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Making the Buddha laugh

Making the Buddha laugh

Author: B K Modi
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 3, 2006
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1951368.cms

Introduction: Yesterday's information tycoon B K Modi recounts how he's making a transition from local Indian businessman to global Indian dream merchant riding a 2,500-year-old fascination for Buddha

I have been a student of Indian culture since my student days. Since then, I had been in search of a global identity. My search from being an Indian citizen to a global citizen has led me all over the world.

My quest for an identity first led me to Sanatan Dharm, and that was when I discovered Buddha, around 1986-87, some 10 years after my father died in 1976.

My search for a global identity also found expression in 25 joint ventures I signed up right from Australia through Asia and Europe to the US ever since I came into my own as a businessman.

Then, in 1989, I wrote a book on India and Hinduism where I propounded the view that India was poised to be a global leader by 2011 and bring peace to the world.

I have written several other books since then - Hinduism The Universal Truth, One God, Performance - A Manager's Challenge.

I propounded my theory of India as a global leader in India and Hinduism on the basis of Sri Aurobindo's bhavishya vani that in the 175th year after the birth of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa (who was born in 1836), India would have transited through the sandhi kaal and would herald the dawn of the spiritual or knowledge society.

That year is 2011. You can't discount Sri Aurobindo. If you look carefully, India's Independence Day coincides with his birthday.

Over the years, I have looked deeply into the philosophy of Rama, Vishnu, Shiva and Buddha and realised Buddha is the number one global Indian. He is the only Indian with a global connect.

C T Dhar, who was CEO at Modi Xerox has worked with me throughout on this journey. Over the years, I have done five international conferences on Buddhism where I have invited various spiritual leaders, including the Shankaracharyas, Sri Sri Ravishankar, the Dalai Lama, Vipasana acharya S N Goenka and many other spiritual heads.

Vipasana is a Buddhist technique of meditation where you reach a dissolved state in which you are there, but your body is not there even while you are sitting still for 12 to 14 hours.

In that state, your body dissolves and you can't feel anything, you see light holes all around you, which is a tremendous feeling. I meditate every day. But Vipasana is the first stage of Buddhism.

While going through this journey, I researched a lot on Buddha. His philosophy is not faith based. He does not ask you to believe in God. Buddha didn't talk of God. Initially, I found it a mystery.

Through his meditation technique Buddha went back to his 543 past births by going deep into himself and connected himself in his previous births as a tree, as a dog, as a thief, as a king.

All this made him realise the interconnectedness of the Universe. That is a very difficult exercise. It requires a lot of hard work and deep meditation. I am not ready for it.

I have gone back to when I was only a one-year-old and I realised I was the same person then as I am now. I realised the whole concept. And being a practical person, I liked it.

Later, my son Dilip got married in Buddhist style. Initially his wife Sonal did not like the idea. But I explained to her the philosophy - while Hindu marriage rests on the idea of kanyadaan, Buddhist marriage rests on the idea of samarpan.

That was when she agreed to willingly give herself away in the Buddhist style rather than have her parents make a donation of her.

The Gita has three paths for moksha. The first is bhakti yoga, the path followed by Ram, the second is karma yoga, Krishna's path and the third is gyan yoga, that is Buddha's path.

The Gita also says that gyan yoga is the best, but the most difficult path to follow. At the moment India is travelling on the bhakti yoga marg, but it is time to evolve to the karma yoga marg.

It's already happening in the wake of economic liberalisation. That is why you will see a lot of businessmen and politicians describing themselves as karma yogis.

Most industrialised and industrialising countries like the US and China are on the karma yoga marg. But we have not yet moved into the gyan yoga path. Gyan yoga is all about self-experience. It's the path of Buddha.

Once you are in the path of gyan yoga, you begin to understand where the eight-fold path comes in. I have deeply experienced this. I have no guru, but I have many gurus.

In 2000-01, just after the kumbh mela, I did a worldwide dharam prasar yatra across 40 countries, meeting up NRIs and people from different faiths and communities to understand the connection between Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.

At each of these places I would address gatherings of 2,000 to 10,000 people. Mohan Lal Mittal (L N Mittal's father) who was planning retirement from business, travelled all over the world with me, except for Africa. The bill ran in several million dollars, but most of the cost was sponsored by local NRI communities.

Following this, I took 400 people from India for the UN Millennium Peace Summit that was attended by 108 spiritual leaders. In September 2004, I got elected as the president of the Mahabodhi Society of India.

This has been my biggest achievement till date. We are working to making it the world's premier society for Buddhist and give it an Indian identity. Our purpose is to bring back the Buddhist leadership to India.

To do this we have identified to immediate tasks, firstly to make the Dalai Lama an Indian citizen. We have already started a campaign for this, and secondly, to set up a committee to restore peace in Sri Lanka by getting the Hindus and Buddhists together.

Once I became the president of the Mahabodhi Society, I got interested in spreading Buddhism. For this, I got involved in making a film on Buddha, for which I got introduced to Vietnamese Buddhist scholar Thich Nhat Hanh, the writer of Old Path White Clouds.

That was when I also realised that the only way to make a movie in Hollywood was to shift to Beverly Hills in March last year. There are so many people in Beverly Hills who call themselves JeBus, Jewish Buddhist.

That is because Beverly Hills has traditionally been a half Jewish bastion as the studios were controlled by the Jewish community. And many such Jews are now practising Buddhists.

There are many Buddhists in Hollywood like Richard Gere, Orlando Bloom. May be we will have a role for Richard Gere in the movie.

In my earlier involvement with a Buddha project in the late 80s and early 90s I was more in a supportive role. I was new to the business. But when I got seriously involved last year, I wanted the best Indian talent that understood Hollywood.

That is why I went to Shekhar Kapur and Deepak Chopra who knew the place. I would need an Ang Lee or Spielberg to do a movie of this scale. May be we will have something for Shekhar later.

In the US you cannot announce a movie until you have a legal contract in place that runs into 400-500 pages. We only had a four-page MoU with Shekhar Kapur and Deepak Chopra.

My attitude towards the world and business changed when my joint ventures were being taken over one-by-one by our foreign partners who wanted majority control in the wake of liberalisation. Now I have no equity interest in any of them.

I have sold out. That was when I realised that all these years I had been good at stitching up JVs, but I really did not have my own brand. And I wanted my own brand. That was when Spice was born, where I have majority control.

Spice stands for synchronised performance through information, communication and entertainment. We are today in all the three spaces. In the information space, we are in BPO, call centres, software centres and value-added services.

In communications, we are in mobile phone manufacturing and service operator business and in entertainment we are in retail, multiplexes, restaurants business.

We like to call ourselves knowledge people. If you look at the colours of Spice, they are the colours of Buddha - orange, violet, green, blue and gold.

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