5 January 2011, Mumbai: Radhanath Swami met 50 MBA students from the Harvard Business School. The Harvard graduate students, from 15 countries, eagerly assembled to hear Radhanath Swami share the universal wisdom of east meets west and how it can be applied to the pressures of a modern lifestyle. They sat in rapt attention through the lecture and later asked honest and pointed questions.
The students were classmates of Anand Piramal, the main organizer of the trip. During their trip they visited several of the most prominent people of India in the fields of business, industry, government, finance, social work and philanthropy. Some of the prominent Indians that the group met are:
-Adi Godrej, the Chairman of the Godrej Empire. Godrej is one of India’s most trusted brands and has a presence in over 60 countries.
-Azim Premji, the chairman of Wipro Limited, a group company that holds Wipro Technologies, India’s third largest software development companies. He was also rated as the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
-Anil Agarwal, the founder and Executive Chairman of the UK-based Vedanta Resources Corporation;
-Mukesh Ambani, the chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, one of the largest private sector conglomerates of the world;
-Ajay Piramal, the chairman of Piramal Enterprises Limited and wife Dr Swati Piramal, Vice Chairperson of Piramal Life Sciences Limited, and Director of Piramal Healthcare Limited;
-Kiran Reddy Hon’ble Chief Minister Andhra Pradesh, India;
-Kapil Sibal, Minsiter of Parliament,
-Naveen Jindal, Member of Parliament;
-Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi
The group also visited several rural projects in Hyderabad and Rajasthan.
Radhanath Swami was chosen by the organizers to represent the spirituality of India’s great heritage which is a foundation for India’s incredible strides of success in today’s world.
They attended the evening services in the local Krishna temple, where Radhanath Swami resides for most part of his stay in India.
Following are excerpts from Radhanath Swami’s talk:
Although modern education equips one with tools of business and technology, it is not the tools alone but the character of the person using them that determines success and happiness in life. Honesty, integrity, compassion and dignity are the qualities that discern success in the lives of humans. Tools in themselves have no power. What they can do depends on how we use them. A knife can cut vegetables to be served in a meal or in the hands of a surgeon, heal. However in the hands of a misguided person, the same knife can kill. Similarly, the information and technology that we have access to in the modern age, can either benefit the populace or when misdirected, cause mass destruction. As Martin Luther King said, “The irony of our times is we have guided missiles but misguided men”. The Indian wisdom book, Bhagavad Gita, teaches the sacred principle of cultivating spirituality, and offers interesting insights into the subject of happiness. Real happiness, according to the Bhagavad Gita lies in cultivating the consciousness that the suffering of others is my suffering and others’ happiness is my happiness. The Bhagavad Gita also reveals our real identity as being separate from the body. Our body and mind undergoes change from childhood to youth to old age. Yet as a person we remain the same. Who is that ‘I’ that doesn’t change? The real ‘I’ is called ‘atma’, the soul or the living force. It is this spiritual force that animates the body. If we can nourish ourselves spiritually by giving importance to the spiritual needs of our beings, our lives would be much happier.
This spiritual redirection to our lives is also called yoga. Yoga means harmonizing the needs of the body, mind and soul, and connecting to the divinity within all of us. This endeavor makes our inner foundation strong and helps us cope with the various challenges in life. We can then see success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and sorrow as dualities that help us grow; we also become proficient in riding over all tribulations. The Bible says that if we build a house on soft sands it will collapse with the coming of a storm. We must build it on a strong foundation. When we build our lives on the strong inner foundation of love, we also experience inner happiness and contentment. Our education then finds its true fulfillment.
Question: Religion has the power to divide. The riots in Mumbai and Gujarat and Ayodhya are created by religion. Do you see a divide?
Radhanath Swami: We have to educate people about religion. Religion is about love and compassion and seeing all living beings as one. The Bible says that understanding the letter of the law of religion is superficial unless we understand the spirit behind it. The Bhagavad Gita reveals the consciousness of an enlightened being; such a soul sees every living being with equal vision. Whether one is black, white, yellow, red or brown, male or female, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Sikh or Jew, agnostic or atheist, rich or poor or even a cat, dog or a cow, all these are external designations. The enlightened being sees the atma, the soul, in everyone, and also cultivates the vision that each soul is potentially divine and is a blessed child of God. Due to lack of spiritual education people fight over the superficialities of religion. When we pick up hot coals to throw with revenge and hatred, we get burnt first. Booker T. Washington, a prominent figure of the African American community in the early twentieth century was an emancipated slave. He said “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” A sincere practitioner of religion sees that the God he loves is residing in every heart. Fighting and hating is contrary to the religion we follow.
Question: Was there a time when your spirituality was tested?
Radhanath Swami: Once when I was twenty-nine years old, doctors told me I had an incurable disease and had only six months to live. When you get news like that, certain things you thought were important become less important. I could be miserable, fearful or depressed or I could be grateful to God for helping me focus on important things. I chose to focus on my relationship with God. I took shelter and went deeper into my meditation and prayers. There is a Norwegian spruce tree, which is said to have lived for about 9000 years. Although saints like Jesus or Buddha lived for a short time on earth, they changed the world. This experience gave me immense strength and helped me connect to God more meaningfully.
Question: At business school the pursuit of wealth is important. With money we get influence, security and comfort. How can you say it’s not important when it serves many functions?
Radhanath Swami: Money is important. If a person uses money in the service of his or her family, for their emotional and spiritual upliftment, it becomes a sacred offering. We have to remember that we are mere caretakers of the wealth we possess. We are not the real owners because we cannot take our wealth with us when we die. The Bhagavad Gita explains that everything belongs to God and He sees our intent in using our money. I know people with meager incomes who help others too. If millions of people can give back to the society at least a part of their earnings, it will be wonderful. Wealth then becomes a beautiful offering to the divine.
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