Do you smell a flower? Or …

What happens when you smell a flower? 

You say it smells sweet (or something like that), right?

When you put a drop of honey in your mouth, you say that honey is sweet, right?


What if it was not right?

Today I was browsing Kaushitaki Brahmana (कौषीतकि ब्राह्मण) and came across some text – interesting piece even if slightly turned around in meaning.
न वाचं विजिज्ञासीत वक्तारं विद्यात् न गन्धं विजिज्ञासीत घ्रातारं विद्यान्न रूपं विजिज्ञासीत दृष्टारं विद्यात् ….न कर्मं विजिज्ञासीत कर्तारं विद्यात् न सुखदुखे विजिज्ञासीत सुखदुखयोर्विज्ञातारं विद्यात् … न मनो विजिज्ञासीत मन्तारं विद्यात् …।
For the uninitiated: we all know there are four Vedas, right? Right. Each of the Vedas have four – let’s say, subsystems, or modules. Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The Sanskrit text above translates thus:
Let’s not try to find out what speech is, let’s know the speaker. Let’s not try to find out what smell is, let’s know the one who smells. Let’s not try to find out what form is, let’s know the seer… Let’s not try to find out what action is, let’s know the doer. Let’s not try to find out what pleasure and pain are, let’s know the one who knows pleasure and pain… Let’s not try to find out what mind is, let’s know the one who possesses the mind.
Yet, the way our senses and our understanding of sensory signals work, we do precisely the opposite. We smell the smell (perfume) of the flower and we claim to have smelled the flower. We taste the sweetness of honey and we say we tasted honey. We experience (some/few/one or two) qualities of a person and we say we know a person. We have experienced a bit of life and we say we have known the life. How accurate is that?
Sometimes (much more than ‘some’ times) we fall prey to stereotypes and generalizations. we seek the sweet middling tendencies, universally applicable ‘truths’ and deny the other person any deviation from that ‘normality’. Although the passage above is about knowing the Brahman, I read it in a more worldly fashion. Think about the empathy and sensitivity to the uniqueness in the other it implies.
We think that ‘scientific’ approach is superior, but that is also miserable. In the name of science and ‘systematic’ approach to creating knowledge, we get tempted to take abstractions at such higher levels that they no longer apply to the chunk of reality we have in our hands. There is nothing wrong with grand theories, but in the name of grand theories, we misplace the actual point of interaction between ourselves and what we experience. And all the while, we think that we have a universal, objective truth. We think that ‘the reality’ is objective, and one for all. We establish standards and ‘cut-off’ s of ‘normality’ and brand the deviations.
It might be fine at times, and necessary at some others. But a habit of making a conclusion at a level higher than where the experience occurs is a gross error. While we do smell the smell, we do not smell the flower. Saying that we smell a flower is a gross denial of all the parts of a flower that either do not smell or have a smell that human nose cannot register. Think of what it means when applied to our interpersonal ties with others.
Does this paragraph not knock on the doors of dynamics of leadership and interpersonal relations?? What do you say?
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You Are On Your Own After You Hit The Google

I have had the privilege of working with some of the most interesting, young professionals-in-making across the hierarchy that is so firmly entrenched in the Indian psyche. I interact with twenty-somethings in the institutes located in the sleepy towns just waking up to the aspiration of mimicking the cities; and in the cities with their institutions on the global maps; and those nowhere in the national recalls.

No matter where one looks, originality is rare. In case of business and professional education, the need for originality might not even stand at the forefront of one’s contribution because much might be either driven by the customer’s requirement or bounded by constrains – more realistically, both. That should make the structured and programmed decisions very easy, isn’t it?

I saw something different.

If a client told the students to study patterns of exports of some products from – let’s say Venezuela to India, its volume, growth, tariffs … it would be so easy! Just hit Google, find pages, and submit the report!! Quicker than 1-2-3! The client does not even know this! Or, I work so much harder than my boss!

But once in every while there is a twist. Perhaps the client asked for a time series data and the Ministry’s database provides just one year. Or, they provide value and volumes, but not the Tariffs. May be, there is no google page that has the exact title bearing phrases that the client emailed to you as part of their deliverables.

So? Where do you go?

The assignment begins THEN.

Who would teach you where to search in Google’s google pages? That a search engine exists is a matter of information. You can pick it up from anywhere around you. But how will you use it to add value to your contribution?? Without figuring this out, and IIT sophomore is just as good as someone attending term in any sleepy town. And the reality is, no one can teach you just where exactly look, whom to ask and what to club after the first search failed.

Now this is about the structured and rationally ‘figurable’ projects.

I have been at the receiving end of simple copy-paste jobs when I gave an outlet to something original, like an autobiography (!) or a review of a series of movies or a reflective note on how one experienced the last session or a narrative of one’s personal journey through the course just completed. That makes non-submission of assignment far better.

In the above examples, the expectation as a rater was that the writer would be able to communicate what they ‘saw’ as an observer, felt as a participant in the experience, narrate what one saw and communicate what responses it evoked in the observer.

This is essentially is a qualitative aspect of development, and typically the students who could even meet the threshold requirement were like 25 out of 90, one out of 13 and 15 out of 60 in globally acclaimed to nondescript kind of places.

Internet can give you access to download-able movies and can allow you to watch whatever you want to watch free of cost (assuming you do it through the Insti. LAN), but who would teach you what to make out of a movie? Your textbook on communication can teach you how to format reports, but who will teach you what to put in that report? The curriculum developed by globally aligned institutions can club management with design and planning, but who will teach you how to reflect?

A leveler for that, is not found – yet. And that is where you are on your own. YOU come into the picture when you define, interpret and express to others. It is essentially judgmental, you have to take your position, you have to bestow your flavor to the volumes of information you mulled.

You have to be involved, be bothered by questions, seek answers and your interpretation within. You need to take a position, go back and forth between what meets you from outside and what your intuition says from within. And then refine and develop a confluence of the two. You might stumble, and feel stuck. That is where you have to find the ways to hit the next level.

THAT, no one can teach you. After hitting the Google, you are on your own.

Don’t give it up just because it is not sounding like a familiar math problem from the text-book, because there is no one answer, because the assignment asked to you review three movies instead of common google answers on a single movie, because the assignment did not ask you to draw maps but personal and judgmental accounts – because eventually, it is THAT that would develop, shape and define you.