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Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life

Finch Publishing

Satish Kumar was born in Rajasthan, India into a Jain family. After living as a Jain monk for a number of years, he became convinced that Mahatma Gandhi’s integration of religious beliefs with social, political and economic practice provided a more realistic and practical world-view than the strict Jainism in which he was raised.

At the same time he continues to value some of the deep insights of Jainism. Indeed, the Jain concept of ahimsa (no harm to any living creature) profoundly influenced Gandhi, and continues to influence Kumar and his followers.

Since 1973 he has lived in England and promotes spiritual values to address the environmental and other crises faced by humanity. One of his previous publications, You Are, Therefore I Am: A Declaration of Dependence (2002) outlines his personal journey.

In May 2007 he visited Australia. He struck me as a gentle, gracious man, who had thought deeply about life and God and found an inner serenity rarely seen in Westerners. What he had to say then, and what he has written in his books, is certainly challenging and worth consideration.

Spiritual Compass expounds three qualities of life in Indian philosophy: sattva (creativity, naturalness, nourishment), rajas (change, achievement, extravagance) and tamas (inertia, control, heaviness, darkness, domination).

These qualities penetrate every area of life, he argues: food, relationships, service, gift-giving, understanding, action, thinking, communication, politics, economics, happiness etc.

In particular, he expounds how understanding these helps us critique our approach to the environment and to human social development, issues of vital importance to all human beings as well as all other creatures, and the well-being of the planet itself.

Christians can read Spiritual Compass with profit; not in order to be converted to his form of Jainism, but to reflect on their own Scriptures and tradition, and perhaps see some hidden parts more clearly.

In particular, Christians will want to explore what Kumar advocates in relationship to the Reign of God, as taught and lived by Jesus.

Reviewed by Robert Bos, Director, Pilgrim Learning Community