A Life Of Compassionate Service with Larry Brilliant, M.D.

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There are some whose major influence was the ‘60s: who protested the Vietnam war, used psychedelics, marched for civil rights, traveled to India and found a guru, and then went on to make a positive contribution to the world community. Dr. Larry Brilliant is such a person. This dialogue explores how, at the behest of his Indian guru, Larry was inspired to join the World Health Organization to launch a program to eradicate smallpox in India. And this story of smallpox eradication is but one proof that something can be done, that little by little we can make this planet a place with less suffering. Although we are finite beings, we can still create a world with infinitely more love, more joy, and less pain. Larry’s story will take us on a trip from being a radical young hippie doctor from Detroit to being inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to become an activist for the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war protests. He joined with friends from the Hog Farm Commune traveling by bus from London over the Khyber Pass and then found himself with his wife Girija at the most unlikely place, Neem Karoli Baba’s ashram in Himalayas. Many of us remember that this is the same guru written about in Ram Dass’ seminal book Be Here Now, his story about the search for a balance between a spiritual life and being of service in the world. Brilliant tells us, “My guru taught me a kind of yoga, which is to work in the world to help alleviate suffering without attachment either to the results or to yourself doing it. And he told me to go work in the smallpox program because he said that God would eliminate this one form of suffering, to relieve that one burden on humanity. And that my job was to try to work in my heart, inside, to rid myself of anger and hatred and become more equanimous in the process, to offer to God the work that I did and not take credit for it or make a big deal out of it.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Larry Brilliant, M.D. is a pioneering physician, visionary technologist, and global philanthropist. He was the first executive director of Google.org, and he currently serves as chair of the Skoll Global Threats Fund. He cofounded the Seva Foundation, whose programs and partners have restored sight to more than four million blind people in dozens of counties. He cofounded one of the first digital social networks, The WELL.

Larry Brilliant is the author of the memoir:

To learn more about the work of Larry Brilliant go to https://larrybrilliant.com/

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How Brilliant ended up delivering a baby on Alcatraz during the Native American occupation in 1969-1971
  • How the generation who came of age in the 1960s continue to make positive contributions to the world
  • What it was like to travel by bus from London to India
  • How Neem Karoli Baba influenced and guided Larry Brilliant’s life
  • What was the scope of the smallpox virus in India
  • How, through perseverance and plain chutzpah, Brilliant got R.A. Tata, Chairman, and Russi Mody, CEO, of two the largest companies in Asia to support the effort of eradication of smallpox
  • Why Larry got into a diplomatic brouhaha with Indira Gandhi and how it was resolved
  • What is the importance of keeping a balance between doing and being
  • What was the life lesson on equanimity Brilliant learned from S.N. Goenka

Host: Justine Willis Toms        Interview Date: 12/9/2016        Program Number: 3601

Music Playlist

Album: Raga Omar Khayyam - Himalayan Nights 2: A Persian Fantasy For Sitar And Tabla
Artist: J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda)
1997 Clarity Sound & Light CSL11 

Opening Essay: Track 02 Ah, Fill The Cup
Music Break 1: Track 01 The Ancient Ruby
Music Break 2: Track 02 Ah Fill The Cup (reprise)
Music Break 3: Track 04 Through the Seventh Gate