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#2033 - Tuesday, January 18, 2005 - Editor: Jerry


SHORT CUT TO NIRVANA is an award- winning documentary about the Kumbh Mela, the oldest, greatest, most fascinating festival on Earth.


The Kumbh Mela also happens to be the biggest gathering in human history, attracting 70 million people!


From this incredible event comes a powerful uplifting message of harmony, unity and peace for all humanity.


Yet almost no-one outside India has ever heard of the Kumbh Mela or its message.


Until now...


Watch the trailer:




The Kumbh Mela is the biggest gathering of people in the history of humanity – although few in the
West have ever heard of it. More than 70 million pilgrims attend this extraordinary spiritual
festival, which has been held every 12 years near Allahabad, India, for over two millennia. A vast
tent city is established to accommodate the masses, and many of India’s greatest gurus and
spiritual leaders set up camp to give discourses to their devotees. On certain auspicious days
everyone takes a holy dip at the confluence of two actual rivers - the Ganges and Yamuna - and a
mythical river, the Saraswati. On the main bathing day, more than 25 million people bathe in the
sacred waters. This single act of faith is believed to cleanse the sins of a thousand lifetimes and
secure release from the endless cycle of rebirth – literally a short cut to the state of purest
bliss… nirvana.


Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela takes us on a voyage of discovery through this vivid and vibrant
world, accompanied by an irrepressible young Hindu monk, Swami Krishnanand, and several Westerners,
each on their own spiritual quest. With Swamiji we encounter some of the Kumbh Mela’s wisest and
most fascinating characters, including an ascetic sadhu who has held his arm in the air for over 20
years, another who sits on a throne of nails, a Japanese devotee who is buried in a pit for three
days, and a guru who proposes that Americans would do well to start meditating for three hours each
day. We also spend time in the company of an honored guest, the Dalai Lama, as senior leaders of
Hinduism and Buddhism join together in an historic moment of unity.


More than a simple account of the Kumbh Mela, this film is a sensory experience of an ancient,
grand occasion, a swirl of color and motion, song and cacophony, the sacred and the surreal --
spiritual India exactly as anyone would hope to find it. And from this ancient culture comes a
powerful and uplifting message of harmony, unity, and peace for all humanity.





 The Hopi and the Kogi are only two among many indigenous cultures that have ancient prophecies of man's destruction of nature as well as present evaluations of our global crisis. These two in particular foretold not only nature's destruction at this time, but specifically identified, as we saw above, the inventive, technological branch of humanity as responsible because it fails to heed the sacred Earth knowledge and wisdom so vital to indigenous peoples. Yet neither the Hopi nor the Kogi tell us that technology is bad in itself, that we should abandon it and "go back to nature" living as they do. Both Hopi and Kogi validate technology as an important aspect of humanity, simply warning us that it must be brought into harmony with the sacred natural world.

How did these indigenous peoples know the crisis technology would bring on? Why is it that the science on which our technological world is based--the science which so prides itself on its ability to predict--failed to predict its own consequences while indigenous cultures saw where it would lead?
The failure of industrial society's scientists to predict the consequences of the technology they spawned is directly related to their mechanical/materialist worldview, so fundamentally different from the organic worldviews of indigenous peoples. In the worldview shared by indigenous peoples everywhere, despite many differences in its formulation, the universe, nature, is alive and sacred, all beings in it are related and interdependent: the stars, the rocks, the waters, the winds, the creatures, the people, the spirits and so on. The human role within nature is to hold it sacred and to live in a balanced way within it, to give back as much as is taken while pursuing social and spiritual development. There is no concept of waste and no waste accumulation...

In sharp contrast, the mechanical scientific worldview, as we have seen, has held, at least until now, that the universe is fundamentally lifeless, that life happened by accident on the surface of this planet, that everything in nature including humans and their societies can be understood as "natural mechanisms" composed of mechanical parts. In this view which we have deeply explored, the role of science is to study nature objectively--as though from outside--and reduce its machinery to basic parts in order to understand it. The purpose of this science is to gain control over nature, to exploit it for human purposes by converting it to food production and the manufacture of goods to improve life. Development is thus focused on material production.

In one worldview nature is fundamentally alive and sacred, often represented by the symbol of a circle: the unbroken sacred hoop of life. In this worldview the basic laws of nature were formulated in accordance with what we now call sustainability: laws of balance, harmony, mutual sustenance, of returning in equal measure for whatever you take. By contrast, in the mechanical worldview, one of the basic laws of nature is the law of entropy discussed in Chapter 14, a law stating that everything in nature is running down, a law of unsustainability. We will look at this contrast again in the next chapter.

Understanding the world as a single, interconnected and interdependent living system, the Hopi and Kogi knew that the consequences of the White or Younger Brother's destructive ways would necessarily be disastrous. Within the linear (cause/effect) worldview, you take resources from your environment, produce things and throw away wastes. You do not notice the circularity of nature: that the wastes actually close the loop, becoming part of your environment, poisoning it if the wastes are poisonous. In the "sacred hoop" view, there is no concept of waste and whatever is put back into the environment is useful to other species--an excellent life insurance policy for any species; one followed by the species of mature ecosystems. No wonder indigenous people noticed the White Brother's failure to restore what he destroyed, and were able to predict the consequences thereof.

Indigenous people tend to be humble about their place in nature, while industrial society was founded on the conviction that European man was master of all nature and would bring about a Golden Age by conquering, subduing and transforming material nature to his own ends. Its founding philosopher John Locke clearly stated "the negation of nature is the road to happiness" and indigenous people were negated like the rest of nature. Only now, when we are in danger of our own species' extinction, do we look back to understand the history of the White/Younger Brother's destruction of indigenous cultures as well as whole ecosystems to build his technological world--a world in which nature has been seen only as a supply base and a dumping ground, a polluted world which testifies to the White Brother's failure to respect the Red Brother's sacred Earth wisdom. A world we now recognize as unsustainable.

Will the White Brother listen in time?

The image of indigenous peoples as backward and ignorant stands in the way. Their philosophies are largely ignored, though there are signs of change, such as the Rockefeller Family's reevaluation of their philanthropy a few years ago, during which the president of the Rockefeller Foundation repeatedly cited Iroquois philosophy for its guiding principles to a better world.

Unfortunately, indigenous histories are generally known not through their peoples' own telling, but by anthropological reports. It has been widely assumed that non-technological peoples, many of whom have no written language, do not know their own histories and were not smart enough to develop technologies. A case in point is that even the "relatively advanced" Mayans, Aztecs and Inkas were seen as backward on the grounds that they did not even invent the wheel. In fact these cultures did understand the possibilities of wheels and used them on children's toys, though never for transport. Perhaps burdened slaves were seen as more appropriate to the task of transport. Perhaps the sacred hoop of life was forbidden as a mundane technology. It is instructive to recall that ancient Greeks, even when inventing technology under duress, as in the case of Archimedes' war machines, did not write down the plans. Technology, based as it is on geometry, was considered to be God's sacred art and was forbidden to man, though the Greeks obviously exempted the wheel.

It is difficult for people born into technological culture to imagine anyone preferring a simple, non-technologically developed lifestyle in a natural setting, with few possessions. Yet, most indigenous people, from the stone age, as Marshall Sahlins points out in Stone Age Economics, to now, work very few hours for a living. To prefer the leisure time granted by choosing not to be a consumption oriented society is seen by our own consumer society as laziness; to do without material wealth is seen as deprivation...

Such a lifestyle was truly rewarding as long as its natural simplicity was an integral part of a spiritually rich culture. For most remaining indigenous communities, the old values and communal lifestyles are no longer intact and the allure of modern culture pulls strongly, especially to the young. The conflicts within indigenous communities over this issue are heated as efforts to revive traditional lifestyles compete with the trend to assimilation and modernization. One can only hope the traditional values will be incorporated into whatever lifestyles result.



Greening The Desert

Applying natural farming techniques in Africa

an interview with Masanobu Fukuoka, by Robert and Diane Gilman


Masanobu Fukuoka is another of the major pioneers of sustainable agriculture who came to the 2nd International Permaculture Conference. We spoke with him a few days before the conference while he was visiting the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington.

He likes to say of himself that he has no knowledge, but his books, including One-Straw Revolution and The Natural Way of Farming illustrate that he at least has wisdom. His farming method involves no tillage, no fertilizer, no pesticides, no weeding, no pruning, and remarkably little labor! He accomplishes all this (and high yields) by careful timing of his seeding and careful combinations of plants (polyculture). In short, he has brought the practical art of working with nature to a high level of refinement.

In this interview, he describes how his natural farming methods might be applied to the world's deserts, based on his experience in Africa during 1985. Translation assistance for the interview was provided by Katsuyuki Shibata and Hizuru Aoyama.

Robert: What have you learned in your 50 years of work about what people could do with their agriculture?

Masanobu: I am a small man, as you can see, but I came to the States with a very big intention. This small man becomes smaller and smaller, and won't last very long, so I'd like to share my idea from 50 years ago. My dream is just like a balloon. It could get smaller and smaller, or it could get bigger and bigger. If it could be said in a brief way, it could be said as the word "nothingness." In a larger way it could wrap the entire earth.

I live on a small mountain doing farming. I don't have any knowledge, I don't do anything. My way of farming is no cultivation, no fertilizer, no chemicals. Ten years ago my book, One Straw Revolution, was published by Rodale Press in the United States. From that point I couldn't just sleep in the mountains. Seven years ago I took an airplane for the first time in my life and went to California, Boston, New York City. I was surprised because I thought the United States was full of green everywhere, but it looked like death land to me.

Then I talked to the head of the desert department at the United Nations about my natural farming. He asked me if my natural farming could change the desert of Iraq. He told me to develop the way of changing the desert to green. At that point I thought that I was a poor farmer and I had no power and no knowledge, so I told him that I couldn't. But from then I started thinking that my task is working on the desert.

Several years ago, I traveled around Europe. It seemed to me that Europe was very nice and beautiful, with lots of nature preserved. But three feet under the surface I felt desert slowly coming in. I kept wondering why. I realized it was the mistake they made in agriculture. The beginning of the mistake is from growing meat for the king and wine for the church. All around, cow, cow, cow, grape, grape, grape. European and American agriculture started with grazing cows and growing grapes for the king and the church. They changed nature by doing this, especially on the hill slopes. Then soil erosion occurs. Only the 20% of the soil in the valleys remains healthy, and 80% of the land is depleted. Because the land is depleted, they need chemical fertilizers and pesticides. United States, Europe, even in Japan, their agriculture started by tilling the land. Cultivation is also related to civilization, and that is the beginning of the mistake. True natural farming uses no cultivation, no plow. Using tractors and tools destroys the true nature. Trees' biggest enemies are the saw and ax. Soil's biggest enemies are cultivation and plowing. If people don't have those tools, it will be a better life for everything.

Since my farm uses no cultivation, no fertilizer, no chemicals, there are many insects and animals living there within the farm. They use pesticide to kill a certain kind of pest, and that destroys the balance of nature. If we allow it to be completely free, a perfect nature will come back.

Robert: How have you applied your method to the deserts?

Masanobu: Chemical agriculture can't change the desert. Even if they have a tractor and a big irrigation system, they are not able to do it. I came to the realization that to make the desert green requires natural farming. The method is very simple. You just need to sow seeds in the desert. Here is a picture of experimentation in Ethiopia. This area was beautiful 90 years ago, and now it looks like the desert in Colorado. I gave seeds for 100 varieties of plants to people in Ethiopia and Somalia. Children planted seeds, and watered them for three days. Because of high temperature and not having water, the root goes down quickly. Now the large Daikon radishes are growing there. People think there isn't any water in the desert, but even in Somalia and Ethiopia, they have a big river. It is not that they do not have water; the water just stays underneath the earth. They find the water under 6 to 12 feet.

Diane: Do you just use water to germinate the seeds, and then the plants are on their own?

Masanobu: They still need water, like after ten days and after a month, but you should not water too much, so that the root grows deep. People have home gardens in Somalia these days.

The project started with the help of UNESCO with a large amount of money, but there are only a couple of people doing the experiment right now. These young people from Tokyo don't know much about farming. I think it is better to send seeds to people in Somalia and Ethiopia, rather than sending milk and flour, but there isn't any way to send them. People in Ethiopia and Somalia can sow seeds, even children can do that. But the African governments, the United States, Italy, France, they don't send seeds, they only send immediate food and clothing. The African government is discouraging home gardens and small farming. During the last 100 years, garden seed has become scarce.

Diane: Why do these governments do this?

Masanobu: The African governments and the United States government want people to grow coffee, tea, cotton, peanuts, sugar - only five or six varieties to export and make money. Vegetables are just food, they don't bring in any money. They say they will provide corn and grain, so people don't have to grow their own vegetables.

Robert: Do we, in the United States, have the type of seeds that would grow well in these parts of Africa?

Masanobu: As a matter of fact, I saw quite a few plants including vegetables, ornamentals, and grains here in this town (Port Townsend) this morning that would grow in the desert. Something like Daikon radish even grows better over there than in my fields, and also things like amaranth and succulents grow very well.

Robert: So if people in the United States and Japan and Europe wanted to help the people in Africa and reduce the desert, would you suggest that they send seeds?

Masanobu: When I was in Somalia, I thought, if there are ten farmers, one truck, and seeds, then it would be so easy to help the people there. They don't have any greens for half of the year, they don't have any vitamins, and so of course they get sick. They have even forgotten how to eat vegetables. They just eat the leaves and not the edible root portion.

I went to the Olympic National Park yesterday. I was very amazed and I almost cried. There, the soil was alive! The mountain looked like the bed of God. The forest seems alive, something you don't find even in Europe. The redwoods in California and the French meadows are beautiful, but this is the best! People who live around here have water and firewood and trees. This is like a garden of Eden. If people are truly happy, this place is a real Utopia.

The people in the deserts have only a cup and a knife and a pot. Some families don't even have a knife, so they have to throw rocks to cut the wood, and they have to carry that for a mile or more. I was very impressed by seeing this beautiful area, but at the same time my heart aches because of thinking about the people in the desert. The difference is like heaven and hell. I think the world is coming to a very dangerous point. The United States has the power to destroy the world but also to help the world. I wonder if people in this country realize that the United States is helping the people in Somalia but also killing them. Making them grow coffee, sugar and giving them food. The Japanese government is the same way. It gives them clothes, and the Italian government gives them macaroni. The United States is trying to make them bread eaters. The people in Ethiopia cook rice, barley and vegetables. They are happy being small farmers. The United States government is telling them to work, work, like slaves on a big farm, growing coffee. The United States is telling them that they can make money and be happy that way.

A Japanese college professor that went to Somalia and Ethiopia said this is the hell of the world. I said, "No, this is the entrance to heaven." Those people have no money, no food, but they are very happy. The reason they are very happy is that they don't have schools or teachers. They are happy carrying water, happy cutting the wood. It is not a hard thing for them to do; they truly enjoy doing that. Between noon and three it is very hot, but other than that, there is a breeze, and there are not flies or mosquitoes.

One thing the people of the United States can do instead of going to outer space is to sow seeds from the space shuttle into the deserts. There are many seed companies related to multi-national corporations. They could sow seeds from airplanes.

Diane: If seeds were thrown out like that, would the rains be enough to germinate them?

Masanobu: No, that is not enough, so I would sow coated seeds so they wouldn't dry out or get eaten by animals. There are probably different ways to coat the seeds. You can use soil, but you have to make that stick, or you can use calcium.

My farm has everything: fruit trees, vegetables, acacia. Like my fields, you need to mix everything and sow at the same time. I took about 100 varieties of grafted trees there, two of each, and almost all of them, about 80%, are growing there now. The reason I am saying to use an airplane is because, if you are just testing you use only a small area. But we need to make a large area green quickly. It needs to be done at once! You have to mix vegetables and trees; that's the fastest way for success.

Another reason I am saying you have to use airplanes is that you have to grow them fast, because if there is 3% less green area around the world, the whole earth is going to die. Because of lack of oxygen, people won't feel happy. You feel happy in the spring because of the oxygen from the plants. We breathe out carbon dioxide and breathe in oxygen, and the plants do the opposite. Human beings and plants not only have a relationship in eating, but also share air. Therefore, the lack of oxygen in Somalia is not only a problem there, it is also a problem here. Because of the rapid depletion of the land in those parts of Africa, everyone will feel this happening. It is happening very quickly. There is no time to wait. We have to do something now.

People in Ethiopia are happy with wind and light, fire and water. Why do people need more? Our task is to practice farming the way God does. That could be the way to start saving this world.


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