Books and Me: The Holy CEO

Book Title: The Holy CEO

Author: Christian Fabre a.k.a Swami Pranavananda Brahmendra Avadhutaholy-ceo-500x500

I remember picking this book and dropping it back in the store without even reading the back cover on number of occasions. I am somehow averse to books that attempt to link spirituality to business directly.  The other reason probably could have been the fact that it was sub-titled ‘an autobiography’. After having read a few biographies and autobiographies, I began to sense a stereotyped approach to telling the story of one’s life. There was something inherently missing in most of them.

On this occasion, one of the many times when I went looking for answers to my dilemmas of running a small company – something in the book attracted me to read the back cover. I was instantaneously hooked, as the story seemed real and irrational at the same time.

How could a business man especially a foreign national turn to become a Swami? Even if this seemed plausible, how could a Swami straddle spiritual activities while running a for-profit company? Are you as surprised as me on hearing this? Yes! The author Christian Fabre, is the founder-director of the garment company and brand of his own name, while also being Swami Pranavananda Brahmendra Avadhuta.

The story seems to be an unusually honest retelling of a French man’s saga.  As he stumbled his way to India, to business, to spirituality, to becoming a Sadhu and accepting his guru’s dictum to continue his career in fashionable garments and use that as his spiritual practice (‘Sadhana’). His attempts to carry out his guru’s orders to try bringing spirituality into the material world seemed like a Bollywood flick.

The story is not linear – one that of a simple straight forward rags to riches but is a heart touching story of trying to be an entrepreneur, failing at it a number of times, struggling to keep an expat family, losing everything en-route  gaining the mother’s support and a great friendship to rise like a phoenix.

A very interesting feature of the book is the titled summary at the end which gives a short two to three line summary of every chapter contained in the book . It reminded me of the executive summary feature in Harvard Business Review which I admire and use extensively . But unlike any HBR issue I can assure you – you may not want to read the summary to figure out what to read in the book – it is an absolute page turner not only in pace but in wisdom!

His life is an inspiration to all those who believe that spirituality can be practiced while living and transacting in the material world. His current life style of balancing his ashram activities and his organizational business responsibilities make it seem like a dream come true. It encourages one to consider that values and business are probably not two separate threads but an enmeshed entity.

Apart from being an interesting read, the book is sprinkled with the highest wisdom from advaita philosophy based on the author’s experience.  Read the book at your own risk, for it will at the minimum leave you philosophical if not anything more!

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