Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx – all early-thinkers from 20th Century, identified land, labour, capital and organisation as ‘factors of production’, an economic concept that outlines the elements needed to produce goods or service for sale. The Industrial Revolution organized the factors of production, both scientifically and created systems, processes, and procedures to optimize time and effort, and enhance efficiency. Under the aegis of industrialization free enterprise and capitalism flourished.
For eons, humans have grown to accepting processes, beginning from living in community – beginning from hunter-gather stage, later an agrarian society. However, with ‘division of labour’, specialisation, and ergonomics focus from Industrialisation, processes took on a whole new level. Many of those process-based economic activities, as well as rules-based societies gave rise to rituals – which included personal, social and community living.
Rituals define us
Well, Dec-31st signifies the end of a year in the Gregorian calendar. It is the end of a calendar year. It is the end of the financial year in the western world. It is not the end of financial year in India. It is not the end of the year for any of the major religions in India.
Yet as usual, at the year-end, we observe that human and industrial factors have a ‘closing/cleansing’ ritual. In that process, we feel rejuvenated. We feel recharged. We also reclaim our feeling of sanity and hope. We humans, in general, have a fixation and fascination with rituals. For these bring both a sense of routine and comfort. They are no more different than the habit of drinking a cup of tea or coffee with the morning newspaper. They are no different from the daily morning running or gym schedule, or a morning prayer for many of us.
Rituals are important. Rituals define our behaviour. For some, rituals define us. Rituals even act as identifier with a common cause or to a specific cohort.
As one would observe with landowners, post-harvesting the first crop, the land is carefully and respectfully prepared for the next cultivation. More commonly these days, the fields are burnt, which is harmful: the heat kills bacteria and fungi that lend soil its fertility, making crops more resistant to disease. A modern case of remembering the ritual, but where we shortcut the rationale to achieve the process, we end up losing the purpose.
Modern organisations have the concept of AMC – annual maintenance contracting schedules. The Machinery is regularly overhauled through annual maintenance. The sumps are cleaned, and all dirt and dregs removed. Mechanical cleaning systems are used to remove contaminants, using dry and wet blast cleaning. At the annual Ayudha-puja, we do the same, by cleaning and maintaining the equipments, but with respect as part of the ritual.
Organisations or entrepreneurs write up the books, close the ‘P&L’and ‘Balance Sheet ’and tidy up with new entries and journals created for the new year.
Why rituals, as de rigour?
“What processes exist to support the renewal and vitality of the human force at year end?”
In this modern technological era, human well-being and personal sustenance is central. We do know that all factors have fatigue and stress and need an overhaul to rejuvenate. For humans, this may take the form of a retreat, a vacation, doing something more relaxed and pleasurable. Often, an informal get-together and celebration. Arguably, there are a few who receive year end gifts, even a generous bonus. Some would argue that there is a Developmental Appraisal process in place.
Reading of the history of India, these frameworks, like many others, had its origin as essential narratives to justify the hegemony, in India for instance the Colonial Rule. If you would believe the Western narrative, then Indian history is just a collection of ancient myths—and that what we call its history is the history of successive invasions. Thomas Macaulay famously declared dismissively “A single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”.
In today’s age, labour is used both on the physical and mental level. The dhatus which consist of physical, physiological and psychological levels get dulled by overuse. The five dull knots: confusion, desire, anger, pride and doubt and the five sharp knots: view of the body as self, extreme views, wrong views, perverted views and superstition need to be untethered and purified. Interestingly even before the discovery of germs, ancient societies had elaborate rituals that dealt with cleaning and purification. Water and fire rituals were used prominently to purify and cleanse impurities, both of the body and soul.
In Indic tradition, nothing is permanent, not even death. The dead at some point return to the land of the living to repay unpaid debts. Life is needed to free oneself from the burden of debts. The dead depend on the living to facilitate their return to the land of the living and keep the circle of life turning. Actually, Life includes both birth and death. Once you are born in the womb, and then born through child birth, you continually grow, develop, become an adult until at some point you die. Alongside this your relationships with the other: caregivers, significant others, society, will change as well. So too your ideas and opinions will almost certainly change, and so too will you. Everyone grows older and everything changes. That is an inevitable process of life.
Rituals, that can discipline the way of living, as a true-north for ethical and morally upright human behaviour are needed. The rest of rituals which cannot offer these ‘social or personal good’ outcomes, are mere rhetoric, irrespective of what pundits might claim. Rituals help connect the past to the Present, and with that to the Future.
Happy New Year !
Srinath Sridharan – Author (Time for Bharat) & Corporate Advisor – Twitter : @ssmumbai
Steve Correa – Executive Coach and OD Consultant – Twitter : @SteveCorrea1122