Satish Kumar: When you accept the state of being a stranger, you are no longer a stranger. I have been an exile when everything around me seemed strange and everybody was a stranger. Once I accepted that I didn’t have to belong and I didn’t have to be part of the world, then I was free to be part of it. There was a paradoxical release of the spirit. The world became mine when I was no longer holding on to it. I experienced a deeper monkhood after leaving the monkhood. I felt much more release of spirit and was at ease with the world
Parabola: Why do you think that human beings find it so difficult to feel at home?
SK: What happens is that human beings are, from the very beginning, brainwashed. Our parents, our teachers, our churches, impose a particular set of values and living style, telling us what we ought to be and do. So our minds are conditioned by society, schooling, media. It’s not the fault of the human being, which is a pure soul. It is a society which tries to imprison the free human being. When teachers like the Dalai Lama or the Buddha or Mahatma Gandhi speak about an unconditioned mind, we find it difficult to understand because we are so conditioned over twenty or more years. You have to have patience. If you have been conditioned for forty years, you have to allow at least ten or twelve years to be deconditioned.
Parabola: Babajr, the wise man that you met in Benares, told you, ‘With the third eye one can see and experience the whole, the totality.” If this is possible, to experience the totality, does one feel oneself more or less a stranger in the world?
SK: If you can see with the third eye―which is seeing reality when you close your eyes, because there is something more to the world than meets the eye―then you find that what is around you is a metaphor, and then you find that metaphor beautiful. Then the trees and the ponds, the lilies and lotus and birds and animals and parents and children and women and men, everything becomes beautiful. It is a transformation of your perception and of your consciousness, so you see the world with fresh, new eyes―which is the third eye, the eye of the heart. The Buddha told us in his Lotus Sutra that when you sit by the pond and meditate on the lotus, you see the lotus has its roots in the mud, deep under the lake, but the petals always remain above, and that beauty to me is wonderful. And in the same way, being a stranger is a beautiful state of being. So it is difficult to answer whether you feel more or less a stranger.
―Satish Kumar, Indian activist, editor, and former Jain monk. An excerpt from a conversation with him on being an insider and an outsider at the same time in our Summer 1995 issue, “The Stranger.”