Grow food not factories
Recently Prince Charles, an avid advocate of organic farming, took his holistic message to India. On a visit to the Punjab he promoted his own "New Food Foundation" and inaugurated its Indian equivalent, the 'Bhumi Vardaan Foundation". Brightly garlanded with marigolds, and to the accompaniment of a cacophony of assorted instruments, he strolled about in the hot Punjabi sunshine sharing his thoughts on agriculture with local organic farmers.
Some might see a certain irony here. India has always been a mainly agrarian economy, with some 70% of its people still involved in producing food. A journey through the hinterlands of the great continent will reveal many a peaceful scene of simple villagers working the fields with their draft animals and their bare hands. Farming methods employed for millennia are in evidence throughout the land.
Sadly, times are changing. The last few decades have seen India's leaders increasingly embracing the methods and machinery of the West. From mobile phones to combined harvesters to smoke belching factories, the benediction of modern technology is rapidly sweeping the country.
Naturally this is viewed as progress. India is coming "online" with the developed world and global companies are falling over themselves to get a slice of this huge new market. Even President Bush recently visited India to forge an "historic agreement" on trade and defence. During his trip he remarked, "Our (India and US) relationship has never been better. We will work together. There is no limit to what we can achieve."
It is perhaps strange then that the future monarch of Britain, which after all instigated the industrial revolution now enveloping India, should visit that country to encourage more traditional practises. Of course, Prince Charles has never really been in step with the establishment, with his views on farming and indeed spirituality. His is a powerful voice that often resonates with the 'simple living, high thinking' message of the Vedas, but it seems he may be shouting into the wind in India today, as the wheels of technological advancement roll inexorably onward.
But is this really advancement? The desired objective is of course economic growth -- more wealth and facility for all. Vedic wisdom, however, holds that such growth and opulence comes from God, from our following his directions and working within the framework of natural laws he has created. By flouting these laws and going all out for material gain we ultimately bring about nothing but suffering. Srila Prabhupada explains this in the Srimad Bhagavatam:
"Human prosperity flourishes by natural gifts and not by gigantic industrial enterprises. The gigantic industrial enterprises are products of a godless civilization, and they cause the destruction of the noble aims of human life. The more we go on increasing such troublesome industries to squeeze out the vital energy of the human being, the more there will be unrest and dissatisfaction of the people in general, although a few only can live lavishly by exploitation. The natural gifts such as grains and vegetables, fruits, rivers, the hills of jewels and minerals, and the seas full of pearls are supplied by the order of the Supreme, and as He desires, material nature produces them in abundance or restricts them at times."
With just a little thought we can see how this is true. Despite whatever technologies we may develop, if there is drought and famine we are in serious trouble and can only pray. No factory will ever be able to produce food or water, nor indeed cotton, silk, metals, minerals, jewels or any other natural resource we require or desire.
Atheistic technology simply creates an illusion of progress. Sure, there are greater immediate gains, but in the long term the results are catastrophic, as we are now beginning to see. It is simply not sustainable, as Prince Charles is rightly pointing out. Of all places, India -- home of the Bhagavad-gita -- should be most aware of this truth. The Gita makes it clear that only by divine sacrifice and worship of the Lord can we ever be happy. The Gita's greatest ambassador, Srila Prabhupada, came from India to bring this message to the West, and as a result we are starting to come to our senses. How sad then to see India moving in the opposite direction.
When Prabhupada came to the West he used a metaphor to describe his mission. "The West is the blind man and India the lame but sighted man. If the blind man carries the lame man then both can make progress." Things have moved on and the lame man is fast becoming strong, but let's hope that in the process he does not lose his vision. Let's pray that both East and West open their eyes to Krishna's messages in the Gita. Then, as President Bush suggested, there really will be "no limit to what we can achieve."
(Krishna Dharma, Originally published in 2006)