-by Satish Kumar (Aug 24, 2012)
After nourishing Nature comes the nourishing of society, which means a social order based on giving and receiving. It means reciprocity and mutuality. We use intellectual, cultural and religious wealth to enrich our lives. This wealth has accumulated from generation to generation. We have learned much from the Native Americans, the Australian Aboriginals, the indigenous people of India (adivasis) and the Bushmen of Africa.
We have been guided by Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Mohammed and Mahavir. We have been inspired by Valmiki, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Jane Austen and many other writers. We have benefited from the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. They were not motivated by fame, fortune or power. Buddha claimed no copyright on his teachings, and Shakespeare received no royalty cheques. We have been enchanted by music, paintings, architecture and crafts of many cultures, from time immemorial. We have received a treasure house of traditions as a free gift.
In return we offer our work, our creativity, our arts and crafts, our agriculture and architecture as gifts to society — to present and future generations. When we are motivated by this spirit then work is not a burden. It is not a duty. It is not a responsibility. We are not even the doers of our work. Work flows through us and not from us. We do not own our intellect, our creativity, or our skills. We have received them as a gift and grace. We pass them on as a gift and grace; it is like a river which keeps flowing. All the tributaries make the river great. We are the tributaries adding to the great river of time and culture; the river of humanity. If tributaries stop flowing into the river, if they become individualistic and egotistical, if they put terms and conditions before they join the rivers, they will dry and the rivers will dry to. To keep the rivers flowing all tributaries have to join in with joy and without conditions. In the same way, all individual arts, crafts and other creative activities make up the river of humanity. We need not hold back, we need not block the flow. This unconditional union. This is the great principle of giving and receiving. This is how society and civilizations are replenished.
The poetry of Goethe and Milton, the myths of Mahabharata and King Arthur, the paintings of Van Gogh and Botticelli, the music of Mozart, the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal of India and thousands of other blossomings of creativity in the past have enriched us. We are filled with gratitude. Every moment is a moment of thanksgiving. This is our true ‘capital’ that we have inherited. But we cannot live off the capital for ever. If we do not replenish it, it will come to an end. It is good to cherish the fruits of our heritage, but it is a living imperative that we continue to add our creativity to this vital culture.
When we write a poem we make a gift. When we paint a picture or build a beautiful house we make a gift. When we grow flowers and cook food we make a gift. When all these activities are performed as sacred acts, they nourish society. When we are selfconscious, unacquisitive, and act without desire for recognition or reward, when our work emerges from a pure heart like that of a child, our actions become a gift. But if our actions are performed with impure motives or for egotistical reasons, then however great the work might be, it is not a part of the nourishment of society.
Work done out of a pure state of mind is never a source of stress. Rather, work becomes a sustaining act, it is a source of joy and pleasure.
–Satish Kumar in “You Are Therefore I am: A Declaration of Dependence.“