Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ayurvedacharya’s commentary on ‘life management’

Very recently, in fact just mid last week, I read a very interesting synopsis of a discourse or let’s call it a speech. It was delivered by an Ayurvedic scholar-- Ayurvedacharya. We will call him the guru, for the sake of brevity.

Generally not being inclined to any subjects in his area of expertise, after almost inadvertently browsing through the headline capturing the guru’s key message, I was about to switch to my favourite page. But somehow my eyes froze on the clipping. And there was nothing very attractive about the headline itself. In fact, it was a benign advice to the lawyers, in whose gathering this speech was made-appealing them to maintain their mental health in the face of intellectually challenging and intense environments they constantly work in.

But, something made me read the whole report. And good I read it!

Leave alone being any authority in spirituality, I can’t even claim to be a serious student of it! Yet, what was presented as a reportage of the speech set me thinking.

So, what was the essence of the speech?

The Acharya (guru) said that anna (food),vastra (clothing) and nivara (shelter)are the means of livelihood—mere living(he calls it ‘upajeevika’). And he further went on to say that prem (love),maya (affection),bhakti( devotion),shradhha (faith) and samadhan (contentment) are the means of life(he calls it ‘jeeviaka’ ).The readers already know that any word prefixed by ‘upa’ signifies subservience. Therefore, in this particular case, upajeevika is subservient to jeevika i.e. the guru is making a clear distinction between life and livelihood by denoting the latter as qualitatively subservient.

And, why did I get attracted towards what is seemingly a very basic, commonsensical thought?

Simply because, on the cursory reading, it looked like Abraham Maslow restated after good 60-70 years, but one more read and it actually made me think that what was being stated was quite different, more insightful than Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs!

Let’s quickly understand what Maslow said. He said humans have multiple needs and they keep getting those fulfilled in a hierarchical way. Basic(he calls them physiological) such as food, clothing, shelter and then moving up(in steps of hierarchy) all the way to self-actualization.

Very interestingly, Maslow goes with a surgical precision in defining needs at every stage, whereas our guru slots them into just two parts jeevika and upajeevika, as described above. To me though, two factor classification made by the guru is very profound, because he subtly applies the test of ‘quality’ to the way life is lived. Without saying it in so many words, he distinguishes two types of lives—one earned through employing basic means of livelihood and the other earned through qualitatively superior means such as love, faith etc.

Many thoughts crop up in my mind—some relevant (I think!) and some random(I’m sure!)!

1: Does the root of the way Maslow explains his theory lie in structured and logical manner in which generally any body of knowledge is developed in the western world?

2: Does the manner in which the guru explains his thoughts an obvious outcome of the way, we, in this part of the world, look at life?—with a holistic orientation that is multi-layered, multi-leveled and most importantly with a high degree of simultaneity of all the variables.

Although the two questions above have been structurally framed as questions, I’m sure, the readers have figured out that they indeed are statements!

3: Herzberg(another social scientist known for his two factor theory of motivation) makes a distinction between hygiene factors and motivators, while explaining the human motivational aspects. In short, his case is that while hygiene factors, by themselves, don’t provide motivation, their presence ensures ‘lack of dissatisfaction’—e.g pay—when pay is received by an employee on a pay-day, it doesn’t necessarily motivate him, but when it doesn’t happen, it is certainly dissatisfying for an individual. Whereas, growth and advancement, recognition for achievement are the motivators—i.e their presence itself leads to motivation and satisfaction.

Now the question: Is Herzberg going away from Maslow and going closer to our guru?

Answer, to my mind--‘yes’ and ‘no’. ‘Yes’, because Herzberg at least recognizes simultaneity of the variables. And ‘no’, because he still goes on to make a sequential classification by saying that hygiene factors at best keep de-motivation at bay but it’s only the motivators that have a positive impact.

Finally the moot point: I really find freshness of thought when our guru moves further to say that those who set their life-goal as upajeevika are surely in for leading an imbalanced life both from the physical health perspective as well as holistically. And on the other hand, those who pursue jeevika as their life-goal actually head for life-actualization!

I find this thought very interesting because the guru so easily and seamlessly transcends physical health issues to go into life actualization ones. Truly, a remarkable way of commenting on life with an ayurvedic orientation!

I don’t if all (or any!) of the above makes sense to the readers, but given my excitement about what I read, I couldn’t resist jotting my thoughts down—may be in pursuit of my self actualization!

As always, every comment from you is a welcome one!



Swapnil Bhoskar said...

Hi Abhay,

I happen to read this article in SAKAL but the thoughts you added really made meaning to what acharya was saying or atleast to my understanding

off-course, you articulation and linking it to bread- butter of HR (Motivation theories) is simply always.

Swapnil Bhoskar

Abhay Valsangkar said...

i really appreciate your comment swapnil..Cheers...Abhay

Abhay Valsangkar said...

and thanks for your comments as well Bhaskar Ranjan Das...Cheers..Abhay

Ninad said...

Could you send me a link to the original article or scan it?

Unknown said...

Hi Abhay! Good article, liked your views on linking the concept with Maslow. Keep writing!--- Jagdish

Hemant N. Joshi said...

Abhay, you write very well. I liked the flow in this article as well as analysis.
I normally refer to 3 'f's - faith, feeling and facts. I should add food to my list. You said it right - one needs much more than anna, vastra, aaNii nivaraa to be happy.

Keep writing!

- Hemant

Anonymous said...

A great write up Mr. Abhay!

A few stray thoughts that come to my mind are shared below:

On Maslow:

i) Did Maslow suggest that everybody has to essentially 'graduate' in the hierarchy of needs - starting with Physiological and ending with self-actualisation?
ii) If the answer is 'yes', I am not able to correlate it with people like Sant Dnyaneshwar, Swami Vivekanand, Gopal Neelkantha Dandekar, Veer Savarkar...I have not come across any information suggesting that they sought worldly possessions/pleasures at any stage whatsoever. They straightaway made it to the need for self-actualisation.
iii) Apparently the common people aim at self-actualisation only when they have sound foundation of Physiological, Security, Social, and Ego needs fulfilled. If the foundation weakens due to unfavourable circumstances, such people would again 'descend' to lower level needs in the hierarchy. In other words, they would drift from 'Jeeviaka' state to 'Upjeevika' state if the circumstances become hostile. For example,if a well placed person suddenly loses his job/source of livelihood, he would willingly settle for a 'lesser' job - which may not be quite satisfying with respect to remuneration, status, job-satisfaction etc.
iv) Another set of people make it their life's mission to remain focused only on 'Jeeviaka' - irrespective of the circumstances. I feel the people named in para ii) above belong to this category.
Such people would never compromise on the need for self-actualisation even at the cost of their lives.
v) If the intrinsic motivation for self-actualisation is very strong, no external 'demotivator' can shake it. As a corollary to this, if somebody does not have intrinsic motivation for something, no extrinsic motivator can entice him. Can a pucka vegetarian be tempted to eat even the choicest non-vegetarian dish in the world? In effect, extrinsic motivator is mere extension of intrinsic motivator. I sometimes wonder if it is really necessary to create such distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If the former is not there, the latter can not work. Anyway, I admit I have drifted from the original subject.
vi) Maslow has rightly put the 'self-actualisation' at the pinnacle. Not many people can reach there in real sense.Those who can make it to the pinnacle and stay there can be said to have reached 'jeeviaka' stage. Others may occasionally touch the pinnacle - but more often than not they would slip back to 'upjeevika' related temptations. At least I belong to the second category.
vii) My thought process suggests that the Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies to the people in general. However, it does not apply to exceptional people.

Thanks for patient reading.


Unknown said...

In 1945, Germany was destroyed completely. Its cities in ruins and spirit destroyed. The Marshal Plan helped give funds for reconstruction -- to take care of basic needs to start with( Upajeevika).

Why is it that Germany took only 20years to rebuild itself economiclly as well as culturally ? While India in 1945 had a population of 300 million -- mostly impoverished ; and today continues to have 300 million people who are impoverished out of 1000 million?

I think India is fortunate that religion is a balm to poverty and allows people to live in poverty without getting exceedingly agitated about it --belief in fate. Or else there would have been Somalia type warfare long back against the educated elite.

How should one factor this phenmenon of tolerance into Maslow and into Upajeevika/Jeevika? Dont have answers.

Unknown said...

Hi Abhay, it is good to see you/your views after so many years - hope you remember from our time in UK - I would have loved to have met you when I was in Pune a couple of months ago. I came across you quite by accident. Excellent thoughts and writing. Do get in touch with me - email me at tusharw at gmail.

Tushar Walhekar

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