By Kamala Das
Ayurvedic Farming: An Ancient Relationship to the Earth
It has been a beautiful journey the past the past 10 days. I studied Ayurveda at the Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh and went to Uttar Kashi to spend a day with Swamini Pramananda, by mother Ganga. There she conducted puja for the river and forest. Afterwards we talked about the natives ways of the Garhwali people and communed in deep ecology, meditating on the limitless consciousness that lights all our lives and all those living, inanimate, and mysterious things.
Swami Pramananda gifted all her students her wisdom, and I would love to be able to share all of it in this blog, however, I will only share what is relevant to the topics of this post: Ayurvedic farming. Swami Pramananda commented on the tsunami in Japan. She said,
“Tsunamis and disasters are all a part of Prakritis balancing act.” Earth, is a body. And it, like our body goes out of balance.
“Prakriti is also a word for nature. The cosmos consisting of form, color and appearance is there only when both Purusha (Universal Consciousness) and Prakriti (nature) combine. To make this idea comprehensible to the embodied being and to create reverence for the cosmos, the Vedic sages have compared the cosmos to the human body.” (P42 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India).
“A thousand are the heads of a mans cosmos, a thousand his eyes, and thousand his feet!…He is all that is, all the way, all that will be…from his mind originated the moon, from his eyes, the sun, from his mouth, the fire and from his prana, the air came forth. From his navel originated the space, and from his head the heaven; the earth originated from his feet, and directions (east, west, etc) came from his ears.” (Rig Veda, X-90 1,2,13,14)
According to the teachings of Ayurveda, every manifested thing including humans are made of Five Elements: Akash – space, Vayu – air, Agni – fire, Jal – water, and Prithvi – earth. The coordinate interaction of these five elements is the causative factor for all function in the universe.
“With these philosophical views and a profound understanding of the cosmos, the ancient Indians had a great wisdom about nature and they respected and revered it. ..Indians had developed advanced methods of agriculture. Their knowledge of cyclical crops that rejuvenate the earth and other plants that nourish the earth was tremendous. ” (p. 43 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India)
“Ayurvedic sages wrote two thousand six hundred years ago that the food or medicinal plants grown in a polluted environment lose their rasa (taste or pharmaceutical properties) and gandha (flavour) and change their characteristic life and health promoting qualities. It is further added that when there is kala vikriti, meaning the seasons are not on time and the rainfall pattern is disturbed, then also the nutritional and medicinal qualities of various foods are destroyed.” (p.45 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India)
Indian mythology holds that an Ayurvedic doctor named Caraka pronounced “Charaka”, wrote an Ayurvedic text called the चरक संहिता Caraka Samhita, in the 2nd to 3rd century B.C.E. It is the fundamentals of Ayurvedic practice. The slokas in the Chapter Vimanasthanam reveal:
“While people differ in dissimilar entities like constitution etc, there are other common factors that cause derangements and diseases that have similar period and symptoms and they can spread and destroy the community. These factors in communities are air, water, place and time.”
1. Air, is out of balance if it is not in accordance with the season, excessively moist, speedy, harsh, cold, hot, rough blocking, terrible sounding, excessively clashing, whistling and affected with unsuitable smell, vapours, gravel dust and smoke…
2. Water should be known as devoid of merit when it is excessively deranged in respect to smell color, taste, and touch; is too slimy, deserted by aquatic birds, and aquatic animals are reduced.
3. Place should be considered as unwholesome when normal color, smell, taste and touch is too much affects…it contains excessive moisture, is troubled by reptiles, violent animals, mosquitos, locusts, flies,rats owls, vultures, jackals, etc has fallen, dried and damaged crops, smokey winds, birds and dogs cry there, bewilderments and painful conditions of various animals and birds; a community with abandoned and destroyed virtues like truthfulness, modesty, conduct, behavior and other merits, rivers constantly agitated and over flooded, frequent occurrence of meteorites, thunder-bolts and earthquakes…the sun, the moon and the stars with rough, coppery, reddish white and cloudy appearance.
4. Time should be known as unwholesome if it is having sings contrary and excessive of deficient to those of the season.
(If) all these conditions prevail, the earth also does not provide properly the rasa – taste, virya – potency, vipaka – digestive effect, and prabhava – various pharmaceutical properties and their effects to herbs, consequently do to the absence of the requisite properties “
Ayurveda uses three constitutional types called doshas. They can be thought of as characteristics of the body, mind, sense complex that fall into three categories, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. To explain them in detail requires another blog entry. However, we can say that like our body, the earth, once disturbed, depending on the type of disturbance can display signs relative to an imbalance in the characteristics in these doshas. Each dosha has a balanced state, of which the body functions optimally and efficiently. The characteristics or gunas active to these doshas, when unbalanced, disturb the dosha.
Each dosha has a predominant mix of one or two elements and a causative factor. According to Dr. Harsh Agarwal who taught the Yoga and Ayurveda class from April 15 – 24th at the Swami Dayananda Ashram in Rishikesh,
“Vata is predominantly space and air. It’s causative factor is for movement in the body. Vata is them most powerful dosha. It is the only dry dosha and easily prone to denaturing disturbances.
Pitta is fire. It’s causative factor is digestion and metabolism.
Kapha elements are earth and water. It’s causative factors are the growth of body tissues.”
Consider an example of a externally imposed vata imbalance in an forest, and in human lungs. If a once lush balanced ecology in a forest is logged heavily, removing water, and earth in the form of trees and canopy vegetation (formed by kapha), vata (air) becomes disturbed. In Ayurveda when kapha is decreased, vata will increase. Thus, when earthen boundaries are removed, (like the trees) and the earth anchors in the form of tree roots loosen their grip in the earth (in the case of clear cutting where only the stump is left), the soil becomes crumbly, disturbs easily by wind and dries out. The earth and more specifically, the soil that is left behind has characteristics similar to that of a vata imbalance in the human body; the skin is dry and rough and body weight erodes away. Pitta is furthermore disturbed. The soil ecology, its ability to sustain and regenerate life, deteriorates do to new extremes in water and sun (fire) that affects the photosynthesis of understory plants, liken to the metabolism (pitta) of a human body.
When rainfall does occur, the water moves swiftly, creating soil erosion. Eroded sediment can pollute streams which in turn influences the survival of aquatic plants and fish. “Computer models have shown that clear cutting can modify the energy and hydrologic balance of areas resulting in local or regional climate change. “
Bodies have microclimates created when the organs are functioning properly. The lungs, for example are a microclimate in the body. In Ayurveda, the lungs, (like a forest) and the stomach are important sites of kapha dosha, the force in the body which is governed by the elements of water and earth. Similar to the forest, the lungs have aveolus, likened to the leaves of a tree where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. If these tiny moist permeable sacs are “dried” do to smoking, vata is imbalanced. This imbalance has ranging effects to imbalances in metabolism (pitta), excess vascular constriction (vata), and decreased lung capacity (blood/oxygen exchange (kapha)
A microclimate is sustained by the active members of an interdependent ecology, and the trees play a very important role. On a warm, windy day, up to 100 litres of water is removed from the soil by a tree and transported through the tree’s xylem system and moved into the atmosphere. (Vata/Kapha) The tree relies on a intricate system of large perennial roots and smaller short-lived feeder roots that uptake water and oxygen and mineral food (kapha) from the soil, and send it through the hydrolic system in the trunk, to the leaves for respiration through the “mouths” on a leaf called stomas.
Once a forest has been clearcut, the atmospheric and ground moisture changes (kapha) and the shade is gone the temperature increases during the day and decreases at night (vata). Less carbon dioxide is trapped in the atmosphere around the clear cut. As a consequence the soil organisms that feed on decaying matter die or move into deeper earth and thus homeostasis has been disturbed (pitta). The building of humus (a kapha process), by which tree leaves, and an exact relationship or moisture and heat create verdant topsoil at once slows. All these changes represent a tri-doshic imbalance to the ecology.
We must understand our role in a certain ecology to understand the ecology’s role within us. By some trick in the English language, the ecosystem in which we exist is assigned a word “environment” and therefore a certain separation occurs between us and the external environment. There is no separation, what we do to our environment is directly proportional to what we do to ourselves.
“Today we have polluted air and polluted soil. Our foods are grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides; the vegetation has lost its fundamental characteristic qualities and has assimilated all these poisons. (p.46 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India).
“Pesticides that kill insects, also kill a tiny part of the living element in us. According to Ayurveda, the same principles govern the whole cosmos, and the living (chetan) and non-iving (jada) are made with the five elements, ether or space, air, fire, water and earth. The poison that kills insects also destroy the life-giving nourishment… the earth which is the giver of all, and finally the water which renders fluidity to life.” (pg. 46 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India)
“By consuming such food laced with pesticides over the years, we accumulate a lot of toxins in our system. Depending upon the years, individual constitution and fundamental health (ojas), people become easy victims to serious disorders like cancer, kidney failure, blood disorders, allergies, asthma and so on.” (pg 46 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India.)
Ojas the “essential energy of the body which can be equated with the “fluid of life”. Those who practice Ayurveda say that Ojas is the sap of one’s life energy which, when sufficient, is equated with immunity and, when deficient, results in weakness, fatigue and ultimately disease.” (Wikipedia)
“According to the Charaka Samhita, prajna aparadha or the intellectual error is the root cause of many problems……The root cause of the derangement of all is unrighteousness or adharma (loss of righteousness). ….Consequently, when righteousness has disappeared, unrighteousness has the upper hand and the gods have deserted the place, the seasons get affected and because of this, it does not rain on time, or at all, or there is abnormal rainfall, winds do not blow properly, the land is affected, water reservoirs are dried up; herbs give up their natural properties and acquire morbidity. Then epidemics break out due to polluted contacts and edibles.” (pg. 50 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India).
In Vedic tradition the word god is used to describe forces of nature. Still in small villages, and strong-willed communities in India, trees are honored with prayer and puja. Cement sitting spaces are molded around their trunks. Satsang and gatherings occur under their shade. If in you and the daily ritual of your community has in it, honoring nature as god and holding it sacred, it is not likely that that same community will then cut the tree down without an exercise of awareness.
“Before we used pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers in India, our farmers dealt with all these problems with traditional methods. With the imposition of these poisons, both by the government and the companies which make them, the several thousand years old traditional wisdom was gradually forgotten. …Our traditional farmers have a thorough understanding of nature and its various moods. According to Ayurveda, preventative as well as curative medication is the same for humans, animals and plants. Health means balance and harmony in the five elements which constitute all that exists in the cosmos. All that brings balance and harmony is called hitaker or for the well-being, and on the contrary, substances or actions that lead to imbalance are bad or damaging (adhitakar).
When the balance is lost, living beings become prey to the ailments. The second major theme of health in Ayurveda is prevention. That is done with appropriate nourishment, lifestyle and by enhancing ojas with the intake of special ojas enhancing natural products called rasayana. This is applicable for all living beings, including plants. It means right treatment -water and manure for all crops according to the seasons.” (pg. 49 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India).
“The farmer must also keep in mind the ojas aspects of the earth. The earth that has been subjected to artificial fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides has lost its pranashakti or life force. The plants which grow on such soil are obviously weak in their immunity and vitality and are easily attacked by pests. It is easy to understand this if you think of an individual who has been repeatedly taking antibiotics to treat infections. This person becomes very weak is more vulnerable to external attacks of bacterial and virus. Crops and tress grown in soil devoid of ojas cannot provide us ojas. By eating this kind of food, we gradually become low in ojas and vulnerable to ailments due to external (challenges).” (pg.50 Annam Brahma: Organic Food in India)
Some Ayurvedic medications that have been employed in the mainstream for human consumption, have also been used to correct nutritional imbalances in farming. To treat an ailing tree, as an exampole, the author of the book suggests, “Triphala is a powder maid of dried fruits of amla, harad and behedra in equal quantities. It is used by soaking this powder overnight in water” and applying it to the base of the tree.
There is an extensive list of corrective remedies to enhance soil fertility in Ayurvedic Farming. These all include cow urine preparations with ferments of tumeric, rotten fruits, nettels, vegetables, cow dung, and essential micro-organisms. This is an extensive subject, and will be covered more in depth when I write about the Natueco method and Amrita Pani in my next post.
Finally related to the topic of Ayurvedic Farming, a beautiful post by a Dr. Shirish Bhatet a Yahoo group in 2005, explains:
There is a polarity between yields and quality, between substance and
lack of it, between big quantity of products and very small
quantities of subtle ethereal oils. Regarding the definition of
quality, a polarity can be observed between something very physical,
such as the weight, substance – and something very subtle, such as
In natural farming we are trying to rediscover what is important in
EARTH AND SUN
The entire plant life is a product of the earth and the sun – as some
people say, the Mother Earth, and the Father Sun. In many cultures,
the sun is masculine and the earth is feminine.
Sun is associated with warmth, heat, seasonal rhythm, space and light
(Tejas). On the other hand earth is associated with coolness,
minerals, gravity, water, soil and darkness.
Light (Tejas) Principle
The colors of the beautiful high altitude flowers are a powerful manifestation of light. Color is the response of substances to light, the potential between the light and the earth. The high altitude regions are full of light, due to higher reach of higher frequency spectrum received from sun, with less filtration from cloud
cover or carbon dioxide filter.
This leads to very special structures of medicinal plants: the flowers are very colorful and bright, the leaves are very delicate – and with a lot of medicinal value. With hardly any substance, high altitude medicinal plants tend to be small but very powerful. The light (Teja) that they accumulate is all transformed into essential oils. The more light, the more essential oils are produced. These medicinal plants pass through the whole winter with very little water. They are processing all this light, and they have to concentrate everything into essential oils. Hence maximum number of medicinal herbs in India come from Himalayan mountains. In Ramayana, Laxmana brought a herb from Himalaya and carried it to Sri Lanka to revive Laxmana who was unconscious.
The tannin in the tea leaf, for example, is nothing but concentrated sunlight. It is this sunlight which activates our senses, working on very subtle principles.
Use of Polarity Principles
An example: Curcure (Equisetum arvense L.) in English called Field Horsetail is a plant without leaf. It consists only of stem. It grows in shady places, and is very rich in silica. The amount of silica, almost 90%, is one of the highest in the plant world. Silica is a mineral, belonging to the earth, but it lets the light go through.
Where do we find silica? In sand. Sixty or seventy per cent of the earth’s crust is silica. And if you want to know how silica is connected to life, just look at a window: the glass is pure silica. There is silica in spectacles, silica in the eyes and skin, in the hair – and in leaves. Silica has an affinity to light. In fact, it
With silica as a carrier of light, we can make use of the polarity of light and darkness in agriculture. Equisetum arvense contains a lot of silica, and therefore belongs to the realm of light. On the contrary, fungus belongs to the realm of cold, moisture and darkness.
We can use a product from one realm to control an imbalance in another. Equisetum arvense is an excellent fungicide. In India, people hang a twig of this plant in houses to ward off insects and even mosquitoes.
Out of his own insight, Rudolf Steiner introduced several preparations to treat the soil to health. Similar principles are also used by Indian farmers in using natural materials, ashes, animal bones, horns etc. Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. These preparations bear concentrated forces
within them and are used to organise the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process is complete, the resulting preparations are medicines for the Earth which draw new life forces from the cosmos. Effects of the preparations have been verified scientifically.
One of the preparations is made from silica powder, processed in a special way. It is applied to the plants at the time when they are producing the part that shall be harvested. In case of medicinal plants, if, for example, the root is harvested for medicinal purposes, silica is applied when the root is forming. The same
applies for the flower, leaf, etc.
This silica powder preparation helps to increase the concentration of silica in the plant. With silica, the plant increases its rate of photosynthesis, draws more light(Tejas), and produces more of those finer aspects. The medicinal value of plants cultivated under such conditions will be naturally higher and their pests lesser.
Silica is an excellent remedy for the foggy Darjeeling/Utakmand climate. The monsoon mists hold back the plant, whereas silica will activate the plant growth. Too much shade also creates a situation for fungus, which silica counteracts. In this way one can balance an unfavorable climatic situation with biodynamic preparations.
One of the soil medicine is made from quartz crystals: the crystal form of silica. These crystals have geometric forms, perfect hexagonal shapes. The geometry shows another polarity of form and formlessness: in silica we have these beautiful shapes, and in fungus we have amorphous shapes, without form.
Geometric Principles and Medicinal Values
High altitude flowers are of the most perfect shapes, like stars: they have the most beautiful, artistic quality. The same applies for this quartz. These perfect shapes are based on the same geometric principle. It belongs to the heights, near the light, close to the stars. In pentagonal and hexagonal flowers we find the same geometrical principles as in crystals.
The differences between the root and the flower of such high altitude medicinal plants reveal the polarity that is being discussed. The flower is very nicely shaped, though every species is different. But why do we not study the roots to differentiate those plants?
Because they are all more-or-less the same. There is no differentiation at the root level, and yet there is this high differentiation at the flower level.
How do these plants know that they have to grow like this? Why are
they shaped and coloured like this? For example, this plant has five petals, five sepals, five stamens, so it is shaped by the principle of five, but where does it come from? It is these principles that form the plant, and along with it its medicinal values.
We can release this formative principle in our plants and understand how it starts shaping them and bringing forth these fine aspects of scent, aroma, taste, colour and medical properties.
In comparison, in tropical plants the principle of flower has been pushed into the leaf. Tropical climate produces fleshy plants that would never grow in the high altitude regions. These plants need moisture. It is warmth, which, combined with light, manifests in these plants in the leaves instead of in the flower.
Many plants, where this principle of warmth pushing into the leaf operates, develop a lot of poison. When this principle, that belongs to the flower, has been pushed as far as into the root, it colors even the roots. Color at the root level means that what belongs to the flower has been pushed deep inside the plant.
Cosmic Integration: The Zodiac Principles
The ultimate fine-tuning of natural principles lies in harnessing cosmic influences for cultivation. Only at particular times of the month or year are the cosmic influences are most supportive to the growth of a particular part of the plant.
The cosmic factor that determines a month is the moon. The movement of the moon in relation to the Zodiac is most interesting. The Zodiac symbols are Greek in origin. The Chinese developed a different system, and the Tibetans created their own amalgamation of the Indian and Chinese systems. Most Indian farmers have their agricultural schedule tied to movement of sun in different stars (Nakshatras).
All the different systems have twelve constellations, though represented by different figures and animals. Within these twelve signs there are four groups of three constellations each which have the same qualities. They are related to the four elements, earth, water, fire, air. These four elements can be placed in relation to the four parts of the plant: the root, the leaf, the flower and the
– The roots are associated with the earth: there is no base and ground without earth.
– The leaves relate to the water element: the more water, more foliage.
– The flower corresponds to air and light: there is no light without air. (There is no light on the moon because there is no atmosphere.)
– Fruits are associated with fire: there is no ripening without warmth.
Cultivating the soil on specific days means harnessing the cosmic influences for the particular plant. Recent research has shown that in one month there are three periods which are variously beneficial for the root, the leaf, the flower and the fruit. These period are governed by the moon cycle. The different parts of the plant are stimulated, one at a time, three times in a month. Researchers
discovered this by planting radishes every day and then observing their growth. Radishes from one day would be of very of good quality while those from another day would be smaller and less healthier. In between would be radishes with shrivelled roots or too much leaf. Anybody can try this experiment. The researchers found that the yields can be increased 20 to 30% just by cultivating at the right time. In case the seeds are sown during a period unfavourable to
their nature they can later be transplanted during the appropriate sign.
The zodiac signs that belong to fire element are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Plant parts associated are fruits, grain and cereals. The signs belonging to earth elements are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, the associated plant parts being roots. Water element associates with signs Cancer, Scorpio and pisces and plant parts are leaves. Hence plants having more leaves require more water too. Airy
signs are Libra, Gemini and aquarius, the associated plant parts being flowers.
To understand zodiac principles, let us take few examples. The Kapha is treated as earth and water. The growth of new cells can take place in the presence of Kapha. Thus if you wish to gain weight, one must eat roots. Underground foods such as radish, potato, carrot, beet etc help building tissues and gain weight. Hence cancer patients are given these juices. Leaves restore water element. Cancer, scorpion and pisces are very sensitive and affectionate signs. The root of cancer according to Hamer theory lies in psychic conflicts. To correct the conflicts, thirteen different juices which include leafy vegetable juices are prescribed in Gerson therapy. So the theory fits well. Fire has energy, and fruits/grains have to be used when gaining quick energy. Association of airy signs with flowers can be understood by thinking that most flowers contain the basic reproductive mechanism including attraction factors such as color,
smell, honey etc. And in astrology, 3rd, 7th and 11th sign as well as houses are considered as those belonging to reproductive forces (Kama- trikona). The saffron is found in a flower and its use in fertility medicines is well known. Honey is also well known by the word honeymoon. “
I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the interconnected dimentionality of all living things.