The spirituality of farming


  • Wellness
  • Sunday, 21 Jul 2013

Farming practices that encourage and nurture the human spirit.

IN this series of articles on LOHAR (Lifestyle of Health and Responsibility), today’s article continues on the subject of healthy and responsible farming.

In the previous article, I expounded the benefits and virtues of organic and biodynamic farming. Today, I will share about permaculture and homa farming.

Permaculture

Five years ago, several others and I helped sponsor a young dynamic lady, Sabina Arokiam, to attend a Permaculture and Eco-Village Design Course in the US. She had received a scholarship from the US Embassy under the International Visitor Leadership Programme.

I was impressed because she had spent time teaching English to children in mosques in Cambodia (she is not a Muslim), and had brightened the lives of thousands of Myanmarese refugees (children and adults) through her storytelling and theatre workshops.

She is an artist, dancer, social/welfare activist, and much more. Now, she is devoting her energy to help heal the Earth and save humanity as well.

For more about her and permaculture, please read Child of the land and Working with nature by S. Indramalar (The Star, April 13, 2010).

Upon her return, she started a permaculture farm (Embun Pagi) at Batu Arang (about 40km from Kuala Lumpur). She also started projects for marginalised communities, and shared her knowledge and experience through talks and courses.

She also brings in other practitioners and experts from overseas to share their experiences and teach the growing local permaculture community.

Permaculture (short for Permanent Culture/Agriculture) is about creating sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns.

It uses the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems to provide a framework and guidance for people to develop their own sustainable solutions to the problems facing their world, on a local, national or global scale.

It is based on the philosophy of cooperation with nature and caring for the Earth and its people (words adapted from her website).

It is obvious that permaculture goes much further than just agriculture.

In line with the biodynamic concept, it extends beyond the farms to encompass society, and everything in nature.

In her own words: “We focused on practical solutions that can be implemented with some resourcefulness, and hardly any cost, such as worm bins, garbage enzymes, fermented food, intensive small scale gardening, recycling, container planting and making cordage out of used plastic bags” (Quoted from Child of the Land).

However, after some time, Sabina realised that this concept must be made relevant to urban communities, where most people now live, and where the permaculture practice can be most beneficial.

So, she closed Embun Pagi and moved to the city to start the Urban Permaculture revolution.

Her first project is setting up a Permaculture demonstration site in Jalan Gasing (Petaling Jaya, Selangor).

“With Urban Permaculture, you look indoors and apply the principles of permaculture. We teach them how they can reuse laundry water, make use of vertical storage space, use things from around them, create furniture cheaply and so on.” (Quoted from Child of the Land).

Indeed, Urban Permaculture promotes a healthy, resourceful, responsible and sustainable living, using the resources around us to the fullest.

Come, let us help her make this noble revolution a success!

For more on this, do check out www.eatsshootsandroots.org.

Agnihotra

About four years ago, I received a call from a very pleasant gentleman from Kuantan who wanted to meet me to share something interesting. So we arranged for a rendezvous at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

I waited for him at a table in the restaurant. When he arrived, he had brought what looked like a lump of green dried earth, and promptly put it on the table.

I asked him what it was, and he said: “Cow dung.”

That was my introduction to agnihotra, homa therapy and homa farming.

Datuk Alan Yong is a very kind-hearted man, ever smiling, and ever willing to help others. He is a successful businessman and farmer. He is also a qigong master, apart from delving into many spiritual activities.

After we became friends, he brought me to Chennai, India, to a conference on spirituality and also a course on Suryayoga.

He also accompanied me to Thirumirthi Hills (Coimbatore, India) to visit HH Jagathguru Paranjothiar Mahan, who initiated us both into Kundalini Yoga.

Agnihotra is originally a Hindu ritual that has been practised for aeons. While the religious ritual is more elaborate, over time, modern, simplified and non-religious versions have evolved as rituals for the healing and purification of the atmosphere and the body.

A small fire is prepared from dried cow dung and ghee (and sometimes, other ingredients too) in a copper pyramid. The end-product is sacred ash (vibhuti).

It is practised in the temples, at home, at work, in the community and anywhere at the precise times of sunrise and sunset to cleanse the environment, heal the body and revive the spirit (if done as a religious ritual).

I have observed many agnihotra sessions, although I do not participate because the ritual and mantras recited may be haram (not permissible) for Muslims.

It is believed that during the agnihotra ritual, toxins are removed from the atmosphere, and healing energy emanates from the agnihotra pyramid. This energy is beneficial to humans, animals and plants.

Agnihotra is also the basis for homa therapy.

Homa therapy

Homa therapy is the healing and purification (of ourselves, animals and plants) of the atmosphere with fire as the medium.

The central idea in homa therapy is: You heal the atmosphere and the healed atmosphere heals you.

The principles of homa therapy are applied in homa medicine (healing ourselves of diseases and sickness), homa farming, and other practices. For more information, please see www.homatherapy.org.

Although originating from India, agnihotra, homa therapy and homa farming are now widely practised in over 50 countries, from Australia and Europe to North America, and even South America.

Ayurvedic texts recognise that agnihotra renews the brain cells, revitalises the skin and purifies the blood.

In homa medicine, not only is smoke from the agnihotra fire inhaled, the ash is then consumed or dissolved in water and consumed.

The agnihotra ash is powerful medicine for man, animals and plants.

Homa medicine is very popular in some South American communities, where it was reported that it could cure many diseases, including cancer.

In the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia, it was reported that a homa therapy centre situated right under high-voltage power lines is somehow free of the expected electromagnetic field distortion. I hope to write more on homa medicine soon.

Homa organic farming

The homa farm is where agnihotra and homa therapy practices are carried out, in addition to organic farming practices, to ensure that the people, crops, animals and land are healthy.

The truest homa farm also practices vegetarianism and non-violence (ahimsa). My dear friend Yong has such a homa farm in Pahang.

The science of homa farming is based on the belief that 75% of the nutrition to plants and soil comes through the atmosphere. Agnihotra and homa therapy practices render the atmosphere more purified, nutritious and vitalised, giving the plants better nutrition and making them more resistant to diseases.

Conversely, fungi, pests and parasitic plants do not survive.

There are currently thousands of homa farms worldwide. Among the proven benefits of homa farming are: Highest productivity of harvest per acre, with reduced growing time; the crops have better disease resistance; the produce have better taste, colour and texture; the produce have longer shelf-life; and lower overall cost of production. For more details, please visit www.homafarming.com.

The importance of healthy and responsible farming is highlighted in the book Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture (edited by Andrew Kimbrell). It dissects our current ecologically-destructive agricultural system and offers a compelling vision for an organic and environmentally safer way of producing the food we eat (review extracted from www.homafarming.com).

The spirituality of it all

It is obvious that healthy and responsible farming methods (as exemplified by the organic, biodynamic, permaculture, and homa farming models I described) blend the physical, social and spiritual worlds into one interconnected scheme.

But some may question – what am I (a medical doctor and a Sufi) doing in the world of farming?

Well, one cannot claim to be spiritual without having empathy for the fate of the earth and all the living creatures it nurtures. One cannot be spiritual without being concerned about the physical and the social.

There are many of us who are religious, but are we spiritual enough to love our fellow human beings of all religions (or no religion), bring goodness to the world, and thus, be really close to God?

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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