WHY ARE WE SO
DESPERATE ABOUT EXCEEDING THE SPEED LIMIT?
Loving Sai Ram, and greetings from
We are sure the title of today’s
piece would intrigue you. Undoubtedly, questions like: “What speed limit?”,
“who is exceeding it?” etc., are crossing your mind right now. In a minute,
we shall address them, but first we would like to mention that this
particular Sunday Special is inspired directly by a profound remark that
Swami made in one of His daily Divine Discourses, during the
recently-concluded Athi Rudra Maha Yajnam. Swami of course always says
profound things but two remarks of His in one of these daily Discourses
attracted our special attention and what follows is the result.
Swami said : “Man today is living life at a dangerously fast pace. This is
not good for him.” The second remark is in a sense related to the above and
we shall come to that later. For now, let us spend a few minutes on the
above remark. For people who are young, the pace of modern life may appear
normal but that would be because they have never experienced anything else.
If we go back say forty years, and we are sure many of our readers can do
that, then it would be recalled that life moved then at a much slower pace
than at present. In fact, in the West life had become so comfortable with
newer and newer labour-saving gadgets, that many speculated that soon there
would be four or even three-day working weeks, the rest of the week being
available for leisure and relaxation. People even went to the extent of
drawing up various schemes for how to get the maximum out of this bonus of
leisure that seemed just a few years away down the road.
But suddenly all that changed and today, people are not only working more
than ever before but at a more furious pace too. Several factors, both
market forces and technology, working together, have brought about this huge
change in style and mind-set. In terms of technology, the phenomenal growth
of TV, especially via cable and satellite TV, the advent of the internet and
the mobile, the emergence and the dominance of the PC, appearing later in
many forms like the laptop, Palm-pilot and so forth have made people madly
rush here and there, doing many things they did not do before.
As for market forces, the emergence of the so-called service sector has a
lot to do with it. There are many angles to this and we certainly cannot go
into all of that here but let us consider one example. Earlier, people
manufactured goods in one place and from there they shipped these goods to
all parts of the world. This still happens but the manufacturing sector is
no longer the only dominant contributor to global economy. There is now, a
very strong sector called the service sector, where tasks play the role of
components in the manufacturing industry. Take the auto industry. To build a
car, one needs many ancillary components like spark plugs, tyres,
windscreens and so on. Big manufacturers like Ford, did not make all these;
instead, they procured them from satellite industries and to start with,
most of these industries were located not far from the main manufacturing
plant to reduce cost and time of transportation. But when it came to tasks,
the ballgame changed, to use a common metaphor.
The service sector revolves largely around tasks. Say there is a physician
in America . He sees many patients and notes down his findings. He then
dictates his remarks into a Dictaphone. Later, his secretary listens to the
recording, types the remarks and makes out a record of patient data. This is
the way things worked for years, until the communication, revolution that
When the revolution occurred many said, “This task of transcribing the
doctor’s remarks and preparing reports – it could be done cheaper in India
than in America . People might ask what about the huge distance? Well, in
the internet age, distance is no problem. All the doctor has to do is to
send his recordings to India by internet. And there, a service provider will
arrange to have the recordings transcribed, reports prepared and have the
reports sent back to the doctor’s office in America . Thanks to the 10-12
hour time difference, the doctor there can go home in the evening after
sending his recordings to India . While he sleeps, the job is done and by
the time he is back in his office next morning, the reports are all ready,
sitting in his computer. All he has to do is to print them. And the cost of
all this would be much cheaper than hiring a secretary.”
That is how tasks have become mobile. As everyone knows, so many tasks can
be shipped overseas. This includes answering customer calls, helping with
on-line travel bookings and so on. All this is fine but how on earth does it
affect life style? That is not difficult to understand. Consider just one
example, the Call-centre business. There are a huge number of them in India
and people working in these are young people, most of them between the ages
20 and 30. They are awake throughout the night, night after night. This
strains the body and when they get a break, the young people try to wind
down by “living it up”; they can do it too because they have money to
“enjoy”. This goes on week after week and soon the body begins to feel the
strain due to sustained irregular hours, lack of sleep, serious disturbances
to body rhythm and so on. When these people get married, the problems
multiply immediately. And when children come things get even worse.
A large part of the IT industry revolves almost entirely around tasks, and
since tasks are very mobile, there is automatically a lot of tension. The
customer say in America can easily switch the task from India to China or
Philippines or whatever. For the customer, it is all a case of who offers
the best deal. But for the vendor of services, it is a tense existence. The
people in the IT industry have to do a lot of travelling, frequently across
continents, which is not as exciting as it might seem, especially when one
is in a highly competitive industry.
The stress spreads across the board. Parents want their offspring to be
successful and highly competitive. So they try to get them into the best
schools even though the fees may be prohibitive. While the parents work hard
to make the money needed, the children have to slog to get into the school.
Indeed, even getting into Kindergarten has become a highly competitive
affair, so much so kids of the age of five are now beginning to be stressed
Travel business is soaring but at the same time thanks to rising costs,
especially of oil, many airlines are losing heavily. So people in the
airline business are beginning feel the strain heavily. Faced with losses,
many airlines in America are asking their staff to take pay cuts, which of
course the staff is not willing to accept.
And so on it goes. Influenced by advertisements, people buy heavily on
credit and when they are not able to pay the monthly installments, all kinds
of problems arise. In short, people are working much more, faced with great
job insecurity. In many countries, they have to hold several jobs to make
both ends meet.
The point is that the thanks to all these post-1980 events, life has become
very fast, subjecting all those caught in the rat race to face immense
stress. The worst part of it that due to percolation effect, all members of
the family including kids get heavily stressed. And that is what Swami was
One might argue, “Listen. We know all this. The point simply is that life
has become complicated. Fast pace is inevitable. There is nothing we can do
about it.” We agree that there is some truth about it. But if we reflect
calmly and carefully, then we would be forced to the conclusion, that if we
take seriously Swami’s advice on Ceiling on Desires, then automatically, the
stress level we have to face can and indeed would come down.
Many would hotly contest this, arguing “What on earth does ceiling on
desires have anything to do with it?” Well, consider this simple example.
Highly stressed people want desperately to make the maximum of the weekend
breaks, vacation etc. They furiously make all kinds of travel plans, rush
from work to vacation and then rush back to work when the break is over. In
other words, even vacation has become a rush! In fact, many in America take
their so-called Black-berries with them while on vacation; result, even
vacation becomes tense, thanks to business pressures!
We would not dwell on this anymore, leaving you to think about it. May be we
have not put across the arguments properly and convincingly and there is a
better way of explaining what Swami means. We would certainly welcome
hearing from you. Let us now move on to the second point made by Swami in
the Discourse referred to earlier. Swami said that the body is no ordinary
thing but a special “dress” worn by the Indweller; in other words, said
Swami, the body is the dress of God. And this “dress” must not be soiled by
misusing the body; and let us remember that these days, people have no
inhibitions about misusing the body, in fact in every possible way.
Suppose a person has an expensive suit, say costing $ 3,000/-. We gather
that three are suits that expensive! OK, so a person is wearing such a suit.
Does one expect that person to say allow ketchup to spill on to his suit
while he is eating? Will the person wear the suit and walk in the rain along
a muddy road? And yet, when we look carefully at all the things we tend to
do, often unthinkingly, making the body grow obese, straining the eyes
beyond limit by excessive TV watching, and so on, we would be able to
understand what Swami means. In fact in the Gita, Krishna too says something
similar. He says fools ill treat the body by excessive starving saying they
are observing austerities when in fact they are torturing Him!
So if we put it all together, simply by leading an unnecessarily fast life,
we are driving the body far beyond the pace it was designed by the Creator
for. Moreover, the body that we most casually tend to misuse does not belong
to us; it is God’s Dress. Our Ego makes us think it is “ours” and leads us
to believe that the body being ours we can do what we want with it including
leading a fast life.
Sorry, the body is NOT “ours” and we just cannot do what we want with it,
least of all, drive it a pace it was NOT designed for. Well, that is how we
understood the essential point of Swami’s Discourse. Your thoughts? We are
waiting anxiously to know!
All the best till we get together again next Sunday!
Think about it! Jai Sai Ram.
With Love and Regards,