Build your creativeness on a solid foundation
The patron of creative living
St. Kuriakos Elias Chavara (1805-1871) is an overarching person, whose importance and influence cross over the boundaries of space and time to stimulate the society today. Born in Kainakari - an unimportant hamlet of Alappuzha - in a century when Kerala was considered by the enlightened minds as a ‘lunatic asylum’ radically stratified by the nuances of caste system, the saint has spread the fragrance of his holiness and creativeness to reengineer societal realities. His pioneering efforts in social transformation centring on universal education have signalled the onset of Renaissance in Kerala and in India. The new generation India owes St. Chavara a lot! Like a morning star that announces the daybreak, he endeavoured to expel the darkness of ignorance from the hearts of the people and equipped them to dismantle the suppressive structures of society.
St. Chavara is a guiding spirit and the true example of creative living who has rewritten the destiny of this part of the planet. In his relatively short span of life, he gently touched to change the realities of his times and catalyzed the transformation from within. He lived a most creative life and ensured that every single day of his life was adorned with gems of good deeds. “A day without doing good to others will be deleted from the Book of Life”, he contended. Despite his sickness (He was afflicted by recurring fever on account of his Elephantiasis and failing eyesight), he lived a life of passionate dedication to God and society. His life examples inspire generations to come to pursue creative life and careers that radically renew the face of the world. Let us examine here a perennial question of importance: which spiritual disposition sourced the creativeness of St. Chavara? What spiritual attitudes served as the rock-basis of his creative life-ncareer?
Brimming inner freedom
St. Chavara trusted the Divine Plan as something which will be implemented and has to be implemented through his thoughts, words and deeds. Such an unlimited trust in the Divine Plan and Providence is powerful enough to engender enormous Freedom of the Spirit, which equips one to venture into the unchartered territories of life. St. Chavara’s heart was filled with filial affection towards God, whom he lovingly addressed, “Appa” – the colloquial word for “Father”. In doing so, he was following the example set by Jesus of Nazareth, who also addressed God in his native language Aramaic, “Abba” and asked his followers to address God as their father. From this spiritual disposition was born one of the most beautiful prayers of the world: “Our Father in Heaven”. This prayer can be meaningfully recited by only those, who know the Dreams of God for oneself and for the world. Once there is unison with the Dream of God and the dream of the beseecher that will be done for sure. Then the dreams they cherish will become the Dream of God, the word they speak will become the Word of God and the works they do will become the Works of God. It is in this sense that Jesus of Nazareth says that he has come to the world to do the Will of the Father, who has sent him. It is for him like his food (Jn. 4:34). In the same spirit, we see St. Chavara singing in his poem “Atmanuthapam” that “the Word of God is his food and drink.” Like his master, St. Chavara cherished the spiritual disposition of deep trust in the ‘Words and Deeds of God’ and unfailing dedication to them. It equipped him to face the “newness” of life without fear or anxiety. He welcomed change in himself and in the society and committed himself for its imminent arrival. He dreamt new, thought new and did new and became a prophet of the times, who announced the onset of the Kingdom of God, the ever new reality.
It may sound counterintuitive to conclude that to be spiritually free one must become like a slave of God. One must align one’s dreams with His Dreams, implement His Plans and obey His Words like a servant. This is to be understood in a special sense, in a spiritual sense. God is the abode of infinite possibilities. To appropriate a subset of those possibilities by streamlining our plans with His Plans does not limit us; rather it opens to us the world of unlimited options. It is not something restrictive; rather it is something that initiates us to the world of infinite possibilities. Hence is the allegiance to the Will/Dream of God a primordial prerequisite for spiritual liberation. It liberates humans from the entanglement of the limited options and possibilities of life. It expands horizons of human existence to infinity. Great people had deep awareness of their own inherent limitations, which they overcame with reference to an immanent (Somebody, dwelling at the cave of one’s heart) or a transcendent (Somebody, beyond oneself) God. They were devotees of the absolute Truth, supreme Goodness and sublime Beauty. Such devotion however, did not enslave them; rather it initiated them to the supreme freedom. It equipped them with the ability to be radically open to the newness. What God has prepared for His seekers and lovers, has not been seen by human eyes, has not been heard by human ears or has been grasped by human minds (1 Cor. 2:9). They developed sufficient moral courage to stand the trials and tribulations of life, always trusting in the magnanimity of the Divine Plan and in anticipation of the Promised Glory. For, they knew that something that God wills will be accomplished in due course of time. They may have to pass through the narrow tunnel of life and death, with only inner light to guide them. However, those who have sufficient patience to persevere will see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Jesus of Nazareth was a supreme example for perfect trust in the Divine Promises, which led him through the tragic death on the cross to the experience of life in its fullness.
St. Chavara also nourished within himself undoubting trust in the Ways of God, which are often hidden to the ordinary mortals, and kept his options open to Divine interventions. He enhanced his name by adding the name of the prophet Elias, indicating such a spiritual attitude. Elias was a prophet who described his being as something that burns due to zeal for God (1Kings. 19:10). St. Chavara incorporated this “burning zeal” to materialize the Divine Plan not only into his own life and career, but also to the society at large. He never wanted to selfishly adhere to his own naive plans of life. He was radically open to the newness, with which God would adorn his life. He considered himself as an instrument in the hands of God, the master craftsman. And God did wonderful things through his servant.
Quest for serving the society
Creative minds are not self-centred. Their concerns go beyond their near and dear. They develop a burning zeal to serve others. They dream of a better society fully human and fully alive. They engineer targeted projects and programs to lift the society to the desired trajectory. They keep an intense desire to steer the destiny of human race into something beautiful close to their chest. Openness to the real needs of the society is the key to social commitment. A true leader is also a prophet. S/he shall appropriately read the signs of times. S/he shall insightfully decode the writings on the walls. S/he shall visualize sustainable solutions to the problems of society and shall totally dedicate themselves to their effective implementation. Quest for serving society is the second pillar of creativeness.
Today, as we review the residues of Renaissance in Kerala, we are astounded by the effectiveness of the social engineering conceptualized and administered by St. Chavara. The pioneering initiatives born out of his creative genius are numerous and seminal. He left no stone unturned to transform the once “lunatic asylum” into a renewed society. He pioneered systematic monastic life in India, both for men and women and led them for decades. He pioneered a printing and publishing revolution in Kerala. With a humble press designed using plantain stems, he printed a large number of books that nurtured people of Kerala both intellectually and spiritually. He himself authored many literary works and is considered pioneer in many literary genres.
He authored the first short poem (“Anastasiayude Raktasakshitvam”), first generation dramas (“Edaya Naatakangal”) and Diary literature (“Nalagamangal”). He promoted the concept of micro-financing through unique programs like, “Handful of Rice” (Pidiyari) and “Dedicated Coconut Trees” (Kettuthengu), ensuring people participation in his life projects. He inaugurated the first ever Home of Destitute at Kainakary. He started the first “Sanskrit School” open to all irrespective caste or creed in Mannanam in 1946. He triggered an education revolution that made basic education universal in Kerala. He is the pioneer of Christian Pallikkutams. Whatever he touched with his magical hands, turned gold. At the root of his life and achievements lies his unfailing dedication to the societal needs.
Spiritual foundations of creativeness
We have identified two spiritual roots of human creativeness. First, an experience of inner freedom sourced out of the total commitment to God, the abode of infinite freedom and the second, the prophetic sensitivity to the signs of time, emanating from total commitment to the society. Perfect dedication to God and society is the essence of the Ten Commandments, which are reduced to the Only Commandment of Love by Jesus of Nazareth.
Love is the principle of creativeness. The synergy of love of God and love of others characterizes great people, prophets, poets, leaders and saints. All of them led absolutely creative life, full of newness and synergy. And St. Kuriakos Elias Chavara is foremost among them, the patron of Creative Living. St. Chavara, teach us the sublime secrets of creative living!