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Village Life: Our Philosophy, Our Education, Our Lifestyle

Friday, 16 April 2010 / Published in Articles / 4,892 views

By HH Bhakti Raghava Swami

Annäd-bhavanti bhütäni parjanyäd anna-sambhavaù
yajïäd bhavati parjanyo yajïaù karma-samudbhavaù
“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajïa [sacrifice], and yajïa is born of prescribed duties.” [Bhagavad-gita 3.14] The basis of “Simple Living and High Thinking”, the norm for civilized human beings, lies in the acceptance of village life centered on the performance of sacrifice, yajna, which is born of prescribed duties as delineated in the scientific system of varnas and asramas. Such a social system, being very intimately connected with land, cows and higher consciousness, namely Krishna consciousness, is the most perfect and holistic way to live. When human society, due to neglect, bad leadership or misfortune, all based on lust, anger, greed, illusion, madness and envy, deviates from this established norm, a norm scientifically designed and created by the highest of authorities, Lord Krishna Himself, a system meant to uphold, protect and foster the universal principles of dharma or religiosity, we should know for certain that only chaos will prevail and immense suffering must follow.
In any discussions on varnasrama dharma, the importance of village life and social organization are a must. Village life needs to be clearly outlined and strongly promoted. Vedic leadership which will give shape to social organization needs to be explained and strongly advocated. As we have heard many times Srila Prabhupada explain, the very foundation of varnasrama dharma begins with cow protection for without cows the brahmanas cannot perform their duties within the varnasrama system and without following the various samskaras within the varnasrama system, the aim of life cannot be realized, the result of which is varna sankara and ugra karma at its worse. In such a degraded condition the dependent members of society, namely the cows, the brahmanas, the children, the women, the diseased and the elders cannot be protected:
“Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled. The Lord, therefore, is described as go-brahmana-hitaya because His incarnation is only for the protection of the cows and brahmanas. Unfortunately, because in Kali-yuga there is no protection of the cows and brahminical culture, everything is in a precarious position. If human society wants to be exalted, the leaders of society must follow the instructions of Bhagavad-gita and give protection to the cows, the brahmanas and brahminical culture.” [SB 8.24.5] What follows are quotations from various sources which support the basic premise enunciated above, i.e. without the majority of people taking up to the simple standard village lifestyle which allows for a natural execution of prescribed duties [traditional occupations largely connected with land and cows], which in turn favours the appearance of regular rainfalls which will guarantee the production of natural and wholesome food grains, no society can prosper or maintain itself for long, no society can protect its citizens from even simple calamities, no society can lead its members to the goal of life, self-realization, in brief no society can consider itself to be civilized. Hence the great need to remain in or return to the traditional village lifestyle as enjoined in the sastras and as advocated by all spiritual mentors and all responsible social leaders.
Srila Prabhupada [ISKCON Founder-Acarya] “Our philosophy is that you produce your food anywhere you stay, and keep cows, take milk, produce vegetables, food grains, and chant Hare Kåñëa. That’s all. This is our philosophy. Make your life successful. By becoming Kåñëa conscious, you become free from all these troubles of material condition. This is our education. Don’t be after these motorcars, television, and all nonsense things, sporting, wine, women. Don’t be after these. Simply eat sufficiently, keep your health nicely, chant Hare Kåñëa, realize Kåñëa, and go back to home. This is our philosophy.” [Conversations: May 25, 1974, Rome] In the above exchange, Srila Prabhupada clearly stresses the need to produce our own food and to learn to be satisfied with this more simplified rural lifestyle. In other conversations, Srila Prabhupada makes it abundantly clear that life will be more healthy and peaceful if we learn to depend on agriculture produce and live in the villages. He discourages people from leaving the villages:
“Nobody should take to very hardship labor. The modern civilization has discovered severe types of dangerous industries, and laborers are attracted for high wages. But they should not accept such work. Then naturally there will be less capitalistic idea. Because the laborer cooperates, therefore demoniac persons they take advantage and make unnecessarily increase of artificial demands of the body.” Better one should be satisfied with agricultural produce than go into large cities to be engaged in industry. Peaceful life depending on agricultural produce can bring him real happiness and prosperity, not otherwise. The more persons will be satisfied at their home, with home economics, not to go outside the home; that is peaceful life. In India, Mahatma Gandhi tried to organize villages in that way so that not to drag the people to the town. So, peaceful atmosphere can be attained only when there is large scale village organization, actually village life. Not to borrow the ideas from the cities in the village life; poet Cooper said that country is made by God, and the cities and towns are made by man. So that is the distinction. [Letter to Rayarama dasa, 17 October, 1968, Seattle]

Ethics of Chanakya (On Principles of Provincial and Local Governance)
As we know, Chanakya Pandit was a great diplomat and wise moralist whose writing are greatly appreciated by politicians, educators and people in general. In the book Ethics of Chanakya, the author summarizes some of Chanakya’s thoughts regarding the importance of statesmanship in terms of village self-governance, village sustainability and village autonomy:
“While an effective control was kept on towns, villages were free from the active jurisdiction of royal officials. They were rather autonomous bodies and were administered by local men. They were not only self-sufficient units economically, but politically, they were self-governing. Under such a system, villages continued to exist as self-sufficient little republics, which remained the basis of higher political existence. They survived successive turmoil or changes of fortune, and continued to maintain the prosperity of the people, in spite of the change of dynasties or the rise and fall of empires. The village was regarded as a co-operative social unit, and its head was the Gramika. From the evidence of one passage, this man seems to have been invested with minor magisterial authority and was empowered to expel thieves, criminals, adulterers and other undesirable persons.” [Ramesh, T. Y. Ethics of Chanakya, Sahni Publications, New Delhi, 2000, p. 178] It is clear from the above descriptions that villages were the norm for most people and that these villages prospered following principles of self-governance and self-sufficiency.

M.K. Gandhi [Extracts from VILLAGE SWARAJ] As often quoted by Srila Prabhupada, Gandhi was a strong advocate of village organization.
“In the future set-up we shall have only two things, the village and the world. We may have the names of countries on the map for the sake of convenience, but in reality, there will be no intermediary between the world and the village. All the authority concerning the material side of life will rest with the village. The village will have power to order its own life. The power of moral advancement of the whole world will rest in the world centre. The districts or the States will only be the agents of the village community. Thus we shall have the village at the base and the world Authority at the Centre. Human society will be organized on the basis of small village communities of say, 2 to 3 thousand souls each. There would be real fraternity and co-operation in the village community. There would be no private ownership. The village will be a model of corporate life. The world centre will be the ultimate co-ordination link between these primary communities.”
and from Preface….
“The experience of mankind testifies to the fact the collective life is more genial, varied and fruitful when it is concentrated in small units and simpler organizations. It is only small units which have had the most intense life. Collective life diffusing itself in vast areas would be wanting in cohesiveness and productiveness.
Ancient Greek City States and Village Republics of India provided specimen of all-round development of rich and puissant life. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “This system of village self-government was the foundation of the Aryan polity. It was this that gave it strength. So jealous were the village assemblies of their liberties that it was laid down that no soldier was to enter a village except with a royal permit….
As late as 1830 a British Governor in India, Sir Charles Metcalfe, described the village communities as follows: “The village communities are little republics having nearly everything they want within themselves and almost independent of foreign relations. They seem to last where nothing else lasts. This union of the village communities, each one forming a separate little State in itself… is in a high degree conducive to their happiness, and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom and independence.”
Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus, every village will be a republic or Pancayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. P. 69
I want to resuscitate the villages of India. Today our villages have become a mere appendage to the cities. They exist, as it were, to be exploited by the latter and depend on the latter’s sufferance. P. 83, from Village Swaraj.
“I am convinced that if India is to attain true freedom and through India, the WORLD also, then sooner or later the fact must be recognized that people will have to live in villages, not in towns, in huts, not in palaces. Crores of people will never be able to live at peace with each other in towns and palaces. They will then have no recourse but to resort to both violence and untruth.”

Nepal Villages
In a recent conversation with a former Gurukula boy from Nepal, the following description was given. “Even today many villages in Nepal have their own blacksmith, their own barber, their own tailor and other skilled workers. They serve the villagers as and when needed throughout the year. When harvest time comes these different labourers come to the land and are remunerated with grains and other produce from the land. This simple lifestyle and this simplified economics still prevail in many villages of Nepal today. It is the remnants of the ancient Vedic varnasrama system.”

Benjamin Franklin (one of the founding fathers of America):
“There seems to be three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbours. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, where a man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favour as a reward for his innocent life, and his virtuous industry.”

Daniel Webster (American lawyer and politician with great interest in agriculture)
“Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labour of man. Man may be civilized, in some degree, without great progress in manufactures and with little commerce with his distant neighbours. But without the cultivation of the earth, he is, in all countries, a savage. Until he gives up the chase, and fixes himself in some place and seeks a living from the earth, he is a roaming barbarian. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” [Speech delivered to the Massachusetts Legislature (Boston, 13 January 1840) [From Madhava Ghosh’s]

The meaning of varnasrama dharma and its practical application will remain largely concealed as long as individuals do not leave their present comfort zones in the cities. This requires the accommodation of another paradigm, the village lifestyle paradigm. Only by spending quality time in the villages will the inner truths and secrets of varnasrama dharma become revealed. The principle of self-sufficiency and sustainability will only become manifest when one learns to live in a localized way. As boldly stated by Srila Prabhupada, one must learn to live “on the lap of material nature”.
This will require tremendous courage and determination on the part of those taking up the mantle given to us by Srila Prabhupada. The varnasrama mission or daiva varnasrama dharma means re-introducing village lifestyle as the norm within all of societies, the most ideal norm which can best facilitate the advancement of our Vaisnava practices in devotional service. Education and training at the village levels must be re-introduced and for this reason both Gurukula and Varnasrama Colleges are of paramount importance. The Varnasrama Shikshalaya programs introduced in India are meant to serve as forerunners to these educational reforms.
Let us know, let us realize and let us demonstrate the importance of village life. Let us become convinced that village life, based on the eternal principles of Krishna consciousness, is indeed part of our eternal philosophy, our eternal education and our eternal lifestyle.

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    Dhanesvara ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you Bhakti Raghava Maharaja for your encouragement and all the quotes supporting simple life. It is a fact that people can be happier living in the village – BUT it requires some adjustment. Naturally those in the cities are conditioned by the modes of passion and ignorance, and to such a conditioned soul the village and sattva guna is not very attractive. Sattva is like poison in the beginning. BUT in the end it is like nectar! We need to remember this and act with intelligence to overcome our conditioning.

    I now spend 80% of my time in villages, and I must say that after staying for approximately one month without leaving I feel so good. My body functions better, my mind functions better, and I feel SATISFIED living very simply. The houses I live in are typically more than 50 years old. The have no running water, no bathrooms, and only wood stoves for heat and cooking. The life is somewhat austere, but it is SATISFYING. After staying for some time, when I first go to the city I can feel the agitation of rajo-guna, and the artificial city life seems so bizarre to me. And it seems more strange when I realize that ALL of it is totally unnecessary!

    When I encourage devotees to live in the villages they often ask: “What will we do there?” The simple answer to that question is: “Live”. Live your life without having to be somewhere else, without having to work for others, without having to leave your children in someone else’s care (someone who doesn’t love them they way that you do). Live with time for Krishna consciousness. Live in a peaceful environment where you are not badgered to buy something that you don’t need, or agitated by unnecessary sense stimulation of all kinds.

    Village life can be wonderful. It IS wonderful. But we have to escape from our conditioning in order to appreciate it, and to do that we have to live there for some time and adjust. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to live in villages because this is the way of life given to us by Sri Krishna, a way He designed for the human being. He is our dearmost friend and wants for us what will make us happy. Trust in Him. Live as He meant for us to live. And experience the peace and satisfaction of the simple life.

  2. 0
    niscala ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    Its interesting, Maharaja, how we can approach the same subject from many angles of vision. I thoroughly appreciate your stress on cow protection, which is certainly central to varnashrama. It is my contention, however, that the benefits of varnashrama can penetrate much further than only rural communities…to transform all of our centres, as Srila Prabhupada wanted, so that there would be no one incapable of becoming – or staying-a devotee, who wanted to be…

    He observed, as we do, that so many devotees that are artificially elevated to brahmanas, and then fall down from the principles. They are then ridden with guilt, or have to engage in pretense – what Prabhupada called “showbottle spirituality” – just so they can stay in the movement. Prabhupada’s reason for introducing varnashrama in ISKCON was specifically to bring everyone into the Krsna consciousness movement, and keep them there. The books are the theory that can attract everyone; devotional service, in the vehicle of varnashrama, is the practice.

    In my book “Varnashrama, the Eight-Petalled Lotus” I have stressed the important psychological, social and spiritual benefits of varnashrama- as they apply to society in general, and to ISKCON in particular. I have used the research of psychologists, sociologists and ethicists to make my points, all of which corroborate the reasons Srila Prabhupada gave for introducing varnashrama into ISKCON. I have also used sastra, and the examples in sastra to show how varnashrama is a healthy social structure that would provide a solution to many of the problems ISKCON now faces- not the least of which is its declining membership!

    Unless a healthy social structure is in place, then there will be no one to look after the cows- a situation extant in many of our communities- or arguably worse still, there will be people responsible for the cows, who do not really care for their welfare!

    So I hope you will find time to read my book, and please write to me, if you have the time… ( . Thank you.

    For an independent review, please visit Giridhari’s blog :

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