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From Spirituality to Construction
Bijay Raj Bhandary is the founder and chairman of CE Construction. A civil engineer by profession and an entrepreneur by heart, his spiritual wisdom has guided CE to the heights it has achieved, 23 years after its establishment. Wishing to delve deeper and discover more about his personal side, we convened with him to provide inspiring notions and valuable guidance to many who look to him as an inspiration. Here is an excerpt from the inspirational meet with him:
What made you motivated in spiritualism and meditation?
From my childhood itself, I was very much into prayers, pujas and fasting practices. I did participate in transcendental meditation taught by Mahesh Yogi while he was in Nepal in 1974 but did not continue practicing for long. I have however, in the last 14 years been practicing Vipassana – which I discovered quite serendipitously. One day Yazma, my eldest daughter came and asked whether she could join a meditation camp which was at Budhanilkantha. I did not know what this meditation was about but thought that meditation might benefit her. When I went to pick her after the session, I felt a very positive vibration which we call free flow. An urge started developing within me and I decided to go to take the course. I filled a form for this ten days course and to make sure no one would stop me, I informed my friends and family a mere two days before the start of the course. I realized the benefits of this course instantly- and from the very first course I felt like it was something I needed to do in order to make my life more meaningful. Since then, I have been practicing this meditation every day, one hour in the morning one in the evening. As a teacher of Vipassana, I also conduct ten day courses twice a year besides participating in at least one course myself. The benefits of Vipassana have been quite apparent in my life and have also proven to be instrumental in the betterment of the lives of many others.
What is spiritualism for you and why spiritualism is essential for human life?
I believe that spiritualism is a process that helps eradicate mental defilements or impurities in the mind and establish the preferred balanced state of mind. We should integrate spirituality into our lives in order to lead happier lives and let others live in peace and harmony.
How are you making your life compassionate?
The Vipassana Mediation technique has three folds - sheel, samadhi and panya. A combination of the three, in my opinion, makes for a compassionate person. The practice of ‘Sheel’ helps one lead a moral life. ‘Samadhi’ helps to build concentration and mastery over one’s own mind. ‘Panya’ is wisdom. These three folds complement one another and when practiced together help you really know yourself and do the right thing. Knowing you have done the right, fair thing releases you from a great deal of trepidation and provides you with a certain inner peace. This inner peace – happiness- helps you become compassionate towards others which help them become happy as well. A practice of Sheel, Samadhi and Panya promotes loving kindness which makes you want to give to people rather than take from them. A continuous practice of meditation will develop the quality of forgiveness that will enhance and make the environment around you very comfortable for other people. I believe people do sense my practices and my degree of compassion, which make them comfortable around me, always happy and willing to share their experience and knowledge.
Is there a pronounced difference between other meditation practices/pujas and Vipassana?
I am a believer that all these techniques have merit and will help you in one way or the other. However, unlike most practices and pujas, which are tied to a religion or sectarian, Vipassana a non-sectarian practice which deals with the purification of mind and is for everybody. The beauty of Vipassana is that in order to practice this technique all you need is your own body – Vipassana is about observing your body, starting with your breath, to the arising and passing away of different sensations that flow through your body (law of impermanence). As you begin to understand more about the body that is yours alone, truths begin to reveal themselves.
Many find Vipassana quite difficult to follow in the beginning, not unlike the bitter medication that is essential to make you better. That is why Vipassana has dedicated teachers and volunteers. In fact a vast majority of the participants who take this course not only wish to return, or serve as volunteers, but also want their loved ones to take a course. We have millions of students – a good percentage of them new. However, like any good thing Vipassana is, in the beginning, not easy.
You started your business in 1992 after you returned from the United States. Now you have 27 joint ventures till date where thousands of people are employed. Furthermore, you are also a spiritual personality. Is there any correlation between spiritualism, your business and compassion?
I believe there is a very apparent connection between being a spiritual person and the manner in which one wants to conduct one’s business. I as a practitioner of the Vipassana technique have gained much from this form of meditation that has proven very fruitful to my business. I have been able to focus – I have a clear vision of what I intend to do. This in turn has helped me run my business efficiently and effectively. By nurturing the seed of compassion within me, my staff now contributes to my company with a feeling of gratitude, energy and willingness as opposed to mere compulsion. Moreover, when you are doing the right thing, there is a far less chance of a conflict of interest between stakeholders, which manifests as a congenial atmosphere in the business circle. At CE we say we have colleagues, not competitors, and we do not have enemies; this is a result of compassion and tolerance taught by Vipassana.
You could have been a project manager in the US and led a different life. You came back to Nepal and started the entrepreneurial business and then employed so many people. Was it clear to you when you started?
My entrepreneurial journey actually began earlier when I was working for the United Nation Project at Lumbini as Project Manager. Here, when faced with far more competent UN counterparts, I fell short merely because of what I consider the three Es – Education, Experience and Exposure. I had to upgrade myself to be relevant and decided to get my Masters Degree from the US. After obtaining my Masters in Construction Management, I worked in one of the biggest companies in the South-West, where I interacted with different people from varying walks of life. As a student in the US, I attended a renowned professor, Bill Gross’s Entrepreneurship course, which sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in me. I believed Nepal was the land of opportunity with a multitude of development activity still to be conducted. With this realization, and the aim to actually make a contribution to the development of Nepal, I returned here with the goal to carry out development activities by engaging through socio-technological entrepreneurship – a vision CE promotes as well.
How do you manage time in business and spiritualism?
Actually, business is managed because I practice spiritualism. I practice something called the five Ps - punctuality, priority, promptness, perfection and passion. Meditation really sharpens your ability to focus, so if a task normally takes about three hours, meditating people can complete it in maybe an hour.
As far as the five P’s – a punctual person is already a step ahead, while arriving late, say to a meeting, apologetic, puts a person in a disadvantageous position right from the start. I have come to realize, the majority of people cannot prioritize – everything is of equal importance – Spiritualism has helped me see clearly on the tasks that are urgent and those that can wait. As for perfection, while it is not necessary to be perfect, you should strive to be the best version of yourself, whether it be in the workplace or elsewhere, and if you do make errors, it is important to avoid making the same ones over and over again.
The aforementioned four P are habitual things that can be improved upon over time, but only contribute to maybe 40 % of your success, the other 60 % lies in being passionate about what you do. Once you develop a passion for the work you do- begin to enjoy what you do, success is eminent.
CE construction as a leading real-estate company is known to conduct ethical business practice in the country. Some of the elements of organizational culture such as 3T (Trust, Transparency and Team Spirit) and 4C of working modality (Committed, Competitive, Confident and Creative) looks different from other companies in the market. Is it related with spiritualism?
Yes, spiritualism definitely is a guideline for us. Trust, Transparency and Team Spirit may seem like big words merely thrown around, but it truly is our ideology and project initiations at CE happen either through trust or transparency. If you want to have a bonding or the team spirit within the organization, there should be a significant overlapping between trust and transparency.
CE’s working modality, ‘the four Cs’ is a continuous cycle that we believe any successful venture must follow. Any successful project/venture must commence with commitment – the commitment allocates all of one’s resources into the activity to make it successful. A commitment made in any venture, bolstered by the committed hard work of its associates who begin to grow and learn the trade, becomes a competitive force in the market. Once this growth is significant, the venture and its people become confident, confident in their venture and their product. It is usually at this stage where companies tend to relax, believing they have done enough to succeed. While this is a normal attitude, it can be alarming for the company, which may become obsolete without new innovative ideas. This is where Creativity comes into play. This checkpoint where things get too comfortable in fact becomes the start of a new cycle in the life of the company.
While I do not have a hundred percent spiritual or business side, I believe these two parts of my life, which have come to define me, complement each other nicely. Spiritualism, as I have explained has helped me grow my business, and with the gains from my business, I contribute to spiritualism.
What is the correlation between spiritualism and materialistic world?
The way I practice spiritualism does not demand I denounce all materialistic possessions. Spiritualism in Vipassana aids you in ridding yourself of mental defilements, which in turn help you appreciate the materialistic world – the right part of it. There are social conventions I participate in – it is a materialistic society we live in, but spiritualism provides clear guidance as to what practices to adopt. We as spiritual people find joy in not hurting others – and not blatantly denouncing social norms is one form of providing happiness to our family and friends. As a family person, I do not spend an inordinate amount of time at social gatherings, but I do not avoid any functions either. I do not miss business meeting, I travel – essentially live in this materialistic world as a fully functioning part of it. However, at the same time I do not miss my meditation practices and consciously try and live by the ‘sheel’, ‘samadhi’ and ‘panya’.
Where do you draw the line between business, ethics and humanity?
You do business for profit generation and that should be the spirit of business. Ethical practice, while it should be the norm, isn’t. So, for CE, where we do practice ethics, I define it as the ideology that will help you in the long run to generate respect from the people. In doing the right thing – i.e. an ethical practice, you avoid a great number of future regrets. Usually, if you ignorantly perform wrong it can be considered if not excused, but if you do wrong intentionally, sooner or later you will regret it. If you avoid hurting people verbally, physically and mentally you will ultimately make a positive impact in society. A balance between business and ethics will be the biggest contribution for humanity in the current context.
Unethical shortcuts in construction works have been seen with almost every other construction in the country, due to which many buildings saw damages beyond repair. Where does CE construction lie in this practice?
Earthquake definitely had an impact and we feel sorry for people who lost lives and abode. However, all the houses we have built stands and this shows the kind of quality commitment we have been advocating and practicing for the last 23 years. So far, we have completed more than 260 projects and delivered more than 2,000 houses and apartment units.
The first thing we are committed to is quality, which we establish right from the inception of the project when we first interact with our clients. We try to deliver the best possible design after which comes construction. There are different processes associated with the construction of a project; correct selection of materials, use of appropriate equipment at the appropriate time and the right methodologies for the right activities come into play. From conception to completion, we monitor the quality and fortunately, people have begun to respect and appreciate the kind of ethical practice that we have adopted.
Nepal’s laid back state in terms of development and modernity goes beyond oblivion. What do you think the country lacks in the present situation and how should it go forward?
First of all, it all starts with lack of selfless leadership. Although Nepalese are known as good people around the globe we don’t have collective goal and consensus. If political parties could come to a consensus for at least a decade, our development will be beyond imagination. Our country doesn’t lack in resources. We have highly qualified people educated from the best universities from around the world and our educational system also has been producing extremely competent individuals. Personal interest of a number of individuals discourages the practice of contributing for the benefit of the mass. The environment of distrust and negativity clearly demands spiritualism. We can try to eradicate some of these defilements through Vipassana.