Review of ‘Does he know a Mother’s Heart’

This is a book by Dr. Arun Shourie, a truly non-partisan individual who has national interest at heart. Regardless of their disagreements with the man, people cannot deny his integrity and that his heart is at the right place. The review is attached. Click here: Personal Review of ‘Does he know a mother’s heart’

Review of ‘Infinite Vision’

I must consider myself blessed by Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai. She has given me the friendship of three good souls. I must say, ‘four’. Even though the fourth one lives away from Madurai now, I have leaned on him quite a bit in the last two to three years. I would not want to name them lest they be embarrassed.

One of them handed me a copy of ‘Infinite Vision’, the story of Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai. I am proud to say that I grew up in the city and claim as my hometown, the city that houses this institution. Could this book have been named, ‘Inner vsion’? May be. It would have been just as appropriate as ‘Infinite vision’. Reading this book has been the best spiritual experience of 2012 or arguably the best spiritual experience, ever, for me.

This is what Dr. Aravind Srinivasan, second generation doctor and nephew of Dr. G. Venkataswamy (Dr. V) had to say of the man:
“Dr. V. started all this at 58…. In his own life-time, this man did a little over 100,000 surgeries. And now, his organisation does 300,000 operations a year. Think about that. With every passing year, Dr. V’s direct contribution is multiplied three times over because of the seeds he planted. Then there’s Aurolab, producing two million lenses a year, and LAICO, that has trained thousands of health professionals across the globe….. The way I look at it, this one man’s work probably touches 40 percent of eye care in the developing world today”. He did these 100,000 surgeries with crippling arthritis and pain in his hands.
Words must and surely fail to describe the feelings that swept over me as I read these lines. What a life it has been for dr. V? This is spirituality par excellence. His life makes it apt to describe him as the modern Mahatma.
The book traces the path of this great institution beautifully with all its growing pains – the vision, the initial struggle, acceptance, recognition in the market place, name, fame, new generation, generational conflicts, aping competition vs. retaining identity, frustrations, leadership transition, acceptance of core values.
It is great that the book ends on a note whereby the second and third generation have accepted the underlying service ethos and spirituality behind the institution. The book captures these two foundations of the institution beautifully. It is clear that the book has been a labour of love for Ms. Pavithra Mehta, who is a member of the family and who does not wield scissors and removes the cataract from patients. Yet, her book should open many eyes.
Dr. Aravind Srinivasan says that Aravind Eye hospital is now moving at a pace at which it can still retain its value system. That is well said and it is not merely a statement of reality but also a statement of pride. Comparing it with the industry that I was part of for the last two decades, how many financial institutions can say that?
This book, even though it is about Dr. V and the great institution captures the generational conflicts and their eventual resolution and acceptance of core values through the voice of Dr. Aravind Srinivasan. While Aravind Eye Hospital is alert to the threats of competition, they are clear that they are not in the race. They are clear that they shaped the entire eco-system for this race once and that they should and will do so once again. As Pavithra quite perceptively notes, the edge in Dr. Aravind’s voice is no longer there that was there a year ago and that the emphasis was now on direction and not speed.
Both the process of selection of the new leader and the eventual choice should instil tremendous optimism about this institution that many would want to see succeed and keep succeeding. But, succeed in what? Clearly, they are not in the rat race. “You have to be completely out of the rat race to build an institution like this” – p. 93, quote attributed to Dr. Aravind. Spot on.
My heart swelled with emotion, awe and respect (and more) on reading the goal that Dr. Ravindran, the new Head, wants Aravind Eye Hospital to succeed in:
           “In the next ten years, we’ re entering a time when the materialistic part of India will peak. Our challenge is: how do we be modern and still retain inner simplicity? we have to learn to balance. As leaders, we have to be simple, and a few of us must practice at this level. The material support that we give people shouldn’t be our focus……. but the focus should be on the inner aspiration…………….At Aravind, unless we practise certain things, people won’t see what differentiates us from the rest. Through Dr. V’s work, Aravind has emerged as a place where you can practise the truth. Through Aravind, he created an external manifestation for an inner aspiration.
He ensured that there is a soul behind the systems and procedures. New leadership should not just look at Aravind’s work as the elimination of needless blindness. That is the outer goal. But, there is an inner goal. We must not do the outer work at the cost of that inner goal. We have to maintain Aravind as a place where people can express their true nature. We shouldn’t forget this”.
Place where people can express their true nature? Coming from the background of the financial industry, that sounds like another world. But, if there is an institution that can do that, it has to be Aravind Eye Hospital. Honestly, on reading those lines, I regretted that I was a Doctor in Philosophy and not a Doctor in Ophthalmology.
This short, personal review has to end with a reference to Shri. Aurobindo and the Mother, who had inspired the founder of this great institution. The book does dedicate some pages to outline the philosophy of Shri. Aurobindo. In his ‘Integral Yoga’ approach to life, the state of consciousness from which any action is generated is believed to determine its transformative power.
That is a very powerful line. This is consistent with how Lord Krishna defines an act of dharma. It is not the action that determines its dharmic or adharmic character but the intention behind it. That is how, in the context of Mahabharath and Kurukshethra, he could comfortably exhort Arjuna to fight.
I could not resist thinking that India might have evolved differently had it taken the message of the Bhagavadh Gita or the message of Shri Aurobindo more seriously than it did the messages of Buddha and Gandhi.
(‘Infinite Vision’ – How Aravind Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion by Pavithra K. Mehta and Suchitra Shenoy. Berrett Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2011).
This review was originally written in April 2012 and circulated to friends.

Review of ‘Hindus under Siege – the way out’

This book was written by Dr. Subramanian Swamy. I think it is a good one. It is worth reading. He does display open mind in general. He is willing to call upon Hindus to denounce the divisions of caste by birth and untouchability. I am yet to lay my hands on a good treatment of the origins of this and the birth-based caste system. Cannot claim that I have searched well. Will be grateful for readings and clues on this.

Humorous anecdotes:

(1) Om Shakti vs. Rome Bhakti
(2) Nehru’s indifference to Hindi: naming only two Hindi books in Hindi literature: Tulsidas’ Ramayan and the Railway Guide

The stories on how Kashmir Pundits refused to convert a ruler from Buddhism to Hinduism and how he converted to Islam! [Is that Karma affecting the Kashmir Pundits even now?]

The story on the donation that Mother Teresa received from Charles Keating and how she did not return it – is an interesting eye-opener. His section on what defines a Hindu is a useful one.  His section on Economic reforms is a disappointing for it simply rehashes McKinsey report – nothing original there. McKinsey’s sequencing of reform priorities is debatable at best and plain wrong, at worst.

He does not make the case as to why India should be close to China. He is not acknowledging the role China played in arming Pakistan with nuclear bomb. Civilisationally, India might be closer to China but Communist China is a different kettle of fish.

Similarly, the US consulate official in Chennai warned Ms. Jayalalitha against the law banning conversion. That also tells us how, in the overall scheme of things, friendship and closer relations with the US has its limits.

His call to Dharmacharyas to form a conclave and enunciate guidelines for Hindu is a good one. The book’s quotes by Swami Dhayananda Saraswati reveal Swamiji’s awareness of  the political realities in the country and globally. He signed the ‘Jerusalem Declaration’ – covered in another post on this blog.

The book does not offer specific steps on some of the actions it exhorts readers to implement: (1) how to start learning Sanskrit – any institutions, contact details) and (2) how to learn the correct history of India (sources, references, etc.)

[At least, a partial remedy is available in this superb blog post by Dr. Koenraad Elst. His advice to Hindus (‘Hindu survival – what needs to be done’) as to what they should do to preserve their culture, heritage, etc., must be read by all Hindus]

The list of Hindu temples destroyed by Muslim invaders is useful. Even more interesting to see that the source of the list is ‘Frontline’ magazine of THE HINDU group from December 2000! The reference to a BBC news broadcast debunking the Aryan Invasion theory is interesting.

Overall, an easy and useful read with some limitations and gaps in analysis and research.

Jerusalem declaration

I love catching up with Prof. Koenraad Elst’ posts every once in a while. I am never disappointed. I always learn something new. The last such visit to his site was no exception. I read these two posts on Hinduism. People who are interested in Sanatana Dharma should read these two posts. It is one thing to strive for internal evolution through religious texts. But, some of the very seers who brought us those texts had also overcome resistance (to put it, rather mildly) publicly to leave those treasures for us.

We owe it to them and to ourselves to pass them on to the succeeding generations. Going by the shape of things that have happened in the last 30 years and hence is likely to come, each succeeding generation may need those wisdom more than the previous one. But, that is a different topic for a different occasion.

In the course of reading these two posts, I came across his reference to ‘Jerusalem Declaration’. I went and perused the document. It is an amazing document. I compliment Dr. Elst for defending and applauding Swami Dhayananda Saraswati for signing it. I would have done the same. It deserves to be publicised widely. I had not heard of it until I saw the document referred to by Prof. Elst.

The PDF copy of the declaration that resulted from the Second Hindu-Jewish Leadership Summit is to be found here. It is attached to this post. Click here: 2nd_Hindu-Jewish_Leadership_Summit_Declaration

[PS: As is usual, I stumbled upon two other useful sites in the process of locating the ‘Jerusalem Declaration 2008’. Here they are. One is the ‘Forum for Religious Freedom’ and the other is the site for the book, ‘Invading the Sacred’. Pl. do spend time to read the rebuttal of Ms. Aditi Banerjee, one of the authors of ‘Invading the Sacred’ to Ms. Wendy Doniger, Professor on the History of Religions in the University of Chicago]

Anu Vaidyanathan

A good friend had sent me this link. I watched the video. I came away very impressed – not just with the amazing and extraordinary feats of physical endurance, stamina and strength.

But, more than that, her answer to the question on her advice to other women out there is not just for women. This was not a forum for her to elaborate her answer. But, I got the definite sense that she knew what she was talking about it. She talked about the importance of knowing oneself outside of one’s roles in our lives. Whew! Great stuff.
Her answer for time management too was both different and appropriate.
Comes across as a very complete and aware person. A very rare specimen.


I had downloaded Aldous Huxley’s ‘Perennial Philosophy’. Yet to start reading. You can find it on the Internet through a simple search. Here is one link. I was flipping through the book on my IPad. I came across the name, ‘Svetaketu’. Hence, did a search on ‘Svetaketu’. Came across this beautiful story on Svetaketu narrated by Osho.

I came away reflecting on the role of silence

If new thoughts are not felt, then you will become aware that the mind is just repetitive, just a mechanical repetition; it goes on in a rut. And there was no way to get new knowledge. With new knowledge the mind is always happy, because there is something again to grind, something again to work out; the mechanism goes on moving.

in stilling the mind, withdrawal of thoughts from absence of interaction, the humility that follows the inability to ‘show off’ his intellectual prowess to the animals he was guarding over.

Another friend who read it was struck by the idea that his Guru calls him the 1001st animal. She felt that humans were supposed to evolve from animals into humans. Yet, his spiritual evolution and realisation led him to be called the 1001st animal by his Guru.

My wife was struck by the fact that his father was worried that Svetaketu would have come back with arrogance and ego bloated after learning all the scriptures and holy texts:

The father became sad and depressed, because this is not the way of one who really knows, this is not the way of one who has come to know the supreme knowledge.

This underscores the importance of discussing such stuff in a ‘Satsang’. Each one of us would interpret what we read, see, hear or reflect on, based on our experiences, intuition and vasanas. The whole brew is enriching to all. Hope this blog is able to capture some of that spirit.

The father sent him back to the Guru to learn what cannot be taught. Read the rest of it here. The main website itself seems like a rather useful one.