June 2016 Satish Kumar, a former monk, long-term peace and environment activist, and editor of Resurgence magazine since 1973, was recently in Mumbai to raise awareness about the concept of Trusteeship. A Gandhian to the core, Satish was just nine when he left his family to join wandering Jain monks, and 18 when he campaigned for land reform in India along with Vinoba Bhave. Inspired in his early 20s by British peace activist Bertrand Russell, Satish embarked on an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage together with E P Menon to meet Russell in the UK. Carrying no money and depending on the kindness and hospitality of strangers, they walked from India to America, via Moscow, London and Paris, to deliver a humble packet of ‘peace tea’ to the then leaders of the world’s four nuclear powers. Thereafter, Satish settled in the United Kingdom, taking up the post of editor of Resurgence magazine, a position he has held ever since, making him UK’s longest-serving editor of the same magazine. He has also been the guiding spirit of a number of ecological and educational ventures, including the Schumacher College in South Devon where he is still a Visiting Fellow. Talking about Trusteeship as a value to be adopted by all and sundry, he said that human beings should act as trustees, and not owners of wealth and resources. While he didn’t believe in communism which forced capitalists to part with their wealth, it was indeed desirable that they voluntarily considered that the surplus wealth belonged to the poor and needy, and that they were simply trustees of it. Explaining why trusteeship could not take roots in society as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi, Mr Kumar said that trusteeship is based on trust, and trust is in short supply because people fear hunger, failure, and the unknown. Trusteeship is not possible unless you cultivate trust in your heart. Say to yourself that you are capable of trusting yourself, and this trust will give you courage. Quoting an example from nature, he said that a newborn baby has no degrees or training to survive in the world, but it comes on the trust that it will be provided for; sure enough, God provides nourishing milk in the breast of his mother for him to feed on. Everyday the sun rises to nourish you. The rains happen to clean and quench you. You put one seed in the ground and with time and patience it grows into a big tree with thousands of fruits. And the tree never asks you your identity, or your financial status. It freely gives. And yet we don’t trust the Universe. He rued the fact that instead of being discoverers and explorers of our great potential, we have simply become a salaried class. In short, he advocated the spiritual principle of trusting the Universe to protect and care for us and not chase money through fears and insecurity. Answering a question on why he was not suggesting practical ways to implement trusteeship in society, Mr Kumar responded that unless the fear and insecurity in the minds of people were replaced by love and trust in the Universe, all external attempts to impose trusteeship on people would fail, and have failed. Therefore, the need of the hour is to raise awareness about trusteeship.
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