Industrial Strength Spirituality

GUY DIXON
From Friday’s Globe and Mail
May 14, 2009 at 4:34 PM EDT

If rockers were the cultural gurus of the sixties, and techies like Steve Jobs and Nicholas Negroponte were the nineties’ watered-down version, documentary filmmakers may very well be emerging as the new prognosticators of where we’re headed.

Velcrow Ripper, the 45-year-old filmmaker with the part-punk, part-New Age pseudonym who lives on the Toronto Islands, is a clear example. His widely praised 2004 documentary Scared Sacred, a tour of war-devastated lands, was intended to be less a documentary and more of a meditative piece and call to arms.

And so is his second film in a planned trilogy – Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action. The new film takes Scared Sacred a step further by trying to get at the motivation for activism, examining how inward-focused spirituality can compel people to act outwardly, protesting against injustice and environmental degradation.

While filming Scared Sacred, Ripper found that what got people through horrific, wartime tragedy was a sense of personal meaning. “I witnessed it firsthand. Those who had a sense of meaning, whatever it was that gave them that, were the ones who survived. Those without any meaning were the ones who gave up,” he says.

“One of those sources of meaning was to take action, to actually try to stop what had happened to them from happening to anybody else. And I began to realize that the relationship between sources of meaning – a depth of understanding in one’s inner life – and taking action to create change is a really harmonious thing. The spirit and the action, they go together really well. In fact, they are meant to go together.”

This kind of talk has made Ripper the doc community’s version of a star. He gives lectures and conducts workshops to share his vision of spiritually conscious activism. Still, he rejects the idea that Fierce Light simply preaches to the choir. Instead, he deliberately lets emotions run high in the film to move audiences – even if not everyone agrees with its political assumptions.

“The theme of Fierce Light is about coming from the heart, as well as the head. It’s going to be unsatisfying if you go to it looking for facts, facts, facts. The reason I did that is because the film is about soul force … what I call almost an industrial-strength spirituality.”

Yet Fierce Light doesn’t aim for a kind of Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help airiness, nor does it reach transcendence like the 1979 documentary masterpiece Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy. Fierce Light never strays from its street-level, activist core.

The filmmaker grew up on British Columbia’s idyllic Sunshine Coast and was raised in the Baha’i faith, which is based on the spiritual unity of all religions.

But even that was too confining for him. As a young punk rocker, he felt torn between spirituality and activism. At a hippie gathering, surrounded by kids called Feather and Crystal, someone gave him the nickname Velcrow, with an added “w” to lend a measure of mystique. (Velcrow’s friends know him as Crow.)

“As I went along, it became clear in many activist circles that you had to stay in the closet as a spiritual person,” Ripper says. “Spirituality wasn’t something that was part of the picture. There had been a real rejection of religion because of fundamentalism and the human-rights abuses done in the name of religion.”

However, something new is afoot, his films argue, and that’s what Ripper is becoming a figurehead for: It’s the interest, building for years now, among those on the left – an acknowledgment that spirituality seems to be at the heart of activism.

As Ripper adds: “My Facebook profile has a quote from Antony Hegarty, the New York musician, that says, ‘Hope and sincerity are the new punk.’”

Advertisements

Shambhala Sun On Fierce Light

Fierce Light: An Interview with Filmmaker Velcrow Ripper
By Elena Johnson

What do the American civil rights movement, an exiled monk’s return visit to Vietnam, and a community of people trying to save an urban farm in L.A. have in common? According to Canadian documentary film-maker Velcrow Ripper, they are all examples of what he calls spiritual activism, and they are just a few of the inspiring stories featured in his latest film, Fierce Light.

“Spiritual activism,” Ripper explains in a recent phone interview from his Toronto home, “comes from the heart. It’s beyond polarity. It’s coming from a place of compassion, of hope. It’s based on what we are for, rather than what we are against. It’s what Ghandi called soul force, and what Martin Luther King called love in action.”

He says, “I wanted to find that hope in the world, to interview the people that were doing that work – activism with a spiritual basis, a sense of interconnectedness.”

Fierce Light includes interviews with former civil rights movement leader John Lewis, exiled Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalit lawyer/activist Leela Kumari, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, eco-philosopher and Buddhism scholar Joanna Macy, and actor/eco-activist Daryl Hannah, among others.

The film also documents several political actions in progress, such as the movement to save the largest urban farm in North America from impending demolition, the yearly protest at the controversial U.S. military training institution once known as the School of the Americas, and the efforts of a group of two thousand Hyderabad Dalits to resist violence and oppression, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh’s second return visit to Vietnam after 40 years of exile.

I first heard about Fierce Light during the Vancouver International Film Festival in October, and decided to attend the world premiere. The film went on to garner the NFB Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award and a Special Mention for the Nonfiction Feature Film Award at the festival, and has now been screened at several international film festivals. It will be released to theatres in May.

Ripper feels that in making the film he was tapping into a zeitgeist. In fact, he says that spiritual activism has been called the largest political movement in history. During his research for the film, he interviewed Paul Hawkins, author of Blessed Unrest, a book that examines hope within the worldwide movement for social and environmental change. Hawkins calls spiritual activism “the movement of movements” and describes it as “humanity’s immune response to a world in crisis.” He has compiled a list of organizations engaged in some form of spiritual activism, and his total is now well over a million.
Ripper is no newcomer to documentary film-making or to world travel. He has directed or done sound work for 28 other films, and made his first documentary, Iran: the Crisis, in 1979 at the age of 16. His recent films are characterized by a narrative style and by his deeply personal approach – engaging with a question that concerns him, and seeking the answer.
“The term ‘fierce light’,” he explains, “plays with the collision between seeming opposites. The title is like a Zen koan that I slowly unpack… Where is the fierceness, within the light?”

Ripper used to describe himself as a Sufi-Buddhist-Bahai-punk-rocker, but says he’ll never belong to one particular tradition. However, his most consistent teacher is Zen Buddhist Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, based in New York city, and he says his life is deeply informed by Buddhism.

I ask him if Buddhist principles such as non-harm and compassion are common characteristics of the movements profiled in Fierce Light. While he describes the film as “inter-spiritual” in scope, he acknowledges that compassion and non-violence are clearly at the heart of the political actions in the film.

“The American civil rights movement is a profound example of this – standing up with love in your heart, and protesting violence with non-violence. The powers that be didn’t know how to deal with this. The idea of responding to love and non-violence with violence was very unsettling.

“Another central concept,” he says, “is the idea of interconnection – or interbeing – which is similar to the Ubuntu theology that Desmond Tutu speaks about.”

Tutu, a Nobel Laureate and a former leader in South Africa’s struggle against Apartheid, says that Ubuntu means that one person’s humanness is intertwined with another person’s humanness. “What dehumanizes you,” he explains in the film, “inexorably dehumanizes me. And what elevates you, elevates me.”

Ripper also traveled with Thich Nhat Hanh and members of his sangha on their second return-trip to Vietnam. Their intent was to conduct a series of healing ceremonies to heal the wounds of war and to offer teachings and retreats. I’m curious about the effect this experience had on Ripper.

“Thich Nhat Hanh is such an embodiment of fierce light,” he says. “He is the most peaceful and gentle man you’ll ever meet. And yet he is fierce – he has a sword that will cut through ignorance and illusion, and that’s what he’s here to do. His style of Buddhism is completely connected to humanity and the earth; it’s not about transcendence. He’s the person who really coined the term ‘engaged Buddhism.’”

Ripper also notes that this experience influenced his style of filming. He says that, for him, cinematography always involves being in the moment, trying to connect to the beauty that’s around him, and trying to pass that on to others through the film itself. But when he was filming the monks and nuns, he says, he was especially aware of being focused on the present and on walking mindfully, for example, rather than rushing from shot to shot.

“There’s actually a quality of documentary film-making that requires stepping into the present,” he says, “and letting go of preconceptions – allowing images to unfold, without clinging or grasping. It’s very much like a Buddhist approach.”

When I saw Fierce Light, I was particularly struck by a motif that recurs throughout the film: a person with their eyes closed, as if in meditation, opens their eyes and smiles widely. When I ask Ripper about the intention behind this, he explains, “All over the world, almost everywhere I went, I asked people – strangers – to close their eyes, and when they opened them to look straight at the camera and imagine that they were looking at the most beautiful thing they could ever imagine. These people, in the film, they’re looking out at the audience with this love in their eyes.” His intention, he says, was for the audience to feel they were being looked upon with love.

“But this action, of the eyes opening, can be interpreted differently by each person who sees the film,” he admits. He says it could be interpreted as a call to action – to get up off the meditation cushion and put your beliefs into practice. It could also be felt as the opposite – to take some time out from your activism and sit down on the cushion.

“We need that deep inner knowing,” he explains. “We need that meditative centre. That’s what gives us the strength and the soul to deal with the world in crisis. But we also need to be active and get out in the world and make the change.”
He says he hopes the film itself can provide an experience of awakening for people. “I hope that it breaks people’s hearts open, but in a way that opens us to change, a way that gives us a sense of hope, possibility and inspiration, as well as a sense of urgency.”
Ripper’s current favourite quote is “Hope and sincerity are the new punk.” That’s from Antony Haggard, lead singer of New York City band Antony and the Johnsons.
“It’s not so uncool anymore to be sincere and hopeful,” says Ripper. “The days of post-modern irony – the snark effect of the 90s – that’s withering.”
He adds, “This is going to be more than a movement. I think it’s the leading edge of a global shift in consciousness.”
* * *
Fierce Light will be released to theatres this month and to DVD in September. For more information, see http://www.fiercelight.org.

THE FIERCE LIGHT TRAILER

Please share this far and wide – click on the video, go to youtube and choose “share”. Help spread the Fierce Light.

IN THE THEATRES ACROSS CANADA STARTING MAY 15TH!!

FIERCE LIGHT: WHEN SPIRIT MEETS ACTION

From the Director of Scared Sacred & The Producer of The Corporation

A Feature Documentary award winning filmmaker Velcrow Ripper

“A SPIRITUAL KALEIDOSCOPE OF HOPE AND JOY. UPLIFTING!” ~ Green Muze Magazine

“HUGELY ENGAGING AND VISUALLY DELIGHTFUL.” ~ Toronto Sun

“A POETIC CALL TO HEARTFELT ACTION.” ~ Common Ground

IN THEATRES ACROSS CANADA MAY 15!!!

Please spread this trailer, along with this note, far and wide, and help us fill the theatres May 15!!!

At the Cumberland in Toronto, The AMC Forum in Montreal and Fifth Avenue Cinema’s in Vancouver, Canada.

FOR MORE INFO GO TO:

http://www.fiercelight.org

“ACHINGLY BEAUTIFUL.” ~ NewCityFIlm, Chicago

“INTENSE AND INSPIRING.” ~ Examiner National

“RAW, HONEST AND COMPELLING.” ~ CJSF Radio

“Fierce Light” is a feature documentary that captures the exciting movement of Spiritual Activism that is exploding around the planet, and the powerful personalities that are igniting it.

Acclaimed filmmaker Velcrow Ripper (Scared Sacred) takes an insightful look at change motivated by love, featuring interviews with spiritual activists Thich Nhat Hanh, Desmond Tutu, Daryl Hannah, Julia Butterfly Hill, and more.

“COURAGEOUS …. POTENT … AUTHENTIC.” ~ Enlightennext Magazine

“INCREDIBLY MOVING! A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IN ITSELF!” ~Vancouver International Film Festival

“A TOUCHING PORTRAIT OF THE POWER OF
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LOVE…” -New Orleans Times-Picayune
Share

New Fierce Light Clip!

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2066685&dest=-1]

Here’s a new clip from Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, my new documentary on spiritual activsm. It’s opening in theatres across Canada starting May 15th!
This piece focusses one of the film’s themes: that both spirituality, and activism, can take place in our everyday lives, at any moment. In fact, why not in every moment?

It features bell hooks, a brilliant visionary, cultural theorist, and Buddhist thinker.   bell hooks has long been an inspiration for me. Her book “All About Love” has been hands down the most important book I have ever read about relationships – both societal and intimate. She is a mover between the worlds of critical thinking, spirituality and activism, a synthesizer of ideas who, in the face of immense resistance from  academia, is not afraid to say the word “love” out loud.  When we met  in her home in a small town in Kentucky she was gardening in her backyard. To sit in her presence was to bathe in radiance.

 

A Beautiful Stew

“The Chefs of G~d

are cooking up a special stew

Just for you.”

~ Rumi

fire-drummers

Who are you? I mean really.

Sounds like a simple question, but have you ever actually asked? I’ve posted on the subject before, and maybe once I know the answer, I’ll be done with the exploration. But that might not happen till the day I die! Or maybe it’s just at that precise moment, after my life has flashed before my eyes, that I’ll finally know just who I really am. Ha.

Amazing how we much we take it for granted, how many of us go through life without even pausing to ask that basic question. In my Fierce Light workshops, I often use a simple Zen excercise I learned from one of my inspirators, Roshi Enkyo O’Hara of the Village Zendo. In this partner practice, one person asks the other, “Who are you?” and after listening to the answer, says, with a little bow, “Thank you.” For five minutes. Which is actually a very very long time.

When I first tried it, I felt as if this practice expanded me, from my smaller self, to my larger, larger and still larger Self. At first, the obvious answers emerged- I’m a man, a filmmaker, a son, an artist, a sufi buddhist baha’i punk rocker – all the usual descriptors….but eventually I ran out, and things began to go further afield. I discovered that I am You, I am a blade of grass, a speck of dust, a dentist in millwaukee (that one surprised me!), a murderer, a lover of Love, an ant, a whale, everything that is was and could be…all of the above, and none of the above.

So who am I? I am a gorgeous stew, of the Great Big Enormous Beyond Enormity All Everything Totality, spiced up with the particulars of my souls journey ~ all I have been, known, seen, everything I do, think, feel and love. Especially all that I Love.

My unique ingredients are not who I am though. Rather, I am the dance of my elements, of mind body spirit and shadow, impermanent, ever changing, but rooted somehow in an essential Beingness, that is Me.

Sometimes we think we know someone, or we think we love someone, but what we really know or love, is just one small aspect of their stew. Perhaps the part we lack, or the part we celebrate in ourselves. Sometimes what we love is not even in their stew at all – it’s part of us that we’re projecting onto another. Yikes, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Love is about truly Seeing. Whether we are talking about another person, or ourselves, we cannot love unless we see, honestly, clearly, with an open, forgiving heart. Because we are all stews, it’s okay that part of our unique concoction includes our broken bits. We all have broken bits! In fact, those crunchy, gristly shadowy parts of us, with the proper mixing and spicing – add a dash of compassion, half a cup of letting go, three tablespoons of forgiveness – can be some of the most nutritious parts of our stew. The minerals and vitamins.

But we need to see those bits, bring them into the light, embrace them, release them, and allow them to be part of us. Both/and. Sometimes we need to release the shadows, sometimes we just need to shine the light into the basements of our consciousness, and see what’s there. If we try to repress the shadow bits of us, or deny them, they lurk around in our unconscious, sediment at the bottom of the pot, not properly integrated, and they can throw the mixture off.

We are continually seasoning our stews, and as we become more conscious, we can decide just what the flavour is we’re going for. With consciousness, we can align ourselves with the great Chef some call G~d, and start bringing forth those seasonings that we intuit we are here, on this plane, this planet, right now, to discover.

What spice, what ingredient, what pinch of this, or dash of that, would bring you into harmony? Or put you into the perfect off-kilter place you need to be right now- in case you are a little too balanced? Perhaps, in fact, there is nothing you need, other than what you have in this moment. Phew, that would be quite a feat – to accept who we are, and work with what we have.

More than anything, the key to being a tasty stew is truly integrating your ingredients, letting them flow together, play off each other, bring out the best in you, the whole You. It might seem unlikely – how can that broken heart ever be part of my flavouring, surely it’s going to turn me sour – but really, the choice is yours. As Viktor Frankl said, in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, we can lose everything except for one thing – our freedom to choose how we respond, to whatever comes our way.

The Chefs of G~d are cooking up a special stew – named You. Our small, individual stews are each a part of the Great Stew that constitutes all of creation, in fact all that is manifest and unmanifest, seen and unseen. Each one of us is an essential ingredient. This world, this universe, would not be the same without you. Thank-you for the vitamins, the minerals, the spices, the salty sour sweetness you bring to the mix.

Maybe it’s time to turn up the burner, and bring those juices of creation and destruction, tragedy and comedy, eros and pathos, compassion and ecstasy, love and limitless possibility, to a boil! What do you have to lose?

fire

Spirit In Action

“The whole human species is on trial now. These next few decades will determine whether or not our species is a locust species or a bumblebee species. We’ll either scour this planet to the bones and destroy our own civilization and most other species, or we will find a way to bring ourselves back into harmony with our mother, with the earth.” – Van Jones

postcard_front

We live in a time when things are getting better and better and worse and worse faster and faster. There are two graphs, building steam and momentum – the upward graph of the forces of life, and the downward graph, representing the forces of death and extinction. These are the two dominant trends that humanity, and our innocent blue planet, are facing: what visionary Matthew Fox calls the forces of biophilia, and the forces of necrophilia. This time of raging wars, financial collapse, environmental devastation and fear mongering is also a time of tremendous possibility, when we all have the opportunity to step into our true selves and become part of the tidal wave of change that is sweeping the globe.

For the last few years I have been traveling the planet, shooting a feature documentary called “Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action.” The film is now complete, and is starting to come out into the world right now! It’s about the rising power of “spiritual activism”, contemporary stories of what Gandhi called “Soul Force,” what Martin Luther King called “Love In Action,” what we’re calling “Fierce light.” It is the power of action, combined with the depth of Love. I have been seeking out those visionaries and every day heroes who are working to transform themselves and this world of crisis, and I have discovered enormous cause for hope.

Spiritual Activism is not about religion, it is not about any form of dogma, it is activism that comes from the heart, not just the head, activism that is compassionate, positive, kind, fierce and transformative. And fun! Being spiritual, and being an activist, can be a lot of fun – in fact, it should be a lot of fun. Being a spiritual activist means taking our part in creating change, with a spirit of positivity, and a balance of interdependence and self determination. Nothing could be more inspiring and more rewarding than being the change we want to see in the world, within and without.

For me, true spirituality is a fresh, living truth. Ideology is frozen spirituality, whereas I see spirituality as the evolutionary impulse itself– it is evolving and adapting along with the ever changing context of our lives. It is still rooted in timeless truths, but truth as inner knowing, not external imposition. Spirituality also involves that which is beyond the immediate senses – the unseen. This includes emotions, feelings, energy, and the openness to possibilities beyond the material.

Spirituality involves taking a ‘depth’ perspective, being willing to look under the surface, and beyond the narrow confines of the strictly rational mind, to a consideration of as many dimensions as possible. An integrated approach, which includes your own perspective, the perspective of the other person, the community, the planet, and the universal, divine perspective – weave all that together, and you have a spiritual perspective, a perspective that recognizes the interconnectedness of all that is. This is a naturally heart expanding perspective, which is why we can say that G~d is love – when we see ourselves as part of everything, the natural response is one of love.

Leela Kumar, the Dalit human rights activist featured in Fierce Light, defines spirituality as community – recognizing that we are all part of a greater whole, a vast and interconnected system of interconnecting systems. There is a sense of awe that settles into your being when you consider this truth deeply. And out of this, emerges a sense of divine play – a joyous celebration of the miracle of creation.

I believe we are seeing a true Zeitgeist emerging, a new form of change making that begins in the human heart, and radiates outwards. I’ve seen it from New Zealand to Vietnam, from Africa to Washington, from Mexico to Sri Lanka to South Central Los Angeles. I saw it in the tremendous surge of grass roots support that brought Barack Obama into the Whitehouse, a “yes we can” spirit that captured that imagination of a nation tired of inauthenticity and spin. Tired of a politics of hate and division. The whole world celebrated Obama’s victory. The whole world is hungry for change.

Everywhere I travel, I have found people rising up with a series of shared values. Paul Hawkens, author of Blessed Unrest, calls it the largest undocumented mass movement in history – humanity’s immune response to a planet in crisis. He has set out to do the research, and has discovered that millions of individuals and organizations are answering the call to compassionate action, a call that is needed to transform planetary suicide into a time of rebirth and regeneration. It is what Alice Walker calls “The Human Sunrise,” the incredible power of human beings stepping into their authentic selves and stepping up to take responsibility for the change they want to see in the world.

What’s so wonderful about this movement is that it doesn’t have to require anything dramatic. Small changes are just as important. When billions of people make small changes, this results in enormous change. We don’t have to join anything to be part of this wave of transformation, we don’t have to sign up, pay dues, or get a funny name. We can if we so desire – there are many organizations that reflect these shared values – but if you’re not the joining type, if you’re someone like me, you still have an important part to play. This exciting transformation begins in our own hearts, when we dare to care. Each and every person has a role to play in this profound shift in consciousness, a shift from the small ‘me’ to the great ‘we.’ This is the evolution of activism, and the evolution of spirituality – a revolution of the heart.

Elegant Simplicity

“True surrender does not mean to passively put up with whatever situation you find yourself in and to do nothing about it. Nor does it mean to cease making plans or initiating positive action. Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is in the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation.”
–Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

“So. You lost your home. You lost your belongings. You lost your lover. Keep losing. . . lose everything. Then move on to the true loss-ego loss. You can be of service. You can fulfill your destiny. But only with a clear mind and a gentle true heart. You do not need inner fireworks exploding. You are not working towards a Big Bang. All you need to do is be present. You are simply opening to who You are. Who You really are. You are a coiled snake, an untapped resource. Don’t lie dormant all your life. Please. This is real. Lose your silly doubts. Lose them. Lose everything, but trust. Remember Satish.”

~ ~ ~

satish

Satish Kumar grew up in India. At the age of eight, despite his mother’s objections, he decided to leave home to join a wandering order of Jain monks. His hair was pulled from his head, one strand at a time. He tied a white cotton mask over his mouth, which was to remain in place the rest of his life, to prevent him from accidentally breathing in an insect, and thus taking a life. He was given a small feather duster, in order to whisk the path before him, to protect the caterpillars, the worms, the ants. The Jain’s vow never to harm a living being, no matter how small. Satish began a life of spiritual devotion, living off of alms, teaching in the communities during the winter, studying and meditating in the monastery during the summer.
The years passed in rigorous devotion. Then one day, at the age of eighteen, he was given a book of teachings by a man named Mahatama Gandhi. Satish was suddenly struck by the revelation that for the last decade of his life, he had been living only half of the equation. Gandhi was offering a complete vision: the path of spirituality merged with the path of action. Here was someone who was truly practicing the principles of Ahimsa, of non-violence, not just by avoiding causing injury, but by actively working for social change.

Soon after this breakthrough, Satish and a friend crept away in the dark of night, leaving behind a pile of clothes under their blankets to make it appear as though they were still asleep in bed. The ruse was discovered and they were captured at the train station. It would be a disgrace to both their families and the monastery, if they were to desert the order. But Satish was determined, and finally he did escape, finding a sanctuary in the ashram of Vinobah Bhave, Gandhi’s greatest disciple.
Satish became a spiritual activist, working to uplift the lives of India’s ever expanding ocean of poor. He joined Vinobah’s land “Boondah,” a vast journey on foot across India, asking land owners to give a small percentage of their land to the untouchables. Over the years, more than twenty-three million acres of land was donated to the landless outcastes.

1953 marked another turning point in Satish’s spiritual journey. After seeing Bertrand Russell on television getting arrested for protesting nuclear weapons, he became inspired to make his own statement against the deadly trajectory of the atomic age. Satish vowed to do a personal pilgrimage to the four nuclear powers, on foot, from India, to Russia, Paris, London, and Washington DC, bringing the wisdom of ‘Ahimsa’ to the leaders who controlled the weapons that could, with a single push of a button, spell the end of life on this sacred earth.
Before he left, Satish stopped in to ask his guru to bless his journey, and offer advice. Vinobah was no stranger to long walks.

“It is a long journey. You’ll need some protection. I want to give you two weapons to protect you,” he said.
“How can non-violent people carry weapons?” Satish asked.
“Non-violent people carry non-violent weapons. The first weapon is that you will remain vegetarian under all circumstances; the second is that you will carry no money, not even a penny.”
“Not even a penny?”
Vinobah explained that money is an obstacle to real contact. “If you have no money, you will be forced to speak to people and ask humbly for hospitality. Secondly, when you are offered hospitality you will say, ‘I am sorry but I eat only vegetables.’ People will ask you why? Then you can tell them about your principles of non-violence and peace.”
Satish and his friend set off on foot, for eighteen months, bringing nothing with them. Nothing, but trust.
~ ~ ~

August, 1999

A month ago, Angela and I drove the just purchased red VW Polo to Devon, in the south of England, where Satish lives in a stone farmhouse. Today he’s the director of Schumacher College, an international hotbed of deep ecology thinkers, as well as the editor of Resurgence magazine. Known as the ‘sage of the deep ecology movement,’ Satish is a vibrant man in his sixties, who recently completed an Indian tradition in which the householder sets off on a pilgrimage, in the years after the children leave home.
“My mother said that if you have not had a pilgrimage by the time you are fifty, it’s time to get going!”
This latest pilgrimage took him to the sacred sites of England: Glastonbury, Canterbury, Lindisfarne, and Iona. Still walking, after all these years.
Satish welcomed us into his home, and began bustling around his old farmhouse, setting an enormous kettle atop an old wood burning stove. As he scooped the tea leaves into the pot he recounted a story from his great walk for peace. When he and Menon, his traveling companion, were passing through Armenia, a woman from a tea factory offered them four packets of tea.
“They are not for you,” she said, “Please give one to our Premier in Moscow, one to the President of France, one to the Prime Minister of England, and one to the President of the United States of America. Tell them that if they get mad in their minds and think of pushing the button to drop nuclear bombs, they should stop for a moment and have a fresh cup of tea from these packets. And remember that the simple people of the world want bread, not bombs, want life not death.”
After walking for eighteen months, from the grave of Mahatma Gandhi to the grave of John F. Kennedy, Satish returned to India. He went to see Vinobah, who was on his eternal walk throughout India. After greeting him warmly, Vinobah said, “You have done well. It is brave and courageous. But ultimately, you need go nowhere to find peace. It is within you. The centre of the earth is here.”

~ ~ ~

I asked Satish if he could think of what I call a ‘Scared Moment,’ a moment of fear, from his life’s journey. He thought for awhile before responding. “The only moment of fear I have known is when you are meditating. With your will and your thought and your concentration you are trying to be one with the world, to see everything as a tapestry, as a web of life. Sometimes you feel that ‘I am thinking. I think therefore I am.’ And this ego scares me, this pride, this separateness, it scares me, because my Jain and Gandhian and Hindu and Indian holistic mind wants to melt with the world and not remain separate. Like a little pool of water separated from the lake, from the river or the ocean. So I want to break the boundaries. But moments come when the boundaries hold on to itself and I’m clinging to my separateness. That clinging to separateness scares me.”

This fear is a final defense mechanism of the ego itself, a resistance to it’s own submergence. In his heart of hearts, beyond that flickering illusion of fear, Satish is fearless.

“I’m not afraid. Fear is not my friend and I don’t travel with fear. Fear is only because we don’t trust the universe mother. You come into this world naked, without any possessions, without any money or house or anything. The moment you take birth, mother’s milk bursts out of her breasts to feed you. Only three percent of creatures upon this earth are humans, ninety-seven percent of them are tigers, snakes, elephants, deer, worms, butterflies and millions of other species. They will be fed, sheltered and everything will be looked after by the principle of the mother earth, and the universal law of the divine presence. And nobody is afraid out of those ninety-seven percent. Only humans are worried, afraid to stiffness. A little bit of fear like salt in the food is alright, but if you put too much salt in the food, food is inedible.

“If you put too much fear in our lives, life is not worth living. So for the future, I have no fear. God, Mother Earth, the Mother Principle will look after everything. So for me trust is the guiding principle, and fear is not the guiding principle. I trust in God and I trust in people and I trust in nature and I trust in universe.”

  • Calendar

    • January 2019
      M T W T F S S
      « Jul    
       123456
      78910111213
      14151617181920
      21222324252627
      28293031  
  • Search