A Reading with Satish Kumar

A Reading with Satish Kumar

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When I was living and going to school in Lampeter, Wales, I had the opportunity to attend a reading/lecture by Satish Kumar. It wound up being one of the highlights of my stay there. This is an old blog entry that I wrote about his lecture and his book, No Destination.


Originally posted: October 22, 2005

On Friday evening I attended a lecture by Satish Kumar. It was entitled “Spirituality, Humanity, and the Environment.”

There are a couple of things I would like to say about the lecture. For one thing, this wasn’t a normal university lecture. People actually showed up. So many people showed up, in fact, that we had to move the lecture due to fire codes. People came not just from the university and town, but from all over Wales.

Satish is a 70-year-old man originally from India who was, at one time, one of the wandering Jain monks. I was excited to meet him because I have always been fascinated by the Jains. At the age of 25, he had a life-changing experience when he read about Betrand Russell, a 90-year-old Nobel Prize winner who was thrown in jail for attending a peace rally.

At that point Satish and his friend decided that they should be doing something with their lives so they came up with a brilliant plan- they would walk to America. They would stop along the way in Afghanistan, Moscow, Paris, and finally in Washington DC– in effect, visiting all of the nuclear weapon capitals. And they would not take any money with them or do anything but walk. So they did.

They had to completely rely on the kindness of strangers for the duration of the trip.

As a speaker, he was wonderful to listen to because not only did he have a lot of interesting things to say, but he also had a good sense of humor. I took notes on some of the things that he said so that I would remember them later and one of my favorite things was, “Miracles always happen when you don’t have money.”

This is so true. I can’t count the number of times that I have been stranded alone with no money, in a foreign country, and just when I was about to break down and cry someone showed up to help me. He talked about people that he met along the way and how some thought they were crazy.

One American man in Afghanistan met them on a snowy mountaintop and asked if he could give them a ride. He said he would take them wherever they wanted to go. When Satish told him they were going to America, the guy asked them if they knew where it was.

Satish replied, “Well, we have never been there, but we are pretty sure that it exists.”

In all, it took them 2 ½ years to walk. And, of course, people want to know how they made it across the ocean if they were just walking. Well, when they got to Wales they met Bertrand Russell and he bought them passage on a boat. Satish said that they figured that at least on the boat they could walk back and forth on deck so it technically wasn’t cheating. On a side note, when they met Betrand he said, “I am an old man. It’s a good thing you walked fast.”

Satish Kumar
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