Soil, Soul, Society: A New Trinity of Our Time is the latest book from Satish Kumar, published by Leaping Hare Press. I have hopefully shown in my photo above how gorgeously bound the hardback is in a textured cover which is a delight to hold. This is very much in keeping with Satish’s philosophy that the objects we create and use should be beautiful, sustainable and should be durable and able to last for a long time.
Drawing on the teachings of Buddha, Ghandi, Rabindranath Tagore and E.F. Schumacher, Satish offers a spiritual vision of sustainability, one where we can learn from nature as well as about nature. Offering much practical guidance for how we can achieve this vision, Satish teaches that only love and reverence and not fear will lead to long term sustainability. In the new paradigm which is emerging, one where we shift from ego to eco, there are three moral imperatives which form the new trinity needed in our difficult times. These are Soil (representing care for our natural environment), Soul (our wellbeing and happiness) and Society (the need to uphold human values, in both our personal lives and political institutions). As Satish says:
The inner landscape of spirituality and the outer landscape of sustainability are intricately linked. We need to cultivate compassion, seek truth, appreciate beauty and work for self-realisation. The contemporary environmental movement, in the main, follows the path of empirical science, rational thinking, data collection and external action. This is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. We need to include care of the soul as part of the care of the planet.
Satish acknowledges that throughout his many years of campaigning for peace and the environment, he has been accused of being “naive and unrealistic”. But as he asks “What have the realists achieved?” Indeed, and Satish also asks “how many of us do our work with great joy, with a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction of the soul?”
While Satish, in my mind quite rightly, points of the global sufferings and damage caused by industry and governments, Soil Soul Society is a trinity which can guide all of us as individuals. We have to be responsible for our happiness and well-being:
Happiness is your birthright, but you have to claim it and you have to take charge of it.
But you like to have wrong views, wrong thinking, take wrong action, work at wrong jobs, eat wrong food – and yet you want to be happy, you want no suffering and no pain. How?
Education has always been at the centre of Satish’s personal and working life, and at the age of 9 we learn how he learned about the need for humility from his guru:
Before you learn philosophy, languages, literature or any other subject, you need to learn humility. Through humility you gain knowledge and then from knowledge you learn even more humility.
There are obviously many wonderful and inspiring teachings in the book, and one for me was on the way in which the poet and educationalist Rabindranath Tagore thought about divinity:
For Tagore, divinity is not in otherworldly quests, not to be found in ornate and extravagant temples and palaces, not in ego-driven achievements of wealth, power, consumerism and materialism, but in a simple, elegant and natural way of being. The ordinary is the most extra-ordinary and the meek is the most marvelous. When we have lost the simple and ordinary then we will know the value of them.
Tagore inspired Satish to found The Small School in Hartland, Devon, in the 1980s, where “academic, physical, ecological and spiritual dimensions are honoured in equal measure”. In 1991 Satish then started Schumacher College where like The Small School, the teaching is based on the philosophy of the three Hs – head, heart and hands – as opposed to the more normal three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic. As Satish says “the study of ecology or of nature cannot happen by reading books or looking at films or surfing the internet. To understand nature we have to experience nature, we have to be in nature and we have to learn from nature rather than learning about nature.”
Satish is a teacher who has always walked his talk, and always found ways to put his philosophy into practice, and Soil Soul Society offers a great deal of food for thought for anyone involved in education, both for children and adults alike.
Satish has always sought holistic solutions to the problems we as humanity face, and through those great teachers who have inspired him on his path, so in this new book we can take a huge amount of inspiration from Satish. It is an excellent introduction to the gentle teachings and philosophy of Satish, and provides much many practical ideas for how we can actively move into this new paradigm, one which encapsulates ecological, spiritual and social dimensions.
I read the book slowly, one part at a time early each morning, and I am sure it will inspire and uplift many people around the world as it already has done for me.
The Launch of Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter (With a foreword written by Satish)