This morning I came across this in reading Frank Herbert’s “Heretics of Dune” – which I am assuming was written sometimes before it was first published in 1984:
Technology, in common with many other activities, tends toward avoidance of risks by investors. Uncertainty is ruled out if possible. Capital investment follows this rule since people generally prefer the predictable. Few recognize how destructive this can be, how it imposes severe limits on variability and thus makes whole populations fatally vulnerable to the shocking ways our universe can throw the dice.
As I read this I thought of Fred Wilson – the only person I currently read from venture-capital-startup-land. He appeared in my thoughts in two contexts: (1) he is a subject of Herbert’s writing; (2) I believe he believes he isn’t – because he subscribes to the fashionable idea of disruption. Disruptive is a popular theme in the world of technology startups. Luckily Fred also lists Yoga among his interests. I am more passionate and more knowledgeable in Yoga (then I am in business) so I would like to try exploring the subject in this light.
My teacher recently hosted an event celebrating the launch of a new book in Hebrew about the Yoga Sutra. I didn’t attend the event nor have I seen the book but I did speak with my teacher about it before and after the event. The book is an academic analysis of the Yoga Sutra – it is an artifact of reading, writing and thinking – a product of mind. I am not inclined to reading it because to me the Yoga Sutra is a source of inspiration – I believe that intellectually dissecting it misses this quality and defeats it’s purpose.
My intuition (and prejudice) about the book was confirmed when my teacher described the author’s physical presence. She said that he was physically agitated and had very nervous body language. These are symptoms that Yoga, as outlined in the Yoga Sutra, describes as illness that can be healed. To me this says that this person does not yet know the Yoga Sutra.
Sloka 2.25 of the Yoga Rahasya states:
“The teacher, having understood the Sastra-s, must practice regularly for himself and then teach the prescribed asana-s to others.”
Energy: Health & Illness
Yoga views the body as a system of energy which flows through an extensive system of channels (nadi). In his book “What Are We Seeking?” TKV Desikachar likens our energy systems to a natural system of irrigation in which energy (like water) flows naturally. Optimal flow is a state of health. Optimal flow is disrupted when it encounters obstacles (in mind and body). An obstructed flow of energy manifests as illness (mental, emotional, physical, etc.).
Purification is a core idea in Yoga – it is intended to remove obstacles. Purification takes place in mind and body. Purification makes it possible for energy to resume it’s natural & healthy flow.
It is a common misperception that Yoga is a kind of peace-invoking practice when actually Yoga is a disruptive and agitating practice. To correctly understand the concept of disruption in Yoga it is necessary to remember the context in which it is being used – illness – the already disrupted flow of energy.
Note to Yogis: If you have taken offense from the suggestion you are in any way “ill” – please remember that Yoga sets a very high bar for “success” – unity with that which is within and eternal. In that light, manifestation in human form always falls short – it is an “illness”.
Yoga practices are a disruption of an already disrupted flow of energy. Proper application of Yoga is outlined in sloka 2.26 of the Yoga Rahasya:
“After having examined the origins of the diseases of the body and senses, the teacher must apply Kriya yoga. Otherwise there will be no benefits.”
Krishnamacharya‘s commentary adds:
“Before doing Kriya-yoga, the teacher must find out the history of the student’s illness and symptoms. Based on his observations he should ascertain the origin of the illness. After much meditation on this, he should teach the student the appropriate asana-s.”
A disruptive intervention assumes:
- There is a student.
- The student has a potential state of healthy energy flow.
- The student is currently in a state of illness.
- The illness is caused by obstacles which are disrupting the healthy flow of energy.
- A purifying practice can remove the obstacles and restore healthy flow of energy.
- A purifying practice needs to be administered by a teacher.
- The teachers needs to be healthy.
- The teacher needs to identify the student’s obstacles.
- The teacher needs to meditate on this before acting.
- The teacher needs to introduce a practice that is suitable for the student.
All of these are required for “disruption” … otherwise it will lead to more disruption, more obstacles more illness .. at best “no benefits”.
A Good Example
Curiously, one technology project came to my mind, as I was writing, that is actually in the process of administering what seems like effective disruption. I thought it would be nice to see how it resonates with these assumptions. The project is Mozilla’s Drumbeat project:
- Student: are people who are not aware of the value of and inherit threat to Internet freedom.
- Healthy energy: the presence and involvement of people in a free Internet.
- Illness: energy flow is currently compromised.
- Obstacles: people’s lack of awareness to forces (business entities that are diverting the natural flow of energy for financial gain) threatening Internet freedoms.
- Purifying: Drumbeat is trying to to make people aware of the benefits of participating in a free Internet.
- Teacher: Drumbeat is created by Mozilla.
- Healthy teacher: Mozilla is an organization dedicated to keeping the Internet free.
- Identifying the obstacles: this is what Drumbeat is currently doing in the spirit of a free Internet (open collaboration).
- Meditating – though some ideas have surfaced, they are gradually being developed and discussed – Mozilla is not shy about not knowing what needs to be done.
- Practice – we’ll see what the future brings 🙂
An Unknown Example
Though Fred writes a lot and I’ve read much of his writing I have not yet seen through to a clear “disruption-purpose” that drives him. I believe he is inherently good but I also believe he exists in a disturbed (ill) system. I would like to see how these 10 principles apply to him and his business. The fact that he is a venture-capitalist makes it a formidable challenge. Tackling it, I believe, is a small step towards a better future.
Advertising Based Business Models
One of the most popular and undisputed revenue models amongst technology companies is advertising. These companies create an engaging service that is offered for free and captures the attention of it’s users and then sells that attention off to advertisers.
My jaw dropped when I recognized a description of this business model in the Yoga Rahasya – Sloka 1.42:
“Through the disturbance of Prana, all the indriya-s (senses), get disturbed and move along with the mind towards external objects, which are poisonous. Therefore, through exhalation, inhalation and retention, Prana must be regulated.”
According to Yoga philosophy Prana is something that Spirit created when it wanted the freedom to get around in the world (instead of just witnessing it). The first thing (before all of the subtle elements of nature) to manifest from Prana was faith. Prana is too great a force for any conscious entity to abuse. Faith isn’t.
Note to Yogis: Did you notice that breathing (not asana) is indicated as a primary practice to reducing the disturbance of Prana?