Thursday, November 17, 2011 2 comments

Working together, namam and permaculture!

Following Pujya Ammagaru's passion for growing plants, Babugaru (DJ) took up experiments in Permaculture in earnest. This is no mean task, for Nagole has dry, almost barren soil, and coming close to the government's 'Department of Forestry' conservation area, there is a regular deluge of pests and reptiles of all orders! 

Babugaru and his team took up studies on the subject, brain stormed ideas on landscaping, water-conservation and plant mixing. They took up every accessible piece of land for their hands-on work, growing more than manageable amounts of fresh, organic produce to offer for Mastergaru's nivedana  and preparation of large quantities of prasadam for distribution.

After a year of hard-work, the rest of us, (majority city-bred Nagolites), were ready for lessons from them. Babugaru in his tireless manner took several hours explaining the basics of forest systems and permaculture - ecologically sustainable cultivation. Next was how we can practically apply them to become self-sufficient in vegetable produce with minimum investment. 

One saturday, some of us gathered in our free time to put in some Baba namam and some physical work, to create a vegetable patch and learn in the process. Nature took up the rest and you can see the flourishing results below. 

Jai Sai Master!


Wither Human being ?

Swami Vivekananda has said, 'So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them'. The Bible says 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you (Matthew 7:12)'. 

But the unspoken question all of us appear to have is  that we are overburdened with our lives and problems, we have come into Baba's fold to find solutions to our own problems, what can we do for others?

One of the oft repeated themes in Ammagaru's messages at Satsangs at Nagole is there can be no spirituality without 'being human' in the first place. Without basic kindness and consideration for others, we are just 'manushya rupena mrigah charanti' (beasts in the garb of men/women).

It does not always mean great acts of social service. Simple things such as not hogging the best spot under the fan, the wall support, the seating area (while many others stand outside), the front spot etc in the satsang hall indicate how much we care about others and inversely about ourselves! We are inherently selfish and the only way to get out of it is to start doing things for others. 

In this respect Ammagaru believes that the old way of village life was better. Everyone knew everyone else and came forward to help. Whereas in our insulated independent houses and apartment complexes, we often do no even know whether our neighbours are in or not, whether they are ill or have visitors and perhaps simply making tea could help them out. Further, everyone knowing everyone's business also acted as  collective social restraint on individuals deviating from positive behaviour.

On this topic, it is worth our while to read DJ's post on  Society and the Individual.

Easier said than done, one might say, but one has to begin somewhere and better late than never!

Please feel free to post your comments.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011 0 comments

Food, Festival and Family

With Diwali just past and Christmas and New Year round the corner, the general mood is festive. And food is synonymous with festivals and family time. Interestingly, every mahatma has performed leelas in relation to food.
Sri Krishna in the Mahabharata, saved the Pandavas in the forest from the sage Durvasa's curse, by partaking a single morsel of rice left over in their Akshayapatra, thus in effect feeding all the hungry sages.

In the Sree Guru Charitra (click the title to read the book), Chapter 19, there is the story of Bhaskara Sharma, a poor but devout brahmin who came to offer food to  Sree Guru with provisions enough for only three persons. The Master asked him to invite all for lunch. When he did so, '...they (other disciples) heckled him saying, ' We are more numerous than the grains you have cooked. How dare you invite all of us?'....When the food was being served it was found that though the preparations were meagre, what was being served was enormous in quantity...'

In The Supreme Master (click the title to read the book), Chapter 2, there is a similar great leela performed by Sri Akkalkot Maharaj

One of our fondest memories of Pujyasri Mastergaru is an occasion when he mixed rice with his own hands and fed young and old alike. During the summer months, when it is very hot in Ongole, and kids would often skip food in favour of cool drinks, Ammagaru would herself mix rice and making every one sit around her, with lively words would make them eat enough to last a few mealtimes. At Nagole too the tradition continues. Ammagaru has taught us to cook for large numbers, for everyone is family!, and spend our leisure time together. Ammagaru herself plans surprise, special treats made out of the simplest ingredients; made all the more special because there is no formal occasion for it. And the taste is indescribably delicious. While we savour the food, all we are asked to do is to think, ' What am I here for? What do I hope to achieve? Have I achieved it? '  

Such is their love and grace!

The Gospel of Matthew VI: 
[31] 'Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?' 
[32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

[33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

[34] Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof



Seeds of Spiritual life

In the Chapter 'A Sketch of His Life (II)', Sai Baba the Master (click here to read), Mastergaru says,
          '... Once when he (Baba) went to Rahata he had brought with him  several varieties of seeds. After     cleaning and levelling a certain plot of the village land, he planted the seeds and watered them regularly....This went on regularly for quite some time and in due course a beautiful garden grew up. Visualizing the whole process, it seemed symbolic of the elevation of a god-forsaken village lke Shirdi into a powerful spiritual centre and the common rung of the society that came to him into a luscious spiritual crop...'

At hitherto god-forsaken Nagole too, Ammagaru with her own hands started beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. The size, strength, colour and variety of blooms vies with those of international horitculture companies.Every morning and evening, Ammagaru herself selects and arranges the blooms to decorate Shirdi Sai Baba and Pujya's Mastergaru's photos and peetham. This pulangi seva is one of the most delicate and beautiful of sevas to see at Nagole. It has taught me that the dedication to offering of flowers to Baba (which most of us take care of by plucking a few common flowers from our garden or buying the routine 'chataku' and maala at the market) is starting from the stage of sowing of seeds, right up to the final eye-catching flower arrangement. For are not Baba and Master, Kings among Mahatmas? And if we do so much for our pathetic faces every morning, how much more should we be doing for them!! 

Vegetables too - all the leafy varieties plus tomatoes, brinjals, beans, tamarind, carrots, beets, spinach to mention a few, are planted under Ammagaru's precise directions and grown organically. Ammagaru taught all the children here to grow from cuttings in pots and also got them to sow all the grains etc we eat, so that they learn to recognise the  plants that provide our daily meal. Ammagaru taught that beginning with hoeing the ground, sowing, watering etc, we should perform every action with Baba Namam, with the prayer in our hearts that the food thus grown, should sow seeds of bhakhti and brotherhood in everyone of us.  

Jai Sai Master