My Namaste from the UK to all our readers from across the globe. Today I wish to introduce a personality who defies all odds and all obstacles in pursuit of his dharma and his karma. He has shown himself to be steadfast in the moral and ethical grounding he has had from our scriptures and the grace afforded to him from many esteemed and learned enlightened beings in the sphere of dharma. Pt. Satish K Sharma is a British Citizen of Indian origin, born in the Punjab and raised and educated in the UK. His family came to Britain in the 60s as a part of Britain’s drive to rebuild itself following the post war recession. He was Grammar School educated in the East Midlands of the 70’s and was the first of his family to graduate from University, graduating in Economics and Finance from Loughborough University.
His early career was in Accounting and Finance as one of the new breeds of computer systems auditors. His first mentor in the professional field advised him to leave the profession and seek an alternative that would be more fulfilling and worthy of his immense talent. He left to work in the newly established mini and micro computer industries. After having held senior positions and directorships he established a boutique IT Consultancy working on finding creative solutions to commercial challenges. His work has taken him all over the world and he still provides consulting services to a small portfolio of corporate clients. His greatest satisfaction is from using his global network to provide hyper cost-effective solutions for charitable projects.
I met up with Pt. Satish K Sharma and asked him a few questions:
Q. What is your current position?
I’m tempted to say ‘padmasana’ since I seem to be spending more and more time teaching and speaking on Classical yoga and Hindu Spiritual traditions, but I think you are looking for “Senior Management Consultant” in the professional sense. In addition to this, most of my time is taken up as General Secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) UK where we are working to improve the contribution which our Hindu Temple community is able to make in the UK as well as helping it to develop and evolve. In my spare time I am helping several other non-profits, here and internationally, to become established and to expand as well as supporting charitable start-ups, such as the new “Peace in Ireland” initiative which I am proud to be a part of.
Q. You have had an extraordinary journey from your birth country to your home now in the UK. Can you tell us a bit about your toughest challenges, your proudest achievements in your profession as well as being one of the leading community leaders from the Indian Hindu community in the UK?
Being a brown Hindu in the Britain of the 60’s and 70’s was one of the toughest upbringings one could have, but one for which I am most grateful. I attended a grammar school in the rural midlands and as one of only four non-white children in an aggressively white Catholic boys school, I learned that words don’t hurt unless you choose to allow them to. I learned that bullies are weak inside and I learned that often friends can be found in the most unexpected places.
My proudest achievement is having been a part of the team which brought British Hindus together to successfully challenge the Evangelist inspired anti Hindu “Caste legislation” initiative which sought to disrupt and “divide and rule” our tranquil and successful Brit
ish Hindu community. It was an education and we moved closer as a community and found enlightened supporters amongst the wider community as well. The toughest challenge has been to get our community to look up and accept the we now have a Dharmic obligation to share the wisdom of our Dharma with the wider community. Indians contribute significantly to the UK in all spheres of life and in all sectors of commerce. We as a community have integrated very well and as such we work for the benefit of the whole nation. In my view the time has now come to become more proactive in the political arena.
Q. Who/What inspires you?
Dr Subramanian Swamy for his courage and adherence to Dharma, come what may, and also Shri Rajiv Malhotraji’s insistence on clarity of thought and expression in service of Dharma is awesome. It’s impossible to deny PM Modiji for his humility and ability to execute dramatic and hugely positive change in such a short time period. The life of Nelson Mandela as an ardent student of the Bhagavad Gita and his journey from being called a ‘terrorist’ to becoming an international ‘statesman’ should be compulsory study for every student. And of course, there’s Guru Dutt for his heartrending incomparable poetry.
Q. What has been the biggest obstacle in your professional and/or community life?
The English and Irish people I have become close to are some of the best people I know but being a British Hindu is still the greatest challenge, especially if you have any knowledge of Colonial History. It’s becoming universally accepted that the Aryan Invasion Theory was a Colonialist construct, that the infamous Caste system which was well established and prevalent in Europe, was also a British imposition upon India and increasingly the extent of British atrocities in India is becoming widely known. Many are now demanding that Colonial History should be taught in British schools to ensure that our new generations grown up knowing of the rights and wrongs of the past, and to know that such behaviour in the future should be unacceptable to any civilised nation.
Despite Hindus and Indians having made the pivotal contribution to the British War efforts, British Institutions concealed this from the world, and from their own population, for almost a century until British Hindus began to demand acknowledgement. There is still also no mention as yet of how the British Government reneged on its war debt to India which was in the billions of dollars, so yes being a British Hindu is a daily challenge, especially when it comes to engaging with British institutions. The British institutional identity is still subliminally rooted in the perspectives which led to the colonial devastation of the 18th and 19th century whereas the Hindu identity has for thousands of years been rooted in the obligation to serve all of life, so being a British Hindu is a balancing of two polar opposites and an unceasing spiritual saadhana.
Professionally it’s now much better with today’s British Hindus being recognised for their contribution in most spheres, but this was not the case until recently. I recall applying for jobs in the 80’s and 90’s as a well-qualified finance graduate and getting zero interviews. To my amusement and shock, an English friend suggested replacing the name Satish with Simon, and guess what, within a month I had several interviews and also secured my first employed position. The battles for recognition and acceptance which my parents had to win however were on a different scale. We are so much in their debt and I salute them at every opportunity.
Q. Who has been the biggest influence in your career to date?
My Father rose to heights in a postindependence Rashtrapati Bhavan, working at a personal level with the early presidents of India but when he decided to build a life in Britain, the only role he was permitted to have was as a Bus Conductor. In the Britain of the 60’s it was an accepted truism that the Indian brain was incapable of controlling a bus at speeds in excess of 30 mph and it took several decades of effort to disprove this. In this environment he rose through the ranks to be a Bus inspector whilst building a portfolio of rental properties and educating his children to aspire to and attain Oxford and Cambridge education. His and my mother’s world view, which I realised was deeply Dharmic, of a shared divinity, which in some people is occluded by avidya, is what sustained them and which they instilled within us, was their greatest gift to me and it has been the moral compass which still inspires me in my daily life professionally and personally.
From a philosophical perspective, the words of Ashtavakra and Vasishta rub shoulders amicably with those of Burke and Paine, of Voltaire and of Thoreau and I refer to them on a daily basis. They are a fountain of nourishment and a source of never-ending delight and unquenchable humour.
Q. What would you like to achieve before GE2020?
I do not believe that Britain can survive in a post Brexit world without facing its colonial demons with courage and with honesty. Germany grace
fully “owned” its holocaust, accepted responsibility for the genocide in which it played a part and having atoned and made reparation, has been able to move forward with confidence as a leading member of the community of nations. In contrast Great Britain has so far evaded and avoided accepting its part in its colonial past, seeking to conceal, or even bullishly deny its role in multiple holocausts in many corners of the globe. This will be the “elephant in the room” at every summit and boardroom in a post Brexit world and it’s time for this shadow to be faced. India, and especially Hindus, bore the brunt of British supremacist initiatives and colonialist escapades and British Hindus are ideally placed to assist Britain to understand and come to terms with the impact of its past choices and their influence which is being felt even today.
I would like to see British Hindus fully engaged in the religious life of Europe and also the political life of Europe from a purely Dharmic perspective and as partners working to achieve global prosperity and tranquillity, not as the occasionally inconvenient but peripherally spicy item of exotica in the European political and religious landscape.
The last few decades have seen Britain make strides in its assimilation of Human rights principles, more so than in many EU countries which are seeing a very real resurgence of racist far right political power. Once it has come to terms with its colonial karma, Britain and the British people will be able to cut loose from this imperialist ball and chain, and then we would see a true world power appear and take a leading role in a more balanced west east dynamic.
Q. If you were Prime Minister of the UK, what one policy would you like to implement?
I would exclude all “religious” teaching from statutory education or until the age of 18. It is irrational, promotes unreasonable “truth claims”, creates cognitive dissonance in the young and prevents the otherwise tranquil and cohesive communities from naturally and organically integrating as citizens of the country and the world.
Q. If you were Prime Minister of India, what one policy would you like to implement?
I would immediately implement the UN DRIP Declaration thereby prohibiting religious conversion which is destructive of spiritual diversity and community cohesion and insist on authentic secular equality founded upon a uniform civil code. This would automatically see the problems in Kashmir become solvable, would see the inequitable and antimerit Reservations Policy terminated, and would finally end the act of foreign state sponsored subversion otherwise known as conversion. As Gandhi ji said, “Conversion is the greatest impediment to global peace” and is an act of communal violence perpetrated upon the most vulnerable and innocent people.
Q. Your faith is very important to you; can you tell us how it has helped you in your life?
I am not infected by “faith”, the concept is alien and irrational from a Dharmic perspective which is why ‘faith’ has never led to tranquillity and harmony for the last 1500 years. Dharma on the other hand is everything and the evidence of Dharma being key to human prosperity, harmony and ebullient living is visible in every Hindu community throughout the diaspora. It’s because of the Dharmic vision that we prosper, that we live in harmony, that we carry spirituality and ebullience wherever we settle.
Q. If you were marooned on a desert island, whichever historical figure would you like to spend your time with, and why?
That’s an easy one but being Punjabi, if one historical figure is offered I’m obliged to press for two. If they were contemporary figures, I’ve already mentioned Dr Swamy and Shri Rajiv Malhotra for their courage integrity and creativity. But if it was a requirement that my selection be historical then I think I’d most love to have Mohandas Gandhi and NathuRam Godse on an island with me. Another interesting and colourful person could be Boris Johnson and the prospect of understanding him appeals as much as the challenge of teaching him meditation on a desert island does. The time would just fly by! Given the choice of only one, then it would have to be the
Sri Krishna incarnation of this age, Shri Shyam Charan Lahiri of Varanasi who is a daily inspiration. I am sure all our readers would conclude rightly, that in Pt Satish Sharmaji we have a British Indian, of Hindu ancestry, who traverses the narrow line of balancing his heritage with the opportunities offered in Britain. He has represented the community in Parliament, at the Cenotaph in remembering the sacrifices of Indian soldiers during the WW2, stood with the Kashmiri Pandits in their time of need, challenged the establishment to think outside of the box, and yes, even challenged my very thinking of what it is to be a Hindu in the 21st Century. For me at least I came away feeling that maybe in Pt Sharma I have seen an entity that is truly deserving of the highest honours that can afforded by both Britain as well as India. Notwithstanding that, I am pleased to note that Swami Omkaranandaji, President of the Dharma Rakshana Samiti, has already bestowed the award of Dharma Rakshak to Pt Satish Sharmaji. I am sure many more will follow soon. KK: I trust you found my ‘Konversation’ with Pt. Satish Sharmaji interesting. Watch this space as I bring many more interesting personalities to you over the coming months. Do remember, you can also follow me on twitter, though you might need to have a robust constitution since I don’t mix my words and can be rather blunt on occasions.
Read More – October Edition of Opinion Express Magazine