The print version of “The Gita In My HomeWork” is out

Taking a freshly minted book, smelling the pages, is sure a much different and satiating feeling than viewing an ebook on computer / tablet. I am delighted to let you know that the print version of “The Gita in My Homework” is now available for purchase.

How to purchase:?

The book is available on Flipkart at: http://www.flipkart.com/gita-my-homework/p/itme2rpc3sm7pf74?pid=RBKE2RPCFHT69KPF 

Also, available on Amazon as a paperback and in ebook format: http://www.amazon.in/Gita-My-Homework-Raj-Waghray/dp/B00R32UQ2U/

Being in the world, but not of it!

This is a story that I tell usually at the end of the “Art of Living” programs that I facilitate and it lucidly illustrates the spiritual path.

One day, the king Akbar, asks his witty and clever minister, Birbal, to bring him someone who was “Here and not There”.

Not obeying the order would mean death.

Birbal thought deeply and brings a thief to the King and says “This thief lives here in this world and steals trying to grow his wealth Here. He has no concern for the other world. So he is fit to be one who qualifies for the one who is “Here and not There”.

Akbar, not to be outdone, then orders him to bring someone who is “There and not Here”.

Birbal, ponders and a while later brings an ascetic and tells Akbar: “Here is a person who is concerned only about the world beyond and has nothing to do with the world here. He qualifies for one who is “There and not Here”.

Impressed, Akbar now tells him to bring him someone who is “Neither Here nor There”. Birbal brings a beggar and tells the King that the beggar is neither Here nor There, because he is not participating in the world in any sense and has no concern for anything related to spiritual matters either.

Akbar, then asks Birbal if there is anyone in the world who is both Here and There?

Birbal, brings a simple household couple and says “The man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything in the world with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and the bad times, they are a man and woman who are both Here and There.”

Source: The Path of the Everyday Here by Lorna Catford.

Creating Space for People, Events and Things

It was a jam packed hall last night in Los Angeles, where Guruji was giving a talk, and in the middle of the talk, he stopped and saw that couple of folks were standing at the back. He asked the audience to raise their hands if they had open seats next to them and then asked those seated to move a seat so that those standing can be accommodated and then he said spontaneously:

This is what life is all about. Keep shifting your position. Don’t be stuck somewhere….make room, make space. It is all about creating space. Create space for events, for people and for things to happen as and when they unfold. Every event, every person you come across in your life is contributing to your life in some unimaginable way.

Rest of the talk and transcript is here

When the Gods sit unmoved

The earth shakes, stirs and swallows;
the sky not to be left behind opens up;
pouring rains in torrents that swells the
pain, misery, distress and helplessness
of the thousands left without shelter, food
and necessities.

The One who once swallowed the
poison to save the Universe,
today sits in deep silence.
Unmoved and Unaffected.

As he did in Kedar;
he repeats in Pashupathinath,
giving us all the opportunity to
open our hearts and give,
and use our hands to serve.

An Unspeakable Tragedy & a Lesson for You

Like a never ending cycle, the natural disasters continue to strike again and again with a sickening regularity. I had blogged about Tsunami, the Kosi floods, floods in Northern Karnataka, Kedarnath tragedy amongst a few on this blog and had shut myself off from several others.

I now vacillate between “let me contribute something” to “I just don’t care” to natural and man made disasters.

The Nepal Earthquake that occurred yesterday was too close to ignore. But unlike past disasters, the Govt of India, seems to have got it right with respect to the response both in terms of time and communication. Some of the central ministers were online posting updates on twitter and this was a huge departure from previous times when the Govt was slow to move and would do too little, too late.

About two weeks back, Prof Srikumar Rao‘ marketing mail had a great message on Service and while he wrote it in the context of the war in Yemen – where incidentally the Govt of India was very prompt in evacuating Indians and foreign nationals with alacrity – the message is a larger one, applicable to all of us, anytime we see natural or man made disasters occurring. The title of this post is also courtesy Prof Rao.

I read this in the New York Times last week and my throat tightened.

India Tries Evacuating Citizens in Yemen

There are several thousand Indians in Yemen. Quite a few are women – mainly nurses working in hospitals and clinics.

An Indian Navy destroyer was sent to evacuate them. Since the port of Aden is subject to heavy shelling, the destroyer anchored outside while small boats ferried them aboard in groups of thirty or so. Many have not been able to make it out and are stranded.

Quite a few want to remain there despite the danger because of the heavy investment made by their families to get them there in the first place.

They are not dummies. They are bright and fully aware of the dangers. But their economic circumstances back home are so dire that remaining in an environment where they could be shot or blown up is not unthinkable.

Pause for a moment and think about this.

How far is this from YOUR circumstances? Can you even begin to imagine being in such a situation?

What is the lesson here for you?

One, for sure, is to feel immense gratitude for your good fortune.

But if you stopped there, it would be almost pornographic. Like rich tourists looking curiously at animals in a zoo.

These are human beings living in the same world as you and I. They are suffering. At least a part of this suffering is due to policies of countries that we belong to and call home. Possibly, even likely, the intent was honorable but the results were terrible.

So we are all complicit to some extent and we cannot turn away and pretend it does not exist.

So what else can YOU do?

Recognize that it is part of your role in life to alleviate suffering to the extent you can. You cannot do it all and you cannot spend all your time on it.

But that doesn’t mean you throw your hands up and walk away.

Pick someone in need, someone who is suffering and do something to alleviate that to the extent you can.

See a homeless person? Buy him a sandwich and a drink.

Go to a geriatric center and read to a resident.

Do you have a hobby or something that you enjoy and are really good at? Offer to train and share your interest with veterans or disadvantaged kids.

Look for some area where you can make a positive contribution to someone in need.

You cannot throw money at it. It is not about writing a check and feeling good.

It is about you, doing something concrete and personal.

You wash the dishes at a spiritual retreat – you don’t ‘get it done’.

Because, you see, you are not doing this ‘for’ someone.

You are doing this for yourself. You are acknowledging that, underneath the trappings of the role you play, you are just another ordinary human being stumbling your way through the predicament we call life.

So every time suffering somewhere in the world troubles you, do something to alleviate suffering near at hand in whatever area that you can. If you can afford it, by all means write a check to a worthwhile organization.

But that does not absolve you of doing something personally. When you, personally, wipe the drool from the lips of an incapacitated elder, and you do this with love and care, that is when you realize what a blessing you have received.

Peace!

Prof. Rao

So let’s go ahead and serve.

PS: Have taken permission from Prof Rao to reproduce his mail here.

He let go of Billions of $ in Profits to save Millions from Death

Imagine you have a product that can make you at least $10,000 to $15,000 per year per person.

Imagine that you have a global market that absolutely needs a minimum of 10 million units every year.

Your product stands between life and death of the user.

Your cost of manufacturing that product is practically zilch.

Your competitors are selling that product at nothing less than $15,000 USD.

How much would you price it at?

For Dr. Yusuf Hamied, Scientist and Chairman of Cipla, the answer was very clear.

I am enrolled in a program offered by edx from MITx titled “U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self” and one of the films I had to watch, as part of the program, was “Fire In The Blood”. This is one gut wrenching movie that I won’t be able to forget in a long time. It talks about a horrendous tragedy that could have been prevented, but for the insatiable greed of large businesses, their leaders and governments. It could have been a very dark movie, but it isn’t, for it shows that a small, handful of committed people, and most importantly, socially conscious business leaders, can indeed make a difference.

The film tells the story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked access to low cost AIDS drugs to third world countries, especially, countries in Africa leading to the death of over 10 million people. As the documentary’s website puts it, it is an intricate tale of “medicine, monopoly and malice” and also highlights the improbable group of people who decide to fight back. This is a film that needs to be seen by everyone who works for large businesses to understand how the desire for insatiable profits harms the world.

While the 3rd world was being ravaged by HIV/AIDS due to the non availability of affordable medicines to treat the disease, the Pharma companies were not willing to drop the prices, and the US Govt working hand in hand with the pharma companies threatened to impose harsh sanctions on countries that import generics. The absurd patent laws were another barrier. This was a huge man made disaster that killed over 10 million people.

It was in this scenario, that Cipla was approached and they stepped in with a generic drug that contained a cocktail of 3 antiretroviral drug at a price point of less than a dollar a day. Dr. Hamied, chairman of Cipla, decided not to profit from the drug.Putting the issues of access and cost in the right context, he is quoted, as saying, “We are being humanitarian. But we are not doing charity. We are not making money, but we are not losing money either.”

Do yourself a favor, watch the film. This film isn’t about Dr. Hamied, but many conscious individuals, doctors and NGO activists who fought their way through to bring the medicines to Africa. I have picked Dr. Hamied out here in the context of my series on Conscious leaders. His responsiveness to the challenge was to expand his circle of concern to every human being suffering from this disease. He took a conscious decision not to profit from someone else’s misery.

There are lessons out there, on how a business leader by being socially conscious, can impact humanity, so much so, that apparently in Africa Cipla is a temple and Dr. Hamied is a God! Dr. Yusuf lays out one primary lesson that will serve us all well, that the purpose of business is just not to profit, but to respond to business situations, with awareness and with a sense of belongingness with the community at large irrespective of their nationality, color, religion or any other biases.

While businesses do have to make money in order to succeed, monetary benefits shouldn’t be the only driver. Serving others always takes higher precedence over everything else.

Thanks a lot Padma Bhushan Dr. Yusuf Khwaja Hamied, you do us all proud.

PS: The Art of Living Foundation is holding a conference on Corporate Culture and Spirituality on 31st Jan and 1st Feb in Bangalore. If you are interested in learning how ethics, consciousness, spirituality etc. can make a difference in business, then come attend the conference and listen to some brilliant conversation athttp://www.ccsconference.in/

I also teach the Art of Living Foundations, corporate leadership programs, should there be an interest, feel free to drop me a note at RajWaghray (at) gmail (dot) com

(This is the second article in a series I am writing featuring Conscious Businesses and Awakened Leaders, under the tag: “Under The Bodhi Tree”)

Under the Bodhi Tree – Conscious Organizations and Awakened Leaders – 1

Thousands of years ago, a man sitting under the Bodhi tree, awakened to truth and brought peace and solace to millions of people with a message so easy to comprehend and so compelling, that it continues to inspire humanity centuries beyond his lifetime.

​If ​a single awakened human being has the potential to not only change the world but also inspire people for years to come, can awakened leadership build, sustain and transform organizations? ​

​I have been interested in finding what happens when a leader who is conscious or awake leads a for-profit organization. Do they impact the organization? Are there awakened leaders and organizations out there? If so, how do they look like? This has been a personal quest for me to read up about organizations and leaders who are aware or conscious and work with a sense of impacting not only the current but future as well. In this series, I wanted to share a few leaders and organizations that I think can be called Awake!

​So, let’s get two things out of the way first – definitions of conscious or awake leader and conscious business.

How do we define a conscious leader or an awakened leader?  While there are several definitions, the foundation rests on the premise that the individual is highly self aware and uses this self awareness for the larger good of all. While some of the definitions give a laundry list of what conscious leaders behaviour, I believe that having a high degree of self awareness and using it to serve everything around you, is a good enough definition.

​And what is a Conscious Business? I lean on Fred Kofman’s definition. He says “A Conscious Business seeks to promote the intelligent pursuit of happiness in all its stakeholders. It produces sustainable, exceptional performance through the solidarity of its community and the dignity of each member. A Conscious Business fosters peace and happiness in individuals, respect and solidarity in the community and mission accomplishment in the organization.

​The first organization that I wanted to write about is Patagonia. I stumbled upon Patagonia in one of the most ​implausible​ places – in a spiritual book authored by the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh (do spend a minute of your time praying for his recovery) ​– and that piqued my interest to go and purchase the book – Let My People Go Surfing” by the CEO of Patagonia, Yvon Choinard.​

If you are in business of any kind, this one ought to be on your mandatory reading list. On both counts of conscious business and conscious leadership, Patagonia and Yvon score highly. The book, in a very informal and charming way, traces the journey from the roots beginning with a mail order catalog company selling climbing equipment, birth of Patagonia as an outdoor clothing company and the crux of the book, which talks about philosophy and values to building an organization that deeply cares about quality, product design, human resources and the planet.

I do not want to get into the review of the book, there are several available online, that can whet your appetite.

Of the several take-aways from the book, one thing that resonated with me was the philosophy of “leading an examined life”. Yvon has been a student of Zen and it’s no surprise to me that looking deeply forms one of the cornerstone of his philosophy.

Yvon writes: “Uncurious people do not lead examined lives; they cannot see causes that lie deeper than the surface. They believe in blind faith, and the most frightening thing about blind faith is that it in turn leads to an inability, even an unwillingness to accept facts.

​We can look at the results of the organizations, its longevity in business and the impact it has had on the community and the environment to say that this has really been a business built on true north principles and Yvon has shown the way how it can be done.

So far, so good. But then the test of the organization is what happens when the founders retire and a new CEO comes in. Read this interview of Rose Marcario, the current CEO of Patagonia to find out if the organization has stayed true to it’s philosophy or not.

Caveat: I haven’t worked at Patagonia or know anyone remotely associated with the organization. This article is based on the book and the news articles that I have followed on the web. And I don’t own a single piece of Patagonia clothing as well, the last time I was in NewYork and stepped into the store, I left without purchasing anything for they were out of reach for me. I am sure there are positive biases that creep in when people write their biography or when starry eyed journalists cover organizations, despite that, the philosophy of doing good and building businesses by asking the questions keeping the seventh generation in mind, is really about awakening ourselves. Thanks Yvon!

PS: If topics relating to Spirituality, Consciousness, ethics interest you, then come join the conversation at http://www.ccsconference.in/

2014 in review

An automated blog post from the good folks at WordPress.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.