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Lifting the Veil of Maya: Tata Institute Grad Students' Reflections on Immersive Learning Circles

The following article was written by graduate students in the Organization Development, Change, and Leadership (ODCL) program at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) who participated in an Immersive Learning Circle about the birth of Process Consultation, and stepped into the shoes of the renowned Dr. Edgar Schein through a guided simulation.

If you look around, the birds, rivers, and winds! They roam without limits, crossing borders effortlessly, embracing everything around them. And you know what? Thoughts are just like them. They go beyond the boundaries of time and space, exploring the vastness of the universe. It's a marvel to witness how everything expands beyond what we can imagine! In a similar way, this extraordinary Immersive Learning Circle (ILC) defied the limitations of geography and created an open space where diverse minds get connected and discuss the simulation. The virtual platform became a gateway, seamlessly uniting individuals from different corners of the globe. It was a captivating display of how technology can transcend borders and ignite collaboration.

As the virtual doors opened, participants from India and facilitators from the USA embarked on an incredible journey.

The ILC became a melting pot of cultures, experiences, and perspectives. People who had never met in person found themselves engaged in profound conversations, forging connections that transcended time zones and continents.

Dr. Brendel begins with a discussion on the concept widely recognised in India, the “Veil of Maya.” To understand “Maya,” look at the world around you, and you notice how sometimes it appears magical and captivating, while at other times, it can be frightening, confusing, and full of surprises.

Maya creates a veil of illusion on our minds.

Now, let's use an analogy to understand the nature of the mind. Just as fire naturally burns, the mind is naturally inclined to think and wander constantly. It's like a river of thoughts and doubts, always flowing. The mind has a tendency to create dreams and fantasies, constructing its own little world and then demolishing it just as quickly. It builds these elaborate castles in the air but ends up getting trapped in its own creations. This cycle of thoughts leads to suffering as the mind is never content; it always seeks more and more, like a never-ending mountain of desires.

To overcome this, we need to develop a heightened awareness within our minds. This awareness comes with practice, and here is where ILCs play a crucial role, especially in the context of OD consulting.

They help us unravel the illusions of the mind through pausing time, thinking over, discussing and practicing with diverse people and thus revealing the nature of Maya and enabling us to better understand ourselves, others and our client organisation (whether it is internal or external).

As we moved further to deep dive ourselves into the ILC, based on the Process Consultation, a concept developed by Dr. Edgar Schein, took center stage. It was an opportunity for participants to delve into this concept and explore its practical application. The simulation provided a platform for participants to immerse themselves in the birth of process consultation ILC, where they could actively observe and pick up on both verbal and non-verbal cues. Throughout the ILC, Dr. Brendel's facilitation skills were exceptional. He skillfully engaged with the participants, creating a safe and welcoming space for them to share their insights and emotions. This nurturing environment played a crucial role in fostering open and honest discussions. Participants felt comfortable expressing their thoughts and experiences, leading to a deeper exploration of the essence of Process Consultation. The ILC allowed participants to uncover the significance of Process Consultation within the field of Organization Development. They gained a better understanding of how this approach can contribute to facilitating positive change within organisations.

By immersing themselves in the simulation and benefiting from Dr. Brendel's expertise, participants were able to develop practical insights that they could apply in real-world scenarios. Here are some of their observations...

Raghav Raghavendra shared... Participating in the ILC of Process Consultation was a remarkable experience. I have always been drawn to innovative approaches that empower individuals and organizations to unlock their full potential. The use of simulation during the ILC, combined with the expertise and compassion of the facilitator, has provided me with invaluable insights and a renewed sense of purpose. Through thoughtfully designed activities and interactive exercises, the simulation created an environment that encouraged open communication, collaboration, and self-reflection. The engaging nature of this ILC facilitated a deeper understanding of the complexities within organisational systems and dynamics.

The facilitator played a pivotal role in creating a safe and inclusive space for learning and growth. Their competence in process consultation was evident throughout the ILC. They seamlessly integrated theory, practical examples, and real-life experiences to illustrate key concepts and facilitate meaningful discussions. Their depth of knowledge and ability to adapt to the diverse needs of the participants was truly remarkable. During the ILC, I gained valuable insights into the process consultation approach. I discovered that effective OD consulting goes beyond providing solutions; it involves empowering individuals and groups to identify and address their own challenges. Through process consultation, I learned the significance of active listening, empathy, and building authentic relationships with clients. It would help in honing my skills in recognising and navigating organisational dynamics, fostering collaboration, and facilitating transformative change. I am hopeful that my ILC experience will profoundly impact both my professional and personal growth. It has equipped me with a fresh perspective and refined tools to tackle complex organisational issues.

Vivek Maharana shared... In the session on Immersive Learning Circles facilitated by Dr. William Brendel, I connected deeply with the ideas of selflessness, integration, mindfulness, and dialogue. Dr. Brendel guided us to navigate uncertain situations by reflecting on ourselves and using that understanding to find certainty.

During the session, I had a personal realization about the importance of selflessness in organizational development. Putting aside personal interests and embracing a collective mindset struck a chord with me. Real growth and transformation happen when we focus on the well-being of the organization and its members as a whole. This newfound insight encouraged me to approach my work with a broader perspective and a genuine commitment to making positive changes.

Looking back, I am grateful for the valuable lessons and insights I gained. The principles explored in the Immersive Learning Circles session are applicable in various contexts, making them even more meaningful. These principles have the potential to create a ripple effect, impacting organizations in profound ways. As I embark on my journey, I am sure to integrate these principles into my work and contribute to the growth and development of organisations.

Gayadhthri shared... I'm truly grateful to have been a part of this engaging session facilitated by Dr. Brendel. Not only did Dr. Brendel impart the knowledge of OD but he also stimulated my thought process throughout the session. The interactive activity involving a case study and the subsequent discussions for each situation in the breakout rooms prompted me to think like process consultant and provided valuable learning experiences from my own peers.

I express my sincere gratitude to Ved for meticulously planning such a wonderful and thought-provoking session for the entire cohort. The session not only enhanced my understanding of OD but also fostered an environment of active participation and collective learning.

Siddharth Panigrah shared... The immersive learning circle I recently attended was an incredibly enlightening and transformative experience. Through a simulation exercise on becoming OD (Organization Development) consultant, I could apply theoretical concepts to practical scenarios, honing my skills in real-time. This hands-on approach not only allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of OD principles but also provided valuable insights into the complexities and challenges faced by OD consultants in the real world.

One of the session’s highlights was hearing Ed Schein's last lecture. As a renowned pioneer in OD, Schein's wisdom and expertise profoundly impacted all of us. His lecture emphasised the importance of building relationships, understanding organisational cultures, and embracing humility in our consulting work. His insights provided a valuable framework for approaching complex organisational issues and fostering positive change.

Throughout the immersive learning circle, I discovered the significance of active listening, effective communication, and collaboration within a consulting context. I learned how to leverage diverse perspectives and tap into the group’s collective intelligence by engaging in thoughtful discussions and group activities. These experiences reinforced the power of collaboration and highlighted the immense value that each individual brings to the table.

The session also underscored the importance of continuous learning and growth as OD consultants. It emphasised the need for ongoing reflection, self-awareness, and cultivating a learning mindset. The simulation exercise and Schein's lecture reminded me that becoming an effective consultant is a continuing process and that humility, curiosity, and a commitment to personal and professional development are crucial to success in this field.

Jayaprakash shared... During the session of OpenSourceOD facilitated by Dr William Brendel, I gained a valuable real-life OD consulting experience that has left me feeling grateful. One of the most important lessons I learned from this exercise is that there is no definitive notion of universal right or wrong when it comes to decision-making. Each decision we make leads to a unique set of outcomes, and as an OD consultant, it is crucial to understand and embrace this complexity.

As an OD consultant, our primary responsibility is to use 'self' as an instrument of change. We act as facilitators, providing clients with a platform where their voices can be heard. By creating a safe and inclusive space, we enable clients to explore their challenges, express their concerns, and ultimately find solutions to their own problems. This approach emphasizes the power of self-discovery and self-directed change.

Rather than imposing our own ideas or solutions onto clients, we empower them to tap into their own wisdom and expertise.

By doing so, we not only promote their growth and development but also ensure the sustainability of the solutions they generate. This session has reinforced the importance of humility, open-mindedness, and facilitation skills in the field of OD consulting. It has taught me that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that each client situation requires careful listening, empathy, and collaboration.

Akkchit shared... When I initially heard the name of the session, Immersive Learning Circles, I was intrigued and curious to know more about it. And as the name suggests, it was truly an Immersive experience wherein I was truly immersed in embracing the beauty of Process Consultation. Dr. Brendel was such a wonderful facilitator who enriched the entire experience of Immersive learning. Towards the end, it was a moment of sheer joy to watch the legendary Ed Schein, whose readings I have always cherished. Overall, the session had so much to offer, intellectually and emotionally. I wish to be part of many such Immersive Learning Circles. Thank you for bringing up such a phenomenal platform to learn about OD.

Prasad Bhattad shared... In one line, it was my first immersive learning circle experience, but it won’t be my last! I thoroughly enjoyed the ILC and found it tremendously engaging which is really hard to accomplish in a virtual setting. I absolutely loved the use of technology, which was so simple and yet so powerful! To be in the shoes of Ed Schein himself and experience a meeting that happened decades ago was surreal! It blows my mind thinking about the endless possibilities that ILC presents us with, like imagine being in the shoes of one of Hitlers advisors and replay the global events that took place during the WW2 that could have been averted with the power a few intriguing questions like Ed asked or even silence like Dr George suggested! Although this is just off the top of my head and quite exaggerated, I believe if there ever was a game created with this option, I would love to take up the challenge and save the world, and frankly who wouldn’t? We could learn not just from history but create imaginative ILCs for any event or situation that is yet to happen to increase our readiness to face the event, familiarity with different possibilities so we don’t have to rely on the fight or flight response but a rather composed and informed one! We can also dive deeper and create an AI model for ILC where people can type in what they would do and the system generates a response based on their answer and based on the chosen difficulty level of the situation they are in. Heck they could create situations themselves (real and or imaginary) feed it to the AI system and play with it until they have mastered the situation! Of course, all of these are merely ideas, but that’s the point, with ILC the possibilities are limitless!

I felt that Dr. Brendel and Ruhi did a wonderful job facilitating the session. I loved interacting with both of them after the event was over, and frankly was sad when I had to leave the meeting because I was having so much fun! I would like it if we can interact more in the future and absolutely love it if we could collaborate and come up with initiatives, global movements to help make this world a better place for not just humanity but all of us earthlings using OD. (Imagine an ILC where we are animals and respond to world events like deforestation and climate change, what would we as animals do?).

All in all, I would like to thank Ved, Dr. Brendel and Ruhi for an inspiring session and wish you all the best and hope I can add value to your lives in one way or another, just the way you have added value to mine!

Krushna Amilkanthwar shared... Attending the Immersive Learning Circle session was a truly unique experience. The session commenced with an engaging discussion on the Veil of Maya, which felt more like a collaborative conversation than a typical session. Mr. William Brendel encouraged and involved all participants, embodying the participative approach that lies at the core of Organizational Development (OD).

The highlight of the session was undoubtedly the OD Decision Simulator. This interactive activity featured professional actors and was based on a real-life consulting case in the form of recorded video clips. We were presented with a series of choices and the storyline unfolded based on our decisions. It provided an opportunity to apply our OD knowledge and skills, assuming the role of OD consultants.

The simulation mirrored the decision-making process of Edger Schein, a renowned consultant, and at each juncture, we discussed the reasoning behind our choices in small break-out rooms before presenting them to the entire group.

By the end of the session, we had gained valuable insights into the consequences of our decisions in the context of actual consulting work. The experience deepened our understanding and knowledge, leaving us better equipped for future OD endeavors.

Subhodip Giri shared... It was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the concept and practice of Process Consultation. I found the session to be very engaging and participative, as we were able to share our insights and understanding of the simulated situations and find answers for the situations displayed through the video. I am also thrilled to to know about a new concept of Maya's veil. I also appreciated the presence and inputs of our esteemed Professor Dr. Joseph George, who joined us for this event.

Dr. Brendel did a great job of facilitating the discussion and creating a conducive learning environment for all of us. I enjoyed every moment of this unique learning experience, and I hope to attend more such events in the future.

Shubham Asawale shared...The ILC process was like a quick run-through to understand how the choices we make at any given moment impact the outcome of the process. It was a reflective experience to engage with Dr. Brendel. To navigate through the “Maya” around us, we must be well-connected with ourselves. During facilitation, it is important to understand when to intervene and when to follow the emergence. I am thankful to have gone through an Immersive Learning experience.


The presence of Dr. Joseph George, a remarkable professor from TISS ODCL, added immense value to the ILC with his wisdom and knowledge in the field of OD. The success of any learning experience is greatly influenced by the individuals behind its organization and facilitation. Dr .Brendel and Ruhi Banerjee played instrumental roles in ensuring the smooth running of the ILC. Dr. Brendel's expertise and skillful facilitation techniques kept the participants engaged throughout the sessions. On the technical front, Ruhi Banerjee efficiently managed a group of over 30 participants, ensuring that everyone had a seamless and immersive experience. Their combined efforts contributed to the overall success of the OpenSourceOD ILC.

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