MASON, Ohio -- Ramesh Malhotra is an entrepreneur, a philanthropist and an author who lives and works in Mason.
He owns and runs businesses under the Malhotra Group Inc., in the fields of trading, manufacturing, import and distribution, real estate, innovative technologies and brand marketing.
And he is deeply spiritual and knowledgeable about all religions.
Malhotra has written a book, "Spiritual Wisdom: An Evolutionary Insight," which arose from his travels to India, Israel and other countries to visit spiritual centers in an effort to unlock the mysteries of religion.
During his trips, he amassed a huge collection of artwork, sculpture and other religious artifacts. They had been displayed in his home and office, but when he ran out of space, he decided to take most of these treasures and put them under one roof.
He also wanted to share his collection with the public. That's why he opened the "Museum of Spiritual Art -- The Malhotra Collection (MOSA)," located in Franklin. It celebrated its grand opening in September.
"I wanted to display art from various religions depicting the spiritual side of life in one place," Malhotra, 73, said during a private tour of the museum
"I am on a mission to give back to society by sharing my private spiritual collection with the world."
There are thousands of paintings, prayer items and other artifacts from Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism.
To relate to the divine has been a lifelong quest for Malhotra, who balances spirituality with capitalism. He calls his path "spiritual capitalism."
Malhotra was born in Lahore (which was a part of India but later became Pakistan after the two countries were divided in the 1947 Partition). His day of birth, Nov. 13, is considered auspicious because he shares it with Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
He spent his early life in a small town called Solan, located within the Himalayan Mountains.
The Himalayas are revered as a place of spirituality, higher knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment. Rugged, imposing and snowcapped, these mountain ranges include Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world.
The Himalayas are also where Shiva, one of the three primary deities of Hinduism, lived per ancient Indian scriptures. Hinduism has three major gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
In the Himalayas, there are "gurus," who seek "nirvana" or ultimate enlightenment, and many who come from all over the world to start their own spiritual journey.
Malhotra had his first spiritual experience when he was eight years old. He noticed that local children were throwing rocks at an old British woman living alone in the Himalayas and intervened. In many towns, Indians were suspicious and resentful of those who stayed behind after the country's independence from the British.
The woman was grateful to be rescued and for his subsequent friendship.
"Meeting Mrs. Baldwin was a life-changing moment for me. I would walk her home every day from the main street to her home in the hills," Malhotra said.
She became Malhotra's mentor and taught him both English and Christianity.
Later, his family moved to Chandigarh, which was the first planned city in India. Malhotra's father, Bodh, worked for Punjab University and his mother, Vidya, stayed home raising seven children. Malhotra's parents' names in Hindi mean "wisdom" and "knowledge," respectively, emphasizing higher education.
Malhotra received his master's of science degree in geology from Punjab University in 1964. Three years later, he received a diploma in mining and prospecting from Montanuniversität Leoben in Austria.
In 1968, he emigrated to America, where he met and married his wife, Christine, while working on a master's degree in earth and space sciences from Stony Brook University in New York.
He went on to earn another master's in business administration from Michigan Technological University and a doctorate in mineral economics from Columbia University, New York.
In 1974, he was hired as an assistant vice president for Freeman United Coal and shortly thereafter at NERCO Coal as president. After six years, he formed his own company, Coal Network Inc., in Mason.
Ramesh and Christine have a son, Robert, 40, an accountant in Manhattan, New York, and a daughter, Jodie, 38, a doctor in Denver, Colorado. Christine is devoted to Jewish studies, supports many social causes and volunteers at a soup kitchen.
In the early '90s, Malhotra had achieved his professional goals and had a happy home life. So, he returned to his passion for exploring and acquiring higher spiritual knowledge.
"I had done everything I had dreamed of as an immigrant, yet something was missing. I yearned for a connection with God," Malhotra explained.
During this time, he had a life-defining moment when he spent some time with his mother-in-law, Toby, who was dying of lung cancer.
"In the last moments of her life, I held her hand and prayed, 'God, as you are coming to get this noble soul, please touch me, help me to know you and tell me how I can reach you,'" Malhotra said.
There was no answer.
Three months later, he felt depressed, just like his father, who had died from the disease.
Malhotra talked to a psychiatrist, who told him that he was "not sick but was going through an inner process called awakening."
She recommended that he read the book "Mystery of the Mind" by Swami Muktananda.
Malhotra read that and several other spiritual books, including Holy Scriptures, and he traveled to India to meet with several spiritual scholars.
"It was then that I really started to look inside myself and look to do things for society," he said. "I was moving away from pure capitalism to spiritualism."
As he sat at his desk in his office recently, he pointed out the symbols of the different facets of his life.
"On my right is the statue of a gold digger; on my left is a painting of a priest, and facing me, in the center, is the picture of Sai Baba," Malhotra said.
Sai Baba was an Indian religious guru who begged for others but not for himself personally.
"As a ‘beggar,' he advocated that it is through personal sacrifice that one can attain bliss," Malhotra said. "Sai Baba, the beggar of beggars, preached God is one. He himself was born Muslim, but he served all faiths with unconditional love.
"He is my idol."
Based on Sai Baba's teachings, Malhotra is now giving back to the world. Near his town of Solan, he has funded a five-story school which will someday have an event center and a medical facility for the local community located near the river in the Himalayas.
"It will really truly be a gathering place for the community," Malhotra said. "In the center of the entrance of the school, there will be a statue of the renowned spiritual scholar Vivekananda to symbolize the passing on of knowledge and wisdom to the children."
Malhotra emphasizes that education isn't enough. Knowledge must be balanced with self-awareness and a concern for society. Great people like Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa went beyond education to bring wisdom and invoke spirituality through both their good deeds and personal sacrifices.
"You've got to know who you are, where you come from, and how you are related to your creator," Malhotra said. "This relationship is what we call Trinity. The father is the Creator or God, we are the children, and the immortal power that prevails throughout the universe and connects us all is the living spirit. You don't need to die to know all this. You learn all this while you are living."
Malhotra is not a disciple of any human preacher. He acquires knowledge and follows his instinct.
"I have no guru. My inner voice is my guide, which helps me know if something is right or is wrong. My beliefs are simple: Be kind, give back, and don't hurt people. That's what I am about," Malhotra said.
"I am always looking at what else I can do to make the world a better place. That's me."
Museum of Spiritual Art (MOSA)
318 S. River St.
Franklin, OH 45005