Three Imaginations

Jan 01, 2012, 07:30 IST | Devdutt Pattanaik

Humans can imagine a world without hunger, where there are no predators or prey: this is Kailasa, abode of Shiva, the hermit.

Humans can imagine a world without hunger, where there are no predators or prey: this is Kailasa, abode of Shiva, the hermit. It is a snow-clad mountain of rock where no grass grows, still Shiva's bull is happy. It is friends with the tiger belonging to Shiva's consort, Sati, who does not eye it hungrily. The mouse of Ganesha, Shiva's son, does not fear the snake around Shiva's neck, and the snake does not fear the peacock of Shiva's other son, Kartikeya. This is the world where Lakshmi does not matter. This is the world of yoga.

Illustration/ Devdutt pattanaik

We can also imagine a world where there is always every kind of food to satisfy every kind of hunger. This is Amravati, abode of Indra, king of the Devas, who lives above the sky. Here there is Kalpataru, the wish-fulfilling tree and Kamadhenu, the wish-fulfilling cow, and Chintamani, the wish-fulfilling gem. Devas could consume without having to chase. They also have Amrita, the nectar of immortality; Devas could therefore never be killed, and consumed. There is nothing to fear. This is the world where there is abundance of Lakshmi.

Between yoga and bhoga, Rishis observed humans preferred bhoga, which is why Amravati is more popularly known as Swarga or paradise. Here consumption is assured without the effort of the chase, or the fear of being consumed. Can such a world exist? A world where there can be returns without investment, a world of dividends without risk? We strive for this: that is why we do business.

But paradise is always under threat of attack. Asuras want what the Devas have. Indra and his Devas, are therefore always at war or anxious about war. They live in fear, bereft of Durga. Life becomes a rana-bhoomi, a battleground. So it is for businesses today where there is constant talk of competing, racing, winning and losing. As we run after Lakshmi, we create institutions where humans are not trusted but where fairness is enforced through laws. We end up with Alakshmi, goddess of quarrels.

Rishis imagined another world, a ranga-bhoomi, a playground. In this world, there is realisation that not everyone has the will of Shiva to outgrow hunger. There is also awareness that both Devas and Asuras, who hate each other, are brothers, children of Brahma, who do not have to fight. This is Go-loka, the divine pasture, where everyone is a cow offering food and a cowherd offering shelter. Here Saraswati ensures there is enough Lakshmi and Durga for all.

Is such a world possible? Only if we believe that people matter, that their imaginations matter and that we contribute to their imaginations. Only if we see other people's imagination and discover how our imagination impacts their imagination and their imagination impacts our imagination. Only if we are willing to change the narrative of our mind, so that others change the narrative of their mind, and feel safe enough to play with us rather than fight. Media photographs suggest this is what the Ambani household is yearning for, but there is no sign of it either in the Parliament or in the grounds that houses Team Anna.

The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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