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Certainly the Best
by Lalitanatha dasa, Denmark
I liked Ravinder Sihra’s letter "Organic Is Best." Although seen by many as a material consideration of fringe significance, it has its important, albeit disregarded, place in Krishna consciousness and the life of any devotee.
The question is much more than simply which potato or cauliflower is in the subji. It is ultimately about which lifestyle is consistent with the philosophy that we preach (that is, if we like to preach). Can we on one hand ascribe to the ideal of a simple, non-violent, natural life based on God-given gifts and on the other hand support the most gross type of exploitation, violence and cultivation of greed taking place with our common daily actions? It seems inconsistent.
Srila Prabhupada never hid his contempt for the uselessness of modern industrialized society and the superiority of a more simple and natural life. The former fosters exploitation and atheism, the latter not only provides us with an abundance of everything, but also raises our consciousness and makes us sensitive to feel the hand of God in everything. Srila Prabhupada stated as one of the purposes of ISKCON, that his devotees should exemplify a simple, more natural way of life and teach others the same.
Modern industrialized farming utilizes techniques that are very far from the Lord’s intentions. These techniques exhaust the Earth, cause immense violence to other living beings, and breed greed and low qualities in the farmers and anyone else connected with the production and consumption of the so-called foodstuffs produced by them.
Srila Prabhupada writes in Srimad-Bhagavatam (7.14.9): "…Unfortunately, modern society has devised many means for killing animals in different forms of life. For example, in the agricultural fields there may be many mice, flies, and other creatures that disturb production, and sometimes they are killed by pesticides. In this verse, however, such killing is forbidden…"
He also writes in a letter to Rupanuga (76.01.11): "We shall never use this artificial fertilizer on our farms. It is forbidden in the sastras. If you plant easily grown crops once in the year, then the earth will not become exhausted. Don't overuse the land."
Why not follow these simple instructions of Srila Prabhupada? Why not exhibit the gentleness, care, and non-violence of a Vaisnava, even when it comes to choosing the potato or cauliflower for our next subji?
Only the best for the Lord
Furthermore, devotional service means, in a nutshell, to offer the very best to the Lord. The Caitanya-caritamrta relates the story of Raghava Pandita. Although he himself was the owner of many coconut trees, he would nevertheless, notwithstanding the cost, purchase coconuts from far distances if they happened to be of a better quality. Only the best was good enough to be offered to the Lord.
Modern society, on the other hand, very much emphasizes cheap, superficial, short-term appearance, a mentality that sometimes creeps into our lives as devotees as well. How often have we heard, "Jaya Prabhu, I got it really cheap." Or even better, "Jaya, I got it for free!" Very well, but are we happy simply to offer the Lord the cheapest? On the contrary, isn’t it crucial for the development of our devotion to the Lord to nurture the very mentality of Raghava Pandita in ourselves and only be satisfied to offer the best?
Organic produce is of a much higher quality than non-organic. Should it not, on principle, be what is always preferred to be offered to the Lord?
Preaching and the principle of yukta-vairagya
Here someone might argue that even more important is preaching and yukta-vairagya. Srila Prabhupada was certainly a practical person and knew that when preaching in modern urban society it may not always be possible to live up to the highest standards. In this regard, he showed how to utilize and offer the Lord whatever was available.
Along these lines we have often, in many of our devotional communities, temples, and private households, developed a lifestyle far away from what is actually our ideal. It started as a necessity, but is it necessary any longer? Are we not acting mainly out of habit? Also, are we not shooting ourselves in our foot by being inconsistent in regards to our lifestyle?
Not only is inconsistency affecting us adversely as human beings and aspiring devotees, it also affects our influence on the world in a negative way. Intelligent people of today are very much interested in quality and example.
If we have any ambition to see Krishna consciousness on the cutting edge, to be in the forefront of doing something good to the world, then we should not tolerate any inconsistency in our own lifestyle.
To go organic has the further benefit of bringing us more in touch with those people who are already doing it or trying to do it. Most of these are thinking very much along the same lines as we. Their values of life are much closer to Krishna consciousness than the average person. That will give us a chance to learn from them, and they can learn from us, too.
Organic is cheap!
There seems to be no reason to not always utilize the best products, that is organic, in our service to the Lord. Especially when they are so easily available as they are nowadays.
At this point someone might try a final objection. "This is all well and good, but we simply cannot afford it. It is too expensive." But is that actually true? My experience tells me that, all in all, organic produce is a lot cheaper than non-organic.
"How is that?" one might say. Well, one thing is that organic products shrink less during cooking, and those who partake of the prasadam afterwards eat less. Proper organic produce contains so much more of subtle nutrients that one can eat less to get satisfied. Add to this what can be saved in medical bills and medicine and time lost on illness. One is markedly less sick and has more energy using proper organic products. To go for the cheap non-organic products is simply penny wise, pound foolish.
When it comes down to it, organic can even be as cheap as almost for free. Because after all, in the final analysis, organic means more than shopping in your local metropolitan supermarket or shopping center. Organic means growing your own stuff. And believe me, it is so simple. It can be done by anyone, anywhere. A small plot of land or any common garden can give so much, often plenty to supply a dozen people or more. Even in big cities there is much unused land, which can easily be utilized unless it is next to a highway or some other severe source of pollution.
In this regard I have a utopian dream for our society of devotees. Let growing food be for everyone. At least everyone who eats. This includes men, women and children, young and old, brahmacaries, grhasthas, sannyasis— everyone. It is very healthy as exercise, and, being activity in the mode of goodness, very calming for the mind. It is better entertainment than any moviegoing or similar silly thing. On top of it all, it brings one in a very special and intimate touch with Lord Krishna.
After all, we are meant to exemplify a more simple and natural way of life. In my humble opinion, this doesn’t come about if it is only practiced by a few specialized devotees living somewhere on a farm or in a wilderness. It will only happen if becomes a part of our devotional culture, just like chanting japa or taking prasadam is.
Utopian? Yes, absolutely. Nevertheless, this is how I am dreaming. I can’t help it, which is also why I wrote all this stuff. And at least it is a start if someone starts offering Lord Krishna proper potatoes and cauliflower.
© CHAKRA 10 February 2002
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