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A Portrait of a Modern Sage

An interview with Vimala Thakar
by Chris Parish


Vimala Thakar

"I am a simple person, a human being who has loved life and who has seen life as divinity itself. I have lived in love with life, madly in love with the human expression of life as divinity!"

Her voice is deep and confident, ringing with an underlying passion. She enunciates each word very clearly and without hesitation, giving the impression of a person who meets life head-on, someone who is unapologetically and fully present. Her eyes are soft and fearless. She sits on the edge of her seat, alert and leaning toward me, dressed in a clean, crisp, white sari. Immov.ably still, she has an undeniable power, yet she is in a flash gentle and gracious as she serves us tea.

This is my introduction to Vimala Thakar, the revered spiritualleader and social activist who traveled the world teaching for over thirty years. I have eagerly awaited this moment, the chance to speak with this unusual woman. I heard her speak once in London twenty-five years ago, and her words left a lasting impression on me. It was my recollection of her integrity and understanding that made me recently resolve to meet her again. She is the only person, as far as I am aware, who J. Krishnamurti, the great spiritual revolutionary, ever pleaded with to go forth and teach.

I’ve sought out Vimala Thakar here at her home in Mount Abu, a hill station in the remote southern corner of the Indian desert state of Rajasthan. Her house, which has been donated, is tranquil, set among the huge rock formations that dot the landscape.

Vimala meets me punctually at 9:30 a.m. in a small study off the entrance hall of her house, and I mention the proposed interview. My heart sinks when she says that while she is more than happy to have a dialogue with me, she doesn’t wish to be published and photographed. “I’m socially dead,” she adds.

It’s a great relief when, after further discussion, she very kindly makes an exception and allows me to interview her for What Is Enlightenment? It occurs to me that her dislike of publicity is probably one reason that she is not better known. I have never seen an interview with her or an article about her. Yet she has traveled and taught in thirty-five countries, has students and friends on all continents, and has published many books in a number of languages.

In 1991, she decided to stop traveling outside her native India. But at seventy-nine years old, she is still busy seeing the individuals and groups that visit her in Mount Abu, or in Ahmadabad where she spends the winter. While she no longer conducts meditation camps or speaks to large audiences as she once did, her days are filled with meetings with people from all over the world, including spiritual seekers young and old, environmental and social activists, and business and political leaders.

“Let me live as an invisible teacher—not a master but a teacher,” says Vimala, in a voice that commands your attention. “I have been exploring a dimension of the relationship between the inquirer and the enlightened one on the basis of equality. It’s an exploration in a revolutionary relationship. All my life it has been a sharing, like members of a spiritual family, on the basis of friendship, cooperation.” Her words, spoken so distinctly and unwaveringly, seem to intensify the atmosphere of silence that I feel in the room. I’m aware of a single sparrow on the window ledge keeping up a constant background chirping.

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