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Billing business as

‘sacred pursuit’

Why is the Oneness Movement being branded as 'the fastest growing' spiritual kid on the block, wonders Vithal C Nadkarni ?

From The Economic Times 2 Feb 2008 by Vithal C Nadkarni

For a country like India , the search for spirituality is hardly new. But when movers-and-shakers, bankers and businessmen from around the world, including a Grammy-award-winning pop singer like Noel Schajris (of Sin Bandera) and Bollywood diva Manisha Koirala, begin to swear by something called Oneness Blessing, you become curious.

Of course, captains of industry running after ‘captains of soul’ aren’t new either. Remember the merchant banker from ancient Magadha , Anathapindika? To please the Buddha, he supposedly bought Jethvana Park by paying as much cash as needed to carpet the vast acreage with gold coins!

In our own times, we've had the Beatles jumping onto Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s TM bandwagon. And celebs like Sting and Madonna going gaga over yoga. Does that make the Oneness Movement the latest spiritual flavour of the month? More pertinent, why is it being called what the California-based aficionado of awakening, Arjuna Ardagh, describes as “the fastest-growing spiritual development in living memory” in his paean to the movement Awakening into Oneness? 

The answer depends on who you are, and where you come from. As Jagdish Capoor, chairman, HDFC Bank, says, “All of us endeavour to approach the Ultimate Truth. But what matters is the way one approaches it. That's where the guidance provided at Oneness helps."

What this does not stand for is an eclectic, do-it-yourself sort of spirituality. For one basic tenet of the movement is that enlightenment cannot be "obtained". In an earlier interview, Sri Bhagawan, who founded the Oneness Movement with his spouse Sri Amma, back in the 1980s in South India , says, "Buddha advocated self-effort, whereas we advocate the opposite. We ask you do nothing."

For some that may evoke visions of mind control and loss of free will. "(However) almost every spiritual tradition has recognised that surrender to divine will, or to a wise guide, may be a saner way to live," assures Ardagh. "`Wash me clean of myself’ says Rumi. `Not my will, but Thy will be done’ says St Thomas Aquinas.”

Says Samadarshiniji, director, Oneness UniverCity, "Oneness is not a cult or a faith that demands any conversion or change in one's beliefs or practices; It's a system that helps you discover the truth of your own faith through a direct personal experience. To quote Sri Bhagawan and Sri Amma: ‘Belief binds. Experience liberates’." That may explain its growing popularity.

For 20 years, soft skills trainer Meera Kotak had been doing Vipassana, Yoga, Reiki and even conducted therapy using past-life memories, hypnotherapy and kinesiology. For all her effort, she could not jettison feelings of being unwanted, unloved and unworthy until she had the Oneness experience. "I feel truly alive, for the first time," she enthuses. "On day two of my first programme at Oneness, I suddenly understood and accepted my parents’ love for me — it was as if a huge iceberg had melted...

During training programmes throughout India , we meet thousands of individuals," Kotak, who is COO of Energy Centre, adds. "But rarely do we meet people with high self-esteem. We make this the focus of our workshops, since it plays such a crucial role in personal and professional success. At a time when we are growing very fast in our global presence, it is important that we learn to be service-oriented and not servile, self-respecting and not grovelling for respect from clients," she elaborates.

This can truly happen "when we are able to love and respect ourselves," adds Attluri Subba Rao, president of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FAPCCI), talking about "Himalayan tranquility" coupled with "firmness with human touch", which has come from what he calls transformative experience of the Oneness deeksha.

The most common effects of Oneness range from reduced mental chatter and heightened awareness to effortless peace and cessation of unwanted habits, says V R Ramesh, MD, DORMA India. And Anil Mathur, COO of the furniture division of Godrej & Boyce, believes that his own experience of the Oneness deeksha may have had a ‘ripple effect’ on the efficiency of his entire division!

"I know this will be hard to explain to the rest of the world," concedes Jitendra Mohanty, owner of Orissa-based Swasti Group. "But my own experience is that the transfer of positive energy though at the individual level, goes on to help society and business at large."

In the final analysis, business itself can be a sacred pursuit, which in no way is at odds with spiritual life, explains Sri Bhagawan. "Prosperity and poverty are dependent on the mindset of the individual. If your thinking is defective, it will result in failure and disorder.

People who worship poverty and have a wrong understanding of detachment ruin their lives. (But) to create wealth and to succeed, by itself, is a spiritual sadhana, given it needs a focused mind, creativity, and hard work."