What started in 1948 as a study to reveal the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease turned into a gold-mine of social networking data that reveals what the yogis have always know – it’s not about just about you, it’s about who you hang out with. So the question is – Have you examined your satsaunga lately?

What the social network analysts became fascinated with was not what the study reveals about heart disease, but what it shows them about a whole host of other social factors: Who smokes and how do they quit? Who becomes obese and why? (believe it or not, they could predict exactly when a particular individual would gain weight based on her/his position in the network!), Who is happy and who isn’t?

The researches likened obesity to the flu: if you become obese, chances are others will catch it with viral-like speed.

It took them 5 years to analyze the data. Here are some of their findings:

  • If your spouse becomes obese, your chances of following suit increase by 37%, but if a friend becomes obese, they skyrocket to 171%.
  • When smokers quit smoking (which happend en masse in the 70s and 80s), their friends were 36% more likely to quit. And the action of that one person affected others up to three degrees of separation. That means even if all your friends were still smoking, if even one of the friends of a friend of your friend stopped, it would have some influence on your stopping.
  • Happiness is contagious. For each happy friend you have, it increases your chances of being happy by 9%. Having an extra $5000 a year only increases your happiness by 2%.

You can read more about the social network analysis in the current issue of Wired. It also says that if you post a smiling face on your facebook account, you’ll have 15% more friends!

Here’s something to reflect upon about satsaunga from the Yoga Vashistha:

“Self-knowledge or knowledge of truth is not had by resorting to a guru nor by the study of scripture, nor by good works: it is attained only by means of inquiry inspired by the company of wise and holy people. One’s inner light alone is the means, naught else. When this inner light is kept alive, it is not affected by the darkness of inertia.”

 Om Shanti that one.


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