A Journey in Friendship by
Notes on some meetings with Vimala Thakar
|The following short
history comes from the What Is Enlightenment website.
spiritual master Vimala Thakar, whom we featured in our Fall/Winter
1996 issue of What Is Enlightenment?, is best known in Europe
and the US as a strikingly independent and powerful teacher of
spiritual awakening. Indeed, we at What Is Enlightenment?
believe that she is perhaps the most enlightened woman in the world
today. But what many may not know is that Thakar is also a
passionately committed social activist. Deeply influenced by the
teachings of both J. Krishnamurti and Mahatma Gandhi, Thakar
embodies the essence of enlightened consciousness and social
responsibility—the two usually divergent streams of personal
awakening and social advocacy seamlessly blending into the one
indefatigable torrent of her life. And in both spheres, not unlike
her mentors, she is a complete revolutionary. Her life and her
teaching burn with the fire of the inner revolution of spirit that
she feels is the only true foundation for a revolution of society.
Born to a middle-class Brahmin family in central India, Thakar's
passion for the spiritual life began early. "The awareness of
'something beyond' dawned on me at the age of five," she writes,
describing how she ran away from home into the forest searching for
God, imploring God to reveal himself. Her father, boldly independent
and free-thinking, encouraged her spiritual interests, supporting
her in visiting ashrams, studying the scriptures, and experimenting
with spiritual practices. She continued her spiritual pursuits in
earnest throughout her youth and young adulthood and did an extended
retreat in a cave in the Himalayas at nineteen. Her many unusual
experiences during these early years have the epic aura of Mahabharatan tales.
As a young woman, Thakar became involved with Vinoba Bhave's Land
Gift Movement. Bhave, Gandhi's spiritual successor who is considered
a saint in his own right, furthered Gandhi's mission and vision of a
new social order, and in his years of working closely with Thakar,
instilled in her Gandhi's passion for, as she describes it, "a
radical change in the very structure of human society as well as a
radical revolution in the very substance of the human mind." Thakar
worked tirelessly in the Land Gift Movement—a program that secures
land from the wealthy and redistributes it to landless farm
workers—traveling from village to village the length and breadth of
India for eight years.
In 1960 Thakar was invited by a friend to attend a series of talks a
visiting spiritual teacher was giving in Varanasi. The teacher was
the legendary J. Krishnamurti, and he immediately took note of the
unusual young woman listening so attentively at the back of the
hall and offered to meet with her. Their talks and private
interviews sparked an upheaval within Thakar's consciousness,
catapulting her into profound silence. "Something within has been
let loose. It can't stand any frontiers," she wrote. "The invasion
of a new awareness, irresistible and uncontrollable . . . has swept
away everything." Within less than a year, Krishnamurti not only
confirmed her spiritual realization but urgently implored her to
begin to teach: "Why don't you explode? Why don't you put bombs
under all these old people who follow the wrong line? Why don't you
go around India? Is anyone doing this? If there were half a dozen, I
would not say a word to you. There is not time. . . . Go—shout from
the housetops, 'You are on the wrong track! This is not the way to
peace!' . . . Go out and set them on fire! There is none who is
doing this. Not even one. . . . What are you waiting for?"
At this point, she says, the "burning ashes became aflame," and she
left the Land Gift Movement and the sphere of social action to take
up her role as a spiritual teacher, traveling the world to give
talks and lead meditation camps. In an open letter to her friends
and former colleagues, she explained her reasons for turning her
attention now exclusively to the inner revolution: "No words could
describe the intensity and depth of the experience through which I
am passing. Everything is changed. It is as if I am born again! . .
. My association with the movement is over. Today it strikes me that
the true problem is the internal problem of complete freedom! . . .
The only salvation for mankind appears to be in a religious
revolution of the individual. . . . As the source of all evil is
in the very substance of our consciousness, we will have to deal
with it. Everything that has been transmitted to our mind through
centuries will have to be completely discarded. The momentum of a
million yesterdays is not easy to overcome or to discard if we try
to tackle it in a casual way, or if we don't touch it at all."
For the next twenty-two years, Thakar traveled and taught in more
than twenty countries, and scores of books of her teachings were
published in twelve languages. While she always stayed keenly
attuned to the political, environmental, and social currents
throughout the world, her teaching for the most part remained
focused on the inner revolution of the spirit. In 1979, however,
Thakar rekindled her social advocacy and curtailed her global
teaching tours for three years to stay in India, once again
traveling from village to village, talking with people about local
problems and founding centers for educating villagers in
agro-centered industries, sanitation, local self-government, and
active democratic citizenship. After this hiatus, she began
traveling abroad again, with the focus of her teaching now more
fully encompassing her passion for both inner and outer revolution.
When California meditation teacher Jack Kornfield asked her why she
returned to development work and to helping the hungry and homeless,
she replied, "Sir, I am a lover of life, and as a lover of life, I
cannot keep out of any activity of life. If people are hungry for
food, my response is to help feed them. If people are hungry for
truth, my response is to help them discover it. I make no
distinction between serving people who are starving and have no
dignity in their physical lives and serving people who are fearful
and closed and have no dignity in their mental lives. I love all
Now seventy-nine, Thakar no longer travels outside India but remains
busy seeing individuals or groups who make their way to visit her at
her home in Rajasthan or in Ahmedabad where she stays during the
winter. Here she meets with people from all over the world, ranging
from Buddhists and yoga teachers to industrialists, ecologists,
Indo-Pakistan peace activists, and members of Parliament.
"Spirituality is the seed," says this awakened activist, "and social
action is the fruit born of it." Thakar's words have the authority
and authenticity born of a life wholeheartedly and holistically
devoted to total revolution of the human spirit.
Article by Vimala Thakar:
Awakening to Total Revolution
Vimala's book "On an
Eternal Voyage" where she tells of
her meeting with J. Krishnamurti
(click here to listen
to Vimala Chanting
a poem by Shankaracharya in RealAudio format)
A Webpage about Vimala
Essay -- Psychic Mutation and
On the Spiritual
Emancipation of Women
by Vimala Thakar
Set Them On Fire
A Portrait of a
Vimala's Residence at
Two Conversations with an Extraordinary
Today: Letter and Response
"The aspirant, he who seeks
the Self, is never alone in any of his efforts. The whole of totality is
eager to render assistance. It runs out to help. Your eyes are fixed on your
efforts and, therefore, you fail to notice or comprehend the cooperation you
receive. Never in this world was there an aspirant who was left alone by God
even if he dwelt in the loneliest of places. If the aspirant takes one step
towards the truth and God, the totality takes ten steps to meet him."
Life as Yoga (Delhi: Banarsidass,
1977), p. 193
"Vimala Thakar has been a meditation teacher in India and Europe for many years.
In many ways, she is a Dharma heir to (the Indian-American mystic) Krishnamurti. After she
had been working in rural development for many years, Krishnamurti asked her to begin to
teach, and she became a powerful and much-loved meditation teacher.
"Then she returned to her rural development work, teaching meditation considerably
less. (Kornfield) asked her, Why did you go back to rural development and helping
the hungry and homeless after teaching meditation?
(S)he was insulted by (his)
question. She said, Sir, I am a lover of life, and I make no distinction between
serving people who are starving and have no dignity in their physical lives and serving
people who are fearful and closed and have no dignity in their mental lives. I love all
(originally from http://www.vuu.org/jford/ss981122.htm
link is now dead)
"Sir, do not let God be a concept and theory to be imprisoned in the
pages of the books and in the images and idols of temples and churches. Let him become the
reality of life. He is the substance. The invisible, the unmanifest is the substance, the
visible and the known is only the shadow. This is the conceptualisation and ideation of
the reality that has made man fight..."
Totality in Essence
(from some books from
"Vimala Thakar, the greatest living saint-philosopher, gave the most powerful
metaphor, The human being seems to be born with the faculty of self-awareness and
understanding. That understanding which is not knowing has a perceptive sensitivity.
Understanding comes when the cerebral activity goes to abeyance voluntarily. J.
Krishnamurti wrote, Understanding comes only when the mind is very quiet.... Only
the truth can liberate the mind from its own ideation, to see the truth, the mind must
realise the fact that so long as it is agitated it can have no understanding. The
symbolic-dualistic frame of reference of the mind spectrum has self-awareness. The
non-dual frame of reference of the mind spectrum is bestowed with understanding. The
quantum jump from the symbolic-dualistic frame to non-dual frame of reference implies a
quantum jump from self-awareness to understanding."
(originally from: http://www.tribuneindia.com/98sep30/edit.htm)
"I have read Vimala Thakars article Meditation, A Way of Life.
Here are some of the things I really liked in it:
unless there is an innate passion to find out, to discover for oneself one will
not be equipped to live the meditative way. Meditation is a total way of living, not a
partial or fragmentary activity
Life is neither occidental or oriental
is no excitement in a real enquirer, there is a depth of intensity, not the shallowness of
Then that state of observation begins to permeate the waking
hours. Whether you cook a meal, go to the office, or while you are talking, the state of
observation begins to permeate all activities of the waking hours
When the state of
observation is sustained the sensitivity gets heightened, and from morning till night you
are much more aware than before
It is no use concentrating your attention upon the
activities of the mind, to the exclusion of the rest of your way of living. Meditation is
something pertaining to the whole being and the whole life. Either you live in it or you
do not live in it. In another words, it is related to everything physical and
Thus, from the small area of mental activity, we have brought
meditation to a vast field of consciousness, where it gets related to the way you sit or
stand, the way you gesticulate or articulate throughout the day. Whether you want it or
not, the inner state of your being gets expressed in your behaviour
of meditation to the total way of living is the first requirement on the path of total
Very few of us realise that constant verbalisation is one of the
greatest obstacles in the path of meditation
Life is a homogeneous whole and you can
never fragment it
To be aware of the lapse or the gap is itself a kind of
observation. (Vimala Thakar) '"
(from : http://buddhanet.net/mind.htm)
"The life that the dawn brings us is the only life we have. Life
is in the here and now, not in the there and afterwards."
Sensitivity and Pain
To live requires energy and
fearlessness, but we are brought up in a
pleasure-hunting human race, and pain is something to be afraid of,
to be driven away completely, to protect oneself from.
But it is the pain and pleasure
- the duality -
together that make the whole,
the wholeness of life.
The more sensitive you are and the more
you live from the depth of your being,
the more vulnerable you are to life.
The more sensitive you are and the more
capable of loving human beings,
the more you will be hurt; there is more sorrow, there is more pain.
Psychological hurts, pain and sorrow
accompany the sensitivity, intelligence and love.
Love and sorrow go together.
So, if there is physical or
psychological pain, you live with it -
not out of despair, not out of self-pity, not out of any weakness.
You live with it because it is part of life, it is an expression of
- - - - Gems from Vimala Thakar
In the sacred emptiness of silence, flows the Life Force, the infinite
creativity in the form of the human body without any resistance from any
corner of that being. Ordinarily when the creativity of that totality or
wholeness whispers in our hearts there is resistance. The 'I', the 'Me'
assuming the airs of wisdom, knowledge and experience, retorts back to the
wisdom of the Creativity and says: "What you are suggesting is not
practical. It is not adaptable in my social life, in my family life"·.
When there is the ending of the momentum of the total human past, and
there is a release, as it were, from the prison-house of the 'Me' as a
separate entity then the creativity of the whole Life can manifest its
activisation and can flow through all the layers of that human form
without any obstacle. The idea of the 'Me' and the identification with
that idea of the 'Me', is the greatest obstruction to the flow of
creativity, to the flow of innocency in our lives.
In the silence, innocency reigns supreme. In the emptiness of silence,
there is no obstruction of knowledge, memory. There is no resistance of
the 'Me' introducing psychological time and saying to the creative energy
"Not now, tomorrow, next year". The 'Me' arrests the flow of
creativity and wants to adapt it, wants to pour it into the mould of
social norms and value-structures. Then it is only the ashes of creativity
that remain there, which the 'Self', the 'Me' holds in its fist and says:
'I had an inspiration, I had a glimpse.' It wants to hold onto that
Thakar, Himalayan Pearls, pp. 48-49
Originally from http://www.intuition-in-service.org/index.html
“We are at odds with ourselves internally; we believe that the
inner is fundamentally
different than the outer, that what is me is quite separate from the
not-me, that divisions among people and nations are necessary, and yet
we wonder why there are tensions, conflicts, wars in the world. The
conflicts begin with the minds that believe in fragmentation and are
ignorant of wholeness.”
~ Vimala Thakar, Spirituality and Social Action: A Holistic Approach