Save water for future generations

amma satsang11 May 2010, Amritapuri

It was the Tuesday before Amma’s North American tour and Amma had come to the Kali temple despite all other preparations. Before a tour, Amma meets with almost  all Ashramites personally, talks of their Seva and guide each one wishing them well in their best interests. So it was very exciting and special to see Amma come on this auspicious day to hand out lunch to one and all.

A questioner had asked Amma on how to save resources like water and other natural wealth within the Ashram and to make its use efficient so at least the Ashram could set an example.   Amma said she was so very happy hearing the question on water and natural preservation and that her children were thinking about it. Amma started telling all how precious natural resources were and how important it is to save them.

water drinkingAmma mentioned that she had been thinking about some ideas to be implemented at the Ashram for water preservation. She suggested having separate pumps in the toilet and using the sea-water or backwater for flushing and separate fresh water for the taps. Amma pointed out that this solution may be expensive to set up.

The questioner had suggested using a common arrangement for washing plates instead of each person cleaning their own which involved a lot of water waste. Amma mentioned that it was a good idea and clarified that the idea of using groups of people would cut down the water required to clean 45000 plates individually and  it may only require the quantity needed to clean 2000-3000 plates if plate-washing was done in organized groups.

Since water taps waste a lot of water when the force is high, one may use accessories that can make the water slower so less water is wasted. Many keep the tap open while brushing, shaving or washing. Amma said we need to be aware and to be patient.

save water for the future“While traveling in an airplane, the water tap actually trickles and one waits patiently to wash his hands or face, even if a billionaire or a businessman. Similarly in a community like here, one needs to be careful and aware.

In the past, water had to be brought from outside. Some days water was so scarce that one needed to dig holes in the ground to collect water for the day. In the past, there was a pond in front of the ashram. The pond was the only collection of freshwater for many houses including the then Ashram.

Also, in those days, for 1000 houses there was one water pipe, and it did not work most of the times. People complained to the Government and then after many complaints a wind powered water pump was set up. Even in those days there was a water tap across the waters in Vallickavu. When water had to be collected, Amma had to collect it from leaking underground pipe. Digging a hole around the leaking area on the ground, Amma had to to use a banana-leaf  to fill a bucket. So seeing leaking taps at roadsides during tour, it makes Amma feel restless and think whom she can call to fix it. Waste of water for Amma is like blood oozing out of her body. In many regions Amma has seen people walking long distances to fetch drinking water. Since she also has done so in the past, when Amma sees water waste, she knows the plight of water scarcity.

water5Water was such a dear commodity back then. Some villagers used to break the pipe to the Ashram so we would not get water. Still the fresh-water pond would give water. It was pure Grace that freshwater would be available there. Villagers would even jump into the pond to check if there was a broken pipe that retained the water pond. Water was that precious.

During the festival times, water for the Ashram had to be brought from across the backwaters with the help of a boat. The Swamis used to bring the water. The villagers were not very happy that the Ashram was using up their water and used to fight against it. Especially during festival days, every devotee needed at least a bucket of water. A Brahmachari used to sit on the tank and used to hand one bucket of water to each person. During one festival, he had been distributing water all day and was continuing his seva late night. Suddenly, one could not see him on the tank. He had fallen asleep and had fallen into the tank.  All laughed with Amma and she pointed out the brahmachari sitting in front of her.

The world is going through a tough situation. In the future, there might even be war to get access to water. If it is the problem of the future, we should also be concerned and responsible now. Suppose there is a fire in the ground floor of a block of flats and the person calls out for help, a person living on the tenth floor cannot remain idle saying “it is fire in someone else’s apartment, why should I bother?” Soon the fire may even spread to the tenth floor. Likewise, we are all responsible for what is happening and for what will happen.

save water for the futureIn Iceland, a recent volcano spew ash into the sky and because of that many flight services had to be grounded for days together. It was not Iceland alone; many countries got affected. Many people suffered due to that volcano: not only flights but food, business and many other industries came to a stand-still. If there had been one more volcano eruption like that, many companies would have gone bankrupt. In such cases one can’t say it is Iceland’s problem and leave it there. We are not isolated islands; we are like the links of the same chain. So each action we do affects the other.

The use of electricity is also a great concern. If there is a fan and light in say 3500 rooms, that is a lot of power. A resident can say “I pay for my electricity, so where is the problem?” As energy production needs valuable natural resources, it is also very important. Amma herself tries to save energy by sharing her accommodation.  Even in her room, four people stay so as to preserve space and resources. The car that Amma uses is not her’s but a devotee’s who lent it to her and wanted her to use it.

After the 2004 Tsunami, the Government made it difficult to construct more houses or rooms here on the Ashram land. When a request for permission for a 20-floor building was requested, the Government sanctioned only 2 floors. In such conditions, each resource becomes very valuable. So please take care to close water taps properly and switch off lights and fans when leaving the room. Leaving lights or water taps on, even by mistake, is like a thief stealing  our wealth. Amma likes the idea of building a pond to save rain water. She suggested some ideas and places where we can build ponds.

Amma is reminded of her childhood days. She had only two sets of school uniforms.  She received one on school opening day and the other one on Onam festival day. One way to get a new dress other than on those days was when a relative got married. Due to the acute water shortage the home clothes were washed once in a week. They used to boil the clothes in natural soda and then they would first clean it in sea-water and then rinse with fresh water. Such were those days. “Nowadays people use so much water. Times have changed.”save water for the future

Amma asked the ashram residents to take a bath just once a day. “If you are taking bath twice you should not stay here in the ashram,” she warned them.

Amma said that the Ashram belongs to the world. So one should have  awareness and responsibility.   Preservation of our natural resources should be one of our foremost duties.  The natural resources that we consume is the wealth that need to be transferred to coming generations. If we mindlessly exploit the resources, we won’t be able to leave anything for our grand children.

–Sakshi

GreenFriends towards greener society

GreenFriends representatives from several European countries met in the French Ashram, for an Easter retreat from 2 to 5 of April,  to launch GreenFriends (Europe), the informal network of all Embracing-the-World’s Green Initiatives in Europe.

The three-day retreat was a meeting to motivate, cultivate and develop newer ideas on Green initiatives for fostering the planet. On 2nd evening, few party games were organized as an ice-breaker to blend participants from various countries and cultures. The mornings on the next two days consisted of several workshops. People blended well with each other by doing common activities: building of the mandala garden for the ashram’s seed garden, bread cooking in the traditional wood oven, GrowIn workshops in the French ashram GrowIn space, making ecological plasters with lime, straw and clay, walking meditation in Nature, sharing experiences on the use of Effective Microorganisms, organic vegetable gardening amongst many more. A large party was organized on the last day evening that was more joy and less musings.

Several decisions were made and new commitments were setup as part of the meeting. On the evening of April 3rd,  11 selected projects from all over Europe were presented, as well as an UNESCO Initiative on education for sustainable living, that Embracing-the-World has started to promote as essential for green living. On the morning of April 5th, a large meeting enabled the participants to discuss the best way to work together in the future. GreenFriends (Europe) will start a European Volunteer Service Initiative in partnership with the European Commission and will use AVIEW, the video conference tool developed by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, for bimonthly e-meetings.

As satsang to all participants, Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya introduced the ecological issues that can be taken up by today’s youth. Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya emphasised the interest in today’s world to build ecological spiritual centers during her satsang. The French ashram has started building a network of ecological spiritual centers from different traditions.

The best time during the retreat was the inaugural puja for the new bee sanctuary. This project, known as BABEL, is an important project for the French ashram and had created motivational harmony amongst youth during its initial phase. This inauguration was a moment of sharing, full of joy, simplicity and grace. On the morning of April 5th, the first bee swarm was installed in the sanctuary.

The GreenFriends retreat concluded with many sharing the feeling of gratefulness. There was also an expressed desire from all participants towards a harmonious collaboration for a greener world.

Sprouting of GrowIn

italyOn the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (18th of April) AYUDH groups around the world connected via an internet web-cast to plant seeds together. Amma had blessed and inaugurated the GrowIn project on her last tour in EU and USA. {news} AYUDH community gardens have sprung up in USA, Germany, France, India and Australia.

As a second phase of the GrowIn project, AYUDH wanted to inspire individuals to grow their own vegetables at home. This new initiative as part of GrowIn was launched to create a feeling of togetherness amongst the “green-youth” and to provide them with professional guidance in setting up a small garden in their homes – on a balcony or a window shelf. Like the big tree that comes from a little seed, the open themes of the GrowIn range from green farming and agriculture to the many global issues such as those dealt with in the upcoming Milan Expo 2015.

People from many countries such as Germany, France, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and Kenya took part in the webcast and highlighted the work on many different vegetables that they could grow in small spaces. Australian youth had also joined in the action by planting seeds on that day although web-casting was not possible due to time differences. Every participant had prepared little country-flags, which were placed into the freshly planted pots, so that it can be noticed in pictures online where each pot is from. It was decided that each group will take photos of their plants in regular intervals and upload them online. AYUDH Italy had even organized some seminar talks to the participants by some local experts on Energy conservation and Solar Energy and had planted several vegetables on a small balcony garden at a house beside a famous Lake near Milan.

The power to change

metro-treeOn the occasion of International Earth day on the 22nd of April, AYUDH members decided to stand up and do something in the society. They set plans to bring about a change first in themselves and then in the society, the change that will make our planet a better place to live in.

Ayudh Delhi celebrated Earth day by putting up stalls at two of the major centres in Delhi, one at Saket Select City Mall, one of the biggest and posh malls in Delhi and the other at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, the busiest metro station in Delhi.

The concept was that the people had to liven up the Earth – depicted by a dry tree on the verge of death with the leaves of their ideas, ideas of how they can make a change to the environment and our Earth. They gave the visitors leaf shaped paper – on which they could write how they could bring about a difference and then put it up on this leafless tree.

mall-treeThe response at both centres was impressive. In the Metro station stall, the tree filled up with leaves in about 20 minutes! They then had to put overlapping leaves up on the tree. People from all walks of life…rich and poor, old and young thronged the installation to pin up their ideas to the tree. Those who came first, then brought their friends and relatives. The children had a gala time participating in the quiz contest organised for them. People were seen looking at what other people had written, certainly in order to know more of what they can do, in addition to what they had thought of. People pledged to follow what they were writing.

The success of their effort was in the fact that they were able to instantly influence a change in the attitude of people towards our planet – although many spoke passionately about how bad they felt at the situation of the planet and how helpless they felt in dealing with it. However they also said that AYUDH stall had helped them realise that there are many people out there sharing their concern and if each one is to do their part well, we could still save the Earth. Their despair had turned into hope and that they would be more cautious of what they do in future.

The Earth day celebrations concluded reminding that there is still lots more to do that needs to be done.

– Dass

AYUDH plants 500 trees at Amrita Watoto Boma

25 Oct 2009, Nairobi, Kenya

AYUDH Kenya participated in the 350 movement on Saturday 24th October 2009. This day marked a milestone towards fighting against climate change as people from all over the world united with a common goal to be heard and try and save the planet. (http://www.350.org/)

AYUDH’s contribution was through organizing a tree planting event at the Amrita Watoto Boma (Children’s home) located by the Athi River in Nairobi. A total of 50 youth took part in the event and managed digging the ground and planting 500 trees during the course of the day. There were also 3 campaigners for the 350 movement from Denmark present for the event.

The day started with a short talk by Br. Shantamrita on how man depends on Mother Nature and the need to contribute towards preserving Mother Nature.  There was a lot of enthusiasm amongst the youth who managed to finish planting 500 trees in the morning alone. This was the target intended for the entire day. There were a lot of innovative methods of teamwork on display as well, particularly whilst watering the trees. Only one water tank was available, which was pretty far away and all the participants formed a chain to transport the water to the trees.

After lunch and a small singing session, the youth gathered for the final activity, which was to create a small garden next to one of the children’s dorms. This was the most challenging activity of the day and it concluded at 3:30 pm.

The event ended on a very positive note with each person adopting at least one tree, showing their commitment towards ensuring that they would come back for another event and to make sure that the trees planted would also grow healthy. A round of ultimate Frisbee concluded the day. It was a fun-filled event for all who took part.
As the children’s center is nearing completion and the kids are about to move into their new home, AYUDH dedicated this day to create a more welcoming and beautiful surrounding for the children and at the same time contributed to the protection of Mother Nature.

Amma in Paris

Paris, France, 25th – 27th October 2009

Amma’s program was attended by an endless crowd. People from all over France lined up outside as long as to the street corner almost 1 km away.

AYUDH, the youth wing presented the amazing ecological project called Babel that started in Amma’s French ashram in Pontqouin about 1 hour away from Paris city.

Welcoming Amma to France they said: “We are very happy to present the Babel project, which is inspired by Amma. It is a GreenFriends initiative, we want to build a sanctuary for the bees .”

Bee farming by Green friends

Bee farming by GreenFriends

West Cork, Ireland

The GreenFriends members in Ireland started bee farming. A devotee has provided space on her land for organic growing.

On ‘Bee Day’ 2009, Greenfriends Ireland beekeeper gave a practical course, including a visit to some hives and detailed presentations. The course was held in a house made of natural building materials, like straw and clay.

The Bee Day participants were keen as the beekeeper explains how the honeycomb is divided into areas of storage and breeding. The hive entrance designed as a very narrow gap to prevent others from stealing honey. A new double-sided plastic sheet known as ‘a foundation’ ensures that the hexagonal cells fit the dimensions of the hive. Individual wax combs were used to make honey extraction simpler; no need to destroy the colony’s hive, the method once used in beekeeping.

A healthy hive contains about 60,000 bees. A wild hive is known as a bees’ nest; to make one, bees use their hanging bodies as scaffolding. In manufactured hives, the upper part stores honey, the lower the brood and queen. In a natural beehive space, cells face outwards which explains the sheltered location under the eaves of the building or a tree.

Through these classes the participants were motivated to take up bee farming seriously and scientifically.

Composting the waste, completing the cycle

Each day thousands of visitors are fed by the ashram. The preparation of food inevitably produces waste peelings. ‘Premix’ is the combination of wet food waste and wood chip. One of many buckets of the day’s ‘premix’ is emptied on to the compost heap, over a layer of elephant dung. Slurry (cow’s urine and manure) and dry leaves are added to the compost heap. Thus, heaps of organic waste are formed each day to form healthy fertile soil. African worms are also being farmed to aid the composting process.

In this way, the ashram recycles at least one ton of compost a day. The circle is complete when students from GreenFriends learn to grow plants on campus using the compost. The ashram is growing vegetables, and uses the compost as fertilizers.

By choosing to compost waste, we are actually completing the natural cycle and following nature’s path. Our own food and organic waste is transformed into healthy fertile soil. Composting completes the natural cycle, reversing the modern trend. As we restore balance and harmony to Nature, the same qualities blossom in us, and we smile gratefully, seeing the bounty of Nature offered lovingly to us.

“Whatever is provided by Nature, the very source of flowers, plants and our food, should be lovingly returned to it. This is the symbolism behind offering flowers to God. — Amma

BABEL: the sacred yields of dreams

The myth of Babel took its roots in a dream: the common dream that men could contribute to something higher than themselves, their shared efforts could lead them to realms other than the usual ones. But in the myth, the attempt was solely based on man’s might, and it hence cut itself from divine grace. Men ceased to understand one another, suddenly facing the limits of their human condition. The endeavor failed.

BABEL is a youth initiative from GreenFriends of France. It proposed a path for reconnecting to Nature to youngsters using concrete projects. The main one was a bee sanctuary : a fully-ecology small temple with bees living inside the walls. From inside, one can see, hear and smell them in security through glasses and nests and meditate with them.

With the blessing of Amma when the BABEL project started in the French Ashram last year, it was grounded on a relationship of understanding of the deep meaning of things, trying to transcend the myth’s shortcomings. Bringing together youths from all walks of life, the BABEL project intended to initiate a shared enquiry of our relationship to Nature and life. It mingled different approaches, providing participants with philosophical discussions, artistic sessions and practical workshops.

BABEL – Bois, Abeilles et Biodiversité pour une Ecologie Local, (in English: wood, bees and biodiversity for a local ecology) is a project managed by youngsters of the GreenFriends organization in France. It also refers to the myth of the BABEL tower which teaches us that both effort and Grace are needed for a project to succeed.

The project is implemented in two ways:

1) Applying the Rameal Chipped Wood method, an ecological technique that restores damaged soils by a natural process like in forests. It is an example of ecosystem management through the life of micro-fauna and flora of the soil.

2) The building of a bee house, a mud and straw eco-house with an eco-green roof and walls inhabited by bee swarms. From inside the house one will be able to experience the presence of bees: to smell, see and hear them with the help of a glass system with micro-infiltration. It will be quite an original therapeutic place to connect with bees and more generally with nature. Another benefit is that the bees will keep the bee house at a comfortable temperature. They need to do this so that their young survive and the house will be warm in winter, cool in summer.

The BABEL project is supported by the ‘Youth in Action Program’ of the European Union.

view photos

The joy of gardening

August is the season when many youth from all over the world flock to Amritapuri to spend their holidays with Amma. It is a time for the youngsters to reflect about life in a deeper way, contribute to Amma’s charitable work and socialize with other like-minded youngsters. This year, AYUDH decided to make an effort and follow Amma’s advice to work on the preservation of Nature. The first initiative was to start a vegetable garden.

Twice a week aound 30 youngsters have been going to the ashram’s “Vrindavan” garden near the Ayurveda school to prepare vegetable beds, mix compost into the soil, plant medicinal trees and learn about organic gardening.

Along with the garden in Amritapuri, AYUDH has started cultivating food in Amma’s Centers in California, Michigan, Germany and France. Even youth who live in cities have made an effort to grow vegetables, in whatever space they have available. The AYUDH group in Austria for example has turned one of their members’ balcony into a field of pots, with tomatoes, zucchini and pepper sprouting up everywhere.

GrowIn

“GrowIn’ – One Seed at a Time” is the project title which the youth have given to their common effort to grow healthy, organic food, thus reducing pollution and becoming more independent from the international food market. Another objective of the project is to reconnect to Nature as the life giving principle. Even though all the youngsters have consumed countless of tomatoes in their lives – very few have ever experienced how much effort and time it takes to grow a tomato plant. People are used to getting their food from supermarket shelves – not from the soil. GrowIn’ wants to re-introduce the younger generation to the joy of gardening.

Finally, in a few weeks, the youth hope to harvest the tomatoes, corn, cucumber, beans, ladies finger, spinach and many more delicious, organic, vegetables at the “Vrindavan” Garden, offering the fruits of their efforts – literally – to Amma.

“Many of the plants die after they have shed their seeds. They sacrifice their own life in order to give birth to many more plants, thus sustaining the circle of life,” explained Lola, an ashram resident who has been working in the “Vrindavan” garden for two years, cultivating over 7,000 Tulasi plants and many fruit trees.

When they will go back to their home countries they will take with them not just the memory of spending beautiful days with Amma but also new knowledge to live a more sustainable and environmental friendly life.

– Das