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American Voices: Rasanath Dasa

This week’s “American Voices” essay is from former investment banker Rasanath Dasa. Since he was in the ninth grade, Dasa knew he was destined for Wall Street. The 33-year-old’s dream came to fruition when he took an investment banking position with Bank of America in 2006.

But, Dasa soon realized his childhood goal to strike multi-million dollar deals was not all he had hoped for. When the environment in the financial industry proved too much for him, Dasa set out on a new road in life. He now spends his days as a Hindu Monk in an East Village monastery in New York City.

I was always inspired by economics, I was always inspired by the financial markets but when Rupert Murdoch made his way into India with a whole area of television channels, that was the first time I had the opportunity to see the movie Wall Street.

And seeing Charlie Sheen’s character, you know, striking deals. So since that time, I wanted to be on Wall Street.

My first job on Wall Street was with Bank of America. The way the banking world worked is every night you go home a town car is there to drop you off. My signing bonus when I just signed a piece of paper to accept my full time offer was $60,000. So there’s definitely a lot of prestige attached to it.

It was definitely very stressful working on Wall Street. When people spoke to me it was specifically around personal dissatisfaction in the job that they were doing. In fact, one of my colleagues I told him you can quit and you can find something that enriches your life more. He said well it’s better to be a famous bad guy than a not so famous good guy.

But over the course of time, I also had this other side that wants true satisfaction, true peace, true inner integrity.

My last major project was for Playboy. It was just disheartening to see that I was making money by selling sex in an economy that where people found it difficult to make ends meet. So that’s when I finally made the decision that it was time to really follow my true calling.

As a monk, my life is different in a sense that I am not in an environment that is heavily competitive and image driven and this mad rush for money and power.

I do keep in touch with the financial markets. I think it’s an integral part of my personality.

When I first read about Occupy Wall Street in the newspapers, I saw movement for change. I did visit the area, conducted meditation sessions, because I wanted to contribute to change but change coming from a higher consciousness.

I work with a small group of individuals who are thinking about financial reform in different ways. This is a group of individuals who have been bankers on Wall Street, business school professors, spiritual organizations, who are coming together to discuss the issues that are plaguing Wall Street. One solution is starting to really help students in schools and colleges, business schools, think more about how they make their decisions. That’s a small change but can have a far reaching impact.