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If you look at the great lives of entrepreneurs worldwide, and let's talk about Steve Jobs. You know, Steve Jobs read 'Autobiography of a Yogi' in India. That became his book. He gave it away. It was the only gift given away on his funeral. Now, what is a guy who is creating Apple and the company we know today, why is he coming to India and going to an ashram in Tehchi, in Nainital, and then even telling Zukavar to go there after so many years, right? There has to be a reason. So the reason is that in extreme situations of entrepreneurship, startup, business building, your mind is completely frazzled, right? It's destroyed. You don't have any kind of semblance of pure, clear, you know, let's say empty thinking. It's always clouded by a decision. And when you get time to meditate and you are able to de-cloud your mind and de-fog your mind, the original thoughts that you are supposed to have come through. So it's a very simple thing, right? Welcome to our sequel episode with Mr. A to the K. Alok, K. Dhruval sir. So this one's going to be about your life outside of selling startups. We're talking about spirituality here. I think we ended the last episode with a very interesting nugget. I asked you, what does spirituality give a businessman that, you know, other businesses, other businessmen cannot have and you said insight. So I think that's a great place to begin this conversation. How did you firstly get into this school of thought that, okay, there's a parallel journey, there is a spiritual journey as well and it's not just all about business?
Exploring Spirituality: Experiences, Understandings, & Recommendations
When did he begin his Spiritual journey? (01:49)
So it is all obviously because of my upbringing. I was born and brought up by my nan and nanny who surrounded themselves with these interesting people. They had these spiritual people who would keep coming to our house and I was a young boy and I would keep meeting them, not really liking them. That's part of the book, initial part of the book. How I detested these men and women in robes and different colour costumes. But every time I met them, these people, I would get something that I didn't have myself. You know, they would have clairvoyance, they would be able to say things that I didn't know and they would have a magnetism that I did not find in my company of friends and family. So as much as I detested them, I said, what is this power that these people have? And when I would travel on these spiritual, you know, pilgrimages with my nan and nanny, I would feel uplifted. So it was a pure experiential curiosity that said, if people or places can make me feel different, then I want to know more about them. Yeah, you used a very interesting word there, clairvoyance.
What is Clairvoyance? (03:07)
I'd actually love to hear you expand on that concept for the listeners. Sure. So without making this sound like a voodoo interview, there are so many people I met in my early part of my journey who would, because of their deep meditations, because of their deep sadhana, because of their ability to, you know, probably just read people. Like I think you said something very nice in the early interview that you get an opportunity to read people. The more people you meet, the more you can understand them. And I would just get these kind of questions that they would ask me about, you know, OK, how's your company doing? You know, I met this guy in Ajmer who said, so, you know, how's the socks export going? And I had no clue how he knew about Socks Export, right? So what made him understand that I was in the socks business? Now, I don't know what must have happened to him or how he figured it out. But I think that over a period of time, I realised that apart from the guys who were trying to pull a fast one on me, a lot of wise people had this deep, intuitive sense of understanding how life unfolds. And therefore, their questions were predicated on making me question that and understanding what they were saying versus being surprised. So, wow, I think you discovered this at a very early age. I would probably... I had a very deep spiritual experience.
Ranveer on his Ayahuasca experience (04:35)
Have you heard of what Ayahuasca is? No, I haven't. Have you heard of Ayahuasca? No, I haven't. So it's a South American ritual where it's like a spiritual ritual where they have a brew. They make you consume it. And there's like their version of a pandit who puts you through a whole ceremony. Now, that randomly like happened to me. I was on a vacation somewhere and it just came to me and that shifted a lot of things for me in my head. The guy who made me experience it, he also introduced me to meditation at 22. And meditation kind of met me at a very interesting point because I was just starting out YouTube and I didn't know what I was doing. And I think I got divinely led onto the right path. So even today, a lot of my key decisions come out of deep meditations or a lot of... That's it. That's exactly the point. That's exactly what I'm saying. So wisdom, insight, intuitively, creativity comes to you from meditating. Yeah. So like, you know, when you started out all these businesses, you sold businesses to Disney, you're investing in businesses, you're so deeply involved in the world of startups and business.
How he takes out time for Spirituality (05:34)
Where do you find that time to get into spirituality? One, how do you exercise that muscle? Two, and three, again, do the two worlds clash? Because people often have this outlook on spirituality that, okay, it means no material benefits, but then business means the exact opposite. Let's start with the last question or the last point first. Actually, it's a symphony. It's not even a clash. It's a beautiful symphony of two worlds. And so I write in my book that I'm a spiritualist and a capitalist and a very happy one at that. And I'm as comfortable in a corporate boardroom as I am in a Himalayan cave. That's the kind of expression that I have. So I'm not alone. You know, if you look at the great lives of entrepreneurs worldwide and let's talk about Steve Jobs. You know, Steve Jobs read autobiography of a yogi in India. That became his book. He gave it away. It was the only gift given away on his funeral. Now, what is a guy who's creating Apple and the company we know today? Why is he coming to India and going to an ashram in Tehchi, in Nainital and then even telling Zukavar to go there after so many years, right? There has to be a reason. So the reason is that in extreme situations of entrepreneurship, startup, business building, your mind is completely frazzled, right? It's destroyed. You don't have any kind of semblance of pure, clear, you know, let's say empty thinking. It's always clouded by a decision. And when you get time to meditate and you are able to de-cloud your mind and de-fog your mind, the original thoughts that you are supposed to have come through. So it's a very simple thing, right? It's like where would you rather be? In a street full of traffic and cars or would you be on an empty street? That's when you can hear the wind blowing in the trees. You can't hear it when there are too many cars on the street honking away. So that's one part. As far as the time goes, it's very simple, boss. I mean, we sleep for 6-7 hours a day. So there is 16-17 hours left. I mean, no one can work for 17 hours a day, boss. And meditation and any mindfulness doesn't take more than a couple of hours at the max. So, I mean, that's fine. I think we all spend more time on Insta and social media than we would ever spend on meditating. So who cares? It's a couple of hours at the most. Yeah. But when did you start meditating? I know you are deeply involved with the Art of Living Foundation. I've had the honour of interviewing Gurudev as well on the same show. Oh, lovely. Yeah, and you know, every time I have a spiritual guest on the show, I always see, either they give me some advice that I need exactly at that point in my life or, you know, there's always some shift. Again, it's not for the general public to understand. There's a lot of people, the moment they'll hear this sentence, they'll be like, "What's going on?" Or he's just talking gibberish and all that. But this is something you understand once you're on the spiritual journey. I want to ask you, how did you get into the Art of Living, like in the first place?
How he got into ‘The Art of Living’ (08:51)
Sure. So it's a very interesting story and it comes out of a very practical experience that we all know, which is the threat of shutting down or something going terribly wrong. Or let me say, a situation out of control. So in 2000, my first business was going to go bust and I was extremely stressed. And I had no way to get rid of that stress other than just suffering, right? So a friend of mine told me, "Listen, I don't know what I can do for you, but why don't you do this Art of Living course? Because at least it can help you alleviate the stress." It is more like time passed, right? And I said, "Okay, let me go there. At least my mind will be taken away from this trauma of not being able to control things." And I learned the Kriya, I learned breathing, I learned meditation and everything changed for me. Now, I call it not a coincidence, but you can call it a coincidence. My business not just survived, which was going to shut down in 40, 50 days, but thrived. You know, I'm still sitting in front of you, you know, 22 years later talking about the same ventures I started. So did this meditation suddenly give me pools of money that came into my bank? No. Did it suddenly give me clients or customers? It did not. What it did give me was a deep insight on how I should really look at my business. So if I explained to you in one line, I was chasing VCs to give me a little amount of money to survive. And after I did this meditation course and I came back to my office, my co-partner said, "Alok, forget all this yaar. Let's just go to our customers and beg them, borrow them and tell them, "Listen, I'll work for you for the next five years. Please advance me some money so that I can continue my business." I did that and there were customers of ours who were saying, "Alok, why didn't you ask before, boss? What do you want?" So we survived because of customer love. And that insight came because I'd never thought of it before. And how old were you when this happened, when you were introduced to it? I'd say 27-28. So, you know, at 27-28, at least my entire generation is fighting all their vices. It could be alcohol, it could be weed, it could be excess meat, it could be excesses of junk food. And since I know you're an art of living teacher as well, I'm pretty sure you're living like a very, very clean lifestyle that's free of these vices. Could you highlight the aspect of vices in a spiritual journey and spiritual progress?
Aspects of vices in his spiritual journey (11:17)
There's a very interesting story in the book but I'll talk about it. So, yeah, right. I had the good fortune of growing up in a vegetarian family. So, I didn't have to de-addict myself. But I was definitely drinking once in a while and I was also smoking once in a while. And there's a story in this book about, you know, an incident that happened to me in a monastery in Ladakh where I went with the desire of getting rid of alcohol because it wasn't gelling well with my lifestyle and meditation. And the day I came back to Bombay, something happened and the memory of alcohol left me. I did not remember that I used to like to drink. It's incredible. Now, the point you asked is, yeah, I mean vices are important in our lives because then we know, we learn what dependency is. See, if you don't have a vice, then how do you learn what dependencies are, right? Life is beautiful. Once you have a dependency and you want to curb it, you understand the power of willpower, you understand the power of how you feel when you don't enjoy that vice or indulge in that vice and so and so forth. Meditation and mindfulness are just tools and techniques that give you an alternative high or an alternative respite that doesn't make you crave that. And I want to conclude by saying something quite strange. So, you know, there are two ways for a relationship to break. So, let's take a boy and girl, they like each other. Now, if the boy leaves the girl, the girl's relationship is over or the girl leaves the boy, right? In the relationship of vice and us, we have a relationship with vice. We will never leave the vice because it's very hard. But what happens if the vice leaves us? The relationship is broken. So, that is what happens when you put a mind to it and you meditate and you pray for miracles. And some things like these happen to all of us. Have you experienced miracles in your life?
Experiencing Miracles in life (13:28)
Many, many, many, many. They are all part of that book. I packaged them very carefully so that they don't look like pure miracles. But yeah, definitely. I mean, something that happened at Pondicherry for me, I was becoming very arrogant, you know. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't have any vice. And I just told my wife and someone else I kept meeting that, for example, you know, I'm such a pakka, vegetarian. I don't know the taste of prawn. I use the word prawn. And my wife asked me, she says, "Alok, why are you saying prawn? Why don't you say chicken or something else?" Because prawn is like an odd example. And I said, "Chavi, I am saying prawn because it's so far away from, you know, people might even eat chicken by chance. But how will I ever eat prawn, right? That's how far away I am." And lo and behold, in 40 minutes of that last arrogant statement of mine, I was sitting in a hotel and I ordered a beautiful tomato rasam. And it came with prawns in it. And I ate it and I slurped it down. And I said, "Oh my God, what am I eating, man?" And there were prawns. So I tasted prawn. That's a miracle. Wow! And it gave you what you needed at that phase of your life. Like a tight wrap saying, "Boss, get the arrogance out, get the ghamand out. The world will not forgive you for being so, you know, cocky." Yeah, here's what people don't understand about vice is that they don't always have to be external. They can be internal as well. And sometimes your journey of spirituality and your spiritual practices actually force situations like this. Right. The other outcome of spiritual practice in general is what you highlighted early on in the episode, 'Clairvoyance'.
What are siddhis? (15:13)
Sir, could you explain Siddhis to the listener, like what are Siddhis? I mean in your own way. And if you've had any experiences or any stories of people with Siddhis, if you've come across any, which I'm sure you have. Yeah, so you know, we'll keep the voodoo out of it. But I think Siddhis are super powers, not supernatural powers. Super powers that you get because your mind is very focused or your mind is laser targeted at a certain kind of space or a point in your life. So in my case, I have begun to notice even today that, you know, a lot of wishes that I make come true. And it's amazing, like I wish that, you know, a game of mine will start to do well and slowly and steadily. Now, one can't say that, "Oh, I'll just make a wish and I'll go to sleep." But I feel that by making a wish and by kind of committing my heart to it, something happens that leads me to probably enjoying the success of that game. Right. There is a story in this book about how, and you know Babaji, Babaji is the central part of this book. I just yearned and yearned and yearned to have his darshan in an airplane, an airport. I just, I have, can you imagine how bizarre the mind is? I want to see you Babaji. And I had this desire when I was travelling from Bombay to Delhi and back. Now, it's ridiculous. But in the story, it's called the incident in the plane. You will read that Babaji actually gave me that grace, he gave me that darshan, you know, he gave me someone, someone opening the autobiography for Yogi and actually trying to show it to me without knowing that. That gentleman, by the way, is the managing director of A.T. Kearney in India, which is a very large, well-known consulting firm. So, he's not some guy that you can randomly pick out and call. And you know, he's featured in the book. And he keeps telling me that Alok, I have no clue why I picked up that book on my iPad and kept showing you that picture which you are very, you know, many rows behind. I don't know why I did that. So, that's a miracle, right? That's a siddhi. I wish for something and it came through. So, these things happen and these things happen. So, let me conclude by saying, these things happen to you and to me, but we don't pay attention. We all call them coincidences, "Oh, I was thinking about this, suddenly this happened." But they, yeah, they are coincidences for sure. But how can you make coincidences repeat themselves by practising what made them happen in the first place? Do you think the process of sacrificing vices, both external and internal, actually increases incidents like this and increases the amount of spiritual experiences you are having?
Does sacrificing vices create miracles? (17:49)
No, I don't think so. I don't think there is any need for us to suddenly become, you know, crazy and start shedding all these habits. I think what these habits do, unfortunately, is they distract you. So, if you drink alcohol, if you are in a different kind of space, you can't be mindful, you can't be attentive, you can't be alert, you can't meditate. Right? So, eventually, let me rephrase it. Let's simply say, if you drink too much, can you exercise when it's time to exercise? You can't. If you got a hangover, you can't. So, it's a simple example. By not drinking, you will probably land up exercising a little bit more, which will make you feel even better, which will say, I don't want to drink even more. So, it's a very virtuous cycle of experiencing the benefit of something by not doing something else versus saying that thing is bad. Nothing is bad, ya. Yeah, and since you've been meditating for a while, what does meditation feel like in your 40s? I know what it gives you now. In my 20s, it makes me a lot calmer.
What meditation feels like in the 40s (18:58)
It definitely guides me. There are mornings that I'll have some massive shoots or some massive commitments and I know how the day is going to go. The first message in my head is, this is what's going to happen. Let's expand on that for 30 seconds before I go to my answer. So, what you just shared with me and I'm so amazed. Now, this is what I call telepathy or let's call it a small clairvoyance. What happens in the morning is your mind is calm and composed and clear. And why does that idea of good, you know, why does clarity come in the morning more than afternoon and definitely not in the evening? Because your mind is less agitated, it's less perturbed. So, that's a great practical example of what can I do by meditation that makes my mind like morning all the time. So, that's exactly what you answered. See, meditation at 20, 30, 40, 60, I think 90 will always be the same. It just makes you feel super light and super, you know, it's like saying that you feel like you're in a very wakeful sleep. So, you feel like you're relaxed, nothing is bothering you, you're already conscious of where you are and you enjoy that. Versus your friends who don't meditate, like how do you see that difference in your mindset versus theirs? And I'm not trying to look down on anyone, I'm just asking you your experience. No, I think there is a different set of qualities that come with people who don't meditate. Their energy, their enthusiasm, their ability to do things spontaneously is probably better.
Energies of people who don’t meditate (20:28)
But eventually, right, there is always this claw back, right, you always the body and the mind always then feel tired. And I think there is not any one person, any one in the world who is not tired on a daily basis because you get fed up of what you do. So, the real difference between the meditator and the non-meditator is how that tiredness manifests and how you tackle it. Beautiful, sir. And if someone has to explore spirituality more, what books or podcasts would you point them towards? I would say, you know, what, boss, be a spiritual hippie, be a spiritual shopper. Do not worry about a book, examine and act.
Book/podcast recommendations on Spirituality (21:19)
You know, there's a saying, drink the wells, drink the water of many wells. So, I would say sample the eight or ten publicly known institutions that teach meditation. One or two will resonate with you deeper, try them out a little bit more and then stick to the person or that, you know, institution that vibes with you. And that's the way to find a spiritual path because you should not choose something that someone has told you. You know, read, there are many books on meditation and mindfulness. Read a few, pick up some. If you don't like it, just drop it and read something else. And if you had to end this episode with one big spiritual learning of your life, what would it be? That big spiritual learning is that there is a sense of happiness and a sense of, let's say, a good feeling or a warm feeling in every situation.
Key Lessons From His Spiritual Journey
Biggest Spiritual learning of his life (22:12)
So, in anything you may be going through and the worst of situations or the bad of situations, there is a positive to it. And nature puts us through these cycles like it puts itself through cycles, right? There is a summer and a winter and an autumn and a spring. It puts us through these cycles to make us appreciate the fullness of life. So don't feel down or don't feel too up either when things are going badly or things going up. Because it's about the state of understanding what's going on to you or happening to you versus trying to experience it and then feeling bad about it. Beautiful. Thank you, Mr. Alok K. Ziva for two amazing podcasts. It's going to add a lot of value out there. I'm going to link all your handles down below. I hope that the listeners go purchase 'The Cave', that's his new book containing all these little spiritual stories and I'm dead sure lessons. I really appreciate it, sir. We'll probably have you on the Hindi podcast at some point whenever you're up for it and we'll continue this vibe. Thank you so much. So kind of you. Ciao. Good luck. Thank you.