By Gaurav Sharma
The Sixties was an era of rebellion. The counterculture movement, the anti-racism crusade by Martin Luthet King Jr, stepping of man on Moon, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the invasion of music by The Beatles, gay and lesbian rights movement, transformation of China into a socialist economy are all examples of the flux that the decade witnessed.
The political, social and economic changes notwithstanding, the Swinging Sixties was also a time when people sought out meaning of life and questioned the existing system of society. A ‘spiritual longing’ was what made people break from social norms and barriers.
While some hallucinated on acid, and lost themselves in music, sex and art, there were others who had the opportunity to associate with Indian mystics, yogis and spiritual teachers–those who had traveled across the seven seas to bring the ancient message of the Vedas to the West.
A different seeker
Alfred Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford and present Chairman of the Ford Motor Company was one of the many such seekers.
“I began to experiment and look at different ways of living. I wanted to know what God looked like. I was looking for a personal connection with God, a relationship with him,” Ford said during one of his interviews.
After he finished college, Ford began leading the life of a recluse in Rocky mountains in Wyoming. Things suddenly changed when a hippie friend introduced him to Krishna by bringing books of Prabhupada to his notice, specifically the Bhagavad Gita.
However, the real turning point for Ford happened when he heard the Bhajan–an album produced by George Harrison for the ‘Radha Krishna’ temple.
Ford found the experience of hearing the devotional song, deeply profound. He found himself crying and realized that that was the conception of God he was looking for: A stunningly beautiful form, having the complexion of a dark rain cloud, adorning a peacock feather on his head and playing a flute.
Ford and ISKCON
The billionaire scion of Ford family got in touch with Swami Prabhupada–the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, and became his disciple, deciding to dedicate his life on the spiritual path.
His first encounter with the Swami Prabhupada was a life-altering experience. The Swami had asked him thus: “So you are the great grandson of Henry Ford?”to which Ford nodded in the affirmative. Soon, Ford was left spellbound, when the Swami retorted by asking a deep philosophical question: “So where is he now?”
Ford, thus, came to realize the temporary nature of life.
“That question immediately made me realize that life is so temporary. Krishna Consciousness teaches you that the only eternal relationship and identity you have is with Krishna”, Ford once told English newspaper Times of India.
Ford, then, changed his life completely– he stopped drinking, became a vegetarian and cooked vegetarian food which he then offered to Krishna (Prasadam) and started the practice of chanting japa beads.
However, people questioned his altered life style, saying that he had come under the spell of a cult. None of that had any effect on Ford’s resolution though. If anything, his bond with his Guru strengthened to such an extent that he donated $600,000 to fund the establishment of a temple in Detroit.
All this to please the Guru
Even after his spiritual transformation, the material life was never neglected. After completing the spiritual activities which last from 4 am to 9 pm, Ford attends his business, where he works as a trustee of the Ford Motor Company and takes care of other charitable works.
Business and Spirituality seem to go hand in hand for the business tycoon. “Krishna’s message to Arjuna was not to run to the woods to meditate, but to be the best you can be in the material and yet not forget your spiritual life”, he says.
Ford has continued his contribution to expand Krishna Consciousness with full gusto and élan.
He is the Chairman of the much anticipated Vedic planetarium in Mayapur, an impressive architectural structure spanning more than 110 meters, slated to be the centerpiece of Vedic conception of the creation of Universe.
He has also managed to calm the angst of the orthodox church in Russia, which was highly insecure about the installation of Krishna temples in the country.
Ford now shuffles easily between an active business life and his family life. He is married to a Bengali devotee girl from Australia and is the father to two beautiful girls– Anisha and Amrita.