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!

Yoga and World Peace

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!!

Have a Blissful Day!!

 

International Yoga Day 2017

I think that International Yoga Day is a laudable initiative to bring emphasis and attention on Yoga.  I wrote about it last year too, calling it the Independence Day of the Human Spirit.

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.

 

Technology and Spirituality Coexist

In the last couple of weeks, I had long fulfilling conversations on spirituality and Moksha with two young people in their 20s. Both are Computer Science students, with one doing a bachelor’s degree and the other doing a master’s degree.  One is a male and another is a female. One is a student on my own university campus and the other is on another university where I had recently visited to give a technology seminar based on my Data Analytics book. Both students happened to be from Hindu backgrounds, but neither is from India.

Both said that they were deeply spiritual people, and they were always concerned about how might technology and spirituality co-exist. I said I was a living example, and they felt reassured. Of course, there are many other IT people who have even become full-time spiritual people. I also said that spirituality is all encompassing, and it includes everything including technology, management, society, and all other fields. In fact, spiritual technologies can accelerate the path to moksha.

Both also said their conversations with their classmates and friends were not too fulfilling since others could not communicate with the others at the level that they found fulfilling. One described the conversations as being more about questions and answers about manifested things, and it was difficult to describe to their friends their deep spiritual experiences that had changed their view of the world. The charm they found in their inner journey was very enjoyable, but not necessarily describable. The other student was curious whether spirituality could help technological solved problems more creatively.

I wished them great progress in their spiritual journey. Enlightenment is very easy to achieve if one innocently wished for it, but does not obsessively try hard to find it in the world outside. It will come when one is ready.  This is the same message I gave my two friends in the summer when they said that don’t give me this Bliss s**t.

 

“Don’t give me this bliss s**t”

A good friend recently said,”do not give me this bliss s**t”. It is all a mind game, he said. Another good friend said, “you say you live in bliss, but I don’t see you so.” Both of these people are longtime friends from India, intellectuals with PhD degrees, who are comfortably settled in the US.

To the first friend, I said that there are over 700 scientific published studies that show the benefits of meditation, and that one can enjoy good health, happiness and bliss. That did not convince him. So, I spoke from personal experience, and how my moksha experience led me to write my book ‘Moksha’. That did not convince him. Come to our town and if you do not feel peace in your heart, I will pay you a substantial sum of money. That got him going. In essence, he said that Moksha is a very big thing, and it cannot be achieved by a simple process. He said he had been meditating off and on, and he did not get any benefit. His mom meditated all life and did not reach anywhere near there. I said it also depends upon the strength of desire, and one cannot will the desire. He said that desire alone cannot produce anything. So, I felt best to let go of the argument, and let him take his own time to be ready.

To the second friend, I said that bliss is an intensely subjective experience, and there is no way another person can experience it. One just have to believe it or feel it. Also, that bliss experience can come and go, depending upon continued practice of meditation. I also said that I was given the Maharishi award recently for bringing bliss to the community. I could see that he did not believe my story on Moksha and therefore had not bothered to read my book even though he had it.

Moksha book cover

I feel that most people are completely conditioned to no-pain-no-gain theory. If bliss is that good, it must take a lot of time and expertise and effort, they argue. However, bliss is an effortless accomplishment. Bliss is our true nature. One does not need a complicated process to achieve it. However, one does need a strong desire for it, which would overshadow other worldly desires. I feel that not everyone has the desire to escape the stresses of modern life, and reach out for  their god-given gift of bliss. The book is an attempt to inspire that desire in others.

 

Clash and convergence of paradigms

There are multiple paradigms of knowledge of reality. How can everyone be right?

The answer is that there is a dilemma in the waking state of consciousness. One can continue discussing from different points of view and be correct in some vital way, without being able to refute the other points of view. Only when one transcends the waking state that some unified realities become available and acceptable. From the transcendent level of consciousness one can experience the connectedness of the entire universe. Eventually one can potentially experience the Vedantic non-dual reality of ‘tat tvam asi’, or ‘Aham Brahmasmi’. From the waking state of consciousness these look like absurd words. Even reading the Vedas from a waking state of consciousness is meaningless, and brings no power. Vedas have to be experienced from a state of transcendental consciousness. After all the Vedas were cognized by the seers from that state of consciousness.

Another question often asked if body is hardware, and mind is software, what is soul?

The answer is: the soul would be like the natural laws of electromagnetism and computation and information theory. There are three fundamental gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Lord Shiva represents form, or space, and thus the body. Lord Vishnu represents energy, or function, and thus the mind. Lord Brahma represents logic, the knowledge that binds form and function in the service of a purpose. This trinity together make up the entire universe. Consciousness is that which is aware of itself. Thus it is the knower, the known, and the process of knowing (the subject, object, and the verb, all in one). Thus the soul is the knower, the mind would be the process of knowing, and the body will be the known.

 

Moksha: Download my new book

My new book, ‘Moksha: Liberation through Transcendence‘ was published on April 13th, my birthday.

For your benefit, here is the url and description of the book from its Amazon site:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E88QUB2/

Moksha is total liberation, from everything. This short experiential book flows from my own journey towards moksha, and is meant for seekers everywhere. A person in Moksha experiences total bliss. The experience is so special that we cannot miss the experience. Moksha is achieved by a deep desire, and the right way to transcend the world of mind and body. Moksha cannot be achieved by using the intellect alone. Vedic Technologies like Meditation, Sidddhis, and Yagyas can help transcend the sensory surface reality and realize our unbounded invincible creative Self, and progress on the path to Moksha.

Transcendental Meditation™ technique from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is a Vedic mantra-based meditation technique. Hundreds of published research studies show that regular practice of TM, and advanced techniques, helps with the reduction in stress and anxiety, increase in brain integration and creativity, improvement in cardiac health, and reduction in negativity in society.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Moksha and Enlightenment
Chapter 2: Vedas and Vedic Technologies
Chapter 3: Personal Development through Transcendence

Enjoy!

Check out my other bestselling book  Data Analytics Made Accessible

Moksha (Liberation) and Beyond

I had the good fortune of visiting the Brahmistan of India a few weeks ago. It is located at the geographical center of the country of India, a two hour drive from the city of Jabalpur. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s movement owns a large tract of land, where a beautiful and blissful residential and Transcendental Meditation facility has been established. A large number of Vedic Pandits meditate together at this location to spread peace around India, and indeed the world. The Pandits also do Vedic chanting here. In particular, everyday they do a Rudra Abhishekam, homage to Lord Shiva every day.  The chanting in this particular location is special, with 1331 (being 11 x 11 x 11) highly trained Maharishi Vedic pandits chanting together. Thus it is called Ati Rudra Abhishekam, (Ati means Extremely Large). It was Maharishi’s dream project, and it got fulfilled a few years after he passed on.

Brahmistan 2016 group

My daughter and I went to the Brahmistan knowing that Ati Rudra Abhishekam is a highly transformative event. Just listening to and witnessing this live chanting can have a powerful and liberating effect on oneself. We were taken to the huge meditation hall and we were seated comfortably on sofas. All the pandits, young and old, sat  on the floor, while a few pandits sat on stage doing the actions of bathing the shivlingas with milk.(see picture)

AtiRudraAbhishek

The chanting began with an hour-long obligatory oblations to many gods as well as donors. Then began the real Rudra Abhishekam chanting by the almost 1500 pandits present in the room. It was a very deeply resonant experience for me. In just a couple of minutes, my head grew heavy and woozy-doozy, and my eyes naturally closed. I was neither awake nor sleepy, and began to have amazing perceptual experiences. I ‘saw’ a giant crane, like the ones used in constructing tall buildings, pick me up by my head from the well of a tall building, and place me on the side of the building.  I felt liberated from the confines of my physical body. This is the state or the feeling of ‘moksha’.

I had never had such a vision before. Such visions are rare but powerful indicators of a quantum leap into higher wisdom, say my learned friends with whom I have shared this experience. Where do we go from here though? How do we use our liberation and higher states of consciousness for the maximum good? Do we evaporate into air like camphor, and spread like a fragrance that is always there everywhere? Do we become like a sun and emit powerful light in all directions at all times?

This leads into my Billion Buddha Project … to ensure that at least a billion people wake up to their true divine infinite powerful creative nature and live a naturally and effortlessly happy life. Enlightening others to this reality is the theme of the rest of my life.

 

Leadership models: Mahatma Gandhi and Steve Jobs

Leadership models: Mahatma Gandhi and Steve Jobs

I had the opportunity recently to present a talk on Leadership at a seminar at our university. The attendees were about 60 graduate students. I began my talk with a wide-ranging view of leadership, including my own lessons on leadership (posted on this blog), Steven Covey’s 4-role model of leadership, among other perspectives. Included in my presentation were two case studies of Mahatma Gandhi and Steve Jobs. These were worthy case studies as one was about socio-spiritual leadership, and the other one was about technological-organizational leadership. The case studies were of comparable quality, and were full of colorful images. A fellow presenter later observed that the attendees were much more alert and engaged when I spoke about Steve Jobs. This happened at a school where we focus a lot on spirituality and morality, based on Vedas and consciousness.

I wonder why Jobs was the more attractive message to the multicultural graduate students? One simple explanation could be that most of these young people use Apple products such as Macs and iPhones and are interested in all things Apple. Another reason could be that a majority of participants in the seminar were computer science students and therefore technology leadership would be of greater appeal to them. Yet another explanation could be that Jobs is a contemporary figure who died only a few years ago, while Gandhi died way back in 1948. Yet another reason could be that this talk was held in the US, to an audience who might care more about American icons rather than the distant ones from Asia. Most students had already seen his 2005 Stanford Commencement speech.

There are any similarities between the leadership models of Gandhi and Jobs. Both were transformative leaders of planetary scale: stubborn individuals who bent the existing reality to their dreams and purposes and achieved great results. Both had strong spiritual underpinnings: Gandhi was a believer in universal brotherhood, and Jobs was influenced by Zen. Both were adventurous, creative and lived on the edge: incessantly innovating and keeping their opponents on tenterhooks. Both played two major transformative innings each: Gandhi won his moral leadership spurs working for Indians in South Africa, and then moved to India to achieve India’s freedom from the British Empire; Jobs made history with the design of personal computers (Apple-II and Macintosh), and then helped Apple achieve even greater success with the iPod/iTunes music ecosystem and the iPhone/Apps computing-communication ecosystem. Finally, both died unconventionally, one to an assasin’s bullet and the other to cancer.

I think that Gandhi’s leadership model is very relevant even today (or else I won’t have bothered to present it). Gandhi worked towards universal goals such as freedom and human dignity using innovative paths such as truth, non-violence and self-reliance. These goals and paths were worthy of emulation by Martin Luther King Jr. In the US, and by Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Aung San Suu Kyi in Mynamar, and many more.

The concept of freedom may have different meaning today. There are wealth inequities and technological colonization in the world today. The French economist Thomas Picketty has analyzed the causes of wealth inequities, and made a strong case for a ‘global income tax’ for global growth and happiness. Mohammad Yunus has innovated with micro-finance. On the technology side, Elon Musk is revolutionizing transportation with electric cars and inexpensive space travel. Google and Facebook and Amazon are also transforming the world. There is room for a new kind of a leadership today, beyond Gandhi and Jobs.

Visit to Yog Gram in India

Visit to Yog Gram in India

My wife and I spent a wonderful week at the naturopathic institution called Yog Gram near Haridwar in India, last month. This piece describes the nature of our nice and beneficial experience there.

YogGram

Yog Gram, or Yoga Village, was set up just 6-7 years ago by Patanjali Yogpeeth, which in turn is owned and managed by the famous yoga guru Swami Ramdev. Yog Gram is a residential retreat place. It has nice air-conditioned cottages for people to stay for rest, recuperation and detoxing. The minimum stay requirement is one week, and the maximum stay allowed is about two months. Accommodation has to be reserved well in advance, as usually there is a waiting line for getting the chance to get there. The cost of stay is reasonable. It costs only a couple of thousand rupees (about US$40-50) per day for a couple to stay in an air-conditioned cottage. This automatically includes the cost of the ayurvedic food, the naturopathic treatments, doctor examinations, and more.

The first thing that unmistakably hits the visitor to this place, is the abundance of flowers. The place is full of fresh flowers of all colors, sizes and shapes. On both sides of every pathway there are fragrant fresh flowers. This abundance of flowers is painstakingly maintained by 30 full-time resident gardeners. Just being in the midst of such beautiful flowers was uplifting for my soul. I called it floral therapy. In addition, the air quality is amazingly clean by Indian standards. The reason is that this place is next to a forest, the Rajaji national park, and far from the nearest city of Haridwar. Another natural benefit is that it  is in the land of the Holy Seers, so the vibrations are still there. Between the flowers, the pure air and the vibes, the place is like heaven.

When you check in, the doctors in residence examine every health-seeker, and then prescribe the meal patterns as well as the naturopathic treatment for the morning and the evening.

The daily routine is reasonably packed with activity. People wake up at 4:30 am and go to sleep at 9:30 pm everyday. In the morning typically there are cleansing treatments like enema, and sutra-neti and eye-wash etc. There is a 2-hour morning session in the Yoga Hall, which includes yoga practice, and group counseling. After a light customized breakfast, one goes for naturopathic treatments as prescribed. After lunch there is some time for rest. Then again there are healthy juice drinks followed by a mud-pack treatment. Then there are more naturopathic treatments in the afternoon. After a light fruit juice, there is the evening yoga session and group counseling. Then there is customized dinner, after which the health-seekers (as every visitor is called) retire for the day.

The food is custom-prepared for everyone. We were given something to eat or drink 7-8 times during each day. There are 76 different types of naturopathic treatments to select from, in consultation with the doctor. Among the treatments are many kinds of massages (head, back, full-body, etc), and baths (hot-cold, full-back, steam, sauna, etc), and wraps (for the calfs, or the abdomen etc) to name just a few.

We enjoyed and benefited from our stay at Yog Gram. It is a very nice place overall, and a very good value for money. With some minor changes, this place has the potential to become a world-class facility. Currently almost all of the visitors are Indians. The place does not yet offer the privacy of treatment that the western visitors are used to. However, the cost is a small fraction of the cost for a similar naturopathic treatment in the US. So given the value-for-money, soon foreign visitors might make a beeline for the place.