We are donuts. Our bodies are donuts. Bodies have a hollow tube running through them. When the hollow tube remains flowing and clean, our bodies are healthy. The moment it clogs, diseases appear. Our life is also like a donut with a hollow hollow tube through it. The upper side of the donut is the absolute, the unbounded cosmos. The bottom part of the donut is the relative, bounded by resting on the earth. Both sides are essential. So long as the hole in this donut connects the absolute with the relative, the mind functions well and remains healthy. Life gets into unbounded flow at some times, while remains engaged in specific chores at other times.
When we eat too much or eat junk stuff, our body’s hollow tube begins to clog. When we don’t flush it down it with enough water the tube clogs. Similarly if we take in too much data and information we need time and energy to digest it. Undigested information clogs the hollow tube. The connection between the top and the bottom of the donut gets clogged. The donut becomes more like a pancake. At that point, the view is mostly of the relative side of life, the bottom of the pancake, and the view of the top is totally obscured. Yogic techniques such as pratyaahara are ways to unclog our mind. Meditation helps to reopen the hollow tube of the mind and makes the pancake back into a donut. Attention of the mind goes round and round in the donut in a self-referral manner, even as it connects with the infinity above and the minuscule stuff below.
A donut can be fresh thick soft and sweet. It can be glazed and have toppings, and be of different sizes. Similarly our life can be fresh expansive smiling joyful and grateful. It can have its idiosyncracies and passions and wisdom. OR else life can be short brutal nasty dour fearful stale and putrefying.
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.
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.
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!
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 Sutrasprovides 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 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.
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!
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.
Last week on International Yoga Day (June 21st), I was invited to participate in the First International Yoga Conference organized by the Consulate General of India, in New York. There were about 30 speakers in all – about 10 from the US and 20 from India, Singapore and Hong Kong. The conference went very well. There was a wonderful group dinner too! On the 21st morning we headed out for yoga practice / demonstration in Central Park. Congratulations to the organizers! Here are a couple of pictures!
The gist of my own presentation was that Yoga is central to effective social transformation and world peace! Yoga has eight limbs, from the grosser limbs of Yama and Niyama, to the subtler limbs of Dhyana and Samadhi. The practice of transcendence or Dhyana, according to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s interpretation of Yoga Sutra is called Transcendental Meditation (TM). Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s yoga-inspired, quantum-mechanics-compatible theory called the “Maharishi Effect” posits that small groups of trained TM meditators can create enough collective coherence to counter hostile and negative tendencies and generate peace and prosperity around the world. Tat Sannidhau Vaira Tyagah (Yoga Sutra: 2:35) has been translated by Maharishi as: “In the vicinity of Yoga (or unity) negative tendencies are diminished.” Over 50 research publications in top scientific journals over the last four decades have established the efficacy of Maharishi Effect beyond doubt. I presented a few of those studies from around the world, on how group practice of TM and TM-Siddhis led to higher coherence and lower crime and higher prosperity. It is incumbent upon governments and organizations to take advantage of this technology and solve the grand challenges such as climate change and social inequality, through a small investment in training their peoples in Maharishi’s technologies of transcendence.
There were no objections or major questions from the attentive audience. One senior researcher from Mumbai said that they had always thought of yoga only from an individual perspective. She and her team want to learn more about this collective perspective. Another researcher from Mumbai said that they learned from my and other MUM presentations that one should always work from and present hard data. There is potentially an opportunity to present this research in more detail to them in India. Another professor from Uttarakhand asked in a reverent and friendly manner how to measure the performance on what I had called out as the subtle limbs of yoga … Dhyana and Samadhi. I said these are self-referral activities. Measuring them will change the nature of activity itself, citing quantum theory. However, its correlates can be measure through EEG etc. One has to become self-aware and self-referral, and radiate that energy to help others become so too!! That is the true import of Gandhi’s message of being the change.
Maharishi Effect is a paradigm change. The new paradigm is self-referral. Maharishi Effect perhaps hits at the very core, the dualistic core, of the Cartesian Enlightenment paradigm! It does not go well with the powers-that-are in society today. Passionate young people feel that unless something is done proactively, the new generation too will sleepwalk into the existing dualistic paradigm. Instead of looking around for other people who have transitioned to new paradigm, one should become self-referral oineself. And then look for other self-referral people. And more importantly, radiate to other people so they too can become self-referral. That was the import of Gandhi’s Be the Change message. This is easier said than done for those still caught in career and marriage and family narrative.
I am astonished at how few people in India practice meditation or other transcendental techniques. TM is perhaps the best, but I may be biased. Vipassana is Buddha’s own technique of enlightenment. There could be others too!! Grand challenges will be overcome only by people coming together from a transcendental level!! I also feel that the current rage of Mindfulness is a wonderful start for individual level benefit. However, it has no solution for grand challenges.
I will present this research again at the Academy of Management in Chicago in August, and will describe my experiences and the audience feedback later! I heard that India’s AYUSH ministry is interested in setting up centers of excellence in yoga at elite academic institutions in the US. I wonder if they would support a Yoga Research center at MUM, where our colleagues do research at the absolutely cutting edge. We want to organize a 2-day conference on ‘Collective Consciousness and World Peace’ on our campus in Fairfield next Spring. The agenda would have a few big sub-themes, with a total of about 15-20 speakers. Half the presenters could be from Maharishi University of Management , and the other half would represent other organizations and traditions! More on that later!!
Bliss is the alpha and omega and everything in-between
Bliss is #1 and #2 and #3 and all the way
Bliss is here there everywhere
Bliss is inside and outside
Bliss is with everyone
Bliss is everyone’s fundamental right
What gets in the way of Bliss
As Bliss is all there is, Bliss gets in the way of Bliss
Lower forms of Bliss … pleasure and happiness get in the way
How to remove the obstacles
The obstacles too too must be Bliss as Bliss is all there is
By being aware that we are Bliss here and now, and we do not need to traverse any path to get to it. The obstacles will reveal themselves to be a gross form of bliss that our senses and mind are able to perceive. Mind and body develop preferences for certain grossified bliss forms based on how often and close they appear to them. The game of more, more, more is unending like a dog chasing the tail. Higher bliss and knowledge can pull one out of that chase and catapult to an awareness of infinite bliss within. Then all is within and without.
We have everything; we are everything. That is the nature of Bliss. That is us.
Yoga is ‘cessation of the activities of the mind’, as defined by Patanjali in the first phrase of Yoga Sutra. Yoga has 8 limbs. Asanas is one of them. Meditation is another. Asanas prepare the body and mind for meditation. All good meditation centers avoid televisions and aggravating foods that would interfere with the practice of inner peace and quiet.
I have met Swami Ramdev. His vision is almost unfathomable. Have visited Yog Gram too. I want to go to Coimbatore to see Satguru’s center; have heard great things about it. Have met Sri Sri RaviShankar a few times and learned his technique too. At our own campus (set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) in Fairfield Iowa, everyone meditates daily for long periods for the dual purpose of self-development and world peace. I have also been to many Vipassana centers and done their 10-day courses. Every guru has a different meditation technique. They say there are 108 ways to transcend!
No guru is without detractors who would call their followers as a cult, sometimes somewhat justifiably. Ramdev made yoga popular. He propped up Narendra Modi in his bid to become Prime Minister of India. And he is giving foreign companies a run for their money. He has completely upended marketing practices. He is a big part of India rejuvenation. … despite all his faults.
Today we moved into a beautiful Vastu house in Maharishi Vedic City. A Vastu design follows a branch of the Vedas called Sthapatya Veda. Vastu houses are supposed to be completely aligned with all the laws of nature, and are considered health- and fortune-giving. Vastu is named after Vastu Devata (god) who is supposed to give health and wealth. Vastu houses are distinctive in how they strictly align with nature, and with the movement of the Sun, with East being the most favored direction.
Maharishi Vedic City was incorporated in Iowa by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as a township in about 2001, with the express purpose of establishing a Vedic way of living. Said to be the first Vedic village since the Vedic times, it is a small city with its own mayor. It is an experiment in government by natural law. The layout of the town is designed completely according to Vastu guidelines. Most of the residents of the city are white. These white desis, as I call them, are completely Vedic at heart. They are all long-standing practitioners of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi techniques.
We are a rare family of Indian origin living in this Vedic city. It will be a nice experiment for us to discover the health and wealth giving power of Vastu homes, and Vastu devata! Stay tuned!