Prabhupada: Our first problem is, because we have got this material body, eating. Everyone must eat. Therefore our first religion is to produce food grain sufficiently to feed everyone.
-Conversation, Atlanta, March 1, 1975
Srila Prabhupada is pointing out the very obvious. Without eating, we cannot do anything else. How can we chant, distribute books, or worship the deity, if we do not eat? Food is a requirement for everyone. Varnasrama begins with growing food grains. Otherwise, how will the brahmanas and ksatriyas eat? To establish varnasrama on a practical level, growing food is our first business. At the same time, varnasrama cannot be limited only to food production. But the first practical necessity is to grow food.
This can also be related to preaching. Srila Prabhupada says “to feed everyone”. If food becomes increasingly scarce, as Srila Prabhupada predicts it will be in this Kali-yuga, naturally people will first want food, before anything else. How can they understand religion if they are starving? By growing our own food, nondevotees would be attracted to our communities. I have heard that Srila Prabhupada said “People will join our farms by the millions”. So this is the real “bridge preaching” technique. Of course we would have to strictly enforce rules, that anyone who wants to live in our communities and eat our food would have to follow religious principles. If we create self-sufficient communities and can show people that we are living a lifestyle based around the most advanced spiritual culture, then it is a very real possibility that people WILL join our movement by the millions, especially in this increasingly troubled time of economic collapse and food shortages.
Why should you go in the city, hundred miles in a car and again hundred miles come back and take unnecessary trouble? Stick to this spot and grow your own food, your own cloth, and live peacefully, save time, chant Hare Krsna.
-Lecture SB 6.1.49, New Orleans, August 1, 1975
The goal of life is to make spiritual advancement, not to work hard for economic development. Srila Prabhupada says that by growing our own food and other basic necessities, we can live peacefully and save much time. This extra time saved is to be used for spiritual activities, making spiritual advancement. Living in such a simple way may be difficult at first for people who are accustomed to living a fast-paced modern lifestyle. After all, we are used to such an unnatural way of life
(the modern lifestyle) that living naturally (village agrarian lifestyle) is unnatural for us. But nevertheless, we should with a firm vow, and based on the understanding that life is solely meant for returning to Vaikuntha, choose to live a simpler lifestyle so that we can finish up our cycle of birth and death in this material world.
And the way the world is headed, with total economic meltdown becoming a reality more with each passing week, we may indeed be forced to choose a simpler and less exploitive lifestyle. If oil supplies become increasingly scarce (on December 18th, one of the world’s largest oil suppliers, OPEC, cut oil production by 2.2 million barrels a day, the lowest it has been in recent history), then that means that many people will no longer be able to afford to drive their cars such long distances into the city. With food supplies becoming more scarce, along with oil shortages, the system of importing food into the cities will no longer be economically feasible. This means that many people will be forced to move out of the cities, and will go to where food and water is available (farms). The cities will become practically deserted, and how prepared are our Hare Krsna farms for such a large exodus from the cities? If a thousand people showed up tomorrow at a farm, would we be able to help them?
But “doomsday theories” aside (although these “theories” are becoming more and more of a realistic possibility), simple agrarian life is much more conducive for spiritual realization (being based around sattva-guna), and for this reason alone, we should be putting more effort into the development of these self-sufficient varnasrama communities. As Srila Prabhupada says, “live peacefully, save time” and in the end, go back to Godhead.
Prabhupada: Yes. Our next program is to organize farming. Let anyone come. We shall give him free food and employment: “Come on”. Not that “I want to work as a clerk in the city”. You produce your own food. I give you ingredients. I give you land. And work for five, six hours, and take your food and chant Hare Krsna.
-Morning Walk, Perth, May 15, 1975
Srila Prabhupada is saying that he would like us to organize farms. Anyone can come, he says. Anyone can get free food if they will agree to work a little. Better to work on the land than go into the city. You can produce your own food, and we’ll even give you the tools and land. What more could anyone ask for? The whole economic problem is solved right there. No more need for ugra-karma work. Just work five hours a day. Sounds much easier than working 50 or 60 hour workweeks. Then eat, and perform your sadhana. This is the program for getting free of material entanglement and going back to Godhead.
According to Vedic culture, one is rich if he possesses a large stock of food grain and a very large number of animals.
-CC Adi 14.55 Purport
Why is this considered real wealth? Because you can survive on these two things- food grains and cows (for milk and ghee). On the other hand, the modern conception of wealth of having a lot of paper notes in a bank account is based on illusion. The bank could crash at any time, causing you to loose your money. And you cannot eat your paper money. You can use your paper money to buy food, therefore food is the real wealth. Realizing this, the next logical step then would be to cut out the middle man, the false wealth (paper money) and to simply grow your own food, thus removing the necessity for this fake money, paper money. During times of economic depression, it could take an entire wheel barrel full of paper money to buy even a small amount of food. So food is the real wealth. Why not then save ourselves the huge amount of trouble it takes to collect that paper money, and just grow your own food instead? No more long hours at a job, no more contaminating association with nondevotees, no more driving 50 miles a day to go to work, no more high gas bills, no more risk of getting killed in a car wreck, no more need for breathing the polluted air in the cities, no more children spending 10 hours a day playing video/computer games. Just you and the land, a few oxen and cows, a little work, and a very peaceful and happy life.
But if you show that you are actually doing something ideal, then they will appreciate. Make a small unit of community and show ideal life, not idle life. Ideal life.
-Morning Walk, Vrindvan, March 12, 1974
In other words, “talk is cheap”. Anybody can speak about high ideals and philosophy, but intelligent and sane people will only be attracted if there is a practical example of those ideals and philosophy. Without a practical example, we simply remain theoretical and ineffective. Rural self-sufficient communities are the ideal place in which to put into practice the teachings and instructions Srila Prabhupada gave to us. For instance, it is quite difficult to practice the high ideals of Krishna Consciousness if we are surrounded by nondevotees and dependent on the demoniac modern society. But if we practice those ideals in an environment conducive to them, then people will see our example- happy, peaceful, spiritual people. It is the example that will convince most people, not the philosophy. When people begin to see that it is possible to live a simple life focused around spiritual values because someone is doing it, they will become convinced. And it does not have to be a big thing, at least in the beginning. If even a “small unit” show such an example, it will be very powerful. But the main point is, “actually doing something”, not just theorizing and doing nothing. It is the practical and ideal example which people will appreciate.
People are becoming very desperate to find some alternative to this hellish modern lifestyle (I’ve met many of them while I was distributing books). The problems of the world are increasing at such a rate that soon there may no longer be a “modern society”, because it will have fallen apart and collapsed. It is our duty to offer an alternative lifestyle to this modern society, based on spiritual values, and I believe that many people will accept it. Many people have become entirely fed up with this crazy modern western civilization. We can help them.
“So where’s the practical example?” you are probably about to ask. Well, the closest thing to the practical application of the principles of varnasrama that our movement has come to so far I feel is the varnasrama college being started by Bhakti Raghava Swami in South India, where they will be teachings devotees how to grow crops, how to build mud houses, how to make soap and oil, as well as a few other things. Teaching people basic survival skills like that is about as practical and down to earth as you can get.
To learn more about the prospects of this new varnasrama college, please visit:
Varnasrama College Course in South India http://www.dandavats.com/?p=6288
(Caitanya dasa is a young American male living in India and is following the traditional Vedic culture of India. He is presently engaged in study and research of varnasrama, the ancient social system followed in Vedic India. He is also currently studying Bengali, an ancient Indian language that many scriptures were written in. If you would like to contact him, please write to email@example.com )