ISOL 2015 conference in Chicago – a summary of select presentations
The goal of this unique international conference was to focus on global economic development through integrating spirituality with management practices. Dozens of speakers from MUM, and from universities and organizations around the world covered a vast range of topics for three days from September 11-13, 2015. The conference was held in the historic and beautiful Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago, to build on the legacy of Swami Vivekananda’s legacy of a path-breaking speech at the World Parliament of Religions on September 11, 1893 in that same hall. The conference was organized by a Delhi, India, based organization called ISOL (Integrating Spirituality and Organizational Leadership).
Most speakers implicitly or explicitly referred to the Vedic idea that consciousness is a unity, and that it is reflected in all sentient beings just as the same Sun is reflected in all pots of water. Many people also cited Vivekananda’s humble statement: I am a voice without form. Almost all speakers emphasized that raising the consciousness of the managers is the primary lever to raise the collective consciousness in organizations. MUM came in for enormous glorious praise as an organization that by design promotes raising the level of consciousness as part of the education process and daily living. Many organizations were recognized with awards. There was a 30-minute guided meditation session every morning.
Here is a brief summary of some of the presentations, from MUM and other organizations.
Rajaraam Dr. Tony Nader was the plenary keynote speaker. He spoke of the complete congruence between the structure of Vedas and the structure of human physiology. Brain is the instrument for cognizing the wholeness of knowledge. The brain should be purified through regular transcendence using the TM technique to align with natural law and achieve great happiness. Dr. Craig Pearson, citing Ralph Waldo Emerson, said that man must turn within; and connect with the source of thought, the pure consciousness. We need to water the root (consciousness) to enjoy the fruit (happiness). Just like medications have different varieties and efficacy, so do meditations. TM excels in helping effortlessly transcend and connect with the infinite sources. Dr. Jeffrey Abramson said Vastu architecture is natural knowledge and not a man made knowledge. Sun is the most nourishing influence in our life. Our biorhythms are aligned around the Sun. Brain cells fire according to orientation. East-facing entrance is auspicious and creates enlightenment and affluence. People report positive influences when working in Vastu offices. Dr. Dennis Heaton said that connecting with the Unified Field is the basis for sustainable business practices. He briefly described MUM as vegetarianism, vastu and Veda. Dr. Anil Maheshwari spoke on the confluence of Leadership, Veda and Technology. The leadership model of a spiritual leader like Swami Vivekananda should be as compelling and attractive as that of a technological leader such as Steve Jobs. New models of leadership should include and transcend both models, and lead towards expansion of happiness in the world. Dr. Mohan Gurubatham spoke about Vasudeva Kutumbakam. Lord Krishna said that one can’t intellectually experience the entire range of objects. It can be achieved by transcending cognitive development towards wisdom thru TM. Mr. Stuart Valentine took a spiritual view of finance and investment. Through the right ethics and biomimicry, one can use finance in the service of human development.
Dr. Subhash Kak emphasized need to continue the dialogue between the east and the west. He suggested that connections between the inner and the outer (bandhu), paradox (paroksha), and yajna (sacrifice) are the basis of understanding of reality and a means to self transformation. He also spoke of the philosophy of srishti-drishti, according to which the divinity intercedes in the universe just by observation. Dr. Subhash Patri said that every person can be a Vivekananda, or Buddha or Jesus. There have been millions of great masters. We should integrate spirituality into everything we do. Feel like Buddha and you will become Buddha. Dr. Corne Bekker made an exquisite exposition on the life and message of St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to be freed from the thirst for power and possessions. He said that narcissism is on the rise among corporate leaders. Our leaders need to pray to God, to ‘become an instrument of peace’. Dr. Jagadish Kohli said that mind is a prism that fragments holistic knowledge into diverse manifestations. Intellectuals need to start with consciousness education to lift collective consciousness. Dr. Ramnath Narayanswamy said that religion is a shell while spirituality is sweet nectar within. Narrating his own journey through compelling stories, he said that one needs a self realized guru to achieve self transformation. Values of faith, devotion and surrender can help achieve perfection on the inside and outside. Dr. John Reed implored everyone to make a commitment to not lead a hedonistic life; and live a spiritual life. Dr. Shanmugamurthy challenged the western dogma of modern science and called for a more inclusive model of reality that values local contextual traditions that have embedded within them deep life-sustaining knowledge.