Private: Tushar Mehta
Name: Tushar Mehta Location: Toronto, Canada Profession: ER Doctor at Brampton Civic Hospital and Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Organization actively involved in: Towards Ahimsa – Director Project Canoe – Medical Director Run for the Earth – Founder Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – 2012/2013 medical officer during Zero Tolerance Antarctic The health project at Bidada Sarvodaya Trust hospital
Tell us a little about your educational and professional background
For my undergraduate degree I studied Arts and Science at McMaster University. It is a liberal arts program which has many characteristics in keeping with Jain principles. The program made me much more intelligent and spiritual as a result of studying a combination of philosophy, literature, humanitarian studies, and sciences. The classmates in this program were also very progressive and our interactions made me much wiser.
After graduating, I went to University of Toronto for medical school, and did my residency in family medicine. I work as a family, addictions, and emergency physician. Beyond your day-to-day job, you are active with various organizations. Which top three are close to your heart and why?
I am active in various organizations. Firstly, I have worked at an NGO hospital every year in India for about 10 years. I work for approximately one month per year at the Bidada Sarbodaya Trust Hospital.
I worked with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recently. I was a medical officer, and quartermaster, for the 2012/2013 Antarctic campaign. I spent four months working on their ships, three of which were in Antarctic waters.
I also worked with Towards Ahimsa, which is the organization that runs our annual Jain camp and other activities to help educate people about nonviolence towards people, animals, and the environment. All of these organizations are close to my heart, as they are all well-run. I like to work with organizations that are cost-effective, and work at the roots of problems in the world.
Can you share little bit about your experience in Antarctica? How did you get involved?
Working with Sea Shepherd in Antarctica, and being a sailor and an activist, was an intense experience. After watching the film Earthlings, I became conscious about doing more to protect animals and the world from the atrocities they face. I spent four months with the organization, three of which were in Antarctic waters. See Shepherd is a highly intelligent organization that combines non-violent direct action with policy work and educating people through the media. Also, the organization believes in compassion towards all life. Many organizations will have compassion towards one life form while having disregard for others.
I learned lots about ship navigation, radar, detecting enemy ships, cleaning frozen seawater off windows in Antarctic winds, jumping into the zero degree Antarctic waters for fun, and getting rammed by whaling ships while protecting whales.
Our Expedition resulted in lowest number of whales killed in the last 150-200 years in Antarctica. Roughly 900 whales were saved, who would other wise kill just over 1000 each year.
It is incredible that 900 whales were saved. How did you achieve that?
See Shepard’s goal is always to find factory ship used for whaling; finding this ship in a massive ocean is the first challenge. That year, we then we prevent the factory ship from joining each other to refuel. Basically we put our ships as a wedge in between their larger ships. Without refueling, it limits how far they can go. Our other tactic is to block the slipway, which is a ramp at the back of the factory ship, used to load dead whales killed by the harpoon ships. Hence, they may kill one or two whales, but if they cannot load them it stops their rapid cycle of killing and loading.
This resulted in some intense days of confrontations with the whalers where they rammed our small ships with their factory ship, which is 15 times the size of our ships and also used flash grenades and hit us with water cannons.
What sense of fulfillment have you achieved from all of this that you normally wouldn’t had if you had stuck to the traditional path?
I could have stuck to a traditional job, but the reason I went into medicine was so that I could make a difference in the world. I believe it is possible to have a life where basic finances and necessities are met, and still spend time making a better world. I believe this is our duty. I do love my traditional medical work, however, we do the most good when we serve those in the most need, and those who have nobody else to help them. Working in Toronto, there are other doctors who could take my place for any patient if I am not there. When I work in India or volunteer with various organizations, I am truly helping those in greater need, and who have few others to help.
I should also mention that a non-traditional path has led to many adventures which would not have been possible if I had stayed in the bubble of a traditional career alone.
How do you strike a work- life balance with variety of volunteer and professional work that you are involved with?
Sometimes it is difficult to strike a work-life balance. I know that my activities and interests take much of my time. However I try to make conscious effort to spend quality time with family and friends. I keep life simple and have less material things, and that also saves me time.
Have you experienced any closer connection with the religion as a result of your diverse experience? My spirituality and volunteer work go hand-in-hand. I believe that spirituality is part meditation and part service to the world. There have been many spiritual experiences in my work, especially when working in India.
What Jain values do you use day-to-day when engaging in your work?
Kindness, compassion, understanding, seeking of the truth, understanding different points of view, nonviolence, non-attachment, and all Jain principles become a part of my work. It is hard to be perfect and all these ways, but I try to be mindful.
What advice would you offer to someone new to your field(s)?
I advise people to develop their inner self, work hard to achieve education and profession goals, and then choose a path that truly makes the world a better place. Most of the time, this will involve working outside of the traditional careers to some degree. Most of our materialistic economy is destroying the world, and most life on earth is severely threatened by our activities. The principle of Jainism is to live simply and to make the world a better place for those of us who are still involved in the material world. In doing so we will also reach our highest spiritual goals.
What defines success for you and give us a key mantra you live by?
Success is defined by a combination of internal development, happiness, and positive impact on the world around. To be successful in the words of Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi who said, “that our intelligence should be guided by compassion and our compassion should be guided by our intelligence.” Parasparopagrahojivanam and the universal friendship mantra are some of my favorite Jain sayings.