GET ALL YOUR NECESSITIES from the land," Srila Prabhupada often told devotees. Rural self-sufficiency promotes simple living, which helps reduce material desires to make way for Krsna consciousness. And rural living brings another benefit: On a farm we can engage many kinds of living entities in Krsna's service.
Cows give their milk for Krsna. Oxen plow the fields to offer Him grains. The dogs scare away groundhogs who dig holes that can break an ox's leg. Cats catch mice and protect the grain supply for Krsna's cows. All these creatures have their work to do for Krsna. Graceful barn swallows eat flies that bite the cows. In the morning, song birds sing a melodic symphony to greet the Deities. During the day, the honeybees industriously gather honey to make special treats for Lord Balarama. (In His incarnation as Lord Balarama, Lord Krsna is said to be very fond of honey.) In the evening, tree frogs and crickets serenade the Deities as They rest.
In any devotee community you visit, if you take note you might see that even the trees in the forest are different. Somehow they seem to know they're serving Krsna. They can sense they're lucky. The flowers are lucky: Big yellow marigolds make up Krsna's garland. Tiny white matricaria flowers decorate Srimati Radharani's hair. Fragrant pink rose petals scent the Deities' morning bath. And what about the buzzing mosquito? How is she serving Krsna? By her bite she reminds you, "There's always some kind of suffering in the material world, no matter how nice it seems. Better finish up your business here and go all the way back home, back to Godhead."
Because Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to get as much of life's necessities from the land as possible, self-sufficiency means a chance for everyone to serve Krsna. The slower pace of country life, combined with chanting of Hare Krsna to purify the heart, allows us to see our garden and woodland neighbors as servants of Krsna. When that happens, their distinct personalities begin to emerge for us. Krsna is the supreme personality, and when we see other living entities in relation to Him, their personalities become more apparent. We can see we're living in a place where we're surrounded by devotees of Krsna in all forms of life.
This is the world we long for. This is the world that artists and animators vainly try to create in children's cartoons, which hold great attraction because of our natural desire to live in a place where everything is alive and conscious. But cartoons pale next to the real thing, because they lack the life-giving connection to Krsna. The more you see the different living entities in terms of their service to Krsna, the happier you become, because you see that you are always surrounded by well-wishing friends who can instantly remind you of Krsna.
I had an experience recently that reminded me how lucky we are that Srila Prabhupada has given us rural communities to train us in this awareness. I was riding on a bus from Boston to Maine. As we came into Maine I was pleased to see the long expanses of green pine forest. My mind began to drift peacefully. Then my eye caught a tiny glimpse of bright pink as the bus sped down the highway. Instantly my mind flashed to the Radha-Damodara Deities at Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania. That flash of pink was a wild rose, the same kind of rose we loved to put in the Deities' morning bath at Gita Nagari. That rose was saying to me, "You remember me. I'm a servant of Radha-Damodara. It's nice that you appreciate the scenery. But don't forget who created it, and don't forget who the ultimate enjoyer is. It's Krsna. In your appreciation of the beauty of nature, remember Him. Don't forget."
Thank you, dear rose. Thanks for reminding me of Krsna. You are a true friend.
Formerly the editor of Hare Krsna Rural Life, Hare Krsna Devi Dasi is currently compiling a five-volume series of Srila Prabhupada's teachings on varnasrama and farm community development. The first volume, "Speaking about Varnasrama" is due out this fall and will be available through The Hare Krsna Catalog.