Posts Tagged ‘Bhagavad Gita’

In the Yaksha Prashna episode of Mahabharata, Yudhishtira is asked many questions. One of these is: 

“What do you find as the most surprising on earth?”

To which Yudhishtira replies:

“Numerous people are encountering death daily. Even though people are aware that they will have to die one day, they crave for worldly desires as if they are permanent on earth. There is nothing more surprising than this fact.”

Death and Taxes are both inevitable in life. But the sting of death is far deadlier than that of taxes. There is an irrevocability associated with it. When a loved one passes away, the physical form with which we associated ourselves for a long time simply vanishes. What is left behind is a void which is near impossible to fill.

The sting hurts us even more when the death is untimely. The passing away of a young person who was yet to drink deep from the joyful rivulet of life leaves us with a regretful feeling of deprivation. Shock, trauma, and depression follows. Our senses get numb. Nothing makes any sense anymore. A sense of disbelief envelopes us. Words of sympathy and condolences pour in, but these do not register. For some time, we act like zombies, moving about and doing things as we are advised by others to do. Lessons from Bhagavad Gita which tell us that the soul is immortal do not make any sense.

Feelings of guilt plague us. We regret not having done something more to save the person. We find it difficult to handle the anger we feel towards ourselves. Forgiving ourselves becomes an impossible task. We look up to the heavens and blame our favourite God for having been so cruel to us.

Losing a spouse is especially traumatic. I realized this myself when I lost my wife during 2018. Gradually, the reality of having lost a trusted companion, a bitter critic, and a true friend dawned upon me.  

Two Persons Who Made Me Cry during 2022

Richa (1970-2022) was Principal Scientist at National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD). Besides being an eminent scientist, she was a loving daughter, a devoted wife, and a caring and affectionate mother. She was not only a member of the selection committee of International Federation of Biosafety Associations for their much-coveted Biosafety Hero Awards; she had also won many awards herself at national as well as international level. She was the Secretary of Society for Biosafety, India, and a member of The Executive Council of the Asia Pacific Biosafety Association. She had published many research papers. A recognized badminton player, she was passionate about gardening, dancing, and singing. We lost her within a few months of 2022 to an aggressive form of cancer which was detected very late.

Pavan (1963-2022) was a self-made person. A first-generation entrepreneur par excellence. Someone who expanded his business by sheer dint of a lofty vision, hard work, perseverance, and a knack of identifying, nurturing, and deploying human talent. He played all the roles in his life to perfection, whether as a son, an elder brother, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. Above all, a fine and helping human being who would go out of his way to help the needy. With his passing away, we lost someone with excellent management skills. Premier management institutes would greatly benefit by publishing a case study on the business strategy which shaped his business and took it to dizzying heights. We lost him to a sudden cardiac arrest within a span of a few hours on a fateful day during December 2022.

The Five Aspects of Grief

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.

The five stages of grief, which I would prefer to refer to as aspects:

Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”

Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”

Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

The reason I prefer to call these as aspects of grief rather than its stages is that these stages are not linear in nature, each following the preceding one over time. In my opinion, grief is cyclical or spiral in nature. Something happens, memories come flooding back, and we feel we are back to square one. But yes, the spiral does propel us forward, taking us gradually away from its epicentre.

Often, grief is like a sinusoidal curve of which the amplitude keeps decreasing over time, as the mundane concerns of life come back plaguing us soon enough. However, it is a curve which goes down in an exponential manner, never quite reaching a zero baseline. The emptiness within may never go away; we learn to accept it and move on in life. The time span of recovery is as individually unique as each one of us is. 

Handling Grief

Remaining Surrounded by Loved Ones

In the initial phase, we tend to withdraw ourselves into a shell. Despite being surrounded by our loved ones, the feeling of loneliness and a vacuum inside persists.

Turn to friends and family members. Now is the time to lean on the people who care about us, even if we take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Rather than avoiding them, draw friends and loved ones close and spend time together face to face. Physical hugs go a long way in the process of recovery.

Accepting the Assistance Offered

Often, people want to help but do not know how. We may have to be open and tell them what we need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or just someone to hang out with. If we feel we do not have anyone you can regularly connect with in person, it’s never too late to build new friendships.

The Challenge of Comforting Others

We would do well to accept that many people feel awkward when trying to comfort us when we are grieving.

Grief can be a confusing, sometimes a frightening emotion for many people, especially if they have not experienced a similar loss themselves. They may feel unsure about how to comfort us and could be wary of saying or doing the wrong things.

Sharing Sorrow and Getting Busy

Sharing our sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. What works best, however, is to get doubly busy with our occupation and start devoting more time to what we love doing.

Faith Can Help

As luck would have it, our physical body carries no guarantee. Perhaps, we can draw some comfort from our faith. If we follow a religious tradition, we may find that its mourning rituals may provide some comfort. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to us —such as praying, meditating, or going to religious places — can offer solace.

Lord Krishna speaks of reincarnation in the Bhagavad Gita, likening death to the way we change into a new set of clothes, discarding the old ones. 

Fulfilling Pious Intentions

Most of us have a bucket list of things we always wished to do in our life. It helps to start fulfilling such pious intentions sooner than later.

It could be trips to places that we always wished to visit, a book that we always thought we could read, or write one of our own, few songs we could croon, close friends we wanted to visit, or movies that we wished to see, etc.            

Imparting a Meaning to Our Suffering

Grief can beget meaning. It provides us an opportunity to reflect on what matters most to us. We could end up taking a social initiative which may, in some way, end up doing good to others. Suffering is virtually a steppingstone to spiritual upliftment. 

On to Pleasant Memories

The good news is that the feeling of inner loneliness does get diminished over time. Our souls are forever seeking happiness within. Over time, memories which would have made us cry closer to the event, turn into pleasant ones. We remember the departed person with fondness. We keep in mind the values followed by the departed soul. We adapt to the new reality.

Making the Departed Soul Happier

The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India, has said that to make the soul happy, so that it reincarnates in good conditions, one should have no sorrow and remain very peaceful and quiet, while keeping an affectionate remembrance of the one who has departed. (Complete Works of the Mother; Words of the Mother – III; Death and Rebirth). 

Some Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: The pain will go away faster if we ignore it.

Fact: Trying to ignore our pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face our grief and actively deal with it.

Myth: It’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss.

Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying does not mean we are weak. We do not need to put on a brave front. Showing our true feelings can help us and those around us.

Myth: Not crying implies we are not sorry about the loss.

Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it is not the only one. Those who do not cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.

Myth: Grieving should last about a year.

Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.

Myth: Moving on with our life means forgetting about our loss.

Fact: Moving on means we have accepted our loss. This is not the same as forgetting. We can move on with our life and try to be happy. The memory of someone we lost shall always be an important part of us. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.

What To Avoid While Comforting Those Who Are Grieving

  1. Aggressively seeking details as to how it happened. Allowing the grieving person to open up on his/her own makes better sense.
  2. Right after the death, asking the affected person details about their immediate or future plans. Or, commenting on how things may shape up in the family in the times to come.  
  3. Discussing financial details of any kind.
  4. Loose talk while being a part of any of the rituals or at any social gathering to mourn a death.
  5. Talking about health-related precautions being taken by one, thereby implying that the responsibility of the sudden demise somehow lies on the deceased person or his/her family.

A Transformative Event

In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo, the renowned Indian seer, presents the end of a person’s life as a transformative event, a passage or a door through which one passes towards a greater life. Essentially, the poem recounts the saga of human victory over ignorance and conquest of death.

Thus, on the racing tracks of Life, Death is but a pit stop. One gives up one’s creaking old jalopy. In exchange, one gets a shimmering new vehicle. One then zooms off to a newer horizon, the engine firing on all six cylinders. With each pit stop, one evolves further.

Conveying Positive Vibes to Those Who Are Still Around  

If I ever run into Yaksha and he asks me as to what the next most surprising thing in life is, I would surely respond as follows.

“All of us realize that those we love are not going to be around all the time. Yet, we consciously end up praising a person only when he/she is no longer alive. During their lifetime, most of the times, we take them for granted and spend quite some time censuring, condemning, criticizing, and ridiculing them.”

Think of those around us. When was the last time we conveyed our genuine appreciation, praise, and gratitude to them for their importance in our life? Is it not better to do so when the person we love is still around and can appreciate it?!

(The illustration depicting Krishna and Arjuna in the battlefield has been reproduced with permission from the illustrator, Arati Shedde, and Heartfulness Magazine – www.heartfulnessmagazine.com. All other illustrations are courtesy www).

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(Some autobiographical notes from a member of the canine species; based on true incidents; inspired by ‘The Mixer’, a story written by P G Wodehouse; I confess having fallen into the temptation of shamelessly borrowing some parts of the original story, for which I seek advance forgiveness.) 

Looking back at my life, I always consider that my career as a dog proper really started when I was bought over by a lovely – and loving – family. That event marked the end of my puppyhood.

I was pleasantly surprised to know that they paid a princely sum to acquire an ugly and thin pup like me. Suddenly, I realized that I was worth something in life. Moreover, the knowledge that I was considered worthy of the love of a family filled me with a sense of pride and new responsibilities. It also sobered me because howsoever interesting life may be at the small ken in a chalet up above the hills in a beautiful country where I was born and I used to live, it is only when you go out into the world that you really broaden your outlook and begin to see things. You get an opportunity to learn many new aspects of life. You come to know what refinement, manners and true culture means. The whole world becomes an oyster, as a brainy cove whose name I forget now said once upon a time. All you got to do is to sniff at it, lick it, prise it open, and savour it to your heart’s content.   

Within its limitations, my life till then had been singularly full and vivid. I was born, as I say, in a ken occupied by my doting Mother and a few playful and goofy set of brothers and sisters. I have heard that my then Master was a breeder of the canine species. I therefore suspect that my extended family may include several stepfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

There was plenty of excitement. Before I was six weeks old, I had upset three visitors to the Master who inhabited the chalet by getting between their legs when they came round to the side-door, thinking they had heard suspicious noises; and I can still recall the interesting sensation of being chased twelve times round the yard with a broom-handle after a well-planned and completely successful raid on the flower beds so lovingly maintained by Master. I do not really blame him, because much like Lord Emsworth of Blandings Castle fame, he used to love flowers and would often be found pottering about in his garden while wearing a not-so-tidy pair of trousers.

When I separated from Mother, she barked advice, telling me to be a credit to the family. Of course, I was then too excited to listen to her. But I did carry the thought in my bosom.

About Me  

I believe that I am a Yorkshire terrier, perhaps not of a Scottish origin but of a sub-breed which subsequently originated in Germany. I say this with some confidence because I am not particularly fond of chasing and catching rats. I have a long bushy tail which I can wag rather well. My hair is fluffy. My eyes are brown but can hardly be seen because of being covered by a mass of hair. My skin is white, though with large patches of black. My head has a golden-brown hue to it.

I have never disguised it from myself, and nobody has ever disguised it from me, that I am not a handsome dog. Even Mother never thought me beautiful. You may call me a European-cheese-hound if you like. No offence will be taken. As they say, beauty is only skin deep.

Like all those belonging to my breed, I believe I have far more strength than I really possess. I am playful and energetic. I like to make friends. While on a walk outside, if I run into another dog, I try my best to make it a point to exchange greetings in the finest tradition of our species – that of sniffing at each other’s snouts and so-called private parts. In case the perception is positive, we part with feelings of mutual acceptance and admiration. If either one feels threatened by the party of the other part, we bark at each other, our tails high up in the air. If hostilities ensue, our respective owners are bound to take prompt action and disentangle us. Then we go off our separate ways.

Just like humans, dogs also behave differently. If some suffer from an inferiority complex, there are many others who behave as if they are God’s gift to the universe. I am not fond of dogs who cast supercilious glances at me, simply ignore me and go on, holding their heads high in a haughty manner. Nor do I like the large ones who are not democratic in nature and start barking even before the first greetings have been exchanged. Mother always said: “A dog without influence or private means, if he is to make his way in the world, must have either good looks or amiability.” Since I have followed her advice and have cultivated an amiable disposition, I wish even my detractors well in their lives. By harbouring any anger against them, I know I shall be hurting myself more, even while they might continue to be blissfully unaware of my feelings towards them.

The Psychology of a Dog

We, the dogs, tend to be philosophical by nature. We soon forget such setbacks. We forgive. We do not waste time regretting what might have been. Nor do we worry ourselves sick thinking about what the morrow may bring. We live in the present. We relish it fully. Our idea is to simply enjoy our lives as much as we can. Our Intelligence Quotient levels may not be much to write home about. But our Emotional and Spiritual Quotients are rather high.

We are quick to understand the vibes of different persons and readily empathize with them. When they are in an uplifted mood, we also play around, often jumping with joy, wagging our tails, and licking their toes. When their brow is furrowed owing to a setback in life, we try to cheer them up by curling up near their feet and looking at them with soulful eyes. We are no match to Jeeves, but, like him, when we realize that our company is no longer desired, we respectfully slink away from point A to point B and reappear only when necessary.

We may not be able to deliver intellect-rich lessons from the Bhagavad Gita, the much-revered Indian scripture. But anyone observing us keenly will readily see how we could teach a thing or two to humans when it comes to living a happy and contented life. As Mother used to say, “Don’t bother your head about what doesn’t concern you. The only thing a dog need concern himself with is the quality of care and food he gets.” In some ways, Mother’s was a narrow outlook, but she was never hesitant to dish out some sane advice based on unalloyed common sense. 

My Parentage

Mother prided herself on being the best watchdog in the entire township. I hear that in her younger days, she had been a popular local belle with a good deal of sex-appeal. As to the question of my paternity, only she may be able to comment on it. I merely suspect that my father might have been one of the several stud-dogs who would have become enamoured of her charms over her long reproductive career. Otherwise, those who understand genealogy and are familiar with the concept of DNA tests might be able to throw some light on the subject. 

Many of the Homo sapiens are keen on forging what they label as matrimonial alliances. I am happy to see that over time, they are learning something from my species and living a free life, leaving owners of labs specializing in DNA and related tests laughing all the way to their banks.   

Since my puppyhood days, I have been restless, unable to settle down in one place and anxious to get on to the next thing. This may be either due to a nomadic strain in my ancestry or owing to my artistic temperament which makes me love nature. Perhaps, I acquired this temperament from a great grandfather who had been trained to perform in an orchestra at the famous Ukridge Academy of Performing Arts for Canines.

I owe the fullness and variety of my earlier life to this initial phase of restlessness of mine. However, I confess, I feel ‘settled’ now after having become a member of a doting Family. I keep learning the usefulness of family values from all its members. I no longer wish to move out of my newly acquired home to follow some perfect stranger who might mistreat me.

The Family   

The Family which has adopted me has many interesting characters.

There is a trim-and-slim father who is an upcoming entrepreneur. I hear that he is highly educated and has previously held senior management positions in companies in different European countries. He is an amiable and compassionate gentleman. He is fondly referred to as Ba.

Then there is a mother who is highly skilled at home making and fawns over her two kids and, of course, me. When it comes to cooking, she could easily beat Anatole hollow. Her Bollywood dancing classes are also very popular. She is known as Mumma.

The couple has an intelligent, cute, and loving daughter who is not only good at studies but also in drawing and story-writing. They also have a dashing son who is equally intelligent and physically active. He cuddles me fondly, though, at times, he punches me in the ribs in an unfriendly fashion. But, like all other dogs, I can always take the rough with the smooth.

The Family has named me Chicco.

The Family has relatives living not too far off. All the three families keep visiting each other frequently, making me feel responsible for the safety and security of all of them. Then there are family seniors who come visiting us occasionally. I am always pally with them, especially with those who fondle me, tickle me behind my ears, and take me out for regular walks. These ensure that I keep my muscles agile and rippling. Walks outside also help me to avoid soiling their homes. Besides, there are many perks of breathing in pristine air, and soaking in the beautiful scenery this unique country dotted with mountains and lakes offers. I love lolling about in lush green grass and hunt for some worms; this helps me to easily fulfil my daily quota of consuming around 200 calories.  

Another reason of my liking a saunter in the great open spaces is that I often run into my cousin Mailo. He has also been adopted by a loving family in the neighbourhood. Whenever we run into each other, we goof around quite a bit, vigorously sniffing and licking each other.   

In general, being of an amiable nature, I like humans. The smell of their feet, footwear, lower garment, and speech appeal to me. When they look me in the eye and address me, my spirits get uplifted, and I express my gratitude by wagging my bushy tail. I am rather unlike Bartholomew, a pet of Stiffy Byng’s, who is to be watched closely if he gets near anyone’s ankles, for he biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.

We also get many visitors. Those who are the regular ones, I welcome them warmly. When the family praises me endlessly to any of the visitors, I blush and feel elated. At others, I bark, trying to frighten them out of their wits. There are indeed times when I behave like the dachshund Poppet who charges at people with the apparent intention of seeing the colour of their insides but, closer to destination, he merely rises like a rocket and licks people on the chin. My feudal spirit prompts me to use my vocal cords and my body language effectively, so the family and its members remain safe. No harm should ever come their way.

Well, I ask you, I ask any dog, what else would you do in my place? Ever since I was old enough to listen, Mother had told me repeatedly what I must do in a case like this. It is the A.B.C. of a dog’s education. “If you are in a room, and you hear anyone trying to get in,” Mother used to say, “bark. It may be someone who has business there, or it may not. Bark first and inquire afterwards. Dogs were made to be heard and not seen. Your bark must always be worse than your bite.”

Whenever imposters, intruders or unknown people pay us a visit, I simply lift my head and yell. I have a good, deep, and throaty voice, possibly due to the hound strain in my pedigree. I also have strong lungs. Back at the chalet, when there was a full moon and I yelled because I thought something was amiss, I had often had the Master come rushing out to investigate what was wrong. On such occasions, I felt an inner glow of satisfaction, knowing that I had done my job well.

Some Adventures

I am happy that I have never had the experience of dog McIntosh who had to be extracted from a hotel room using aniseed powder which is popular in the dog-stealing industry. But I have lived through quite a few harsh slings and arrows of Fate. By practising equanimity, I have not only managed to survive these but have also added to my knowledge bank about various aspects of life.

Whenever I became restless and went on about wanting to go out into the world and see life, Mother often used to say, “You’ll be sorry when you do. The world isn’t all bones and liver.” On a few rare occasions, life has made me realize how right she was.

Learning About Gravity

On a fine day in summer, Family had decided to spend some time at a swimming club. Since dogs were not allowed near the main facility, they decided to smuggle me in, over a wire-net boundary, parking themselves in a remote corner of the vast lawns, quite some distance away from the main pool. The idea of not leaving me behind all alone in the house was indeed very appealing to me. All went well and I thoroughly enjoyed the open spaces, though I was not free to chase the birds and squirrels visiting the place and giving me envious looks owing to the kind of high-quality food I was consuming intermittently.   

While being smuggled back outside, I was hauled back over the boundary, with one person each on either side of the fence. That is when disaster struck. I slipped from the hand of one of the persons, leaving me mid-air, struggling to find my feet. A traumatic experience it was. However, it lasted a few seconds only and I was safely hauled back into the loving hands of the daughter. It reminded me of Sam Goldwyn who had likewise got into the loving arms of Corky once.

It’s a funny thing, but it seems as if it always happens that, when you are feeling most miserable, you end up learning something new in life. This brief experience taught me about the forces of gravity which pull all things down to the ground. Some brainy cove known as Newton had apparently discovered this force long time back, when, while sitting under an apple tree, he saw an apple fall on to the ground. If you ever get to see Newton, you can tell him that he is an ass. If I had been in his place, I would have rushed to put that apple down the hatch, rather than exercising my grey cells about the laws of nature. 

Causing A Highway Blockade

You never know what kind of adventure life hurls at you on any given day. Family had to go out to an amusement park quite far off and decided to leave me behind in the care of a neighbour of ours, who lives next door.

Mumma had apparently forgotten something, and she returned home soon for a brief visit to pick up the stuff. I could sense her presence from within the neighbour’s flat. Finding the door open, I ran out to tell her how lonely I was feeling. However, before I could reach her, she sped off in her car, on to the highway next to our community.

Dogs have an innate sense of direction, coupled with basic intelligence, ingenuity, and a sense of enterprise. I am no exception. To crawl beneath the fence and rush on to the highway was with me the work of a moment. But this was an unnerving experience, what with all the trucks and cars zipping past, making all kinds of threatening noises and spewing some poisonous fumes.

But drivers in my country need to be praised for their sense of decency and respect for life. Traffic came to a halt. A long queue soon piled up, blocking the highway. Shaking out of fear from the tip of my snout till the end of my tail, I ran underneath the chassis of the first car which had screeched to a halt near me. I felt more secure there. Luckily, the owner turned out to be an Air Force vet who somehow managed to entice me into his loving hands and put me in his car.

I am lucky the traffic police did not come over, sirens blaring, to arrest me for a patent illegality. I do hope that their chief gets awarded the highest civilian honour by the local government for his ethical and humane treatment of a member of the canine species; much like Eustace Mulliner, who excelled in his performance at the British Embassy in Berne and upon whom the Swiss government had conferred the Order of the Crimson Edelweiss, Third Class, with crossed cuckoo-clocks, carrying with it the right to yodel in the presence of the Vice-President.

The friendly Air Force officer took me to his home some 90 kms away. Unlike humans, dogs do not really mind when it comes to getting tagged and living in a surveillance state. The officer could easily identify the Family. He contacted them, and assured them that all was well, and that he would return me after a week or so, when he was due to come back for a visit to the area that the Family lives in.

He also found me a little skinny for my age and advised them about some changes in my diet. While with him, I got some sumptuous meals, rich in fat soluble vitamins, nutrients, and minerals of all kinds. After my return, the Family put me on an improved dietary regime.

I soon felt like a dog raised on Donaldson’s Dog-Joy biscuits and went on to become one of those fine, strong, upstanding dogs who go about with their chins up and both feet on the ground and look the world in the eye. If Freddie ever comes to know of me, he could feature me in one of his company advertisements. In the process, I could earn something for the Family.

Of Love, Care and Affection

Circumstances and incidents often alter our perception of life. We realize how our Guardian Angels ensure that we get all the love and care that we deserve.

Out on a biking expedition, I was sprinting behind Ba and the son when disaster struck yet again. One of my feet somehow came under the back wheel of one of the bikes. A painful fracture followed. Since the local vet was busy, I was rushed over to another one, some 75 kms away. A plaster was put, and I had to laze about on my comfortable bed in the house for a six-week period of rest and recuperation. It was great initially but soon became rather boring.

What stood out was the gentle care and affection the entire Family showered on me during the whole episode. They made a great fuss over me, pampering me with my favourite dishes, often making me forget the pain I had undergone. In about six weeks’ time normalcy returned to my life.

Family Values

By now, you might have noticed the kind of rich lessons I have learnt so far in my life. The virtues of practising forgiveness and equanimity. The perks of living in the present. Handling the harsh slings of arrows of fate with a chin-up attitude. Being amiable. Standing up to bullies. Judging people wisely. Cultivating a feudal spirit.

Given my introspective nature, I am sure many more will follow, broadening my outlook in life. For a dog, nothing could be more fulfilling. Flowers are in bloom, God is in heaven, and all is well with the world.

Families are all about caring and sharing. I hope, wish, and pray that all other puppies in the world are as lucky as I have been in getting adopted by a loving family. 

A hearty woof, woof!

(Illustration of Highway Blockade by Shalini)

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(Sanjay Sehgal is Chairman & CEO at MSys Technologies, USA. His profile is accessible at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sehgalsanjay. In this post, he examines the relevance of some of the basic tenets of Bhagavad Gita to real-life business situations.)


The saying “As you sow, so shall you reap,” is considered one of the best-known representations of the concept of “Karma.” It got me thinking when it comes to work, how far can we caution ourselves about what we are “sowing” into our business (money, work, culture, decisions, conflicts, resolutions, etc.)? More importantly, how will we know if our dealings are in line with constructive evolution (the good side of the scale of karmic balance) or submerging us further into karma’s vicious cycle (the bad side of the scale of karmic balance)?

A rare tale of a leap of good faith

I still remember reading this inspiring news that made me smile with moist eyes. In 2015, Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, raised the minimum wage of all his employees to $70,000 a year. Dan had slashed his salary to $70,000 from $1.1 million to do so. Dan had once pronounced that he wishes to buy his dream car. To return the favor, 120 employees of Dan’s firm saved their one month’s salary and gifted him his dream car. It was Karma unfolding in its classic style.

Karma – the good, the bad, and the ugly

The notion of karma is comparable to a balance sheet, with the golden principle – debit in, credit out. You earn credit for all your debits. This credit will be good, bad, or ugly, depending on the debit you produce.

When you marry karma and business, you are bounded by the law –

A.   Good karmic debits = Good Credit>input

B.    Bad karmic debits = Bad Credit >input

C.   Ugly karmic debits = Ugly Credit >input

Where karmic debits are your intentions, the input is your action based on intentions, and credit is your output. In any way, your output is greater than the input. Therefore, rule A is what we all must aim.

After having set up several ventures, and mentoring start-up enthusiasts I’ve consolidated the five Sutras of Karmic Management, which I feel can be applied in almost all situations:

1. The Law of Growth

While starting a new project, venturing out to materialize an idea, or managing a team, hasten the course of inevitable failure and stop doing anything that is not working out. That way, you may fail fast but it will turn out better if you also learn fast, and can help you grow faster. Take a new path that promises to take you to your destination. The great Abraham Lincon lost elections eight times and failed in business twice. But, he quickly moved on by failing fast and recovering faster for success.

2. The Law of Synchronicity

You’re thinking of replacing your car while driving on a highway, and you drive past a billboard, which advertises a good exchange offer on a car. This phenomenon is called synchronicity. The law of synchronicity is looking out for signals or events in the external surroundings that can help us achieve our objectives. You’re attracted to such signals unconsciously; as you’re constantly thinking of your objective, you are linking everything around to it.  Logically, the idea emanates from the bedrock of curiosity that makes one look for the answer in everything around. Therefore, you are more aware of the external world that attracts you to the desired answer quickly, just like the law of attraction.

3. The Law of Reflection

We reflect our surroundings, and our surroundings mirror us. When we carry positivity within, we also reflect the same in people around us. Resultant – you are appreciative of people’s efforts and become a source of motivation. On the contrary, when you’re always complaining and criticizing, it is a clarion call to look within and reignite the fire of positivity. Take someone like Mahatma Gandhi, who was filled with hope and selflessness. He invariably saw the same in everyone and inspired the whole world to lead the life of righteousness.

4. The Law of Focus

In the face of problems, if you tend to lose direction, you are giving way to insecurity and rage. Instead, the best way to rise above challenges is by seeing them as opportunities to focus on your goals. Despite hurdles and lawsuits, the great Nicolas Tesla never lost sight and created over 300 patents to his name. It is said that he once worked 84 hours straight.

5. The Law of Significance and Inspiration

Your good returns are the fruits of your energy and intent. Fair use of intelligence is to have positive intentions and to put your energy into fructifying them. Invest in improving your business conduct. Use the profits to thank, encourage, and improve the lives of those who helped you succeed. Humility is the best form of investment.

The Karmic Philosophy of Business Sustainability

The core objective of any business is sustainability. A good business Karma will ensure a long run for any organization. Let’s decode further. The business Karma consists of four key elements

  • Strategy – Implementing decisions that are thought through and would reap long term benefits. For example, mergers and acquisitions or product diversification.
  • Transparency – Acting per policies and communicating in all openness, honesty, and goodwill to employees and customers. For example, intimating clients in case of an operational-hiccup.
  • Nurturing – Promoting a culture of care and empowering employees to grow in the system. For example, a manager guiding his/her team by sharing expertise and wisdom.
  • Objectivity – Acting fair by ensuring pragmatic criteria to arrive at a decision. For example, eliminating personal biases when addressing employee grievances.

When actions comply with these four elements the good business karma is manifested in form of sustainability. On contrary, bad business karma will impact a business’s lifeline.

(Link: https://yourstory.com/mystory/apply-good-karma-business?utm_pageloadtype=scroll)


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In Part 2 of this series of thoughts on the challenges posed by the pandemic to business leaders, we had noticed that the same are being met by:

  • Reposing one’s faith in the basic goodness of human beings,
  • Responding to fresh challenges in a creative and innovative manner,
  • Adopting a sunnier disposition,
  • Preparing for contingencies in advance, and
  • Reconfiguring operations with due respect to nature and mother earth.

One no longer has the luxury of treating these traits as being theoretical constructs. Leadership is always context-specific and top managements need to evaluate the seniors on the traits listed here. These are the transformative professionals in the organization who need to be brought into critical roles without delay.

Much like a befuddled Arjuna twiddling his thumbs at the beginning of Bhagavad Gita who is made to realize his true path of righteousness towards the end of this unique Manual of Motivation, the pandemic is telling leaders to wake up to a new reality and get their act right.

Lord Krishna does not directly refer to human values; instead, he places a premium on one following the path of righteousness, a concept which is all-encompassing. He exhorts us to work in a detached manner, to focus on our efforts and be clear that results are not in our control. He speaks of the virtues of higher resilience, equanimity and the extent of control we exercise over our desires. All these enable us to enjoy an inner sense of peace and joy. He also speaks of human behavior being governed by the mix of three ‘gunas’: Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.

The qualities mentioned in Bhagavad Gita mostly match with the traits mentioned earlier. Businesses and traders downing their shutters and moving on to totally different activities surely have owners who are learning the art of detachment the hard way. Many have expanded their footprints, revealing their nerves of chilled steel and reflecting a high degree of resilience. Seeking inner peace and equanimity by adopting some meditative practices and doing yoga is helping professionals to switch over to a work-from-home mode, despite distractions caused by family matters. All these have made leaders discard their sense of pessimism and get cracking in the face of a pandemic, setting an example for others to follow.

It would be appropriate to revisit some verses of the scripture:

Whatever actions great persons perform, common people follow. Whatever standards they set, all the world pursues. (3.21) 

When the mind, restrained from material activities, becomes still by the practice of Yog, then the yogi is able to behold the soul through the purified mind, and he rejoices in the inner joy. (6.20)


 In that joyous state of Yog, called samādhi, one experiences supreme boundless divine bliss, and thus situated, one never deviates from the Eternal Truth. (6.21)


 Having gained that state, one does not consider any attainment to be greater. Being thus established, one is not shaken even in the midst of the greatest calamity. (6.22)


 That state of severance from union with misery is known as Yog. This Yog should be resolutely practiced with determination free from pessimism. (6.23)


 Completely renouncing all desires arising from thoughts of the world, one should restrain the senses from all sides with the mind. (6.24)


With the benefit of hindsight, those who have a positive attitude are not only surviving the virus but have also discovered newer dimensions in their lives. They are on the way to re-skilling themselves and learning other trades. For many, especially in countries like India, an abiding faith in a divine power brings about a sense of surrender, acceptance, patience and resilience. The result is that they end up following the key lessons of Bhagavad Gita, even though in a subconscious manner. This helps them to do well during the kind of churning that the pandemic has inflicted on us.

What the virus has thrown up is a challenge to human beings to live, work and become smarter; to respect nature and environment better and to focus on being sustainable. It has prodded us in the ribs to be more flexible in our thinking and to expect the unexpected.

It has brought home some basic truths: that human beings come first; also, that the key lessons imparted by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on a battlefield some 5,500 years ago continue to be relevant to this day.

(Inputs from Mr Ashok Narayan are gratefully acknowledged; translations of Gita verses courtesy https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org)

(The illustration is reproduced with permission from the illustrator, Arati Shedde, and Heartfulness Magazine – www.heartfulnessmagazine.com.)


(Part 3 of a series of articles on Corona virus and Leadership)

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The world can now be said to be inhabited by at least three kinds of Bollywood fans. These are newer communities emerging the world over, irrespective of their age, sex, religion, caste, wealth, political leanings and nationality. This is one of the several boons being granted to a despondent humanity by the dreaded Corona virus. A macro-level restructuring of the entire planet is already on its way.

One tribe is that of those who are blissfully unaware of the consequences of suffering from this virus. Members of this tribe keep going around in a carefree manner, possibly believing themselves to be far different than the hoi polloi, a cut above the rest and invincible. Experts would label members of this tribe as Covidiots. They pose a serious threat to most of us.

Another kind are the ones who are clueless, suffering a deep sense of anxiety and dreading its arrival on their doorsteps. They keep twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out as to when it would strike them. Either out of fear or a desire to keep themselves and their near and dear ones safe and healthy, they try to follow as many do’s and dont’s which keep popping up on their smart screens with a frequency which could put an atomic clock to shame. One may call such obedient persons as Covidients.

Yet another tribe comprises die-hard optimists who believe they are watching a horror film, tucking into their favourite snack and occasionally sipping some atrociously-priced coffee, waiting for the last reel to unfold, hoping for a happy ending. Had they been watching it at home, they would have preferred to watch the same in a fast forward mode. They might be labelled as Covimists.

For succour, members of all these tribes can readily turn to some songs dished out by our Bollywood flicks over the decades. Here is a random sample of the same.


Songs which are best avoided by Covidients


Abhi na jao chhod kar

(Hum Dono, 1961)


Mujh ko apne gale laga lo

(Hamrahi, 1963)


Lag jaa gale

(Woh Kaun Thi, 1964)


Choo lene do

(Kaajal, 1965)


Rut hai milan ki

(Mela, 1971)


Baahon mein chale aao

(Anamika, 1973)


Jaane do na

(Sagar, 1985)


Jumma chumma de de 

(Hum, 1991)


Ang se ang lagana

(Darr, 1993)



(Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!, 1994)


Maiyya Yashoda

(Hum Saath Saath Hain, 1999)


Chupke se lag ja gale 

(Saathiya, 2002)


M bole to

(Munna Bhai MBBS, 2003)


Yeh tara woh tara 

(Swades, 2004)


Tere haath mein mera haath ho

(Fanaa, 2006)


Songs which might motivate Covidiots to mend their ways


Mere piya gaye rangoon

Patanga, 1949


Jalte hain jiske liye

(Sujata, 1959)


Chalo ek baar phir se 

(Gumrah, 1963)


Songs which may suit the Covimists


Saathi haath badhana

Naya Daur, 1957


Hum honge kamyab

(Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, 1983)


Aye mere humsafar

(Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, 1988)


Human ingenuity knows no bounds. Fashionistas are devising women’s headgear incorporating a noise and mouth, keeping viruses and those with amorous intentions at bay, cheering up the Covidients.

Behavioural Scientists are burning the proverbial midnight oil to come up with therapeutic packages which can help the Covidiots improve their ability to realize the limits of their own – rather limited – abilities. Human resource consultants are busy dishing out programs which would assist managements to instill a better sense of equanimity and resilience among their employees, something which was recommended by Lord Krishna more than 5,000 years back.

Covimists, delighted at the environment bouncing back to the pink of its health and noticing a trend towards better sustainability, await the day when many of the perks of the pandemic would truly get appreciated and acted upon so the human race can continue its relentless journey towards evolution.

And here is a tribute to Mother Nature:

Yeh kaun chitrakaar hai

(Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti, 1967)



(The following inputs are gratefully appreciated:

  1. Suggestions for some of the songs listed here, courtesy Sanjana Bhatia.
  2. Terms like Covidiots and Covedients courtesy The Economic Times).





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You would not find the Bhagavad Gita in the self help section of a library or a book store. It is good that it is so. A book of the stature of Bhagavad Gita should not be reduced to the level of popular, (maybe even best seller) self help books which give a feel good message when you read and are shallow and misleading when you probe deeper. But if you ever get to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita, you will find that this is the self help book you have been looking for all your life.

There are reasons why I say so. Self help books focus on one thing – how to get what you want. Self help authors and motivational gurus suggest various seemingly easy and short cut methods to achieve what you want. But they don’t tell you what you should want. Bhagavad Gita does so. It tells you what should be the highest goal of a human being.

It is important first of all to know what you want. Quite often people work hard for years for something, but after they get it they become more frustrated. They wish they should not have desired to achieve that.

Secondly, when you only prescribe ways for getting what you want, it can be utilised for good purpose as well as evil purpose. It can also be utilised for pure selfish purpose which would come at the general good of the society. In fact many self help books encourage you to be selfish and recommend unethical methods to achieve your goal.

These so called motivational authors call their books self help books. But tell me about any self help book where first of all some idea about ‘self’ is given. The fact is that they themselves may not be knowing what self is all about. Bhagavad Gita fulfills this shortcoming. It gives you some idea about your innermost core which is elusive to the conscious mind but can be experienced in deep meditation. Let me assure you, if you don’t have the proper perspective about the ‘self’, no amount of tips, tricks, and hacks will be of any long term use to you.

We are all interdependent, not only from human society point of view, but also from the point of view of our surroundings consisting of living and non-living elements. We cannot progress in isolation. Self help books rarely talk about your position in the cosmic order of things. These books never give you the big picture. Remember that if your actions are not aligned with the big picture of things, the selfish goals you achieve by using the unethical and near- unethical tips and tricks of self help books will frustrate you in the long run even after you get all your desires fulfilled.

In an earlier post also while explaining the fallacy of the self help books I had recommended Bhagavad Gita as one of the few books that I have come across to be of real help. But, to understand the core message of Bhagavad Gita there are practical difficulties. There are thousands of translated versions of Bhagavad Gita available in various languages. If you do not have expertise in Sanskrit, you will not know how wide off the mark many of such translations and their commentaries are. Even knowing Sanskrit is not enough. To understand Bhagavad Gita one should have basic knowledge of various systems of Indian philosophy known as Darshanas.

While going through various books on Bhagavad Gita in the three languages that I can read and write I found that many of the interpreters did not have any experience in yoga or meditation. Such people who set out to interpret Bhagavad Gita do great injustice to the book.

In spite of all the shortcomings it is worthwhile to try the Bhagavad Gita in whatever versions you may land your hands on. These days of course you have many online versions. It may be useful to compare two to three versions to enable you to at least get the core versions. By the way my own version is also underway. From time to time while going through various versions of the Bhagavad Gita I have made notes of insights gained. My advantage is that I can fairly understand Sanskrit even though I am no expert in it.


(The original post can be accessed at ‘Pebbles and Waves’ : durgadash.com. Permission to repost it here is gratefully acknowledged).

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Lord Krishna may be able to help

When compared to human beings, machines tend to be far more objective in their approach to things. Humans have the luxury of wallowing in self pity and being attached to objects and people. Machines cannot afford luxuries of this kind. Thus, when it comes to machines and algorithms, several tips dished out by Lord Krishna become irrelevant. But for human beings who have to interact with machines and have to ensure that these are programmed along ethical and moral lines, life shall surely pose different kind of challenges.

Unlike Ramayana which speaks of Ram Rajya and Thirukkural which elaborates upon the duties of a king, Bhagavad Gita does not directly address such issues as the manner in which either businesses or governments need to be run. Nor does it directly touch upon the subject of taking better care of human resources – a key factor in management. Yes, when it places a premium on work being done with benign motives, it hints at the desirability of getting work done with malice towards none. The scripture is primarily focused on the need to do one’s duty with a sense of detachment and equanimity.

Let us consider the kind of indirect clues it offers which could perhaps be of some use to CEOs and managers who are trying to grapple with the challenges posed by rapid advances in technology.

(Quotes of verses from Gita below are literal translations from Sanskrit. Each translation is followed by (xx.yy), where xx is the number of the Chapter and yy the number of the verse within)

The promise of Saatvic actions

To recapitulate what Gita says, it is work which is taken up for work’s own sake, in an attitude that work itself is worship. Actions performed in a spirit of inspiration and with benign motivation would fall in this category. So would actions which are propelled neither by love nor by hate. These are acts of grace which are not acts of obligation. These are not actions arising out of one’s likes and dislikes.

The assigned action which is done without attachment, attraction (or) repulsion and without clinging to (its) fruit that is called ‘Sattvic’. (18.23)

Business leaders who mostly operate at the Rajasic plane, if they were to consider working in this manner, the issue of wrong motives – whether at the development or at the implementation stage – would not come up. Eventually, they would end up steering their business along sustainable lines.

The perils of Rajasic and Tamasic actions

But machines have severe limitations. Those who shop or eat out at a restaurant soon start missing the smile of a charming floor incharge or the kind of fuss that a human waiter could make over a customer. Irate customers who call a company to register their anger about some deficiency in service are further put off when they are greeted by an auto-response system which prompts them go through several cycles of 1 to 9 button punching. Poor machines cannot compare the uncomparables/unquantifiables. So, they cannot advise CEOs on choosing between profitability and human safety.

Machines could therefore assist at either the Rajasic or the Tamasic level of actions. Lord Krishna cautions that such actions eventually lead to problems.

The fruit of virtuous action is said to be Sattvic and pure; the fruit of Rajasic action is sorrow; ignorance is the fruit of Tamas. (14.16)

Overcoming Leadership Deficit

The responsibility on the shoulders of a leader is rather heavy. She has to walk the talk and set an example for others to follow. If she herself is prone to using her expense account to accommodate outings for her loved ones, others will lose no time to sniff it out and follow in her footsteps. 

Whatsoever a noble man does, the very same is also done by other men. Whatever standard he sets, the world follows it. (3.21) 

The pink slip syndrome

For someone who ends up getting a pink slip all of a sudden due to the organisation having adopted a newer set of technologies could find that Bhagavad Gita has already highlighted the importance of one doing work skilfully and sincerely, thereby pursuing excellence.

But he who, controlling the senses with the mind, without attachment engages the organs of action in the Yoga of action, he excels, O Arjuna. (3.7)

It exhorts one to not to overtly fall for the temptation of the senses which get continuously exposed to the delectable offerings of life – pleasures of the table, inclination for a variety of amorous endeavours, addiction with social media, and the like.

Keeping one’s desires under check and avoiding undue intoxication with power and pelf is another crucial idea that it recommends. It advises one to not to live a life of delusion which makes one undertake a perennial but futile search for an everlasting pampering of one’s ego. Practicing equanimity and being steady inside is highly recommended. So are regular meditative practices.

In praise of Self Control

Bhagavad Gita does not recommend a boring, listless and monochromatic life to a spiritual aspirant. It merely says not to get swayed by the temptations of life and to gratify one’s senses and fulfil one’s desires with a strict sense of moderation. Self-control is the key word. In case a confrontation comes about, empathy and the ability to put oneself in the shoes of the other person is spoken of.

A lamp which does not flicker in a windless place, to such is compared the Yogi of a disciplined mind who remains steady in meditation on the Self. (6.19)

The need for leaders with a higher Spiritual Quotient

All of these are proactive measures which could enable a CEO to scale greater heights in her career, delivering results with greater efficiency and aplomb. These are not quick-fixes. Instead, these are long term solutions which have the potential of enabling one to not only face the challenges of technological advancement but also to utilise technology to the best of one’s advantage, rather than becoming a slave to it.

The future would obviously see a much higher demand for business leaders whose heads are screwed on right and who take decisions using not only a Commercial Compass but also a Spiritual one, guided by the values of the organization. Several companies already have Chief Ethics Officers. Those who have thrived in such roles are the ones who have enjoyed support from the very top.

Of jackals, cobras, giraffes, elephants and tortoises

To run a business well, wily jackals and cobras are required; but so are friendly giraffes, elephants and tortoises. In the days to come, conscious managements would do well to assign the role of Conscience Keepers to any competent and willing full-time director on the board who would keep the business afloat without running into a collision with massive icebergs of targets which involve a hidden mass of compromise on core values and ethics. A culture of encouraging dissent and listening to whistle-blowers would also help in a business being steered right.

(Inputs from experts in IT, management, Gita and aviation are gratefully acknowledged)

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When leadership deficit leads to a compromise on values  

It is understandable that our business leaders keep biting their nails trying to beat the competition. But when they chase business goals by compromising on their core values, they eventually get caught in a regulatory web and start losing customers. Their brand image takes a serious hit.

Consider the following instances:

The 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster 

For a space exploration agency of the stature of NASA, revenues and profit were not the motives, but it appears that deviations were indeed made from standard safety protocols because the top leadership put a higher premium on expediency. The now infamous O-ring pressure seals, supplied by a Utah-based contractor, served as the cause of the crash.

The O-rings had been tested to perform in 40-degree Fahrenheit or above weather conditions. On that fateful morning in Florida in 1986, it was only 18 degrees. NASA knew it was an issue, but hours before the launch pressed the contractor to “green light” the launch. Robert Ebeling, heading a team the concerned contractor’s employees experienced with the O-rings debated whether they could knowingly approve that the O-rings would not fail.

In the end, the team wanted NASA to wait until the afternoon when temperatures would be closer to 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to the pressure exerted by NASA—in addition to the wilting of the contractor’s senior managers—the company reversed its original decision and ended up giving the go-ahead for launch.

Alas, Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven members on board.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco

During 2016, Apple was set to launch the iPhone 7. Samsung leaders rushed into bringing Galaxy Note 7 into the market before Apple. Here also, market forces determined the behaviour of the company’s management. In a rush to beat the competition, a design flaw in the battery was overlooked. Safety standards were apparently compromised.

Within weeks of the launch, the phones started catching fire. A recall ensued with over 2.5 million phones sent back to Samsung. The company lost billions of dollars in the recall, let alone billions more in lost revenues.

The Boeing 737 Max Issue

In October 2018, Indonesia’s Lion Air flight plummeted to the ground shortly after taking off, killing all 189 people on board. Subsequently, in March 2019, a crash happened in an eerily similar manner in Ethiopia, killing all 157 persons aboard.

Boeing claims to work on such ‘enduring values’ as integrity and safety.  The company defines integrity as taking “the high road by practicing the highest ethical standards.” Likewise, safety is captured thus: “We value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly,” the company suggests, and that “by committing to safety first, we advance our goals for quality, cost, and schedule.”

But to match the launch of A320neo by Airbus, said to be 15% more fuel efficient, Boeing moved fast and launched the 737 MAX nine months after Airbus’s announcement. Regulatory approvals were apparently rushed through, by simply declaring the 737 MAX to be merely a ‘derivative’ model of the company’s cash cow – 737. Technical changes of a material kind were apparently made, but the need for pilot training was never highlighted. The Flight Crew Operating Manual was not modified to reflect the changes. If this had been done, perhaps the pilots might have been in a better position to know what to do should the plane begin to behave unpredictably after takeoff due to the bad sensor data.

The common thread running through all these instances is the leadership deficit these organizations faced at the time. When values become mere words on a company’s website, disaster just lurks around the corner. As technology advances, the human angle can only be ignored at the risk of a great cost to the organization as also to the society at large.

Of revenue-hungry businesses and governments

World over, history has repeatedly taught us that when it comes to the Rajasic world of commerce, truth is a casualty. Cigarette and liquor manufacturers contribute to the exchequer and also keep their own stakeholders happy. Pharmaceutical companies keep peddling drugs which may have serious side effects on hapless patients. After holding up cholesterol as the main villain for cardiac problems for a very long time, suddenly we find that medical research comes up with results which are contrary to the original stand.

A recent example is that of the mad rush to bring in 5-G which rides on a much stronger dose of radiation. Nowhere does one see a reasonable debate on the impending costs of environmental degradation owing to a high dose of radiation.

The risk of data privacy

As businesses and governments go in for higher levels of digitisation, lay citizens who avail of products and services end up living in more transparent fish bowls. Individuals cease to matter. Somewhere in a data repository, they become mere numbers, coded by a binary system and mercilessly crunched into big data; data which is eagerly lapped up by the corporate world.

One who loves undergoing a Virtual Reality experiment is shocked to find that he and even his family members are denied an insurance policy because the body reactions detected during the said experiment indicate that he is likely to be suffering from dementia, a disease which runs in families. One who books a bnb apartment has to not only substantiate his true identity as a living person, but also establish that his past legal record is as pure as fresh driven snow. Personal interactions with a customer have ceased to matter in most digital transactions.

Hapless customers and citizens are no longer kings and queens; they are jacks of all trades who master none, let alone themselves or their own thought processes.

Political parties have already perfected the art of using Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics to shape public opinion en masse. There are no bad politicos and good politicos. Scratch the surface and one would find that underneath they are all the same. In many countries, democracy is touted as a virtue, but just beneath its soft velvety cover can be discerned the cloven hoof of dictatorial tendencies.

Caveat emptor (or, buyer beware) is the only way forward!

Some lessons from Bhagavad Gita

Smart CEOs can perhaps look up to this ancient scripture to find some ways out of a quagmire of this kind. We explore this theme in the next part.


(Inputs from an IT expert and an aviation expert are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/the-challenges-of-industrial-revolution-4-0-part-1-of-3)



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The first Industrial Revolution used water and steam to mechanize production; the second used electric power and the third one used electronics and IT as its springboard. The fourth one fuses various technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 5G telephony, nanotechnology, biotech, robotics, quantum computing and the like.

Exciting days are indeed ahead!

Disney World now has an app, and also supplies a visitor with a Magic Band which is to be worn on one’s wrist. The customer can choose and book rides, and is tracked through a web of beacons scattered throughout the park. Booking at the hotel is on one’s finger tips, and so is reserving tables at any of the restaurants.

Amazon Go has already started a cashier-less store in the US. The sales staff is there merely to assist a customer in choosing a product. Japan already boasts of retail chains where there is hardly any human interface.

Rolls Royce makes the Trent engine used in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Their latest ones come with 25 IoT sensors that track fuel flow, pressure, and temperature. On top of that, the company provides technology to track the aircraft’s altitude, speed, and air temperature, as well as ways to analyze the data to figure out maintenance patterns and better routing. With increasing crowding in the air space, such innovations make it possible to avoid mid-air disasters, thereby rendering air travel relatively safer.

Robots are already taking over routine jobs. The promise of a driver-less car is already being pursued with much gusto by leading companies.

The possibilities are mind boggling, indeed.

The perils of advances in technology

Yours truly has nothing against technical advancements. What concerns him is the purpose for which we embrace it. Developments in technology need to be evaluated on two parameters: The cost-benefit ratio of utility for the masses, and its ethical and moral dimensions. The latter brings into the focus the motives behind each of the developments and its subsequent deployment.

So far, Industrial Revolution 4.0 has brought to fore the following challenges:

  • Widespread changes in the skill-sets required by commercial enterprises, already leading to severe joblessness.
  • Values being compromised, both at the development and at the implementation stage; Training (or re-skilling) of manpower being accorded a lower priority than investments in upcoming technological advances
  • Regulatory frameworks being several steps behind developments being rolled out
  • An unholy nexus between revenue-hungry businesses and governments, facilitating promotion of technologies which may be harmful to flora and fauna and even to human beings.
  • The digitization of individuals and the resultant threat to data privacy.

Skill sets of the future: A premium on softer skills 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) was the first one to use the term Industrial Revolution 4.0 in 2016.

As per one of its documents titled Future of Jobs Report, employers are said to anticipate a significant shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms for the tasks of today.

The aforesaid report states that of the total task hours across the industries covered, on an average, 71% are currently performed by humans, whereas 29% are performed by machines or algorithms. By 2022, this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans, and 42% by machines or algorithms. It can be readily appreciated that this signifies a very rapid pace of change, something for which leaders need to be better prepared.

The report goes on to project that skills related to analytical thinking, active learning, technology design and technology competency would grow in prominence. It also proposes that such ‘human’ skills as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will either retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving.

It follows that a more humane approach to handling team members needs to be consciously developed, especially when operating in a business environment characterized by a shortage of skilled workers. In turn, this would pre-suppose a higher Emotional Quotient and a much higher Spiritual Quotient, especially at the leadership level. Even as the reliance on artificial intelligence grows for the analytical part of decision making, the importance of practicing the art of remaining connected with one’s inner Self would go up quite a few notches.

When intuition and human values rule supreme

What can be more relevant than to consider the case of a hapless pilot who, when faced with a mid-air crisis, reacts quickly, based purely on her intuition and the concern for passenger safety?

On the 17th of April, 2018, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 took off from New York-LaGuardia Airport and was headed to Dallas Love Field. The Boeing 737-700 experienced an uncontained engine failure, damaging the fuselage and a cabin window which led to rapid depressurisation. One passenger got partially ejected from the aircraft and died later. Eight others were injured. The flight had 144 passengers and a total of five crew members on board.

Tammie Jo Schults, a former US Navy pilot, was in command. With her concern for human safety, she managed to steer the ill-fated plane to safety. The crew conducted an emergency descent and decided to land at Philadelphia International Airport.

On the day of the incident, Elaine Chao, the US Secretary of Transportation, made a statement to ‘commend the pilots who safely landed the aircraft, and the crew and fellow passengers who provided support and care for the injured, preventing what could have been far worse.’

On May 1, 2018, the US President welcomed the crew and selected passengers in a ceremony at the Oval Office of the White House, thanking them for their heroism.

The evolving relationship between machines and Homo sapiens

Machine learning systems, which process vast quantities of data and make decisions based upon that data, are incapable of such competencies as compassion and empathy, which are the firm foundations of human values.

Already, technology has evolved to enable robots to be very effective at collaborating with humans. Yet, humans continue to be much more resilient and possess the unique ability of flexibly changing their plans to cope with unpredictable events.

Unlike thought so far, the man–machine relationship shall become more integrated with each other in the near future. As a result, the combined force of processing of billions of data points for efficient decision making by machines, and contextual, emotional and intuitive aspects of decision making by human beings, would be, to that extent, higher and greater in its impact – for good or bad.

One thing is certain. Things are not changing at a constant rate. With each passing year, the rate of change is also increasing. Much like Alice in Wonderland, Homo sapiens are discovering that they need to keep running faster and faster, with nary a respite in sight. Mankind is perhaps bound to evolve further much earlier than what was believed earlier.

Alvin Toffler might have labelled this as Future Shock 4.0!

(Inputs from an IT expert and an aviation expert are gratefully acknowledged)

(A version of this article appears in India Digital, a digital magazine https://indiachapter.in/user/article/1/15,19/42)

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We live in times when the allure of the C-suite appears to be wearing off. Expectations from CEOs of all hues, sizes and shapes are reaching stratospheric levels, with the ostensible result that attrition rates at that level of management reflect an upward tick.

A recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers had revealed that the CEO turnover at the world’s 2,500 largest companies rose to 17.5% in 2018 – 3% higher than the 14.5% in 2017. For the year 2018, the first time in the study’s history, more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles. CEO turnover rose notably in every region in 2018 except China, and was quite high in Brazil, Russia, and India (21.6 percent) while the lowest was in North America (14.7 percent).

According to the report, in 2000, a CEO could expect to remain in office for eight or more years, on average. Over the last decade, however, average CEO tenure has been only five years.

The mixed bathing challenge for CEOs

While those who aspire to occupy a C-suite keep an ear to the ground and eagerly wait to seize an opportunity as and when it comes up, the ones who have benevolent Guardian Angels and end up occupying one soon realize the perils of mixed bathing on the Dark Continent where, attracted by the tourism propaganda of some innovative travel agents, they end up swimming in the Zambezi river. To their utter horror, they discover that mixed bathing regulations are in vogue there, and that their dip is being shared by a couple of young crocodiles. What leaves them literally cold in the feet are the penetrating and unfriendly eyes of some of the crocodiles swimming alongside, who have taken a jaundiced view of their habitat being infested with a juicy specimen of the tribe of Homo  sapiens. Quite a few others are gleeful, drooling over a good source of their daily vitamins. These crocodiles might as well be representing the kind of challenges CEOs would face when, and if, they return to their office desks: Business Goals, Quarterly Guidelines, Investor Pressure, Ethical Dilemmas, Compliances of all kinds, to cite only a few.

Business leaders of the future

Increasingly, there is a need for business leaders who can steer their businesses using not only a Commercial but also a Spiritual Compass. In an era when technological developments are redefining the manner in which businesses interact with their stakeholders, there is much that CEOs and managers can learn from the Bhagavad Gita. It is a Do-It-Yourself Manual of Motivation. Its language is pregnant with symbolism at times. But it has rich lessons to offer for day-to-day conduct of business.

Of jackals, cobras, giraffes, elephants and tortoises 

To run a business well, wily jackals and cobras are required; but so are friendly giraffes, brainy elephants and wise tortoises. If the leader herself happens to be a spiritually inclined person, focused on steering the business successfully towards its purpose and goals but without running into a collision with massive icebergs hiding a hidden mass of compromises with core values and ethics, she would attain the exalted status of a Conscience Keeper for the entire business.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/towards-sq)

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