Urban farming and self-sufficiency

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By Lalitanatha Dasa, Copenhagen, Denmark

One of the goals of The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is ”teaching a simpler and more natural way of life,” as Srila Prabhupada stated it in his seven purposes of ISKCON. This is generally understood to refer to a self-sufficient agrarian lifestyle based on land and cows.

In the latest GBC-resolutions (res. 310 and 311, 2009) the GBC asks its members to, as far as possible, commit themselves to spend 10% of their time helping to develop farm projects. The reasons are obvious. Although some farm projects have had their successes, ”there has been a decline in the development of ISKCON farms and most remaining farms are struggling.”

Srila Prabhupada saw farming and cow-protection not only as self-sustaining but as a means of generating prosperity for the rest of the society. This has not happened. Many farm communities have evolved into suburban country dwellings with devotees commuting to nearby towns to make their living and farming and cow-protection only continuing to exist due to subsidies from donors.

Unsettling is also the fact that ”a simpler and more natural way of life” at present bears no practical meaning for the majority of ISKCON’s members. Probably 99 percent or more live urban lives, providing for themselves not by tilling land and caring for cows but mainly by earning salaries at non-devotional jobs. Of course, no one is to be blamed for maintaining himself and his dependents in an honest and upright way, but if Srila Prabhupada intended the ”simpler and more natural way of life” to be for everyone, then there is still a long way to realize that.

The failure is also apparent in terms of influencing the world if this is what Srila Prabhupada meant by ”teaching a simpler and more natural way of life.” Although we may on occasion show guests and newcomers a slide of bulls plowing at a Krishna conscious farm project, our actual influence among those in the greater society working to establish natural, sustainable living is negligible.

All this is also damaging our good name and our preaching. Everyone who gets in touch with Krishna consciousness and reads Srila Prabhupada’s books understands that we are promoting a different, more natural life style. When people see that our ideals have no bearing on the way we live, they may lose faith in the Krishna consciousness movement as being able to make a difference in the world.

Thus the GBC has plenty of good reasons to want to bring more life into exisiting as well as new farm projects. But, although commendable, I am left with a feeling that more is required than just directing more energy into the same model so far tried in regard to natural living. Srila Prabhupada was undoubtedly right about the viability of natural living, but perhaps a new kind of thinking is needed to actually implement this. In fact, I propose as a first step that we radically urge everyone, and not just a few ”farm devotees,” to give up the urban life style and embrace ”a simpler and more natural way of life.”

At this you are probably thinking that I am proposing a mass exodus from the cities. ”Let us all leave our congested dwellings and settle on farm communities in unspoiled natural settings, without modern amenities, electricity, running water, and the Internet.”

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, I think this idea is precisely what is hampering our attempts at natural living; i.e., the idea that natural living can only happen in some places and not in others. So I have something else in mind. Instead of us all moving into the country, I believe it should be the other way around. If the ISKCON natural way of life shall be anything more than a few open-air museums with no actual relevance to the way most of us live, we’ll have to let the farms and the natural life style move into the cities and become an integral part of the urban life of each and every one of us. We city slickers must become active and involved urban farmers, if we want to see ”a simpler and more natural way of life” ever happen.

Rural life and industrial specialization

You may still be unclear about what I mean. Let me therefore take you back to a time when most people lived rural lives. Let’s imagine a small village from before the industrial revolution. Almost everyone made their living on farms or smallholdings, growing and producing most of their own needs. What they couldn’t produce themselves was generally bought or bartered from other local producers; only few things had to be brought in from far away.

Since they had to make most things themselves, most people were all-round experts as farmers, gardeners, carpenters, craftsmen, etc. Only few were highly specialized in a particular trade. Most families had a few cows, made their own milk products, grew grains and beans, vegetables, fruits and nuts, kept sheep for wool, grew seeds and herbs, ground their own flour, even built and repaired their own houses, etc.

The village was ecologically a closed unit. Dung from cows was fertilizer for grains and vegetables, and waste from vegetables and grains was fodder for cows and sheep. Only what came as a natural surplus from this ecological cycle was sold to markets outside the village. This made for a stable economy. One kind of crop failing was almost always compensated by other things not failing; hardly ever did everything fail at one time.

The industrial revolution changed that. Industry meant to bring different raw materials from different places far away together at one place and process them to a finished, specialized product. Next the product was shipped out and sold at markets, and with the returns the industrialist and his workers could buy their necessities of life (which they previously used to make themselves).

The industrial life style was attractive, for in good times one could make fantastic profits. Of course, it also had its downsides. In times of a low market one could also lose a lot. And everyone lost their independence because now their means of livelihood depended not only on themselves but also on economical and political factors beyond their control.

But this is not so much the issue. The real point is that, whether we like it or not, the industrial revolution changed the life style. From being all-round, self-sufficient farmers and smallholders, people become onesided specialists, often highly trained, in one field. Instead of growing and producing their own needs they now earned a wage through their particular expertise which enabled them to buy all their needs on the market. Today this is the regular life style of almost everyone. Many are not even aware that things have not always been like that, or that it is still possible to exist in some other way.

Urban agriculture

Today’s urban life is the outcome of the industrial revolution with its armies of specialized producers and consumers. “Giving up our urban life style” therefore means nothing but to give up the idea that the only way to exist is by selling one’s particular expertise in exchange for the power to purchase all of one’s basic needs. If we actually want to exemplify and lead others toward ”a simpler and more natural way of life,” then we’ll have to return to a pre-industrial concept of living, even in the midst of modern urban life. This is at least my claim. In particular, whether living in cities or not, we should, as far as possible, strive to produce as many of our own basic needs as possible, in particular our food. Anything else is not “simple” or “natural.”

As I see it, this is where the above GBC resolutions fail. For instance, one of the GBC’s recommendations is that all ISKCON projects and devotees should purchase ”produce, flowers, and milk products from ISKCON farms.” Of course, not considering that most ISKCON projects and devotees don’t live in a realistic proximity of any ISKCON farm, the real problem is the word ”purchase.” Doesn’t it convey the very idea of the industrial paradigm of onesided specialization and buying all of one’s basic needs? Since this very concept is what undermined the “simple and natural life” everyone was living, isn’t that also what we now have to change?

I would much rather have had the GBC recommend something like this: ”All ISKCON projects and devotees should as far as possible grow their own produce, flowers, and milk products. To the degree this is not possible, they should purchase these from other ISKCON projects or devotees, and as the last resort they may buy from the general market what cannot be procured in any of the above two ways.”

Some of you may object, ”Wait a minute! We are living in big, polluted cities. There is no way we can grow our own food here.” However, this is not true. Plenty of things grow in cities. Indeed, big cities are where one the world’s largest, if not the largest, agricultural crops are grown. Although written in 1988, the following observations from Bill Mollison are more true than ever (quoted from Bill Mollison, Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual, Tagari Publications, Australia 1988, p. 434-435):

”The singlest largest crop system in the USA, requiring 573 kilocalories per square meter to maintain – more than the energy used in the producion of corn or vegetables – is…” – have a guess!

”In the USA, it is estimated that 16 million acres were devoted to lawn by 1978…and a vast expansion of lawns has taken place in recent years.”

”By 1978, lawns used 15%-20% of the annual fertilizer production in the USA; equal to that used on the total food agriculture of India. As for water use, 44% of domestic water consumption in California is used for lawns, which is another enourmous public cost of lawns, as well as longterm groundwater, atmospheric, and soil pollution costs.”

The astounding fact is that any one the modern societies ”that grow extensive lawns could produce all its food on the same area, using the same ressources.” Think about that. All the land now wasted to grow lawns could easily produce all the vegetables, fruits and flowers that we need!

What more is, ”the yields of this agriculture create a massive public disposal problem, consisting as they are of poisoned grass waste, rich in Dieldrin, DDT, biocides, and nitrogen.” Mollison laments, ”The lawn has become the curse of modern town landscapes as sugar cane is the curse of the lowland coastal tropics, and cattle the curse of the semi-arid and arid rangelands.”

Bill Mollison points out that in the USA, ”The average suburban lawn is about 650-900 square meters.” Compare this with Srila Prabhupada’s statement: ”One can cultivate a garden. Anyone who has land—in India, at least, any poor man has a certain amount of land—can utilize that for Krishna by growing flowers to offer Him.” (Bg. 11.55 purp.)

How many have thought when reading this passage, ”Well, maybe it is like that in India, but where I live, not every poor man has a certain amount of land.” But the fact is, there is plenty of land everywhere, including most big cities; we just don’t see the forest for trees, or, rather, we don’t see the land for lawns.

Do you still believe that urban farming is not possible?

Practical urban self-sufficiency

Many are not aware how little land is actually needed to easily grow more food than one family, or one temple community of devotees, can use. Of course, keeping cows may not be possible in many of the world’s cities – mainly for legal reasons – but to fully supply one family with fruits and vegetables every day of the year can easily be done with 100-200 square meters of garden in most parts of the world. This includes northern places such as Scandinavia where my wife and I for almost ten years not even once have had to buy fruits or vegetables in the shops. Of course, we are obsessed with gardening so we cultivate more than 500 square meters in our back garden, supplying not only ourselves but also many of our devotee friends and neighbours with first class, organic vegetables and fruits of a quality and freshness never to be found on the shelves of the supermarkets.

If one doesn’t have one’s own garden, it may still be possible to lease a patch of land from someone who has. Even a few square meters can be utilized. Indeed, in some ways one is better off with too little than too much land, because that forces one to learn the art of growing a lot on a very small area. Once you get started you’ll be surprised how much yield you can get.

If even that is not possible, one must at least possess a balcony or some windows in one’s apartment. There one can grow herbs, tomatoes, chilies, etc., along with Srimati Tulasidevi. Thus no one is barred from growing at least something.

Now, cities are polluted, so it goes without saying that one should never cultivate a vegetable garden next to a highway or other source of pollution (but one can still grow flowers there, or even have a small nursery with trees and bushes which can be sold at a good price). Still, by looking around one will find that there are plenty of patches in every city where one can safely grow vegetables for human consumption. Maybe it is not perfect, but it is in any case as good as, and often better, than what one would buy at the supermarkets.

The problem is not that urban farming is not possible. The real difficulty is that most of us have become so removed from Mother Nature that we don’t have a clue even how to grow a few potatoes or flowers. The good news is that it is not difficult. Everyone who wants to can become a self-sufficient urban vegetable farmer by learning it from some who already knows it, by reading relevant books on the subject, and – most important – simply by doing it. There will be failures at first but also successes, and gradually, over the years, one will gain experience and become a very expert urban farmer.

What more is, being an urban farmer doesn’t require any great investment except one’s time. One doesn’t have to wait to get the support of one’s leaders in the community. No one has to step forward and start up a costly farm project that one can hope to fit into. Urban farming is extremely grass-root friendly. Anyone can do it by simply starting with whatever is available where one is.

It is also not a losing business; rather, it is surprisingly profitable and doesn’t need to be artificially subsidized. It is unaffected by good and bad times and can continue indefinitely and spread to others, once someone catches on to the idea.

Conclusion

It is very good that the GBC is concerned about the decline in the development of ISKCON farms. But the problem goes deeper than just not enough money and time put into our existing model of what simple and natural living implies. More than anything, it is a conceptual problem, going back to the roots of the industrial mentality, which now defines our life style and how it is feasible to maintain oneself. It is necessary, in particular, to give up the industrial concept of specialization, at least in regard to “a simpler and more natural way of life.” Just like we don’t hand over our eating to specialists, we also cannot hand over our life-style to specialists. A natural life-style is not meant only to be practiced by a few specialist “farm devotees” on behalf of everyone else who in turn have their own specialized services to take care of. Natural living will never happen, and our agrarian programme will continue to decline, until this industrial mentality is rooted out.

Once this is understood, the solution is not complicated or costly. What I call “urban farming” can be encouraged and implemented by devotees everywhere. Simply creating awareness through training and examples can change everything to the better and initiate what in the end may become a second wave – the urban wave – in ISKCON’s agrarian revolution, thus actually ”teaching everone a simpler and more natural way of life.”

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1 Unregistered

Hare Krishna!
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thank you for your very nice article.
I have been following this topic for some time and am interested in it.

I have also been wondering how far city people have drifted from natural life. Still I believe that there is a dream living in many city devotee’s minds about more natural life. The question is how on earth to get there?!

The gap between city and countryside is big. I think your ideas and thoughts are very usable. Making one’s life more natural begins here and now, not in distant utopian future. If one thinks that ‘I have to change everything and move to a farm’ (which doesn’t even exist) , that kind of idea is sure to never come true.

Growing one’s own flowers in the balcony and herbs on the window sill is small thing, but it is a beginning of the journey to nature. Too big unrealistic plans just paralyze people. The path begins with the first step. Without first step there is no second step.

I also recommend everyone to grow sprouts. That is very economical, green and healthy thing to do. Even in the winter. These kind of green activities give confidence and help devotees to understand their realistic potential.

With best regards, your servant Astasakhi dd

Comment posted by Astasakhi dd on May 24th, 2009
2 Pavamana

Thank you for a very nice post regarding urban farming. It may possibly be a wave of the future, more for the fact that the whole economic model is beginning to fail. But, I would like to point out that your suggestion of producing one’s own crops is not practical for many. Most devotees I know here in San Diego are renters, where there is no scope to grow a garden. And, if you have to work a job to pay for housing, making a garden is not going to happen in any serious way. I believe that, as Srila Prabhupada predicted, that people are going to come to our farms by the millions. When the artificial lifestyle is no longer possible, as we currently have under the ‘modern” capitalist model, then by necessity the people will be forced to relearn to grow their own food. Our farms will become the model for others to follow, if not now, then in due course of time. I believe that time is fast approaching, and the devotees need to think in terms of mass food distribution, as well as making plans for farm expansion. In the meantime, we do need to be working towards the goal of self-sufficiency, but still be utilizing whatever is at hand for preaching and attracting people to Krishna Consciousness.

Comment posted by Pavamana on May 24th, 2009
3 Unregistered

Thank you for the post. As mentioned by the comments above there are a few points:
1. some do not even have a lawn for a garden because they live in apartments
2. small scale urban farming does not live up to the dream of a self-sufficient farm community

These are certainly true, but they do not take away from your points of the importance of small scale gardens. Some devotees may have gardens, but there are of course many who do not and are content to just spend some time to mow the lawn.

It is certainly becoming natural all across the USA to maintain a garden (ask the Obamas) but I do hope ISKCON members become a part of it as well

Comment posted by amalagaura on May 25th, 2009
4 Unregistered

Hare Krishna.Nothing against this idea but its not the real deal .
The whole idea of cow protection is the self-sustainability example.Its all to do with fertiliser,composting and energy.The individual gardener is good but it does not demonstrate a sustainability from a farming,agricultural point of view.Veganism does not work because its not sustainable because you have to use animal products for fertilizer and energy.
The example we are supposed to be demonstrating as Iskcon is an agricultural life style based on land and cows through a symbiotic relationship with cows in a community based economy.Its not hard really.
The great advantage of cow protection from an agricultural point of view is the cow manure mixed with straw and urine,its just magic that veganism cant have.Nor can the individual gardener demonstrate this example of self-sustainability.
The cow protection programme is perfect and complete in itself and needs no outside or external help whatsoever.Our relationship with cows is symbiotic and the cows provide three major things.
1Milk. 2.Draught power.3 Manure and urine.With these three utilised in a symbiotic relationship we have the fountainhead of wealth and then we base our community lifestyle on this economy with all the associated integral skills that it needs which never leave the economy.So we just get more wealthy the longer its practiced,its a simple but effective practice.
There is also room for individuals to exchange goods for labour and vica versa to your hearts content but the main point is wealth never leaves the community because you get whatever you need fron the community.Farmers,carpenters,plumbers,builders,flowers,honey,cow manure,milk products,basketry,labour etc all can be exchanged inbetween the members based on symbiosis with cows and the associated needs therein.So we get the simple life because all we need is right there and we get to demonstrate the lifestyle too.
Devotees living in cities and towns can interact with such communities as much as they want to.Everyone is happy.
But it all has to be based on Cow Protection and relationship for it to work as intended by nature or Krishna.We have to start thinking about the stuff that comes out of the back end of cows,this is where the wealth is big time,or else it just evaporates into thin air and all the profit is gone.There is not much profit in milk and draught power.
We have to base our economy on Go Bar.The rest is just playing games at cow protection.

Comment posted by dusyanta dasa on May 25th, 2009
5 Unregistered

Hare Krishna!
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I think Lalitanatha’s idea of urban farming is very relevant in those countries that have no existing farm (yet).

Many devotees have no idea how to grow anything, and still they feel they should. If we want a farm community to manifest somehow, WE have to manifest it, and the best way to start is right here and now.

Using whatever space one has for any small agriculture will prove to oneself and to others that the person is really interested in farming. That is a good basis for bigger plans.

We can not expect that the local GBC just comes and does some trick and booom! there’s the farm. All the devotees should take responsibility. It is a sign for the GBC secretary also.

Your servant Astasakhi dd, Finland

Comment posted by Astasakhi dd on May 26th, 2009
6 varahanarasimha

His Grace Lalitanath Prabhu is one of our natural leaders there in ISKCON Denmark and joined in 1982 and started distribtuing Sril Prabhupadas books right away.Soon he would distribute the books but also translate them when not distributing.
I agree with everything he has written here , however I want to point out that what the GB is recommending ,seem like a first step in the selfsufficient farming ,I would be glad tgo know if any temple is selling fruits and vegetables, and flowers nearby .I would be glad to purchase.
I have a small garden and am surprsed how much vegetabels you can grove in a smal space.Srila Prabupada said there is no need for anyone to starve anywhere.The land simply has to be used for agriculture and if everything s offered to Krsna what a pefect world we could have.

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on May 27th, 2009
7 Citraketu dasa

Please accept my humble obeisances!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
and all pure devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead!

I believe Urban Gardening and Farming is a great idea. Here in New Orleans the devotees from New Orleans ISKCON try to grow some things in what little ground space they have around the Temple at 2936 Esplanade in New Orleans. They also commute to the New Talavan Farm in Mississippi to manage a small piece of ground set aside specifically for New Orleans ISKCON. But, the land in Mississippi will need constant maintenance. They are short-handed and lacking funds in this regard. There is a great need for development at the New Talavan Farm and so it is difficult to consider another alternative. Another alternative would be to purchase suburban land closer to the New Orleans Temple for growing flowers and vegetables. Otherwise, it would seem up to the individual to decide how much they can afford regarding gardening and farming. Isn’t home-grown food a better offering at the feet of Lord Krsna?

Society is putting so much pressure on devotees to surrender to the system. The system today is still predominantly punching a clock and a 40 hour work week. The more money we need the more we are faced with having to accept 40 hour work week and even employment that more or less involves the prohibited activities. This is difficult for young people who may be trying to raise a family. But, it may be possible to own some inexpensive property even near urban areas and hold a part-time job to take care of living expenses. Otherwise, there is simply collecting some donations during Hari Nama to possibly pay the bills.

Your servant in Krsna consciousness,

Citraketu dasa
in New Orleans

yajnaya-dharma@yahoo.com

Comment posted by Citraketu dasa on May 27th, 2009
8 Unregistered

I saw a documentary on how home gardening was the biggest hobby in America. It showed people growing veggies on their apartment balconies. I liked this article very much. This kind of thing should be encouraged. Of course not evryone can do it. But it would be much easier to start than for everyone to move to a farm. In many countries devotees do have space for a garden.

Those in the documentary said they loved getting home from the stressful office to their carrots inpots on the balcony..

Your servant,
Kavicandra Swami

Comment posted by KCSWAMI on May 29th, 2009
9 Unregistered

Hare Krishna dear Lalitanath Prabhu.

I am very glad about your article. Recently i have been watching a lot of documentaries about Genetically Modified Organizms, about Montasanto practise with all of their fertilizers, about Codex Alimentaris with their demoniac way of controling food, about polluting our food and our minds through food.

I have realized how much important was the wish of Prabhupad, to start self-sufficient farm communities. Now when we see what is happening with the economy and how much the food is being polluted it is becoming very clear that there is not another way, than to live independently. “Use what you can produce, produce what you need”, why are we neglecting this wonderfull request of our Spiritual Master. Are we really want to live simple and think high? Or we rather continue our way of living dependent on governments, industries, our material desires, and so…

One of the offenses while chanting the Holy Name is to disobey the order of the spiritual master, so are we not doing it? Is it so difficult to give up all of this “wonderfull” world of fancy cars, cinemas, pizzas around the corner, and so? The other offense as i remember from daily recitation in the temple is to maintain the material attachments, even after hearing so much and so long about this matter.

Together we could be such a powerfull family. I was thinking about that everyday since few years. If just a few families could sell their houses, cars, fancy furnitures, hundreds of clothes hanging i the closets, shoes, jewellery, TV`s, and all of that unnecessary JUNK, please notice that it would be enough to buy a land, make a big house for all devotees, plant many trees, vegetables and fruits, have your own cows, and live very simple and happy, but…

That would mean a corporation. Maybe that would be very boring, and not so exciting anymore? That would mean giving up the false Ego, that would mean giving up trips to Hawaii for a holiday, and many more things that are so “dear” to us, and that are keeping us way far from “Simple living and High thinking”.

We need a real revolution of our consciousness. We need to follow our Spiritual Master strictly. In this way we can change the world, we can influence masses of people, but to do it we need lot of devotees working hard for it.

I do believe we can do it, but we have to do it now, soon it will be very to late.

Your servant
bhakta robert

PS. Soon starting farm project in ARAVADE, India

Comment posted by bhakta.robert on May 30th, 2009
10 pustakrishna

I really enjoyed reading these observations and aspirations. It stirred up ideals which Srila Prabhupad shared with us on morning walks and the like. I want to share some of these with you. First, Srila Prabhupad saw how modern life was taking away valuable human time from us. For example, giving up village life, people would live far away from their place of work. They would travel long distances, sometimes taking 2 hours or more to commute in each direction. Then, work all day. Then, like the donkey, enjoy a little transient food and sex. And then sleep a few hours and do it again. In this way, Srila Prabhupad felt that humans were squandering their valuable human time, missing the great opportunity for spiritual advancement. To work very hard so that one could purchase a washing machine, a refrigerator, a car, etc. etc., created layer upon layer of complexity to human life. Just as Gandhi encouraged simple living, so that people in the villages could make a livelihood and take care of themselves, instead of moving to the large cities only to live upon the sidewalks in squalid conditions and to perform menial and demeaning work. Human dignity was being replaced by slavery to material standards that consumed a human being’s energy and time.
In order to provide an example for others to follow, and to provide dignity for the devotee community, Srila Prabhupad encouraged such attempts at self-sufficient farm communities. We must honor those devotees who have tried to accomplish these communities. Even if they may fail to succeed at first try, there is no harm to try again as individuals may become inspired at a later time. Some may predict doom and gloom for materially based societies, and they may be right. Either way, the efforts to produce self-sufficient communities centered around Krishna consciousness are truly noble ideals fully supported by Srila Prabhupad.
Such communities also allow individuals to contribute according to their nature. Hence, they are natural places to foster true varnashrama dharma. No one is above anyone else in a Krishna conscious world. All are serving the Center. All varieties of so-called “green technology” have their true place in such farm experiments These are truly exciting times indeed for people who want to embrace such ideals.
In any case, we have many avenues for devotional service by the grace of Srila Prabhupad.
Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on May 31st, 2009
11 Unregistered

Hare Krishna!
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thank you for your very interesting and relevant article.

I am in Hyderabad, South India. A heavily polluted city and just a walk about town is a real hellish experience. I am just counting my days and also saving enough money so i can get the hell out of this horrible city.

I have lived in Sydney for 9 years and my realization is that.. City life is abominable.

Hobby gardening is fine but Why did Srila Prabhupada’s give us farming communities?

“We dont want cities” said Srila Prabhupada. If we had followed Srila Prabhupada strictly we would now have been world leaders in terms of organic farming and cow protection.

We have failed to be a relevant organisation.

Srila Prabhupada started a movement, now all that remains is an institution.

Unfortunately, the only way for us to become serious about farming communites and cow protection is to wait for a total economic collapse or a serious Oil crisis.

Until that happens we will continue to remain an irrelevant and hypocritical society.

your servant,

Bharat

Comment posted by bharat on June 3rd, 2009
12 Akruranatha

Dear Bharat Prabhu,

Dandavats. I think you are being unnecessarily critical of ISKCON. Our society may not be living up to is full potential (there is always room for improvement), but every day japa is going on, Deity worship is going on, study of Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-Gita is going on, harinama sankirtan and book distribution is going on, association of devotees and worship of Tulasi Devi and so many other important things are being done to please Lord Krishna.

It would be nice if we also were setting a better example of simple living and cow protection that the world could follow, but there are plenty of farm communities and goshalas already existing in ISKCON as well. They could use help from those who are inspired to live and serve there.

Compared to everything else that is going on in the world, I cannot think of any more relevant organization than ISKCON. If the world does not yet recognize it as such, that just means there is so much opportunity for service in the form of improving ISKCON and bringing it to the world’s attention.

Anyway, that is the way I look at it. I am not saying ISKCON is perfect, but there is much to praise if we think about it. All praises should go to the farm devotees and their efforts!

One of our biggest challenges is always to get along with each other, to practice tolerance of each others’ minor faults, to encourage each other in positive improvements, to learn to work better together as a team, making improvements in our own service and finding best how to make a positive contribution. The tendency to focus on and speak about the faults of others is more or less universal, but it is something that does not serve us very well.

Finally, I am skeptical of the idea many devotees seem to have that a major economic meltdown or huge oil shock will necessarily cause ISKCON to flourish. It is true that people tend to be intoxicated by material opulence and that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but we will always have our work cut out for us in making people appreciate the pure life of chanting Hare Krishna, controlling the senses and studying Prabhupada’s books. This is maya’s kingdom and when you are selling diamonds you cannot expect to have many customers. Out of millions of people, hardly one will be a devotee of Krishna. Pure devotional service is very rare.

Anyway, I am sorry to hear you are suffering in the city and I hope you find a peaceful rural situation soon.

Y.s.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on June 4th, 2009
13 Madhava Ghosh dasa

A journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step.

I would also strongly endorse urban gardening as it is a step both in realtime and in consciousness towards the ultimate goal of farm communities.

“But we have encumbered our civilization in such a way that we have lost all simple living thing. We have manufactured in so many ways encumbered ways of life. Therefore we have neglected spiritual life. And because we have neglected spiritual life there is no peace.

“If you want really peaceful life, then you have to make your material necessities simplified and engage your time for spiritual cultivation. Then you will have peace. And that is the best type of civilization. Plain living, high thinking. “

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.3 — Boston, May 4, 1968

Gardening any where, at any scale, is a step towards simpler living.

“This will give us some idea of the proper preparation that the contemplative life requires. A life that is quiet, lived in the country, in touch with the rhythm of nature and the seasons. A life in which there is manual work, the exercise of arts and skills, not in a spirit of dilettantism, but with genuine reference to the needs of one’s existence. The cultivation of the land, the care of farm animals, gardening.

“A broad and serious literary culture, music, art, again not in the spirit of Time and Life-(a chatty introduction to Titian, Prexiteles, and Jackson Pollock)-but a genuine and creative appreciation of the way poems, pictures, etc., are made.

“A life in which there is such a thing as serious conversation, and little or no TV. These things are mentioned not with the insistence that only life in the country can prepare a [person] for contemplation, but to show the type of exercise that is needed.”

Thomas Merton. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. William H. Shannon, editor (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003): 131.

Comment posted by Madhava Ghosh dasa on June 5th, 2009
14 varahanarasimha

I got a message from Yogindra Prabhu the TP of ISKCON New Talavan yesterday I like to share ,it is sweet and sublime and simple, just a farming should be:
Hari Bol ! We are working on a new mission statement: Chant, Chant, Chant; Plant, Plant, Plant………
Perfect for a Temple / Farm. Don’t you think so ?

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

sincerely,
your servants at New Talavana,
Yogindra das, the cows and devotees

Comment posted by varahanarasimha on June 7th, 2009
15 pustakrishna

I would invite interested individuals to visit a Krishna conscious farming community. In some places you will find some large organic gardens when feasible. But, not every one is into farming or gardening. You can surely dovetail your interest in gardening or farming on one of the Krishna conscious rural communities. It is not for everybody. Try to imagine yourself behind a bullock team plowing a field for 6 or 8 hours, day after day…or waking up at 4 am to milk the cows…and so many other chores. It is not for every body, but it may be for some.
The dictum is: Simple living and high thinking. Do not be deceived into thinking that one can be lazy and still have a real farm and dairy. It requires alot of labor, some of it back-aching work. So it remains for those so inclined to do. And, if others have propensities for other activities that can be favorably dove-tailed in Krishna’s service, by all means they should be pursued. We really should try to avoid being adverse nor attached to life in the city or the farm. Attachment for the service of Krishna, in its variable manifestations, is desirable, always.

Humbly submitted,
Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on June 7th, 2009

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