The Challenge of Rising From Good to Great by Pascal Alan Nazareth

On December 18th 2011, Pascal Alan Nazareth gave a speech at Aimit Hall in Beeri, Mangalore called The Challenge of Rising From Good to Great.

We are honored that the Former Ambassador of India chose to share the text of that speech with The Teen Mentor, LLC in order to pass the wisdom contained within it on to today’s Teens & Young Adults. Since retiring as the Ambassador of India, it has been his ultimate mission to share Gandhi’s wisdom in order to bring more peace into the world and promote political and social change without violence. In March 2006, Ambassador Nazareth wrote Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership which has been published in 12 Indian and 11 foreign languages.

On October 9, 2007, Ambassador Nazareth was presented the U Thant Peace Award by the Sri Chinmoy Peace Meditation Group at the United Nations. Among previous recipients of this Award were Pope John Paul II, The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

In the opening of his speech, Ambassador Nazareth mentioned a book written by Jim Collin’s entitled, Good to Great. In this book, studies examined the qualities of successful organizations and their leaders. According to the studies, the character of the leader is what stood out as being the most important key to having a successful corporation. They called this leader a “Level 5 Leader”. This leader was said to possess modesty and determination while also being humble, bold, and concerned with motivation and the optimization of personnel.

Ambassador Nazareth stated, The essential requirement in transforming oneself from mere goodness to greatness is unselfish altruistic love. It is the highest and noblest form of love which is akin to Divine Love. For Gandhi and Einstein, this type of love was the fundamental law and “Cohesive Force” of the universe.”

During the duration of his speech, which can be read in it’s entirety below, Ambassador Nazareth continued to discuss, in detail, the three people he believes are the best known 20th century cases of good people being transformed into great people… Swami Vivekananda, Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

You can continue to read his entire speech below… 


In the field of management an insightful and widely read book is Jim Collin’s ‘Good to Great’. It points out that in research studies of successful organizations the character of the leader consistently stood out. They all were “Level 5 leaders” who, according to Collins are “a study in polarity, being both modest yet determined, humble yet bold…. And primarily driven towards the larger cause of an enduring organization”

Level 5 leadership is the pinnacle of the ‘People Capable Maturity Model’ (PCMM) developed in 1995 by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Whereas 1 – 4 leadership levels relate to basic management, work processes, skill analysis, mentoring, team building, environment and organizational competencies, level 5 leadership is concerned with motivation and optimization of personnel and organizational competencies through inspired leadership and perfect teamwork.

The “Good to Great” challenge is pertinent not only in the management field but also to every sector of society and in fact, to every individual.

There are many good people in this world but not so many great ones. Why is this so and what is it that transmutes some good men and women into the category of the great? Gandhi had a simple answer. “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellowmen”. But this raises a further question : What motivates people to work for the welfare of their fellow human beings rather than for themselves which is the normal inclination. The answer is a simple four letter word : LOVE

Pitirim Sorokin, founder of the Harvard Research Centre in Creative Altruism emphasizes unselfish, altruistic love as the most important requirement for greatness. He describes it as “goodness and freedom at their loftiest” and “ the finest and most powerful educational force for the ennoblement of humanity”. He affirms that it “transcends our conscious egos and their rational – hedonistic, utilitarian and endaemonistic – interests. If it remains ego-centred it is not altruistic love but its low-grade modicum. No individual who consistently follows an ego-centric ethic can ever soar to the heights of supreme love and become either a Buddha or Jesus, a St. Francis of Assisi or a Gandhi.”

The essential requirement in transforming oneself from mere goodness to greatness is unselfish altruistic love. It is the highest and noblest form of love which is akin to Divine Love. For Gandhi and Einstein this type of love was the fundamental law and “Cohesive Force” of the universe.

Gandhi averred: “Scientists tell us that, without the presence of the cohesive force amongst the atoms that comprise this globe of ours, it would crumble to pieces and we would cease to exist. Even as there is a cohesive force in blind matter, so also there is in all things animate and the name of that cohesive force is love….. Where there is love there is life; hatred leads to destruction.”.

Einstein’s view was remarkably similar. He affirmed “A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest; a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in all its beauty.”

The three best known 20th century cases of good people being transformed into great ones are Swami Vivekananda, Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

Swami Vivekananda, born in a wealthy Bengali family, and named Narendranath Dutta, was a brilliant student of Calcutta University. Like many of his fellow students he was troubled with agnostic thoughts. Having heard of the saintly Sri Ramakrishna he went to him and boldly asked “Do you believe in God, Guruji ? When the answer was “yes”, he asked the further question “Can you prove it ? ”. Sri Ramakrishna replied “Yes, because I see him just as I see you, but in a much intenser manner”. This very self confident affirmation captivated Vivekananda completely. As he later reminisced “For the first time I found a man who dared to say he saw God, who could be sensed in an infinitely more intense way than the world is sensed…..Thereafter all skepticism was brushed aside”. He renounced the comforts of home and the lure of professional life to sit at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna and learn all about “Realizing God” and “the unity of all religions”. After his spiritual master passed away in 1886 he went on a Bharat Parikrama from Baranagore Monastery to Kanyakumari as a penniless, itinerant monk just as the Buddha and Mahavira had done 25 centuries earlier in other parts of India. He was only 23 years old then. It was during this Parikrama that he “discovered” India’s abysmal poverty and felt an intense concern for the poor, sick and homeless. This gestated his deeply spiritualized humanism. After a three day meditation at Kanyakumari in December 1892 he declared “The best way to serve and seek God is to serve the needy, to feed the hungry, to help the fallen and friendless, irrespective of caste or creed.” His Universalism was the other side of the same coin because when one sees the Divine in every human being he is automatically connected to all of them as also to all of God’s creation, including its animal and plant life. That is Advaita and the Advaitin’s religion. All of us, and the world, would benefit greatly by adopting it.

At the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago Swami Vivekananda, still a penniless monk, electrified his audience by addressing them as “Brothers and Sisters of America” and affirming “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilizations and sent whole nations to despair.I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.” The renowned French Philosopher Romain Rolland extolled his eloquence thus : “Vivekananda’s words are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses.” The New York Herald wrote “After hearing him we feel how foolish it is to send missionaries to this learned nation.”

Gandhi’s transformational experience came within ten days of his arrival in South Africa in May 1893. He was on his way from Durban to Johannesberg when he was thrown out of the train at Pietermaritzberg even though he had a valid first class ticket, was well dressed and inconvenienced no one. His crime was being seated in a “whites only” compartment and refusing to shift to the “van”. He was just 24 years old then. In his autobiography he has written “I began to think of my duty. Should I fight for my rights or go back to India…. It would be cowardice to run back to India without fulfilling my obligation. The hardship to which I was subjected was superficial – only a symptom of the deep disease of colour prejudice. I should try if possible to root out the disease and suffer the hardships in the process.” Many years later, when questioned by Christian missionary John Mott as to what was the most “creative experience” of his life, he replied that it was the Pietermaritzberg episode. “That changed the course of my life. My active non-violence began from that date”. However, his enunciation of Satyagraha was still thirteen years away.

The key to understanding Gandhi’s transformation from mere goodness to greatness is to be found in his spiritual makeup. He had been brought up as a devout Hindu and was a life long devotee of Lord Ram, commencing from his youth. However, he had not read the Bhagawad Gita until he got to London, where he learnt about it from two Theosophists who had become acquainted with it through Edwin Arnold’s ‘Song Celestial’. In his autobiography he has confessed “I felt ashamed as I had read the divine poem neither in Sanskrit nor in Gujarati. I began reading the Gita with them.” Subsequently he read and memorized the Gita in its Gujarati and Sanskrit versions. It became his “infallible guide of conduct”, his “dictionary of daily reference” and “the book par excellence for the knowledge of Truth” It taught him the vital truths that the soul is immortal, that death is not an end but a new beginning, and that when confronted with untruth and injustice, one’s imperative duty was to confront it.

Gandhi’s first acquaintance with the Bible and Christ’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’ was also in London. The latter became a vital input in his adoption of non-violence, which embodies love and self suffering, as the other pillar of his Truth based Satyagraha strategy. He has lauded Christ as “the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was nonviolence par excellence”.

Louis Fischer has annotated the Satyagraha strategy, gestated at the historic public meeting Gandhi had convened at Johannesberg’s Empire Theatre on September 11,1906, in these words “For Gandhi, Satyagraha was the vindication of Truth not by infliction of suffering on the opponent but on one’s self. The opponent must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy, weaned not crushed, converted not annihilated. You cannot inject new ideas into a man’s head by chopping it off; neither will you infuse a new spirit into his heart by piercing it with a dagger”.

By the time Satyagraha was born, Gandhi had given up his smart legal office and residence in Pretoria and moved with his family to ‘Phoenix Settlement’, committed all his wealth and professional earnings to a community fund to sustain Satyagrahi families and allowed his insurance policy to lapse as “God would take care of the family.” He had also taken a vow of sexual abstinence. The solid foundation for his life of selfless service to humanity had now been firmly laid. As Gandhi himself has indicated “It was in South Africa, that God forsaken country, where I found my God”,

When Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948 his only earthly possessions were two sets of wrap around cotton cloths, a wrist watch, his spectacles, three sacred books, two wooden food bowls and spoons, two pairs of wooden sandals and a walking stick! This is supreme self abnegation.

Among the very many accolades Gandhi has received the most notable is from the renowned scientist Albert Einstein who wrote “A leader of his people, unsupported by any outward authority, a victorious fighter who always scorned the use of force, a man of wisdom and humility who has confronted the brutality of Europe with the dignity of the simple human being and has at all times risen superior……. Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a man as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje*, Macedonia, on August 26**, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she strongly felt the urge to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje, Albania to join the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she arrived in India on May 24, 1931. From 1931 to 1948 she taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta. The extreme poverty she saw outside the convent walls impacted on her so deeply that in 1948 she sought, and received, permission to leave the convent and devote herself to caring for poor and forsaken people. As she had no funds she depended entirely on Divine Providence. She was soon joined by some of her former students and before long financial support was also began to trickle in.

On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Vatican to start her own “The Missionaries of Charity” order. In 1965 it was recognized as an International Religious Order by Pope Paul VI. Thereafter it spread steadily all over the world, including countries of Asia, Africa Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Besides care of the poor, homeless and dying they also began to care for victims of AIDS, drug addiction and natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and famines. Mother Theresa often stated “We can do no great things, only small things with great love” and “Works of love are always works of peace”

Mother Teresa’s work has been acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards.

In his Award presentation speech Professor John Sanness, the Nobel Committee Chairman stated “ In awarding Nobel’s Peace Prize for 1979 to Mother Teresa the Committee has posed a focal question: Can any political, social, or intellectual feat of engineering, on the international or on the national plane, however effective and rational, however idealistic and principled its protagonists may be, give us anything but a house built on a foundation of sand, unless the spirit of Mother Teresa inspires the builders and takes its dwelling in their building?

The hallmark of her work has been respect for the individual and the individual’s worth and dignity. The loneliest and the most wretched, the dying destitute, the abandoned lepers, have been received by her and her Sisters with warm compassion devoid of condescension, based on this reverence for Christ in Man.

She and her Sisters regard their work as a cherished duty, and not as a burden. Many visitors have described their first impression of her homes for dying people brought in from the streets, or of the reception centres for outcast lepers. Their first impression is likely to be a harrowing one. But in next to no time they are carried away by the atmosphere of serenity and joy that the Sisters create around them.

Mother Teresa once said: “In these twenty years of work among the people, I have come more and more to realise that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience”. She believes that the worst disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody. It was precisely people in this plight, the poorest of the poor, who were the very first to find warmth and shelter with Mother Teresa. She ensured that they enjoyed the feeling of being received and recognised as people with their own human dignity and the right to respect.

There would be no better way of describing the intentions that have motivated the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee than the comment of the President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara: “Mother Teresa deserves Nobel’s Peace Prize because she promotes peace in the most fundamental manner, by her confirmation of the inviolability of human dignity”.

In receiving her Nobel Prize Mother Theresa made history. She refused to attend the traditional banquet that follows the prize presentation ceremony on grounds that the expenditure on it could be much better spent on the poor. With the US$7,000 earmarked for this elegant, elite banquet, which was given to her, she fed 2,000 homeless people of Calcutta on Christmas Day that year.

Jerry Brown, the former (1975/1983) and present (2011 onwards) Governor of California has recounted frankly his “harrowing experience” and transformational moment at Mother Theresa’s Calcutta hospice where he worked as a volunteer for a month. On arrival there in 1987, he was told to begin work in the section where the destitute are brought in. Here he found two nuns gently undressing and swabbing an almost dying person whose clothes were so filthy with grime, urine and defecation that the extremely repugnant sight and stench made him exclaim “I would never do this for a million dollars”. The nuns smiled and calmly responded “Neither would we. It is only because Christ wants us to love and care for each another and the Divine Presence we see in this destitute person, that we do this work so willingly”. This so amazed and moved him that he felt impelled to stay on and assist these nuns, though keeping his nose tightly covered with a handkerchief and his eyes riveted on the nuns rather than the dying man’s clothes. He subsequently confessed he was deeply impacted by the heroic nobility of these nuns, and wrote ““Politics is a power struggle to get to the top of the heap. Calcutta and Mother Teresa are about working with those who are at the bottom of the heap, to see them as no different from yourself, their needs as important as your own and that you’re there to serve them and in doing so you are attaining as great a state of being as you possibly can.”

The test of true greatness is whether it has intrinsic value, is enduring and globally acknowledged. Abraham Lincoln is still universally acknowledged as great and his words “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it” are still as powerfully inspiring as they were a hundred and fifty years ago when he uttered them. Napoleon’s greatness lies not so much in his impressive but ephemeral military victories but in his rueful acknowledgement at the remote St. Helena prison, that “Glory is fleeting, obscurity is forever. There are only two powers in the world – the spirit and the sword. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit”.

Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu in a lecture he delivered at the Indian Institute of Science in December 2005 pointed out “Even in hard nosed cynical cultures it is amazing that those we admire, indeed revere, are not the macho, the aggressive, the successful. No, the people we hold almost universally in high regard are Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela.” He raised the question why this was so and answered it thus “Because they are good. We have internal antennae which home in on goodness because we are created for goodness, for love, for gentleness, for compassion, for sharing. We are almost the ultimate paradox, the finite created for the infinite”

Swami Vivekananda was only 23 when he undertook his Bharat Parikrama. only 30 when he addressed the Parliament of Religions at Chicago and only 39 when he passed way, Mahatma Gandhi’s transformational moment came when he was only 24. His first Satyagraha was launched when he was only 37. Mother Theresa was only 21 when she arrived in India and only 38 when she gave up her comfortable teaching job to dedicate herself to care for the destutute and dying on Calcutta’s streets. Martin Luther King was only 26 when he led the Montgomery Bus boycott, only 34 when he led to the 1963 March on Washington and delivered his renowned I Have a Dream” speech. The glorious achievement of US Civil Rights movement he so effectively lead is the black President in the White House! When King received his Nobel Peace Prize he was just 35 years old. All these heroic cases prove that it is in youth that transformational changes take place and the impressive ascent from goodness to greatness commences. Reputed educational institutions like St Aloysius College and Aloysian Institute of Management & Information technology have therefore to ensure they effectively plant the inspirational seeds in minds, hearts and souls of their students so that they germinate into the requisite motivation to undertake the challenging ascent from goodness to greatness.


Pascal Alan Nazareth, Ambassador of India (Ret’d.) holds a Master’s Degree in Economic from Madras University, and served in India’s diplomatic and consular missions in Tokyo, Rangoon, Lima, London, Chicago, and New York and as India’s High Commissioner to Ghana and Ambassador to Liberia, Upper Volta, Togo, Egypt, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belize.

Since his retirement in 1994, he has been a guest lecturer at many renowned universities and institutions, including UC Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, Yale, Columbia and New York Universities, Moscow State University for the Humanities and St. Petersburg State University in Russia, Uppsala University in Sweden, KOC University at Istanbul, Peking, Fudan, South China and Sun Yat Sen Universities in China, and the United Nations headquarters in New York, just to mention a few.

He is the author of the widely acclaimed book entitled Gandhi’s Outstanding Leadership, which was formally released in New Delhi in 2006 by the former Prime Minister of India Dr. I. K. Gujral and at the UN in New York by Under Secretary General Shashi Taroor. Since then it has been translated into 11 Indian and 14 foreign languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Italian and German, Swedish, Dutch, Serbian, and Hungarian). The foreword for the newest editions of this book was written by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Presently, Mr. Nazareth is a founder and Managing Trustee of Sarvodaya International Trust (established in 1995) which is dedicated to promoting the Gandhian ideals of Truth, nonviolence, communal harmony, humanitarian service and peace.

In 2007 he was presented the U Thant Peace Award by Sri Chinmoy, Founder of the UN Peace Meditation Group for his “Life Time of World Service.” Recently, in 2015 he was awarded the Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) Degree by Mangalayatan Jain University at Aligarh (India) “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the fields of administrative services, academics, and promotion of Gandhian values.”