At a young age after graduating from College in the US with top academic and athletic honors, Gautam Jain chose to give up lucrative corporate offers and instead dedicated his life to study, research and teaching of Vedanta, the ancient philosophy of India. We had a chance to catch up with Gautam about his background, this wisdom and its application to life, and an interesting event coming up in NYC on October 2:
Q: What inspired you to give up a chance at a successful corporate career and instead dedicate your life to Vedanta?
A: I came to the US as a 17 year old to study business and the goal was a plum position on Wall Street. My senior year in College, I had a number of attractive corporate offers. Around that time, I felt a need to pause and examine life before rushing into its next phase. Was there was more to life than a big house, nice cars and a swimming pool? Fortunately, through my mother I had access to my guru A. Parthasarathy (also known as Swamiji). He was able to clearly answer questions about life and its purpose. His approach was highly logical and practical. A refreshing view far removed from what people usually associate with philosophy and spirituality. That is when the decision was made to return to India to study Vedanta philosophy full-time at the Vedanta Academy founded by him.
Q: What is Vedanta and how does it apply in day to day living?
A: Before getting into that question it is important to understand a fundamental problem in our approach to life. In the words of Swami Parthasarathy: “Living is an art, a skill, a technique. One needs to learn and practice it as one would a musical instrument or a sport”. Humanity does not understand this, and considers living as something that comes naturally without practice. Subsequently, this technique is not taught in schools or universities, in homes, nowhere. The result is a lot of stress and strain in life ultimately manifesting as depression, addiction, divorce etc. — a mechanical, agitated life bereft of inquiry and reason.
The word Vedanta is derived from two words ‘Veda‘ – Knowledge, and ‘Anta’ – End. It means the end of knowledge. This ancient philosophy presents the eternal principles of life and living. Enables a life of mental peace combined with dynamic action in the world. Equips one with clarity of intellect to deal with the challenges of life. Thus, it is a practical knowledge meant for everyday living. Most people believe Vedanta is a philosophy meant for people who are in the forest. Or those who have retired from active life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Q: Can you tell us more about your teacher and mentor?
A: Swami Parthasarathy is a world renowned philosopher, best-selling author and speaker and founder of the Vedanta Academy. He has pioneered the translation of ancient philosophical wisdom into practical knowledge meant for day to day living, both personal and professional. Time Magazine refers to him as “A man who adds new meaning to the phrase Business Guru” Even today, at the age of 90, he tirelessly travels the world teaching this knowledge as well as runs the Vedanta academy in India. During his lecture tour of South Africa last month, he was playing cricket alongside players less than a third of his age! Check out this CNBC Interview with Swami Parthasarathy on Vedanta in practical life.
Q: What are some different ways that Vedanta can be practiced in a contemporary day-to-day life? And at the workplace?
A: If you look at the world today, people are either peaceful or productive, never both. With Vedanta you develop a strong intellect, which alone can keep the emotions of the mind under control. A controlled mind is a peaceful, happy mind. A peaceful mind can concentrate, and with concentration comes productivity, success. Thus, Vedanta provides the technique for remaining peaceful within and yet dynamic, productive in the world. When you don’t work on developing your intellect, the mind goes out of control. You become stressed, agitated. An agitated mind cannot concentrate. Without concentration you cannot succeed. A simple example is professional sport. In crucial situations, even the best players make elementary mistakes and lose matches to players and teams far below their level. All because they have no control over the worry and anxiety to win. Their emotions overpower them, victimize them. The same goes for people in all walks of life. So in effect, if you control your mind, you control your life. You can see me speaking to a Wall Street audience on the topic here.
Q: Could you tell us about the event coming up on October 2 in NYC?
A: Swamiji is shortly visiting the US for a seminar in NYC’s exclusive University Club on how to “Optimize Business Minimize Stress.” This is a formal business seminar and dinner with an exclusive corporate gathering. For more on the event, please visit here. You can hear Swamiji speak on the topic here. He will also be speaking at a public lecture series titled “You get what you deserve, not what you desire.” His daughter disciple Sunandaji will also be addressing this series.
Gautam Jain is currently based in New Jersey, and runs the Vedanta Cultural Foundation. For more information on Gautam, including a profile, video clips, and TV interviews, please visit here: https://www.vedantausa.org/teacher.html For more information on upcoming events, please visit here: https://www.vedantausa.org.