November 9th,

Hello all. We hope this finds you all healthy and happy. Adam and I have now been in the village for over one month. Since our last blog entry, we have learned more crucial skills for living naturally such as : churning butter, making bedding for cows, utilising cow dung, making coconut oil, and cutting grass with a kati (sickle.) We have also had some profound realisations we wish to share.

 

{L – collecting fresh bedding for cows; R – transporting the bedding back home – Vimala (the worker) is underneath the leaves. Adam is doing his part}

 

For the past week, Adam and I have been trying to alter our daily routine. All of the yoga sastras (authoritative texts) recommend practicing yoga before the sun has risen. We now understand why.
It is monsoon season here in India (very hot and humid) and we are living in a mud brick house (also very heat absorbent) with no air conditioner, fan, etc. All of these factors make practicing yoga during the day very tough.
So, in order to avoid the heat, we have been waking up at 4:00 am in order to clean our teeth, drink water, visit the “dunny,” take a shower, and begin our yoga practice before the sun has risen. Our practice now ends around 9:00 am which leaves us more time (and energy) for the day ahead.

{Making of coconut oil; L is stone grinder to grind fresh grated coconut; R is brass pot smeared with mud. Grated coconut is boiled down so that the oil is extracted}
Living in the village has also brought to our attention many factors we will have to consider when living naturally. For example, if one wants to keep their house neat and tidy by cleaning it daily then wouldn’t it be easier to have a small/simply built house with less furniture? The more we acquire, the more we have to work to maintain it. This defeats the motto of “Save time and chant Hare Krishna.”

 

Therefore, another important lesson we have learned is that the house we will build (one day) needs to be simple, small, and easy to clean. Human life is meant for self-realization, inquiring ‘who am i,’ ‘why am i here,’ ‘why am i suffering?’ not working all day to maintain our dwellings.

 

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{Vimala demonstrating cleaning the floor with cow dung and leaf – cow dung is an insect repellent and antiseptic}

{L-Adam trying. R- close up}

 

{Any resemblance?}
Another important realisation is that the more we “need” external sources of food, medicine, and entertainment, the more entangled we become in the modern consumer driven economy. For example, if I have a headache and visit the doctor, it costs time and money. In order to produce income to fund such expenses, I grow a “cash crop” – say tobacco. In order to grow a cash crop, I need labourers to help harvest. Also, since I am growing my cash crop, I am not growing my own food – rice, wheat, veggies, etc and therefore need money to buy my food. Can we see the entanglement? Is there an alternative?
Medicine is a necessity of life, but depending on the modern society for it’s acquisition is not. Therefore we’ve added Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) to our list of things to learn in depth. By crossing medicine off the list of dependences, another entanglement ceases and we can further attempt to be self sufficient by growing our own food (and medicine.)

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{Columbine – natural “Neosporin” for cuts}
Another benefit of learning the ancient science of Ayurveda is that planning for what type of food to grow can be decided on a health perspective. Understanding what foods can be had regurlarly, their properties and qualities will help us discern what we will need to grow.

 

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{Local worker turning aracanuts. Ayurveda recommends chewing tambula (aracanut) to purify the mouth. Unfortunately, nowadays its is combined with tobacco and is injurious to health. Pavithra’s parents grow this as a cash crop ; we won’t be growing this because it is a forbidden food in our spiritual discipline due to it’s stimulating effect}

 

{Simple multi-purpose tool}
One final realisation we wish to share is the necessity of learning things properly. Since being in the village, we have been exposed to living how the villagers live. If we didn’t have a little familiarity in the subjects such as Ayurveda (science of health) and Vrksayurveda (science of agriculture), then we would probably accept as fact what the local villagers say.
However, since we are familiar with a few authoritative texts on Ayurveda and Vrksayurveda we are experiencing that oftentimes the common people are unaware of scriptural knowledge and therefore have to rely on experiential knowledge. So, instead of learning what each village practices according to their customs, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to study the authoritative texts more thoroughly? The practical side of learning something can be fruitless if the theoretical side isn’t first understood.

 

 

For example, we learned how to milk a cow in about 10 seconds. The knowledge of how to care for a cow – the specific diet for a certain breed, the herbal medicine for certain disease etc. – will take more time and effort to understand. According to the Manu Smrti (lawbook of mankind) a cow who has given birth within 10 days should not be milked; nor should a cow who is in heat nor a cow who is missing it’s calf. It is stated there that death eagerly approaches one who consumes such milk. If one didn’t know of such standards, then they would simply be following any ol’ fellow’s instruction.
This concept of learning properly from qualified teachers, according to authorised scripture, is found in the Bhagavad Gita and is called parampara or discipline succession. The idea is that if perfect knowledge is passed down through authorised teachers, without adulteration, then it is can remain perfect (descending knowledge.) Otherwise following the concocted ideas of others can be risky and confusing (ascending knowledge.)

 

And what is perfect knowledge? Knowledge from God Himself found in sacred texts like the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas etc. This eternal, absolute knowledge is not like the relative knowledge of modern philosophers and scientists which is always changing. “This was thought to be healthy and now scientists are discovering…. well, it’s not.”

 

Prabhupada describes this idea much more eloquently in the following lecture:

“A human being cannot give us any perfect knowledge. Therefore all the scientists’ statements, all the philosophers’ statements, they are simply theories; they are not fact. Because the knowledge is not perfect. Perfect knowledge can be had from one who is not defective. Defective means generally a conditioned soul has four defects: he commits mistake, he is illusioned, he has got a cheating propensity, and his senses are imperfect. The senses, we are acquiring knowledge through our senses, and if our senses are imperfect, how we can acquire perfect knowledge? Just like we are trying to see the planetary system through microscope or binocular, telescope, but the telescope machine is manufactured by a person who is, whose senses are defective. So through the telescope, how you can have perfect knowledge? Therefore one astronomer is placing some theory. After some years, that is made null and void; another theory is presented. Because everyone’s knowledge is imperfect. So we cannot expect perfect knowledge from the imperfect person. So our process of knowledge is different.”

 

Therefore we have understood that in order to learn a subject properly we need to study the relevant authoritative texts alongside gaining practical experience. Practical skills learned from different teachers are definitely useful, but as Srila Prabhupada mentions above, they are subject to be defected. And with our kind of mission, living completely in the lap of mother nature, understanding HOW to work properly will be essential.

 

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{Practicing the practical – making mat from coconut leaf. The feet are a very useful tool in village crafts}

 

Since our last blog entry, one of the most profound practical skills we have learned is churning butter. Since we are vegetarians, our main source of nutrients is ghee (clarified butter,) butter, and milk. In order to produce ghee from milk, there are a few steps to be taken.

 

First, milk the cow. Then, drink the milk. (Side note: Adam and I consume an average of 2 litres of fresh milk per day. A neighbouring family brings us extra milk since the amount of milk Pavithra’s family cows produces is insufficient. Different breeds of cows produce different quality and quantity of milk. For example, one local Indian breed, Malenadu Gidda, produces 3-5 litres per day whereas another Indian breed, Gyr, can produce 20-30 litres per day.)

 

If there is excess milk at the end of the day, add one teaspoon of yogurt to that (lukewarm) milk. The next morning, you will find all of the contents turned to lumpy yogurt. From that lumpy yogurt (curd,) churn using a churning rod for about 30 minutes. During the churning process, you will see chunks of butter separate from the butter milk. Finally, remove the butter from the butter milk.
This butter can be stored for up to 10 days if kept in cool water. The water should be changed daily to ensure freshness. Once enough butter is acquired from daily churning yogurt, boil on a low heat so that the milk solids separate from the (clarified) butter or ghee. Viola! There you have ghee.
P.S. Pavitra’s parents said that they have to churn the butter before noon. We later found that this was only because they wanted buttermilk for lunch. (Relative village knowledge vs Absolute authoritative knowledge)

 

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{Butter floating in buttermilk}

Hare Krishna,
Adam and Claudia

 

P.S. We would really appreciate any comments or questions. There is an option below for commenting. Thank you 😀

One thought on “Village Life : Part 2

  1. Congratulations, a very informative, scholarly, professional blog. I have learnt a lot from its reading. Love the paintings and photos. Keep up the good work.

    Like

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