The Yoga of Ecology: Simple Living, High Thinking
In the late 1960s, when the acclaimed Vedic scholar/teacher A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brought the timeless tradition of bhakti-yoga to the Western world, his vision of spiritual renewal for a society caught up in the throes of tremendous upheaval included a bold yet elementary cure.
Coming as he was from the sacred Indian village of Vrindavan, from a culture where sustainability and a respectful relationship with the Earth where inherently coded into the fabric of life, he knew that the massive disconnect in society at large was the effect of being disconnected from our most natural heritage. Borrowing a phrase from Mahatma Gandhi, who had influenced him as a youth, he challenged and inspired some of his first students to imbibe the ideal of "simple living and high thinking."
Swami Prabhupada understood that the complexities of modern life could be a serious impediment to one's spiritual growth. If one could live very simply, off the grid as much as possible, growing one's own food and providing for one's own necessities, and following in the traditional and modest cultural example of bhakti-yoga's heritage in India, then the possibility of enlightenment even amidst the insanity of 20th-century life would be strengthened.
Now, over 40 years later, as life in the 21st century presents its own set of complications, "simple living and high thinking" is more prescient and vital than ever. Many of Swami Prabhupada's students who took up this challenge have struggled and failed yet endured to create the kinds of rural communities and cultural examples that he wanted.
During my time as a monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition, I worked for one year with Terry Sheldon, one of Prabhupada's students, on his organic farm project in the Ohio River Valley near Wheeling, W.Va. His Small Farm Training Center (SFTC) is Terry's offering to the world on how we can practically, theoretically, and spiritually understand our relationship to the planet which gives us our life, breath, and heart.