Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Sense out of nonsense (Part 7)-Unethical Veljibhai Vs Economical Veljibhai

Unethical Veljibhai Vs Economical Veljibhai

Mayank Gandhi & Shrey Shah

My mother told me in panic, “Shrey, hand sanitizer bottle is finished, please go and get a new one from Velji bhai. His shop might be open. What will we do without sanitizers?” Avoiding marauding policemen, I entered Veljibhai’s shop from the back (he was closed from the road-facing side).

“Veljibhai, please give me one dozen hand sanitizers.” I requested. He took out two bottles and said that these are all that he could give and quoted a price of Rs 400 per each. I was shocked and angry. Typically that hand sanitizer costs just Rs 150. “What Veljibhai, I had never expected you to be a typical greedy businessman, taking advantage of the Corona period to loot consumers. You are taking unfair advantage of the situation” I was enraged. This moral degradation of someone I trusted was shocking. “Why did a good, god-fearing, decent man behave like this? Was money everything? Isn’t taking advantage of my desperation inhuman and corrupt?”.

I started thinking logically. Was it so black and white? Good vs bad?

The more I thought the more I realized that there are 3 hidden forces in this aspect- Freedom, Greed and the Battle between Vice and Virtue. Leaving aside ethical issues of black-marketing and hoarding and I began to understand the logic that why during period of crisis there was a sudden soaring of prices. The answer was in simple economics.

The basic principle of any free market economic activity relies on 2 pillars. The demand and the supply. In normal day to day life, with other things remaining constant the optimum price level is reached as demand meets supply. This price level is based on free flowing interaction between the above 2 parameters. As indicated in the diagram (1.a) below, the price of any commodity is determined at the intersection of 2 lines. This point of intersection is also called the point of equilibrium.

(Diagram 1.a)

But now let us consider what happens in extra-ordinary situations like the one Veljibhai and I were in. With supply remaining the same (you cannot simply wave a magic wand and hope for increase in production) the demand has now increased. (Instead of purchasing just 1 bottle, I asked for 12) Thus, as indicated in the graph below (1.b), an increase in demand (from D1 to D2) with supply remaining the same changes the point of equilibrium. This change in equilibrium naturally leads to increase in price of the product. Thus, what Veljibhai was doing could have been not an immoral act. He could have been just following Economics which informed us that this increase in price of the commodity was a natural by-product of free-market (where demand and supply interacted without any other influence) economics.

   (Diagram 1.b)

Therefore, the question that was before me was, “When the buyers purchase a product from the free market, are the markets really free? Are the buyers not really under any external influence? Certainly at times of crisis the markets are not really free markets. The buyers are under extreme duress and their purchases are made more out of compulsion of necessity. I would not go to buy 12 sanitizers in normal situations”. Therefore, these were not regular purchases but more of forced purchases. Therefore, for Veljibhai to charge me unnecessarily high prices under the garb of free economics was also incorrect. It looked more of an extortion to me.

The more I thought the more I realized that during the times of crisis it is necessary that we leave the logics of Economics behind and adopt the ideals of humane and a moral society. Rather than allowing greedy traders to take advantage, people must look out for each other. It made more sense therefore for Veljibhai to not increase the price of sanitizers but rather take one for the team and show a compassionate side and just not be a businessman for once.

I wanted to outrage and maybe demand answers from him but I decided to think about the other side for one more time. I realized that Veljibhai had taken the risk of possible Corona virus contact, taken the risk of police action, his sales had dwindled (people were only buying essential stuff – that too, only those who knew the back entrance), distributors were taking more price from him and giving him very few bottles. As against 100 bottles of sanitizers that he used to buy earlier from distributors, his order was 1000 and he had to pay much more to the distributors in black market. The distributors also had to shell out much more to the manufacturers, Alba laboratories, whose stock was over and they had to order chemicals at astronomical price and pay labor five times their daily income to come to work. Production was low while expenses were way higher than usual and demand was sky rocketing. Was Veljibhai really to be blamed? Or should I have blamed Alba Laboratories for the high price? Wasn’t Veljibhai just the final link of a chain that were forced to increase price.

Another angle also needed to be explored. Businessman enter the field of business with the primary incentive of earning profits. The increase in cost of the product and profits made Alba Laboratories take risks and keep the operation running. Without increasing the price of sanitizers, Alba industry would have faced massive losses because of higher costs and expenses of production – resulting in them going out of work? This supply link when looked from the other side would have meant more disaster for me. Because with the normal margins and so much risk of supplying materials – would the distributors have delivered? With so much low sales but without additional margins – would Veljibhai have kept his shop working? Would not that have created bigger scarcity in the market?

What is better? Selling at higher price or not selling at all?

Fifteen days passed and I again went to Veljibhai for buying hand sanitizers. Against my order of 12 hand sanitizers, he gave me all 12 bottles at Rs 200 each. I was surprised. I asked, “Veljibhai, last time you gave me just two bottles at Rs 400 each. Why are you able to give me 10 of them and that too at 200? Has the demand decreased?” Veljibhai smiled and said, ”The increased demand and profits worked as incentives and Max Industries and Rohit Labs have started manufacturing large quantities of hand sanitizers. Alba Labs has also increased production by allocating more resources. Therefore in spite of increased demand, we are getting more supply and prices have also been reduced and we are able to deliver full quantity to our customers.”

I smiled back in relief. Maybe my impression about Veljibhai initially was misplaced. It was about supply-and-demand and not about greed of the shopkeeper.

P.s- Economics and Ethics much like medicines is not an exact Science. Every problem and point has not just one solution but several. Some may work and some may not. The point of this article is not to justify the indiscriminate rise in prices at times of crisis or to question the moral values of individual those who do it. The point of the article is to ensure a healthy debate and discussion between the timeless questions over which great philosophers (sometimes economist) have debated and discussed over and over again. These questions essentially are: -

  1. .    Freedom- What exactly is the meaning of freedom? If there are buyers who are willing to purchase at a given price, should the freedom of sellers be curtailed and they be asked to sell at a cost decided by the society at large? If so are we really respecting individual freedom? From Immanuel Kant to John Rawls, almost all modern philosophers have argued that a just society is one where individuals respect each other’s freedom and give them the option to live their own concept of good life.

  1. Greed- However, what is more important, is it the freedom of buyers and sellers or preventing greedy businesses from resorting to unjust price discrimination for earning profit? The anger of the society at such increase in prices is not against profit maximization but it is an anger against profit maximization at the time of crisis.

  1. Virtue and Vice- Both the above point is fundamentally a conflict not only between Ethics and Economics but between Vice and Virtue. The conflict before us has and maybe will always be, what is virtue through the eyes of one individual is a vice for few others. Therefore, this conundrum between respecting freewill of buyers and sellers v.s earning profit at the expense of others during crisis is a never ending one.

We need to keep debating it and discussing it, till we find the right answers. Or is there a right answer?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Sense out of Nonsense (part 6) - miraculous eradication of small pox

Eradication of small pox
Ravinder Sindhu

It was in the summer of 1973 that somewhere in Himalayas near Nainital a holy man made a strange prediction to his American Disciple. The prediction was uncharacteristic of any holy men in any part of the world then and even today . It was not at all about God or something of a philosophical prediction. It was about eradication of the one of the most horrible disease in the history of the mankind which had accounted for around 500 million deaths in the 20 th century itself and more than billion in the entire history .The prediction “ Smallpox will be quickly eradicated from the face of the earth . This is Gods gift to mankind because of the hard work of the dedicated health workers “. The prediction was made by Neeb Karoli Baba to his disciple Dr Larry Brilliant. The prediction came true when Rahima Bano was vaccinated and became the last case of smallpox anywhere in the world in 1980. A signed certificate was then issued by Global Commission certifying for the first and last time the complete eradication of one of the six most gravest diseases from the world . Rest of the 5 diseases still have not been eradicated.

The idea through this article is to bring to light Divine Intervention in eradication of smallpox though a rational mind will hardly agree with such a thing. One should definitely doubt and argue everything purely from a scientific perspective and all things must pass the test of logical and scientific rationality before being accepted. However, like what Jainism says there is always something called “May Be” and we may be limited by our own limitations of mind to gauge the complete picture . Our rationalities may be bounded by the limits imposed by the matter as Vivekanada used to say .In the realm of possibilities thus lie such divine things which until otherwise proven wrong can be left to the domain of unexplained phenomenon .The achievement in eradication of smallpox from South Asia in general and India in particular lies in such a realm of divine intervention which even today stands unexplained from purely scientific perspective . This achievement till date stands unmatched in the annals of human history considering the gravity of the problem and challenges faced when one… considers that it was eradicated in an age when there were no computers or internets or mobile phones ,fax or even telephones or even road connectivity ..considering that 100% of the people in 3 miles radius of an infected person had to be identified and vaccinated and mortality rate was as high as 30%…considering that it was done with active cooperation between scientists from various parts of the world especially cooperation between USSR and USA doctors in an age of cold war when both had pointed around 40,000 nuclear war heads at each other and cold war was at its peak………

considering that disease had to be eradicated from around 5 lakh villages in India and mostly it had to be done by making physical visits on foot …considering that a vaccine for smallpox was available for more than 100 years but it could still kill 50 crore people in the first 80 years of the 20 th century …considering that it was never a priority for Indira Government in those days and a huge tussle had erupted between JRD Tata and Mrs Gandhi over the issue of financing this project …considering that Dr Larry had never ever dreamt of being a part of this project ..and considering that India was not a single country but it contained around 21 countries in itself all separated by their own cultural norms ,biases , languages and belief systems ..considering that Dr Larry and other doctors and health workers printed and distributed around 2 billion photos of child infected with smallpox …considering that none in WHO/UN believed that Indian government will ever undertake such a program.

Science may have a long way to go before it could fathom the mystery of such divine beings as Neeb Karoli Baba and his ways …

Dr Larry Brilliant started his journey as a radical doctor in 1960’s in America .He was jailed with Martin Luther King and later also for his Anti War protests against American Policies in Vietnam in 1970’s. He later became a Hippie and moved around the world playing roles in a Hollywood movie and dancing in rock song Dum Maro Dum in a film produced by Dev Anand . He came to India against his will when his wife forced him to meet her Guru. The man then turned into a mystic (a very interesting story to know) in the company of his Guru who later transformed him into a great Doctor again against his will for a second time. This doctor then became a philanthropist and venture capitalist and one of the 100 most influential persons as per the Time Magazine. The Guru gave him a very practical guide about the manner in which one may reach and understand God without any sorts of philosophical contemplation or discussions about scriptures or following any particular religion or mode of worship etc. The path to God lay through the service of humanity and Guru virtually forced him out of the his Ashram and go to work for this vast ocean of suffering humanity . The Guru not only gave him a new direction but also taught his disciple the most profound lessons in humility and infinite love . The rest of this discussion revolves around these lessons about humility and infinite love and service to humanity which Maharaj ji imparted to Dr Larry .

The lessons in humility started soon after Dr Larry landed in India in 1972 after end of India Pak War. He was a very rational and western educated doctor and had come to India against his will . His wife had forced him to meet his Guru . Dr Larry stayed in Ashram for sometime and slowly got convinced about the mystical and spiritual greatness of his Guru(in the strangest of the manner he realized the greatness of Maharaj ji) . He started reciting Hanuman Chalisa and Ramayana and learning Hindi at a rapid pace . When he was enjoying his stay in the Ashram he was suddenly called by the guru. The Guru enquired from him if he was having any money with him to which Larry replied that he had a total of $ 1000 with him.The Guru scolded him for not having enough money despite being a doctor and started saying “Tum toh koi doctor nahi” (in hindi). Slowly the Guru started repeating the same thing in English ‘You Are No Doctor’. The Guru repeated the same thing many times before he said it in 3 letters “U NO Doctor” with a lot of emphasis on the first 3 letters . The disciple completely failed to understand this tantrum of his Guru when guru suddenly directed Larry to leave the Ashram immediately and go to a place in Nepal . But before leaving the guru said …U N O doctor…telling the disciple that he had to join a team of UN doctors which was on a visit to Nepal. So Guru was effectively telling Larry that he will be working for UNO from here onwards . Larry was least willing to start his second innings as a doctor . However, the Guru was not ready to listen anything at all and gave a clear direction to him to work for the UN specially for eradication of smallpox. The story then takes many twists and turns before Larry was taken in by WHO for working on smallpox project in India . Larry was rejected for around 40 times by WHO which never believed his credentials because of his hippie looks and his Indian holy garbs. Moreover, Larry had a very very troubled past with the American Government and CIA and Home Security were maintaining a complete dossier about his activities due to which he could never be part of any UN team anywhere in the world (due to Cold War policies no American could work for UN anywhere in the world without a Loyalty Certificate from U S Government and Larry would have been the last American to get such a certificate ). When he was finally allowed to work for UN it was a complete shock to everyone except his Guru who had predicted that Larry will work for UN one day .(very interesting story as to how Larry was given this certificate ..a divine intervention perhaps)

Dr Larry later admitted that Maharaj Ji could have got him work for WHO on day one itself but he was made to visit WHO office 30/40 times and was rejected every time . In Larry’s words it was the most humbling experience which made him realize that he was just an instrument in the hands of God and it was not him but God working through him. There was no place for subtlest Ego in the scheme of things devised by God and rejections actually humbled him till the time he realized his own insignificance. The Guru had actually taught him the most profound lesson in Selfless Service thorough these rejections.( Its a different story that how events unfolded and how Maharaj ji controlled entire course of events from starting ).

Second lessons of infinite complete and unconditional love was taught to Larry when his Guru touched his hands for a few seconds . Larry had an experience which he says his rational and scientific mind could never figure out..he in that moment of being touched by the Guru had felt complete love and acceptance for the first time in life (even parents also have conditions imposed while they love their children).In that moment he says he thought that since Maharaj Ji was a Guru he was bound to have such complete love for his disciples but what intrigued him was that he himself was having that feeling of complete love for the whole of Universe in that moment ..Maharaj Ji infact gave him a profound spiritual experience that in a perfect divine state all of us are one and the same …This feeling has stayed with Larry till date and has affected his workings since then…it was this feeling for every patient of smallpox that gave Larry the infinite courage to vaccinate patients(whom people would not go near at all ) from tribal areas which were completely inaccessible (Chhota Nagpur Plateau areas) to prisons like Gwalior jail where most dreaded dacoits of Chambal had been held captive during those days …he had since felt that complete compassion for every being on this earth and had worked on many humanitarian projects like SEVA(this NGO has saved 2 million people from blindness till date ) in India and dealing with Ebola Patients in West Africa (In Obama Administration he was head of the task force on Ebola ) …..

So that’s the story of eradication of the most horrible disease in the human history …now just imagine Covid -19 and see the amount of information and resources at our disposal compared to those times..definitely the humanity can overcome this crisis provided we follow the path of humility . compassion, selfless service and complete love towards those who are suffering ..Maharaj ji is no more with us but his teachings and divine presence are eternal and will always act like a ray of hope in these dark times ….

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sense out of nonsense (part 5 ) - Holistic Ayurveda

Dr Manaan Gandhi

Ayurveda has always been considered as a holistic science. The word holistic means that it looks at every aspect. While there are multiple therapies and systems of medicine that proclaim to be holistic, I am yet to come across any one of these that can show it. The reason why I say this will be well understood after you read the article completely.
The categorization of human suffering is as such
Human suffering happens due to 3 factors
1) Adibhautika (external suffering) - Due to external factors like insects, other humans, nature beings etc
2) Adhyatmika (internal factors) - Due to vitiation of bodily doshas like vata pitta or kapha or manasik doshas like rajas and tamas
3) Adidaivika (supernatural factors) - Due to calamities like valcano eruptions, lightening strikes, earthquakes, pandemics, etc.
But this still doesn’t answer the why of suffering.
The sole reason of human suffering is the ignorance of the individual. The mere fact that you consider yourself as the body and the body's suffering as yours. The tie between the human body and the atma takes place at three levels. The level of the bladder, the umbilicus and the heart. These three knots tie you to the human body at different levels.
This may answer why the individual suffers but not why the assumed self (body) suffers.
The body suffers mainly due to a single factor, Karma. (when I say body, I mean the body mind complex, not merely the gross body). Karma is the sole reason behind suffering. It is impossible to get what you don’t deserve, neither positive nor negative. Cause is the effect concealed and effect is the cause revealed. There is nothing that happens at random, no event takes place without a cause. If you are suffering, it is definitely deserved. The only problem is that you may or may not remember why and when the cause was formed.
To understand the means of which we form our karmas, there are 5 causes of human sufferings and diseases.
1) Ahar (Food) - It is proven beyond doubt that diet can cause diseases. For example, if a person eats incompatible food like milk and fruits together regularly while having a slightly weak digestive fire, skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, etc are formed.
2) Vihar (Surroundings) - It is obvious how seasons and their changes affect our body. For example, there are plenty of people who develop a cold or a sinusitis problem upon season change.
3) Achar (Regimen) - Over-exercise & the lack of it causes diseases, the actions you take can also cause a disease. For example, if you perform mulabandha(contracting anal sphincter) over extended periods of time, then constipation is bound to affect you.
4) Vichar (Thoughts) - There is enough and more studies to prove how thoughts can affect your body physically and mentally. To the extent that today scientists claim that more than 75% of diseases are psychosomatic in nature.
5) Karma - Sufferings like accidents, fractures etc are solely due to karma and obviously not due to any of the 4 mentioned above. I have mentioned this as a separate point as some sufferings don't fall into any of the 4 above categories. (they are effects of past causes)
Now that I have explained the different causes of diseases and sufferings, let's see how ayurveda addresses every single one of them to prove that it truly is holistic in nature.
1.     Ahar - Ayurveda prescribes a diet based on 8 factors
a.     Prakruti - genetic predisposition of a person based on natural ratio of vata pitta and kapha in the body
b.     Karan - Processing of the food
c.     Samyog - Mixing with other compatible foods
d.     Desha - Depending on the surroundings like climate
e.     Kala - Depending on the season, weather, time of the day and age of individual
f.      Rashi - Quantity of food given
g.     Upyokta - How compatible is the person to the food (for eg. allergies)
h.     Upyog samstha - Rules of eating (hot, lubricated, not too fast, not too slow, in proper quantity, with proper utensils, without laughing talking and with concentration, etc)

Only when all these factors are taken into consideration can a diet be prescribed and had. When diet is concerned there is absolutely no factor possible that is not taken into account.

2.     Vihar - Every season has a different impact on our body via doshas. Ayurveda explains the effect and impact of your surroundings and gives a detailed understanding of each season. Based on this ayurveda has prescribed "Rutucharya" or how we must behave in every season. This alteration of our behavior and diet neutralizes all negative effects of our surroundings. For every type of surrounding that we are in, there are measures that ensure complete balance in the bodily doshas.

3.     Achar - The entire science of vyayama, yoga, sadvrutta (behavioral ethics) is mentioned in ayurveda. There are 10 major acts that have to be avoided by the individual not just physically but on all the 3 layers i.e. body, mind and speech. Which means that even by thinking about doing such an act itself is also considered as sin.

4.     Vichar - As mentioned above, sadvrutta covers what we need to avoid thinking mentally. There are 9 kinds of thoughts that must be discarded by the mind. They are
1) Lobha (greediness)
2) Shoka (grief)
3) Bhaya (fear)
4) Krodha (anger)
5) Ahankar (ego)
6) Irshya (Envy)
7) Kama (Passion)
8) Mana (Pride)
9) Mada (Arrogance)

5.     Karma - It cannot be treated but has to be suffered through. Ayurveda specifically asks the individual to be as spiritual as possible to ensure that surrender and yoga prevents formation of karmas, so that a person may finally be free of them. As it cannot be treated, we are not including it. The only thing that can be done regarding karma is to reduce its effect on us very slightly using the science of astrology.

When we look at other healing modalities, you find that they take into consideration one or a maximum of 2 of the 4 causes and claim to be holistic.

For example, there are people who work on ahar like dieticians or nutritionists, you also have people using colour therapies, floatation tanks or sensory deprivations etc to treat and change your surroundings (vihar), there are gyms, stretching exercises, physioherapy etc that helps with Achar and finally there are psychologists and councilors who solve your problems by working on your vichar.

You may think about any treatment system possible and you will always find that every one of them claims to be holistic but I am yet to find a single system of medicine that heals us in every single way possible taking every single factor out of the 4 above into consideration. It is only Ayurveda today that is holistic in the true sense of the word.

It is due to this that ayurveda provides possibly the best treatment for an individual as it does not leave out a single factor being truly holistic

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Sense out of Nonsense (part 4) - Butterfly effects and Pandemics

Prasad Chaphekar

The current pandemic has exposed the fragility of current human society. The more connected and interdependent we are, the more fragile we get, at least, this seems to be the case today. As Nassim Nicolas Taleb, a Lebanese- American scholar working on problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty points out, systems have to be designed with antifragility in mind. Antifragile systems are those which thrive in times of disorder and uncertainty. He suggests that decision makers have to invest a small but significant amount of resources in developing systems which would thrive or benefit if the current system collapses. To give an example, it is counterintuitive, but anti-fragile for aircraft companies to invest in companies which develop software for video-conferences/ net meetings. An industry which thrives on physically moving people can only become anti-fragile by betting that one day, people would NOT be required to move physically.

Butterfly effects and Pandemics
Are pandemics or natural disasters nature’s way of punishing us? Not necessarily. To me, it seems like the higher order effects of our actions, hitherto unknown, are manifesting themselves.

When we are playing billiards, we hit the cue ball towards the target aiming to push another ball in the pocket either directly or through an intermediate ball. However, we do not bother about what happens to the cue ball or the intermediate ball after it hits the intended target. These balls move further and knock other billiard balls out of position. These collisions are higher order effects, which we choose to ignore. The billiards table is still a highly deterministic system in an extremely controlled environment. With physics, we can reasonably predict the result of the first few collisions. However, beyond first few collisions, the error in predictions will grow with every secondary collision.

This effect is called the “butterfly effect” where a small variation in input parameters leads to a very large variation in the output parameters. The effect is so named over a statement that “flapping wings of a butterfly at one end of the world may cause a hurricane at the other end”. The effect was discovered by chance when a scientist, who was trying to predict weather patterns by a computer simulation, entered some values manually to save time. However, the end result was widely differing from earlier simulations. After thorough analysis, the only reason he found for the huge difference, was that he had rounded off a few decimal places, when he entered values manually.

Weather has been notoriously difficult to predict precisely because of the presence of a high number of such higher order effects and the interdependence of various factors which create the weather.

The funny thing is, with the benefit of hindsight, everything is analyzed and written as if it was perfectly predictable. Though we can often foresee a general direction, we cannot presume to predict the exact course of events to follow, as even small changes will lead to large deviations in the long term (and sometimes in the short term). Long term predictions are thus, useless at best and harmful at worst. Let us take an example of a factory polluting a local water source. This can lead to many different outcomes. Let us analyze 2 possible outcomes:
1)    The marine life gets polluted. The population in the area stop using the water source. Water shortage forces people out of the area. The factory is closed down, leading to job losses and economic reversal.
2)    The marine life gets polluted. A concerned citizen in the nearby area raises a movement against the pollution. The government imposes strict pollution control measures. No factories are closed down, but they are given sufficient time to comply with the pollution norms. The pollution is stopped and everybody is a winner.

Both courses seem rational and in hindsight, perfectly predictable. However, given only the fact that a factory is polluting a water source, it is impossible to state which course would follow. The same is the case with natural and man-made disasters.

Nagarjuna, Buddhist philosopher propounded the theory of “shunyata”. In this, he has examined causation thoroughly. He states that cause and effect are not distinct. Effect physically depends upon the cause and the cause depends notionally on the effect (i.e. without any effect, no one would look for a cause). Further, each cause is an effect of some other cause and each cause leads to many effects. This leads to an ever-increasing chain of cause and effect traced either backward or forward.

(On a side note, individuals whom we call enlightened have/had probably raised their consciousness above most others so that they are/were able to perceive a far higher number of higher order effects than most of us can)

When you hit a rock 100 times with a hammer and it breaks with the 100th stroke, did it break because of the 100th stroke alone or also because of the conditions created by the previous 99 strokes?

Till humankind was physically isolated and living in small groups, everything was “local”. Epidemics came with cities and floods devastated populations because the people were living in large cities next to big rivers. So, it can also be argued that evolution is responsible for devastation caused by floods. It was evolution that lead to us walking erect, which lead to smaller birth canals in women, which lead to babies being born much before they matured (as compared to other mammals), which meant that humans had to live in societies to survive and care for their young, which lead to big cities and coupled with the need to have water, lead to settlements near big rivers and the destruction by floods seems inevitable. Thus, the chain of causation can be shown to be going as far back as you desire. As explained earlier, hindsight is always 20/20. The higher order effects seem “obvious” only when they manifest themselves.

So, it is difficult to say that we are causing anything beyond first order effects. We can alter our collective behavior to increase/decrease the odds. But how these behaviors would affect us, say 10 years in the future is impossible to predict.

Coming back to Nassim Nicolas Taleb, we would never know for certain what shocks awaits us, but we can design our systems presuming shocks are definitely going to happen. In general, increased fragility will lead to higher chances of large scale destruction and lower fragility (more robustness) and more antifragility will result in higher chances of us surviving/ thriving the catastrophes yet to come.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sense out of Nonsense (part 3) - Why Corona and other disasters?

There are teachers and masters.

A teacher is one who teaches and is surrounded by students. Intelligent teachers talk, argue, preach and attract thousands. A student accumulates knowledge, information and ends up being another teacher. A Master is different. He is enlightened, knows himself and is surrounded by disciples - students are prohibited. He will not teach you, for, it is not his purpose to spread knowledge - his purpose is to transform you.

I aim to be neither. I share myself, my experiences, my knowledge and the process that I went through. If I succeed in sparking someone else's search - I'll have done my bit. Everyone follows their own path, their own destiny and their own goals.

So, today let us turn the enquiry about man-made and natural disasters by travelling within ourselves and probe these questions in a deeper manner. Many thinks that these events are happening because we, mankind have done some sins and this is nature’s way of punishing or warning. So naturally the question arise, are events destined (pre-determined)? Are these events affected by man’s interventions?

Let us look at some facts of Natural calamities. The five highest death tolls till now
1.     1931 AD China floods – 40,00,000 deaths
2.     1887 AD Yellow River floods  - 9,00,000 deaths
3.     1556 AD Shaanxi Earthquake – 8,30,000 deaths
4.     1976 AD Tangshan Earthquake – 6,55,000 deaths
5.     1970 AD Bhola Cyclone – 5,00,000 deaths

Facts and numbers of top six pandemics
1.     1347 AD Black death plague – 7,50,00,000 deaths
2.     1918 AD Spanish Flu – 5,00,00,000 deaths
3.     1981 AD HIV/ AIDS – 2,50,00,000 deaths
4.     541 AD Plague of Justinian – 2,50,00,000 deaths
5.     165 AD Antonine Plague – 50,00,000 deaths
6.     1817 AD Cholera – killed millions

These figures throw open these questions and many, many more

·       Does this mean that the assumption that we have started sinning only in the recent past as the climate crisis is getting intense is untrue?
·       Is the response and reaction of nature is getting more intense?
·       The pandemics and epidemics of earlier times were also signals and warnings?
·       Or is it taking matters in its own hands and cleansing environment to bring back ecological balance?

Nothing in the Universe is random. From the defined movement of every electron to the clockwork precision laws of the solar system, everything is programmed.
·       Why do these disasters happen? What is its logic?  
·       What triggers these programs?
·       Why is it only in the range that extinguishes some lives but does not go beyond to completely finish the world?

While we do not have answers to many of the above questions “Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence”. I need to delve deeper to get answers. Here are two diametrically opposite views:

Nassim Nicolas Taleb a Lebanese- American scholar, whose work concerns problems of randomness, probability, and uncertainty has argued that the more we suppress low scale volatility, it will increase the odds of the one calamity which we will be beyond all controls.

Is it possible that modern medicines have been able to solve minor problems and that has led to this major pandemic, especially in developed countries? Much like solving small bush fires, leading to the huge fire in Australia last year. Earlier inflammable materials like leaves used to get burnt in small bush-fires and when that stopped, inflammable materials accumulated, it led to huge fire.

While it is a theory that might explain some of the pandemic, it is still not too convincing.

The second theory is more convincing:

According to the Hindu darshanas, there are three kinds of sufferings – adibhautik (sufferings due to other living beings), adhyatmik (sufferings due to imbalance in elements like vata, pitta and kapha) and adidaivik (sufferings due to natural causes that occur due to collective sins). The science of epidemics and pandemics in Ayurveda is called Janapadodhwamsakara Bhava and is adidaivik in nature. The epidemics and pandemics cannot happen without sinning against nature including humans.

Was reading Charaka Janapadoddhvamsaniyam Vimana: 3rd chapter on Epidemic and pandemic diseases. It deals with the determination of the specific characteristics of epidemics and pandemics. It says that there are four phases of warning – air, water, land and seasons or time.

Phase 1 – Air with following characteristics is injurious to health
·       Excessive calmness or violent blows
·       Excessive dryness, cold, hot air, roughness or humidity
·       Excessive clashes among each other (wind blowing from one directrion clashing with the one from the other
·       Excessively cyclonic in nature and
·       Association with unwholesome smell, gases, sand, ashes and smoke.

Phase 2- Polluted water that can cause endemic diseases
·       Abnormal smell, color, taste and touch
·       Kleda – excessive stickiness
·       Absence or reduction of number of aquatic birds

Phase 3 – Polluted land features
·       Abnormal smell, color, taste and touch
·       Kleda – excessive stickiness
·       Abundance of serpents, wild animals, mosquitoes, locusts, flies, rats, owl, vultures and jackal
·       Excess of grass and weeds
·       Abundance of excessively branched creepers
·       Withered and dried land
·       Abundance of smoke in the wind
·       Presence of wild cries of birds and dogs
·       Bewilderment and pain in animals and birds

Phase 4 – Pollution of time features
·       Perversion or absence of religion, truth, modesty, manners, conducts and other qualities of the inhabitants of the land
·       Constant agitation and over-flow of water reservoirs
·       Frequent occurrence of meteorites, thunderbolts and earthquakes
·       Appearance of roughness and coppery, white and red colored sun, moon and stars. An appearance of being covered with net of clouds
·       confusion, excitement, apprehension, lamentation and darkness in the mind and atmosphere
·       Manifestations of features contrary to normal conditions of various seasons, unseasonal rains, clouds, hailstorms and weather.

इतना मशगूल हूँ , जीवन के रहस्यों में ,
की अपनों की दस्तक सुनाई नहीं दे रही हैं