I grew up as an out and out atheist, taking after my Dad. Upto the age of 35, I often had long arguments with friends and teachers about the validity of the idea of God. For me to believe anything, it had to be proven using credible scientific means. No one was able to prove God to me, and I continued to remain an atheist.
In 1998, I graduated from a 4 year engineering course.
Between 1998 and 2004, I had a successful 6 year long working career, most of it as as a software engineer. During that period I worked for tech startups / firms in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Silicon valley California. In December 2004, I started my journey as an entrepreneur through Madhouse, the first startup I co-founded, which was acquired in June 2007. Those 2.5 years were easily the most challenging years of my life and lead to phenomenal personal growth. In January 2008, I co-founded “The Morpheus or Morpheus Gang”. It was the first startup accelerator of India and had significant impact on the startup ecosystem of India. We formally supported 82 startups, before deciding to wind it up in 2014.
In 2011, right in middle of Morpheus’ journey, something new started emerging. During the last 3 years, we had worked with 36 startups in 5 batches and applications for the next batch were coming in. Just then, during a train journey between Delhi and Chandigarh, a question popped up in my head.
What can we learn from our experience of 3 years and 36 startups? So that we can improve the quality of our work and its outcomes.
While reflecting on the question, I noticed that within 12 months of its beginning, one of the two things happened to a startup : either it went towards a shutdown or towards a take off. But Why did some startups shutdown and why did some take off ? The WHY was driving me mad. I wanted to understand the underlying factors behind these diametrically opposite results.
First thing that was very clear was that the outcome of a startup was a direct result of the working style of the founder(s). Secondly, the core job and activity of a startup founder was problem solving. The speed and accuracy with which a founder solved problems, determined the rate of the startup’s progress. Hence, the founding team which had an effective problem solving ability would take off and others would have to shut down.
As I was reflecting on the working styles of the founders, the next insight came in. The founders were using two distinct approaches of problem solving. On one side there were founders with a logical mindset. They started with a rational framework to study the problem, setup experiments, collected data, came up with hypothesis of solutions, verified them, consulted experts before implementing any solutions. On the other side there were founders with an intuitive mindset. These folks also started by looking at the problem through a logical framework, but if they received an intuitive insight while working towards possible solutions; they were very likely try it out to see the outcome, instead of completing the logical process. Interestingly, the founders with Intuitive Mindset were making all the progress and were solving problems innovatively and efficiently, where as, the logical founders were unable to cope up and ran out of patience or money. I clearly saw that the capacity of receiving and applying Intuition was the single biggest factor behind a take off of a startup venture.
What is Intuition? How does it work? Why are some people Intuitive and some Logical? I was obsessed with all these questions. As I started to look deeper, I observed that Intuition was the source of all pioneering discoveries & movements of human history, all the pioneers had an Intuitive Mindset. If this was true, then why were we as the current society are obsessed with the methods of logical thought and its workings, in this world?
Searching for answers
I started my enquiry into Intuition by studying the domain of Mind Sciences, to understand the mind and its workings. For an year I read simple and complex books, and research papers on psychology and neurology. While I learnt a lot about functioning of the brain and mind, I found no answers to the riddle of Intuition. Infact, the Mind Sciences were denying the phenomenon of Intuition. Since I was directly experiencing the phenomenon of Intuition, it was real and concrete for me. It was possible that Science had still not found a way to understand and explain it. Hence, I decided to propose a scientific Theory of Intuition. The plan was to document my understandings of Intuition as a white paper and then, collaborate with Neuro Scientists at leading research labs to design experiments for the verification of my theory. I started creating the paper.
During that period, I was reading a book called “Integral Education” – about the system of education developed under the direct guidance of Mira Alfassa ( also known as The Mother) as part of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry. In the book there is a chapter on “Perfection of Mind”, it describes various capacities and faculties of the mind and processes to develop them. In this chapter I came across a line which in effect said ‘the intellectual mind has a limit to how far it can be developed, to go beyond this limit, one has to access the ranges of the Intuitive mind’. As I was reading this line my mind was saying “Wow, this book is talking about Intuition and the author seems to know what it is and how it can be developed”.
There was a 10 page section in the book dedicated to the faculty of Intuition. As I read thru these 10 pages I felt I was reading something very familiar, most of it matched my own observations and understandings. The book also described many things that I was not aware of but I was able to easily connect. These pages provided some great insights into Intuition but did not contain all the knowledge of Intuition. I was really keen to learn more. There was a pointer to more in the book, it said that as part of the ancient Indian Yogic systems the Rishis had mastery over functioning and development of the faculty of Intuition. At this point I didn’t want to read the book on education any further but wanted to learn about this Ancient Indian Yogic system. But, I had no clue about the landscape of Yoga. As the system of Integral Education was developed based the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, who was considered to be a great Indian Yogi, I decided to start reading his works. Alongside I also started to read Swami Vivekananda, Jiddu Krishnamurthi and some other yogis / masters.
This is how my journey into the world of Vedic / Yogic world started in early 2012, shortly after I turned 35. My interest grew very rapidly, I was specially pulled and absorbed by the Writings and Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. I became more and more keen to explore the possibility it offered for myself and for humanity. Within two years I was ready to give up everything and risk everything (I had, notionally) for this possibility. I quit my thriving profession of working with startups and with all my time & intensity jumped into this field, both to study and to practice what I was studying.