Image source: Gretchen Rubin
Oscar Wilde said,
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.and this has been becoming a stronger fact with each passing day on the earth, more with lives of people like me who live in cities that run 24x7 to transform their citizens into machines of economic power. Over the last many years, a lot of people have been revisiting life and attempting to find out if this is really what life means. I have been a party to it as well. Sitting in front of a computer with Microsoft's Excel and Adobe's Acrobat Reader for half the day, riding on the road that hardly has any space, breathing air that has more CO & CO2 instead of O2, lying on the bed like a dead body at the end of the day in order to rise to leave to work the next day, the routine has definitely made life miserable adding to physical unfitness, mental weakness and emotional imbalance in life. There's no one to blame except ourselves. The companies pay us for the work we do and we are extremely grateful to them. There is a dire need to strike a balance between work and life to ensure that we lead better lives.
In a mail that was forwarded to me, I noted that some Samaritans had taken an initiative to conduct a 3 Days Workshop on living life with wisdom. Titled 'Sukhi Jeevana Residential Retreat', the program was scheduled from Feb 15 to Feb 17, 2013 at Melukote. It was broadly based on the themes of Jeevan Vidya, Holistic and Simple Living, Food and Health, Education, Ecology, etc. The organizers identified themselves as Arivu Educational and Cultural Trust, Janapada Seva Trust and Suvidya. The facilitators named in the mail were Vinish Gupta and Karuna Morarji of Jeevan Shala Trust, Dr AN Nagaraju (an Agricultural Scientist who has authored books on Holistic Living) and Dr SN Gananath (Founder of Suvidya, Environmentalist and Educationalist). I had a look at my leave calendar and found that the attendance was possible. I sent out a couple of emails, one for registration and another for leave.
At 9AM on 15th, the retreat began. Some breakfast and tea preceded. Dr SN Gananath started the day stating that it was time for us to discover where we are headed. The retreat was an attempt to improve the quality of our lives by understanding relationships within us and the world around with emphasis on family, society and the nature. Of course, 30 people can't sit and solve the world's problems but we can definitely try to better our lives. As the birds chirped in the background and the pleasant sound of the movement of Charaka (spinning wheel) from an in-house cotton manufacturing unit hit our ears, we were experiencing a different life away from vehicle horns and ambulance sirens. The breeze kept reminding us silently that there is nothing wrong in the world, we just need to stitch things around to make life beautiful. Philosophies do not produce actions directly but influence the decisions and thereby, the actions. Each one of us wants to be happy and each one of us have our own definitions of happiness, thus creating this dynamic world.
The workshop formally commenced and the stage was handed over to Mr Vinish Gupta, a linguist by formal training, has been a teacher and educator in different universities and colleges for over a decade. He has been involved with environmental and social movements and campaigns. He was also the member of a Buddhist monastic order for over a decade, during which time he had the opportunity to study and explore traditional Indian philosophies and systems of living. Vinish was educated at Jawaharlal Nehru University, at IIT Delhi, and at Deccan College, Pune. His current interests include value education, and design of environmentally sound systems and technologies. Vinish is the Managing Trustee of Jeevanshala Trust. He was accompanied by his wife, Karuna Morarji and their son, Naman. Karuna Morarji has a long-standing concern with understanding relationships between education and visions of human possibility and development. As an educator, she enjoys sharing an appreciation for critical social theory as a lens to see relationships between things that often appear independent and disconnected. Other current interests include food, film, processional/historical analysis and collaborative ways of teaching, learning and living. Karuna was educated in Sweden, India and USA. The duo, along with many others, have been proposing a better way of learning life through Jeevan Vidya.
Physical facilities are needed to lead a proper life. However, there is a need to examine how much physical facilities are needed and what their role is. It is also important to ask the question - besides physical facilities, what else is important in human life? The lack of attention to relationships leads to strife in the family, in spite of all the worldly successes. It is human relationships and human values that are a source of our perennial happiness. We all possess these human values inherently, and what is needed is to bring them out in each one of us.
The workshop addresses the self in the human being. It draws attention to human needs - need for human relationships, inherent desire to seek knowledge, and the joy that we naturally derive from these. In our current situation, we might be seeking different things. Thus, it brings about a dialogue between what we are and what we want to be. It does not posit happiness in an after-world, but here and now, based on a "humanness" common to all human beings. The approach is rational, secular and universal.
A Study of What IS
Language makes mental categories, without our being conscious of these categories. In most languages there is no distinction made between WHAT IS and WHAT IS NOT. From childhood we are taught to believe that we live in a world of opposites. For instance, we are taught that the opposite of light is darkness, opposite of good is evil etc. This gives a false impression as if both (the opposites) have an existence. But the reality is that one exists while the other has no existence. One is real (has bhav) while the other is false (or absence of the real or absence of what is, i.e., abhav). During the adhyayan prakriya one realizes that there is a difference between the word and its meaning (artha).
- Is it possible to UNDERSTAND?
- Is it possible to COMMUNICATE understanding?
- HOW MUCH/WHAT can one understand?
- How does it FEEL to understand?
- Can understanding be SHARED UNDERSTANDING?
- Is it possible to LIVE OUT one's UNDERSTANDING?
- How can the FACILITATOR/WORKSHOP help you in this process?
Jeevan Vidya - Self Exploration
Self Exploration is a dialogue between what you are and what you want to be. It helps us in knowing ourselves, better. With right understanding, we evolve. All the entities in existence are self organized, be it plants, animals, rivers, rocks, clouds, etc. Even human beings are self organized by default, but we keep hurting the organization frequently, leading to all catastrophes of the human life.
- Content of Self Exploration
- Desire - Purpose, Aim, Objective of life = Happiness + Prosperity
- Program of Action - To understand and live in harmony
- Process of Self Exploration
- Verify it on your right (on the basis of Natural Acceptance)
We all face situations with same pressures and yet, most times, our decisions are different. Further, decisions vary vastly from person to person. Jeevan Vidya delves on what I am, my needs, relationships. – to be verified by every individual on their own right. Basis for verification is the self, so no stated truths here. Self Verification is the highest form of authentication. Natural (Spontaneous) Acceptance (Sahaj Sweekruti) is the same for all human beings Every statement is a proposition that each individual has to verify for himself/herself. Proof of understanding is in living it. If it can’t be lived, it is not true/not understood.
- Nirikshan - Verify with Self (Self Realization is true, trans-spatially, trans-temporally and trans-culturally)
- Parikshan - Verify with Others around
- Sarvekshan - Verify with All (universal)
Jindagi ka Lakshya - Sukh Samriddhi
The goal or objective of life is Happiness and Prosperity. While happiness can be defined as Harmony without and contradictions, Prosperity could be defined as A little more than what one wants. Fact that you do not have a choice makes you unhappy. The next level of prosperity comes on sharing. If you do not have anyone to share, you feel deprived. All through the workshop, the attempt is to focus on means, not words. There are no implied opposites as it leads to mis-communication. There is a need to see the I through the eye. You get answers when you look at the I of other person and not just the eye.
On the first page of every economics text, we read that there are limited resources and unlimited wants and thus, we see deprivation.
More than 50 wars are in progress around the world and most of these have been waged by nations that have all the physical facilities and yet, they feel deprived because their definition is prosperity is flawed. The most unfortunate fact we see around the globe is that the soldiers of different nations are standing facing against each other with guns in their hands. Yet, we call it as peace just because the trigger has not been pulled.
The world is snatching from people who already have less. The lesson that there are limited resources and unlimited wants has been the harbinger of all the fight for resources. The source of current problems seems to be an overemphasis on physical facilities, glamour, consumerist lifestyle, and a false sense of satisfaction in competition and one-upmanship (Neighbors Envy.. Owners Pride..). The focus on the external things leads to ignorance about the concerns of the self. It leads to a blind race for wealth, position and jobs. Many times, in spite of achieving ones goals, the individual remains dissatisfied - jobs and positions that are intellectually and mentally unfulfilled and wealth that breeds chaos in family, problems in society, and imbalance in nature.
In my own thoughts, I felt that the point that somebody doesn't have something shouldn't necessary result into deprivation. Most successful people take motivation from it and try to move on to achieve, of course, until the actions are in right direction and efforts are with understanding. I just tried to put up a corollary to the proposed theorem on deprivation to war.
Limited Resources, Unlimited Desires
Anyways, that apart, a Jeevan Vidya workshop is an intensive 40-hour learning experience that seeks to bring one’s attention to neglected and subtle facets of life; issues related to interpersonal relations, education, society, environment, aspirations, success are discussed and participants are provided critical tools to help them explore the rich web of connections between seemingly disparate aspects. There is no sermonizing. The facilitator presents sets of proposals, and helps participants bring their attention to bear on the inner workings of their thoughts, fears and aspirations. Gradually one begins to interrogate hidden assumptions and get a sharper, clearer view of the whole intricate fabric of life; one begins to see new possibilities for positive human action. The idea is to trigger an empowering, self-critical inner dialogue that begins with the workshop, but doesn't end with it.
We all live life on 3 major components which determine almost all that we do and aspire to do in life.
- Suvidha - Physical Facilities (Food, Clothing, Shelter, Instruments)
- Sambandh - Relationships
- Samajh - Right Understanding
Focus on Physical Facilities constitutes Animal Consciousness while focusing on all the 3 components in required proportions constitutes Human Consciousness. By moving from AC to HC, we develop and make our lives better. Unfortunately, the world has misunderstood the term Developing/Developed Country with the word Developing/Developed Economy. The world has forgotten that economy is a part of it. In the process, the economic interests have become way larger and significant than the nation's interests.
To be happy, one must have sound mind and sound body. Stress uses up a large volume of nutrients from the body. In the natural course of life, Fear (Bhay) and Enticement (Pralobhan) do not work.
Self & Body
An attempt is made to understand human beings as comprising of two entities that coexist together – the ‘body’ and the ‘Self’. The needs or requirements of the body (food clothing, shelter) and the self (to know, be satisfied, respect, love, help others, etc) are entirely different, both the needs are required to be fulfilled. This is the basic human design. It is quite easy to understand this distinction between the body and the self, once our attention is drawn to it. For instance the body tastes, smells, hears, touches, sees through its sensory organs and passes on the information to the self. It is then the self, who comprehends or makes sense out of all this. It also evaluates these senses – likes them, dislikes them etc.. It is the self who thinks, perceives, has likes and dislikes, reacts, responds etc.
But what we finally understand is that the need of the self is intangible in nature. It craves for intangibles like knowledge, happiness, trust, respect, love, bothers about people around it etc.. Also these needs (of the self) are constantly there, incessantly and are without any limits. While the needs of the body are those of the tangibles and are not incessant. For instance once we have had food we can eat again only after an interval. Also there is a definite limit to the food we consume. Likewise all the needs of the body are limited. But the need of the self is continuous.
All the participants were asked to list out what they want from life. A list of 50 desires was written on the board.
On completing this exercise, all these needs were analysed one by one to conclude that there are 2 types of needs that we all want.
- Needs of the body
- Needs of the self
Our conditioning and teachings make no distinction between the self with the body. The two are taken as one therefore no distinction is ever made between the separate requirements of the two entities, which can be said to coexist in a human being. Because of this basic confusion most human beings put their entire effort in satisfying the bodily requirements. But satisfying the bodily needs does not satisfy the self. And the yearning of the self for the non material, the intangible remains in a human being. It is part of the human design. So the dissatisfaction remains. The dissatisfaction prompts the human being to strive for more and more tangible items because they are unable to understand the self -whose requirements are entirely different, intangible in nature. There are no limits to the demands of the self, for the intangible. The self wants happiness/satisfaction, love, respect, trust.
While needs of the body are the same for all the human beings, needs of the self vary materially. It was important to note that there is enough in this world to meed the needs of the body. The ones marked in red in the list above indicate the needs of the body. As far as the needs of self concerned, again, there are enough resources to meet them to an understandable extent. Further, on analyzing all the needs of the self, it was concluded that, ultimately, these all converge into the following 6 needs.
At any given point of time, there are 3 things that happen with human beings that end in decision making. This is called the mental visualization technique.
- Ichha - Desire - Imaging
- Vichaar - Thought - Analyzing
- Asha - Selection or Expectation - Selection
For every action that we do, we are the Drishta (See-r), Kartha (Doer) and Bhuktha (Enjoy-er/Sufferer). Generally, all actions are taken in 3 motivations (directions).
- Right Understanding
In the process of education, we move from assuming to knowing. However, modern education has merely become a programming of preconditioning. The human inhabits the following ‘levels’ and has a need to understand the each of them and his relationship with and within each of them:
- Within the self (knowledge of self, no contradiction within the self)
- With the body (Healthy body)
- With family (Mutually fulfilling relationships)
- With society (Harmonious systems for functioning of the same)
- With nature (Protection, enrichment and right utilization )
- With the entire existence (Consists of space, atoms, molecules, etc - Know the relationship and fulfill it)
The whole of existence is in the form of co-existence, as units submerged in space. Each unit is in self-organization within itself and fulfills its relationship with all other units. Every unit is reflected onto every other unit. There is harmony in existence. One does not have to create the harmony, it is already available/there. One only needs to understand existence and align oneself with it. The basic human need is to understand this.
Nurture and Protection of the Body
The body is the most complicated and advanced physio chemical instrument. Whether one uses the body or abuses it, the natural acceptance of every human being is for the nurture and protection of the body. Some critical points to note here are
- Aahara-Vihaara - All intake, roughly food and lifestyle.
- Vyaayam - In the normal course of life or to be supplemented by additional exercise.
- Aushadha - In case food, lifestyle and exercise are not in sync, we need medicine.
- Swasthya - Healthy body is one which can do what the mind tells. All organs are in harmony with the mind.
- Sanyama - Only the self taking responsibility for the nurture and protection of the body.
Unfortunately, today we work from 9am to 5pm to lead a hazardous lifestyle. Off late, we have started working from 7am to 9pm as well to ensure that we have money to buy medicines in the future. We earn to insure our health and our lives and yet, we fail to realize that we are not doing anything to facilitate a good health or a better life. A black liquid with a secret formula, proven to be dangerous for the health, is consumed without a second thought at an enormous premium to the production price. We call them soft drinks. We see ads where people stand with a cigar in hand and claim 'Life life, King size' and fall prey to them. When science itself says that skin is soluble and thus, whatever we put on the skin can very much enter our bodies, why do we produce cosmetics and related stuff? Even after knowing the harm, how/why we put anything our skin that we can't put in our mouth? Some questions are really challenging to answer. The body has an inbuilt cleaning mechanism. In fact, there is no need to use a soap as well. The body has an inbuilt time sensitivity system as well which initially runs on sunlight senses and further, based on lifestyle and changes, improves and advances to tell us time. We don't need a watch either.
The solution lies in Aahar-Vihaar and the relief lies in Aushada. We must focus on the solution.
- Extreme dominance creates an inferiority complex in the child.
- Extreme giving creates a superiority complex in the child.
The best way to overcome loneliness is by loving everyone and treating them as equal to us. We must accept others' shortcomings as imperfections are a part and parcel of life. Instead of continuing our negative attitudes, it would be better now to love and live now. Ultimately, acceptance or rejection of all that hits our ears depends on how our mind perceives it. We ought to keep doing something good for others and love them with respect.
Anger comes to us as a result of expectations (exaggerated importance and unrealistic expectations). The mental visualization technique can help in overcoming the different complexes. One thing that you get from self righteousness is anger.
Harmony with Family
Propositions for Harmony with Family
- Relationship IS between Self (I) and Self (I)
- There are feelings in relationship
- These feelings can be recognized and fulfilled
- The recognition and fulfillment by right evaluation leads to natural happiness
Respect = Samman = Sam Maan = Samyak Mulyan = Right Evaluation
- Adhimulyan = Over evaluation
- Avamulyan = Under evaluation
- Nirmulyan = Other evaluation
Right evaluation is naturally acceptable to all of us. However, since the past, we have been evaluation people based on differentiation of body (size, color, sex, age, etc), physical facilities (power, position, money, etc) and ideology. Through out the history, there is evidence of massive movements to end such differentiation as it leads to exploitation. We must evaluate everyone rightly and only then, respect is possible. When we do it, we realize that the other is strikingly similar to us. Perhaps, if we had not evaluated each other on the basis of our bodies, the cosmetics markets would have never taken birth. On the other hand, I was thinking that we must respect people with good health as the underlying assumption is that they would have done the required effort to maintain their bodies in good health. Of course, when we evaluate people based on body composition and feel good, it is only relative, ie, till someone better than us passes by. Life doesn't come with guarantees and warranties. It comes with possibilities. We must live with respect, in respect, eternally.
Understanding is Sarvathomukhi, i.e., All encompassing, Preemptive and Irreversible.
Assurance that the other also wants my happiness and prosperity (Abhay = Sukh Samruddhi ka Aashwasan)
Trust = Intention + Competence
Propositions for Intent
- I want happiness for myself
- I want happiness for others
- The other wants happiness for himself/herself
- The other wants my happiness
Propositions of Competence
- I am able to always make myself happy
- I am able to always make the other happy
- The other is always able to make himself happy
- The other is always able to make me happy
On analyzing trust as a combination of intent and competence, it was realized that people have right intentions at all times but they lack competence to execute their intention due to lack of right understanding and thus, create distrust in others. The lack of trust generally arises when we question the intent of the other person. As a general observation, when others do something wrong, we question their intent while when we do something wrong, we blame it on our competence and claim that our intent was right. In the process, the world has gotten so busy questioning others' intent that it hardly spends time to build people's competence. For example, we isolate a criminal from the world by locking him up in a prison as we question his intent. However, we should actually help him realize that he performed criminal acts due to low competence and help him move up the competence ladder and be a better person.
Proposed Definitions of Values of Life
- Affection = Feeling of being related to the other
- Care (Mamtha) = Concern for the well being of the body of the other
- Guidance (Vatsalya) = Concern for the well being of the self of the other
- Reverence (Shraddha) = Feeling for excellence (of understanding)
- Worship (Puja) = Any effort made towards excellence of understanding
- Glory (Gaurav) = Feeling for people who have worked for excellence in the past
- Gratitude (Krutagnyatha) = Feeling for people who have contributed for our excellence
- Love (Prem) = Feeling of being related to all people (Poornatha ke anth mein Anubandhan)
Sambandh - We have relationship with everyone and everything. The choice to recognize them or not is in our hands. Its just that we do not have contact (Sampark) with others. Relationships exist only in the presence of trust and respect. We must never make enemies with others as we end up sleeping with them (they never get out of our minds). Today, we have more guards and less security, more guns and more insecurity, more relief measures and less solutions.
Set of people living in proximity, fulfilling values.
Justice can happen between people only with their own trust and respect. Courts can only deliver a verdict, not justice. Justice happens when all the stakeholders understand each other's values. When the mood is either you or I, we get no solutions.
Vivaah = Vidhi-Vadh Sambandh ka Nirvaah
Marriage is the fulfillment of a relationship in a proper way taking responsibility for nurture of children and passing on values to them and engaging in productive meaningful work as a family.
We must understand that we all have the same potentials. We excel in whatever we pay attention to. However, the world has certain definitions of success and thus, we all try to live by them. Excellence is attained by everybody in their own interests. It requires a great zeal of energy,enormous confidence and tremendous guts to go against what the world has defined as success, happiness or for that matter, what is good for all of us. We have to mark a distinction between the following points to grow, develop and live happily in life.
Assuming -> Knowing
Agreeing -> Understanding
Price -> Value
Relief -> Solution
Fear/Enticement -> Understanding
Special -> Excellent
Essential -> Optional
Complete happiness is achieved in life only when all the stakeholders are happy. It happens only in cases of win-win situations. We have been running behind things that are optional as they have been marketed to us as essential. In the process, the optional have become more powerful than essentials.
- Sapeksh Atma Vishwas - Self confidence dependent on others.
- Nirpeksh Atma Vishwas - Self confidence independent of others (absolute).
Natural acceptance needs not be majority's unanimity.
Anger is the manifestation of not having the solution in the situation. Once we see the solution, we become calm by default as our natural acceptance is for the solution.
Harmony in Society
At the society level, the decisions are taken by the lawmakers in the form of policies and guidelines. These policies and guidelines must be aimed at helping people reach their goals.
Maanav Lakshya = Human Goals
- Samadhan = Resolution (Right Understanding)
- Samriddhi = Prosperity
- Abhay = Trust
- Saha-Astitva = Coexistence, especially with the nature
To help people achieve these goals, the policies must focus on
- Shiksha-Sanskar = Educated Living
- Swasthya-Sanyam = Responsible Healthcare
- Utpadan Karya Yojana = Productive Work (Right Utilization, Production, Protection)
- Vinimaya Kosh = Exchange and Storage
- Nyaya-Suraksha = Justice and Security
When we tried to analyze how policies are being framed, we find the following differences.
- Policies do not focus on Abhay or trust (absence of fear). They only ensure that we are prepared to fight the fear (Nirbhaya).
- Policies have confused prosperity with monetary gains. Prosperity is the feeling that you have a little more than what you need.
- Exchange of goods should ideally focus on bettering one another's lives. However, the focus is on giving something in some form to snatch what the other person is having. It is a system of maximizing monetary profits.
- While we would store for future, corporations only concentrate on disposing off all that they have.
- Today's biggest insecurity is whether the nature will be able to fulfill our needs. This has triggered a chaos to consume now.
Harmony in Nature
In existence whatever we see – all the physical entities (the ikais) can be classified into four major categories. These are
- Padarthavastha (or the material world)
- Inherent Nature is to ‘compose and decompose’
- Pranavastha (the world of trees, plants and vegetation)
- Inherent Nature is to ‘grow’
- Jeevavastha (the world of birds and animals)
- Inherent nature is ‘will to survive’
- Gyanavastha (the human world ).
- Inherent nature is ‘will to survive’ with knowledge and happiness/satisfaction/sukh.
There is harmony in the nature by default. All the three orders, Material Order, Plant Order and Animal Order are in harmony with one another. Even within themselves, there is an internal harmony. However, at the human order, there is neither harmony within us nor with the other orders. We must understand that no matter what we do, everything comes back to the material order. Thus, we have become responsible for spoiling the harmony in nature. Science says that 8 trees are enough for producing food for one person for his lifetime. Initially, medicines were coming from the plant or animal order. Man came in and started producing them from the material order. For a scientist, the whole world lives in the periodic table. He doesn't understand the relationship between these orders. Modifying the genes of plants not only corrupt the plant order but also spoil the animal order that consumes these plants. We know that plant order can be replenished and yet, we do not build homes using naturally available material and rather produce various substances that spoil the material order.
Jeevan Vidya is presented in the form of the above propositions, and does not expect anything to be accepted on faith but to thoroughly examine the truth or veracity of these propositions. Through adhyayan prakriya (process of learning through propositions) it helps us understand the basic nature of all entities. The participants are requested to evaluate these propositions on their own right (adhikar) without taking any recourse to past beliefs (manyata). The basis of evaluating the propositions is natural acceptance or sahaj swikriti (which is inherent in every human being and does not change with space or time) instead of past beliefs or conditioning, which are subject to both space and time. Human beings of any race, color, creed, caste, sex or age tend to agree on certain issues e.g., ‘every one wants to be happy’ or ‘everyone wants respect and trust’ etc.. There are no disputes over such propositions. This agreement, which remains unaffected by time and space, stems from the fact that sahaj swikriti on such issues is inherent in all human beings. It is part of the design of a human being. The entire adhyayan prakriya is in the form of propositions and dialogue (samvaad). The adhyayan prakriya uses tarka (logic) and language for drawing the persons attention towards things in existence.
Jeevan Vidya is a human central existence based study. It helps us understand the basic nature of all entities - viz from atoms, molecules, space, planets, plants, animals, to the human being -needs, nature, behavior etc. Jeevan Vidya is presented in the form of propositions, and does not expect anything to be accepted on faith but on the basis of rigorous self-examination the truth or veracity of these propositions. It is distinct from adhyatmavaad or spirituality (which ultimately takes us into secrecy - rahasyavaad and reaches the conclusion that life is an illusion and consequently takes one towards either bhakti or virakti). On the other hand materialism (which denies anything but the senses and ultimately takes us in the direction of limitless consumption at the cost of the self & nature) has concluded that life is chaos. Vidya in some sense, comes up with a resolution for the Human Condition in its entirety. One is able to evaluate all states that one inhabits: within the Self, with Body, Family, Society, Nature & Existence and find answers to all questions that one may be concerned with. Vidya has no known similarity with any current human teaching or knowledge system and does not have any ritual, worship or supplication. Each human being has independent free will and evaluates all the propositions on his/her own right.
Limited Resources + Well Defined Needs = Prosperity
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Dr AN Nagaraju is 84 years old and says that he plans to live on for another 40-45 years. Well, the mere mention of these words can inspire a large number of people who plan to retire from work at 40 and the world at 60 in the ongoing craze of 'Live life, King size'. In the first 40 years of his life, he suffered from various health complications like arthritis, asthma, frequent headaches, psychological complexes, etc. He was working as an Agricultural Scientist in the United States of America. One fine day, he decided to head back to India and promote Organic Farming. When he started speaking about it, nobody took interest. However, he continued to focus. He also worked on health, diet and other factors relating to a holistic living. In the process, his health took a better shape and over the last 40 years, he has been living healthily. He doesn't need a chair while he delivers his lecture. It is very evident that chemical farming spoils the quality of food as well as the soil. Modifying food, the genes, corrupts the food severely. Though we can produce more quantity, the quantity will fall in the future as the soil will not have the required nutrients to facilitate the growth.
We are being brain washed to modern food and we have cheated our tongue by adding sugar. Cooked polish rice has become the biggest enemy of health. The world has forgotten all grains except Rice and Wheat in the run for economic growth. Thus, it would not be wrong to say that the best food to eat would be the ones which men ate when they were evolving from apes to human beings, in the absence of technology, i.e., Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts, etc. We have forgotten many nutritious millet that are wonderful for our body, solely because their shelf life is low and in case they are not sold, the retail outlets might make a loss on them. It is also interesting to note that crabs, frogs and similar animals have a vegetarian diet and thus, their body composition is different. Modern food, vegetarian as well as non vegetarian, comes along with enough harmful chemical contents to harm our bodies. However, we have been completely brain washed to pay no attention to this. A research shows that it would need at least 100 years of completely healthy food for our body to get to rid of the DDT content we intake every day. Fat is an essential component of balanced diet. Groundnut oil and Olive oil are recommended while sunflower and soybeans oil must be avoided.
When you enter a departmental store and look at the shelves, there is hardly anything that you would need. Yet, when you walk out, there is no space in the bags. The corporations have successfully transformed us from human beings to consumers. In other words, the animal consciousness has overtaken the human consciousness by miles. Eat Maggi once and you get addicted forever. The same is the case with Gobi Manchoorian or Pani Pooris. We must consciously make efforts to move from bad food to good food. By bad and good, it means bad or good for the body. A sudden jump can hurt metabolism and therefore, a silent move is essential.
Dr Nagaraju also spoke on the environment as well covering the points
- We all think, what can one person do? The history is full of examples of all that has been done by one person alone. We ought start working to make a difference. The support shall follow. There are numerous examples of people stopping the Government and corporations from installing factories that can damage the environment. Everything starts with one person.
- Pesticides used in chemical farming are the biggest pain points in our food value chain. The devastating effects are being seen in the form of cancer today. Cancer is not accidental. It is a creation of our greed for economic growth.
- The body produces cancerous cells everyday. However, the body also produces required components to kill these cells and keep the body healthy. With all the chemicals entering our body, we are losing the abilities to kill these cancerous cells through our immune system and thus, the need to kill them through other systems and in the process, kill ourselves.
- People have to come together and demand healthy and organic ways of farming lest there is all chance that we all will go back to farms. It is possible. It has taken only 2 decades to bring in all the industrial and service transformations.
- All the essential commodities we buy are polluted. Food that we buy comes with free diseases.
- Reverse Osmosis (RO) takes out all the minerals from the water. The process should only be used for hard water to make it soft. Using RO for regular water makes it dead water.
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Video Session and Creative Sessions
After the 1st half of day one came to an end and it was lunch time. After the lunch, we listened the Ted talk by John Francis. John Francis has been a planet-walker traveling the globe by foot and sail with a message of environmental respect and responsibility (for 17 of those years without speaking).
The next on schedule were some creative sessions based on our interests. The options available were
- Haiku - Japanese poems
- Kirigamy - Paper cutting
- Gaadhe Maathu (Riddles from Karnataka)
I chose to go ahead with Haiku. Haiku is a very short form of Japanese poetry, often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas "cutting word" between them, a kind of verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related. The essence of haiku is "cutting". Traditional haiku consist of 17 syllables, in three phrases of 5, 7 and 5 respectively. Any one of the three phrases may end with the cutting word. Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables, this is inaccurate as syllables and on are not the same.
A Haiku in English is a short poem which uses imaginary language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition. It is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language. The class was taken by Shashi Bhushan Singh. We read a few Haikus and started writing our own Haikus.
A Haiku in English is a short poem which uses imaginary language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition. It is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language. The class was taken by Shashi Bhushan Singh. We read a few Haikus and started writing our own Haikus.
Some Haikus that I managed to write
- Tri Color.. A glass of Beer.. Sachin Tendulkar..
- Tired? Black Ants on Red Wall.. More Reasons?
- You and I.. Irani Chai.. Let the time fly..
- Shaky Networks.. Vaastu Compliance.. Cheers..
- People Love.. Things Use.. Permutations Combinations..
Video Sessions on Day 2
After lunch on day 2, we watched a video titled Small Pleasures. This was another evidence that happiness is a state of mind and we all can be happy if we have well defined desires in life. The parallel sessions on day 2 were on the following topics.
- Transitional Analysis
- Anger Management
- Video Session
I opted for the video session. We had a look at The Story of Stuff - How thing work, about stuff (http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/). The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. The Material Economy is a system in crisis as it is a linear system while we live on a finite planet. It has been bumping over its limits. In the process of focusing on the system, we have forgotten people who form the part of this system at all levels. The Government and Corporations have made the people slaves. The life cycle of products.
- Extraction - Exploitation of resources
- Production - Pollution. Toxins In, Toxins Out
- Distribution - Externalizing the costs
- Consumption - Buy or you lose your value in the world. Work - Watch - Shop
- Disposal - Making other nations dumping backyards
The next video we looked at was Story of Bottled Water (http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-bottled-water/). It employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufactured demand - how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industry's attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces.The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all. In the process, I was thinking, perhaps, like Starbucks or Cafe Coffee Day rent their real estate space in the name of selling coffee, the water bottle companies are selling the plastic in the name of water.
We had a small discussion session after watching the videos where we tried to discuss the value chain, ecology, solutions to the graving problems, etc.
The self introductions happened at the end of the first day. Everyone spoke a few lines about themselves and the purpose of attending the retreat. I had no purpose. I just wanted to get out of the city. But then, I have been thinking of this from a long time and it was only because of the concurrence of the theme of the workshop and my thoughts that I decided to go on.
Yoga classes were conducted at 6AM on day 2 and day 3. The classes began with warming up session, followed by Pranayama and Meditation. Several asanas (positions) and breathing exercises were taught in the course of time. The yoga teacher, Sri Maruthi, was also kind to gift all the participants with a book that contained all information to get started with Yoga in daily life.
Kayytutthu - The eco-friendly dinner
The second day's dinner was a memorable one. The first day's dinner too was memorable for me considering it had all the stuff that I do not eat. Kayytutthu is a concept generally employed in North Karnataka where the mother (or father) prepares rice balls and hands them to the other members of the family for consumption. This has several reasons including care for the family, sharing, etc. I was remembering the Mother India song from the movie Kaliyuga Bheema. It was a new concept for many people. It is similar to a family dinner.
After dinner on second day, we had an hour of variety entertainment session. Some participants sang songs, some performed a bit of music and some indulged in dance as well.
One of the participants took an initiative on the third day to teach us how to prepare chikkis (a traditional ready to eat sweet made from groundnuts and jaggery). It was an interesting learning experience. While I did not participate in the preparation process, I did do the quality testing and certification.
The Mini Library
Kashaya and Lemon Tea
Though the regular tea and coffee was available, participants were encouraged to savor Kashaya and Lemon tea which have medicinal benefits.
Self help is the best help
All through the workshop, participants washed their own plates and tumblers. Doing our work by ourselves, in the presence of an opportunity to outsource, makes us humble.
Dariya Dil Dukaan
The entire workshop was based on volunteerism and gift culture. For all those participants who were unable to pay, scholarships were provided. The cost that participants had to bear was just the cost of food and boarding. It came to Rs 1150 per head for a total of 3 days, which almost blew my head off. I had initially estimated the cost to be Rs 1000 per day. This was another clear evidence between price and value. The Dariya Dil Dukaan (Large/Kind Heart Store) is a concept where all the people get all things that they do not use but believe that others could use and place them in the open. These products are displayed for some time and participants pick up whatever they need the most. It could be a book, a mobile charger, tripod stand, a recipe, a DVD etc. In the money dominated culture, it can be an enriching experience just to give something and receive something for free, with love.
With no doubts, my 3 days were best spent. It was a joyous learning experience to meet many people who share similar thoughts, objectives and instincts and are seriously worried about bringing about a better world. I wholeheartedly thank all those who were involved in making this possible right from the facilitators to the organizers to the participants to the people who helped us extensively by cooking food and taking care of other necessities in these 3 days. It was a memorable experience and most of us are going to carry it with us for a long time to come. The reflections will continue to go on and I am certain that there will be fruitful activities performed as an outcome of the workshop. I got an opportunity to interact with many new people and learn more about their perspectives. It would not be wrong to say that I cherished every moment of the workshop.
I left the workshop by around 4pm and reached the hustles and bustles of Bangalore city at 10pm. As I retired to bed, I knew that the same old life awaited for me the next day. But then, I also knew that I am going to look forward to it with the new I.
Disclaimer: While most content has been written based on experience and learning, some content (especially textual) has been directly copied from other websites. Jeevan Vidya got its roots from Sri Agrahari Nagaraj, originally from Karnataka, living at Amarkanta, Madhya Pradesh. He belongs to a family of Vedamurthis and since his childhood, certain questions he had on Vedas were unanswered. He kept looking for answers by meeting and speaking several Gurus and in the process of this exploration, Jeevan Vidya was developed. At the age of 95, he continues to work as an Ayurvedic physician and says that he paid attention to this concept and thus, discovered. Anyone can pay more attention and discover more. Jeevan Shala Trust is one organization which is in the process of discovering more.