Venugopal Acharya is a monk at the ISKCON and has spent eighteen years living with over 100 people in a small monastery. Prior to becoming a monk, he worked with an investment bank, and has an honours degree in economics, a Masters degree in international finance and an MBA in finance.
In his book, Are You Connected, Acharya emphasizes on sharing mutual success and growing with care and compassion. He shares the different skills and experiences that help one feel loved and in touch with one’s self, the people who matter and God. Here is an excerpt from the book:
In one of Shakespeare’s most powerful soliloquies, Hamlet, struggling with his private thoughts, asks himself:
What is a man, if his chief good and market of his time be
but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more. Sure, he that made
us with such large discourse, looking before and after, gave
us not that capability and God-like reason to fust in us
Prince Hamlet regrets that a man who simply eats, sleeps and carries on his life as an animal does no good to anyone. He reflects that God created us for a reason, and it’s up to each one of us to fulfil it.
We live, love and leave. We seek to live peacefully, in harmony, with who we truly are. We also desire to love and be appreciated by others. And for more evolved humans, to leave a legacy—to serve, add value—and to contribute to others’ happiness is as sacred a need. In other words we have three aspects to our existence—our relationship with ourselves, others, and with divinity, also referred to as God in most cultures, that transcends our matter-centred routine life.
There are many people who work hard for their family and have good friends, yet they feel a vacuum in their hearts. They wonder if they have chosen a wrong career or a partner. Thinking they are not doing things that truly represent their innermost values and purpose in life, they feel disconnected
from their own self.
There are, of course, some who do what they want, but realize over time that their relationships have suffered. After all, we need to love and feel loved. Despite measurable success and money, it’s love that we seek.
Marilyn Monroe, one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s, rose from a miserable childhood to Hollywood stardom. She always wanted to be an actor and she did become a legend. Yet, weeks before her death, suspected as suicide due to an overdose of drugs, she confessed in an interview, ‘I never quite understood this sex symbol. I always thought symbols were those things you clash together. That’s the trouble; a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing . . .’ She got
what she wanted, but her heart remained starved of love. She felt disconnected.
A few people do manage to live on their own terms, and they also get love from others. Yet, an incompleteness stares at them until they seek a deeper relationship with their spiritual existence. A divine being, also known in various traditions as Bhagavan, Supreme Lord or the Almighty, is at the core of our existence. Our spiritual reality is as inseparable to us as sunshine is to the sun. Yet, we chose to be covered by the clouds of ignorance. Spiritual practices—meditation, prayer, chanting—help us dispel these clouds; they unravel the mysteries of our own identity; we connect to our eternal spiritual self and to God, our loving friend and parent. And as a by-product, we also bond with our fellow brothers and sisters on this planet. Spiritual practices flood our hearts with love and help us leave behind a legacy of love.
The articles compiled in this book have been categorized into two broad categories: One, connecting and succeeding with self, and two, living and growing with others.
The first section, ‘Connecting and Succeeding with Self’, contains twenty-seven articles that focus on transcending internal barriers to go deeper into the spiritual aspects of our lives. Likewise, under the second category, ‘Living and Growing with Others’, you’ll find twenty-nine articles on principles that could help us succeed in our relationships with others; so we can care, serve and love better. Altogether, these fifty-six articles are elaborations of the twenty-five keys, which form the base of a truly connected life.