ARTHA FORUM, PRINCETON, NJ, USA NOV 23, 2013
H.H. Radhanath Swami addresses the audience – about 170 participants came to the event. It was a distinguished group comprising Industry Leaders and Professionals from various fields. Among the audience were Indians, Americans, Hispanics and African Americans. The event was followed by a banquet dinner at the Crowne Plaza Princeton Conference Center, NJ, USA.
The Artha Forum Princeton was clearly the best event we have staged so far! The venue could not have been better. Located in the prestigious Princeton area, the Conference Center was an idyllic setting with a stream flowing through the property and with lush green grass and even deer strolling on acres of land that formed a backdrop to the venue. While we had targeted 125 distinguished guests, about 170 participants showed up and many participants were very appreciative of the event and Radhanath Swami’s speech left an indelible impression of their hearts and minds.
Radhanath Swami spoke on ‘Spirituality and Worldly Success. Shall the Twain Ever Meet?’
Distinguished participants included: Alfred Ford, of the illustrious Ford Family, Guest Speaker and one of the Panelists, Dr Navin C. Mehta, Leading ENT and Face Reconstructive Surgeon, Rashmikant Kamdar, President, Rushab Shipping, Ron Pitamber, CEO, Heritage Hotels, Sushant Patnaik, Serial Entrepreneur, Silicon Valley, Chandresh Patel, Owner, Crowne Plaza Princeton, Sunil Nayak, CEO, Innzen Hospitality, H.G. Madhupati Das, President, ISKCON CNJ, Hiten Patel, Panelist and Co-Founder, Collabera, Vikram Gulati, Panelist and CEO, Happiest Minds, Sumit Ganguli, President, GAVS Technologies, Ajay Gupta, CEO, SDG Corporation, Arvind Sharma, CEO, Vencedor Global, Barbara Couvadelli, Head, Neuroscience Institute, JFK Hospital, Bishop Dr Ebony Kirkland, Worldwide Association of Small Churches, Coco Jackson, President, The Empowerment, Dr R.K.Mahajan, Medical Director, Valley Forge Urgent Care, Dr Jose Ortiz, Cardiologist, Dr Umesh Mehta, Head, Clinical Psychiatry, Carrier Clinic, Dr Edward Hutton, Renowned Dental Surgeon, Rajeev Khanna, CEO, One God Life Framework, Shriram Rajamani, Head USA Operations, Servion Global Solutions, Stuart Sender, Producer, Director, Balcony Films, Umesh Tilve, CIO, NuView Systems, Yogi Sarin, CEO, Petron Scientech, among others.
The evening started with registration and fellowship at the reception area where participants were served a welcome drink and appetizers. Many of them had driven long distances and some had even taken 6-hour flights from the West Coast to be at the event! The Welcome Address by Rajesh Talwar, President Artha Forum was followed by an insightful short speech by Rajeev Srivastava, Founder, Artha Forum and Managing Partner, Basil Growth Corporation. Rajeev gave examples of distinguished entrepreneurs who have had the good fortune of meeting Radhanath Swami and who have made ‘giving back to society’ a philosophy. He mentioned how the Generation-Next are no longer interested in simply making money; they want to utilize their resources for societal good.
He mentioned about Eric D’souza, a prominent businessman from Bahrain, who earned his wealth in the oil business, and his daughters who are currently studying in prestigious universities in the US, have pledged some of their upside to charity! Rajeev also gave examples of Sanjay Shah of Anchor Group of Companies, who, having met Rajeev, got introduced to Radhanath Swami and share the same ethos & are now engaged in many charitable projects through their business investments.
Rajeev mentioned about Sanjay Balaram, who is a co-owner of a successful IT Services Company GAVS. Interestingly, Sanjay has pegged his family and personal needs to a certain figure, and decided that any amount above that would be given away in charity, after the sale of his business! Significantly, Rajeev pointed, ‘We have not come here to suggest how people should run their business, rather, through such motivational programs, be inspired and pledge a portion of their profits to charity. Doing this makes you a lot more peaceful and tolerant to the stresses and strains that come up from time to time, in the course of transacting your business!’After a brief introduction by Rajesh and Rajeev, was a panel discussion with Alfred Ford, Hiten Patel, President and CM, Collabera, Dr Navin C. Mehta, Renowned ENT Surgeon from NY, and Vikram Gulati, Happiest Minds as the Panelists. It started with a simple round of questions to each of the Panelists – ‘What does spirituality mean to you and what according to you constitutes worldly success?’
‘Spirituality is about everything inside and how we connect with other individuals and creation around us, worldly success is what people think of me’ said Vikram Gulati. Dr Navin Mehta began on an emotional note – ‘I was three and a half when my mother died, the last thing she said is I should become a surgeon. She told me, help people who are in need. Success to me is defining your goal and doing everything that you believe is right by taking the moral path.’
Hiten Patel said, ‘Like Dr Mehta, I come from a very humble background and never dreamt of being where I am today. Spirituality to me is doing the right things without greed and being righteous, sharing your knowledge and welath on personal and business wealth. Worldly success to me is the wealth of family, business and how the world looks at you.’ Alfred Ford began with an introduction about himself, as coming from the Ford family, ‘I was born in a family which was at the pinnacle of worldly success, everything was there – money, things, fortune everything. Very early, in college, I started investigating into what constitutes spiritual life? By my good fortune, when I was 25, I met my spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, took initiation and that changed my life. A lot of people think spiritual life is practicing something that gives you material success. Spiritual life to me, means a lot of hard work. My spiritual master gave me some goals that involve a lot of hard work.’
‘When I heard of the topic ‘Spirituality and Worldly Success, Shall the Twain Ever Meet? Ford added, I found it very interesting. Frankly, I don’t think the two can ever be separated. Religion, spirituality and work were always joined together. If you look at all the great buildings, works of art, they were all centered on the church. It’s only in the last couple of hundred years that these are separated by sectarian concepts. I think people who are very successful and also very happy, make spiritual life a big part of their existence. You see people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, they pledged to give away 50% of their fortunes and it is very important for them to go out and help humanity.
The project that I am working on in India, is based on principles of Vedic Culture. This is the wonderful gift India can give humanity.’
Taking the discussion further, Vikram Gulati said, ‘My hypothesis is that man is basically selfish. But what are you selfish about? That is the fundamental question! If you are selfish about yourself, then that is bad. But if you are selfish about your family, maybe that is your job. How about being selfish about your community, your country, about humanity? The word selfish, suddenly disappears, and what comes in its place is selfless. It’s not about what you are doing, but what you are attaching to the work you are doing?’ If you attach what you are doing to a larger than life goal, which is not about you, but a larger picture, I think it becomes a spiritual exercise by itself.’
‘The word spirituality is very hard to define for me’, said Dr Navin Mehta. When I was little, an old man I used to see, who was my father’s friend, used to say – earn a lot of wealth, but do remember, the shroud that covers your body at the time of death, does not have a pocket! When you go you are not going to take anything with you. Make a lot of money, but make sure you share it and distribute that wealth!’
‘When I earned my first check from my Residency (post) I remember my father took away my check and sent $ 100 to Vrindaban and the rest of the money to India.’ I said, ‘Dad, do you know how hard I have worked for that money?’ And he said, ‘That is not your money! That is selfishness! This is God’s money, not yours.’ Since that day, I realized, help one person at a time, and in the end you can make a big difference!’
On being asked how much time he spent on spiritual activities and how much on his work, Alfred Ford replied, ‘I am not Indian, I am not born in this culture, it is an adopted culture for me. My wife is Bengali, as part of her samskara (impressions stored in our mind, which form the basis of our belief, attitude and personality) it is very natural for her to get up very early, perform her pooja (worship). For me it requires discipline. I get up very early and perform my chanting and worship. That is how I start my day. If my consciousness is in that frame of mind, then I can do so many things. Everything depends on your consciousness. I believe that everything belongs to God and is His property; I am just doing my duty. This way I will not be overwhelmed by illusion. When I start thinking I am the doer and that I am responsible for success and failure, that’s when I know I am in trouble. This requires discipline.’
On being asked about their thoughts on what is the message they would like to impart to the next generation, various answers were given. Alfred Ford said, ‘We have two daughters, one is a saint, and one is not much of a saint. I tell them, they can’t be happy if they focus on materialism. Now they both believe that. I see today that young kids become the victims of their culture, especially in America, where fame is glorified, wealth is glorified, and I am not talking about good wealth, but gluttonous wealth that you see on TV … showing off and acting absurd. I don’t know where the culture is going in America, and the whole world is following that. I tell the kids, don’t put all the faith in your culture, it is going to come back and it is going to bite you!’
Hiten said, ‘I tell my two kids, don’t be self-centered in whatever you do and have a sense of giving.
KEY NOTE ADDRESS BY H.H. RADHANATH SWAMI
In his opening statements, Radhanath Swami mentioned about a sentence in his speech at the House of Lords, at the British Parliament for which he received a standing ovation. Radhanath Swami said ‘You can find out how rich you are by counting how many things you have that money cannot buy.’ He said, ‘There is an apparent contradiction between spirituality and the pursuit of wealth. The most fundamental need of every living being is to love and to be loved. And without that, whatever else we may have, it’s like a beautiful decorated case with very little inside, or like a little girl whose parents are so busy making money, they don’t have time for her. She is dressed very pretty but inside the dress she is suffering.’
Radhanath Swami gave a beautiful analogy of the musk deer, ‘Our real wealth is within us. There’s an analogy of the musk deer, I learnt from a sadhu in the Himalayas. Musk deer has an organ that gives a fragrance that is so sweet, people pay up to forty thousand dollars for a kilo of this excretion. A musk deer wanders through the forest everywhere searching for this sweet fragrance, not knowing it is within oneself. That’s very much the story of life within this world. The Brahma sutra says ‘ananda mayo bhyasat’ that every living being is seeking pleasure. But what is the pleasure we are really seeking? If we can’t find it within ourselves, we cannot find it anywhere, no matter what we have, and if we find it within ourselves, then we will realize and see it everywhere.’
It’s not success, or beauty or knowledge or wealth in itself that is a disqualification, but it’s the tendency of greed, egoism and selfishness that so often comes with these things, that are the greatest disqualifications. The ‘Culture of Wealth’ is a culture of gratitude and humility.
Real wealth is not about what you have, but who you are. Love is above wealth. To the degree you have love and compassion for God and other living beings in your heart that is true wealth.
Wealth is not a disqualification, wealth is a tremendous blessing if it utilized with love. It is said, we should earn with integrity. Competition should be executed with high principles and our spending should be with compassion.
Real compassion is not selective, real compassion is when we actually understand and appreciate the unity of life, and we have respect and honor for the life in others. Not because of the familiarity in them, it’s natural to be familiar.
We wish to express our sincere gratitude to Davinder Kumar Sharma (aka Devakinandan Das) and the wonderful team of Volunteers of ISKCON, Central New Jersey under the leadership of Mrugesh Shroff (H.G. Madhupati Das).
Special thanks to Rashmikant Kamdar, President, Rushab Consultants, for sponsoring the Banquet Dinner along with Dr Navin Mehta and Ron Pitamber. Our sincere appreciation to Sumit Ganguli, President, GAVS Technologies for his generous contribution, as also to Naveen Kumar, CEO, Nityo Infotech, Singapore and Kinesh Doshi, CEO, Accion Labs, Pittsburgh, PA.
Our deep appreciation to Sunil Nayak, for his help in arranging the venue for the event and Dr Puneet Kumar for his guidance and support.
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