I attended a conference many years ago at the Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois--the extraordinary Frank Lloyd Wright creation. Satish Kumar gave an inspiring morning keynote after which we were each assigned to a small lunch table. To my amazement, Satish appeared at my table and sat directly across from me. The food nourished me for a few hours; the wisdom he gifted me has nourished me ever since.
Satish is renown for his gentle nature, passionate activism and deep wisdom. Born in 1936, he knew his calling from a young age. At nine years of age, living in Rajasthan, India, he announced he was leaving to join a Jain monastery. The Jains are a strict religious order with an absolute reverence for life. He stayed for nine years, finally deciding he was called to leave the walls of the monastery.
In 1962, Bertrand Russell's call for nuclear disarmament inspired Satish and his friend, E.P. Menon to walk from New Delhi to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington to deliver a packet of peace tea to leaders of the four nuclear powers. Kumar and Menon made this journey without a penny in their pockets!
In Soil*Soul*Society, Satish notes that movements often summarize their philosophies in triplets or trinities. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness comes immediately to mind in the United States. The French speak of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Even today's New Age movement is fond of speaking to Mind, Body & Spirit.
What Satish finds troubling about each of these is their anthropomorphic essence--they speak only to what is good and necessary for humanity, the rest of the biosphere left to fend for itself.
In this inspired work, he proposes a new triplet for humanity as the world faces challenges never before witnessed.
Soil reminds us that everything we are, and everything we hope to become, originates in nature. Without tremendous biodiversity, there will be no future in which to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Soul reminds us we need to deeply nurture our spiritual selves in ways that will enable us to live lives based on necessity rather than want. He quotes Gandhi who said the earth can provide enough for every person's need, but not enough for any person's greed.
Finally, society reminds us we are social animals and desperately need one another for survival.
After finding a recent essay by Satish, I reached out to him as editor of Resurgence & Ecology magazine in the U.K. I expressed my deep gratitude for the wisdom he shared with me so many years ago in Oak Park. I told him how those few moments at lunch changed my view of myself and my role in the world. Several days later I received an email reply in which he said, in part, "I am delighted that my words have somehow been helpful to you. The words are like seeds, if they fall in fertile ground, they bear good fruit. So the fertile ground is as important as the seeds..."
He continues to be my teacher. I love this man and I cherish his newest work.