Holy CEO


Hiren Kumar BOSE in conversation with Swami Pranavananda Avadhuta, author of Holy CEO:

Christian Fabre came to India in the late 1970s as a representative of a French firm. It closed down leading to his job loss. His wife left him, but he continued to stay in India becoming a clothing supplier to European fashion outlets. He literally spotted the potential of organised retail in India in 2006. Today, his Christian Fabre Textiles Pvt Ltd caters to more than 20 global brands, from Lee Cooper to Oxbow. His Chennai-based garment buying house acts as a facilitator between the said brands and local manufacturers, while keeping a finger across the value chain — from design to manufacturing. Christian Fabre outlets sell men’s clothing; they are located in Bangalore and Chennai.  

In the midst of all the activity, Fabre got interested in Vedanta. He was initiated as an avadhuta and came to be known as Swami Pranavananda Avadhuta. He has built an ashram with a temple at Namakkal in Tamil Nadu. He continues to be the CEO of Christian Fabre clothing brand, though he no longer owns the company, keeping with the tenets of being a holy man.

HKB: The material world emphasises on feeding the ego, while the spiritual world stresses on conquering it. Is this the major difference between the two?

SPA: Desiring a state of freedom from desire will not set you free. Nothing can set you free, because you are free. See yourself with ‘desireless’ clarity, that is all, said Nisargadatta Maharaj. A realised soul, he also rightly said, can freed from desires, as we ‘are’ the ego. Hence, isn’t the wish of wanting to be free from ego, the egoistic self in itself? Hence, as goes the saying: should we join the enemy if we cannot defeat it? Personally, I feel it is not the right thing to do. I rather acquire the awareness that there is only one all-embracing ego — the self which the highest freedom.

HKB: Does it become informal for an ‘ego-less’ person to be a better seeker?

SPA: There is no such person as an ‘ego-less’ individual. Once one has acquired awareness one has opened the door to freedom that lies within oneself.

HKB: Do we find god in nature? More so, when we have harnessed and conquered nature to serve our needs.

SPA: The word ‘god’ is a religious label that conveys many images in one’s mind, such as of mystery, of awesomeness, of impossibility to reach the Fearsome One and also of the Loving One, our Creator, etc. I prefer to use the word ‘self.’ How can you say that we have harnessed and conquered nature to serve our needs? It is an illusionary human perception as nature is in a perpetual change and renewal. Nature gives you, but takes it back from you in one form, or another. We, human beings, change every second of our life and within a few hours we are a new human being, as all our cells are dying and replaced with new ones, till the last moment of our short life. Also, if we had ‘harnessed and conquered nature’ no one would die. So far, we have not been able to come anywhere near to its conquest, let alone harnessing it. Nature constantly creates from new viruses, new bacteria, to new galaxies. Actually, what we know of nature is only a tiny scratch on the surface of its knowledge. Hence, we cannot say that we have ‘conquered and harnessed’ it.

Actually, when one acquires the Awareness of the Self, one realises, feels deeply within oneself that the self is within everyone; within everything you ‘see,’ or cannot ‘see,” at all times and outside time. It is at the same time multi-dimensional, multi-directional. We live in a highly ego-centric civilisation that tends to hide the self from our ‘heart-view’ which makes it hard to perceive. Nature is the self in its purest and simplest visible form. It is much more ‘perceivable’ to the scientist who’s into quantum physics, where particles are here and there, at the same time, and yet impossible to hold in nature. After all, are we not intrinsically being our Self, made of all the known and yet-to-know particles that form our universe? It would certainly come to your mind that there is no question of conquering and harnessing nature, as we are nature and that nothing is not nature.

HKB: Like Ekalavaya many are not fortunate to have a guru. Does just the act of chanting god’s name by Ekalavayas amongst us take them where they want to reach?

SPA: For many reasons I cannot elaborate here, practicing mantra japa, or reciting the names of your ishta devata could help you to reaching the Ultimate. However, it is important to have a guru. For those who have been blessed with good karmas, nature is here, especially for those who care to look, see and open their heart. Dattatreya is known to have had twenty-four gurus. They were all from nature: the cloud in the sky, the snake, the tree, etc,

HKB: How does one seek the guru of one’s choice?  What attributes does one look for in a guru?

SPA: Personally, I did not have to look for a guru. I surely had good karma at the right moment of my life though, retrospectively, I wish I had been given that karma at a younger age. Unfortunately, we cannot choose. My guru’s main qualities were compassion, simplicity, love for all creatures, warmth, truthfulness, etc. He was, indeed, a true Siddha. One cannot get a guru of one’s choice. If that was up to my choice, I would not have selected one 200km away from Chennai. He chose me. I truly believe that when the shishya is ready the guru comes. I surely was ready when I met him 40 years ago.

It is a rarity for someone not to have a guru. Because they are sharp enough in their mind to see, sharp to feel the ultimate in their heart, including the self in every aspect of nature. But, for those who have the inner urge, but cannot search in their mind and heart the direction to take to reach the awareness of the self, having a guru to show you the direction is a must. However, if you do not know where you want to go, the guru cannot show you any direction. It is just like a person who knows they have to go to the rail station but does not know which final destination one wants to reach. How can they buy the required train ticket? They will always turn in circles as dissatisfied individuals. The guru shows you the way, but it is up to you to follow that direction, or go on your own and/or take the wrong one.

HKB: When does a seeker know that he is on the right path?

SPA: The guru follows the progress of his shishya and they are the ones who know when the latter is ready. There are many hurdles, potholes, stones that either slows down, or stops, your progress. However, tenacity is one of the primary keys to success. When you feel in the deepest recess of your heart that everything around you is similar, or familiar, to you despite all the troublesome, stressful situations, or people, then you are close to the goal.

HKB: You’re among a few who have bridged the gap between the material and spiritual world. A shining example I would say.

SPA: It would be interesting for me to know who has been able to bridge the gap between the material and spiritual world. Believe me, it is far from easy, as the world of business is a cut-throat environment where egoism is in its highest form, whether it is at the highest management, or lowest employee level. This is more sharply felt now when the international business is ebbing away and lakhs are losing their jobs — for example in the textile industry.

HKB: You advocate the philosophy to ‘being one with nature,’ but our urban lives are divested of nature. How does one bring oneself close to nature?

SPA: When one has the awareness of who, or what they are. Then, one sees oneself in everyone, everything, everywhere, every time. This is the definition of nature: it is everyone, it is everything, it is everywhere, it is every time, and it is also what it is not. Hence, you have to bring the desire to achieve Awareness. This should be your priority #1. Then, each piece of the ‘puzzle’ will fall into place on its own. It is when you have understood with ‘your heart’ that there is no difference between you, a fly that sits on your face after having sat on excrement, a mosquito which has just sucked your blood and given you malaria, a beautiful flower with an exquisite scent, an awesome landscape, a raving mad man, a careless driver, a foul-mouthed man, a sweet little baby, a civil servant asking for a bribe for a simple job, a virus eating up your body, a great smile of a simple loving man etc.

HKB: Do you think we Indians have a rich spiritual culture — one that we continue to ignore?

SPA: Yes, of course. Indian culture is one of the richest in the world. Every Indian knows that. However, I feel that many do not know its greatness and its spread. Materialism is exacerbated by greed, the side-effects of which are now seen in the woes that India and the world, at large, is facing. However, do not think that it was not so a few centuries ago. It was the same then too, but now modern communication tools bring us instant news, from all over the world, which would have taken months to reach us long ago, with so many negatives pieces of information that it makes one feel desperate for protecting oneself, one’s family and friends. This is where culture takes the back seat. Culture goes to the a few ‘haves,’ while the have-nots are being deprived of it, as they perceive it is not their priority.

HKB: What’s ‘inner peace’ and how does one achieve it?

SPA: What you call ‘inner peace’ is the awareness that one is all.

HIREN KUMAR BOSE, a senior print and digital media communicator, has worked with leading English newspapers in India. He was till recently the Editor-in-Chief of a Mumbai-based media house that specialised in lifestyle-themed periodicals. Bose, who’s travelled widely on international assignments, over the last 35+ years, is presently an independent journalist. He contributes regularly to leading web portals and print journals. Apart from being the contributing editor of the Swiss luxury watch portal, WatchWorld, Bose is also a weekend farmer and active blogger. He manages the blog, Sunday Farmer, which has a devoted following among farming enthusiasts across the globe. This article is ©Hiren Kumar Bose.

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