consciousness, Enlightenment, Friends, Happiness, Health, Leadership, meditation, spirituality, Transcendental Meditation

Sudden Death of a Dear Friend – Lessons Learned

A live-wire dear friend, a classmate from Delhi now living in Australia, died suddenly of a heart attack. The news shocked all our classmates as he was not only very popular, social, thoughtful, musical, athletic and fit, he was the life of our WhatsApp conversation group. Friends reflected very fond memories of conversations and time spent with him. However, it also jolted us all to take better care of ourselves through preventive measures before an event occurred. I am writing this so all can benefit from the lessons from this sad episode.

Bimal Mahendroo was a gem of person!  He grew up in Delhi, and went to the well-known Delhi Public School, and then went on to do Engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. We were batchmates, and also in the same hostel, at IIT. He was a good student. He lost his father while still in college. He had the rare distinction (in those days) of having a girl friend while still in college. He is now survived by his wife (then girlfriend) and two adult children. Bimal also became a homeopathy expert and cured friends on chronic medical issues with homeopathic medicines.

One year ago, 35 years after graduation, our IIT class of 250 students decided to organize through a WhatsApp group. Bimal jumped into it with full gusto. Soon, there were hundreds of messages posted every day, with almost half of them written by him alone. With a delicious mix of music, humor and serious social commentary, he would hold everyone’s attention and respect. He could keep multiple conversations going simultaneously with different people. With that intensity and hunger to connect, the batch held a well-attended get-together in Gurgaon. Another get-together followed a few months later, incidentally at my parents’ house in Gurgaon. Bimal was the catalyst for many other mini-get-togethers, in Mumbai, in Dubai, in Singapore, and elsewhere. We were planning on one in the US in the summer. He was working on organizing one in Sydney, his hometown in Australia.

Bimal was very energetic. He did no smoking, no alcohol, and was a light eater. He had a passion for coffee, and had started a coffee shop in Sydney. He may have been a bit worried about reviving his career.  Bimal also engaged in 1-1 conversations online with many many people. Everyone saw him as their personal friend. He often fondly talked about his family.

Yesterday, he was returning from playing badminton, and in the car itself had a massive heart attack. He died before reaching the hospital.  A friend wrote that Bimal came into our lives like hero of the movie Anand …of course without the illness …he connected with ease. For a dear lady classmate, he was more than even a brother!!  The light has gone out of our batch, I said. Bimal’s last words on WhatsApp were in response to something I had posted. He wrote:

  • ‘The folly of human conceits, demonstrated the best in our differentiated treatment of each other, the incessant need to compare, contrast and differentiate. Wonderful reminder, Anil, of our morality. And mortality.’

When someone so bubbly and social and athletic passes on so soon, it must be for a higher purpose!!!!  Here is my imagination of Bimal’s conversation w God.

God: Welcome home.

Bimal: thanks God. It is pretty nice here. But can I return for a moment?  This happened too fast.  Can I say hello to my friends?

God: tathastu (so be it). You can do it from here itself.

Bimal:  hello friends. Sorry had to leave like this. Miss you all so much. You were my life. But I am here now. Up there somewhere.  It is nice here.  Don’t worry about me. Hopefully you will remember me as a nice funny chap. Just keep having fun. I will watch from here.  Once in a while I might drop by through someone who can connect with me.  The heart-to-heart channel, you know.

God: (smiling). Very nice.  They love you and will love you forever.  Anything else you want?

Bimal: For my family too. Same message. Just keep living your life happily. Uxxx, sorry had to leave like this. Sorry.  You were the love of my life. We will meet again.

God: Yes, things will keep changing.

Bimal: thank you.  Please bless all my friends and family.  So they can enjoy every moment of their lives fully.

God: तथास्तु।

It is also a stark reminder that life can be so unpredictable. This is a wake-up call for all of us. I am sure some of us have managed their health better and others can benefit from their experience. Here were a few key suggestions shared by friends:

  1. One suggestion is to be disciplined in diet, nutrition and exercise. One of Bill Clinton’s Doctors is Dr. Dean Ornish and he has a book on “Reversing Heart Disease”. Dean Ornish’s book was helpful for another friend when he underwent a coronary angioplasty recently. There is also a vegan-diet plan from a group called freedomfromdiabetes.org. Both of these conditions, cardio and diabetes, go hand in hand. Regular exercise and movement is also required to manage body weight.
  1. Another suggestion was to do an annual comprehensive medical checkup. Many people could thus get the diagnosis in time so they could do something about it. Personally, I get a comprehensive checkup done almost every year when I visit India.
  1. Please meditate. Saying differently, in life s**t will happen! We just don’t want it to stick to us.  We wash our bodies everyday with soap and water.  We should also cleanse our minds everyday with meditation. Try TM, Vipassana, or another other well-tested technique you like. Choose carefully, as just like all diets and medications are not the same, so also all meditations are not the same.

Wish you the fastest growth to enlightenment!!!!  And the resultant freedom from stress.  And great health!

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Enlightenment, Leadership, MUM, Sustainability

Messages and Lessons from the Fourth Annual International Deep Green Symposium at MUM

DeepGreenSymp - grouppic

Maharishi University of Management held its fourth annual international deep green symposium in Fairfield Iowa on June 26-27, 2015. There were 16 invited speakers, including two from Harvard University, one from India, and many from MUM and around the country to present their research and perspectives on sustainability. The speakers presented their research from philosophical, organizational to technical perspectives in a short 20 minutes. Some of the messages and lessons from the conference were as below.

Leopold’s “land ethic” says that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” Dr. Scott Herriott analyzed the validity of this statement from three philosophical perspectives: Utilitarianism (Bentham, Mill), De-ontology (Kant), and virtue ethics (Aristotle), and found that none of them did full justice to the land ethic. He concluded that the most effective way to cultivate the virtues responsible for environmental sustainability is to develop the consciousness of the individual, and help everyone do spontaneous right action in accordance with natural law. Sustainability refers to a very old and simple concept …do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you! Ms. Vicki Alexander Herriott spoke about ‘Consciousness-based sustainability’, defined as our ability to act in a way that meets the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities for the future. It is based on our level of consciousness, our awareness and experience of the interconnectedness of all things.

Nowhere is the sense of memory about the past and their connection to Natural Law deeper than in East Africa. Mr. Jim Schaefer reported on Sustainable Consciousness based projects in Africa, with the purpose to enliven he memory of Natural Law, to enhance connectivity to Natural Law, and to awaken from within the African people the full potential of all Africans to create a sustainable future for themselves.

Resilience is a quality akin to adaptability, which is critical for ecosystems to robustly thrive amidst environmental turbulence. Dr. David Goodman spoke about developing resiliency through conservation. He reminded us to Leave No Trace while traveling through the wilderness areas in order to protect these special places for future generations.

Progress towards sustainability at the community level depends upon successfully implementing local strategic plans. Dr. Ayako Huang demonstrated that the processes and challenges of the shared action-learning approach to sustainability projects proceeds through five sequential steps. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy requires changes on the individual and community levels. Ms. Anna Bruen explored why and how communities are shifting from fossil fuel consumption towards renewable energy adoption and the relationship between individual action and community transformation, using examples of what a couple of mid-western towns are doing to address their energy needs.

Greenhouse gases arise from two primary sources: direct emissions such as from agriculture and waste, and from burning of fossil fuels. There are increasing concentrations of GHGs in atmosphere, and increase in global average temperatures, which lead to various adverse impacts emerging over time. Dr. Robert Stowe of Harvard University showed that there are two major mechanisms to contain and reduce carbon from the atmospheres: carbon cap and trading or a carbon tax. He reported on the discussions between US and China on the technical issues towards a global climate accord in Paris later this year. Managing the product life cycle more effectively can help re-consume all waste, and thus reduce the waste going into landfills. Using the examples of HPs recycling of printer cartridges and others, Dr. Dennis Heaton and his colleague showed that Life cycle thinking helps consider social and environmental impacts not only of one’s own business operations but also of upstream and downstream supply chain partners. As awareness of the whole value stream expands, opportunities for improvement can be seen.

The Urbanization project is likely to be completed in our children’s lifetimes. Dr. Anil Maheshwari showed how Data-smart Big cities will become digital governance platforms to responsively and interactively serve a superior experience to their residents. Using the multi-million records data set from the usage of bicycle rentals in the city of Chicago, he showed how collecting and analyzing big data from many sources can help uncover service usage patterns to design better experiences. In contrast, Drs. Lonnie Gamble and Travis Cox explored the limits of how much technology can accomplish, and asked directly for a Sustainability Revolution, where unity and diversity coexist in a symbiotic relationship. They challenge the blinding notion that technologies are neutral – that the only thing that matters about them is who has access to their controls, that they have no intrinsic qualities that inevitably produce certain ecological or political outcomes. They described deep sustainability as going beyond efficiency and substitution, in service to radical redesign based on a worldview that uses ecology as a metaphor rather than the machine, holism rather than reductionism, compliments science with many ways of knowing, and is grounded in an experiential and intellectual understanding of the unity that underlies the surface diversity of life.

Mr. Stuart Valentine showed how an awakening to the abundant flow of energy Is leading the transition to a renewable energy economy. He called for an enhanced corporate performance report card, that naturally takes us to a circular & more spiritual view of the economy.   This requires a fresh financial toolbox informed by Nature’s principles to support a new circular economic investment framework. Echoing Gandhi’s message of there being enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed, Dr. Ram Ramanan showed why we should go beyond the triple bottom line (of profit, people and planet) and called for ethical decision-making as the way forward for creating wealth for all stake-holders and not only the shareholders. His ethical values checklist including transparency, reliability, citizenship, and responsiveness. Mr. Ved Nanda spoke about how international law can be a force for sustainability by creating moral pressure, as well as frameworks for guiding ethical decision-making.

Dr. Sunita Singh Sengupta of ISOL said that the ancient Indian value system provides a broader context of nature and human sustainability. The concept of Rin (or debts) shows that one should feel grateful for what one has received from one’s father, teacher, the gods, and also the motherland. Ecological insights from Vedas include associating deforestation with the destruction of the state, and reforestation with the rebuilding of the state. And that no creature is superior to another and all have a right to live happily in the ecosystem. And that care should be taken to channelize wealth for organic development of the society. Dr. Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan of Harvard University showed how using ‘consciousness as the foundation’, science can become complete, by bridging the gap between ancient science and modern science. For example, the fundamentals of Ayurveda (ancient Vedic medical system) can be explained effectively using modern nanotechnology mechanisms from a subatomic, quantum-mechanical level.

The event soared high with great motivation from hearing Mr. Gary Guller, the only person with one arm to have climbed Mt Everest. Any is possible, he said, if you believe in yourself and in your team. When challenges inevitably come, you just have to give yourself the permission to succeed. MUM’s President Dr. Bevan Morris, delivered the closing remarks with reading uplifting remarks from Maharishi’s book on ‘Heaven on Earth’. That is the end-goal of all sustainable development, he said. The plan is to establish a new way of life, to eliminate all the unhealthful aspects of the way our lives are lived, and introduce a life of bliss.

Video recordings of these excellent talks will be released in due course.

Enlightenment, Happiness, Leadership, Music and Poetry, self-development

Leadership Lessons from Organizing Cultural Events

Leadership Lessons from Organizing Cultural Events  …. By Anil Maheshwari

Certain good ideas lead to properly-organized and well-attended ‘successful’ cultural events. This could be applicable to creating good organizations also. I write below from my experience of organizing a few big house-full South-Asian cultural events at MUM over the last 12 months. All the events had the customary song and dance elements. However, they also had new innovations. And they all brought in new challenges, opportunities, surprises and joy. It takes a certain gut-strength to manage it all.

Here is a list of the events we organized and the innovations we incorporated:

  1. Diwali function in November 2013. We created a beautiful innovative poster to promote the event. We introduced the idea of including participants from all South Asian countries including not only India, but also Nepal, Bangladesh, SriLanka, Pakistan, and others. We introduced the idea of a fashion show where all students could showcase their traditional dresses. We introduced the idea of a boy-girl pair of MCs, where the MCs were from different nationalities. We invited the Mayor of the city to the event, and he got the flavor of how important Diwali is for the entire South asian community. We introduced the idea of giving free organic Burfi Prasad to all the attendees. Last but not the least, we kept the event free to the public. The program was wonderful, and the event was a big success. (Pictures courtesy: Craig Shaw). Diwali at MUM 2013
  2. Holi function in March 2014. We introduced the idea of a poetry recitation which is a Holi tradition in India. In this case, I did the recitation of a humorous old poem. We introduced the big idea of doing a large bonfire which is a Holi tradition: Students continued to sing and dance around the fire till midnight. We played with gulal (colored powder) in the night around the fire. We provided free munchies at the bonfire. We introduced the idea of a bhajan band, and this band continued playing at the bonfire also. The event was a super success.
  3. Baisakhi/Ugadi/Indian-New-Year event in April 2014. Coming soon after the Holi event, it was a low-key event. We invited the visiting head of the Maharishi movement in India who was visiting the US at that time. My daughter performed at the event.
  4. Krishna Janam Ashtami event in August 2014. This also worked as a welcoming event for all the new and returning students. We continued the ideas of a MC pair, free burfi Prasad, and a large bonfire. We introduced the idea of playing a Maharishi knowledge tape where he was talking of the significance and power of Lord Krishna. We invited the President of the university; he liked the event and said we needed more of such things to enliven the campus. The event was a house-full and standing room only performance.
  5. Garba dance party in September 2014. This was a dance party for people to dance to traditional Indian garba music. We brought the Dandiya sticks for the dance. At this event we also discovered our new student president of the South asian club.
  6. Diwali event in October 2014. This event used many of our previous ideas. We had the usual Bollywood song and dance shows, an MC pair, a large bonfire, a fashion show that now included people from Africa also. We added a professional Gandharva performance to the event. I led a group bhajan performance. People stood up and joyfully sang the Aarti together. This event was so packed that latecomers could not find space to get into the auditorium.

AKM Diwali 2014MUM campfire picture Oct2014

The organizing of all these events followed a similar pattern, was but there were different challenges each time. Different people pitched in to help when things looked bleak. Through all this I persevered. Here are some of my lessons:

  1. Commitment: Someone has to hold the flag high. Even when no one else is interested or seems to be ready to contribute, the key organizer must love the idea, and should have complete faith that the event will happen, and well. There were moments when there was no one else who came to the event planning meeting.
  2. Self-sufficiency. One should be prepared to invest your own time and resources to make the event happen. One should have the talent to sing and dance, or have your friends and family participate as needed. One can usually find the talent, strength and resources within oneself.
  3. Openness: Be open to surprises. Be open to what might actually happen at the event. Do not get stuck in a preconceived notion of a cultural event. Be open to new ideas from unexpected sources. Be open to support from unexpected sides. Totally different people, faculty or students, pitched in to support each of the events at crucial moments. Later in the year, we found consistent support from one like-minded person on campus.
  4. Integrity: Make sure every event has integrity at a high level. The higher level idea should be to have fun, or whatever else. Do not get caught in the weeds of this item or that, this performer or that, this issue or that. Gradually the reputation will grow and people would love to attend the events.