Abraham Lincoln said, “The surest way to reveal one’s character is not through adversity but by giving them power.” Surely, human history is famished for leaders who displayed integrity even after rising to power and glory. Yes, the leaders who did are the one’s that keep history alive.
Closer in time, among the rags-to-riches stories of today, I scour for the ones that pass the integrity test—and I pick the story of Mr. Rajeev Srivatsava. It begins in 1996 with Rajeev, an employee of an MNC, who was turned down repeatedly by the management whenever he solicited them for different charities. Disgruntled, as a last resort, and with the sole purpose of raising funds for charity, Rajeev starts his own business APAR InfoTech, though he lacks business skills or experience. Like most stories of the kind, we see incredible success following this venture. By 2003 Rajeev’s business grows to a $78,000,000 empire and is rated the fourth fastest growing company of the United States. But at this point, anticlimactically, he sells off his company to Ness Tech. Why? To confront a mammoth opportunity for charity!
Rajeev Srivatsava is now the CEO and Managing Partner at Basil Partners, a venture capital fund. I got to meet him about a year ago.
Rajeev, I found, was down-to-earth and friendly. Soon we were sharing our hearts, and something distinct about Rajeev began to surface. Even as he talked of his novel corporate game plans, I sensed his old-world faith in his spiritual coach, his guru. I prodded him for an explanation. “The condition of one high up in the success ladder is precarious,” he said. “Temptations beckon, promising security from a down fall; the mind reels in insanity at that altitude of achievement; and integrity grows in burden with growing elevation. Consequently, to cling on to the prized cup of character even at the top, a spiritual coach is mandatory.” When I heard that, I realized how Rajeev had managed to live a character-story that borders on the unbelievable.
All ancient traditions, Eastern and Western alike, have emphasized the role of a spiritual coach in a leader’s life. In Vedic India there were powerful Kings who consulted their spiritual guru before any major decision. Similarly, European history speaks of noblemen who took advice from a reverend. The protocol was that those in power humbly admitted their vulnerability to deceitfulness and gratefully accepted guidance of someone fixed in the truth. The spiritual coach, in turn, steered clear of worldliness, lived a life of voluntary poverty and pored over the scriptures—to nurture and maintain his or her veracity. The whole system may seem too rosy a picture, given the glaring instances in history of corrupt advice given to the rulers by their trusted spiritual coaches. Though these exceptions inherently tend to stand out conspicuously, to invest them with the power to drag down the credibility of time tested ancient traditions is insanity.
But the question remains, “In today’s age, where can we find proficient spiritual coaches who can save the character-game for us?” The answer is simple: Seek and you shall find. One who is sincere, the Bhagavad Gita explains, is helped by the Supreme Lord. Radhanath Swami’s memoir, The Journey Home, is a brilliant read that boosts our faith in God’s help. In it Radhanath Swami shares with us his teenage quest for a guru: how he persevered with patience, and how he was lead to the guru he sought, by a power beyond his own. The adventures that accompany this quest make the book spine-chilling.
Has your search for a spiritual coach begun?