Interviewsand Articles


Editors Introduction: The Greater Good

by Richard Whittaker, Jul 27, 2010



Welcome to issue #16. It's a little late. Did I say the same thing about #15? On the other hand, it is here—and full of wonderful material. What's more, everything you will read has been created just for the good of it—not for the dollars of it. But that's the CF [] way. And lately I seem to hear that more people, many more, are experimenting with actions on this basis.

     It's interesting to notice that without even thinking about it, I've begun by invoking a basic value, the idea of a greater good. It's actually a perfect fit for introducing Somik Raha who recently completed his PhD at Stanford University in decision and risk analysis from Stanford's department of management science & engineering. Behind the impressive description is Somik's deep concern with values and how people arrive at their choices in life. [His dissertation defense -- Achieving Clarity on Value -- can be viewed online]. Thanks to Somik we have an interview with the Stanford professor who changed his life, Dr. Ronald Howard. About him Somik writes, "Professor Howard kept sharing stories from the Buddha in class, and his perspective was unlike any other Buddhist I had met. He's a modern-day Socrates standing on a foundation of clarity like no other person I know. What astounds me is how he's gone undiscovered so long for his spiritual wisdom, communicated in such a secular and simple manner. I was wondering what gift I could leave behind for America, and capturing Dr. Howard's wisdom on film topped the list. I made him promise to gift me these interviews, after all our academic commitments were complete, and he kept the promise." Here [in the first of Somik's two interviews] professor Howard speaks for close to an hour- a long time for most of us in our speedy lives so full of things to do. So one has to pay by slowing down to listen. But you'll get exceptionally good value for your time.

     It takes much less time to read Kathryn Sterbenc's interview with her husband Matthew Kowalski. However, here again, your time will be well spent. This is the story of a life turned around, the kind of story that needs to find its way into the world to give others hope. We're grateful that it's come to our attention.

     Our third feature came about in quite a novel way. I needed to get some painting done on my house and turned to the Berkeley Parents' Network, a good source for recommendations. The painter I called had some great references: Haricharan Das. A few days later he showed up to give me a bid, a tall man at the door who looked at me and smiled. Immediately I sensed something light and positive about his energy and invited him in. Taking a quick look around, the stranger remarked, "You've got a lot of art here! Did you know art and religion are always related?" Long story short, Hari got the job and was such a delight, I found myself talking with him every day about quitting time. Our conversations often went on for an hour.
     What were the chances that I'd find a meditation teacher and former head of an ashram to paint my house? The more I learned about this man, the more interested I became in his story.  How often do you meet someone [and his wife] who save up all year in order to spend several weeks pro bono in India helping serve hermit monks and nuns on long term retreats? Fortunately Hari was open to being interviewed. It's gratifying to be able to share his story with you.

     And not long ago I got a note mentioning an article in the Huffington Post.  The note was low key, but piqued my curiousity. And I liked having an excuse to use the term "Huffpo" (is that a great neologism or what?).  In the Huffpo, Birju Pandya writes, "Recently, I was on a plane reading an intriguing financial book my friend had given me. As our flight landed I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was an elderly gentleman asking for my thoughts on the book..." This article is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

     Wrapping this issue up, we arrive at Nipun Mehta's account of his recent visit to Japan. This is simply amazing. As he writes, "Four days ago I only knew one person in Japan. And I had met her once about a year ago. Today, after four action-packed days in Tokyo, after more than half a dozen community talks to various groups and scores of interactions with social change heroes, Japan feels like home-ultimately, a place can be called a home only when one finds family amongst its people. And I surely found family amongst the Saionjis." Here's Nipun's account of his memorable experience -- Arigato From Tokyo: Four Days of Unexpected Joy.

     What a pleasure being able to share these stories...


About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founder of works & conversations magazine.


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