its effect depends upon one’s own desires and predisposition.

The New Way: Disrupt Yourself

Unshackle yourself from the lessons of past lived experiences. They are not nearly as normal as one typically believes them to be. They are a product of the times and of our own perceptual apparatus. We are conditioned by the received distilled wisdom from well meaning family and friends; and by what we read, especially in the younger ages when we lack the power to critically examine and reject an incoming lesson.

In the abstract we know that we are infinite, invincible and blissful. In practice we feel bounded, weak and miserable. The path from the practical to the ideal seems long, arduous, uncertain and unachievable. Most people give up on the ideal. The new way is to disrupt yourself. Do not settle for the unsatisfying and the unfulfilling.

Drop the baggage of past experiences.  It has to be a visceral process. The experiences are embedded in the core of our mind and body. But perhaps not in our souls. We can reclaim our souls.  We can do what we deeply desire.  We can also do what we deeply fear: jump into the deep end.  We reveal ourselves to ourselves thus.

The relative future is inherently uncertain.  But that can be an exhilarating ride. If only we can drop our expectations.  That is scary. Without great expectations, nothing great can be achieved.  Is that so? Truly so? Charles Dickens wrote so. He is widely considered the greatest English writer, at par with Shakespeare. Did he write from special wisdom or did he just articulate what he lived in the sweatshops of his times.

Disrupting oneself can mean having altered expectations. Or even no expectations. Could set us up to be light as a feather.  And float nicely in the winds of the times. It does not guarantee survival. Or a long life.  But we don’t know. It guarantees blissful life.  Or at least an authentic life. Of a fleeting hundred moments or a hundred long years.  How does it matter? The soul does not die. It was never born. The body was made up from the elements. It will merge into the elements anyways. Sooner or later i.e.

Disrupt yourself.  That is the New Way of living.  Expect nothing. Achieve everything. Including blissful fulfillment.