Monday, 24 December 2007


Ganesha says (TOI, December 23, 2007):
Aries: You will find that neither work nor recreation attracts or fulfills you. New values and concerns are far more vital. They will range from social and environmental causes to prayer and religion, to philosophy and idealism. All the gains you wish to make are in these spheres.

I generally do not take such prognostication seriously; I read it out of pure curiosity. However, I have noticed that more often than not, the auspicated messages are partly true if not in entirety. It is quite possible however, that this could at times, be the result of the “Confirmation Bias”. The very fact that there has been some prediction regarding one’s behavior could lead to forced cognition, and thereby the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions about a particular way of thinking or being. is called Confirmation Bias. Well, that is beside the point.

It is interesting to note the coincidence (some might prefer to call it the vindication of the power of astrology) in the veracity of the predictions. We happened to have an interesting discussion in the class on Indian Philosophy for Leadership Excellence. We had a visiting professor from the University of Hawaii, who, true to his engineering background, has spent time and effort in making managerial models out of the Bhagavad Gita.

As per the Gita, Karma is determined by the actions of a person. Both good and bad deeds are stored like a balance sheet and determine the events in one’s future lives. One is born time and time again to face the consequences of one’s actions in previous lives. The Gita’s teachings reflect on how to stop this chain and free oneself from the cycle of birth and death.

“I am not well versed with the true meaning of Karma” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, I believe in Karma. However, I do not concur with the basic premise that the accumulation of good deeds is necessary to free oneself from the mundane cycle of existence. It seems to be that the attitude towards the very concept of life is riddled with negativism. The concept of God’s intervention in this is widely held to be an artificial construct of Hindu theism, which is a different ball game all together.

I would like to believe that Karma should function without external control. I love life; why would I want to accumulate good Karma and leave Earth? What will one do with the limitless possibilities of human talent if one does not walk the Earth? I am a workaholic of sorts and I cannot imagine not being occupied! What after Moksha?

I know this is a classic example of what students of Psychology call “Framing” (an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual's perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases); but thanks to the innumerable episodes of Mahabharata and Ramayana that all of us have seen as children; I can picture myself dressed in glittering jewels and a hundred handmaids around me at my service. Of course, not to forget that people in the Heavens do not play basketball and do not watch Numbers and all the other wonderful things that we do as a part of the journey called “Life”.

I have never viewed Dharma and Karma differently, but I discovered how wrong I was. It was this “Cognitive Dissonance” (the uncomfortable tension that may result from having two conflicting thoughts at the same time, or from engaging in behavior that conflicts with one's beliefs) that led to the recital of this Holy Scripture to awake Arjun from his lull.

I can’t help but notice that the Bhagavad Gita is an El Dorado for those interested in the science of human behavior, as is obvious from my writing laden with terms from psychology.

It was also surprising to note how the teachings of the Gita stand in direct contradiction to the theories of Motivation that we learn as a part of our courses. There exists two kinds of Karma, Nishkama Karma and Sakama Karma. The former is where actions are performed as duties, without expecting any “fruit of labour” and the latter is where one is desirous of a result out of the Karma.

Most theories of motivation, ERG, Expectancy, Goal Setting, all focus on the rewards driving a particular action. In my opinion, all actions will result in Sakama Karma, directly or indirectly. In fact, Indian mythology is loaded with such examples. Most “tapases” were undertaken with the goal of seeing a particular God. Even the process of keeping a mental note of Karma is in effect Sakama, as one seeks to attain Moksha, which is the fruit of doing good karma. I wonder how a person can perform an action with no motive. This would translate to faith. There again – the paradox. The very word “faith” means that you know that there will be a good result out of performing a particular action based on some personal attachment to the object or person that drives the faith. So theoretically, I think Nishkama Karma can never exist.

I am aware that I am in no position to judge the Gita, but I just couldn’t resist the flow of thoughts! :P


  1. Just a few checks:-
    1. Nishkarma may also mean that performing the action where you don't get to eat the fruits of it. Somebody else may. It's like not having ' tum ek paisa doge woh duss lakh dega ' in your head while making your offerings. I may be incorrect.

    2. I understand your from-the-rift disbelief in the kind of statement which has a negative view over life. Something like 'this whole life is sorrow ' by G buddha
    I take them in two distinct spirits. One, they act as moral checks. I can imagine only anarchy in a god fearless world. Rationality when applied to just one's own motives and goals is fine. Apply to a group and you shall hear noises which have no semblance to approval or concur of any sort. Two, Moksha may also represent a state of being where one is able to understand the true meaning of life etc by getting out of it.

    Do I see your MBA vocab seeping in your text ( confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, jeane dixon effect, life etc.) ?
    May be.

  2. @ anon:

    What purpose does it serve to understand the true meaning of life by being out of it? This was what set me thinking... Realization of life's true meaning, in my opinion, would be consequential only if you had the chance to "use" the realization in your everyday life. But the irony is that Moksha is often achieved at a stage when one is disconnected with the intricacies of everyday life!

    Yes, I guess MBA vocab has indeed grown on me. Jargon that I have been studying for the past two years! I cant help but notice - recency effect!!!!

    And yeah - name please!