BY: DEEPA BHASTHI
The path to spirituality lies in giving up the material world to reach a higher realm, to be free of greed, wants, jealousy and power. To lead a spiritual life and yet manage a mammoth institution with all its material connotations, isn’t the easiest of tasks to say the least.
Nov 15, BANGALORE, INDIA (TIMES OF INDIA) — The path to spirituality lies in giving up the material world to reach a higher realm, to be free of greed, wants, jealousy and power. To lead a spiritual life and yet manage a mammoth institution with all its material connotations, isn’t the easiest of tasks to say the least.
For ISKCON, Bangalore, is about the size of a good-sized company and its president, Madhu Pandit Dasa, has no less a daunting task than the CEO of a commercial enterprise. Of ISKCON’s many multi-crore projects, the best known is Akshaya Patra, the mid-day meal scheme for schoolchildren. Dasa, with his unwavering belief in Lord Krishna, is able to strike that balance of high thinking and simple living.
When he was still known as Madhusudan S, Dasa’s life could have been the envy of every fan of higher education in India today. His father was an Indian Institute of Science (IISc) scientist. This led to Dasa partly studying at Bangalore’s St Joseph’s Indian High School. The rest of his schooling was completed in Trivandrum where he was one of the few to have scored a 100% in Mathematics. It was back to Bangalore then for his pre-degree. By then, he was a good enough chess player to compete in district- and state-level championships in Kerala. He was also one of the elite few to have been selected by the national talent search programme conducted by NCERT.
Academically oriented, Madhu Pandit Dasa found himself in IIT Bombay with a deep-rooted interest in physics, a passion that continues to this day. He had, by then, begun to develop streaks of the philosophical nature and was searching for the `cause of all causes’, to seek the truth about life and God. “I nurtured the belief that physics was the answer to God,” he says, of his days as an MSc student at IIT. He was, independently, pursuing his study in quantum physics. “Increasingly, I began to feel that the answer to my questions were not there,” he says.
That was when Dasa chanced upon the books of Prabhupada, the founder of the Iskcon movement, at the IIT library. He had by then sifted through Western philosophy. Reading those works made him feel Prabhupada knew God and understood truth. Dasa continued his academics and even joined an MTech programme, but somewhere along the way, he says, he was inspired to join the Iskcon movement in 1981.
The highest activity is to make people aware, he elucidates. “Man suffers karma because of ignorance. Prevention is always better than the cure. The movement is about how to not get into suffering,” he explains. 1984 was an important year. He not only joined as president of Iskcon, Trivandrum, but also married Bhaktilata, a fellow devotee and erstwhile headmistress of a school in Chennai.
After his stint in Kerala, Dasa and his wife came to Bangalore with a vision. Both designed the Hare Krishna Hill as it stands today, his wife doing the aesthetics of the complex. “Assistance always came,” he says, remembering the very first press conference when he announced that the budget would be Rs 5 crore. “I couldn’t sleep for 2-3 days after I announced that,” he smiles today, adding that the final budget was about Rs 40 crore.
He derives his entire strength from the `sankirthan’, the chanting of the Krishna maha mantra. Speaking of the several million dollar projects Iskcon has embarked upon since, he says simply: “Krishna led us to it.”
For the ardent devotee, as also the rest of the staff, the day begins at 3.30 am. There is the mangalarathi at 4.15 am with the tulsi pooja, guru pooja and others, followed by two hours of japa — chanting. Breakfast, or prasadam, as every meal at the temple is called, is at 9.30 am after which his work of administering the activities begins, going on till evening. There is prasadam again in the evening and more work till about 10 pm when his day ends.
There isn’t much personal time. But his joy is in `understanding the depth of Krishna consciousness’, something he finds very exciting. Free time, if at all, is spent reading, writing and in informal discussion on various issues with others, spiritual or otherwise. “I spend a lot of time in gaining personal realization,” he says.
A CHESS FAN
Does chess still hold his attention? “I play sometimes when I can, but then real life has become like chess,” he laughs. “Life is like a game of chess with all the moves, but now I feel Krishna is beside me as a companion. It is more complicated and more exciting.”
Travel has taken Dasa around the world. His interest also lies in management issues. He is currently authoring a book with Robert Fritz on `How people create things; how they think to create’. It is to be a work on structural thinking, an integration of Eastern and Western schools of thought.
Multiple projects, spirituality, management, bhajans and chants, physics and an odd game of chess. Madhu Pandit Dasa strides various planes with ease, the strength of his sankirtans and Krishna beside him.
WHAT HE DOES
As president of Iskcon, Bangalore, looks after the entire working of the temple complex including overseeing programmes like Akshaya Patra, India Heritage Foundation and others.
* Book: The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz, among the non-spiritual books
* Music: Prabhupada’s bhajans, sankirtanas. “Life is filled with that.” On dancing, he says: “It is one of our forms of prayer.”
“Modern science is limited to only that which is pursuable. It is about the gross, about the five senses. I realized that truth could not be reached through science.”