for dandavats.com on Nov. 23, 2012
The ornate Grand Room in St James’s, London.
Radhanath Swami and Alfred B. Ford (Ambarisa Das) were guests of honor at an exclusive Client and Executive Event sponsored by the HSBC Private Bank. Organized to mark the festival of Diwali, over 120 high net worth businessmen from diverse industries, along with UK Parliament members gathered to hear discourses on ‘the culture of wealth’ and explore financial lessons from the festival epic Ramayana at the ornate Grand Room in St James’s, London.
Experts both from the Hindu tradition and the corporate sponsor, HSBC, ornamented the theme with par-excellent speeches.
Renowned for his global corporate and executive mentoring, ISKCON spiritual master Radhanath Swami delivered the central keynote speech. He commenced his discourse by sharing the notion of stability through ecological, environmental and social examples to illustrate strength in unity for a successful community.
In detailing the need for the wealthy to be responsible caretakers of wealth, Radhanath Swami shared innumerable anecdotes to inspire a genuine culture. He elaborated how in the Vedic tradition of India, wealth is considered sacred for it symbolises the consort of God and is popularly worshiped as the goddess of fortune, Lakshmi. For this reason, wealth can be seen as a means to carry out good in this world and benefit society. For one in advanced consciousness, wealth can even be a means for liberation by utilising it in the service of God.
He commented: “When that love of service is shared throughout society, it has given rise to the greatest philanthropy and has nurtured spiritual concepts. To those whom much is given, much is expected, to be an instrument to make the world a better place.”
Radhanath Swami delivers his center keynote speech
The great-grandson of legendary Henry Ford, Mr Alfred Bush Ford (Ambarisa Das) graced the event as chief guest to provide the closing speech on the topic both from his celebrated ancestry and himself. He was invited to speak on devotional philanthropy owing to his inspiration from Shrila Prabhupada.
Mr Ford began by discussing his very first Diwali which occurred during his first trip to India in 1975 with Shrila Prabhupada. After not sleeping for two days he was startled to hear the noise of fireworks in his first night in Juhu-Mumbai, India. The topic of the culture of wealth seems to be an oxymoron nowadays with the propaganda of the wealthy being evil, commented Mr Ford. In giving the example of occupied Wall Street events of last year, slogans like ‘Eat the Rich’ illustrated for him the need to change the culture.
Mr Ford explained how his great-grandfather, Mr Henry Ford did not drink, smoke or ball room dance. Infact, he was very austere and liked to live simply. He was able to assemble a watch from the age of 9 without any training, and he explored reincarnation and even entertained spiritual discourses by inviting monks from the East at that time.
Alfred B. Ford (Ambarisa Das) talks about spiritual philanthropy
Mr Ford attributed his interests in spirituality to his great-grandfather which only resonated further after reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is. He paraphrased chapter 16 which described how the demoniac person thinks with regards to wealth: ‘So much wealth do I have today, and I will gain more according to my schemes. So much is mine now, and it will increase in the future, more and more. He is my enemy, and I have killed him, and my other enemies will also be killed. I am the lord of everything. I am the enjoyer. I am perfect, powerful and happy. I am the richest man, surrounded by aristocratic relatives. There is none so powerful and happy as I am. I shall perform sacrifices, I shall give some charity, and thus I shall rejoice. In this way, such persons are deluded by ignorance (thus says the Bhagavad-gita).’ When Mr Ford first read that quote many years ago he instantaneously felt that this is something that he does not want to be like and instead decided upon a culture of giving.
‘Since Lakshmi is a personality who serves Lord Vishnu, it is necessary for others to utilise wealth properly’ said Mr Ford. By following a principle called yukta-vairagya, he felt that he is carrying on with the family tradition since Henry Ford and his grandfather were people who probably did the most to the world in terms of giving.
Radhanath Swami and Alfred B. Ford (Ambarisa Das) at the event
Since with great wealth comes great responsibility, all of the Ford family have been great philanthropists. As an extension of this attitude, under the direction of Shrila Prabhupada he has been giving most of his energies in spreading the teachings of Vaisnavism all his life. Having gone through many examples of devotional philanthropy, Mr Ford described his current project to create the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapura. Mr Ford elaborated on the scientific importance of creating the Planetarium to illustrate how life comes from life and the need to bring spiritual concepts to the world in a very large way. To conclude, Mr Ford summarised why the wealthy need to know why they have been blessed with wealth and what they can do to help the world. ‘Since it’s a battle for the wealthy against a lot of negativity in the press, each one should try and create a story to make a difference.’ While the status of the wealthy was different during the time of his great-grandfather where such people were held in high regards, ‘it is up to each and every one to turn it around in our behaviour and corporations to show how Lakshmi serves Vishnu.’ Mr Ford was deeply applauded and admired by the assembly for his genuine humility and life long dedication to being an example for the worlds wealthy.
For more details about the event visit: http://www.dandavats.com/?p=11032#more-11032