Interview with Satish Kumar, author of Elegant Simplicity

by: Sara on 03/26/2019

Today's author interview is with Satish Kumar, author of Elegant Simplicity: The Art of Living Well. Satish provides a coherent philosophy of life that weaves together simplicity of material life, thought, and spirit. In it, Satish Kumar, environmental thought leader and former monk, distills five decades of reflection and wisdom into a guide for everyone.

I find I am able to live simply and find peace and solace within the acts of everyday living, but with the chaos in our world today find difficulty in quieting mind and spirit. Beyond living by example, what advice can you offer those who are feeling despair and hopelessness in their inability to affect wider change in the world?


Satish Kumar

The despair and hopelessness of the world today is only one aspect of the reality. The other side of reality is that millions of people are engaged in good work and good living.  They care for each other and look after the land. Millions are engaged in the peace movement, social justice movement, environmental and sustainability movement and many other similar progressive movements. They are the salt of the earth so we should focus on their activities, support and join them if we can, and at least celebrate their work and rejoice in their achievement all the time. By focussing we can find a sense of balance and proportion and live simply and peacefully ourselves.  This is peaceful activism with such acts of creative and positive aspirations.

When a new family comes together that are on different pages, how can you encourage your new partner/kids to embrace a simpler, more eco-friendly lifestyle?

When a new family comes together with different views we need to look at their positive side, there must be something in them with which we agree and focus on that aspect and not on the aspect where we disagree. Ultimately it is love which conquers all and we can bring the monsoon of love without judging, criticising or complaining. It is not by preaching that we influence, rather it is by practice and example that we inspire others. In order to follow this path we have to have a lot of patience.

Questions from our giveaway winners:

Satish, you speak of the joy of being a creator and finding pleasure in the process of arts and crafts. I wonder if you have any wisdom to share with me about helping my children find the pleasure of creating for the sake of creating and not having to save each and every piece of art?

Nature is the greatest artist. In the early spring the red and pink camelias make the garden beautiful and exuberant but these flowers do not last forever.  In April and May the wonderful cherry blossom is an astonishing work of art of nature and yet these blossoms don’t last forever. Humans create such beautiful arts of singing and dancing but they are not forever, so we have to sing again and again dance again and again. The same should apply to all kinds of arts and crafts. We make them for the joy of making without worrying how long they will last. The art of birth is good but the art of death is also good. Art of nature teaches us the art of detachment, appreciation and celebration rather than possession. 

Embracing personal "elegant simplicity" certainly helps to find peace with our current human predicament, but does it simultaneously enable one to continue being a change maker but without the crippling attachment to outcome?

The acts of Elegant Simplicity has intrinsic value. Action is good in itself, we act with love and joy without clinging to or craving for the outcome, the result or the fruit of our action. The idea of Elegant Simplicity helps us to realize that living fully in every moment and performing every act of life as a work of art is fulfilling in itself. Elegant Simplicity liberates us from expectations and therefore from disappointments. Elegant Simplicity is a way of participation and not a way of control.

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