Well you really had a wonderful mother.
Absolutely! She was a truly spiritual being, and a pilgrim. And so, mother would say that when you touch the Earth, you are touching a sacred space, a divine space, and God is present in the Earth. And everything upon this Earth is a manifestation of the divine spirit in physical form. Every physical form has an invisible dimension. And that invisible dimension is the divine dimension, the spiritual dimension, the dimension of imagination.
You have to imagine that this flower is not just a physical flower, it has divine spirit in it. And that can only come with the power of imagination. And that was teaching I got from my mother at age four and five.
Well this is a very important point Satish – imagination. The way that the word is currently used is severely limited to the idea of artistic imagination, or writing, of painting, or of creating. The true purpose of imagination according to Thomas Aquinas, for example, in the Western tradition was exactly what you’re describing. It was so that we could actually visualise the impossible to visualise, which is the invisible, untouchable, unreachable, ungettable. However, by using the powers of our imagination we can get closer to the divine presence, therefore we should use our imaginations in such a way. But you were given a mother that taught you this from four. You’re part of probably 0.0001% of all humans who’ve ever lived, and came in with a very big lucky break.
That’s right. My mother’s teaching was that the physical form is a vehicle to carry the invisible reality. Now, for example words. Words are only a vehicle to carry the meaning. So the body is only a vehicle to carry the love. If you have no body, then how do you embrace somebody? How do you look at somebody? How do you kiss somebody? So body is a vehicle to carry that compassion, that generosity, that love.
So in the same way, the flower is carrying something. The flower has a physical form, but it will also have an invisible dimension, and that invisible dimension can only be realised through imagination, and through the third eye, which is the eye of the imagination. The two eyes are the physical eyes, can see the physical form, but in order to see the non-physical form – the invisible reality, you have to have another dimension in your self. And that other dimension is metaphorically spoken of as the third eye. And what is that third eye?
The third eye is the eye of the eye of the heart, the eye of imagination, the eye of the spirit. So imagination, from a spiritual point of view, from an Indian perspective, is much bigger than just artistic or poetic imagination. Of course that’s a part of it, because true art and true poetry can reach the divine. William Blake, and his imagination, was reaching the divine.
Tagore was of course reaching the divine.
Exactly. Tagore was reaching through his poetry, though his music, though his paintings. But he was reaching that invisible reality of the divine. And the divine word, sometimes we are a little bit confused, and we don’t know what it means. The Divine simply means the eternal reality of blissfulness. Eternal reality, which is implicit every moment, in every thing, here and now. Divine is not in the next life. Divine is not in the next life. Divine is not in the book. Divine is not in the church. Divine is not in any kind of exterior reality. Its interior reality is present every moment in every thing in every second of time, in every word we speak, in every atom we touch, the divine presence is there.
But what is lacking is imagination. Without imagination we cannot experience it. And you have to experience divine. You have to imagine that there is bigger reality in that flower, in that tree, in that river, in that butterfly, in that human being, in that bell, in that sound. In everything there are two dimensions – the visible dimension and the invisible dimension, and the invisible dimension is the divine dimension.
That’s a very important point; you’re talking about two dimensions – the visible dimension and the invisible dimension. But you are not talking about duality, as far as I can feel. You’re talking about a unity of two dimensions at all times. They are not separate, they are not different dimensions, they are coexisting immanent dimensions, I believe is what you’re saying. As opposed to the ancient Western idea, the Gnostic idea, that there is a real world – a physical world – but it’s not as real as we think it is. It’s like a Matrix, like in the movie.
But there’s a separate spiritual world above and beyond that is almost untouchable and unconnectable, and therefore we are in a prison here; we are far from heaven and we have been cut off. This is an idea that seemed to have some possibilities, however what you’re describing now is not duality. It is the coexistence of two dimensions.
Yeah absolutely. It’s not duality because the spirit and the matter are two aspects of one single existence. Without spirit, matter cannot exist. And without matter, spirit cannot manifest itself. So matter needs spirit, and spirit needs matter. Without each other there is no existence. So it’s a completely one, single, complete whole, called Purnam in Sanskrit, meaning a complete and whole reality.
But in order to understand it, in order to make sense of it in our language, in our intellect, in our communication, we sometimes explain it. So this is only a way of explaining that there is a visible and invisible reality, but they are one and the same and there is no separation.
We all have the ability to use our imaginations to appreciate the divine presence in every moment because we’re all born the same, we all have bodies, we all have brains. However the great tragedy, especially of modern times I think – I don’t know too much about if this happened in historical times, if we completely lost our imagination before – but it seems to me that we have utterly and completely lost our divine imagination, almost totally today, resulting in the manifestation around us that you’ve been such a great campaigner for, of a return to a more spiritual, ecological outlook that is not limited to any one perspective.
Let me get back to your mother, because the problem is we don’t have the imagination now. I see that as a challenge, as a problem. We’ve lost that imagination. You were gifted with a mother who taught you that imagination. Perhaps you can let us know how she taught you in more practical terms in a more day to day basis; how she brought you to being a pilgrim, and how you related back to her your experiences, and how that helped you to grow, because I think you had a unique upbringing.
Yes, I was very fortunate to have a mother who was extremely wise. She saw nature as the divine manifestation. So in practical terms, she taught me to connect with nature; to rediscover, to always rediscover our connection with nature. Because we are nature, and therefore we are related to everything around us.
When we would walk she would always give examples.
She would see that as a child I would see what was going on, and she would point things out; for example the honeybee. My mother would point out “look at the honey bee. The honeybee can teach us the lessons of transformation.” Now that is the divine dimension that you can only learn from imagination. The honeybee is in a physical reality, doing a physical action, but there is an invisible reality of transformation. Now the honeybee goes from flower to flower, collecting nectar from here and there. Little from here, little from there – never too much. And once it has collected nectar, it transforms; it transforms nectar into sweet, delicious, healthy honey.
That’s the divine dimension. Now also the honeybee is a pollinator. The honeybee is the key to our existence. If there is no honeybee, there is no pollination; if there’s no pollination, there are no plants; if there are no plants, there is no food; if there’s no food, there’s no life. So in this extremely simple way, this is how my mother taught me to be a pilgrim of nature, and a pilgrim of the divine at the same time; and by connecting with nature we realise that everything is completely and intricately, and in a subtle way totally interdependent. Life will not exist if there is no honeybee, this is just one example. This was the practical way my mother taught me to be a pilgrim.
Walking was one of the most beautiful ways, because when you are walking you have time – you are going slowly. And when you are going slowly then you are looking around. If you are on a horseback, or worse in a car or a train, or worse of all an airplane, you see nothing. You don’t connect – you are disconnected. But when you are walking you are connected with the earth, you are connected with the air, you are connected with the trees, you are connected with the sunshine, you are connected with the flowers, you are connected with fungi, you are connected with birds, you are connected with the entire universe.
You are one. There is no dualism there, you are completely one.
And these were the simple, practical examples that my mother would give me, to teach me to be a pilgrim.
Many thanks to Luke Hancock for transcribing this from video tapes