Citizens' Issues
The four horses

India is the fourth horse. We will begin to stir when the agony of inflicted poverty, the torture of corruption, the abyss of amorality, the absence of conscience and the sheer impossibility of our lives will make us begin to reclaim our humanity

Today I learned something.

From watching a TV show called the Body of Proof. I won’t get into what the show is about, except that I like it.

But at the end of this one episode, there was this quote from the Buddha.

“There are four horses.

The excellent horse moves before the whip touches its back.

The good horse runs at the lightest touch.

The poor horse doesn't move till it feels pain.

And then there is the very bad horse. It stays still until the whip penetrates its marrow.” 

In the running of our lives, we too are like these horses. 

Some of us see the ‘reflection of our own self’ before any prompting. We know that we are destined to be pure and great and good and whole. We need no goad to change. We are already running, running free towards the light.

I see some of us like this: the lovely young man with an endearing European accent who has dedicated his life to save gibbons in a tropical south Asian forest. I see his humility and feel his love for things that cannot help themselves but when they swing free from tree to tall tree, their grace makes his eyes swell with tears at the sheer wonder of creation. 

He has found his calling without prompting, just his heart calling to the giant beating soul of the forest.

Then there are some of us whose life is changed by a chance meeting with a walking inspiration who seems to have ‘manifested’ just for us, a reading of wisdom from a book written by our own minds but by someone else’s hands, a song of utter purity from a blind singer in a gurudwara before sunrise that asks us to bow and weep, or just the simplicity of the smile of a beggar who asks not for alms but for our eyes to meet hers with love. We feel the breath of grace and nothing but nothing is the same again: not the flight of an eagle in the clear blue sky, or the roil of thunderclouds at deep sunset or the laughter of a child swinging in his mother’s arms. We are molten.

I see some of us like this: The award winning molecular biologist who doffs his white lab coat for faded saffron robes and who lives as a Tibetan Buddhist monk near the Himalayas. It seems like he is walking not just on thin air but on it as he addresses a world conference of scientists and thinkers and doers on the substance of happiness: effulgence shining through.

And some of us are too busy to notice that the visitor at the door might be one of these messengers. Our lives are busy and we have things to do, and to-do lists to complete. We ask the silent mirror to tell us that we are the fairest in the land, and we answer the question ourselves with a toss of the head, a spray of perfume and a dash of mouthwash. And one day we find the mirror speaking, asking us questions in turn: what use have we made of the gifts we have been bestowed, why do we feel  empty inside in spite of filling ourselves with things and why are we alone? We feel the hurt of people who have used us and discarded us, we feel the emptiness of homes that are not laughing with children anymore, we feel the need for meaning. We begin to search. We ask for help sometimes from friends, sometimes from paid professionals, sometimes from self-help books, sometimes from spiritual teachers, sometimes we return to the fold of the church, we go on pilgrimages; we seek and seek and seek, because we now feel the pain. 

And here is the lovely reward: in just making the search, we are changed. We are filled with purpose and one day, one shining moment when we realise there is no end but just the journey, we can begin to gallop, the wind shouting hosannas in our ears.

I see some of us like this: The merchant banker who, on the wings of an epiphany, funds his own charitable foundation to help create meaningful change in poor urban society. When he speaks now, he has the unmistakable certainty of a missionary and the contentment of a fakir. He is rooted and free. He is rock in the river.

The fourth one is probably the most interesting. It is the one that pays back pain with pain, inflicts suffering on others because it is screaming with agony inside. It knows no mercy because it gets none in return. It asks not to be loved, just to be feared. It feeds off hate. It presumes its greatness because it feels so inadequate in itself. There is no light here, not even the one at the end of the tunnel, just the deadness of darkness. Do not ask this person to feel joy. This person can feel glee though, the evil cackle of victory. And morality has left this abode a long time ago, purposeless end not just justifying but dictating the means.

This is the substance of nightmares.

The Buddha meets one such person. This is his story:

There was a notorious murderer whose back story about he became one is in itself a tale unto itself. But when the Buddha met him he was feared and dreaded and known as Angulimala, one who wears fingers as a garland. He had 999 fingers collected as his gruesome trophies.

When the Buddha heard about Angulimala, he quietly left the Jetavana and set out for the Jalani forest, some 40 km away. As the Buddha walked along the road, groups of travellers passed him and as they did, they warned him not to continue alone because of the danger. He simply smiled and continued on his way. When Angulimala saw the Buddha, he was most surprised. “This is wonderful indeed. Usually only travellers in groups of twenty, thirty or forty come along this road and here is an ascetic travelling alone. I will kill him.”

Seizing his sword and shield, Angulimala emerged from the jungle and began to chase the Buddha, but although he ran as fast as he could, he could not catch up with the Buddha, who only walked. He put on a burst of speed but still could not get near the Buddha. Utterly bewildered, he shouted out: “Stand still, ascetic!”

The Buddha turned around and looked at him, and replied: “I am still. Why don’t you be still also?” Even more bewildered Angulimala asked: “What do you mean, ascetic?”

“I am still in that I harm no living being. You kill and therefore you are not still,” replied the Buddha.

The terrible things that he had done and the wretchedness of his life dawned on Angulimala and he broke down and sobbed. He threw down his weapons, bowed at the Buddha’s feet and asked to become a monk. The Buddha ordained him and together they set out for Savatthi.”

In time, it is said, Angulimala became one of the Buddha’s most respected disciples.

What does it take to achieve transformation? Does one have to be swamped in mire and then rise like the lotus?  Does one have to undergo the tribulations of Job to understand the nature of? As Dostoevsky says, “The benevolent indifference of the universe?” Or can we rise and take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? Can we win the greater Jihad, the inner struggle against our own demons? What does it take to recognize where the fight lies? Will only suffering reveal the true nature of man, his inner perfect self?

Asoka the Great, considered by many historians to be the first unifier of India, had to see the destruction he wrought on his own people when he waged merciless and ambitious war before he saw the light. The suffering he caused on countless men women and children in the pursuit of power was so monstrous that when he could finally see what he had done, he became Buddha’s greatest servant forsaking violence and trying to create an equitable society based on the principles of Dharma enunciated by the Buddha. 

The whip had to cut to the marrow. The unspeakable horror of man’s cruelty to his fellow man led to one of the most renowned transformations in human history.

And why is this important to us?

Consider this: India is the fourth horse. 

And maybe one day the whip will cut to the marrow. We will begin to stir when the agony of inflicted poverty, the torture of corruption, the abyss of amorality, the absence of conscience and the sheer impossibility of our lives will make us begin to reclaim our humanity.

The stuttering of the Lokpal Bill gives me pause. It by no means is a panacea for what ails us. We will need to accost the Buddha on the road, as well. But the fact that the ‘fors’ and the ‘againsts’ have run the bill aground on the shoals of political expediency makes me less than optimistic that we not feeling the pain.

I can only hope. The Buddha in his infinite loving kindness believed that everyone and everything is worthy of redemption, given time.

India, I hope, has enough time for redemption.

Postscript:  Asoka’s seal, the three lions, is the official seal of India.

(V Shantakumar is the former chairman & CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in India and now the managing partner of Doing Think)




Shadi Katyal

6 years ago

Lot has been written about poverty and how it is exploited but nothing is done about it. There are NGO who work in name of such poor people to see that they stay poor.That is INDIA where even the Govt refuses to ship food to poor areas and than there is greed where the quality grain is sold and poor quality provided. Where the labourer doesn't get paid but his thumb prints are taken under duress.
The second point of Corruption, it seems it is now in our genes.Poor people who cant afford rail tickets travel without it but is that not corruption and biggest crime is that well to do also take advantage and if caught give cash to officer and thus take advantage as the poor man. Is this something in our thinking or upbringing. Why do we try to be over smart.We have no concept of any right and wrong and only right is what we can pocket or save.
Morality now that is a what we talk of and never apply to our lives. Take case of bride3 burning or fetuses abortion of girls, are these moral acts?Maybe the nation has different meaning of morality.Trying to cheat and lie, is that anything to do with morality?We even lie ages when getting our marriages being fixed WHY? So where is our spirituality which we preach to the world.Where is our morality when we lie both politically and otherwise.
Now comes the quesion of Conscious, has anyone seen such thing and we beleive we do what our conscious tells us. If we can be bribed and bought that is our conscious asking to accept the bribe.
We talk and talk and I am sure to most of readers this might be rather crude and rude but sooner or later we have to face the reality.
Instead of looking inward we look forward to some new Messiah to do it for ourselves. We go to temples but do we follow Dharma or is this just to make fool of ourselves that we are spirituals.We saw how Dhongi Baba Ram dev who has foreign accounts and whose number 2 men has used false passport could fool the superstitious nation.People were happy that a new Messiah has come and solve the problems.
We dont want to modify our own character but look for others to do it. It takes each and everyone of us to take action.
Anna Hazare has been misled by a group who have the strings to pull him as we saw the grand group is not honest and pure but what can poor Hazare do unless we all are willing to introspect our own Conscious.
We have along way top go and time is running out to blamed the British and Muslim rulers. We have to stand up on our own feet and break this chain of corruption and girls burning and killings and refuse to pay a paisa to anyone as bribe.
Unless the nation s whole wake up we will be slowly demeaning our lives

surajit som

6 years ago

what we need is a vevekananda . yes there are good men. i read the story of many such persons in THE WEEK. they are doing it RIGHT NOW. but they are like drops in an ocean. we need millions of them. possibilities are endless. what is needed is action. spiritual hope alone will not solve out problems. and yes ,lets not lose hope. because that is will be the end.

Shama Zaidi

6 years ago

for a moment i thought you were referring to the 4th horse of the apocalypse!

Share prices move sideways but the bias is beginning to be negative: Thursday Closing Report

Nifty may now move in the range of 4,830 and 4,910

Subdued revenue forecast from Infosys and lower-than-expected numbers from HDFC dragged the market lower, brushing aside positive economic indicators.  As mentioned yesterday, the Nifty gave back some of the gains today. The index bounced back from its first level of support of 4,810: however, it ended in the negative. The benchmark may now move in the range of 4,830 and 4,910. At present the index is moving sideways with a negative bias. Today the National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw a volume of 71.44 crore shares.  
The market opened lower, ahead of a heavy day marked by quarterly numbers from IT bellwether Infosys, industrial output numbers for November and weekly food inflation data. A weak trend in the Asian region following a flat close of Wall Street overnight also weighed on the sentiment. The Nifty opened 20 points down at 4,841 and the Sensex started the day at 16,117, a cut of 59 points over its previous close.

While Infosys reported a net profit growth 33.25% at Rs2,372 crore, its disappointing dollar revenue guidance pulled the stock down 7% in morning trade. IT and technology sectors were the worst performers in today’s trade.

The market traded sideways in the negative till the late morning session after which a rebound in industrial output numbers for November pushed the indices to their day’s high with the Nifty entering the positive zone. At the intraday high, the Nifty touched 4,869 and the Sensex rose to 16,179.

However, the gains were temporary as the indices drifted lower once again. The indices fell to their intraday lows in noon trade with the Nifty falling to 4,804 and the Sensex going below its psychological level of 16,000 to 15,963.

The market was range-bound in post-noon trade as the key European indices were flat, ahead of the Spanish bond auction. Lower-than-expected quarterly results from mortgage lender HDFC in the latter part of the day added to the day’s woes resulting in the market ending lower, snapping its two-day winning streak. At the close, the Nifty fell by 30 points to 4,831 and the Sensex declined 138 points to 16,038.

The advance-decline ratio on the NSE was 972:864.

Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index closed 0.26% higher and the BSE Small-cap index rose 0.15%.

BSE Power (up 1.32%); BSE Metal, BSE Bankex (up 1.08% each); BSE Auto (up 0.84%) and BSE PSU (up 0.70%) were the top sectoral gainers. On the losing side were BSE IT (down 5.96%); BSE TECk (down 4.41%); BSE Oil & Gas (down 0.81%) and BSE Capital Goods (down 0.22%).

The top Sensex gainers were State Bank of India (up 2.03%); Hindalco Industries (up 1.81%); Tata Power (up .72%); Coal India (up 1.66%) and Tata Steel (up 1.46%). The major losers were Infosys (down 8.40%); TCS (down 3.89%); Wipro (down 2.60%); Reliance Industries (down 1.44%) and Larsen & Toubro (down 1.25%).

Sesa Goa (up 4.94%); IDFC (up 3.56%); Jaiprakash Associates (up 3.25%); Grasim (up 3.18%) and Reliance Power (up 3.14%) were the top stocks on the Nifty. Infosys (down 8.36%); TCS (down 3.58%); HCL Technologies (down 2.24%); Wipro (down 2.16%) and Larsen & Toubro (down 1.75%) languished at the bottom of the index.

Markets in Asia settled mostly in the red as concerns about the Eurozone crisis kept investor on tenterhooks. Even the easing of Chinese inflation to 401% in December, the lowest in 15 months, failed to provide any boost to the markets. Slowing of export orders pulled down the Nikkei 225.

The Shanghai Composite fell 0.47%; the Hang Seng lost 0.30%; the Jakarta Composite settled flat; the Nikkei 225 declined 0.745; the Straits Times shed 0.13% and the Taiwan Weighted was 0.02% down. Bucking the trend, the KLSE Composite gained 0.21% and the Seoul Composite surged 1.03%. At the time of writing, the top European indices were trading with gains and the US stock futures were seen higher.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of stocks totalling Rs431.31 crore on Wednesday. On the other hand, domestic institutional investors were net sellers of equities amounting to Rs182.18 crore.

Fortis Healthcare (India) today said it has completed the acquisition of Singapore-based Fortis Healthcare International Pte from a firm owned by its promoters, the Singh brothers. The company had in September 2011 announced that it will acquire Fortis Healthcare International Pte from RHC Financial Services Mauritius for $665 million (around Rs3,270 crore). Fortis Healthcare India closed at Rs98 on the NSE, up 0.05%.

Info Edge, which runs job portal, today launched a common online application form ’The Common App’ on its education portal for admission in MBA and equivalent courses. Initial partners of for this application include Nirma University, TA Pai Management Institute, Loyola Institute of Business Administration and Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship. The stock declined 3.15% to close at Rs566.50 on the NSE.

Srei Infrastructure Finance has deferred its plan to raise around $1 billion for its proposed infra fund in the current fiscal due to dollar scarcity in the global markets, sources in the company said. The Kolkata-based infrastructure financing firm is now looking at raising the money in the first half of FY12-13 as it expects global situation to improve in the next fiscal. The stock gained 1.35% to close at Rs30 on the NSE.


Growth prospects better; rate cut to depend on inflation: PMEAC

After witnessing low growth from July to September, factory output, as measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), slumped 4.74% in October. The revival in IIP growth at 5.9% in November is likely to boost the industry sentiment

New Delhi: Expressing hope that industrial growth will further pick up in the coming months, the prime minister’s economic advisory panel today said rate cut by RBI will depend upon softening of inflation, reports PTI.

“I think the industrial production will pick up in the second half of the year ... The indications as thrown up by the data for November may continue into the rest of the months of the current fiscal,” the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) chief C Rangarajan told reporters.

After witnessing low growth from July to September, factory output, as measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), slumped 4.74% in October. The revival in IIP growth at 5.9% in November is likely to boost the industry sentiment.

As regards the possibility of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reducing rates, Mr Rangarajan said, “I would say that the action of the RBI will largely depend upon how the inflation numbers turn out to be for the month of December. Certainly, a strong action on the part of RBI in reversing the policy will be called for only if inflation shows very strong signs of decline”.

The RBI, which has adopted a tight monetary stance since March 2010, is scheduled to announce its policy review on 24th January.

Food prices fell for the second consecutive week as food inflation remained in the negative zone at (-)2.90 per cent for the week ended 31 December 2011. The figures of overall inflation for December will be announced on Monday.


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