About Bela Hatvany, co-founder, benefactor
I was born in London 1938 to two-well off displaced people. We were refugees in an alien land. At the end of the war I was six years old. I had had the window of my bedroom blown in onto my bed. I had trekked into the air raid shelters night after night. I had had my catapult confiscated by the postman. I was sent to good boarding schools from the age of 5. I grew up with the privileged as an outsider. I played rugby football and painted.
I grew into an angry man. I was ambitious to become financially independent and to create a happy family of my own. From 1956 I worked in the computer then the information industry. My first nine years I worked for various large companies. British Petroleum sent me to university and I became an electronic engineer. I repaired computers, I designed them, I programmed them, I sold them. I was not liked by my colleagues. I was not one of the lads. I worked too hard for post-war Britain.
After a bit I knew I could not abide spending my life working for them, although they were good companies. I experienced working for them as penal servitude. Their style was authoritative management. With the help of my last boss I went to the Harvard Business School and got an MBA. I needed access to capital to start my own business. My purpose had become to find out how to create a better kind of business. I married a year before I went to the business school. We arrived at the business school with one baby and left with three. My wife and I started to meditate daily.
I became a living enquiry into how to serve myself and all my constituents. I call them constituents because they put me in life and they voted for me by choosing to be associated with me. They were myself, my wife and family, my investors, people that chose to work with me as colleagues, employees, or customers, and of course this wonderful old earth of ours and nature which brought me into being and sustains me.
In 1968 I started a company serving the sugar industry in Mexico. When I returned to Mexico many years later each of the young programmers working with me were managing their own businesses.
I started companies serving libraries and the information industries in the USA and later in the UK. I learned how to build companies that were ”living enquiries,” an ecology in which all constituents (stakeholders) experience themselves to be well-served. We listen assiduously, we enquire, we learn all the time! We endlessly improve. We are agile, as in a dance, responding appropriately according to what shows up. We are making the world into a better place in a multitude of ways. We are growing real value all the time and creating ever more resources to effectively grow our counter initiative, which will inevitably displace the decay that capitalism has largely become.
I found myself with more money than I needed. My wife and I decided to use our surpluses in a multitude of ways to help people and causes. When our six children started to leave the house we threw it open to other young people that needed a place to stay in prosperous London. Our house become a Center for Christian, Buddhist and Hindu meditation, for yoga and tai chi and other community activities. It seethed with life!
As our giving grew it became unmanageable. We decided to create a charity which we called Mustardseed Trust. We looked around for help and found Lauren our daughter-in-law who became the managing director, she was diligent, a communicator, and made sure the money was well-used. We wish to enable the feeling of a world which is one organism made up of a vast multitude of individuals. We would like this to become a shared experience which binds us all into one mighty love relationship, so that we all enable it to become a singularity of great beauty.
We invite you to join us in this counter initiative to create a conscious society; starting with ourselves….conscious, contributing individuals!
About Ellen Hatvany, co-founder, benefactor
I was born in Soerabaya, Indonesia in 1941. Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony. My parents, both Dutch, were put into separate Japanese concentration camps, from 1943 1945, and survived. My mother and I were put in a camp for women and children and my father was put in a camp for men. We also survived an Indonesian revolution which erupted after we came out of the camps. It was an uprising against all the surviving Dutch. Many were slaughtered including women and children.
My childhood after the war was bliss. We left Indonesia but continued to live in the Tropics. I went to International schools in Manila and Singapore. We went back to Holland for good in 1952. It was very parochial and it was hard to adjust after an international upbringing. After a few years we moved to Amsterdam, which was much better.
I married 1964 and by 1967 we had 3 children. We moved to Mexico in 1968. We lived near a very poor settlement of little huts, right near a Catholic nun’s convent. Out of my kitchen window I could look and watch the lives of these brave, hardworking people, living with three or more children often in one square box. I nearly lost my faith as I was continually being haunted by the thought, “How can I have sooo much, and they so little?” How can there be a loving God when the world seemed such an unfair place?
Soon after I was introduced to someone who gave me a book on reincarnation. It was exactly what I needed. It helped me to keep my faith and it made sense to methat our souls choose the life we need in order to learn and become unconditional loving beings. This was only the beginning. As the years went by we had a fourth child. I got to know all the people in that little settlement and did as much as I could. It was heartbreaking when we had to leave Mexico and say goodbye to all these dear people.
For many months I was deeply depressed and could not get settled into my new life. In December 1973 my sister came over to Boston from Holland for two weeks. She had become a TM teacher had just learned it from the Maharishi himself. After one year he told her, “You are ready to teach your nearest family members,” so she came over. My 5th child was just two weeks old, the eldest was 9 years old, the next 8, then 7 and 4. I had my hands full and never thought I would be able to make time for meditation. Nevertheless she taught me and my husband how to meditate. She made sure we practiced it for twenty minutes with her In the morning at 6am before the kids woke up and in the afternoon before the older children came home from school. Practicing meditation for two weeks twice a day totally lifted me out of my depression. As I continued it gave me so much energy and joy. Everything was possible, life became a new adventure for me, whatever happened to us we could handle it. We went through bankruptcy, having to sell our lovely house and moved in with my parents, even though they only had a two bedroom apartment. It was quite an amazing period that went on for a few years. In the meantime we continued our daily meditation practices, which, without my knowing, had the effect such that I could not worry anymore even though there were plenty of things to worry about, especially finances. Faith, love and hope were growing stronger and stronger in me during that period. I realised this was due to the meditation we did everyday.
As soon as Bela was getting a salary again the desire to give became very strong again. The fear of not having enough was just not there like it used to be for me. The desire to have more, or to hoard it, just in case, was not present either and it is still not there. That, too, is solely due to the daily meditations. This is why I mention meditation.
Whenever we had some money we were always giving to different charities. When my husband sold the company he had founded and run we found ourselves with a considerable fortune. Instead of putting it in the bank, just in case bad times come upon us, we started our charity Mustardseed. This all happened at the same time that our eldest son married Lauren, who is a very likeminded person with respect to caring for those who have nothing. At times the well has gone dry, but so far, because of the meditation, love, faith and hope dominate within us and we keep going, hoping that the next source of money will come to us, and that we can continue to give.
About Lauren Hatvany, co-founder, CEO
I was born in Los Angeles to kind, hard-working parents. My father worked in Hollywood and we grew up immersed in the language of movies and television. What we saw on TV we saw when we walked out the front door, since much of what was depicted on TV was shot locally in LA. It gave me the impression that I lived in the center of the universe. I’ve subsequently discovered that everyone thinks they live in the center of the universe.
I went to UC Berkeley after high school, and from there did a year abroad in Delhi, India. I ended up living with a polygamous Tibetan family in the Tibetan refugee camp Majnu-ka-Tila, not far from the University of New Delhi campus. I was absorbed immediately into this family of 1 husband, 3 wives and 12 children, the oldest of whom were my age. I’d never experienced this level of poverty or generosity. It was fun and chaotic and richly challenging— full of harsh beauty. I learned so many things about culture, humanity, history and myself that I can’t even begin to state it. I formed life-long relationships that still sustain me.
Upon my return I took up working for a private investigator in Oakland, California. The work was intriguing and my boss was lovable and a great mentor— the throw-you-in-the-deep-end type. Eventually I became licensed myself. I focussed on criminal defense because the human element fascinated me. I was hired by court appointed attorneys representing indigent clients who’d been charged with major felonies, mostly murder. It was the crack era and certain parts of East and West Oakland were being devastated by the epidemic, and of course some people were making money off it. The crime rates were high in Oakland at that time. My work took me into high-crime neighborhoods and into peoples’ homes. All kinds of people, all kinds of homes. Also into prisons, jails and courtrooms. I was stationed at the border of the reality of the street and the reality of the state and the state almost always prevailed. I saw many intelligent, capable young men go off to prison, who, in another time and place, would have been going off to university. I vowed to do something more productive when I could. Just recently, in response to this vow, two colleagues and I have started a re-entry program for parolees and probationers.
In 2001 I moved with my family to St. Tropez, France to live with my husband’s parents, Bela and Ellen Hatvany. We founded Mustardseed around this time.
Mustardseed is a collaborative vision built around the idea that everyone has the potential, the right and the responsibility to be in the driver’s seat of their own development. We became convinced that the best development approaches create new paradigms rather than problem-solve their way through systems that don’t work. We started identifying social entrepreneurs who were working from this premise and began collaborating with them and supporting them. Mustardseed is a deeply satisfying experience. It is an opportunity to learn, to collaborate and to be part of creating something beautiful with others, for others.