Monday, July 26, 2010

Planting a Tree is easy


In any part of the world one might be living in there are some varieties of trees that are really easy to plant. For example, where I live at the moment - Jaipur – all one needs to do in the monsoon months is stick a drumstick branch into the ground and within months it turns into a pretty tree with elegant lace like foliage. I have planted six of them around my urban home here and now that it is raining they are all a brilliant green.

Planting a tree is one of the easiest services or expression of gratitude for Mother Earth because trees are her ornament. They feed so many of her offspring from insects to birds to humans. I have been an urban person all my life but I have planted trees wherever I have found room for them around my home, by the sides of the streets and in parks where access has been permitted. If I owned a farm I would have turned most of it into a forest in a matter of years.

Often trees come up by themselves on vacant land. The seeds fly in through the wind and bird droppings. In this case, I clear the area around the tree and remember to water the new young trees through the dry months of the following year. About half the trees that grow around my home have come up that way. We choose which trees to grow but trees too choose where to grow. It is nice to respect that choice whenever possible. This year I was planning on planting some small Sitaphal trees (I am unaware of the English name of this fruit – it has a thick uneven green exterior, white sweet pulp and large black seeds) and somehow magically two of them have sprouted up on their own at the correct locations. It has been my experience that if a task is approved by Nature then Nature cooperates in its execution.

At the present time many persons in the world are concerned about global warming. The easiest thing they can do to improve the situation then is to plant a tree and then some more instead of wasting their time over trying to limit carbon emissions (mostly carbon dioxide). Those will take care of themselves when the fossil fuels run out. In the mean time we can help the glorious carbon dioxide flow into green biomass through assisting the growth of trees. Otherwise some of that carbon dioxide turns into stones such as calcium carbonate and goes out of the cycle of life.

The photo is entrance of my home in Jaipur

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Memories and Things


Everyday, every moment, all of us undergo a range of experiences. With each experience is associated a memory. Unlike our word processors that ask us every time if we wish to save a file or not, the human brain stores all the memories, of all our experiences, by default. During an average lifetime the storehouse of such memories is vast indeed. Far more than any computer can probably hold.

A very neat trick of the human brain is to organize these memories in layers, the uppermost layer being the conscious mind. Below this are the near infinite layers of the subconscious mind that store not just the memories of this lifetime, but for those who believe in reincarnation, the memories of previous lifetimes as well. Some mystics believe that the deepest layers of memories are in the soul and contain knowledge of the entire universe. Reaching this layer is what is described as enlightenment. Nevertheless, restricting ourselves to the most immediately accessible layers of the mind, we know that with each memory is connected certain emotions such as hate, anger, love, sorrow, happiness etc. Indeed it seems that only those memories are of value that have an emotional value attached to it. Others such as the knowledge of numbers and how to add them that may not have any emotional value attached to them are mere temporary conveniences that do not impact deeply on our psyche. From time to time we are able to resolve an emotional memory so that it has no emotional impact left for us. At this time, the memory has no more value left than say a memory of the alphabet or numbers. This is what shrinks try to do when they talk to their patients whose memories have become so overwhelming so as to severely limit their daily functioning in the world.

A lot of this resolution also takes place through dreams while we sleep. The quality of our dreams is an indicator of the quality of our suppressed emotion linked memories. 

It is these unresolved memories and their emotional impact that shape our personality. They are different for each human and therefore each human has his or her own unique personality. The accumulated unresolved memories at the end of a lifetime are what determines what our next life will be from how we look to where we are born; just as the accumulated past memories have determined our present life. In Eastern philosophy this is called Karmashya or the store of Karma.

As our conscious mind preoccupies itself with whatever we are doing right now, from time to time old memories pop up along with their accompanying emotion. It could be love, happiness, satisfaction or a negative thing like hate or anger. If the negative memories are far too many or too strong they limit a person’s happiness, energy, intellect and abilities even though they may remain dormant in the subconscious mind. Resolving these lifts us out of negative things like fear, nervousness, depression etc. It is a result of the quality of their memories that some people are just naturally happy souls full of energy and others are suppressed or depressed. Therefore it is worthwhile for us to deal with our negative memories and resolve them so that their negative emotional impact on us is reduced or vanishes. Only then can we be at peace and happy.

Persons who lead very busy lives, and have a lot of things on their do list keep their conscious minds so preoccupied that there is no room for the buried memories to emerge. But just keeping them buried does not help to resolve them. That is why it is so important to have periods of mental silence in our lives. Processes such as communing with nature or meditation are some of these periods of silence.

Another thing that keeps our conscious mind occupied are our possessions and things and our attachment to them. It is perhaps because of this that the ancient Yoga Guru – Patanjli has said in his treatise on yoga that it is useful to reduce such possessions. In fact he goes on to say that a reduction in possessions (or attachment to them) can even lead a person to the memories and knowledge of previous lifetimes.

The picture is a photo of me in a boat in the middle of Nainital Lake

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lovegan food is better than Vegetarian or Vegan Food


Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating meat or poultry. Many forms of vegetarianism exclude the eating of fish as well. The most extreme form of vegetarianism known as veganism excludes all foods of animal origin including eggs and diary products.

The basis of vegetarianism is the prevention of cruelty involved in killing animals. Land, energy and water required for producing meat and poultry are several times that for producing an equivalent amount of plant food. Thus production of meat results in greater damage to environment than the production of an equivalent amount of plant food. If farming is done organically damage to the environment is further reduced. The resulting food is healthier as well.

Vegans exclude eggs and diary products from their diets because commercial production methods of milk and eggs result in cruelty to animals. However, although vegetarians and vegans help prevent cruelty to animals, they disregard the cruelty perpetuated on plant life. Farming of carrots involves killing the plant and the farming of lettuce and cabbage involves in the very least, chopping the head off. Plants are a complementary carbon dioxide breathing life form that predates oxygen-breathing animals on our planet. They have genes and chromosomes just like we do. Without them there would neither be any food nor any oxygen for us to breathe. In the opinion of this author foods that prevent or minimize violence to all life forms and the environment are better than vegetarian or vegan foods. Such foods have been termed as lovegan foods here since non-violence is an expression of love. Lovegan is a new term not widely known yet. However, do not worry that lovegan food would imply that there will be hardly anything left to eat if we do away with violence. On the contrary mother earth has filled our planet with lots and lots of delicious lovegan food with a vast variety, just read on.

All essential nutrients required for a healthy life are available as components of lovegan food. Lovegan food is indeed far more abundant, delicious and nutritious on our planet than any other kind of food. The first thing a lovegan – a person who consumes lovegan food - can begin to include in his or her diet is milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese, provided the milk producing cow has been reared and milked sensitively.

Cows are delighted to give a portion of their milk in return for the care and protection a farmer can provide to the cow and its calf, and to produce that milk, a cow neither kills an animal nor plants. it merely gives much needed haircuts to grasslands

Eggs too must be included in a lovegan diet provided the hens are allowed to roam over a restricted range. Leaving the birds completely free is not wise since it exposes them to dangers from dogs and other animals. Hens can quickly destroy any new seedlings on a farm if left completely free. Production of eggs need not involve any violence. Eggs are full of delicious low cost nutrition. They cannot be adulterated easily and take only minutes to cook. One of the most delicious salad dressing mayonnaise sauce is made from eggs and eggs are a critical component of another delicacy – cakes. A large two-egg cheese stuffed omelet accompanied by hash brown potatoes, freshly baked bread and a salad of baby spinach leaves in a sour cream and mayonnaise dressing followed by ice cream or cake makes a delightful dinner.  In the view of this author one should not be a fanatic as regards food but just avoid violence when it can be done so conveniently.

Check out how farmer Joe produces lovegan milk and eggs here:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/09/the-farm-that-joe-lived-on.html

Spinach too may be included with ease provided the leaves are plucked selectively from a plant permitting the spinach plant to continue and go to seed and complete its life cycle. Cutting leaves off a plant can cause pain to the plant, however such pain may be no greater than that caused in a hair cut, provided that one does not try to pull the hair out simultaneously.  Potatoes and peanuts are fine too since they are usually harvested after the plant has completed its life cycle. Fruits and nuts too may be enjoyed freely by Lovegans. Similar logic will reveal that a great number of vegetarian foods can be included without concern in a lovegan diet. We need others to join this movement and offer their suggestions for other lovegans. Lentil beans too can be included in the diet because these are harvested when the seeds have dried out. Lentil beans are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. They are wonderful to store in any kitchen especially for a rainy day. With proper cooking and spicing they can be turned into a delicious soup that does not lead to flatulence. Such cooking methods include presoaking the beans, removing the frothy starch while cooking and adding spices such as ginger, turmeric and cumin.

Dry seeds are the beginning of a new life but nature has been extremely generous in this direction so that the seeds of new life (just like human sperm) are often many thousands of times in excess of that required to initiate new life. The same is true of food grains such as wheat, corn and rice. If all of these food grains produced by these latter grasses were allowed to sprout and flourish it would be the end of biodiversity on our planet. These food grains must remain an essential part of a lovegan diet.

In conclusion, the essential elements of a recommended lovegan diet are the avoidance of meat, poultry, fish and other types of flesh foods. Milk and eggs from free-range small farmers are welcome. Fruits, nuts, food grains and lentil beans are great. Vegetables that do not involve destroying the entire plant are better than others that involve harvesting most or all of the plant.

A lovegan diet is delicious, healthy, inexpensive, and full of love for the wonderful creation of which we all are a part. Not only is it abundant on the planet, it adds even more abundance to the planet by eliminating killing

However because of current food habits and food markets, a strict lovegan diet is feasible only on small farms where the hens are allowed to roam over a fenced enclosure and cows are allowed to graze freely over a pasture. Not everyone can own a farm Others can try and approach a lovegan diet whenever convenient if they wish and like the idea. It may be pointed out though that just as it important to avoid any fanaticism in ideology it is even more important to do so in food.

It would be too much to expect a farmer, who makes a living out of selling his produce, that he nip the leaves off his spinach and celery plants selectively like tea leaves. If he did then spinach and celery just might become as expensive as tea.

In the ultimate analysis it must be realized that all food comes from life and that it is impossible to avoid all violence in the procurement and consumption of food. Just as it is a good idea to show compassion in the type of food we eat it is also good idea not to become too fanatic about what we eat. It is the duty of a human being to fully and adequately nourish his or her body in whatever way it is possible with reasonable effort. The Buddha, who was perhaps the greatest proponent of non-violence on our planet, ate non-vegetarian food from time to time during his travels when he was invited as a guest and that was the only kind of food being served. In spite of what I have written in this article, I myself consume all of the things that I have recommended against although given the choice I choose a lovegan food.

We are compelled by historical practices to consume foods that we may now realize as not the best. This article is primarily for persons who rigidly follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. They may wish to rethink their position. In case a person wishes to follow a system of diet rigidly then lovegan diet does seem to be better than a vegetarian or vegan one and offers the best possible option.. For those of us who do not follow any strict discipline in diet, yet exercise reasonable care in our food choices whenever possible, we must draw consolation from the fact that all food comes from life and that if we devote some of the energy gained from food towards service to our fellow human beings and the world around us, that too is an expression of love that is sure to be appreciated by the Universal Intelligence.

NOTE: Some Himalayan mystics including  a famous one, not named here go further. They do not  even eat food grains because it is a dormant life form with potential to sprout. However, in the view of this blogger that is an extreme view. It is enough to stop killing life, not worry about dormant life too, especially when most seeds must perish just as most human sperm does.

UPDATE: MAY 28, 2014:  Since this article was written much more deliberation has taken place on the subject and a fresh new perspective is posted in  http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2014/05/food-without-violence-lovegan-food.html

Friday, July 2, 2010

Love is the basis of Life



Some days ago I noticed that every time I opened the front door to my home a small bird (a red tailed bulbul) would screech frantically. At first I thought it was because she was hungry. We keep a pan to feed birds in the garden and on some mornings various common birds that live in and around my garden wait patiently for us to place some left over bread pieces in their plate or millet grains that we store especially for the birds. However, on closer examination I discovered that the screeching was not about food but about the two young bulbul chicks that had recently come into the world. An asparagus creeper hangs in the porch near my front door and hidden within its branches was the bulbul nest. The screeching was from fear that some harm may come to the chicks.

A few days later the little chicks were climbing out of the nest on to the branches. Then a couple of days ago while we were away from home we discovered that both the chicks had flown out of their nest and jumped into a small pond in the garden. One of them was dead but the other was still flapping its wings. The parents were flying around and screaming frantically. We retrieved it quickly from the pond and placed it back in the nest, while giving the other chick a decent yet mournful burial in the corner of the garden. All through the day the mother bulbul nursed the young chick while the father stood on guard nearby. By evening, the chick was climbing out of the nest once again. Most tragically though sometime later she repeated the feat and jumped into the nearby pond again and died. We buried her too, both on either side of a jasmine bush, and placed some perfumed flowers over the graves.

We were sad and wondered if we could have done more to save the little birds, perhaps by moving the nest to a safer location or even by emptying the pond. Eventually I consoled myself that these two birds were little angels that had only briefly come into the world to experience the love of their parents, and that their souls have flown back to angelic realms once again. The fact that their may be a sign or message hidden in the story for us as well has occurred to me but I have been unable to fathom that message.

Although these two birds did not survive in spite of the care showered on them by their parents as well as two inexperienced humans, those that do survive, do so because of the love and care of their parents. Without that it would be impossible in any case. That brings me to the realization that creation of higher forms of life including humans is impossible without love. It is the basis of life. That is why I do not take Darwinists seriously when they say that life evolved merely by material movements and trial and error etc. even though I agree in general with the Darwinist mechanism broadly. Much more important is the mysterious force – love – that has nothing to do with random movements of matter, but is a Higher Force that pervades the Universe.

The pond in the author's garden

Update July 2015: Since then many other bulbul chics have been born and grown up in the garden and recognize us as friendly. One of them comes out immediately as soon as I pull a hose out to water the garden and follows me around. At first I wondered if it was for a shower. However I have discovered it is because the water raises moths from the grass and plants and the bulbul grabs them swiftly for a meal.Clever little devil!

There are more stories of birds in this blog but the most interesting one is my experience with a friendly sparrow in my home here:
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2010/08/from-birds-to-telepathy.html