Speaker: Kiran Khalap

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Guest: Kiran Khalap

Host/Moderator: Rohit Rajgarhia

Rohit: Good morning and good evening. My name is Rohit, and I will be your host for today's Awakin Talk. Welcome! And thank you for joining us. This is a space where we hold conversations with individuals whose inner journey inspires us, and whose work is transforming our world, in large and small ways. It is an all-volunteer-run offering of ServiceSpace, a global platform founded on the simple principle that by changing ourselves, we change the world. Today, the theme which we want to explore is business, creativity and spirituality with Kiran Khalap. We will start with a minute of silence to anchor ourselves in the present moment and we'll take the proceedings forward after that. So just a minute of silence. Thank you.

Thank you again. I would like to start by introducing Drishti who will kick us off with her offering of a song. Drishti is a third year student of MBBS and a volunteer with ServiceSpace. And since the theme today is creativity and creation, I would also like to point out that she is a wonderful artist or should I say "heArtist" herself?

Drishti was telling us a beautiful story a couple of days ago. One day, she was walking to reach the Metro, and she saw a small street artist on the side of the road who was looking a little bit distraught. She wanted to connect with him, and she wanted to offer some money to help him, but she realized that she did not have any money. The only things which she had in her pocket were the Metro card and a handmade doodle. So, she gave that doodle to that artist. And he was really touched and wanted to offer a painting in return. She thought that I cannot take this painting from him because I wanted to offer him something. But his act and his smile made her day as well. So thank you, Drishti, for being an amazing part of connecting and uniting (as Kiran would say) everywhere you go, and over to you!

[Drishti offers a song -- Aakash Ganga]

Kiran: Lovely! Thank you, Drishti.

Rohit: Thank you, Drishti, for that very moving prayer, reminding us of no boundaries. And that is the theme which we want to explore today, along with many other things. And I am very delighted to have a very special guest, Kiran Khalap, on call with us. And it's very hard to do any justice to explain or try to tell a little bit about Kiran Khalap because of the multi-faceted life experiences and journeys that he has been through.

But just to try a little -- since 1999, Kiran has been cofounder of a reputed brand consulting company called Chlorophyll.  It is a model company in many ways,  in terms of,  leading with values, leading with no boundaries and also for redefining professional competence. Before that, a very interesting thing about Kiran is that: at 17, when most of us are busy thinking about our career or the  next fun trip, the most important thing for him was to understand -- what is the Truth? And that quest for truth led him on a very interesting and unique journey,  which we will talk about a little more today. So, he's a cofounder and one of the most respected branding professionals, a rock climber, which is something quite unique, an author of three books and on top of all those roles, he has another "life job", which is to dissolve the self.

Thanks a lot, Kiran, for joining us, we are extremely delighted and humbled to have you today. And, and I think I would just close by saying that despite all of this, what really stands out to us, to me about Kiran is not his achievements, but his humility, the poise, and the feeling of joy and friendship, with which he holds all of this. Furthermore, he has a keen intention and willingness to be a student of life at every moment, which inspires us all. Thank you, Kiran!

Kiran: Thank you for having me!

Rohit: Here's how this call will flow -- I will interview Kiran for the next 50 minutes or so and then open it up for questions from the audience. You may post your questions, comments, or reflections for Kiran through the chat form, which is on the live stream page, wherever you're viewing this conversation.

Kiran: Questions which may or may not be answered satisfactorily!

Rohit: Yes! Thank you for bringing that spirit of not knowing and exploration to this, because it is so refreshing, Kiran! With that, I would like to jump into one of the questions, which is most alive for me after reading and listening and hearing a bit about you. 

You have a full time job, which you call as your day job, but you say your life job is dissolving the self. And that is not something I've heard many CEOs or professionals speak -- that their life job is to dissolve the self! So, how do we get to even understand what that means? What are some key metrics through which you measure progress towards this idea of dissolving the self?

Kiran: Yes. You, you can't consciously dissolve yourself. It's a very difficult thing. So what I say is that, every human being's responsibility is conscious evolution, right? So, evolution happens at its own pace. I don't know if you remember when Charles Darwin mooted the idea, he came upon it because at that time, geologists started talking about glacial evolution; how glaciers move over eons. And that inspired Darwin to think that evolution also happens over time. All our jaws, for instance, for the last, let's say 1,000 years, the size of the jaws of human beings has grown smaller because we don't eat raw food. We don't chew as well as we used to do a thousand years ago. And that's unconscious evolution happening over time. My belief for myself is that, as a human being, the greatest responsibility I have is to have conscious evolution. So I must find ways and means of finding out what is the next level of consciousness.

Now, if that involves, if that leads to dissolving the self, so be it. But the starting point is --  I'm not saying I'm going to sit every morning and dissolve myself, because it doesn't sound, it doesn’t mean much, but yes, the life job is conscious evolution. So it must be faster than organic evolution. That is the responsibility of each human being. That's the way I look at it.

Rohit: Beautiful. Thank you. Amazing. And which brings me to the question about your early years, Kiran, that we have heard you say that,  in the beginning, in the early years, in your teen years, you had a very strong quest for truth. And that led you to various unique expeditions. Can you please talk a little bit about that?

Kiran: Yeah. I think if we wanted to go to the really early years I was born in half a room. So there were two couples sharing a 500 square foot room. And my parents were on the side where there was a window and there was light coming in from there. That's how I got my name Kiran. Right?! Because there was light coming from there. So that is the really early years, in one beautiful place called Khetwadi in Mumbai. 

This journey -- as I said, I had a cousin working in the Mumbai university library, so I used to take all the books from there. Upanishads, Sartre and all of those things. And it was not making sense. I presume at 17, this is too heavy! I read “A Critique of Pure Reason” by Immanuel Kant. I mean, I read it and I understood the English, but I understood nothing. Right?! 

Until I read J Krishnamurti. There was this one book called “Talks and dialogues with J Krishnamurti”. I don't think it's available now. And suddenly it was like a light going on inside my head. There was this -- for the first time there was this understanding that there is an awareness within us, which is different from the constant flow of thought, that we normally experience. So this entire notion of the monkey mind, that the monkey mind can be watched, you can be aware of that, that single division, that single separation was the thing that changed everything.

I was meant to become a doctor like all middle class children are meant to become either doctors or engineers. But then I told my father that I have to repay this gentleman for what he's done. He's changed my life. And he believes that if you had to change society, you had to change education. And I believe that too. And therefore I'm going to go and help his cause. 

So I wrote a letter to do the address that was behind that book. This was published in the US. So it went all the way to the US and because they were conscientious enough, they sent it back to Chennai headquarters. They wrote to me and asked me to go and meet Pupul Jayakar, who was the vice-president. She was in Mumbai. She was --  I don't know if you know that she was Indira Gandhi’s confidant and, and the person who started the handloom revolution in India. So she was kind enough. She said, “Kiran, don't go now. Finish your graduation. God knows what life will bring. So finish your graduation. And then go.” So I ended up going after I finished my graduation.

On the day that I finished my chemistry, practicals, I got onto a train. I didn't even know where this place was. And I still remember my poor father standing on the railway platform saying, “How long will you be gone?” I said, “I don't know.” “What will you teach?” “I don't know.” “How much are they going to pay you?” “I don't know.” And all I knew was -- I had a friend whose father used to be in the railways and he told me that if you catch this train and if you get off at Mughalsarai one and a half days later, from there, you’ll get a rickshaw for two rupees and you’ll reach Rajghat. So that's how I landed up, trying to help J Krishnamurti’s idea of changing the world.

Rohit: Wonderful. Thank you. And Kiran, so when you went to the school founded by J Krishnamurti, how were those four years over there? How did you receive and process JK from reading the book first, reading him from a few books, and then seeing some of his principles in action? And also you had the opportunity to meet and spend time with J Krishnamurti personally also, a few times.

So how did you process this entire thing? The person, as well as his “teachings”. What changes were brought about in you in those four years? 

Kiran: Yeah, it might sound strange, but I really wasn't interested in meeting him. Right. Because he himself had said that you read the book, I've shown you the path and you have to walk. You have to walk through the door yourself is what he used to say.

I didn't have any sense that if I spent time with him, it would change me. My entire belief was that I have to change myself. So I really didn't force myself to spend time with him, because he used to walk fast. I was 21, 20-21. So as a millennial, I ended up walking with him because others may not be able to keep pace. Or there were times when we would have breakfast or lunch or dinner with him, but otherwise I have no great desire to spend time with him and therefore be blessed or, you know, the word is ‘received grace’. 

I really wasn't trying for that. So finally I was forced. They said, “No, no, you have to sit with him.” So I had a 15 minute meeting and he said, “What do you want to know?” And I said, “Actually, I don't have any questions. I was asked to come and sit here.” And he said, “Okay. Then let's just sit here, touching hands.” And we sat there, touching hands. It was a beautiful... I still remember that moment -- light coming in from my left, his right. This was in Rishi Valley. And then he said,  “So if you don't mind, I have a question for you.” And I said, “What is it?” He said, “Will you be a teacher all your life?” And I had to be frank. And I said, “Sir, I really don't know.” That was the end of that meeting.  

The place -- one of the things that used to happen is quite a few people, youngsters used to come to the school, in the hope that the environment would change them. And they would be really disappointed, and most of them would leave after six months. In the first two weeks, I had processed it, as you see. I didn't think the place was any different from the rest of the world. 

The same thing that we hold, whether it is -- yes, it was less competitive; it was far more relaxed, because part of the philosophy of the schools is no exams till class seven or eight. No competition. You do not celebrate winning as much as doing things well. So it was less competitive. But as human beings go, it was the same. There were people who would be getting angry or, you know, being nasty to others, or gossiping. It was the same. There wasn’t any difference. So in the first two weeks itself -- I used to keep a diary then. And I wrote in that, that ‘There is actually no difference between this place and the rest of the world.’ But that didn't bother me. I hadn't gone there to evaluate that place. I had 4 years of magic, because I was bursting, literally bursting with energy. I was in such peak physical form. I could, in those days, stand upside down on my fingers and do push ups. That was the level of fitness I had. 

And whatever I knew, I taught the students. I had done calligraphy, so I taught them cursive handwriting.  And the school is based in a fort. It is the Rajghat fort. So there are places there with little walls, so I took people for rock climbing. I had done gymnastics, so I taught young girls gymnastics. I had  learned judo, so I taught judo.

This school had two projectors, 16 mm projectors, and I discovered that most of the embassies in Delhi give films free to schools. So, it was, at least one film every two weeks. And the children are having a ball, they have never seen or watched so many films. Swimming, if you know this side -- and remember that the campus is extraordinarily beautiful. It has two rivers. There is the Ganga, which is a kilometre wide and there is the Varuna. And the part of the Ganga, which is next to the campus, is dirty, because that's where the sewage pipe flows in from the city. But the other side of the Ganga was clean and that is where I used to take the children for a swim. So it was four years of absolute magic. I mean, everything that I knew, I shared it!

Rohit: Wow, amazing. And I hear you, and it makes me more curious, Kiran, that you're saying that it does not have much to do with the space. That the space itself will not guarantee any change or transformation in you. So, I'm also curious that, in these four years, you spent there as a teacher, what is the one core thing, which, perhaps, you learnt about being a teacher? Because especially when we are concerned about values education,  like everyone is trying to do this, but systemically, we have seen that most of the time, schools are not being able to do a great job there.  

Like, for example, there was another speaker, Venkat (Krishnan), who came on our call, a few days ago.  And he said that as far as educating the intellect is concerned, educating the mind is concerned , I think,  schools are doing a good job. But educating for values or educating for heart, there's just very little competence in terms of schools. So, what is one thing about the role of a teacher, which you could distil and give us,  from your experience there?

Kiran: Perhaps I didn't see myself in a role. I was just being myself. So, I would say if you're looking at values, the biggest way to teach those values would be for you to practice them. If you're saying, being nasty or being disrespectful to children is not right, punishing them is not right. If you do it yourself, that is the biggest way to inculcate those values. 

And I look at the greatest influence in my life and it has been  my father. In the sixties, my sister told me this about two years ago, in the sixties, he used to give  my mother an honorarium, a kind of salary, saying this money is yours and only for you, because you work so hard. Now that is a value that is being practiced, as far as I am concerned, that everybody is equal. It's something that I got from there. Very simple things, he would do very simple things. That education is empowerment, and at the cost of us not getting new books, he would buy books for everybody in the family, the joint family, connected family, and  anybody who asked for it. To me, it’s the same, education is  empowerment. So anybody who's in touch with me, my driver, the ladies who work with us, the house help, have all their children's education paid for, because that's the value I've inherited. So, to me, the value is demonstrated rather than being talked about.

And there was one interesting thing because J Krishnamurthi used to have these dialogues about what is fear and what is it all about. And when I ended up there, there was another gentleman who took me under his wing. He was a fine gentleman, now he is no more,  Rajesh Tal And he was very fond of having these discussions with the children about what is fear, and I was uneasy with that. I said, this is all conceptual, right? All this  -- what are you discussing on what is fear? Let me show you what fear is. So I went to the Banaras Hindu University. And I said, do you have a mountaineering club over here? And they said yes. I said, “Do you mind coming to my campus?'' And the campus had these buildings with chimneys attached. These were all buildings, built for engineers to stay, when they were building the huge bridge across the river. It's one of the oldest bridges, I think, it’s at least 150 years old and still needs no maintenance . So I got them and I made the children rappel from that  chimney, and in the middle of the rappelling, I said, “Now do you  experience fear? Do you understand what it is? Try and see what it is. What is happening? Why are you so scared when you know that the rope is holding you?” 

So to me, that’s another theme    that would be part of everything that I do -- living with concepts is like living a second-hand life. It's concepts -- they are not reality. So when you think about a concept like society, in Hindi films, you see people say “Ye mat karo, log kya kahenge?” (Don’t do this. What will people say?) Now my question is who is this log (people)? Will  anyone show me?  Then somebody says society will be against it. I say who is this society? Show me. It will finally boil down to, at most, one Chacha  or Mama (an uncle) or somebody, who is going to make these negative comments. 

This happened to me. So, when I finally went to a residential school, most of my relatives, on my mother's side, they had this notion that I have become a Padre, because to them, residential school means convent school, which  means  Christianity. So they asked my dad, do you think he's going to come home for Diwali and he asked why? And they said, “No, because Christians don't celebrate Diwali. He will come home for Christmas.” So that is society. Let's say just one Mama or one Chacha. Otherwise, society is a concept. So, there is this constant thing about what the concept is.

So if you're talking about values, then values are best demonstrated, like my father demonstrated his   respect for my mother. Therefore, I would demonstrate respect for everybody. For instance in chlorophyll, we write chlorophyll in lower case. We never write it in capital letters, because we say that we are different professionally. Of course, I'm not at the same professional level as somebody who has just joined us. But as human beings, we are absolutely at the same level.  Everybody's potential for whatever life has to offer, is exactly the same. The need to respect each other is exactly the same. The need for freedom is exactly the same. There is no office for the past six months, nobody has been coming to the office, but otherwise people would decide what time they would arrive and what time they would leave.

So that's another theme that has been part of my life, which is growth through responsibility. So when you asked me what happened in those four years -- that was the important lesson that I learned, that you don't have to outsource growth to your parents or to your company.  Your growth is your responsibility, you have to take greater responsibility.  Actually, responsibility that is disproportionate to your station, might actually create faster growth. Even in my professional life, I've had the fortune of meeting so many people who did exactly that, whether it was Alyqee Padamsee or Usha Bhandarkar or Kersy Katrak -- these were legends and all they did was give responsibility, which was disproportionate to my experience, and that is how I grew.

Rohit: Beautiful. So, what I'm hearing is that practice the values first, before you try to teach, and also try to deepen in the values through conscious evolution. And thanks for bringing chlorophyll up. We have been very amazed by reading some of the experiments and the values with which you have led chlorophyll till now. You mentioned about chlorophyll being spelled out in lower case characters.  

Another thing which quite intrigued me was that one of the design principles you follow at chlorophyll, is one of the organizing principles at chlorophyll is not to attract attention to yourself. It seems quite paradoxical given that it's a branding company. You've said that, for ten years, you operated without any designations and from the outside, and we have glimpses of so many stories. 

So this is all the experiments that you are doing at an internal design level and the employees level. On the client's level, we have heard stories about how you always... In fact, it was one of the comments -- I must tell our audience that one of the things which really stood out to me about Kiran's work at chlorophyll is that, it is a for profit organization, but the kind of respect and community, it has for all the employees... It is, perhaps, the only for-profit company for sure, where  I have personally seen that there is a section, a dedicated section to even talk about all the past employees,  who have been there.  So that sense of family and community has just remained strong, and that continues to be there. 

Like whoever we talk to, we spoke to Swati and she was like, “Oh, Kiran is like family first and then everything else later.” So, it is amazing that there's a lot which we can learn from the way you have organized chlorophyll. So, can you talk a little bit more, Kiran, about that? What you're doing at the employee's level, at the level of clients how you're taking decisions, and how does all of that intermingle with ultimately the metric which starts constraining most of us in business, as we engage in business, which is your net profit  -- so how is all of that is panning out?

Kiran: So again, I don’t know whether it even sounds true for you, but I have never had a plan. I have never had a plan in my life. I have a plan, if I'm doing work, I have a plan that in the next five minutes I have to do this research; in the next 10 minutes, I have to do that  research and so on. But I've never had a plan to say that by so-and-so year, we would have expanded to five nations, we would become so big -- we never had a plan like that. 

Though I must admit that now I have a sense that we must do something to increase the profits -- not because I need money, but I think we have grown from 10 to 20, and now we are 30. And I think I owe it to my community to invest in them. So there are some years when we had enough to send one of my colleagues to Sydney to learn more. That's the way -- I myself  had gone to Sydney for a few months to study things and that's what I did for design. So now I must be able to afford continuous education for them. So I must admit that now there is a slightly greater shift to making sure that we remain independent. We are probably the last, independent consultancy of our size in the country. Most of them, now, have become part of international chains. Now I have this deep understanding that if I have to remain independent, then, I must have enough money in the banks. This Covid has taught us something like that. You  normally thought that if you had enough money in the bank to last for the next six months, it was enough, but now this is probably going to last for a year and a half. So there is a greater recognition that I need to pay greater attention, to make enough profits to secure our future. 

But the way it is run is an extension of my beliefs, right? So if we are saying we are all equal as human beings, then why do you need to have a cabin? So we all sit in the same way -- the  tables are the same. You won't know who is the CEO, who's the MD. It's all on the same level -- there are no cabins in the office. Like you decide when you want to come and you can decide when you want to leave. So, the theme that I mentioned earlier -- growth is through responsibility. So my attempt has been to give greater and greater responsibility to the people in the company. 

And that is how the chlorophyll innovation lab started. There was this youngster, Chitresh Sinha, who hunted chlorophyll out. He was an engineer and he wanted to work with us. He studied us for so long and said, no, I have to work with you. And after having worked for eight, nine years, he said, “Kiran, I want to do something on my own.” I said, sure. I mean, it's so beautiful. That's exactly what I want -- that from chlorophyll will come out many other mini chlorophylls -- that would be a confirmation of growth through responsibility.

Those are the themes that run. We used to have this little question. Is it a community or a family? I said, “Let's stick to community because families, you normally don't leave. I want y'all to have freedom. And if you want to leave, you can. So it's a community.” Yes. So we still have a WhatsApp community of ex-chlorophyll. And like everybody says that you can leave chlorophyll, but chlorophyll will not leave you. 


So, I've had many, many touching moments. There was one girl called Jinesha. She was in Nepal or Sikkim or somewhere there. She had made a video for our birthday, our birthday is on 15th August, and she sat in one tiny cubicle over there for two hours trying to send that video to us, over the internet. So that's the spirit that is still there!


Rohit: And Kiran, are there any stories which you feel called to share, which you can share with our community right now that especially -- you value equality a lot, that all human beings are equal. And, so basically any story where you have observed a  sort of inherent tension or conflict between profits or like winning clients (which is something which we all have experienced in business) versus sticking to the values which matter to you the most?


Kiran: Yeah. So the values would come first, even if I'm making a loss. When I do my induction, one of the things I tell them about is the value of being independent. And we have remained independent because we want self respect. Self respect is our first value. 


We must be probably one of the few, or a handful of consultancies that have sacked really, really big clients because they disrespected us. These were, I don't want to name the names, but these are easily the biggest companies in India. So there are at least four of them that we have parted company with saying -- it's fine if that is the way you work, but that is not the way we work. You can't treat our people like this. You can't treat me like this. You can't treat my people like this. And there, there was complete clarity. There was no question that by giving this up, you're going to lose revenue. That is fine! Yeah. Then my responsibility is to find that revenue from elsewhere. Right? So, we have not compromised on that.


Rohit: Yeah. That is amazing. And even more amazing is what you're saying is that it was very clear. It was not like where you have to think a lot, on should I do, should I not do it, it was very clear, the guidance was very clear.


Kiran: Absolutely. Even with the employees, the only employees I have asked to leave, and I don't get angry or shout at them. I said, no, you cannot treat another employee like this. It's just not part of us. So the only employees who I have let go or asked to let go are people who are violent or disrespectful of others.


Rohit: Beautiful. I just want to remind our listeners that they can submit their questions and reflections. I think we have already seen a few questions coming in interesting questions through the comments section in the livestream page, and we'll continue, Kiran. 


So, Kiran, now I want to get into this question of the work -- the branding. I'm not a branding expert, but,  a little bit of it, it seems that it is in the marketing side of things. And I want to ask this question: how do you -- so you talk about branding and the way I understand marketing is  that it is about building a perception about a product or a service or an idea. And on the other hand, to the extent I understand spirituality or dissolving the self, it is about removing all the layers of perception. So do you see that there is an inherent tension between the two and how are you able to hold that tension together?


Kiran: So Rohit, it was like that. It was about perception management till around 2005, in the rest of the world, till about 2011 in India. That's when social media happened. One of the outcomes of social media is that most companies are now naked. You can't hide! So you can fool people a little, for a little while, and then the truth comes out. 


Hindustan Unilever for 15 years denied that they had caused mercury poisoning in Coimbatore. And 15 years later, they had to settle. They had to go for a settlement with them. So that is because of social media. That is because social media democratizes communication. Earlier it was one way. The brand could speak to the consumer and the consumer wouldn’t talk back. Now you have a separate community called the online community or the peer group, where everybody is able to speak to everybody else, and therefore you just can't hide. 


You take a company like Nike, or like Proctor and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble in 2012 said that what we stand for, what the company stands for, not what their brands stand for, not Crest or Pampers or Gillette, what the company stands for is they are proud sponsors of moms. Right? And all the athletes, American athletes that went to the London Olympics in 2012, they took their moms with them. Right? And they stood out. Now while all of this seems very nice, what on social media was happening is that yes, this might all be true, but you are not paying your employees equally in the UK. The women get 34% less than the men. So how is this, how are both of these working together? Right? 


So social media is forcing you to become more and more truthful, and the brand is unable to manage perception. Perception is closer and closer to the truth of the company, because everybody is able to speak about everybody else. If you see a place or a platform called glassdoor.com.


Rohit: Mmm Hmm.


Kiran: Your own employees are going and posting about your company. How will you hide? How will you create perception when your own employees are talking about you, right? If you look at PETA,  Hindustan Lever used to test Lipton tea on animals, I don't know why it was done. They must have had a good reason. They used to test it on rabbits, I think. PETA made them, through Facebook, they created a huge campaign. And finally, the chairman came onto Facebook and said -- I'm stopping this, not just in India but in the rest of the world as well. So there is not too much flex available to tell lies, to create perceptions when it is different from reality. Yeah...


Rohit: Thanks, Kiran. That's very useful. And to build upon that, actually the question which I want to ask is -- I hear you, that it is more difficult to lie in the age of social media, but I think what I'm more interested in is the idea of narratives. I think there's a very strong narrative out there, that the more we consume, the happier we are. And it's all feeding us. You have said that -- you yourself have said that the human mind is the most expensive real estate and there are like hundreds and thousands of advertisements, which we are being subjected to,  consciously or unconsciously, on a daily basis. Right? 


And, it is also said that, you know, tech or any tool is an amplifier of human intent, but what is the overall narrative we are setting? And what is the intent, which is being amplified through this communication is a question worth asking. For example, you know, I love this quote by Reid Hoffman, who's the founder of LinkedIn. He said that all social media is designed to actually exploit and amplify the seven deadly sins.  


So what is the narrative which we are feeding on -- in which narrative we are operating in, is the question I'm interested in asking you. Yes, with facts -- it is more and more difficult to not do facts, to not play your facts right. But what is the overall narrative --  because that's also an inter-subjective reality, as Yuval (Harari) says, that it is all something which is in our minds, that external resources…. And we have seen that there's so many challenges with the external growth mindset and the inequality, which it is creating.


Kiran: So I wanted to start with this story. I'll start telling the story now. Yeah. I think class seven hindi textbook -- God created earth and he created various species and then finally he created human beings. And then a month later, or a year later, he called one of his assistants and said, listen, I have created this species called human beings. Go down and find out what percentage of them are happy. So that fellow went there and did some quantitative and qualitative research and came back. Then God had called another assistant and said, listen, I've created these species called human beings, so go down and find out what percentage of them are unhappy. First one was going to find out who are happy, so this fellow went and did qualitative and quantitative research and came back. 


So the first guy came and said -- Mr. God sir, 90% are happy. Now the other person came back after the research and said -- Mr. God sir, 90% are unhappy. So you will find what you're looking for. If you are looking for the negative effects of social media, you will find it. If you are looking for the positive side of social media, you will find them too.


Education has been revolutionized by social media, right? People are teaching music, dance, English, languages, Spanish, through social media and Skype. Skype is a channel, not as much as social media. So those are the positive effects. The negative effects are, you will believe that the elections are being doctored. So I don't think there is one single narrative in charge and driving it. It is like atomic fission -- whether you use it for good, or you use it to destroy Hiroshima or Nagasaki, is left to us. 


But as far as -- if you look at this earlier concept, that the brand is creating a narrative, which is asking you to consume more, that is no longer valid. Because people are making their own decisions and not listening to brands. Brands themselves are changing dramatically. I don't know if you know of this brand called Patagonia. Patagonia says reduce, reuse, recycle. And if you go to them 15 years later, they will recycle what you wear. Their famous ad is: “don't buy this jacket” because they're saying you don't need it. You don't need a new jacket, unless your only one is completely tattered, don't do that. 


A brand as big as Adidas is tying up with the competitor called Allbirds and it's creating the world's lowest carbon footprint shoe, because we are 7.5 billion, but we are using 24 billion shoes every year. Which is all I'm going into landfills on the ocean and we need to find a way of reducing this. There is a greater and greater consciousness that brands and companies are not outside society, that all of them are as responsible for the Earth's health as governments are and as citizens are.


Rohit: Yeah, but at the same time, Kiran, one of the questions... That's beautiful -- that all these brands... And I don't think, it's perhaps not an individual brand that I'm asking about, but collectively, as we operate in interconnected systems that -- as you're talking about conscious evolution, you have a human being, a vulnerable human being on one side; and on the other side, you have organizations with a lot of organizing power, with a lot of big data. 


And I love it -- when again, going back to (Yuval Noah) Harari, who said that "know thyself" is something which all the saints have always told us. But in these times, today, it is becoming a very practical risk! That unless you know yourself well, there are chances that people with a lot of systemic power, be it private or government will know us -- it is very easy for them to know us better. And Google has actually said that, you know, we know you better than your spouse, perhaps we know you better than yourself. So it is very easy to exploit those vulnerabilities. So how do you see that playing out?


Kiran: Yes, there will be segments of society, which will be vulnerable. That is true. But again, at a universal level, whether that is true, I do not know. You and I may be more conscious of that and therefore it can build barriers to being exploited. But yes, there will be segments of society which can get exploited. 

So again, I'm saying you can look for the negatives, or you can look for the positives. I have a presentation called 'before Jio and after Jio'. And if you look at 'after Jio', the empowerment of Bharat or India-2 -- it's exhilarating. It is just unbelievable, the kind of growth and the kind of empowerment that that digitalization has created for the poor in this country. From being 1/20th in the consumption of data to being number one in the consumption of data, because data is so cheap.

For every single brand that we work on, we do the research, right? Primary research, not secondary. I was in this place called Bargarh, which is in Orissa. I was doing research on farming.  I stayed in this village that has 240 families. And everything that had changed in their circumstances was related to what the mobile phone was doing for them. You have farmer WhatsApp groups, which warned them about fake chemicals. They had farmers WhatsApp groups, which taught them new methods like hydroponics. That is the positive side of it. Will that same medium, the same digital medium exploit that farmer? Yes. 

But it is also doing this positive thing for education. So there is a view that India has been revolutionized, Bharat or India-2 has been revolutionized by the three Vs -- voice, vernacular and video. So rather than type something and spend time, a Ola or Uber driver is able to speak to us. I mention that, as that is the positive side of it...

Rohit: Yeah... And one more question, which came in from one of our volunteers, Kiran, is that, as an expert in marketing  and an expert in branding, how would you think about branding a good or a service, marketing a good or a service, versus, marketing an innate timeless human value, say like compassion?

Kiran: So we work for, I personally work for at least four different NGOs, right? I work for Arpan. I work for Protsahan, I work for a differently-abled group called 'Together', and we do work for the Sadhu Vaswani mission, the KK Eye institute. So that is what chlorophyll does, but I have worked for all these organizations. So that is the marketing of good. Right? How do we create awareness for these unique organizations? That is one part of it. 

So can the skills that are involved in marketing be used for the good of society? Yes! That is the way I look at it. That is the way I'm helping these people -- to understand how to create greater awareness, because most of them are shy. They have this great passion to do something for the world. 

So Protsahan does this work for -- they use art to heal abused,  adolescent girls, right? Now, it uses photography etc. And they feel shy talking about themselves, because it looks like projection. It's what you were saying. It looks like you're creating this false narrative. And my answer to them is -- but don't you want to help more of such girls? And the only way you can help more girls is if you tell your stories -- your true story to more people. So that again, as I said, are you looking at the positive side of branding or are you looking at the possibility that some brands may exploit some segments of society?

Rohit: Beautiful. We're talking about social work. So I just wanted to also presence that Kiran has been doing a lot on the fringes also, which he does not talk about. Like, for example, he and his wife together, his wife more so, have worked a lot on restoring dignity and supporting the Indian native breed of dogs which is pariah dogs. 


And also interestingly, not many people you will come across who have actually a species of a spider named after them. So both Kiran and his wife have a species of spiders named after them, which also is because they collaborated and used all their skills in terms of supporting nature, which led to discovery of these species. So the person actually went ahead and to honor them, put it in their name. So thanks a lot, Kiran, for all the work which you're doing on the fringes, which does not even perhaps get as highlighted.


Kiran: She also works for tigers, for the Satpura foundation. She manages their social media. So they look after all the Central Indian Tiger Reserves, creating water, creating alternative employment. So that is also something that she does.


Rohit: Amazing. And the other thing, which is very, very dear to you, Kiran is creativity. And you talk about this phrase -- to create is to unite. That's a very interesting phrase. I have also been reflecting on it and the question which I want to ask is --  for me, the key word over there is unite. And I wanted to break down that concept a little bit and ask you what does uniting mean to you?


Kiran: Bringing together. So, here's how it happens. If you actually look at the word creativity, it did not exist in ancient civilizations. All the beautiful temples. Not all, but there are some, maybe 2% of the beautiful temples in India which are signed off -- somebody has said that “I created this.” But the rest of all the statues and all the magnificent things that you see, there is nobody's signature. So, there is a sense in which that creativity was seen as worship. 


The word creativity was discovered, it was defined as recently as 1927. And one of the problems with that word is that it is seen only for problem-solution, for innovation, or for creating something new. While, to me that is the best definition, that “to create means to unite”, because that allows you to think about it beyond just creating new art or new poetry.


So what I keep saying is to create is to unite. This was given by a gentleman called Teilhard de Chardin, who was a paleontologist and a priest. And quite a few of the 20th century philosophers have drawn from  some of his ideas. So he, for instance, had this idea of  -- like we have atmosphere, we have ionosphere, he had this idea for a noosphere, for a skin of consciousness surrounding the Earth. He had beautiful ideas. He had another idea called the ‘Omega point’. Yeah. So, he is the one who came up with this idea to ‘create is to unite’. 


And that allows us to then look at creativity at multiple levels. So you can look at it at a physical level -- sperm meets egg and you have a baby. Your consciousness that you have, your own consciousness, through meditation, that consciousness dissolves, and unites with a larger consciousness -- that you might call samadhi or whatever. So at a spiritual level, you have a different connotation. That's why I like that definition. So rather than just problem-solution, which is about innovation, or creating poetry, or creating a painting -- because if you restrict it to self expression, which is what people do, then you can have a person, who is creator and destroyer both.


I gave the example that most people don't like, which is Picasso. That he gave us a new way of looking at reality. He said -- in a photograph, I can see only one side of the face, but in a painting why do I have to restrict it? I can explore the other side of the face. And he created cubism. But out of the six women in his life, two went mad and two committed suicide. Because of the way he looked at women, and treated them. That is not uniting. That is destroying. So to me, then I would restrict his sense of creativity to a talent for doing something. 


And therefore, if you use “to create is to unite”, you could have a person who's uniting people, who's uniting her consciousness with a larger consciousness, without having talent. So the first book that I wrote "Halfway up the mountain" -- halfway up the mountain means mediocre, and it is about a young girl who learns this art of uniting with the larger consciousness, without having any talent of her own. So that mistaking of talent for creativity ends when you use “to create is to unite”, 


So the specifics -- let's say, when you want to define an idea, what does an idea do? An idea combines two frames of references, for creating a third new frame of reference. That's an idea! So I'm in Mumbai and I come out of the railway station on a hot summer day. And there’s a guy shouting, this is a real experience, "Lal baraf khao," which means -- he's saying "eat red ice". So he has taken the idea of ice, which everybody has, which is cold and he has taken the idea of red, and combined it to create this unique idea in your mind, because he's selling watermelon cubes. So he is selling watermelon cubes as red ice and that's an idea. So that's still two frames of reference coming together to create a third.


Rohit: Thanks for beautifully expanding this frame of creativity, Kiran, from just self expression to overall living. And I also resonate that it is one of the very critical things. We need a lot more creativity in the world today, where the disconnection seems to be rising so much. 


And we'll move on to some of the questions from the audience now. There are quite a few, many questions coming in, Kiran again, on marrying your values and your business. which is also your life job and also your day job. That I think -- the overarching question is that: “Do you see they feed into each other or at times they are in conflict with each other" For example, Sonal from Bangalore is asking: "Have you ever been conflicted between your external organizational goals and your inner values? How did you resolve those conflicts and did it result in the compromise of your goals? Or it resulted in a compromise of your values?" Jayendra from Sydney is asking: "Can you give one example where you had a most difficult situation or problem in running your business and how did you handle it?" Rohan is asking: "How do you balance the culture of compassion with a culture of performance?"  Any thoughts on some of the questions?


Kiran: Like I said earlier, you're free to ask me questions but I am free not to answer (laughing)! So one of the themes that I have got,  I think probably from Krishnamurthi , is that the word individual in itself means ‘not divided’. So we have this notion probably in the corporate world that you have to perform in a particular way. So you have to be this snarling shark in the office and you come home and you become this playful dolphin. This is not possible. This is an artificial, arbitrary division. So this division cannot exist. Is compassion the opposite of performance? If by performance, we mean an exploitative attitude to someone, then yes, it is the opposite of compassion.


So there are times when people are undergoing great stress, now, in the past six months, there have been people who have not been able to perform. There is absolutely no problem with that. Because what I tell the other senior people is: "Look at it. These people have been with us for 15 years, for 10 years. Six months out of 10 years is nothing. Our organization is not going to collapse. So it's fine if they don't perform at this point in time.” That's the compassionate response. 


When somebody says that they have not done this, they're not doing this, they're not doing that, I say -- you have a child. Are you impatient with the child when she's six months old that she can't walk? No, you know that it will take her nine months to sit and then to walk. If it's a girl, she'll start walking earlier; if it's a boy, he will start walking later. So you know that there is a journey , an evolution that a person has to go through, before they are able to perform to the level that you want them to. And you have to have that patience. Because you went through that journey! I know the errors that I have made in my life. And therefore, why wouldn't I grant that patience to somebody else? 


So that performance is fine, if it means that the person has to rise to her greatest potential. How do I help that person do that? That is performance to me -- which is how the innovation lab was born. That person has risen to his highest potential. If you look at performance that way, then there is no division. I'm actually being compassionate in helping somebody rise to their highest potential. 


What was the other question? Yes, as I said,  there is no division between what I am as a human being and the role that I play. So whether I'm a husband, whether I am an  employer, the values have to be the same. Even if I'm a partner to an organization, it's the same values. So I have to respect my client, as much as I respect my employees, as much as I respect the courier boy who comes to the office.


One of the things somebody wrote once was  that she had to come to the office and she realized that my office boy -- we were celebrating a party, somebody's birthday, and our office gave a piece of cake to the courier boy who had come.  And that is the day I realised that chlorophyll’s values are right down to the last person. The value says we have to treat everybody equal.  


What was the other question? 


Rohit: The other question was: "Was there any particular situation ... a story of a difficult situation in business due to these values…”


Kiran: Like I said, a difficult situation was giving up very lucrative assignments. Because our self respect was compromised.


Rohit: There's this question, which goes back to your childhood life, Kiran. It is from Rahul. And he is asking that you shared that in your teens, you were reading the Upanishads. What led you to read such deeply spiritual stuff in your teens? What were the formative experiences of your childhood with your parents? And if I may just add onto the question a little bit is -- if you can also talk about your relationships, how it has impacted your own conscious evolution, as you practice it? How has it impacted your relationships at work and your relationships at home and outside? 


Kiran: There is a phrase I learned about five years ago -- genetic lottery. I think you can choose your friends. You can choose your boss, or you can choose your husband or wife, but you can't choose your parents. So I had a genetic lottery. My sister and I were very fortunate to have these two parents. They were not formally educated, a lot. My father was class seven (pass) in Marathi school and my mother was maybe class four (pass).


But they were phenomenal as human beings. My father taught himself English. When I was conscious of it, he could read and write English flawlessly.  He taught himself art.  And when he finally got his job in Metal Box, he became one of India's most successful commercial artists. He also did a lot of work for Amar Chitra Katha. The boss asked him, "Ok this is fantastic. The work you showed me just now. This airbrushing -- nobody here can do that. So your job is on. Just give me your certificate from art school and you are on. He said, "What certificate? I don't have a certificate." Because he hadn't studied art in art school. So these are the parents! 


Now, he himself practiced this idea of conscious evolution. So he wanted to know what the next step is. He tried to get, what is called as grace or diksha, from this gentleman called Uddhavni Maharaj, from Pune, who practised Kundalini Yoga. And not only my father, but my sister also, got onto that path.  Those were the years -- that is one path, about spiritual evolution.


The second was about reading. I read books. I think when I was five, for my birthday, he got three books. And the next day he went back to the bookseller and said, “I'm sorry, but my son has got all these three books by heart. Can you give me another set of three books?” So that fellow told him -- your son will eat you out of home and hearth. Just let him join a library and be done with it.


So this entire notion of reading a lot, that came from him. Therefore came writing. And he used to write to some extent.Those are the formative years where our house was called the house of happiness.  Many of my friends, when they were unhappy in their houses, they would come to our house and my mother would feed them. And my father would crack many jokes. He had an incredible sense of humor. That is roughly the formative years. My sister and I always say that --  that is the greatest gift we have got. We didn't have big flats or cars or anything, but we had such an incredibly happy childhood. 


I started doing Vipassana in 2003. And I used to be a fairly impatient child. I used to be fairly sentimental as a human being and overtime as I have practiced Vipassana in a more and more disciplined manner,  I have this idea that it has sharpened the working mind and slowed down the thinking mind. There is one gentleman called Balsekar, who had this nice little working definition of the thinking mind and the working mind. So the working mind is when a surgeon is doing surgery or when I'm doing some analysis. That is the working mind. There is no gap between concept and reality there. But when you're thinking about the thinking mind, when you're talking about relationships, that is when there is a gap between concept and reality, because we relate to each other through concepts. I think about  Rohit as Rohit appeared to me during his talk. But by the time I meet Rohit, the day after tomorrow, Rohit has changed quite dramatically. Right? 


So that relationship between concept and reality, that is another problem that gets solved, when you're doing Vipassana meditation. I think there is very little gap between reality as you experience it and your extraction of it as a concept. You tend to not do the extraction as a concept and stay much more in reality. Very simply because I think you start with breathing. Because you can't breathe for tomorrow. You can't breathe for yesterday. Breathing is here and now. So if the whole thing is to pay attention to your breathing, then you will be here and now. You will be, for the first time in your life -- you will not be living in the past or living in the future. You will be living in the here and now. And that impacts the relationship, because the thinking mind has slowed down. You are not creating any illusory thoughts.  You're not judging people. You're not using the past to relate to them. That dramatically changes your relationships with people.


Rohit: Beautiful. Thank you for bringing in your personal practice of Vipassana. So Vipassana has been one of the core practices for you, Kiran. Apart from that, are there any other practices, which you follow -- I'm sure our listeners would love to know a little bit about that? What are the other practices that you follow for your personal evolution?


Kiran: This third book that I wrote, Black River Run is based on Ramdas Swami, who was one of the few saints who was physically fit. So I have always been physically active. My father was very worried that I would become a bookworm. So he pushed me into this outward journey and I've been trekking since 1977. I had a close to a 90 to a 100 foot  fall in 1979 , from rock onto rock. But I have continued to climb. So one of the practices I do follow is a lot of Yoga. Suryanamaskar, Sirshasana, Shavangasana. All of that stuff. A lot of core workout, because without that you can't climb well, and cardio, because you need to do that for climbing. 


Rohit: Yeah, one fun fact about Kiran actually, is having done a lot of rock climbing, is that when he was in Calcutta working, his office was on the first floor and it was only rare that he would climb up the stairs. He would always go through the wall outside directly into the first floor (laughter). For ordinary people like us -- that is just a very simple thing, which he does, for him; but it’s like a huge step for us.


Kiran: Even in Benares, I used to climb to the top of the terrace of the building. I was  staying with the children there and we would sleep there instead of in the bedrooms. Because you could sleep under the sky.


Rohit: Kiran, second last question is that, for a youngster -- and you engage a lot with youngsters, it has been in your DNA, you have in the past also -- so if there is a young person say 20, just graduating from college and he wants to spend a life similar to you, that is, have a good life outside, but also to explore that inner dimension, which is of understanding oneself, and perhaps dissolving the self -- what is one advice, even though I know you're not very much of an advice person, but what is one thing which one can take back from your learning? 


Kiran: I really deeply believe that. I don't see myself  as an exemplar. I don't see myself as an example of anything. And that is because I feel that everybody's path will be different. There is a notion of -- if you study Ayurveda, there is a notion of Prakruti.  Prakruti is your inherent nature. And then according to Ayurveda, that Prakurti is decided at the moment of your conception and it will never change. So in Ayurveda, you have the five -- Panch Mahabhoot. So you have water and earth creating Kapha Prakurti, water and fire creating Pith Prakurti, and air and space creating Vata. Similarly in western civilizations you have these psychosomatic constitutions of cerebrotonic, viscerotonic, and somatotonic. Now, if your Prakriti is different from mine, willy-nilly, your path will  be different. That's why it is not possible to say “let me be like him”. You can't be like him or her, because the influences that you have plus this inherent Prakurti that you have, are very different from anybody else. 


And the reason why I liked, why I resonated with Krishnamurthi was -- his famous speech was “Truth is a pathless land.” There is no one way to approach it. Each one of us has very different tendencies, very different ways of how we remember things, how we approach life, and therefore the path can't be the same. This famous advice: "Follow your passion." But ninety-nine percent of people don't know what their passion is!


Rohit: Right!


Kiran: So what is the advice that you give? There is no great advice besides saying:"Try and be as authentic as possible. Try not to lead a second-hand life. Try not to lead an unquestioned life." So,  to me, questions are important. When you say your parents taught you, or your society, or whoever is around you has taught you: "This is your caste." -- question that. What is this caste? What does this caste mean in the first place? Once you question that, then there are a lot of new discoveries and new ways that you'll find.

One of the most disturbing things that I say to people is: "You use this word 'I' all the time, right?" That's the maximum word that we use. "If you don't mind, can you show me 'I'? Can you touch 'I? Can you feel I, can you smell it?" No. So it's only an idea.  It's not real. It's only an idea inside your head. And if you sit in one corner and you keep looking for that "I",  you realize it's only memories.

It's very disturbing to people that the word, of which we are so fond, is just a figment of imagination. There is no "I". Now, if you do that kind of questioning, you will find your own path is the way. Rather than look at me, or look at anybody else as an example.

Rohit: Mm. Beautiful. And Kiran, you said that you love questions more than answers because questions can open up something within you. So, I'm very interested in, if there is any question, what is one question which is most alive for you at the moment in your life?

Kiran: What is the one?

Rohit: What is the one question, which, as a seeker, is most alive for you at the moment?

Kiran:  No, I don't have it.

Rohit: O.K.

Kiran: I'm very happy as a person. I think I'm doing a process which is right for me, which is a combination of physical fitness and Vipassana. The foundation was laid by my father, then by (Jiddu). Krishnamurti. And, the people that I meet, in fact in chlorophyll itself there are at least four people who practice Vipassana. I didn't ask them to do it. It's just that they are attracted to this organization. There are at least three who practise chanting. So we have a set of people attracted to the organization because of the nature of the organization. 

I have no plans. I have no ambition. I have no main desire. I am happy if I have food once or twice a day. There is no need for anything, for any great  riches.  So I'm in a very, very nice and happy place.

Rohit: That is remarkable, Kiran. Thanks a lot for sharing all this with us. It is just remarkable how in  your early childhood you had an experience...

Kiran: Do we have time for one final comment?

Rohit: Yeah. Surely, please. There's a little bit more after that also, but please, one final comment.

Kiran: If you'll find time, do watch this Ted Talk by Elizabeth Blackburn. She's a Nobel prize winner. She talks about something called telomeres. I don't know if you’ve heard this word. Telomeres are the tails of our DNA, and out of these many trillion cells that our body comprises, every day cells are reproducing, right? They are renewing in the body. Now, every time the cell reproduces this telomere, which is the tail of the DNA, it grows a little shorter and shorter.  Then at a particular point, when it has grown particularly short, it sends a signal to the DNA that it is time now, to stop multiplying. That is the death of that cell. That is how we get wrinkles, and our hair goes grey.

Now, she's done this remarkable research about telomeres and then she found this astonishing fact that if you meditate, if you are mindful, that process is slowed down.

Rohit: Hmm.

Kiran: So, there's a direct linkage between the process of aging and the process of stress.  Stress causes telomeres to shorten. And if you do meditation, it actually slows that process down. So the sense of youngness, the sense of youthfulness, the sense of being happy is scientifically proven to be related to meditation.  Even 10 minutes per day can make that difference. I thought it was a remarkable scientific discussion.

Rohit: Yeah, that's amazing. Thank you. And before we move towards closing, Kiran, one final question: “How can Service Space as a group or as individual volunteers support your intentions towards all the good which you are doing in the world?”

Kiran: You have already done it by providing me this platform. As E.M. Foster said: “Only connect”. So I think it is critical for human beings to connect. It is critical for a whole new story about those looking for positives. And if we build a sufficient enough connection between those who are thinking positive and doing positive work, I think that will be something for Service Space.

I don't think everybody has to do exactly the same thing. Rohit's path might be different from Rahul's path, which might be different from Karan's, which might be different from Anushree's. Their paths might be different. But, if you can connect, and not have that division that "my ideology is better than your ideology -- my path is better than your path." Let all parts co-exist so long as we are planning and doing things which are positive.

Rohit: Thanks, Kiran. That's a big takeaway for me from this talk -- let everyone traverse their own path. And also the concept, which you very beautifully explained that there is no "I", exploring where it is. And with that I would like to invite Kinnari to actually offer a song, which talks about the same concept that there is no "I". Sorry, we'll be a little bit over time, but three, four minutes, if you can all be with us. 

Kinnari is a working person, but at the same time, a mother of two.

Kiran: Yes, I saw the chat. I saw Kinnari’s daughter playing…(Rohit laughs)

Rohit: Yeah. And she is a volunteer as well. So, over to you Kinnari for the song. After the song we will spend a minute in silence and close the morning today.

Kiran: I'm always envious of musical people because I'm tone deaf.

Rohit: You are the inspiration for the song today. And the song actually came as a beautiful gift to their family during the lockdown, as they were collectively practicing and chanting this prayer every day.

Kiran: Wow.

Rohit: Kinnari, over to you. Thank you for being here.

Kinnari sings verses 1, 3, and 6 of "Nirvana Shatakam" or “Atma Shatakam” with a gentle drum beat. [For further background history and full stanzas of this sloka, see Meditativemind.org and sanskritmagazine.com: It is a popular sloka in 6 stanzas written by the great Adi Sankaracharya, an Advaitin Adiyogi Shiva mantra meditation. It summarizes the basic teachings of Advaita Vedanta, or the Hindu teachings of non-dualism. 

As an eight year old, Adi Sankara wandered in the Himalayas, seeking his Guru. He encountered a sage, Swami Govindpada Acharya, who was indeed the teacher he sought. The sage asked him: "Who are you?" The boy answered with these stanzas. The speaker of the poem is nominally Shiva, but the speaker lists what he is not...Not body, nor mind, nor attachment to them nor to the world. Neither is he the intellect, the senses, the practices or occurrences of life such as birth and death.

"Nirvana" is complete equanimity, peace. "Atma" is the True Self. The stanzas describe how he embodies consciousness, bliss, happiness which permeates the Universe. He is Atman and Brahman.]

Kinnari sings:

1. Mano budhyhankaare chitani naaham,

Na cha shrotra jihve na cha ghraana nethre,

Na cha vyoa bhoomir na thejo na vayu,

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.


Nether am I mind, nor intelligence,

Nor ego, nor thought,

Nor am I ears or the tongue or the nose or the eyes,

or am I earth or sky or air or the light,

But I am Shiva, the all pervading happiness,

Yes, I am definitely Shiva.


3.  Ne me dvesha raaghou na me lobha mohou,

Madho naiva me naiva maatsarya bhava,

Na dharmo na chaartho na kaamo na moksha,

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.


Never do I have enmity or friendship,

Neither do I have vigour, nor feeling of competition,

Neither do I have assets, or money, or passion, or salvation,

But I am Shiva, the all pervading happiness,

Yes, I am definitely Shiva


6.  Aham nirvikalpo niraakaare roopo,

Vibhuthvaaccha sarvathra sarvendriyaanaam,

Sadaame samatvam na muktir na bandaha,

Chidananda Roopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Chidananda Rooopa Shivoham, Shivoham.

Chidananda Roopa, Shivoham, Shivoham.


I am one without doubts, I am without form,

Due to knowledge I do not have any relation to my organs,

And I am always redeemed,

I am the form of consciousness and bliss.

Yes, I am the eternal Shiva.

Kiran: Kinnari, you should read my first book:  Halfway Up The Mountain. It is based on this sloka.

Rohit: We will.

Kiran: It is called, I think, "Atma Shatakam" by Shankaracharya. It’s called “the Song of the Soul.”

Rohit: Beautiful.

Kiran: So the legend is that he had gone to Benares and he was going to stay with somebody, and he knocked on the door, and the person from inside said: "Who are you? " And he spontaneously said this Sloka. That is the legend.

Rohit and Kinnari: Wow! (laughing in amazement)

Kinnari: Wonderful!O.K!

Kiran: "Atma Shatakam." It's beautiful. So, we used to sing this in Benares. There was an assembly hall. Yeah. It's an assembly hall (Rajghat Besant School) designed by Tagore's architect (Surendranath Kar).  Can you imagine three hundred children chanting this sloka? It was absolutely otherworldly!

Rohit: Beautiful. Thanks alot.

Kiran: On the banks of the Ganges.

Rohit: Yeah. It is quite a mystery from where we go to where, and in the same way, it is a mystery the way which we all came together, in this particular formation. It is a pathless land, but for some moments, our paths unite.

Kiran: (laughs)

Rohit: So, in gratitude for that, we will spend a minute in silence. May the goodness continue to ripple out.

Kiran: Yeah.

Rohit: (after one minute of silence) Thank you. Thank you all for joining today. And we look forward to hearing from you and seeing you again in a couple of weeks. And thanks to Kiran for his time, for joining us today and sharing his remarkable experiences. And we hope that this is just the start and the conversation and the conscious evolution continues to build from here individually and collectively, together. Thank you so much.

Kiran: Thank you, Rohit, thank you Service Space. 

(Bells ring)


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