Bhaktivedanta farming

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare. This is mantra of the Vaishnavan monks of the Internation Society for Krishna Consciousness. I recently made a three way stay there for the WWOOFing scheme, tenting on the attached farmhold and learning many useful agrarian skills. My first impressions of the community was one of reverrence. The temple is an ashram and place of pilgrimage for most Hare Krishna folk. I would be allowed to stay right in the proximity however so the journey there did not have as much
sentimental value as for others coming from far in England. Under the very relaxed supervision of a man named Krishna Chatainya, who has been farming in the UK and India for 19 years and also a former Kushti wrestler, I began to adapt to the landscape and the new schedule. It is important for me to understand the place I am at, as well as adjust my daily routine and body cycle to fit the environment. The schedule itself was to be fairly passive, enough breaks for silent analysis of the work, and enjoyable hours of worthwhile labor in the gardens or farm for roughly 5-6 hours a day. My spiritual path pertaining to Hinduism is more closely akin to Shaivism, the worship of Lord Shiva in his archetypal forms and behaviours. More specifically, I am interested in the Tantric Sect of the Aghor. They are Sadhus who live on the Ganges river at the Ghats. This part could be written another time, but pertaining to my philosophy, there are some similarites to Krishna Consciousness, which attracted me to the temple/farm in the first place. Ideology aside, what ensued was a healthy tone of spiritual activity, old farming techniques, leisure and prasadam feasting.

The work
At least half my time was spent in the gardens. I sowed row upon row of coriander and fenugreek mostly in the polytunnels and prepared the soil. Other times were more of an industrious nature, using the oxen to plough a field. The Vaishnavas believe that is the bulls dharma (purpose) to work, thus they are castrated to reduce their testosterone levels and used as field oxen for any sort of ground tilling, disking, and moving organic material around the land. There is a powerful feeling of attaching the yoke to two massive oxen, a feeling came over me of empathy for how the ancient farmers of India would have experienced when the time for toil came after the long winter again. I picked up the plow technique fairly simply. Described how Shiva took to the bull when he mastered control over it. Although I think domestication can be exploited, the animals were treated well with only light whipping and verbal commands. I also spent time in their Goshala, the cow pens, milking them by hand, and grooming their skin. The milk is left with the cream in it and boiled, often with ghee and served at the dinners. It is also used to make a lot of the foods. Some of the cows yielded over 7 liters, when I did enough of them, I could obtain all the milk without problem. Back in the gardens, I learned how to use the scythe and sickle for cutting the cow fodder.
A careful hand was needed to avoid cutting the pumpkin plants, but even with the scythe, it was easy to slash around the brighter color leaves of the crop. Menial tasks such as weeding, and grating the soil had to be done as well, as late summer is mostly harvest and maintenance of the already thriving gardens.

The food was served and prepared with Ayurvedic ingredients and cooking methods. Many different distinct flavors and qualities of food are essential in the Ayurvedic treatments. The Hare Krishna’s are vegetarian which also suited my own diet. Many of the meals were served with many dishes 5-6 in total, plus the maha-prasad, the food offered first to the deities which is considered a sacred act. Usually fruit, sweets, japati, and a lentil/potatoe dish was prepared for this purpose. Only the boiled cows milk, rosewater, water and tea, and fruit blends were drank during the meals. A lot of traditional Ayurvedic Indian food is served, so I have taken the time to find their proper names. Including the sacred cow milk mixed with ghee, there is halva, khichdi, kadhi, baati, laddu, mysore pak, roti, chapati, rosewater, Indian herbs and spices, chick peas, yogurt, chutney. It was real food like this that the Brahmans and Yogis of Tibet and India would maintain as a strict dietary routine. I felt in my healthiest state from it.

In the down time, I continued with a daily yoga session, usually practiced in the upper field beside my tent, or the ornamental gardens near the temple. The lack of noise pollution and extra responsibilities allowed me to very deeply engage in the Hatha sequences and experiment with some more challenging asanas, or using bandhas and kriyas. I met another Shiva follower here, and we performed an Aghori ritual covered in ash and char, with a small fire. Music accompanied the rite and some relevant offerings and sutras read off in acknowledgement of the deities. Besides the yoga, I had continued to use the runes, performing a few self divinations with very profound results. The hours available for personal reflection allowed me to gain some further insight of the various spiritual activities I pertain to. I think this was a more accurate daily routine of perhaps the Bronze Age peoples, when art was starting to be deveoped because there was a less pronounced
division of labor and more time alloted for leisure an enjoyment. The freyr loaf fest past just after my arrival at the Manor house. I made a small offering of some English bread and cows milk in acknowledgement, and also worked the plow on this day. Jera had already cycled through the destructive aspect and was now being regenerated. With a few other of the WWOOFers, we tried a few bouts of Icelandic wrestling, Glima, in the fields. I also took to exploring the general area, foraging for blackberries, hiking nearby trails and walking at the Gypsy farm beside the temple grounds. On the opposite side of our fence, I also discovered a stone circle, in the form of a shamanic medicine wheel. The trees had adorned world flags of many European countries and a traditional conical tent was erected near some wood seats. It was very special to come across this by random. In addition, I am using the chakra system to probe deeper into tantric awareness of the self. Right now, I am working with the throat chakra Vishudda, and all its related qualities.

Although my own spiritual path is not identical to the Hare Krishna movement, there are some similarites. I did have some relevant conversations with a few of the monks on astral travel, the divine spirit energies within nature and returning our own atman to some form of Godhead. But on topics of evolution over creation, there was immediate clash. They believe that Krishna or Brahma put all the animals on earth, and continues to do so, whenever new animals are described. Trying to explain this in the manner that we sometime discover new species which should have been known before, but rationally speaking this is not always the case due to our living conditions. The Bhagavad Gita, their hoyl book if you will, is also full of paradoxes and commandments on how to live the ‘proper’ life by only performing certain habits, and dismissing anything that would be considered hedonistic, or material in the favor of blessings for Krishna relationships. I couldn’t agree with most of the sentiment they expressed, and my own spirituality was somewhat dampened in the process. I find there are too many parallels with the Kristjans, and even though they live quite austere lifestyles, it is not something I ever see myself to pursue.

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