Shantum Seth is the foremost teacher and guide to the sites associated with the Buddha. A Buddhist practitioner, he is an ordained teacher (Dharmacharya) in the Zen tradition of the Vietnamese Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. He teaches in India and other countries and has been leading well acclaimed pilgrimages "In the Footsteps of the Buddha" since 1988. In the last few years he has been leading inter-faith, educational, cultural and spiritual journeys to diverse regions of India. At the same time, he has been deeply involved with social and ecological development issues for over 20 years.
He is a consultant to the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation to help promote Buddhist circuit tourism in India. He is also on the Government of India’s expert committee for the Promotion of Buddhist teaching and learning (including advising on the development of the Buddhist sites for pilgrimage/tourism), has trained guides for the Government of India and UNESCO, is on the Indian executive of the inter faith group Temple of Understanding, and has addressed a number of forums and universities including the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, the World Presidents’ organisation (WPO), the Young Presidents’ organisation (YPO), the UNDP executive board among others.
He has contributed to a number of books including 'Walking with the Buddha', 'I Have Arrived, I Am Home' and 'Volunteers Against Conflict'. He has also been a consultant on films including 'Life of the Buddha' made by the BBC/Discovery and Michael Wood’s ‘The Story of India’ by BBC/PBS. He had helped Mira Nair when she was working on her film version of the Buddha with Warner Bros and Martin Meissonnier while he was working on the Life of Buddha for Arte (French TV). He is presently working on a Hollywood production entitled 'Buddha'.
Shantum has taught on a half hour weekly TV programme on Zee TV, called Buddham Saranam Gachami (I take Refuge in the Buddha) and has appeared on other Indian TV stations such as Doordarshan and NDTV. He has offered programmes for radio on BBC and Doordarshan among others. He and his work have been featured in many magazines and newspapers including, National Geographic, Qantas (in flight), New York Times, Newsweek, Times of India, Outlook, India Today and Hindustan Times.
He is an accredited guide with the Government of India, though one travels with Shantum not merely as a well-informed guide but as a friend. He opens up his home, helps connect with interesting people from all strata of society and develops lasting friendships. He calls himself a cultural interpreter, and enjoys sharing the subtleties of India’s religions, society, economy and politics, especially with opinion moulders from around the world - anyone interested in understanding the mind of India and their own mind. He enjoys people and sharing his love for India. He lives with the mission of making the world a better place and helping people awaken to their fuller potential by exposing people to different ways of living and thinking, thereby expanding consciousness and building cross cultural understanding. He was part of the core group of teachers, (accompanying Thich Nhat Hanh), in a retreat for US Congressmen and Senators and was the lead organizer of Thich Nhat Hanh’s visits to India, where retreats and talks were held for parliamentarians, corporate leaders, teachers, the media as also ‘dalits’ and the poor.
Shantum comes from a well known family in India. He studied at Welham Boys, The Doon School and St Stephen’s College in India, before going to England to study Footwear Technology and Management. After working a few years in the footwear industry with companies like Clarks shoes, he returned to university to graduate in Development Studies, with his thesis in Gandhian Economics, at the University of East Anglia in England. While at University he was elected Vice President of the Student’s Union as a ‘Green’ candidate, where he was actively involved in the Peace movement and pressure group politics. Soon after, he worked as a manager of a performing troupe, ‘Prana’ touring the UK and the US.
His interests in human development and spirituality brought him back to India. Shantum worked in the social development sector with Oxfam, and did ecological work in the North East of India (Nagaland) supported by the World Wide Fund for nature. Thereafter for fifteen years he worked with the United Nations Development Programme (and UN Volunteers), managing programmes on artisan development and on volunteer promotion in India, South Asia and globally covering 16 countries. He also assisted UNDP (and UNESCO) on working with peace education, endogenous tourism, world heritage sites and sustainable livelihoods. He is actively involved in the non-profit trust Ahimsa, which is working on educational, social, cultural and environmental programmes www.ahimsatrust.org
He has been pioneering work in Mindfulness in Education, training teachers and students to develop skills such as attention and concentration, emotional and cognitive awareness and understanding, bodily awareness and coordination, interpersonal awareness and skills, opening up the doorway to transformation and liberation. He is very interested in helping young people gain tools for peacefulness, happiness and the understanding of who they are in relation to others and the world.
He loves travelling, having visited more than 50 countries, having worked in many, and has visited nearly every one of the 28 states in India. Having lived in England, the USA and France for over 14 years, he now lives with his wife Gitanjali, and two daughters and parents in Noida, near New Delhi, India.
Shantum Seth with his family. Photograph by Graciela Iturbide.