The One Straw Revolution..

11 03 2005

The book written by Masanobu Fukuoka discusses about the spiritual underpinnings of the natural farming and stresses on the issues like
¨ All world is a part of one central truth; we see dualities and opposites because of ignorance
¨ Living in harmony with the environment, life, people and ourselves.
¨ Unity of all things, or the philosophy of do-nothing.

Natural farming here means allowing nature to farm with little or no human intervention.

Realization and the Beginning

The book starts with the realization of Mr. Fukuoka that humanity knows nothing at all. He feels that there is no intrinsic value in anything and every action is a futile, meaningless effort. Here when he says that humanity understands nothing, he recognizes the insufficiency of the intellectual knowledge. He feels that understanding nature is beyond human intelligence and that science has served only to show how small human knowledge is. He announces that Nature doesn’t change, only the way of viewing it changes. He believes in allowing the natural pattern to evolve rather than remaking nature for the benefit of mankind and sets himself to observe how the nature maintains the natural balance among the natural habitant.

Process of Natural Farming:

Then he moves to state the four basic principles of natural farming as
1. No Cultivation
2. No chemical fertilizers or prepared compost
3. No weeding by tillage or herbicides
4. No dependence on chemicals

He talks about the uses of scattering of straw in the form saying that straw enriches the earth maintaining the soil structure. As germination is best at surface because the grain gets exposure to the oxygen, he says that sowing seeds when the preceding crop is still on the field minimizes the damage caused by sparrows. Next comes pelleting of seeds, where in seed is mixed with clay and made a pellet so that it wont become food for rodents before it germinates. He talks about the natural lifecycle of the plant and advises strongly not to kill the natural predators. He calls the modern agricultural practices of weak and improved varieties, addition of copious quantities of Nitrogen to soil, addition of too much of water as wrong practices.

He criticizes the modern scientific method and says that the modern research divides the nature into pieces and conducts tests that conform neither with the natural law nor to the practical experiences. He realizes the limitations of the scientific method and hence he sets himself on an experimentation course to find a method closest to the nature.

Implications of the current farming practices:

He talks about the ramifications of using the pesticides; chemicals, which destroy natural balance and result in food contamination. All the human measures we take proceed from limited scientific truth and hence cant really lead to a true solution. He urges to tackle the source of the problem and calls attention for the need of modest solutions to tackle difficult problems.

He questions the need for the values, which care for size, appearance rather than quality, like external beauty of the fruit, and calls that as a result of unnecessary modernization. He says that natural food should be cheaper and claims that commercial agriculture is a failure. He questions the validity of research with fragmented understanding.

Food crisis is not caused by insufficiency of nature’s productive power but by the extravagance of desire. He calls for serving nature through spiritual awareness. It’s all right not to understand. Basis of human life is to live here and now in awareness of nature. He ridicules the concept of work for the human beings and says that a life of simplicity means work as doing what needs to be done.

Various Schools of Natural Farming:

Mahayana Natural farming: Unity of man with nature. It believes that if individual abandons his will and allows himself to be guided by Nature, Nature provides everything. Here farming goes nowhere and seeks nothing.

Hinayana Natural Farming: It believes in pursuing the way of nature; itself consciously attempts by organic methods etc, to follow nature. Farming is used for achieving a given purpose.
Here there is a distinction made between both the ways of natural farming. One believes in techniques undertaken in conscious pursuit of given objective where as the other relies on spontaneity as an expression of a person’s harmony with nature as he goes about his daily business, free from the domination of volitional intellect.

Here he says that one looses happiness in an attempt to possess them. Ultimate goal of farming is cultivation and perfection of human beings.

Fukuoka feels that people nowadays eat with their minds and not with their bodies. When one no longer wants to eat something tasty then only one can taste the real flavor of the food. He says that the food culture originates in partnership of man and nature.

Four Classifications of Diet:

1. Diet dependent on habitual desires and taste preferences, which he says as self-indulgent and empty eating
2. Standard Nutritional Diet, a materialistic and scientific eating process,
3. Diet of Principle, based on spiritual principles and idealistic philosophy
4. Natural Diet or diet of non-discrimination following the will of heaven.

He calls for “Right Food, Right Action and Right Awareness”

His View of Knowledge:

Here Mr. Fukuoka distinguishes between two paths of knowledge, i.e. the discriminating and the non-discriminating knowledge. Discriminating knowledge is realized by intuition derived from analytic, willful intellect in an attempt to organize experience into a logical framework with limited scientific truth and judgment. Where as non-discriminating knowledge arises without conscious effort on the part of the individual when experience is accepted without interpretation by the intellect.

He says that people think that they understand things because they become familiar with them. He calls it superficial knowledge and says that foolishness comes out looking smart. Words would never match the wisdom of keeping silent. Concepts of duality originate in mind. Love and hate are not separate things. Love gives substance to hate. World is neither based on principle of cooperation or competition. The word of relativity doesn’t exist. This idea is a structure given to experience by the human intellect. Other animals live in a world of undivided reality.

One can proceed questioning “what is nature?” in two ways
1. By examining nature in connection with man, which leads to philosophy and religion
2. By examining nature apart from man which leads to path of nature.

Scientific truths are concepts of relative world. Eventual human goal is to transcend the world of relativity, to play in a realm of freedom. He says that the patterns of life must form a union with nature, which would help in attaining a no-mind state, a state where there is no distinction between individual and the external world. As Buddha echoes that mind and the matter are the same through “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form”.

My Take:

I loved this book as it takes a holistic view of the entire approach towards the man’s understanding of food. Though the theme of the book is natural farming, the book stresses on man’s relationship with the nature and farming. The book is strives to bring in a philosophical change in the whole process of man’s understanding of farming and questions the validity of fragmented understanding and scientific approach. Its interesting and engaging to understand the philosophy of a man who walked his talk.

Finally, I know that the post has become very long, but can’t help myself as I wanted to observe the chain of his thought process and the pearls of his wisdom!



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