Satish sits on an old chesterfield chair. Plants, paintings and assorted curiosities hang from the walls and ceilings. Zu Studios plays host to this legendary figure this evening, and the crowds have gathered to hear him speak. 100 or so local Lewes folk are snuggled in, wall to wall, some on the floor, some on stalls, some spilling out the 20ft-high warehouse doors…
Satish starts to speak: We are all in relationship. Relationship is the core of existence. You are, Therefore, I am. If we can express harmony through our actions, we are practicing the art of relationship, and this practice in our daily life is essentially, a spiritual practice. This Harmony must start with the self. When we practice self care, we are able to be openhearted, open minded. In giving time to self, we feed our soul, which, in turn, enables us to give service to soil, and to society.
“We are all poets”, Satish tells us. The root of the word translates as “maker”. Every act of creation is a form of art – gardening, cooking, cleaning, making – “the art of living,” he says, “is the finest art”. Therefore, we are all poets, we are all creators. We realise that for a seed to come to life, it needs soil, water, sun, and the gardener – we are in relationship.
He introduces us to the Trinity: Soil (earth), Soul (spirit), and Society (people). These are connected parts of a greater whole, as opposed to the compartmentalized, individualistic paradigm civilization currently sits in. “What kind of civilization have we invented?” he asks, when war, politics and religion dictate the decision-making processes; when 1billion people go to bed hungry every night, whilst some distorted mirror holds up 1billion obese. We need to move from an individualistic, compartmentalised identity, and acknowledge ourselves as part of the human family which inhabits planet earth. Identity, he explains, separates us, whilst if we allow ourselves to expand our identity, we realise that nothing is separate… it is time for us to let go of “ego”, and to embrace “eco”, to inspire each other into action. These words come from a man of experience. Satish describes himself as an Earth Activist, a Peace Activist, a Pilgrim… He is a man who has walked 8,000 miles from Dehli to Washington, without a penny, and only his trust in the world and his belief in peace to carry him. Read more about his journey in his book, No Destination. He encourages us to move through this earth as Pilgrims, as opposed to tourists, or consumers. A pilgrim carries no bondage, no fixed ideas; a pilgrim doesn’t plan. He provides us with a “Pilgrim’s Formula”, where we live 5% in the past, 15% in the future (ok, maybe just a little planning), and 80% in the present moment, which we should celebrate as creatively, as poetically as possible.
The root of the word eco, is from the Greek, ‘oikos’, meaning ‘home’. Therefore the meaning of Ecology (from ‘logos’: ‘knowledge’), is the study of our home, and economy (from ‘nomos’: ‘management’), is it’s management – surely these things go hand in hand? argues Satish. He goes on to mention his suprise, when on a visit to The London School of Economics. Satish asked them where their ecology department was. They said they didn’t have one. So he asked, “Tell me professor, are you teaching your students to manage something they don’t know? No wonder the world economy is in such a mess!”
He goes on to discuss the current economic paradigm… joking that some of his peers – the economists and politicians – ask him: “Why do you sit and chant these silly mantras, how will that help to change the world?”, and Satish’s response is that “OM Shanti” (“Om”, being sound vibration of universal harmony, and “Shanti” meaning “Peace”), seems far less ridiculous than their current mantra “Economic Growth, Economic Growth, Economic Growth”. This linear, finite line negates the natural cycle of life that dictates natural law – we grow food, we eat, we poo, we fertilise the soil; we sleep, we wake; the seasons come and go in an infinite, integrated cycle. “This idea of economic growth is no good!” he declares. We need gentle limitations in order to be truly free. Just as the river has banks to hold it, there is an importance to living within limits, this allows us to have a freedom that is sustainable, as opposed to the current paradigm of exponential growth. Ghandi said “We have enough in the world for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed”.
When our land based practices are being dominated and monopolised by multi-nationals like Monsanto, who are declaring ownership over seeds, and mutating them in the name of greed (although they’d have us believe it’s to save the world’s hungry), we have a major issue. The issue here is the increased dependency of farmers on multi-nationals, stripping them of their relationship with the land. Not to mention tampering with the delicate balance of the natural world. Nature has its own intelligence, explains Satish, and we must cultivate reverence and respect for seed and soil. We have lost touch with the soil, dirt has, become dirty, something to be avoided.
Satish is passionate about education and learning… much of his work has been focused on learning. His trinity for education is “Head, Heart, Hands”: we learn by engaging all aspects of the mind, soul and body. Before a child learns to read and write, he must learn to bake bread, to grow food, and to cook. He must develop a relationship with what sustains him – from earth to plate. When living in a small village, Heartfield, with his two young children, Satish decided to set up his own school, as the other option involved a daily bus commute of two hours to the nearest school. Instead, his children, and indeed the other children of the village went to a school, The Small School, (following Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful principles), created by the people of the village. The school is still running. At the Small School, Children learn about community – learning starts in the kitchen, and the garden, where they learn to work and live in community, to grow food, cook and eat together. These were the foundations for their learning. 20 years ago, Satish was also a co-founder of the Schumacher College, a further education centre, in Devon. Here the focus is for students to fall in love with the earth. Satish tells us “I say to the students: when you leave here, don’t try to get a job…” he suggests that instead, they create their own role in the world, doing something they love, in service to the earth, not economic growth.
When we practice the art of relationship, we realise that science, art and religion can be in harmony. When harmony is the fundamental principle, we acknowledge that knowledge is science, living is art, and living harmoniously becomes a form of ‘religion’, or spiritial practice; for science can become blind without spirit, and religion without science can become fundamentalist and irrational… Nothing can exist in isolation, the world exists in interdepency.
This man’s un-bound energy, courage and conviction is testament to his trinity. The sparkle in his 76- year-old eyes, the fire in his belly and the grace in his wisdom is an inspiration. He tells us: The entire universe is represented in every cell. We are present from the big bang, until the end of time. In India, they say that “Creation is not an historic event”, creation is a continuous process. We are all co-creators. We are all makers and poets – what an empowering and glorious idea. So next time you’re fixing your bike, making a meal, or cleaning the dishes, or taking action for something you believe in, do it with love, make an art of it.
See the full Satish Kumar talk at Zu Studios on Youtube.