Mr. Hrishikesh Mafatlal is the Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive of the multi-million dollar Arvind Mafatlal Group of Companies (AMG). AMG has major interests in Textiles (Mafatlal Industries Ltd.), Denims (Mafatlal Denim Ltd.), Rubber Chemicals (NOCIL Ltd.) and Fluorochemicals (Navin Fluorine International Ltd.). With his AMD from the Harvard Business School, USA, Mr Mafatalal has, in addition to his major corporate presence, a significant role in the shaping of management education in Mumbai and India.
He is a Governing Council Member of the N. L. Dalmia Institute of Management Studies & Research and has also served for more than a decade as a Member on the Board of Governors of one of the most reputed management institutes in India, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
He is also actively involved in charitable community development works, being a Trustee of Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, and the BAIF Development Research Foundation.
On the spiritual front, by Radhanath Swami’s inspiration, he, along with his wife Rekha and their three children, have been practicing bhakti-yoga for over twenty-three years. He has also been a key player in implementing many of Radhanath Swami’s pioneering projects including the Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage (LNHO), and the Bhaktivedanta Hospital.
How were you introduced to spirituality? And how did you chose Radhanath Swami as your spiritual mentor?
Here was a person who perfectly exemplified the highest truths that I was hearing about in the philosophy, and his kindness and love simply bowled me and my family over completely. He was a spiritual magnet who attracted all of us. We fell in love!
Along with you, your entire family has adopted the spiritual path of bhakti-yoga taught by Radhanath Swami. How have Radhanath Swami’s teachings shaped your family life?
Radhanath Swami’s kindness extended to every member of our family, even the servants and watchmen. I had heard that deep spirituality brings an egalitarian vision by which an advanced spiritualist see everyone equally, but the way I saw this principle demonstrated in the persona of Radhanath Swami was incredible, to say the very least. And his spiritual vision rubbed on me – at least a bit of it. I started seeing my wife and daughters – my first daughter Radha was then 8, and the second Karuna Manjari had just been born – in a totally different light. Of course, it was not just my vision toward them that changed; they themselves changed too. Under Radhanath
Swami’s piercing yet loving gaze and patient caring, both my wife and daughter literally blossomed! Their rapid spiritual metamorphosis was astonishing; they started practicing mantra meditation more diligently than me and both of them started revealing higher and deeper spiritual
personality traits which I did not have but which I was listening to in Radhanath Swami’s lectures.
Slowly, I started treating my family members with more concern, rather than taking them for granted. I understood the enormous sacrifices made by my wife Radha Priya, understood the unbelievable tolerance shown by her during our 8 years of marriage towards my vices and to
subsequent poor behaviour. Radhanath Swami is an expert teacher, who teaches subtly and powerfully by demonstrating his words through his actions. He teaches in his classes how we should respect one and all – including especially our family members – as the children of God,
entrusted in our care. Although he never explicitly instructed me to amend my behavior toward my family members, but just by seeing his dealings with my family, I started respecting them.
I sincerely believe that with Radhanath Swami’s guidance, our family became much closer to each other.
How have Radhanath Swami’s teachings on spirituality affected your professional life?
Understanding that we are the co-partners with God in life – and not the sole controllers – has been a big help in my professional life. It leads to the implicit understanding that even when things apparently “go wrong”, there is still some higher plan and purpose behind it. And
this engenders the vital ability to absorb ‘bad news’ better and think rationally, rather than to panic. How one reacts to inevitable crises is a sign of how one leads one’s organization. Time and time again, I observe in my organization when leading executives, very smart and
capable—some of them drawing yearly salaries in excess of Rs 1crore—are paralyzed due of fear of some small setbacks. Successful people tend to feel that they know the formula for success, and when things don’t always go their way (which is often), they are bewildered, angry and unusually irrational.
Also Radhanath Swami’s consistent emphasis on treating everyone with sensitivity and respect, knowing that they are all the beloved children of God, has enormous practical spinoffs in the corporate world. Leading management gurus talk of EQ (emotional quotient) and empathizing with employees and customers as a way of bringing success to the organization. Unfortunately, sometimes knowledge of EQ gets used as a tool to manipulate people emotionally. But following
Radhanath Swami’s teachings naturally raises one’s EQ because when one genuinely, spiritually values others, one automatically becomes sensitive to their emotions too. This helps immensely in reaching out to the same people better, understanding their needs and being a FAIR PERSON, overall. Getting the best out of one’s employees does not mean throwing fits of rage, banging desks, firing people or demonstrating one’s power. People respond more to concern, a sense of fairness and unity of purpose than to fear and intimidation.
One of Radhanath Swami’s distinctive contributions has been his building a vibrant spiritual community comprising of over two thousand families living according to high spiritual standards of devotion and service. Right from the starting days, you have been one of the leading counselors guiding this community in accordance with the vision of Radhanath Swami. What do you find in Radhanath Swami’s vision that has led to the success of this community – especially to its harmonizing high spiritual standards with responsible family life?
I would say the essence of his vision is love: loving relationships and loving service, to be more specific. Radhanath Swami by his kindness, humility and sacrificing nature – in short, by his love – won the hearts of the members of the community. By his loving dealings, he attracted reciprocal love from the hearts of literally hundreds of individuals – intelligent, dynamic individuals, at that. And he channeled that love to inspire them to make the lifestyle
adjustments necessary to develop virtuous qualities. He stressed that humility and tolerance were foundational for all relationships, including our relationship with God, and emphasized that sacrifice was a practical way of expressing and experiencing love. He gave disarmingly lucid explanations of the abstract philosophical difference between material and spiritual relationships: material relationship means to think what the other person can do for us and spiritual relationship means to think what we can do for the other person. And he told that the inner strength for developing these virtues would result by the practice of consistent, prioritized spiritual discipline: especially early morning mantra meditation. By imbibing these core virtues in the community, he fostered a culture of selfless service, which created a beautiful, endearing atmosphere of connectedness and belonging among members of the entire community.
Radhanath Swami’s vision for a widespread, deep-rooted spiritual community entailed that whole families needed to be included ACTIVELY in the joyous process of KC, not just the male member being active while the wife and kids had no role to play. If the Vedic culture is
misunderstood or misapplied, it can transmogrify into a tool for male chauvinism. From the time Radhanath Swami started leading the Mumbai community, he brought in respect for women by demonstrating it himself and he stopped various forms of discrimination against them.
A potential source of major disharmony in a spiritual community is the relationship between the renunciates and the householders, who are, according to the Vedic scriptures themselves, following two different lanes along the same expressway to spiritual advancement. No doubt the
Vedic culture esteems those who renounce everything of this world for the service of God, but it also values householders who strive to make God the center of their lives. A myopic, superficial vision tries to privilege one pathway over the other. Sometimes the renunciates are misunderstood to be social parasites, not doing anything productive for the world. And sometimes the householders are mistaken to be hopelessly entangled in worldly pursuits and pleasures, with little or no hope for spiritual redemption. But Radhanath Swami by his actions,
words and training countered both these pernicious misconceptions. By the high-quality training in philosophical education and devotional culture that he gave to his celibate students, it soon became obvious that they were performing an invaluable, indispensable service for the
community by demonstrating that a life of exclusive dedication to God was not an outdated utopia, but was a practical reality. And by his respectful, kind and encouraging dealings with the householders, he inspired them with the confidence that they too were performing a vital, irreplaceable service by demonstrating how spiritual principles could be practiced while responsibly caring for a family, a career and other worldly obligations. And this is where the counselor system plays a critical role. The conflict between the lofty standards taught in the scriptures and the exigencies of practical modern society need to be resolved through
expert guidance, which shows the individuals the path to gradually and surely rise on the spiritual pathway. The counselor-couple are precisely meant to be such guides, who being householders themselves can provide practical guidance on how to successfully balance regular
occupational and family obligations with important spiritual practices. Radhanath Swami personally guided the counselors, who in turn passed on that guidance to the growing community. In this way, every individual – man, woman, child – felt valued, cared, guided –
and most importantly, loved.
Can you summarize Radhanath Swami’s role in your life in a few words?
A most loving Guru, father, guide—the MOST IMPORTANT person in my life.