To know this land, Bharata-varsha, of ours it is necessary to know the trinity of rural life, agriculture and spirituality. To know these one must develop one’s own insight and perspective. To understand anything Indian this insight is essential. For example, if one were to view the Himalayas, one would see the expanse, the sheer precipices, the glaciers and be stunned by it. There is nothing so very special about it. People, who come from the world over see this much anyway. But how many have seen the time when the Himalayas were below the primal ocean, sheltered by it? As they then rose from the bottom of that ocean and reached for the skies, Kalidasa says that the Himalayas are a measure of the Earth’s size itself, Purvaparao toyanidhee vagahyah stithaha prithivyaha iva maana dandaha. In Kalidasa’s view not only creation but its preservation and eventual destruction are interwoven. The three stages of ephemeral existence are indicated in his representation. This is the Indian way.
This common thread can be seen elsewhere too. In the Mahabharata for instance, the grandsire Bhishma, lying on his bed of arrows, instructs Yuddhistira on state craft. He indicates that the state existing before any such kingdoms were organised, itself to be the ideal state of governance. The dharma existing before any such organisation was necessary, was itself the real dharma. Organisation per se was necessary on account of man’s weaknesses. Even though he is instructing as to how such organisation is to be done, the beginning is made that if only such organisation itself was unwarranted. This approach of keeping the overall picture in mind while discussing a minute detail is the Indian way.
The first Rik of Rig Veda mentions about the earlier and nascent states and Agni is fit to be eulogised by both, is a rare insight. This Indian way of cognising may be termed as spirituality. Spirituality is the exaltation and acme of existence. For existence to become exalted it has to be integrated. A fragmented approach will not do. Death is an inseparable part of life and not separate from it. In fact it is interwoven such that it can never be separated from life.
In the same way thus, organisation and a state beyond organisation, wide angle and minute focus, earlier and nascent states are all interwoven together. Knowing them to be so and accepting this fact and living thus, existence becomes exalted and becomes spirituality. However, for serving our limited selfish ends we live by fragmenting all of the above. This fragmented existence can never be spiritual. What is not spiritual is not Indian.
If we accept the above, what are the values of life which then emerge? As the entire history of mankind is embedded within our psyche, we need not run hither and thither to experience different things nor do we need to drown ourselves in the pool of inferiority or self pity. All that is needed is to be true to oneself, which is being true and committed to our environment in other words. This adhering to Nature’s laws and limits is seen in all creation except the human. This recognition of one’s limits as prescribed by Nature and living thus gives rise to a satisfaction and true sense of belonging. Knowing one’s boundaries amidst the vastness of Nature to be one’s sphere of action is the point emerging from Gandhiji’s “One step is enough for me….” In other words, we need to be committed to only that which we can do, i.e. take that small step.
The commitment to our environment is the basis of rural life. Wonder of all wonders people need to be told to go back to their roots, to go back to agriculture. The Vedas exhort one not to indulge in gambling rather take-up agriculture. Existence is courting providence but this does not mean we descend to such meaningless acts like gambling. Agriculture is a meaningful form of existence with a commitment to the environment. Thus the Vedas proclaimed to take-up agriculture and go back to the villages. Commerce and agriculture are both activities of the Vaishyas as per Bhagavad Gita XVIII 44. Commerce is largely urban oriented as with gambling, where even in the earlier writings like Mricchakatika it was recorded that the gambling dens abounded in the urban centres. Commerce must be done in the spirit of agriculture and not vice versa as any speculation based activity is akin to gambling and thus becomes more and more meaningless. To retain its meaningful nature even commerce must then be done with the sprit of agriculture. Thus the call to revert to agriculture and go back to the villages was given first by the Vedas.
Then came the era of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The central idea of both in nutshell is that one who has not lived in the forest for any length of time is unfit to ascend to the throne. If the Vedas addressed the Vaishyas then these latter epics addressed the Kshatriyas. Vanvas is village life in the forest environs. Bharata, who endeavored unsuccessfully to bring Rama back to Ayodhya, administered the Kingdom from Nandigrama as an ascetic indicating that a rural setting is far more conducive to the penance he had undertaken than the hustle and bustle of Ayodhya. In fact Bharata, who clad himself in barks and leaves and ruled in the memory of the one who had not returned, is a key figure in the Ramayana as an ideal man and became like Rama Himself. Could then Rama not be like Bharata? The memory of the rural capital Nandigrama was enough to ensure that in later times the administration from urban Ayodhya never went astray.
The central activity of rural life is agriculture. To grow crops without harming the soil is the cornerstone of agriculture. Soil being eternal should never be despoiled. If the soil is despoiled the yield will be also thus. Ingestion of such food will wreck the mind which in turn will damage the culture itself. Thus practicing agriculture without harming the soil is preserving the culture in a way.
The soil should be nurtured and one must be committed to its upkeep. We must have the sensitivity to recognise nature’s actions as a consequence of ours and we must be humble enough to accept the same. Then we can travel the distance along with nature and enjoy Her bounty. Nature manifests in myriad forms and thus preserving the biodiversity of nature alone is our duty while engaging in agriculture. Preserving the existing forms and not indulging in senseless innovation is of paramount importance. Some of these can still be seen in our villages. In the words of Dr Richariya a renowned paddy specialists India had close to 4 lakh varieties of Paddy in Vedic times of which it is possible to regrow almost 2 lakh varieties even now, given the time and opportunity as he has collected close to 18,000 varieties from the State of Orissa alone. Preserving a single strain is akin to saving a species, or preserving a language or saving a unique form of expression. Preserving alone is the motto of agriculture. What can be more blessed than that?
Now a few words about the cow. Cow is verily Mother Earth herself. As the earth provides us with food so does the cow. Milk, butter, ghee and curd form the very backbone of our diet. Vedas proclaim ghee to be life itself-Ayurvai Grhitam.
Manure, food, tillage and transportation are provided by the cow. Doing all these the cow is the very embodiment of patience like the earth and is the latter personified. It is also the symbol of non-violence. This is amply illustrated in the Kannada ballad of the famous cow PunyaKoti, offering itself to the hungry tiger for sparing its calf and converting its heart thus.
Who are the present insatiable tigers? Unbridled usage of science, capitalism, power hungry politics stand on one side, while cow, the hapless farmer and endangered rural life stand on the other. This vision is apparent as the vision of creation and dissolution side by side.
While no animal drinks milk beyond its infancy, humans do so their entire life. This may be indicative of the child within him ever. Probably that is why the humans are referred as the final creation. Whether this last creation will be the cause of the end of creation is to be seen. It is frightening to consider that in spite of leaping high he descends to the very depths doing thus. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were flattened by bombs delivered from high flying planes. Whether reaching for the Moon or Mars can wipeout this stain is debatable. The answer is blowing in the wind.