Diwali Celebration At Magic Circle Law Firm Clifford Chance
By Sri Radharamana dasa
The day before the start of a three day festival native to India, Clifford Chance LLP hosted their very first employee Diwali celebration; probably the first across any global Law firm. Over 75 top lawyers and business services staff congregated at the Headquarters in Canary Wharf, London on 27th October to understand and extract spiritual wisdom from the pastimes of Lord Rama.
Clifford Chance LLP is a multinational law firm headquartered in London, and a member of the “Magic Circle” of leading British law firms. It is one of the ten largest law firms in the world measured both by number of lawyers and revenue. It has 36 offices across 26 countries and approximately 3,300 lawyers. In 2013/14, Clifford Chance had total revenues of £1.36 billion, the highest of any firm in the Magic Circle in that year. Clifford Chance’s main practice areas include Corporate, Banking and Finance, Capital markets, Real estate, Tax, Pensions and Employment amongst others.
The ‘Clifford Chance DNA’ embeds core elements that make up a unique culture across the law firm.
Amongst the eight Clifford Chance Principles ‘strength through diversity’ is one which helps people succeed according to their merits. The story of Diwali resonates the theme of success but one which is achieved through the meritocracy of righteousness where good prevailed over evil. To share and make relevant the pastimes of Lord Rama, His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami was invited to deliver a debut keynote speech.
Narind Singh, Executive Partner at Clifford Chance who specialises in financial services M&A and regulatory advice, opened the event. After sharing his lifelong experience of the Diwali festival, Narind spoke on the importance to understand the message beyond the rituals and celebrations. In expressing his excitement to host the very first Diwali event, Narind introduced His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami and thanked him for taking time out of his busy schedule to deliver the keynote speech.
After echoing his gratitude for the opportunity to address the assembly of lawyers, His Holiness described how the central theme of Diwali is derived from the historical Ramayana text, appended to the Vedic scriptures and written in Sanskrit by the Indian poet Valmiki. Composed in 24,000 poetical verses, the Ramayana literally documents the ‘Journey of Rama’ to exemplify ideal character and virtues in some of life’s most difficult challenges.
His Holiness explained that although an ancient historical episode, the messages of Diwali continues to be relevant to this day. Rama, was the eldest of the four sons of the monarch King Dasharath of the city of Ayodhya. Being a delight to all, the eldest son was thus named Rama. In his early teens, Rama was popular amongst his father’s subjects due to his treatment of equality and love to all walks of life regardless of colour, religion or orientation. On the eve of his coronation, Rama honoured the request of his stepmother to accept the life of a mendicant by going into exile for 14 years so that his younger sibling may be coronated instead. Knowing that the state treasury was still in safe hands, Rama illustrated his readiness to transfer responsibilities providing wealth is preserved. For exile he was joined by his wife Sita the embodiment of wealth and younger brother Lakshman unmatched in service. Through this voluntary act of selflessness, Rama begins the epic of Diwali by showing how to detach oneself from life’s comforts and embrace hardships rather than struggle in misery. Most importantly however, was his example to remain truthful, co-operative, honest and respectful towards the world around us. Despite the intense feelings of separation from his subjects and family, little did the world know that the hardships which Rama will pursue during the following 14 years in exile will usher for many thousands of years to come. With faith in his character sought from following the path of righteousness, Rama showed how to bring harmony to economic conditions, satisfy ones desires with gifts of nature, manage expectations through changes in living conditions, award those who are selfless and care for those who are selfish. These virtues were continuously put to test and perfectly followed by Rama even during times of crisis most notably when the envious dictator Ravana kidnapped his wife by deceit and continued to exercise such evil throughout the world. Ravana was obsessed with the desire to gain and exploit the possessions of others and anything attractive in this world. Ravana was ultimately defeated by a single simple mendicant in exile due to the strength of Rama’s moral dedication to righteousness and devotion to his wife. This victory coincided with the end of Rama’s 14 year exile after which he journeyed home to the city of Ayodhya in North India to mark the first celebration of Diwali. Since they arrived in the dense darkness of the lunar new moon night, the city was lit by a ‘row of lamps’ (Dipa+vali) to help receive the embodiment of devotion.
In detailing the saga of Diwali, His Holiness provoked thought on how the pastimes of Lord Rama can be used to guide and add value to conduct in the workplace and attitude as custodians of Law. Event organiser Ashika Patel closed the event commenting: “Through the expert rendition of the story of Diwali, His Holiness has demonstrated how ancient spiritual values can be used to improve and uplift people even today. It has been an honour to host His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami and we would like to thank him for spending the afternoon with us.”