Avinash B Sharma was introduced to Yoga at an early age by his parents. He has been practicing yoga, meditation and related sciences since his days as a child in Chennai. “When I was a teenager, my parents sent me to learn asanas and pranayama at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Chennai Centre. But it was only later in my life, when I was in my 20s in Chicago and Toronto, that I started studying the scriptures and philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta,” says the 34-year-old senior consultant for strategic programmes at a large Canadian bank in Toronto.
Having spent most part of his life abroad, Sharma came across several instances that laid the foundation of his interest in amalgamation of the ancient Indian art of Yoga and the discipline of management. His recent book, The Yogic Manager is a result of his research on this union.
“The book is a business novel that was written to bridge Yoga-Vedanta and Management. The foreword was written by Dr Dipak C Jain, Dean of INSEAD. The book is a modern retelling of the Mahabharata. The epic’s war of Kurukshetra has been recreated in the world of business at a consulting firm called Characterra Consulting. The book’s key characters were inspired by Arjuna, Yudhisthira and Duryodhana from the Mahabharata. The protagonist is Arjun Atmanand who faces a crisis when his conscience clashes with the instructions of his boss and Characterra’s founder, Raja Sahamkar. To help him with his crisis, Arjun receives advice from Yogi, a being with supernatural powers. Arjun learns Yoga and Vedanta from Yogi, which he uses to build a bridge between Yoga-Vedanta and Management,” he explains.
His personal story behind the book is an interesting one, something he calls his ‘eye-opener’. “In 2002 I had just finished my MS in Computer Science and had started working for a research center at the University of Chicago. The office was located in downtown Chicago, right opposite the Art Institute of Chicago on Chicago’s prominent Michigan Avenue. On my way to and from work I would pass by this institute and see a sign calling that part of the avenue the Swami Vivekananda Way. I asked myself why the road was named after the Swami. I learnt about how Swami Vivekananda built a bridge between the East and the West by introducing the world to the Yoga and Vedanta schools of Sanatana Dharma,” he says.
Sharma adds that he also learnt about the other 9/11 — September 11th of 1893, that few people have heard about. “Growing up in India I had heard of Swami Vivekananda, but like many of my generation, had never read his books. Seeing the importance the city of Chicago had given him, I was prompted to read his book on Karma Yoga, and then his books on all four Yogas, including Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. His books got me interested in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras,” he says.
This resulted in an extended research on the subject followed by Sharma penning The Yogic Manager. “After the US financial crisis of 2008 hit the global economy, I started to believe that there was something seriously wrong with the world of business. Our ways are not sustainable because they are built on greed and ignorance,” he says. This idea made him feel that the world needed an alternative way of thinking. “I looked for answers in the texts of Yoga, Vedanta and mythology, including the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Upanishads and Yoga Sutras. My book is a result of the research I conducted between 2008 and 2012,” says Sharma.