Why Are We So Desperate About Exceeding The Speed Limit?
Loving Sai Ram, and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
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. Sathya Sai Baba 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.
Sathya Sai Baba 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 is.
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 heavily.
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 Sathya Sai Baba was commenting about.
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 Sathya Sai Babas’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 Sathya Sai Baba’s Discourse.
With Love and Regards,