Friday, June 13, 2014

Reading Guide: 2C. Pattanaik. Business Sutra.

Overview of Devdutt Pattanaik's Business Sutra: in Reading Guide 1A you saw how DP proposes to use mythology as a key to understanding business management, and in Reading Guide 1B you saw how DP contrasted Western, Chinese, and Indian world views, with an emphasis on diversity and context for India. The goddess Lakshmi will be crucial for today's section:

Week 2 Reading C:

Because the rest of the book is this one huge chapter, I have provided the Amazon location numbers for the sayings of the "sutra" to help in navigation. (The Audible book is divided up into smaller sections; this is Audible Chapter 5.)

Business Sutra Kindle-813

DP now develops the idea that "business is yagna." You can read more about yagna at Wikipedia.

The key terms are as follows: "The yajaman initiates this ritual, makes offerings into agni, fire burning in the altar, exclaiming, "svaha"—this of me I offer, hoping to please his chosen deity or devata who will then give him whatever he desires, exclaiming, "tathastu"—so it shall be."

The result: Lakshmi, goddess of wealth: "A yagna is declared a success only if it ushers in wealth and prosperity. Everyone agrees then that Lakshmi has arrived."

DP emphasizes that Lakshmi is important in the Hindi and Buddhist and Jain traditions; you can read more about Lakshmi at Wikipedia.

DP then develops three personality types (gunas) in terms of their relationship to the sacrifice and to Lakshmi herself:
  • tamas-guna: goes along with the majority
  • rajas-guna: Lakshmi is the target
  • sattva-guna: Lakshmi is sign of personal growth
If you are doing growth mindset challenges for this class, sattva-guna will sound familiar: "He of sattva-guna trusts other people's opinions as well as his own and wonders why different people have different opinions of the same thing. Sensitivity, introspection and analysis help him discover and outgrow his fears."

Another model that DP provides is about the value (bhaav) the yajaman grants to the devata:
  • tamas-guna goes along with shudra-varna, unconditional followers
  • rajas-guna goes along with vaishya-varna (conditional follower) or kshatriya-varna (conditional leader) because he places only conditional instrumental value on the devata
  • sattva-guna "will look upon the devata with the bhaav of a dependable, independent, unconditional leader" - brahma-varna
DP then connects fear and gaze: "Gaze allows us to expand or control our mind by being mindful of fear—our fear and the fears of others. [...] Meditation, contemplation and introspection are all about becoming more aware of our gaze."

And then there is darshan: "Everyone can also let the subjective truth reveal the subject: the varna of the one who is observed as well as the varna of one who is observing. This is darshan." 

This illustration brings those models all together:

So, what is the purpose of the yagna? "The rishis realized that humans are not only capable of seeing varna, but can also rise up the varna ladder by outgrowing fear. However, this can only happen when we help others outgrow their fear. That is why they designed the yagna, as a tool that compels us to pay attention to others."

In the yagna, Lakshmi can be churned from the ocean of milk (more about that myth: Churning the Ocean), but so can Alakshmi, Un-Lakshmi, who is the goddess of conflict.

Kama's Vision Statement:

You can read more about Kama, the god of desire, at Wikipedia.

Human hunger is unique Kindle-907

DP connects Kama (desire) to imagination: "Kama, the god of desire, has raised his sugarcane bow and struck our five senses with his five flowery arrows." So, instead of reacting to what we see, hear, smell, etc., we react to what we imagine seeing, hearing, smelling, etc.

The hunger of the imagination gives rise to the yagna: "If this hunger did not exist, if this imagination did not exist, yagna would not exist. It is the unique nature of human hunger that gives rise to culture."

Imagination expands human hunger Kindle-929

Imagination makes us into Brahmas: "Humans have full power over their imagination. We can expand, contract and crumple it at will. This makes each individual a Brahma, creator of his/ her own subjective reality, the brahmanda, which literally means the 'egg of Brahma'."

You can read more about Brahma and his creation at Wikipedia.

Brahma's creation gives rise to culture (sanskriti) as opposed to nature (prakriti): "In his imagination, Brahma sees the whole world revolving around him. So Brahma works towards establishing sanskriti or culture where the rules of nature are kept at bay."

These are the three worlds (triloka), and the three bodies:
  • nature - prakriti - physical body (sthula-sharira)
  • imagination - brahmanda - mental body (sukshma-sharira)
  • culture - sanskriti - social body (karana-sharira)

What do you think of DP's analysis of the three bodies of Ravana and the three bodies of Hanuman? If you like this approach, you can use this idea of the three bodies to develop the characters in your stories (and explain that in your author's note so that other people in class can learn about this model).

Only humans can exchange Kindle-961

DP tells the story from the Upanishads about feeding one another; the asuras do not what to participate in exchange, but the devas do. There is a wonderful Wikipedia article called the "allegory of the long spoons" which compares different versions of this story across cultures.

The yagna is an exchange: "The yagna is the fundamental unit of business, where everything that can satisfy hunger is exchanged."

You can read more at Wikipedia about the prajapatis, especially Daksha and Manu, who oversee the yagna and other exchange rituals.

Remember svaha and tathastu? "Svaha is food for the devata. Tathastu is food for the yajaman. Unless svaha is given, tathastu cannot be expected. As is svaha, so is tathastu."

DP will have much more to say about the ideal of Vishnu later: Vishnu is the "bhagavan, he who always feeds others even though he is never hungry."

Every devata seeks a high return on investment Kindle-986

Don't mix up deva and devata: "A deva is one of the many sons of Brahma. A devata is the recipient of the yajaman's svaha. A devata may or may not be a deva."

DP discusses Indra and his heaven, Amravati (or Indra Loka), as a type of wish-fulfilling return with no investment: "Located beyond the stars, Indra's Amravati houses the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu, wish-fulfilling tree Kalpataru, and the wish-fulfilling jewel Chintamani. [...] All hungers are satisfied in Amravati because Lakshmi here is the queen, identified as Sachi."

Amravati is land of bhog (consumption), without yoga (exertion).

Conflict is inherent in exchange Kindle-1008

Not living in that wish-fulfilling paradise, we are caught in a cycle of expectation and obligation: "The yajaman has expectations once he gives svaha, and the devata has obligations once he receives svaha. Exchange creates debt, or rin. [...] We get entrapped in a maze of give and take, called samsara. We yearn to break free from samsara. We do not want to receive, or give. This is liberation, or mukti."

You can read more about samsara and mukti at Wikipedia.

Remember the yakshas (who hoard) and the rakshasas (who grab)...? Here's how DP fits them into this model: "Sometimes, the devas behave like yakshas, refusing to share what they have, hoarding everything that they possess. Then the asuras transform into rakshasas, who reject every rule of the yagna and simply grab what they want."

Someone can also seek to "outgrow hunger," not participating in the svaha-tathastu exchange; these are the tapasvins: "Indra especially fears tapasvis—those who engage in tapasya, or introspection." 

DP mentions how Indra sends his apsaras to try to distract them from their introspective focus. You can read more about the apsaras at Wikipedia; see especially the section called The Nymph and the Sage.

Imagination can help humans outgrow hunger Kindle-1032

The ideal tapasvin who outgrows hundred is the god Shiva: "Both the yajaman and the devata seek peace, a place without conflicts. This is only possible in a world where there is no exchange, and no hunger. This is the world of Shiva."

You can learn more about Shiva's home, Kailash, and his family — Parvati (Durga), Ganesha, Kartikeya, and the bull Nandi — at Wikipedia.

Even Kama cannot tempt Shiva: "By churning his imagination, he has found the wisdom that enables him to set Kama aflame with inner mental fire, or tapas. [...] His abode is the land of yoga, not bhog."

No yagna for Shiva: "Because Shiva neither seeks tathastu, nor feels the need to give svaha, he invalidates the yagna. Naturally, Daksha dislikes him and deems him the destroyer." For the dramatic conflict between Shiva and Daksha, see the story of Shiva's first consort, Sati.

Human hunger for the intangible is often overlooked Kindle-1051

DP now turns to the god Vishnu, whose paradise in Vaikuntha is different from the abodes of both Indra and Shiva: "Every Brahma wants the prosperity of Amravati with the peace of Kailash. This exists only in Vaikuntha, where Lakshmi voluntarily sits at Vishnu's feet."

This illustration shows the comparisons and contrasts between Vishnu, Shiva, Daksha, and Indra:

There are three types of food that can be exchanged during a yagna Kindle-1066

Now DP will expand on the idea of the goddess: Lakshmi is a resource for the physical body (sthula-sharira), but there is also Durga, power for the social body (karana-sharira), and there is also Saraswati, wisdom, for our mental body (sukshma-sharira): "Lakshmi and Durga are compensations when the hunger for Saraswati is not satisfied."

These three together make up "Narayani" (counterpart to Narayana), and we see them in three ways: drishti (objective vision) reveals Lakshmi, divya-drishti (subjective vision) reveals Durga, and darshan (observing the subject) reveals Saraswati.

DP finds something similar in Jainism, pairing the vasudevs with Lakshmi, the chakravartis with Durga, and the tirthankars with Saraswati.

We have to make room for the Other Kindle-1094

DP now explains what he calls the Narayan potential: "By paying attention to other people's hunger, we get a glimpse of who they are. In other words, realizing the Narayan potential helps us do darshan."

Again, this will really resonate if you are doing growth mindset challenges for this class: "Changing varna is difficult; changing guna seems impossible. We prefer social growth to mental growth. We prefer things to thoughts. We do not trust Narayan's ability to attract Narayani. We would rather grab resources than invest in the potential. [...] The quest for sattva-guna and brahmana varna is always difficult as along the way we get distracted by what we have or do (jati) and less by who we are and can be."

Yagna can be a tool for personal growth, if we allow it to be Kindle-1115

Use the mythological stories to chart your personal growth: "In mythological terms it means moving from being Daksha ("We must be right") and Indra ("I am right") towards Shiva ("Nobody is right") and Vishnu ("Everyone is right from their point of view but everyone has to face the consequences of their choices.")"

Aspire to become swayambhu: "Shiva and Vishnu are swayambhu, increasingly self-reliant and having an identity which is independent of the yagna. To become swayambhu—dependable, responsible yet autonomous—is dharma for humans. It is the realization of our potential."

DP finds this story in Buddhism and Jainism also: "In Buddhist mythology, this idea is expressed as discovering the jewel (mani) by letting the lotus-mind (padma) bloom. In Jain mythology, it is expressed as discovering the tirtha just like the tirthankar."

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