A bureaucrat's quest for peace of mind

A review of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) chairman Balvinder Kumar's book 'Man's spiritual journey: Understanding the purpose of life' and a short interview.

GN Bureau | September 1, 2014


Delhi Development Authority (DDA) vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar
Delhi Development Authority (DDA) vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar

When the rush of the work day is over, when the frictions and frustrations are still lingering over, when the mind refuses to be amused by TV and internet, a small voice from inside asks, what is all this about? That search, for peace of mind or for balance in life, is entailed in the US constitution’s expression, ‘pursuit of happiness’. We are, in other words, talking about spirituality.

The term does not denote some ascetic practice to be pursued away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, preferably in a Himalayan retreat. Spirituality has to be practised – and the balance has to be found in day-to-day life. Thus, a leading bureaucrat writing about spirituality should not be a matter of surprise; indeed, a balanced and holistic approach to administration should be the norm. Yet, of course, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar, IAS officer of 1981 batch (UP cadre), is an exception.

Man’s Spiritual Journey: Understanding the Purpose of Life is a handy book that can help any reader recharge the spiritual resources. It is not a demanding work, expounding some arcane system; open it anywhere and you will find a paragraph-long note that stands on its own, and will redirect you to the very things that really matter in life.

In another gesture towards the reader, the author shares a list of books that helped him in his journey. This bibliography shows a vision of spirituality encompassing cutting-edge research in science. It is also an enticing invitation to set out on this journey.

You are a bureaucrat, an accomplished painter and now also an author – that too, of a book on spirituality. What turned you in this direction?
We all are destined to grow mentally and then spiritually during the course of our lives. However, our spiritual growth goes on fast-track when we are subjected to sharp ups and downs in life. When I passed through the somewhat tough terrain some years back, I got inclined towards the spiritual path and that’s how I turned in the direction through which I am passing through at present.

You have mentioned several books that helped you in your “spiritual journey”. Which works helped or influenced you the most?

I have developed a passion for reading on varied subject matters and areas right from neuroscience, quantum physics and cosmology to philosophy of religion. I love going deep into the areas of mysticism. However, Buddhist philosophy has influenced me significantly. It reflects in the way I act, react and respond to worldly affairs.

What does spirituality mean to you?
Realization of love, compassion and concern for others is the essence of spirituality. You start understanding more and more about pain and suffering of those who are not in your inner circle. This is what I feel spirituality is all about. We all, during our life’s journey, grow spiritually while learning lessons from mistakes, failures and suffering, which we all experience despite our best efforts.

You are a senior bureaucrat. Your typical work day would be involving a lot of friction and stress. How does spirituality help you in your work?

One’s spiritual nature gives strength and enhances capacity to withstand mental stress and tension that we experience in our day-to-day life. Especially, in our job we need inner strength to face the hard realities of life. Besides, we need to be more sensitive and compassionate towards problems and grievances of others who come to us for redressal of their problems. If someone is spiritually strong then I think that person is better equipped to handle such people.

The interview appeared in the August 16-31, 2014 issue of the magazine.

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