Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reading Guide: 2D. Pattanaik. Business Sutra.

Make sure to check out the overview of Devdutt Pattanaik's Business Sutra. In Week 1, DP connected mythology and business management (1A), contrasting Western, Chinese and Indian perspectives (1B). In the first Reading Guide for Week 2, this was the sutra: human hunger is unique; imagination expands human hunger; only humans can exchange; every devata seeks a high return on investment; conflict is inherent in exchange; imagination can help humans outgrow hunger; human hunger for the intangible is often overlooked; there are three types of food that can be exchanged during a yagna; we have to make room for the other; and yagna can be a tool for personal growth, if we allow it to be.

Here is the next part of the sutra, which is full of all kinds of stories from both the epics and also from other Indian storytelling traditions. You will be able to find lots of ideas here for a story you can retell in your blog this week:

Week 2 Reading C:

Drishti, observing objective reality Kindle-1147

Here is what DP said last time about drishti: "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."

You can read more about Lakshmi, Durga, and Saraswati at Wikipedia.

Details of Lakshmi's iconography: "The pot represents the human capability to innovate. It enables humanity to break free from the constraints of nature. Lakshmi holds a lotus in one hand and a pot in the other. The lotus represents natural wealth or Bhudevi while the pot represents cultural wealth or Shridevi."

You can read more about the Earth, Bhudevi, at Wikipedia. Remember how Sita is connected both to Lakshmi (she is Lakshmi's avatar), and also to Bhudevi (her mother).


He who takes a call is a karta Kindle-1184

A karta is a doer, someone who takes action, someone who is proactive. Meanwhile, the karya-karta is one who does what another person tells them to do, a follower — not a proactive doer.

DP tells the story of how Sita chose to act when Ravana, in disguise, came to her in the forest when she was alone: "Had she obeyed her husband without any thought, she would have been the karya-karta, or the obedient follower, and he the karta, or the responsible leader. But [...] Sita chooses to take a call. [..] That proactivity transforms her into a karta, a doer, regardless of the fact that her decision did not serve her well."

You can use this distinction between the karta and the karya-karta in any story that you tell, helping to see how the plot moves along based on the calls, decisions, and actions of each character, both karts and karya-kartas.

Everyone is a potential karta Kindle-1205

DP uses the name and image of the cosmic serpent Shesha as a symbol: "The mind of every human being can be compared to the mythic serpent Adi-Ananta-Shesha whose name translated literally means One-Infinity-Zero. Narayan sleeps in the coils of this serpent. Vishnu sits on it. Shesha, the coiled hoodless state, is like a dormant mind that does not think or take a decision. Ananta, the state with infinite unfurled hoods, is like a mind full of ideas. Adi, the state with a single hood, is like a focused mind, ready to strike; this is the mind of the karta. [...] We can let the serpent of the mind stay coiled or spring out its many hoods. Only we can make it strike."

You can read more about Shesha at Wikipedia.

A karta who allows and enables others to take a call is a yajaman Kindle-1221

For this section, DP tells the marvelous story of Vishnu's relationships with Narada and Garuda: "Despite being given the freedom to take decisions, Narad chooses to stay karya-karta, follow decisions rather than take them, as he is too afraid of the consequences. Garud, on the other hand, anticipates the needs of Vishnu, decides to enquire voluntarily and is thus a karta. Vishnu who allows Garud to be a karta is a yajaman."

For more about Narada and about Garuda, see Wikipedia. This might be a fun story to retell for this week! It brings out Narada's character perfectly, and also helps you see understand Vishnu and Garuda better too.

A yajaman has the power to take and give life Kindle-1251

In this section, DP tells the story of Rama and Vishvamitra, in which Rama hesitates to kill Tataka (but Vishvamitra insists) and also hesitates to free Ahalya (but Vishvamitra insists): "Ram, well-versed in theory, is thus given practical lessons about being a yajaman: he will be asked to take life as well as give life."

You can read more about Tataka and about Ahalya at Wikipedia.

The size of the contribution does not matter Kindle-1269

For this section, you will read another story about Rama; this one is about Rama and the squirrel: "Ram values the squirrel not for his percentage of contribution to the overall project but because he recognizes a yajaman. A squirrel today can be a Ram tomorrow."

For more about this famous squirrel, see this blog post: Rama and the Squirrel.

It's just a difference of scale: "A kupamanduka, or frog in a well, and a chakravarti, or emperor of the world, are no different from each other, except in terms of scale. Both their visions are limited by the frontier of the land they live in. In the case of the frog, it is the wall of the well. In the case of the king, it is the borders of his kingdom. Both can be, in their respective contexts, generous or prejudiced. To expand scale, both have to rise."

You can find both of these terms, kupamanduka and chakravarti, at Wikipedia.

All calls are subjective Kindle-1291

This section features the frame-tale of the Sanskrit classic, Vetala Panchavimshati, which you can choose as a reading for this class: Twenty-Two Goblins, translated by Arthur Ryder. It is a marvelous book! For more about the goblin (demon, vampire, ghost — there is no one single term that corresponds in English) called vetala in Sanskrit, see Wikipedia. You can also learn more about the Kathasaritsagara, or Ocean of the Streams of Stories.

DP uses the story of the king and the vetala to illustrate this important idea: "Everyone looks at the karta for a decision despite data being unreliable, the future being uncertain, and outcomes that are unpredictable. Not everyone can do it. He who is able to make decisions independently is the karta. He who allows others to do so is the yajaman."

All decisions are contextual Kindle-1322

In this section, DP uses one of the riddles from the story of King Vikramaditya and the vetala to illustrate the importance of context: "In some cultures only biological fathers matter, in some, legal fathers matter and in others, foster fathers matter more. There is no objective answer in matters related to humans."

And stories also change from context to context, based on the storytellers and their audiences!

In addition to the vetala's riddle, DP also invokes the Mahabharata and the Ramayana for more examples of cultural context: who is the father (or not), who is the wife and who is the husband, etc., and concludes: "Laws by their very nature are arbitrary and depend on context. What one community considers fair, another may not consider to be fair. What is considered fair by one generation is not considered fair by the next. Rules always change in times of war and in times of peace, as they do in times of fortune and misfortune. [...] Essentially, every decision has a consequence, no matter which rule is upheld and which one is ignored. This law of consequence is known as karma."

Not everyone can handle the burden of uncertainty Kindle-1346

For this section, DP tells the wonderful story of the King Bhartrihari who receives a jewel and gives it to his wife, only to find it in someone else's possession the next day... and there are more surprises to come: "Bhartrihari has to confront the horror of human existence. We can never know everything and we can never be sure. All information is incomplete, and all readings distorted by personal prejudice. And yet we have to take decisions all the time."

You can read different versions of this legend about King Bhartrihari at Wikipedia.

Every decision has a consequence Kindle-1366

For this section, DP pairs the story of Dasharatha shooting an arrow while hunting in the dark and accidentally killing the boy Shravana with the story of Pandu who accidentally shot the sage Kindama in the form of a deer. Both stories feature the drama of karma: "An arrow that has been released from the bow is a metaphor for a decision that cannot be withdrawn."

You can read more about Shravana at Wikipedia, and also about Kindama.

Decisions are good or bad only in hindsight Kindle-1388

I love this story! Garuda tries to help a sparrow escape death, but achieves just the opposite outcome: "Garud realizes in hindsight that what he thought was an act of kindness turned out to be an act of cruelty for the sparrow."

If you like this story too, check out DP's article devoted to this story: Frames of Reference.

You can read more about Yama, the god of death, at Wikipedia. For someone who did manage to outwit death, see the story of Yama and Savitri.

Decisions are often rationalized in hindsight Kindle-1407

For this section, DP looks at the different interpretations of Shikhandi's presence on the battlefield of Kuruksetra... and the way competing characters rationalize their interpretation after the fact: "The Kauravs protest: the rules were breached, Shikhandi was a woman and no woman is allowed on the battlefield. The Pandavs insist Shikhandi is a man: he was born with a female body but later in life, due to the intervention of a yaksha called Sthuna, had obtained male genitalia. Does that make Shikhandi a man or a woman? Is Bhisma wrong to assume Shikhandi is a woman? Is Arjun right to assume Shikhandi is a man?"

You can read more about Shikhandi at Wikipedia.

If the decision is bad, the yajaman alone is responsible Kindle-1429

DP begins with the life and career of Valmiki, the sage who composed the Ramayana but who was, in his younger days, a highwayman known as Ratnakar; you can read more about Ratnakar the robber at Wikipedia.

DP then segues into a comparison of the different attitudes of Rama and the Pandavas regarding their exile: Rama "is no karya-karta to his father. He is a yajaman. He is never shown complaining or blaming Kaikeyi but is rather visualized as being stoic and calm throughout. In contrast, the Pandavs blame the Kauravas and their uncle Shakuni."

DP can then conclude: "Provocation makes action a reaction, turns a yajaman into a devata and a karta into a karya-karta. A yajaman takes his own decision. [...] A yajaman is one who does not blame anyone for any situation."

If the decision is good, the yajaman is the beneficiary Kindle-1458

In this last example of decisions and consequences, King Indradyumna is surprised by the results of his lifetime's actions: "He is remembered on earth for a lake that was unconsciously created, and not for the cows that were consciously given. He benefits not from his decisions but from the unknown consequences of his decisions."

You may know Indradyumna from his later incarnation as the elephant Gajendra! You can read more about Indradyumna and about Gajendra at Wikipedia.

Karma: it creates an endless chain of stories! :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment