Constraints and contradictions

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This blog from business to the Buddha was started when I was completing my MBA. Few of the sessions on economics, marketing, Organizational behavior and supply chain made me realize that there is more common to business, economics, management and spirituality; in particular concepts of Buddhism than what we think. Though I used to feel it since I moved to Mumbai a decade back in 2006. This thought moved into a wordpress blog – business2buddha.wordpress.com because MBA gave me not only a formal education in management but also time to think about the relationship. At that time, I never thought that this choice of writing can be such that I keep on writing for 7 long years. Of course there was a hiatus in 2017 due to some other personal commitments. My thoughts have always been on finding out relationship between business / economics concept to spirituality (in particular Buddhism). The fascination makes me feel that we are on a path of moving from “me” to an “us” society. A society from competition to co-existence, from Business to the Buddha. I wish this comes out to be true.

Off late I am hearing a lot about “mindfulness”. Some months back Harvard Business Review wrote about it. Initially it made me happy. I was thinking that mainstream is accepting the concept which I had been writing about for some time. Occasionally, I feel that this “mindfulness” thing has become more of a buzzword than a real practice. Hope it does not end up being – six sigma, innovation, analytics and big data type hype. The purpose of mindfulness is for “self”, in effect helping organization and society. Hope mindfulness does not end up like the other buzzword of management jargon; hope people do not end up making it a business and “whats in it for ‘business‘” alone and keep it more practical and individual practice than a corrupt practice of survival of business.

The contradiction here has been the approach. I have moved from Business to the Buddha. The movement from business to the self and self realization and coexistence. The approach of management jargon seems to be the other way round. Making business out of the mindfulness or possibly trying to get “competitive advantage” or some sort of “benefit” for business from the path.

I am optimistic about the move from business to the Buddha. In fact when I realized that I might be making a mistake of showing or possibly thinking of a movement from Business to Buddha I bought a domain – www.SaintInSuit.com though I am yet to write on that. I am thinking that I will let people write on the website – their experiences, their relationship between business, management and spirituality. The idea is not to restrict to the Buddha alone. There are other methods, thoughts, concepts and teachings on the path of spirituality that have strong affinity to business. Though I personally can recount more examples on business and spirituality with Buddhism than other religion.

The concept of Saint In Suit is a thought of middle path, the method that says one can be spiritual without renouncing. One can do business without negatively affecting his/her personal choice of following spirituality. We (predominantly in India) think that there is a constraint between business and spirituality, however we miss out – Saint Kabir was a businessman, so were many others just few examples Gora Kumbhar or even the worst you can think of Kanhopatra was a prostitute. Even the Buddha at a later stage of his life accepted that – one does not necessarily renounce to self-realize.

There is neither contradiction nor constraint of being a saint yet a businessman. Though, I am worried if people make business of mindfulness specially when it is a showoff than for real change.

Constraints was a topic for LBC in Sept 2017, as usual I changed the topic a bit and wrote on it well past the week when it was due. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Ramanna Uncle ji, Ashok and Shackman.

Image source – first image my creation and second image – Image source – http://www.bravefury.com/six-reasons-men-should-do-yoga/

Options, analysis and decisions

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I have been analyzing buying a house vs living on rent and buying a four wheeler vs riding a cab. This is not a new comparison and analysis for me. Most of the time, answers to these two were – buy a house and rent a car or use a cab service.

How did I arrive at these conclusions? Of course after some calculations and considering options. The question is – what was the measure on which I measured these things to come up with some conclusion? The measure was “utility”. In economics utility means resultant benefit achieved from something (usage or consumption of product or service). When you eat Idly on road side @20 INR and when the same idly plate is served to you in a better place it could by @60 INR. We may argue about taste, hygiene etc of idly from 20INR to 60INR. When one moves from basic utility to additional utilities we measure that in terms of marginal utility. Marginal utility, is the incremental benefit one gets from consumption or usage of an offering.

We can continue from our situation of buying a four wheeler. The first question one may have is – which car – SUV, Sedan, Hatchback. Once that is decided which company which brand and what amenities such as AC, power window and music system etc. There are obviously many more questions in making a decision. The other option is hiring a local taxi or app based service. After all this analysis – what one gets is drop from point A to point B. At times pain of parking – if it is owned car or self driving. The drop from A to B is utility in this case. Marginal utility is – can you play music of your choice while driving or is the vehicle air conditioned during the trip. In the bargain of ability to play music and air conditioning you need to pay extra. This extra amount vs the additional benefit you get defined marginal utility.

Many of our life decisions are made emotionally and justified rationally. I analyzed a lot with a decision of buying a house and renting a car. Currently, I live in a rented house and drive a car. How often do we take decision by listening to our heart and mind? Is there a rational justification to our decision? Why do we take such decision? When we have to really take a plunge with faith, we falter. When we have to take a decision with full analysis we do the opposite!

Give it a thought – Mahavir and Buddha – both were from warrior families and were to be the kings. Why did they renounce everything, how on earth they both might have taken such step? Had they both done enough analysis possibly both had stayed back. I know more about the Buddha so can think of an incident, when he was following extreme austerity such that he could had died of hunger, he decided to eat. In short term his five best friends went away saying he has left the path. But the Buddha was right, austerity and self affliction may not necessarily help. He said to himself, if I die of hunger I wont be able to achieve what I strive for.

In my analytics practice one of my senior’s Eron Kar used to say – “If you torture data enough it will confess to the story you want it to narrate.” Always it is not right to over analyze, at times leaders need to take a leap of faith and decide.

Prof Mankad told me once – “Pravin, when you become a leader, sitting in the 76th floor of your corporate office when you have to make a tough choice do one thing. Leave aside all the papers and analysis. Walk toward the window. Take out a coin from your pocket, toss it and you will have the decision.” Dr Mankad continued “Pravin, sometimes you should stop over analyzing.” I need to learn a lot to do that one I have to become that big a decision maker of a company and two stopping the urge to analyze everything, I still analyze a lot!

Image source – http://novalo.com/flat-fee-self-employed/

Opportunity cost of being Humans

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It was a 2013 evening, my sister and I went for a walk after dinner. It was a daily practice for us those days. Chinu was playing with the stray dogs – well behaved and good dogs of our area. This habit also included feeding left over chapatis to these stray dogs. We had started eating multi-grain chapatis, my sister used to prepare the composition (of course sourced from internet) of different grains – usually five. One day my sister told me – “I have noticed that these stray dogs do not eat these chapatis, earlier when we were making wheat chapatis it did not happen.” I jokingly said – “They have not developed a taste for it!” Her observation was correct, these dogs did not touch these chapatis, matter became bit serious and a learning – eat chapatis of one grain at a time. Perhaps the animals are closer to the nature than us, they know what will suit their body more than we know about our body. That is our problem – we have moved away from listening to our natural instinct. I wonder if animals have glutton intolerance or lactose intolerance etc. We humans have such eating disorders. I believe the reason is our not listening to our body. I believe our body can give us signs that – you should not eat it. But we do not listen.

I could remember incident of 2013 when I had been watering plants at home. I noticed that the pots were discarding water that the plant did not need. Plants also take as much as required, we do not, our greed is for more money than what we need to survive, we’ve huge wardrobes and eat more for taste than for nourishment. Have you seen a fat leopard? But obesity is a problem with us. We go to gym to be fit, yet our eating habits belie our natural instinct.

Have you heard a saying birds of a feather flock together. Needless to say, many must have seen birds of same species flying together from season to season. Literal meaning of this saying actually changes in our (human being’s) context. Because we humans have divided our existence by color of skin, our way of thinking and our religious following etc. We have been fighting for Left Vs Right or religious supremacy – be it ISIS in Syria (for Islam) or Rohingya (against Islam). That is an opportunity cost of being Humans.

We have – somewhere – missed our intelligence in our growth (smarter phones but dumb people), our belief of being morally correct (building stock pile of nuclear weapons for self protection – war for peace) and proving one being religiously pious than the other (my religion is better and correct than your religion is). That is opportunity cost of being human!

The question to ask is – are we really “being” human? Animals are better in some sense, they don’t kill to either propagate their religion, control other animals and show supremacy.

In Indian theology it is said that a person is born as human after a million+ lives as other creature. Well, few people would not accept this concept because of their way of thinking or conditioning of mind. Why there is harmony in nature but not in our cities, countries? Isn’t it the “cost” we are paying for the opportunities we have got as human beings?

This was topic for Sept 7th 2017 LBC, I wrote after a month. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Ramana uncleji, Ashok and Shackman.

PS – English meaning of Opportunity cost – the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.

More on opportunity cost as concept of economics at investopedia

Image source – http://www.jamieatlas.com/2008/07/24/stepmill-most-underrated-machine-in-your-gym/

Decision making

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One can make a decision or gets into a situation of decision making only when one has choices. Choices at times spoil us or confuse us.

I would not want to write much when I have a great video to share in relation of this topic – it is about life, choices and decisions.

Decision making is (LBC topic) Loose Bloggers Consortium topic where MariaRummuserAshokShackman and I write. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

Future shock – watch our act

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I have forgotten why world war I started. One needs to read and remember history for that. However, I do remember that after the war there were some very heavy penalties on the losing side. These penalties eventually resulted in world war II, isn’t it? At times it comes in this little mind that our present actions determine possibilities of what twist future might take – perhaps that is what is future shock.

Let us take another example – wars are not good for anyone, everyone knows this, yet countries (specially the politicians of the countries) create such situations – be it North Korea or United States, these days China is pressurizing India. I wonder why politicians want to control people and their mind – specially in China – and to own land and other things?

I – though not a political analyst – see it as diverting India’s attention from Pakistan orders where China is making CPEC, to move away Indian troops actions against Kashmiri terrorists. I wonder if all these events convert in any disaster of war, because everyone will start taking sides in such cases to provoke world to an almost extinction. All these are present shocks and not future shocks.

A shock is always in the present, not in future! Let us take an example of end of world war II, the nuclear explosion was a present moment shock and loss. We may argue that it was a possibility. However, I still maintain, shocks are always in the present, in fact any experience is in the present. Take an example of climate change, recently US president rejected it in G-20 summit.Climate change is a present shock a truth that we are facing on a daily basis. As a society we never looked at it by asking ourselves what are we doing? We were running behind growth, cutting trees, polluting air, water and soil. I came across this video some years back thought to share it here

Our past acts become our future shocks, yet these ‘past’ acts were ‘present’ when performed and the future shock is observed in the ‘present’ again. So any future shock is a mirage, everything happens in the present, only thing that we can do is – watch our act! Be it climate change, or owning the world (winning landmass or controlling others)

On this note – I leave you with these two videos –

Future shock was (LBC topic) Loose Bloggers Consortium topic where MariaRummuserAshokShackman and I write. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

PS – Author knows there is a book with the same title, he hasn’t read it though. author knows the definition of future shock by Alvin Toffler, yet tried defining and understanding future and shocks in his own manner.

Hidden potential

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I had inflammation of gums recently and was not able to eat properly. Instead of looking for solution first, I started looking for causes why I had this swelling? Root cause of the same of my eating roasted corn. So, next time onwards I will be careful when eating roasted corn. Currently, I am having backache, all due to wrong postures while working in office seating in office.

We do not even notice small integral parts of our body such as gums or back until we have a trouble with them. These parts exist and function as per their role in the physiology of our body, yet we are in oblivion of them, until those have some issue – for us those are almost nonexistent until they let us know they exist and have some limits, in my case it was backache and gum’s swelling. I had kept on noticing gums every time I put something in my mouth, back is reminding me of it’s existence until now.

What is hidden? Hidden – to us human beings – is something that we cannot perceive. The gums and back was something hidden until I had troubles there, it existed physically, I knew it existed but I did not notice it.

Perceptions are another limitation, our perceptions are limited to our five senses. If something exist beyond these senses we may not know of it’s existence such as noise beyond a certain range.

We cannot see air, it does not mean it does not exist, we know air is there because our sense of touch can feel it – breeze or cold. A seed has a possibility of become a tree, that is it’s hidden potential. We cannot see it manifested and thus we do not believe in it; that is our problem. Our perceptions are actually created by our previous learning. In the image here, there is no gate or fence, it is all in the minds of sheep.

I have written on it earlier on perceptions and specially here what I learnt from Sai kaka, about our past impressions –
Sanskar yukt chaitanya jab (संस्कार युक्त चैतन्य जब)
1. chintan karata hai to usko chitt kahate hai (1. चिंतन करता है तो उसको चित्त कहते है)
2. manan karata hai to usko man kahate hai (2. मनन करता है तो उसको मन कहते है)
3. nirnay karata hai to usko buddhi kahate hai (3. निर्णय करता है तो उसको बुद्धि कहते है)
4. asmita ka bhan karata hai to usko aham kahate hai (4. अस्मिता का भान करता है तो उसको अहं कहते है)
inme se sansakar nikal jaye to jo bachata hai vo shuddha chaitanya hai (इनमे से संस्कार निकल जाए तो जो बचता है वो शुद्ध चैतन्य है)

A rough English translation of the same is –

When a conscious filled with rituals (or say the lessons learnt about ‘way of living’, include religion)

1. thinks we call it mind (imagination)
2. contemplate we call it Mind [there is a difference between Chitt and man which I am not able to translate in English]
3. makes a decision we call it intellect
4. perceives pride we call it Ego

Now when the rituals, religion or ‘way of life’ learnt, get out of this conscious mind, what is left is the pure consciousness.

It means “pure consciousness” is blurred by our different (Sanskara) learning about life. Therefore in some cases religion becomes a problem.

This is the problem of our perceptions such as we think East is far different from the West. Can we try experimenting – a kid born in Say US should be reared in India and vice versa. Would these kids grow up to behave in similar manner such as US born kid raised in India, would behave like any kid born and raised in US and vice versa? When we talk about East Vs West our perception are based on the “sanskar”, at times those are the hidden potentials.

Hidden potential was an old LBC topic, I wrote on it today. Loose Bloggers Consortium is where MariaRummuserAshokShackman and I write. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

Image source – unknown currently.

Marginal utility

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This was the topic for last weeks LBC. I have been finding it difficult to spare time these days to write regularly. The year 2017 has started like this irregular weekend blogging, hope I will break it sooner.

Half full, half empty, possibility thinking, optimism, pessimismI have written on Marginal utility earlier – Marginal analysis. Let me first explain what is this jargon? My wife explained it to me – see if you are very hungry and you are given an orange you would find it the most satisfying thing in the world. My wife is a CA, she knows economics better than me, I was trying to come up with an example of buying a 1 bedroom hall kitchen (BHK in short) apartment in Mumbai vs a 2 BHK or 3 BHK etc, but I could not come up with some example like that. She does not like oranges as much, wonder why and how orange came as an example in her mind. It is difficult to analyze mind of a lady!

She continued – once you have had one orange and your hunger is bit quenched, now the second or a third orange would not be that satisfying to you. The satisfaction you get from the second or third orange is less, marginal utility is the same what is the incremental utility, benefit or satisfaction you get from eating the one extra orange.

The concept can be applied to anything in life – having an extra laptop or mobile to a home. In terms of economics the concept fits perfectly. Marginal utility of anything reduces over the quantity. Just because of the same we have abused air, water and everything that we have available freely. I am trying to relate this concept to a Sanskrit saying – Ati sarvatra varjayet (अति सर्वत्र वर्जयेत) – surplus of anything is not good.

The next best thing that comes to my mind on it is – love. I have had a tough time explaining to someone that love does not necessarily mean sex, I have written on love earlier. Love is something where there may not necessarily be a marginal utility. It is something unconditional, something endless. So goes, the concept of profits and revenue. Yet both the types of endlessness are of different types. In love – a particular type – there is no ownership. When there is no ownership and mostly when there is no “I” or ego, it automatically becomes endless – so the concept of marginal utility ends the slop is infinite. On the other hand how much is too much for a company to grow? There is no marginal utility question on revenue each unit revenue brought adds utility in terms of PAT. Of course we may say that until breakeven of a company the marginal utility of each unit revenue is steep whereas after a certain profit margin say 30% PAT the utility diminishes. Sometimes sales are differed to next quarter or booked in current quarter even if that costs in terms of dumping products to distributors.

If we start living in present moment in spontaneity I wonder if we would even have a complex calculation of “Marginal utility” in life.

I am late in writing this post again, Marginal utility was last week’s LBC topic where MariaRummuserAshokShackman and I write weekly. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

Education

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I and my wife were rushing to our offices on our two wheeler. This a routine happens daily (include Saturday for her). Actually, this race to office is common place in Mumbai. Many go without interest and many others like us go not only with choice but also to make a difference. Yes, sounds strange – what difference one person can make? But this is how I and my wife take our jobs “very seriously”. This race starts in the morning at about 7:30 AM and ends at about 7:30 PM in evening or later. Now, do not ask – how much difference we have made in our respective companies or our own life. When I ask this question to my self – at times I feel as if we both are running on a treadmill. We are running very fast but are not reaching anywhere on a treadmill.

This day was no different, we were on our two wheeler, it was not raining. Rain had played a lot of games with us recently. Whenever we were wearing raincoat, it didn’t rain. It was bit sunny and therefore we thought its may not rain today, hopefully by we reach office. Suddenly it started raining and raining like anything, yes this was shocking but happens. So instead of rushing I stopped our vehicle at a bus stop shed and we both wore our raincoat, besides we waited for rain to subdue – it was not very cloudy so we knew it wont rain for long. Ten minutes and it stopped, we started our rush to office again, this time we did not take off our coats.

In these ten minutes I learnt something interesting – some times, “it is ok to stop in life instead of rushing.” On the contrary it was good to take that break in this particular situation rain stopped.

When are we going to teach such things to our coming generation? I thought that we teach many things to our children however most of the time, it is for economics returns and not necessarily for living a fulfilling life, just an example – instead of rushing and running just being. An after thought of this question is this – education is a very formal approach, whereas learning is informal. Learning is – stop somewhere instead of rushing; on the contrary education – that is a formal one – makes one assuming rushing to the destination is the solution. Before anyone makes any opinion about my thoughts – I am not trying to undermine education (certificate based formal teaching), it is required to help an individual to be economically better off and help the society take an example of Kashmiri stonepelters – if they get a regular job they wont unnecessarily go out to support terrorists.

Education was last week’s LBC topic where Maria, Rummuser, AshokShackman and I write weekly. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

Melting pot

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I am sure when we read the title we all will speak about culture and nation. My take apparently is no different. India as a country, culture and in terms of way of life has been a melting pot of thoughts. If we look at Mahabharat time – there were many kingdom fighting from one side or the other in the war. The range goes from present day Afganistan to South East Asia and Kerala.

Afganistan reminds me of Bamiyan Buddha statues. The smaller statue was so big, check photo (sourced from Wikipedia), that a man standing at the foot measures only till the ankles. The statue reminds me of Gwalior fort Jain tirthankar’s statues. No wonder, when I saw them some had disfigured heads.

The Buddha was basically from Nepal. He came to India for his quest of spirituality. India at that time too, was a confluence of different ways of life. Buddha studied with same master’s who were worshipers of fire, some teachers were of Yoga and Indian philosophies. After learning so many things we was still not self realized. After six years of hardwork, following many different teachings – including fast he was emaciated and almost on the verge of death. That day he was enlightened. Lord Mahavir was his contemporary – he had a different teaching. Both the teachings blended in Indian culture.

Indian culture basically accepts many different approach of spirituality and religion. The best blend you can see is Bhagvad Geeta. It talks about Bhakti, Gyan, Dhyan and Karma yoga etc. Every chapter in the book is a type of Yoga – yoga means addition. What does a melting pot do – it mixes everything. Right? That is what Yoga is. I have written on Yoga earlier too – including a debate and court case in the US – whether Yoga is Secular or no!

The question on secularism moves me to another dimension of India. We are secular, and in last couple of years Indian intellectuals (apparently others are equally intellectuals but are considered lesser) have returned awards for lynching of a Muslim Indian citizen. It was a sad incident in the state of Uttar Pradesh during Akhilesh Yadav Government (Samajwadi Party, which apparently is more Muslim centric political party). Recently, another lynching happened – a police officer was killed – muslim Indian citizen – in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, this time state Government is a coalition with BJP (more Hindu tilting political party). Last time the intellectuals returned awards, this time no one came forward! This is all economics of power.

Economics reminds me of an interesting fact of Indian politics. The best economists – Mr Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram – came up with farm loan waiver in last decade. When a non economics expert can understand that it is not a solution why a renowned economist takes such a decision – a melting pot you see. The decision was a confluence of politics in economics.

All the above thoughts are in a melting pot here. My thoughts mostly are  multi-directional – so this blog moves from socialism to capitalism and spirituality to business etc. The melting pot includes few dreams I have – one is here, add to it wish to help Sindhutai Sakpal‘s Orphanage, Art of Living foundation projects and rainwater harvesting in Malwa region of MP. I wrote to one District Magistrate, never received a response, not even from CM’s office – is this a participative government?

Melting pot was this week’s LBC topic where Maria, Rummuser, Ashok and Shackman write weekly. You can visit their blogs and read their thoughts on the topic.

Angels and Demons – Possession

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After a long long time, I am sharing another interesting story from The Prayer of the Frog. Occasionally I read one of the other story from the book by Father Antony de Mello. The book is available in two volumes Prayer of the Frog Volume 1 and Prayer of the Frog Volume 2. This time I was searching for a story on “Angels and Demons”, I was confident to find some or the other story because Abrahamic religion have a deep rooted concept of angels and demons. I was taken aback when I could read more than one stories on angels but none involving demon! This is a very interesting story so thought that without delay I will share it here.

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An old woman died and was taken to the Judgment Seat by the angels. While examining her records the Judge could not find a single act of charity performed by her except for a carrot she had once given to a starving beggar.

The power of act of kindness is such that she was taken up to heaven on the strength of that carrot. The carrot was brought to court and given to her. The moment she caught hold of it, it began to rise as if pulled by some invisible string, lifting her up towards the sky.

While she was ascending a beggar appeared clutching on to the hem of the woman. He too was lifted along with her. Behind came another person holding the beggar’s foot and was lifted too. Soon there was a long queue of people lifted up to heaven by that carrot (act of kindness). The woman did not feel the weight of the people who held on to her; in fact she was not even aware about them.

The whole queue rose almost near the heavenly gates. The woman looked back to catch a last glimpse of the earth and saw this whole train of people behind her. She was indignant! She gave an imperious wave of her hand and shouted, “Off! Off all of you! This carrot is mine!”

In making her imperious gesture she let go of the carrot for a moment—and down she fell with the entire train. There is only one cause for every evil on earth: “This belongs to me’”

Angels and Demons was this week’s LBC topic where Maria, Rummuser, Ashok and Shackman write weekly. I had suggested this topic, you can read what other writers have to say in their respective blogs.

Source – Prayer of the frog Vol 1