You seem to be very optimistic about the development of the human mind, and yet the world has not changed in spite of Buddha and Christ? The world has changed due to Buddha and Christ, in spite of the churches and in spite of the Buddhist organizations. When one is intimately and directly involved with life, related to life, there is no scope for forming an attitude towards life. Optimism is an attitude towards life, it is an approach to life which connects you with life indirectly. You do not need any optimism, pessimism, enthusiasm, or indifference towards life, when at every moment of your waking consciousness you are already in the stream itself, in the movement of life itself. But, one who plunges into life does not require any measurements at all, any attitudes, any approaches.
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When awareness of the totality, of wholeness, dawns upon the heart, and there is awareness of the relationship of every being to every other, then there is no longer any possibility of taking an exclusive approach to a fragment and getting stuck there.
As soon as there is awareness of wholeness, every moment becomes sacred, every movement is sacred. The sense of oneness is no longer an intellectual connection. We will in all our actions be whole, total, natural, without effort.
Every action or nonaction will have the perfume of wholeness. Vimala Thakar. There were a few sparse details in Indian newspapers, but they conveyed little of the significance of the life of Vimala Thakar, who died at her home in India, this March, in Mt Abu, a small town perched atop a mountain rising out of the desert of Rajasthan.
For those who had the privilege of meeting her, it is a whole other story. No one who met her could fail to be moved. For she was a great spiritually enlightened revolutionary and activist; a notable Indian figure of the 20 th Century who boldly forged a radically independent approach to spirituality and the search for truth. Freed from all religious tradition, she brought the timeless wisdom of the East to the modern egalitarian West without the baggage of religious terminology, endeavoring to awaken people through deep rational inquiry.
Her unusual spiritual passion began early. Vimala knew her life would be dedicated to liberation, and her spiritual interest was encouraged by her free-thinking father. Her early life reads like an epic Indian tale.
She spent a year meditating in a cave at the age of nineteen; she experimented with spiritual practices, visited ashrams, and also was invariably turned away by the Hindu authorities wherever she went, for the one simple reason that she was a woman.
And yet she was completely undaunted in spite of being hurt fairly often. An invitation in to hear several discourses by legendary Indian spiritual teacher J Krishnamurti was a pivotal point in her life. Listening to him and then later meeting him, precipitated an explosion and irrevocable transformation in the depths of her being, leaving her feeling consumed by an uncontrollable awareness and an intense flame of passion.
Krishnamurti, recognizing her liberation, begged her to go out and speak widely, which is something that as far as I know, he never urged anyone else to do, in the full half century of his teaching career. Go — shout from the house tops! Go out and set them on fire! There is none who is doing this. Not even one…What are you waiting for? So she gave up the social activism of the Land Gift movement to travel the world as an independent spiritual teacher, giving talks and holding meditation and inquiry camps.
No more peace and contentment. But a profound human revolution. And she certainly did teach worldwide. She went wherever she was invited, travelling for decades throughout Europe, the Americas, and India until , when she decided to remain in India.
Her many books were published in a dozen languages. Unsurprisingly, she forged her own approach and although critical of the dogma of religions, nevertheless recommended that a serious seeker should spend at least hours a day in spiritual practice and meditation, unlike Krishnamurti, who was always highly critical of engaging in any formal spiritual practice. Significantly, in yet another chapter in her life, she also re-embraced activism in , working for social justice, environmental sustainability and aiding the poor and disenfranchised.
In her own holistic approach to activism she was again ahead of her time in recognizing the need for a real integration of social action and spirituality at a deep innovative level. Total revolution, inner and outer, was her call.
And her life. Revolution, total revolution, implies experimenting with the impossible. And when an individual takes a step in the direction of the new, the whole human race travels through that individual. I will never forget my first personal meeting with this remarkable woman in India in , when I went to interview her for a magazine. She had no interest in publicity, nor being photographed or interviewed, which is one major reason she is not more widely known, and she only reluctantly agreed to my request to interview her.
Yet she always made herself available for the many seekers, whole groups, and dignitaries from around the world who found the way to her door. By the time I visited her Mt Abu home, she was already elderly, a small dignified Indian lady dressed simply in a crisp white sari.
I was stunned by how utterly present and attentive she was, without a single flutter in her being, radiating the mysterious presence and stillness of eternity. Her eyes were large, soft and warm and she was at once unfathomably strong and fearless; you felt as if you actually could see in her how the human and the absolute dimensions were really not separate. Vimala was disarmingly natural, delightful, her being fragrant with the hallmarks of a liberated soul.
When she stood up, I was surprised how tiny she was, for she emanated such authority and power. How did she see herself, I asked her?
In her presence I felt I could see for the first time what a liberated woman is actually like. For she was not a mother figure, not one of the classic Indian woman saints who teach as the Divine Mother. Vimala was an emancipated woman. When the spiritual history of the world is ever written, from the vantage point of the future, she certainly deserves an entry as a pioneer in translating and transmitting the wisdom of the East to the West in plain non-esoteric language.
Krishnamurti is much more celebrated for a similar role, but his female counterpart would have to be Vimala Thakar. She would also be remembered for seamlessly integrating the usually divergent streams of inner awakening and social activism in a way that leaves us all an example to follow. Excerpt from the book Spirituality and Social Action: A Holistic Approach by Vimala Thakar We map out our internal territories with the same positive or negative designations as we do external territories, and wars go on there as they do in the world.
Internally, we are divided against ourselves; the emotions want one thing, the intellect another, the impulses of the body yet another, and a conflict takes place which is no different in quality, although it is in scale, from that of the world wars. If we are not related to ourselves in wholeness, is it any surprise that we cannot perceive the wholeness of the world? If we believe ourselves each to be a patched-together, unmatched assortment of desirable and undesirable features, motives at odds with each other, undigested beliefs and prejudices, fears, and insecurities, will we not project all this on the world?
A holistic approach is a recognition of the homogeneity and wholeness of life. Life is not fragmented; it is not divided. We cannot create compartments in life—political, economic, social, environmental. We are wholeness, and we move in wholeness. As soon as we recognize the false as the false, we no longer give any value to it. We de-recognize it in daily living. Where then is privacy? We are together on this small planet, and yet we cannot live together.
The force of love is the force of total revolution. With her death, a great soul has passed away.
Category: Vimala Thakar
Abu was an Indian social activist and spiritual teacher. Born into a middle-class Brahmin family living at Akola city in Maharashtra state in India, she was interested in spiritual matters from an early age. She pursued this interest with meditation and spiritual practices throughout her youth. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was one of her professors. Later she became active in the Bhoodan Land Gift Program. This program, led by Vinoba Bhave , persuaded landlords to give land to poor farmers.
When awareness of the totality, of wholeness, dawns upon the heart, and there is awareness of the relationship of every being to every other, then there is no longer any possibility of taking an exclusive approach to a fragment and getting stuck there. As soon as there is awareness of wholeness, every moment becomes sacred, every movement is sacred. The sense of oneness is no longer an intellectual connection. We will in all our actions be whole, total, natural, without effort. Every action or nonaction will have the perfume of wholeness. Vimala Thakar.