I love to discover books that get you into a sort of meditation when you’re reading them. Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life by Satish Kumar is one of such books.
I discovered it thanks to Vandana Shiva, a non-gmo activist who does wonderful service to her mother country India. Reading Satish Kumar’s book Spiritual Compass felt like the energy of the book was purifying me and making me more balanced. Thoughts laid out in the book were clear and flowing; it was a pleasure to read each sentence as it was permeated with a wish to awaken humanity.
There were so many useful ideas in the book that it would take 50 pages to mention them all, so here I’m selecting the ones I absolutely had to tell you about. I encourage you, however, to get the book, if you wish to understand yourself more, your connection to Mother Earth, and what you can do as an individual to help the world.
Essential ideas in the Spiritual Compass book
Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life is about three qualities we, as well as the whole universe, consist of. These qualities, that could also be called the forces of nature, determine the results we get and help us understand if we’re heading towards happiness or destruction. They also show how to change our ways to experience a better life.
The three qualities are:
Sattva is the quality of goodness. It can be described as creativity, truth, simplicity, nourishment. Such a quality of living at first looks plain, but if pursued it leads to permanent happiness.
Rajas is the quality of energy. It can also be described as desire, achievement, excitement, extravagance. Such a way of living looks tempting, but if pursued, it only brings disappointment and discontentment.
Tamas is the quality of inertia. You can also assign to it control, weight, sluggishness, depression. Such a quality of living looks appealing to those who’re very imbalanced and live in their distorted understanding of the world.
Everything in the world consists of these three qualities – people, trees, bugs, stones, water, the Earth itself. Yet each of these things has one quality dominating. It is possible, however, to transcend these natural forces, even the Sattvic one, and center yourself to become perfectly balanced.
Nowadays a rajasic quality rules us. We rush through life, we seek to achieve undefined success, and we’re never present. What’s so funny about it is that we seek happiness, which is a sattvic quality, but we want to achieve happiness with rajasic means, which can never happen.
Rajasic means achieve rajasic ends, which is final exhaustion, heart failure, stress, or finally degrading to tamas, which is the lowest quality that can also be called “evil”.
The previous two paragraphs summarize the main mistake of the humanity. To achieve happiness, one should follow a sattvic way of life, which is a simple life. A person can’t be happy if he hurts any aspect of the living world, including nature. So if we take more than we need, we’re stealing from nature, and we will suffer by feeling empty and without purpose.
To restore happiness within, we should live in harmony with all living beings. We should only use how much we need and never more. We should share what we have with others. We should see nature not as something we can exploit, but as a being that has an equal right to happiness and evolvement.
How to solve global crisis
All the problems in the world can be solved if instead of tackling each one of them (famine, wars, inequality) we find the common root of it. Common root definitely exists – it’s the human factors, as the author puts it. It’s human decisions, thinking, perception and values.
If we change these, we will never experience global crisis again. Dominating materialistic values are destroying the world, because they’re not in harmony with nature; they put a human being above nature, which goes against laws, and does so much harm to the Earth that it threatens to destroy the natural functioning of the world.
Three qualities of life’s components
These qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas, can be applied to all aspects of one’s life. Here are some of life’s components mentioned, for you to understand these forces of nature better.
Three qualities of food
When it comes to food, foods that are sattvic are soft, sweet and nourishing. They promote vitality, health and joy.
Rajasic foods are bitter, sour, pungent and harsh, and bring pain, grief and disease.
Tamasic foods are tasteless, stale and intoxicating, and bring dullness, heaviness and lethargy.
Three qualities of service
If applied to service, sattvic service is given when a person expects no rewards in return.
Rajasic service is provided for display, expecting some kind of gain or reward.
Tamasic service is provided without faith and with an empty heart.
Three qualities of action
A sattvic action has no ego and is unperturbed by either success and failure. (Such action leads to happiness.)
A rajasic action is swayed by passion and eagerly seeks results. (Such action leads to disappointment.)
A tamasic action is unbalanced, vulgar, deceitful or malicious. (It brings further distortion.)
Three qualities of happiness
Sattvic happiness is a result of clear understanding of Self and the world.
Rajasic happiness arises from the gratification of the senses, which seems like nectar at first, but later on becomes poison.
Tamasic happiness comes from delusion and is derived from sloth and negligence.
The author goes on to also describe three qualities of personality, food treatment, homes, clothes, and power.
Ancient wisdom is a solution
Satish Kumar tried hard to explain in his book that we live in an age of plenty (as we always did), but the system of today tries to monopolize the abundant nature and disperse a limited supply to people. If we would cut the middle-man we would all have more than enough, because it’s natural for the nature to multiply itself.
It’s only when lands are taken from farmers and crops are grown in an unnatural way (monocultures), the biodiversity is destroyed and the land stops being fertile, thus inviting poverty. The gospel of today’s large charity organizations is “destroying poverty” and “feeding the poor”, but huge amounts of unsold food is burnt rather than distributed to the poor.
Satish Kumar provides a very wise answer to these woes. If we would only leave the poor people alone instead of stealing their lands, growing our own food and exporting it to our own countries, the world will get back to its natural order – abundance. But we allowed the middle-men to rule our food supply, and we’re cut off from the land and it’s wisdom, and find it hard to understand that nature is abundant and that there’s unlimited supply of food for all. Wake up!
Three sattvic virtues
The first sattvic virtue is to do no harm. If you do no harm, you will not be harmed. You won’t harm anyone if you trust the creative process of this Universe; all beings who trust it are protected and nourished. The only beings who don’t trust this creative process are people, and they’re the only beings that perceive lack and are miserable.
The second sattvic virtue is participation in life. Actively and consciously take part in life without trying to control, manipulate and subjugate it. Satish Kumar tells in his book exactly how to do it.
The third sattvic virtue is gratitude.
Satish Kumar encourages to heal the separation of matter and spirit. It’s the two sides of the same coin; if we divorce matter from spirit we will perceive spirit as something private and esoteric and thus irrelevant to our every day existence. This kind of thinking causes materialism to dominate our lives which leads to emptiness and a lack of purpose.
If we heal this split, we will be able to infuse the commercial activity with spirit, and our religions will become a source of healing. When we finally perceive matter as spirit, human beings will be able to live in harmony with each other and the world, and the sattvic culture will be established.
Waste management and independent work
Zero waste policy is sattvic. Nature never makes waste – it always uses everything for the benefit of all its manifestations.
Producing waste is only human quality, and it’s tamasic. We have to transform ourselves from being consumers into being makers, if we want to start feeling connected with all the beings of this Universe. We were divorced from our gifts that made living special and enjoyable.
How many people these days are independent makers? We forgot the beauty of crafts and arts. Making things by hand gets us in touch with the creative energy of the Universe; then God can manifest through our hands.
Now we got divorced from this beautiful ability and became mindless consumers who get mass-produced plastic items delivered to our door. That goes against our nature, and produces a sense of emptiness in our lives. It’s time to reclaim our ability to make beauty.
Satish Kumar rightly criticizes attempts to find alternative ways to consume, like using bio-fuels instead of fossil fuels. It’s foolish to think we could just go on consuming without harming nature by choosing sustainable sources.
The author asks, “Are we not deluding ourselves in thinking that consumerism and sustainability can go hand in hand? Is it not the case of having the cake and eating it?”
Consumerism must stop if we want to save the nature. No alternative will do. We need to uproot the disease once and for all. We need to start living in harmony with nature by living simple lives, and taking from nature only what’s necessary for our survival, and not more.
We have allowed something that can’t be owned (lands, food, water) to be privatized. This makes us the only beings on the Earth that have no access to something that God gave us right to use – food, water and lands. These nature’s gifts became commodities to be bought and sold, rather than enjoyed for all. Poverty, therefore, is not natural, but created through human greed.
The author goes on to give 11 ways to combat rajastic values of consumerism, address the problem of global warming and begin to live a joyful life. Here’s one of the pieces of advice:
For a sustainable future we need to work less, do less, spend less and be more. Slow down and go further. From simply being will emerge relationships, celebrations and joy. Sustainable living is joyful living. The current system of debt, mortgage payments and other obligations forces us to work more, but if we were conscious, we could redesign our lives to create a better work/life balance.
I absolutely loved reading this book. It inspired me to be more active in making people aware of the current crisis and that consumerism cannot be sustainable, no matter what alternatives governments will think of. It must stop, and reading this book gives powerful tools to start nourishing our Earth instead of destroying it.
I encourage everyone who cares about the Earth to read it and share it with friends and other people who care. Get Spiritual Compass: The Three Qualities of Life on Amazon here.