On March 19th, 2016 Artha Forum (a not for profit initiative dedicated to bringing the relevance of ancient wisdom to modern business) organized its 6th and largest ever event, in Singapore at RELC International Hotel. The event entitled “Earn With Integrity, Spend With Compassion” was attended by over 400 entrepreneurs, industrialists, corporate leaders and professionals. The event a joint effort with TiE Singapore and IIMPACT. World renowned spiritual teacher and author Radhanath Swami was invited to be the keynote speaker. Esteemed panelists shared the dais, including Rajiv Vij – Life and Executive Coach, Author and Speaker; Srinivasan Venkita Padmanabhan – President & Global Head of Finance at Olam Group, Madhabi Buch – Director at Agora Advisory, and Sanjiv Aiyar – President of PAN IIM Alumni and a longtime supporter of Artha Forum.
The panel discussion brought out very practical and important points. Answering the question of how to define “Earning with Integrity”, Venkita Padmanabhan said that earning goes beyond just earning money. It includes the relationships that we build, the lives we meaningfully change and the long term impact that we create. Rajiv Vij brought out the important point that compassion is a very high order need and does not just mean empathy. “Compassion” he said, “is not just the empathy in seeing the suffering and difficulty of someone else, but what it brings within us. What arises out of it? The deep desire to do something about it.”
Madhabi Buch gave her practical perspective on giving charity, saying “At different stages of our life we are in different gears and we have different bandwidth in terms of money and emotion that we are willing and able to allocate to different roles that we perform. And while it will be really wonderful if the underpinning principle of all that is compassion, but if on day to day basis – if it’s hard or difficult, I personally see very little harm in saying that, at this stage of my life, that part of compassion finds its manifestation in just writing a check for charity.“
Radhanath Swami began his talk by mentioning a famous quote “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.” Reflecting on the current state of the society, he said that in the past, people used to love people and use things to express that love. But now people are loving things and using people to get them and keep them. He said, “Things can give some flickering pleasure to the body, senses and mind, but things can never give fulfillment to the heart.” He recalled his discussion with Mother Teresa where she mentioned that the true hunger of today’s world is not the hunger of stomach but it’s the hunger of heart.
Quoting Bhagvad-gita text 5.18, which states that true wisdom is to see all living beings with equal vision, Radhanath Swami said “Once we understand the sacredness of our own life, we can appreciate the sacredness of the life of everyone, everywhere. And we must understand the sacredness of the environment, which is a divine gift that we are all responsible to share with one another.”
Illustrating that true happiness and success stem from service rather than prestige Radhanath Swami cited the example of New York Yankees baseball Manager Joe Torre who lead one of the worlds most successful baseball teams and went on to become a top five manager in the history of the sport. Having gone through a very difficult childhood filled of abuse and violence, when he retired he began working with ghetto schools to give counseling, guidance and therapy to the children from abusive families. He found that true happiness was not from the awards, money and fame that he had earned, but rather from the smile which he sees in the faces of these children.
The event ended with thoughtful and intriguing lineup of questions which were posted in real-time during the sessions via a newly launched mobile site. Both Radhanath Swami and the other panelists fielded the questions with very practical responses on how to take back the topic of the event into one’s day to day life.