How my life changed after 60

Pradeep B. Deshpande
13 min readFeb 11, 2024

I am an 81-year old Indian-American academic living in the United States for sixty years. I joined the University of Louisville faculty in Chemical Engineering in 1975, served as the Department Chair during 1985–90, and retired in 2008.

During my 33-year tenure at the University of Louisville, the focus of my research was on technologies for achieving perfection with computer-based advanced control and optimization technologies in continuous (dynamic) manufacturing industries, such as petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants. For this research, I received funding from multiple sources including Exxon Chemical, DuPont, National Science Foundation, USAID and International Foundation for Water Science & Technology, Abu Dhabi, UAE. This research produced five books and 100 articles and presentations in publications like the Proceedings of the Royal Society, UK, Chemical Engineering Science, Chemical Engineering Progress, Hydrocarbon Processing, and others, as well as twenty PhD graduates and forty Master’s graduates. For this work, I received several awards including Donald P. Eckman Award in Process Control Education from the International Society for Automation (ISA), Grawemeyer Award for Instructional Development (Finalist), University of Louisville, J. B. Speed Scientific School Alumni Research Scholar award at the University of Louisville, 150th Anniversary Distinguished Engineering Fellow award from the University of Alabama, Dadasaheb Abhyankar Memorial Lectureship at what was then called University of Bombay Department of Chemical Technology, and R. N. Maddox Memorial Lectureship at the University of Arkansas. I was elected Life Member and a Fellow of ISA in the nineties. I have spent summers working at Exxon Chemicals, Mobil Research & Development and DuPont, and have briefly served on the faculty of IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras. I have also spent a year-long sabbatical at the National Chemical Laboratory in Pune. I have been nominated for one of India’s highest civilian awards which go by the name, “Padma Awards.”

In January 1988, I was co-organizer of a National Science Foundation-supported US-India Conference on Chemical Engineering Education for the Future that was held at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Twenty US delegates from the United States and a similar number from India attended the conference. Four faculty members from our department, and the Dean and Associate Dean of Engineering at the University of Louisville attended the conference. The Proceedings of the Conference were distributed to the Chemical Engineering Departments in the United States.

In November 1988, I was invited as a member of the delegation of Indian-Americans for meetings with Government of India officials and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. My recommendations on computer-aided advanced control and optimization strategies for refineries and petrochemical plants were accepted.

The first turning point occurred around 1999. That year, I came to realize that 9 out of 10 processes in the world are static, not dynamic (as in refineries and petrochemical plants), and, so, I enlarged my research focus to include six sigma, the strategy for achieving perfection in static processes and transactions, only to discover that the fundamental goals for achieving perfection in static and dynamic processes were identical: Pursuit of minimum variance — the theoretical upper limit to achieving perfection. I then developed a unifying framework for six sigma and advanced control and published an article in Hydrocarbon Processing and another in Chemical Engineering Progress.

I introduced six sigma training as a mandatory program in the newly revamped MBA curriculum of the Gatton College for Business & Economics, University of Kentucky in 2005, and then taught six sigma in their MBA program in Athens, Greece, for twelve years.

April 7, 2017
Feedback from a student in 2017 MBA class in Greece
Sometimes, meeting amazing persons could even change your life. Dr. Pradeep Deshpande, it is an honour meeting you! Thank you for sharing with us the Internal and External Excellence….
Kind Regards,
George Kassiteropoulos,
general director

I have done research and conducted six sigma training programs at India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), DuPont, Exxon Chemicals, and an Agency of the US Department of Defense, Frito-Lay, Kuwait Ministry for Higher Education-Private University Council and others.

The late Dr. Mikel J. Harry, Co-creator of Six Sigma at Motorola in the seventies, was very happy to know about my work in six sigma and its societal implications which will be explained in the ensuing paragraphs.

In 2002, I met former Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao, now a Bharat Ratna recipient and a friend and associate of my late father in India’s freedom struggle, to impress upon him the importance of India embracing six sigma for achieving global competitiveness, and he appeared to concur. Bharat Ratna is Government of India’s highest civilian award.

The second turning point came on the Weekend of March 2–3, 2013.

I was on my way back from teaching the six sigma class in Athens, Greece, sitting in the Business-class Lounge of British Airways terminal 5, C-gates, awaiting my flight to Chicago, and having my favorite breakfast of toast and tea, when my attention was drawn to an article in the Weekend edition of the Financial Times, “Kumbh Mela’s pop-up Megacity is a lesson in logistics for India.” I wondered, why a reporter from a newspaper like the Financial Times should be interested in a religious gathering like Kumbh Mela. Still, the title was sufficiently intriguing, and I read the article.

The article immediately hit me like a Eureka moment having profound implications for humanity. The article was telling me that the best of the best strategies, including advanced control and six sigma, do not and cannot deliver exemplary performance (minimum variance) in the absence of an adequate level of emotional excellence. Boost emotional excellence and the performance will zoom.

Human beings are endowed with two types of emotions, Positive emotions and negative emotions. Positive emotions encompass love, kindness empathy and compassion, while negative emotions include anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, fear, sorrow and the like.

Emotional excellence refers to the capacity of an individual to remain centered in the face of extenuating circumstances that are part of life. To fully grasp of the implications of emotional excellence, we must first understand the meaning of internal excellence.

Human beings are endowed with three components of the mindset. S, R, and T according to the Bhagvad Geeta. The S component includes truthfulness, honesty, steadfastness and equanimity, while the R component encompasses attachment, bravery, ambition, ego, greed and a desire to live, and the T component includes lying, cheating, causing injury in words or deed and sleep.

Now the S, R, T components lead to a scale of internal excellence where the maximum S is at the top of the scale, maximum T at the bottom and all other combinations of the three components somewhere in between these two extremes.

The S component strongly and positively correlates with positive emotions while R and T components strongly and positively correlate with negative emotions.

On a scale of emotional excellence, maximum positive emotions are at the top of the scale, maximum negative emotions at the bottom, and all other combinations of the two somewhere in between these two extremes. Thus, the scales of internal excellence and emotional excellence are entirely equivalent.

Internal excellence/emotional excellence have nothing to do with race, religion, gender or national origin. Incarnations of all faiths prod their followers to reach for higher levels of internal/ emotional excellence and emerge as better human beings.

Corroborating evidence supporting the discovery of the link between emotional excellence and exemplary performance came from Mumbai’s famous Dabbawalas. The 5,000 semiliterate lunchbox delivery boys pick up 200,000 lunch boxes from peoples’ homes, six days a week, twelve months a year, and deliver them to their offices in the city-center producing, according to Forbes, one defect (wrongful delivery, late delivery) in six million deliveries, and they have been at it since the year 1890! Luminaries like King Charles, Sir Richard Branson, and scores of others have paid Dabbawalas a visit as have students from Harvard, Columbia and others, and media organizations like CBS, CNN, and BBC, have covered them, all in an attempt to learn how this semiliterate workforce is able to achieve such astounding performance with the hope of replicating it.

I visited the senior management of Dabbawalas some time ago, and they were pleasantly surprised to learn the real reason why their performance is as good as it is. Not only are their processes designed and operated the six sigma (external excellence) way, but the emotional excellence of Dabbawalas is very high (internal excellence). The Dabbawalas are all Varkaris (pilgrims) who travel a distance of 200 km on foot from one temple-town to another every year. The Dabbawalas themselves are poor but they have been reported to provide free food to the poor on a weekly basis.

Since my visit, we have signed an MOU with the Mumbai’s Dabbawalas to explain to the world how exemplary performance becomes possible and how it can be achieved. See this article on the Dabbawalas website.

In 2019, I published the article, The Secret of Exemplary Performance in BizEd (now called Insights) to explain these ideas further. Insights is a publication of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business which accredits business school curricula in America.

Just about this time, I came to know Jim Kowall, an American Physician based in Oregon, who, additionally, holds a doctorate in Theoretical Physics. He had retired from private medical practice to focus on unraveling the mystery of ultimate reality. Jim kept insisting that I read Amanda’s Gefter’s book, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn (Bantam Books, 2014), and I am glad I listened.

After a decade-long search into the meaning of nothing and the nature of ultimate reality, which included interactions with some of the best brains in physics, like Stephen Hawking and John Archibald Wheeler, a colleague of Albert Einstein at Princeton, Gefter finally concluded that on one side of the incredibly small (about 10–33 cm in diameter) energy phase of the Big Bang moment is this ever expanding universe but on the other side there is absolutely nothing, a void.

With his deep knowledge of Theoretical Physics and an equally deep understanding of ancient Indian wisdom, Jim arrived at the conclusion, although nothing physical can pass through the size of Plank’s length and be present on the other side, consciousness can, for it is not physical. This discovery ties science to ancient wisdom, namely, creation requires two things: consciousness and energy.

In 2015, Jim and I published the book, Pradeep B. Deshpande and James P. Kowall, The Nature of Ultimate Reality and How It Can Change Our World: Evidence from Modern Physics; Wisdom of Yoda” (amazon).

Hollywood’s Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas, had figured out long ago that the wisdom of humanity was hiding in plain sight in YOga and veDA.

The pursuit of emotional excellence is a well-posed scientific problem but it is not an intellectual exercise. Just do a thirty-day self-assessment and you, too, will come to this conclusion. The required positive changes have to come about from within, and meditation is the pathway to progress. Progress can be audited since emotions can now be measured.

Higher levels of emotional excellence bring a myriad of benefits that include exemplary performance, health and wellness, leadership, interpersonal relationships, new discoveries, and less discord and violence.

Now, on a related topic having to do with the pursuit of a better and more peaceful world. In the early nineties, I had discovered corroborative evidence for the ancient wisdom, all societies rise and decline as a natural course. Furthermore, the rise and decline of nations is cyclical.

Corroborating evidence for this theory of rise and decline came in the form of individuals born in specific cultures and listed in all 23 volumes of the 1993 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. I have the data for Greece, Great Britain, Germany and the United States. The data clearly points to the rise and decline of Greece. Please see this article, On the Cyclical Nature of Excellence.

The data also point to ominous signs for the United States, Great Britain and Germany.

The rise and decline of a society occurs due to the transformation of the three components of the mindset ( S, R and T) over time. As the S component of a society increases, the society rises, but the S component cannot increase indefinitely, and, when it reaches its peak, the T component takes over and the society begins to decline. The T component cannot increase indefinitely either, and, when it reaches its peak, the S component takes over and the society begins to rise again. This transformation of the mindset leads to repeated rise and decline of societies over thousands of years.

The Bhagvad Geeta does not explain why such a transformation of the mindset should occur, but we can be certain it does.

I first arrived in the United States to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Alabama in 1963. That was the time when Vivian Malone, an African-American student was first admitted to the University of Alabama. Sixty years have passed, and it appears that the societal level of internal excellence/emotional excellence in America may have taken a hit in the last decade or so. If I am wrong, well and good, but if I am right, then the ideas in this article, if adopted and diligently pursued, will help postpone the US decline for decades or more and also lead to a more peaceful world. These ideas are equally applicable to Great Britain and Germany. See this article, Why American Democracy is in Peril and How to Save it for more details.

The choice before us is either to wait on the sidelines, helplessly witnessing the decline, or to intervene with the aim to postpone it. I trust, the reader’s preference is to intervene.

The way to postpone decline is to enhance the societal level of emotional excellence and meditation is the pathway to progress. Fortunately, not everyone needs to participate. A smaller number can lead to a more peaceful world. For the world population, this smaller number works out to be about 9,000.

The Global Union of Scientists for Peace published a full-page letter in the Wall Street Journal on November 3, 2023 addressed to the President of the United States and all world leaders urging them to adopt the so called Maharishi technology under the auspices of which 9,000 meditators would meditate for an hour twice daily for a more peaceful world. The letter presented scientific evidence of success with the Maharishi technology.

In 2019, I published an article on the scientific framework for world transformation in Dialog & Alliance, a publication of Universal Peace Federation, a New York based organization having a consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Cultural Council. I have made presentations to the senior staff of the Office of the Prime Minister of India, Parliament of Peru, India’s Planning Commission (now called NITI Aayog), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Higher Education Department of the Government of Goa, Indian Statistical Institute and several universities in India.

Unfortunately, there is no tradition of meditation in the West. It is instructive to understand why.

Human progress since the renaissance period has occurred mostly due to the scientific discoveries in the West, first in Great Britain and Western Europe and then in America. The West is under the mistaken belief that all this progress is entirely due to products of reason (sciences, laws, policies, litigation, etc.). This confidence in the primacy of reason is bolstered by the philosophy of the renowned 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant which says, “All knowledge begins with the senses, flows then to the understanding, and ends in reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

In contrast, the renowned nineteenth century Indian monk, Swami Vivekananda, asserts, Indian thought dares to seek, and successfully find something higher than reason. Please see this article, Decoding the Wisdom of Swami Vivekananda.

In ancient times, Indian seers made profound discoveries, such as the Vedas and Upanishads, by transcending reason.

Deep contemplation leads to discoveries that are in the domain of existing knowledge. Such discoveries amount to connecting the dots in the ocean of existing knowledge and I call them Type I discoveries. When the focus of attention is further enhanced, as in deep meditation or prayer, new discoveries can occur, which are not possible based on existing knowledge. In Sanskrit, such discoveries go by the name, Shruti, meaning revealed/heard, and I refer to them as Type II discoveries.

The discoveries in the West, since the renaissance period, have all occurred in contemplation/meditation albeit unknowingly.

Take for example, the discoveries of Albert Einstein. Staring out of the glass window of his apartment in Berne, Switzerland, smoking a pipe, and deeply engrossed in his thought experiments, Einstein must have enhanced his focus of attention to such an extent that breakthrough discoveries came to him. In 1905, he published four breakthrough papers (special relativity, e = mc2, photoelectric effect, and the theory of light) one of which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1921.

An example of Type II discoveries in modern times are those of famous mathematician, S. Ramanujan. Barely a high school graduate, Ramanujan would write down complex mathematical theorems and their proofs without knowing the steps in between. Asked by his mentor, G. H. Hardy at Cambridge, how he does that, he reportedly responded, the Goddess speaks to me during prayer, sometimes in sleep. For his work, Ramanujan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, UK.

Several Type I discoveries have come to me in deep contemplation and meditation.

This is a plausible explanation for why there is no tradition of meditation in the West, but the situation in the case of Indian-Americans is more tragic. Looking at all the material progress in the West, Indian-Americans and the institutions they head, are emulating the West by limiting themselves to products of reason, forgetting that in Vedic times, India had made phenomenal Type II discoveries through meditation.

Transcending reason through meditation could lead to new discoveries in the hands of researchers for the solution of some of the most intractable problems facing humanity. Some examples are global warming, renewable energy and desalination.

Yogananda Paramahansa summed up his feelings in a speech on his dying day the best: I look forward to a model world that combines the best qualities of efficient America (read, minimum variance seeking strategies like six sigma) and spiritual India (read, emotional excellence).

This discussion will hopefully serve to encourage the West and Indian-Americans and their institutions to introduce this scientific framework and meditation for that would not only benefit them but also promote a better and more peaceful world.

Who would have thought chemical engineering principles would someday produce a scientific framework for external and internal excellence toward a better and a more peaceful world?


This article is written with the blessings of my Guru, H. H. Guru Mahan ( Guru Mahan has been going into three weeks of meditation yearly without food for thirty-three-years for world peace. The author gratefully acknowledges the editorial assistance of his friend, Tony Belak, Mediation Consultant and a former Ombudsman, University of Louisville. Decades long interactions with Jim Kowall, Mohan Bhalodia, S. N. Bhavasar and Sanjeev Aroskar are gratefully acknowledged.

About the Author

Pradeep B. Deshpande is Professor Emeritus in and former Chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Louisville. He is also president of Six Sigma and Advanced Controls based in Louisville, Kentucky. Pradeep and Meena, a Kathak dance teacher, have been married for fifty-six years and they are blessed with two sons and seven grandchildren. Prof. Deshpande is an author of eight books and over one hundred fifty articles in reputed journals that include Proc. Royal Society–UK, Chemical Eng. Progress, Ind. Eng. Chem. Proc. Des Dev, Chem. Eng. Science, among several others, and is a recipient of several international awards. He is a Fellow of ISA.



Pradeep B. Deshpande

Prof. Pradeep Deshpande has developed a scientific framework for external and internal excellence toward a better and more peaceful world.