Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading Guide: 3E. 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). Then in Week 2, the focus was on hunger (2C) and on decision-making (2D). This week, the focus will be violence (this section), and then seduction and churning (next section).

Week 3 Reading E:

Business is violent Kindle-1478

The first story is the burning of Khandavaprastha to clear the ground for the Pandavas' royal city: Krishna says, "Burn the forest. Set aflame every plant, every animal, every bird and every bee." When the Pandavs express their horror at the suggestion, Krishna says, "Then do not dream of a city."

You can read more about the burning of the Khandava Forest at Wikipedia.

Here is how DP interprets the symbolism: "The wild, naked and bloodthirsty goddess Kali and the gentle, demure and domestic goddess Gauri are one and the same. The former embodies the forest. The latter embodies the field. The former embodies prakriti. The latter embodies sanskriti. In between stands Brahma, performing the yagna that tames the wild and lays down the rules of man."

You can read more about Kali and about Gauri (Parvati) at Wikipedia.

As always, there is also an inner/outer dimension to think about: "We want to change the outer world (nature and society) rather than the inner world (mind)."

Violence is not always apparent Kindle-1512

Here DP provides a fascinating interpretation of the story of Manu and Vishnu's avatar, Matsya, the fish, who keeps growing and growing: "The small fish does not stay small forever. It keeps growing. By seeking resources to provide for the ever-growing fish, he was destroying nature. [...] In trying to expand the pot to satisfy the demands of the fish, Manu ends up destroying the world."

You can read more about Manu and Matsya at Wikipedia.

Mental violence is also violence Kindle-1531

The next story is about Krishna's brother Balarama and how he diverted the Yamuna River: "Krishna's elder brother, wanted to take a bath and he asked Yamuna to come to him. Yamuna said, "But I cannot break the riverbanks. You must come to me." Balaram did not heed her words. He simply swung his plough and hooked it on the riverbank and dragged Yamuna, by the hair, to come towards him."

You can read more about Balarama at Wikipedia.

DP distinguishes between violence that is visible (saguna) and invisible (nirguna): "Our imagination flows in different ways as determined by our whim. Society, however, demands we control our imagination and function in a particular way, guided by rituals and rules. This is also violence: mental violence or nirguna violence, violence that cannot be seen."

Violence creates winners and losers Kindle-1548

In this section, DP discusses the wealth that is underground which must be extracted by force: "The sun (Surya) and the rain (Indra) pull out plant wealth, while fire (Agni) in the furnace and wind (Vayu) through bellows melts rocks and gets metal out of ore."

In this process, the gods defeat the asuras of the underground world of Patala: "This story of the devas defeating the asuras is a narrative acknowledgment of the violence inherent in creating wealth. [...] For humans, devas are gods, as their activities bring forth hidden wealth while asuras are demons, as they hide wealth in their subterranean realms."

You can read more about Patala at Wikipedia. You can also read more about the festivals of Diwali, Onam, and Dassera, and also about the gods Surya, Indra, Agni, and Vayu.

Violence is culturally unacceptable if taking is not accompanied by giving Kindle-1573

The next story is about a king who promised to sacrifice his son; to fulfill that terrible vow, he decided to adopt a son to fulfill his vow, and a poor priest named Ajigarta agreed to sell his son Sunahshepa to the king for that purpose: "This story fills us with horror, as the yajaman does not behave as a yajaman ought to."

You can read more about the story of Sunahshepa at Wikipedia.

Violence becomes culturally acceptable when we take because no one gives Kindle-1598

The next story is about how the Ashwini learned the secret of the yagna from the sage Dadhichi: "The Ashwini used their knowledge of medicine to cut off the head of Dadhichi and replace it with a horse's head. Through the horse's head, Dadhichi revealed the secret of the yagna. As soon as the revelation was complete, the horse head burst into a thousand pieces thus fulfilling Indra's curse. The Ashwini twins then attached the sage's original head and Dadhichi came back to life."

Indra wants to keep the information secret; the Ashwins want the information to be shared: "The battle between them is never-ending; both are convinced the other is unworthy and wrong."

The conflicts are endless: "Violence often happens when we take what others will not give. In Hindu mythology, the devas are often shown withholding treasures that other creatures want. This results in violence. The devas never lead a peaceful existence. Amravati [Indra's heaven] is always besieged."

You can read more about the Ashwins at Wikipedia (the twins Nakula and Sahadeva in the Mahabharata are the sons of the twin gods), and also about Dadhichi.

Exploitation is violence Kindle-1620

The next story is about the churning of the Ocean of Milk, and how the devas take all the amrita (elixir of life) for themselves: "Rendered immortal, the devas now have an unfair advantage. They claim all the treasures of the sea and rise to the sky. The asuras are angry and they return to their realm under the earth. Never will they forgive the devas for their trickery. They will fight to repossess what was originally theirs, again and again for time immortal."

DP sees this as a metaphor for our own society: "The narrative of the battle between devas and asuras draws our attention to the violence inherent in a culture where both the haves and have-nots co-exist. At the same time, if there are no have-nots, there can be no haves."

You can read more about the Churning of the Ocean of Milk at Wikipedia.

Hoarding is violence Kindle-1652

DP now shifts to the conflict between yakshas and rakshasas.

The yakshas are hoarders: "While devas do not share, the yakshas simply hoard. The latter are guardians of earth's treasures. [...] The yakshas do not see hoarding as excess consumption even though by hoarding, they deprive someone of wealth. The deprivation of wealth leads to starvation which, in turn, fuels violence."

The rakshasas are grabbers: "Asuras fight the devas to reclaim what they believe has been stolen from them. Rakshasas, on the other hand, do not believe in exchange; they simply take what they want."

As with the devas and asuras, there is a rivalry between them: "The yakshas accuse rakshasas of laziness; the rakshasas accuse yakshas of greed. Each see the other as villains and themselves as victims. Neither sees the fear, fuelled by imagination, that makes them and the other behave the way they do."

You can read more about yakshas and rakshasas at Wikipedia.

Hunger is insatiable Kindle-1675

The next story is about Kubera, king of the yakshas, and Shiva's son Ganesha, whose hunger Kubera cannot satisfy. Ganesha says to Kubera: "You really think food will satisfy hunger! Food fires the imagination, imagination enhances hunger. You seek to create more food, but food is finite and hunger infinite. My father seeks to destroy hunger. That is why I sit in his house, and not in your kitchen."

You can read more about Kubera and about Ganesha at Wikipedia.

Shiva stands in contrast to Indra, a god who hungers for pleasure: "Indra's name suggests that hunger is not physical—indriya, the term which gives rise to the name Indra, means the senses. [...] Indra needs not just the wish-fulfilling triad of Kalpataru, Kamadhenu and Chintamani but also needs the dance of the apsaras and the song of the gandharvas."

You can read more about the gods Indra and about Shiva at Wikipedia.

Again, this is also a story with an inner dimension: "Human hunger is not just the physical hunger of the stomach, but also the hunger of the senses. We yearn to pleasure the mind. [...] The hunger of the mind is far greater than the hunger of the body."

Hunger itself is the problem: "Conflict will therefore never end, unless we address the root issue: craving itself. We can fill the stomach, but we can never satisfy the mind."

Kama (desire) leads to kalah (conflict): "As long as the wound of Kama festers, there will be kalah, or conflict. Alakshmi, the goddess of kalah, is said to be Lakshmi's sister. There is conflict with and/or without wealth; only wisdom can rid us of kalah."

Regeneration ensures sustainable wealth Kindle-1701

DP discusses both cows and grass as symbols of renewability and sustainability.

Giving a cow is called "go-daan," a gift that keeps on giving: "Go-daan is an appeal to create more means of livelihood that sustain more households. Go-hatya, or killing a cow thereby destroying a man's livelihood, is the greatest of crimes."

Krishna is associated with cows, and Vishnu, too, is a symbol of sustainability: cows eat grass (renewable), and Garuda, the eagle who is Vishnu's vahana (vehicle) eats nagas (snakes) who are also symbols of renewable immortality: "Vishnu is, thus, associated with the cow and the eagle, both of which consume what is in the mythological world considered renewable food sources. Regeneration is the key to sustainability. Regeneration and renewal are thus intrinsic to the yagna. They compensate for the harm done by violence."

You can read more about Garuda, the Nagas, and the amrita at Wikipedia.

Restraint ensures regeneration Kindle-1725

In addition to the amrita, the poison halahla also emerges from the churning, and Shiva is the one who drinks it; this is a  symbol of restraint: "Restraint is the key to regeneration and hence, also, sustainability. Shiva is the god of restraint. He knows the secret of outgrowing hunger. Unlike Indra who only wants amrit, Shiva has the power to consume halahal, or the poison that accompanies amrit when the devas churn the ocean of milk."

Shiva is also the one who gives the power of life to the asuras, even after the devas take all the amrita: "While the devas kill asuras, the asuras have the power to be reborn, thanks to Shiva. He gives them sanjivani vidya, the power to come back to life."

The asuras do not really understand Shiva's restraint; instead, they respond only to his power: "The asuras do tapasya to become more powerful, not wiser. They worship Shiva as a source of power, and pay scant regard to his wisdom."

You can read more about the halahala at Wikipedia, and also about the sanjivani (remember Hanuman fetching the mountain?).

Again, there is an inner/outer dimension: "While agni, the fire in the altar, burns resources externally, tapa, the fire in the mind, needs to burn the yajaman's ignorance."

Restraint is violent Kindle-1753

How, then, to outgrow hunger? One solution is based on force: "Rather than be encouraged to outgrow hunger through tapasya, humans typically seek to control hunger using external forces like rules and values. [...] We seek to restrain human behaviour by first defining what is acceptable behaviour and then taming the mind through force."

The story DP then tells is about Jamadagni and how he ordered his son Parashurama to kill his wife Renuka (Parashurama's mother) and her lover, the thousand-armed Kartavirya: "Through rules and values, unacceptable desires and ambitions are contained and the imagination is encouraged to flow in a certain way."

You can read more about Jamadagni, Renuka, and Kartavirya at Wikipedia, and you might remember Parashurama from his appearance in the Ramayana!

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