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!

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!

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.

 

ABCDs of Life

ABCDs of Life

  1. Absolute. We are Absolute or Pure Beings. Eham Brahma Asmi. I.e. I am Brahma, the Totality. I am unbounded, infinite, and therefore invincible. I am the transcendent: bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest. There are no walls or limits. We are without any defining qualities.
  2. Bliss. The nature of life is bliss. Sat-chit-Anand or absolute-consciousness-bliss. Bliss is the highest level of life energy. Bliss is the only thing that matters. The taste of even a drop of bliss can transform our life. Bliss naturally creates world peace.
  3. Creative: We naturally feel the urge to create when we feel free. Forms and structures effortlessly arise and dissolve when we transcend. Expressing our inner creations is a great source of joy. A lot of the world that we live in is created by ourselves.
  4. Data-driven: We are naturally curious about the nature of the relative. We want to understand and enjoy the totality of creation. With fine quality of perception, we invent and use tools to gather and integrate data, with which we in-form our thinking and patterns.

Absolute and Bliss are internal and unmanifest. Creativity and Data are focused on the external and relative. The inner Absolute Blissful Being is more powerful than the external reality. The inner qualities of awareness and blissfulness should be developed to guide creativity and learning. Meditation is the best way to experience the finest levels of bliss and creativity in life!

Browsing for ABCD,  I found some lovely organizations and descriptions.

  • Any Body Can Dance
  • Art Building Children’s Dreams
  • Assuring Better Child Development
  • Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development
  • Access to Baby and Child Dentistry
  • Ashley Brown Cake Design
  • And finally … American Born Cute Desi!

Have a blissful Day!

 

 

#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!

Blissful Living!!

Who are We? And how can we live blissfully?

  • If we think we are a collection … of assets, memories, impressions etc, then that is our small self.
  • If we think that we are everything … the sun, the earth, the wind, the birds, insects and people, … then we are the big Self.
  • When we are the small self, we are like a well, proud of what we have. It is ‘our’ stuff.
  • When we are the big Self, we are like the ocean, all encompassing, and not having anything our own, but being an integral part of an undivided infinite whole.
  • To grow we can push out the boundaries, re-lay-out our fences at a greater distance, and make a greater circle with more space to store more stuff. … concepts, memories, and assets. We can become BIG in our own eyes, and of society.
  • To really wake up to our unbounded Self, however, we can simply burn or remove or dissolve the boundaries at all. Then the entire infinite space and everything everywhere is our own. We are not defined by finite anything. We are infinite and blissful.

If I am infinite, then by the same logic, so are you and everyone else infinite. And not only that, we are the same infinite existence. If you are infinity, and I am infinity, then what is the difference between you and me? Why do we even have names for you and me? How do I converse or engage with you?  Is all separation and then trying to connect with each other, some sort of a game? Is it useful at all?

‘Good fences make good neighbors’ begins with the premise of separation of people into small individual bounded selves. Fences help contain the amount of violence that one would do on the other in a world of numerous separations.

So long as we define ourselves by our own interests first, we will be afraid, and our thinking will be corrupted. By thinking of safety for ourselves alone, we will do immeasurable cruelty on others from whom we are afraid. Then we will give bribes, trade favors, and care for our own pleasures. How can we be happy when we are selfish?

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said the purpose of life is the expansion of happiness. When we are all the same infinity, then we are like a joint family. Everything good that one person does, gives benefit to everyone. One person’s happiness becomes the happiness of all the others. That is how Vedas, the ultimate knowledge about the universe, says: ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’, meaning the world is one family.

Measurements help with reducing everything down to measurable particles and energy. Technology helps measure and create things that are considered pleasurable and useful for the individual selves. Technology thus helps to maximize achievement of safety and power as defined by money and assets.

Even as there are inexorable forces of separation of things into smaller and smaller particles, there are forces of choreographing delicate dances of apparent oneness. Technology also helps to do things that help people temporarily forget their false boundedness. Social occasions such as Mardi Gras or sports matches, and chemical means such as alcohol and opoids, help people temporarily forget their bodily identification, and create some larger units of identity, such as a team, a city, a country, or a culture. The tradition of romantic and sexual love, and marriage to become a family, is another such ancient integrative practice. A regular exercise of the practice of spiritual transcendence, of ‘seeing’ one’s seamless union with everything else, helps creates the joy and charm of that undivided infinite existence.

Overall, though, the forces of separation are winning over, and creating enormous angst among certain segments of people. They may not care too much about the physical existence, but their existential angst is boiling over. The old-fashioned-values people are taking opium, and dying in record numbers with a kiss-of-God.

The solution lies in unlearning our boundaries, and many of the concepts of separation. These boundaries were created by Reason, and can be dissolved by the Heart. A regular process of transcending will help dip into that unbounded unified field of all the laws of nature, and experience the bliss of the awareness of that unbounded existence. No wonder, Emotional Intelligence, has been displacing Traditional Logical Intelligence as the more important skill to live joyfully and productively in the world. There is increasing focus on Spiritual Intelligence, which is a totally different kind of intelligence … less measurable and more blissful!

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.