Nuggets From Mandar Apte's Call
Posted by Esha K on Aug 14, 2019
Mandar Apte is a former corporate leader and a chemical engineer who is bridging the field of meditation to promote non-violence in the world. He has taught meditation to thousands of people including police officers, victims of violence, returning veterans, inner city youth, corporate employees and educators. It is remarkable that he made this transformation from being a chemical engineer to being a filmmaker. In 2016, he started this remarkable project called From India With Love which brings victims of violence in the United States to travel to India to explore the ancient message of non-violence in the world. He produced a documentary film of the same name and he has been screening that film along with various non-violence boot camps that he engages in with the Los Angeles Police Department. He's also been leading these boot camps with gang members and police officers in Los Angeles and really transforming and trying to transform the violet fabric of that city. So from corporate executive to peacemaker to working in a range of settings, Mandar has really been an innovative leader and an example for all of us. He is the Program Director of something called ‘Cities for Peace’ which is an initiative of the International Association for Human Values. He worked, before that, as I mentioned as a chemical engineer for 17 years at Shell International. He's received a number of awards including the Ashoka League of Intrapreneurs Award for designing and delivering an innovative learning program that taught meditation practice to thousands of colleagues. He's also a board member of The Charter for Compassion which leads to compassionate city's movement around the world. So from the corporate setting to the community and city setting, he has really been laying the groundwork for peace and non-violence in the world.
Mandar’s childhood in India... playing, bringing people together, and The Hardy Boys
[06:15 - 07:55]: I grew up in Mumbai and my parents grew up right after Independence. The formative years were just you know lower middle class/upper middle class upbringing and family values and family culture and just learning to be independent. That's what I recall. So, in those years, I used to read The Hardy Boys in my summer holidays and I had a desire to meet The Hardy Boys. I was thrilled with how they solve mysteries to help make a better world. I was intrigued into that aspect of being a detective. And the second thing in my formative day is, you know, everybody in India plays Cricket. So, I played cricket and it’s a team sport. So it taught you how to make friends with 11 people that play on your team. So, it was all about meeting people for me and making new friends. Yes, I was good at studies but my interest was not really in academics. My interest was in bringing people together and playing. So, those are the two to three simple things that I remember from my childhood. I always used to play, whether it's exam day or not, I would always call people down and play.
Mandar’s spiritual upbringing…”I did not learn yoga but … everything is leading to yoga”
[08:03 - 10:57]: I was born in a Hindu family and spirituality is just a way of living. Hinduism is just a way of living. So, in this way of growing up, you are not following any ‘ism.’ You're making your own ‘isms.’ And everything is allowed. So, I remember the Ganapati Festival where everybody welcomes the Lord Ganesha in their homes. We used to go bring the Ganesha Idol; decorate the idol; sing, pray, eat together; and then on the fifth day, the Ganesha Idol is immersed back in the water. So, nobody explained to me, at that time, what are the significant reasons and things that happen in such festivals. But we grew up in this festive environment of festivals that have this spiritual edge to it. Everything in the Hindu tradition is spiritual. And so, I grew up with that broad perspective that life is the celebration; even in death, after 10-13 days, people celebrate. I always wondered who created these festivals; what's the origin of the festival; what is the science behind that festival; why are they meant to be like this. That's how I grew up. I was always inquisitive. Why does Ganesha have an elephant head? So I think that's the richness of the culture of India that I learned while I was growing up here. I did not learn yoga while I was in school but everything is leading to yoga. So that is why, in India, you don't see yoga studios. I used to ponder why there are yoga studios in every corner in the U.S. Here [In India], because spirituality is part of life, it's integrated into your lifestyle. That is just a blessing to be raised in that environment -- a liberal, open environment. These days when I bring delegations to India, I learn about different aspects of Indian spirituality during my travels with my delegation. It's just a blessing. It's an ancient culture and ancient tradition that needs to be honored and preserved.
Mandar’s view on spirituality... a way of living, not a religion or an “ism”: “Spirituality is just like the banana and the religion is like the banana skin.”
[11:21 - 14:03]: The word spiritual doesn't come in the upbringing that I had. It is just a way of living. Even the religious aspects of Hinduism are all spiritual. They are not forced on anyone. They are open for everybody to experience. Spirituality is just like the banana and the religion is like the banana skin. So, the religious aspect is the banana skin and spirituality is the banana which is human values. Spirituality is nothing but good human life -- happy, healthy, prosperous, mutually respecting, harmonious, harmony with the environment.
I remember one festival called Naag Panchami. That day, people feed snakes. So now 30 years later when I’m no longer in India, people talk about sustainable development and care for the environment and care for nature. I’m like who invented that festival where we used to, as kids, go and feed a snake and see the life in the snake. Another day where we worship the tree -- women in India will go around the tree and worship the tree. This is sustainable development taught thousands of years ago. That's why it's not a religion; it is a way of living And it is not just for people in India. This is just like we have Chinese food -- we are not Chinese but if you taste Chinese food and if you like it, you can keep going to that restaurant or even make the food again at your home. I think our Hindu tradition or Indian tradition is the same. If you experience Diwali or if you experience Holi or if you experience Festival X -- if you like it, you can choose to integrate it in your life. Something like that is what I feel -- it's democratized. But people are not educated because it's clubbed in the religious framework and then my religion is better than your religion comes in. If I'm born in a different religion, then I'm not supposed to practice what you do because I'm from a different religion. I think that is where Hinduism is not a religion. It is not an ‘ism.’
Mandar’s journey to the U.S…Tulsa, Oklahoma: “My home away from home.”
[14:28 -16:48]: My draw to the United States was, like I said, the summers that I spent reading The Hardy Boys. That is where this desire to be independent and the American way of living and thinking was shaped through the summer readings that I did -- Famous Five, Richie Rich, all these things that you read when you are a kid. But The Hardy Boys was the most significant impact on my life. So, I took the chemical engineering track because the University that I went to, here in Mumbai, it's one of Asia's best institutions for chemical engineering. I was, I think, number 23 that year across the city of Mumbai in the common entrance exam. So, I was one of the top 25 students and I got admission in this University. Even though chemistry was scary for me, I stayed on in that four-year chemical engineering program. And finally got invited to the US for Graduate Studies. I went into the chemical engineering/petroleum engineering track --that was my academic background. That was my entry in the United States. So, I entered the United States in a small city called Tulsa, in Oklahoma. And, it's my home away from home. Like that's where I went on my own to live an independent life at age 21. It's great because I got a new life. I arrived in 1996 and stayed there for three years. The year I came, just a few months before, was the Atlanta Olympics and just a few months before was the Oklahoma City bombing. So, that was the year that I came to the United States.
Mandar’s graduate school experience in Tulsa, Oklahoma, “the Buckle of the Bible Belt”…”How can you believe in Jesus if you’re not a Christian?”
[16:59 -17:45]: Frankly, it [being in Tulsa] was a reverse culture shock. It was like, you know, coming from a fast-paced city like Mumbai with local trains, with traffic, with the crowd, with Bollywood, with cable TV at home -- we used to watch The Bold and the Beautiful and Baywatch; with all that stimulus, moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma was like a reverse culture shock. It's like “where have I come?” This is not what they show on TV.
[18:00 - 21:36]: I, really, really was surprised. The day I went to graduate school to register for three credits, three subjects -- I didn't know any of this language; but yeah, that was what I registered -- three subjects and each subject was like three credit hours. And at the end of that 30 minutes, when I am finishing registering and paying for, signing up for that semester, this person on the other side of the desk, must be the administration office, she said to me: “you speak good English.” And I replied back to her: “so do you.” [Laughter]. That was my memory. I don't know; it was not programed. It's like she said “hey you speak good English” and I said “so do you.” That was my memory of my first few days in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
You know, it's the Buckle of the Bible Belt; I think that's what it's called. I used to walk to my school and many times I used to be stopped by many Christian missionaries. They used to stop and ask me: “do you believe in Jesus” and I used to say: “yes.” Then the person used to say: “are you Christian?” I used to say “no, I'm Hindu.” Then the look on their face used to be: “how can you believe in Jesus if you are not Christian?” So that is how I grew up. But that was proof for me that it's our loss if you don't take wisdom from other traditions. So, that's where I spent my graduate school, three years in meeting as many people as I could because they were all from international backgrounds. I used to organize, with the Presbyterian Minister on campus, potluck dinners every month. And that is how I spent my graduate school days. Yes, I was good in school. My GPA was 3.8 and I had a research assistantship and was doing national interest research. But again, that was not my calling.
Now reflecting back, 23 years ago, I spent a lot of time reading about Gandhi. The first book I read was the Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi because when you are networking with people in the international student community, when you say you are from India, the question used to be: “how was it studying Gandhi?” In India, when you study Gandhi, it is just for the history books. So, I started going to the library. My first book was Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography and it made a tremendous impact on my life then. I used to fast on his birthday. So, October 2nd, I remember fasting for those three years that I was in graduate school. And so that's when I start reading about [my] own culture. I read books about India; read books about Swami Vivekananda in the library in Tulsa. So that's where I started thinking like, “why is this American institution even having these books in the philosophy section?” And it made me proud in a way. And on the flip side, it made me sad that I've spent 21 years in India, but I have no idea about Swami Vivekananda. ….That is where I said I got a new life; I got a richer life.
Mandar’s development of spiritual practice after a health scare and working in the corporate world...
[24:00 - 26:33] I got a nice job at Shell, one of the Fortune 100 companies, and I moved to Houston, Texas, which is again in the Midwest, as they say. I didn't know anybody in Houston, Texas. I did not know a single soul in Houston, Texas when I moved. When you get a job in such companies, they take very good care of you. You get all the air miles and Marriott Hotel bonus points, you travel, you see the world -- and then a health crisis hit me. I got bad cholesterol and triglycerides shot up like three times the normal number. So, that's where I took a pause and that's where I felt: how do I heal myself not using any medicine; not using any pharmaceutical drugs? So that is where a friend told me, “why don't you go for these breathing exercises?” They had helped him.
So that you can say was...the point in my journey of taking a dip inward; taking a dip to experience that there is a difference between your mind and body. Through the breath work, you are accessing the field of the mind. While you are studying, you always are experiencing, but you have not made a difference -- that “I'm not the body; I'm not the mind; I'm not the thoughts -- who am I?” That question for me in that workshop, awakened me – “hey, wow, who is thinking; who is breathing; who is, you know, working?” That was my turning point. It was an intellectual question through this workshop but an experience was given through this technique called “Sudarshan Kriya.” This is a rhythmic breathing technique that gives you that healing inner care so you get over your physical ailments or mental ailments. For me, it was never about the health and wellbeing. For me, this program intrigued me to think: “who am I?”
[27:15 - 30:35]: So, this workshop I did in 2003. I joined Shell in 1999. And 2003, I had this health scare and that's where it set me into this journey of “I need to find something to heal myself.” I had blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides -- when you research it, they are all stress-related ailments. So if you fix your diet, if you fix your well-being protocols, then you can take care of them naturally -- that is what I read and it led me to this program. The name of this program is called “Happiness Workshop.” It's taught in 150 countries all over the world, in almost all major cities around the world. It is taught by volunteers who have benefited from practicing this and I guess they wanted to become a teacher. The workshop is three sessions of three hours a day. So, in my busy life at Shell, while I was traveling, I took time to do this workshop. I practiced these techniques that the workshop teaches you -- breath techniques. Within a month when I went back to my doctor, he said, “I don't know what you're doing, but keep doing what you're doing” because my triglycerides numbers had dropped. I had not made any change in my lifestyle. I had not gone to exercise -- 24-Hour Fitness. I had not changed my diet because I was traveling; I always used to eat out. The only thing I had done was I had integrated this 20 minutes breathing protocol called “Sudarshan Kriya” in my life and I felt happy; I felt great. It was like charging my body and mind everyday.
So, this was 2003 and you know, I started inquiring, who is the workshop from? What is the organization? Turns out that it was founded by an Indian Guru. His name is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The name of the organization is Art of Living Foundation. So 2003, I spent a lot of time on Google, no, at that time, there was no Google; so Yahoo!, I think. I was researching who is this Guru, and what is this organization? Because you know, every Guru comes with some baggage as the media and stories tell you. And the lucky thing for me was I used to travel a lot in those days. Everywhere I traveled, I used to find the Art of Living teacher and go to the weekly follow-up breathing classes. I felt: “wow, they're sharing India's ancient wisdom of yoga, meditation, pranayana breathing.” Look, I was able to do it in Berlin when I traveled or in Rio de Janeiro when I went to Brazil or in Perth, Australia. That was where I felt comfortable that okay, this teacher has created a global ripple. It has benefited me for sure. But I want to know who he is. That is where I got intrigued into the world of -- what you call now spirituality.
Mandar’s integration of spiritual practice a work...spiritual simplicity and corporate ego – wrapping the “chocolate” of spiritual practice in the corporate “wrapper” of innovation
[30:56 - 33:44]: 2003, that year for me was like I was finding myself. I was enjoying this inner work that we do. That year, I met Sri Sri in Houston. He was traveling and he was in Houston and I met him. I attended a lecture that he gave and the simplicity of this person was what attracted me to him. He was very simple, very simple. I felt like he accepted me 100% percent, who I was; there was no judgment. There was no nothing. It was like a friend talking to me [whom I] have met 20 years later. It was that conversation for me. And that's what I got intrigued -- that such an enlightened master, wealth of knowledge, but he has not lost his simplicity like humanness. Whereas at Shell, I was seeing the exact opposite -- like people who are PHDs, managers, they were not simplistic. They were showing off their ego. They were showing off how good they are and how bad you were.
It's like, you know, I went to a yearly review at the end of the year -- the review that happens in corporate America. My review came out to be extremely bad. The badness was that I don't have good people skills -- is what my, then, manager told me. I felt, “does he even know me?” How does he say I don't have good people skills? So, that's where I got this contradiction. Hey, you can be intellectual, very smart and humble and simplistic, but hey, that's not happening at Shell. So that is where I got some of my friends together and we started a very interesting initiative, in those days -- where you know mindfulness, today, is a big trendy word. In 2004, in the roughneck world of Shell Oil, we started an employee network called “The AWARE Network.” The acronym stands for “At Work As Responsible Employees” and the five of us who started, we all had a spiritual practice. Like I had my kriya practice; somebody was a Zen meditator; somebody else was nonviolent communication. So, we all got together and we said “let's start this dialogue inside Shell.” So that was where I became an activist -- you can say -- like peace activist or compassionate work activist while I'm still a chemical engineer.
[33:56 - 38:12] So, 2004 to 2009, those five years were very hard because I was a chemical engineer with, now, this spiritual bend and wanted to bring spirituality at work. My day job was not at all that. My day job was to design pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. So, I had a huge disconnect with my line manager, with my team. I remember, three years, I got such a bad review at the end of the year. I know that the bad review was not based on my work, but it was based on the bias that people had on yoga meditation. I persisted. And this movement grew. So, we had now this AWARE movement in the UK office, in the Singapore office -- like these are all employees who we found have a yoga background and then we encourage them to bring yoga to work. So 2004 to 2009 was very challenging, very challenging. But the AWARE movement was where my passion was. My passion was not in designing pipelines. That was very clear. In my evening hours, I had also become an Art of Living teacher. So, within one year of learning the program, the kriya program, my journey was so intense that I became a teacher in 2004. My evenings and weekends, I used to teach the same breath based “Happiness Program” in my evenings, to civic society in Houston. So that's where I felt solace -- you know when I'm sharing inner peace with the community in Houston, I felt happy. But at work I was not happy because I was not doing something I was passionate about.
So coming to 2009, that's where I decided to take a time out. It had been 10 years since I joined Shell and I was going to leave the company. But then I found a job description that sounded like me. The name of the job was “Game Changer” and the paragraph the hiring manager had put was something like, you know, it felt like me; I felt this is me. So, I applied for that job. I got interviewed and my manager asked me questions about my personal life; my hobbies. In those days, I used to teach veterans who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, in my evenings and weekends, going to the Houston VA and sharing my breath and meditation knowledge that I was receiving. He asked me questions on that work and he said: “hey, you know, innovation is also about mindset. Can you create a learning program based on your chocolate of meditation and the wrapper on innovation learning?” So, my eyes had a twinkle and I said “are you saying you will pay me at work -- you will hire me and as part of the job, I will design and teach a meditation program?” I just had that, you know, beautiful smile showed up. And I got hired into this program. So that was, for me, a turning point in my life at Shell. I owe everything that happens to my then boss, Russ [inaudible]. He's from Nebraska and he's my friend, philosopher, guide -- even to this day. I taught 2,000 people -- that's where the number two thousand that you read. Two thousand people at Shell did the innovation learning workshop using kriya breathing as the meditation practice. That was 10% of my job. So my job was still “Game Changer Innovation Manager,” but 10% of it was, you know, create meditation network.
[38:47 - 42:18]: From 2004 to 2009, the struggle years of an employee whose passion is being choked, my learning was that I was promoting yoga breathing meditation practice as a way to improve health and well-being. That was being squashed by the health and well-being vertical -- the medical doctors at Shell, the health organization, they squashed it. Then I pivoted and I said, “okay, yoga breathing meditation for improving leadership skills, emotional and social intelligence.” And as soon as we have a little bit of activity, the leadership development vertical squashed it. So, 2004 to 2009, I had learned that the wrapper needs air cover and my air cover was innovation. And so, that has to be the wrapper. The wrapper has to be in my vertical so that nobody can come and squash it. So that's where we designed, very smartly, the wrapper. The wrapper is “what are the blockers for innovative thinking. Why can't you take part in the innovation process?” Because when you ask people “what is innovation?”, most people will say, “oh, you know innovation is like, you know, making an iPhone or the Tesla.” But they will not say that “innovation is part of my job.” Innovation is the job of the scientist. So, innovation is always associated with science and technology.
One of the things that is very clear when you work in the innovation space is that it's a contact sport. The idea that you started out with, unless you try it out and, you know, fail and try and fail, you will not sharpen the idea, you will not sharpen the concept. The second thing about innovation is, I might have the best idea but if I don't know who to go to or if somebody doesn't connect me to the funding agency, then even if I have the best idea, my idea just remains on the shelf. That's where it becomes a social process. So, those are the two things. It's a mental process and it's a social process. That's what the wrapper was designed -- to inspire you, as an employee of an organization, that you can play a role in the innovation culture at Shell. And the end of the day, it's about: “was this training a good use of your time?” That was 99% of the staff said yes. Then we said, “okay, if this was a good use of your time, bring one friend to the next workshop.” That's how we grew to 2,000. So, all organic. It was all like, you know, grassroots -- not top down. But at the end, it was my joy at work. When I do these workshops, I make my social connections in Shell Brazil, Shell Australia, Shell Netherlands. Innovation, my day job, needed the innovative mindset and they could be the focal points for me. In a way, I blended what I taught with the business need which is bringing new ideas at Shell.
Mandar’s transition to social impact work at Shell...
[43:11 - 47:29] While I was a Game Changer at Shell, the portfolio of Game Changer was technology projects -- technologies for new energy, technologies for improving the refineries; it was a very techno-centric innovation platform. My input to Shell and Shell Game Changer is expanding that mandate to social impact. Social impact is usually done out of a philanthropic CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] type of entity in a company. They are probably not even looking for a rate of return. At best, social impact investments are looking for like 2-3-5 maybe 10 percent return -- they are called Impact Investments.
Game Changer was not in CSR. Game Changer was not impact investment. So, I created the necessary collateral and I approached the CEO of Shell, with of course my boss' permission, and made a business case that there may be technologies that create social impact and, at the same time, create million or billion dollar return on investment for Shell. [I] substantiated that with some examples and boom -- the guy at the top of the house created my new job at Shell to expand Game Changer from being a techno program to a social technology investment program. And I was the manager of that portfolio.
I spent three years managing that portfolio. Which means if anybody on your call is listening, my job was to see how can we improve health, education, environment -- all these things? At the same time, not just philanthropy going out but return on investment for Shell. That is where the innovative thinking comes in. Can you solve social problems and make money for your own company? And others can also make similar return on investments. So this is called as “shared value.” The value of your investment can be shared with social, government, nonprofit, or your competitors, for example.
So that work I did for three years, involved some work on peace building. So, one of the examples that I did was in Nigeria. Shell has a huge footprint in Nigeria. I found out that when violence happens in Nigeria -- it's usually provoked for many reasons, political reasons, the oil pipelines are siphoned. There's a huge black market for the oil; there is literally a black oil economy. So peace building in the villages and communities in Nigeria is not only for that peace and social impact but it was an example to show that “hey, we will not lose the money that we are losing to the black market -- siphoning of the oil.” So that example shows that if you are an intrapreneur and you are a social intrapreneur, you have a much bigger mandate to stay in your company because your company, if you do the proof of concept, will naturally have the ability to scale the impact of your work. Just wanted to take a timeout to give that aspect of my work at Shell Game Changer because if you're working for a Marriott Hotels or AirBnB or Blue Cross Blue Shield and you are suffocating inside because of whatever reason you may feel not valued or you have a social angle and the company doesn't support you, please reach out to me because I can help you. I have done it for three years. If you can do this at Shell Oil, you can do it anywhere.
Mandar’s transition to a Film Maker, a Peace Activist, a Professor...detoxing from Shell and creating a nonviolence wrapper “From India With Love”
[58:42 - 67:08] I'll quickly share about how I changed my orbit and I left the “shell” that I was in and out of my “shell” now. That happened in 2016. I was at the helm of this “shared value thinking,” thought leadership, investment. I was in India on a holiday and I was reading the autobiography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 30 pages of that book are dedicated to India -- his trip to India that he had made in 1959. So I quickly texted some American friends and said: “hey guys, did you know that MLK had been to India?” And obviously, they didn't know. We definitely did not know this as students in India that Martin Luther King Jr. had come to India on a pilgrimage -- that was the title of his chapter on India. He took back the teachings of Gandhi and how he saw non-violence in action. Gandhiji had already died when Martin Luther King must have come here. So that created in me a plot. The plot was what did MLK see, smell, hear and do in India? If that had created a transformative impact for him, is America now ready to go on a similar pilgrimage again?
So, that was when I was on a one-month holiday in India. I just scrambled, hustled, whatever you call it; and I finished the production of the documentary film in that one month. So, the story of the film that I've produced involves victims of violence on both sides of the gun. I was honored to host the parents from the Sandy Hook school and I was honored to host activist for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and humbled to host former gang member from Los Angeles. So, very interesting delegation of different exposures to violence and how they felt love in India. That was the story; that is the title of the documentary From India With Love.
Finished the production of the film in my one month holiday, came back to Houston, started reviewing the footage and realized that I cannot do this with the day job, just as a passion and a hobby. Because 2016, if you remember, was also the election year, so both the campaigns were going at each other and I felt like “this is the time.” I need to give back to America. You need to bring everybody to calm down and talk about the real problems. So, that's when I quit my job. There was like this calling that I had that this country gave me a new life. I think now I need to put my time in doing whatever I can to make this documentary because this documentary can change hearts and Minds. So that's what I did Rahul and Preeta - spent the year 2016 editing the film and completely detoxing myself from my 17 years at Shell. Every edit table sitting that I had, I felt like it's cleansing myself from the 17 years that I did at Shell. I put all my time into music, editing, color corrections, all this -- whatever I could do. 2016, I made this film and I quit my job.
2017, I spent taking the film to about 20 cities across the country. And, there is a lot of pain. I took my film to the gangs of Chicago, prisons, juvenile hall, inner-city high schools. And loved it. Just got some great friendships. And when people watch my film, the next thing that many of them asked is: “when is your next journey to India?” So I had the honor of hosting about hundred American leaders, mayors, police chiefs, police officers, victims of violence, gun violence. That was my golden moment -- spending time with these different people, from different walks of life, 10,000 miles away, in the traffic jams in India, in the smells of India. They ask questions and through those questions, I enjoyed it, I was sharing the beauty of this land. So that is how my connection with the police departments grew. Two years later, I started combining my thoughts on this peace activism sprint that I had done for two years with my corporate innovation like shared value background. I started an innovation lab at George Mason University last year. I look at the business for peace. Just like there is a business for war and drugs. Can we come together and make peace profitable?
So, like a business model, can we make a business model so that corporate America makes money or saves money by promoting peace and happiness and joy and kindness. That's what I've been researching and doing experiments on. My stakeholders are the police departments because they are also in the business of peace. So that's where my network of police departments I hosted last year, 17 police chiefs and police officers, in India; became friends with them. They also started thinking about the business for peace. I was invited by the Los Angeles Police Department this year. So I moved to Los Angeles and we created a miracle. I think the universe has created a miracle because we were able to bring gang members and police officers and community members who have been victims of violence all in the same room and go through this non-violence wrapper. The wrapper is non-violence and the chocolate is breathing meditation and yoga. We finished a two-month boot camp. We graduated 45 people through this program in three months. And it's created a massive ripple effect because so many police chiefs have called me personally that they would like to also think about promoting peace in their own city, promoting non-violence in their city.
I think that's where we can work together. Whoever is listening on the call, I'm just a placeholder; this work just unfolded through me. But, it cannot be limited to me. We have to find a way to work together because every day there is a shooting. There are so many negative stories that it bothers you. We have so many good things in the US; everybody looks up to the US. But, I think we have lost the soul. We have lost, how can I say, the humanness. I think that's where I feel Nipun’s tribe is very aligned with this -- meaning and money, meaning and purpose, service. All these things, I feel, we need to amplify.
Mandar’s ability to build connections with police departments and gang members...
[68:30 - 72:05]: I do not know how it happened. The way it might have happened is people watched my documentary film. I can give you the LA Story. The Los Angeles Police Department reached out to me based on some Twitter feed that I had put. They wanted to screen the film at Paramount Studios. So that day, I felt it was interesting. I never made the film for a screening at Paramount Studios. So, let me go and check out because that's the creme de la creme of Hollywood. So, they hosted my film screening. 400 people showed up at that film screening. And then I led a meditation at the end of the screening. A few former gang members approached me and said “could we do this same screening” in their community? They enjoyed watching this story that Martin Luther went to India, Gandhi's teachings; how can we promote peace and non-violence today? That's the story.
So, the second film screening was in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. It brought about 60 people in the community together. We watched the documentary. These are all, very sad, violence victims, everybody has had trauma. That's the neighborhood -- South Central LA. And so, what is missing in these communities, really, is love -- not just the physical, intimate love that we think about but just human presence, just a hug, just somebody listening to your pain. The film did that for them. That day, that's one of the deepest silence meditations I have led -- in that church with these 60 people in the South Central neighborhood.
That's my answer to your question. I got access to the police and to this community, former gang member community, through the screening of my documentary. I uploaded my documentary then on Amazon and iTunes so that anybody can watch it. That's my answer to your question -- watch the film, see how it touches your heart and reach out and let's create something that you can then hold that space in your city. That's where partnerships is the only way because I cannot be in every city. I would invite everybody who's listening that, the film is on Amazon Prime and iTunes; see what it inspires you to do. The content of the non-violence curriculum is also in the film because the film also talks about the transformative content that the six people in the film went through. It’s an unscripted documentary. There is no script because this is how it was. Like I said before, the film happened in one month, from idea to production, one month. I didn't know any of these people. I didn't know how to make films. I didn't know what I was doing.
Mandar’s call to action for Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary...
[75:20 - 77:40]: This year is the 150th birth year of Mahatma Gandhi. So, October 2nd 2019, Gandhiji would turn hundred and fifty years. Based on the experience I have had, of film screenings and then this guided process at the end, I know it has worked for thousands of people that I have personally done this with over the last three years -- in inner-city schools, juvenile hall, prison gangs, police departments. So, what we have done is we have created a vision for this year. How do we celebrate Gandhi's 150th birth year? And so the vision is 1,000 screenings of the film on the same day, hosted by anybody who is concerned about violence in America. I have written a guidebook so it will give you a facilitation guide of what to do after the film screening. And I have recorded a guided meditation in my voice that you can play at the end of the screening. And then lead your own facilitation groups.
If you would like, after you have watched the film on Prime, if you would like to join this movement where we reinvigorate and press the non-violence button in the U.S. -- 1,000 schools and educational institutions is the goal. Berkeley is the capital of liberal thinking in America. So, if you can hold a discussion and if you can hold a screening -- a 90-minute program on October 2nd, and it's masterminded and coordinated in 1,000 locations. I think that's the power of a tribe like Nipun, and The Charter for Compassion and The Peace Alliance -- all these like-minded organizations. We can come together on Gandhi's 150th birthday. The purpose of this is to promote peace education in schools, educational institutions. So, I would invite anybody who's interested. You can be a parent. You don't have to be somebody who has facilitation experience. Anyone who is interested. We will train you.
[84:50 - 85:39]: You can do this in your neighborhood, in your child’s school. It bothers you, bothers me that we have these incidents in schools. It's a horrible feeling for a parent -- you send your kid to school, but you're worried and anxious. So let's revive it. Let's change the dynamics. Let's create this ripple effect of love and non-violence. I think that would be one ask. Second ask is to just reach out if you like what we have just spoke about. If you have a way to partner and bring the non-violence program that I did in LA, after watching that YouTube, if you want to bring something in your neighborhood for police and the community to come together. That would be my second request.
Mandar’s thoughts on how we got to where we are right now in India…
[79:50 - 81:01]: I think it's a great question, but I don't think I can do justice to it in 5 minutes. So, all I can leave you with is, I think “how did we stray away from it” [spirituality] is not the more meaningful question. The more meaningful question is “yes, we have strayed.” It's an observation. It's a, you can say, fact. “How can we bring it back?” I think that's where I would like to put my time and energy on, in the remainder of my life on the planet. It's not like only India has strayed. Many civilizations, cultures, countries have also strayed. So, it's a global issue. That's where we will have to think through, in this age of iPhones and phones and WhatsApp -- how can we create the education that is needed to bring people back to their center, to their happy, living, present moment center? It's not difficult. I think if we all come together, it's not difficult. Yes, we have strayed. I don't deny it.
Mandar’s thoughts on extending the impact of a ripple Inside a system that's not designed to allow it…”You have to charge yourself and then ignite other people”
[82:11 - 84:00]: The question is very poignant and very relevant to many systems. Right? So it's not just the oil and gas system. It's every system and that's where we need the intrapreneur. We need the entrepreneurial thinker inside that system. And I think the second thing is that the intrapreneur needs to rejuvenate themselves every day because the challenge that they are taking on is big. For me, my Sudarshan Kriya program, breathing exercise program, is that charge that I give myself every day. So find a charger for you. What charges you? And if you don't have a charger then definitely do the “Happiness Program.” Wherever you are in the world, it will give you the tools to charge. The third and the most important answer to your question is you charged is not enough; you have to find other people who are also charged. It's like, you know the example I will give you, you might be a small candle that is kept burning. But the room is so dark. It's a conference room. It's a ballroom. So, you will have to find other candles. You will have to find those other candles or maybe the light switch that you cannot do it alone. You will have to find other people -- ignite them also, and that's where partnerships is the only way. You cannot do it alone. But you have to preserve your own dignity and sanity and that's where meditation helps to keep that light in you alive.