" Communication is only possible between equals " R.A. Wilson
Satish Kumar sits opposite on the floor of the Shumacher college meditation room. I had joined him in the morning meditation along with several of the students now taking courses at this enclave of Ghandian and eco-spiritual learning. It was named after the UK's Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher, the man from whom we got the now famous adage, 'Small is beautiful'.
Having already interviewed Graham Hancock at his home in Bath this was to be the second of the UK subjects. Reminding me of the iconaclastic Krishnamurti but minus the great sage's sense of irony here was a man who really walked his talk. Or rather in this case a man who sits his philosophy. After all, much like in my adopted home here in Japan, when two people sit facing each other there is a qualitative difference to the communication when compared to being perched on chairs.
For a start you have to hold your own body up rather than let the back of the chair do it. The very effort of doing so is a demonstration of willingness to be very present in the flesh. There can be no crossing of legs to block communication. No resting of elbows on the arms of the chair to permit posturing, just a simple face to face, honest to goodness exchange is what results. I am glad we started that way as Satish Kumar was going to share a lot over the two days we filmed him.
Here was a man who had been so shocked by the death of his father when he was four that overcoming death had become his raison d'etre. Dogen, the founder of soto zen, had a similar experience watching the incense smoke rise above his mother's corpse at a tender age too. The answer had seemed to lie in becoming a monk, in renouncing the wicked world where the grim reaper rules, or at least appears to. Jainism thus became his spiritual refuge from age nine as he walked the dusty roads of his native Rajastan. Meditation and a life of sacred devotion was his way of dealing with demise.
Here on a huge private estate in Devon was a father of children, an editor of a leading Uk magazine, a writer and lecturer and most recently the object of a BBC documentary called, most interestingly Earth Pilgrim. The synchronicity was obvious since I had begun to name my documentary project 'Earth Pilgrims' in the summer of 2007. Satish had not mentioned this when we first began communication in Autumn 2007. Perhaps he too had realised that what we call coincidence is all really a matter of perspective and of consciousness.
So what had happened to the monk? It is no easy feat to become a Jain monk and a decidedly more difficult one to stop being one. It is akin to a Jew trying to uncircumcise himself, at least psychologically. Along had come the man who had the gumption to say, "It is a curious phenomenon that God has made the hearts of the poor, rich and those of the rich, poor." He had met the late great disciple of Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave. The rest really was history. Satish Kumar was, in a deeply felt moment of insufficiency, shamed into becoming a man of action by the man who is considered a national teacher in India. Thus he became a lifelong Earth Pilgrim..