Earth, soul and society
It is a force of nature. We are part of it, he says, we are earth, fire, air and water, like mountains and forests. From the age of 9 to 18 he was a monk who toured India living on charity. He studied several careers without ceasing to be a pilgrim. He joined the Vinoba Bhave march calling on landowners to donate a sixth of their land to their workers and more than 1.6 million hectares were redistributed. Then on foot and without money he made a pilgrimage for peace asking the nuclear powers to disarm. In 1982 he created the Small School, a learning model, and in 1991 the Schumacher College, an international center dedicated to the study of ecological, social and spiritual values. His motto “Land, soul and society” is a global movement that inspires projects like CampusPHI in Cáceres, which he has come to know.
From the age of 9 to 18, he toured India without money and on foot.
I was a beggar. I joined a wandering order of Jain monks. I left the order but I have never stopped being a pilgrim of life.
In what sense?
The pilgrim does not expect anything, accepts life as it comes and celebrates what comes. He is not afraid of difficulties, they make him stronger.
Why did he leave the monastery?
Because spirituality must be in the world, in politics, in the family, in the economy, in agriculture.
And he kept walking.
At the age of 26 I made a pilgrimage for peace. I walked 13,000 km asking for nuclear disarmament to those responsible for the world powers, and I did it with what I was wearing, without money and from human being to human being.
Depending on the generosity of strangers?
Yes, but I didn’t meet any strangers, everyone was my friend. Rich, poor, Muslim or Christian, white or black, they are all my friends, this is being a pilgrim and cultivating outer and inner simplicity.
This is being wise.
To be wise you have to be a pilgrim and to be a pilgrim you have to be wise.
Was he already wise at 9 years old?
I was raised by a wise woman. I was born on earth and lived on it and from it. My mother, a gardener, was wise. I believe that we all have two feminine parts, two ears to listen, and one masculine: a mouth to speak.
Very subtle. What else has she learned in her constant pilgrimage?
That the cosmos is my country, that the earth is my home, my nationality is nature, and love, my religion. We are all interdependent and therefore all our suffering is mutual, there is no separation. Unity and diversity dance together.
Does being a pilgrim consist of walking through the world or does it attend to something more spiritual?
Both of them. It is a state of mind, which does not expect anything. If we are attached to money or possessions we are not in the pilgrim’s mind. The interior pilgrimage should always be practiced.
Through a mind that does not judge, accepts and respects all living beings. Only in love is the meaning of life. We all have the choice to be a pilgrim or a tourist of life.
What is the difference?
The tourist always wants to get something and is usually disappointed; the pilgrim has no expectations and therefore is not disappointed.
Admit that you like to walk.
Walking is a way of connecting with oneself, and with the sky, the earth, the rain, the stars and others, that is our identity: human beings in connection with everything.
Could we leave it in beings?
Absolutely, before humans we are simply living beings. Nature is our mother and our teacher. In fact, water is my great guru.
Quench everyone’s thirst, no matter if you are a king or a beggar, a saint or a sinner. Water does not discriminate: animals, humans, trees… If we can be like water, kind to everyone, then we are truly beings.
Now what it takes is to arm yourself to the teeth, they call it defense.
We are all a family, security is not in weapons, it is in love; but religious leaders have forgotten to talk about love, a tragedy. Diplomats have forgotten diplomacy and politicians have forgotten how to be statesmen. There is no path to peace, peace is the path.
Of all he could do, he chose to create an alternative university in England.
Because our current universities see students without a body, without hands, without legs and without a heart; only with half a brain: the left hemisphere, reason.
Do we need more right hemisphere?
Yes, intuition, imagination and spirituality. They don’t teach how to love, respect, be compassionate, or do things with their hands.
It is important?
Yes, at Schumacher College, in addition to studying science, ecology and economics, you live together, cook and garden daily, touch and take care of the earth and what is in it.
It has returned to its origins.
Today education is part of the problem and should be part of the solution. All the problems we face today have been created by highly-skilled people, from the war in Ukraine to inequality to climate change.
A little advice to treasure.
Live a simple life, cultivate simplicity. Simplicity is where authenticity is. Don’t be a consumer, be a doer and surround yourself with beauty, which is food for the soul, you just have to look at it.