Friday, August 19, 2011

Popular Versions of Yoga in the West

Originated in India, Yoga has been with us for the past 2500 years. During its historical journey, though it was predominantly influential among the various brands of Hinduism, it became a quintessential part of the Buddhist and Jain meditation. Its contemplative practice was also adopted by the Chinese Taoists and Japanese Zen. Recently, the West too has opened its doors enthusiastically by making Yoga as a way of life.

There are more than 15 million Americans that practice some form of yoga and meditation. This staggering number has taken the esoteric spiritual discipline from the caves of the Himalayas and brought it to the door steps of every American. At present, yoga has become fashionable among the diverse strata of society ranging from the rich and famous to the ordinary person in the street. With the increase of its popularity, more people go after its faddish aspects and less for its serious study.

There are multiple ways that Yoga has been perceived in America and the West. All of them can be put under four general headings. I call the first type as the Hollywood Yoga. It was initially popularized by the Hollywood celebrities, who were looking for beautiful bodies and sound physical health. They were interested in the practice of physical postures, which would make them look and feel good. Also called the Hatha Yoga, it is the most popular kind. I call the second variety as the Harvard Yoga because it constituted a group of researchers from various universities. They were interested in measuring the claims made by the practitioners that the regular practice of yoga and meditation brought about positive changes in their personality. This was the province of the psychologists, psychiatrists and medical researchers, who worked at the major university centers. A third kind, which I call the Cultic Yoga, was introduced by the religious leaders from the East. They proclaimed themselves to be living at a heightened state of consciousness that was achieved by them through their own efforts or the aid of their teachers. They openly declared themselves to be the carriers of this enlightenment and could easily pass it on to others who were ready to pay the bills for their spiritual services. Though the Cultic Yoga created a huge following, it also watered down this ancient discipline and made it very pedestrian. However, the fourth, which I call the Himalayan Yoga, is the authentic brand dating back to 500 B.C. Its ideas are found in the Yoga Sutras, a book compiled by an Indian sage Patanjali. This ancient book contains the philosophy, psychology, science, religion and the way of life of yoga. Though the Hollywood, Harvard and Cultic Yoga find their roots in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, they merely scratch the surface of this masterly developed philosophical and empirical system that promises a meaningfully balanced spiritual life through the perfection of the body, control of the emotions and mastery of the mind.

By Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Future in a Service Economy!

The current dispute about jobs and the recession is useless. We need to define the diagnosis of the situation and choose a solution accordingly. We are in the service economy and such an economy is too weak to produce growth and the demand for jobs. In Kalamazoo County we have 450 restaurants. Do we need 50 more? To return to prosperity we need to reindustrialize America. If we won’t do it—there is no future for the Americans in their country.

Economic globalization does not work for most American citizens because we are no longer citizens, merely disposable workers. It works for global corporations, which are looking for growth and want to sell to the “bottom of the pyramid,” which contains 4 billion potential customers. However, these new potential customers do not have money, since their income is about $1,500 per year. To transform them into customers, global firms provide jobs for them. For example, Apple Corporation employs 18,000 workers in the U.S. and 1,000,000 workers abroad.

To reindustrialize the U.S. one must tax those who export jobs. These taxes should finance the safety net of those Americans, who lost jobs due to globalization. Why should rich people invest in jobs in the U.S. if there are not enough customers with steady income, who could create a demand for new supplies? Any stimulus package perhaps may create some sort of demand. However, it will trigger production only in China and other foreign countries, where we outsourced manufacturing.

Some repeated mantra states that we are not competitive for other countries. Of course, we cannot compete at the labor cost level with China, India, and others. In doing so, we need to go back to labor cost that we had in the 19th century. Another mantra says that we are not innovative enough, however according to the Innovation Index, we are ranked #1 (The Economist Pocket World in Figures 2011, p.62). Why do we commercialize our innovations, only to outsource their manufacture abroad? Innovation, when not practiced responsibly, leads to societal corrosion: when we innovated customer service by automation, (i.e. phone trees), It resulted in the death of that service and increased unemployment. We don’t need such “innovations.”

The Keynes economy does not work in the current American situation. Also, the Friedman economy does not work today. This is 21st century, which needs own new economic theory. Unfortunately, our economists and politicians are not innovative and good for these new conditions. Needless to say, these conditions have created quite a mess. One cannot expect that our leaders and their advisors can both be the arsonist and the fireman. We need to stop counting on those that have created the current problem to possess solutions. Perhaps our own Arab Spring will help start the solution process? Perhaps, sooner than one can expect?

Prof. Andrew Targowski
Director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices
WMU Haworth College of Business