In the Indian tradition of farming there are three approaches to the ancient practice. The first is the way of ‘Satvik’, also known as the spiritual way. This sees farming as a deeply spiritual process, you must work at one with the land and, in a spiritual sense, as a part of the land. I am not a spiritual person, but believe that most of everything is just semantics, when someone says we are all part of one spirit, we say we are all part of one ecosystem. When they say ‘global consciousness’ we say ‘global ecosystem’. We then recognize that our perspectives actually combine perfectly. Because the actually problematic divide is not how you describe or perceive reality, but how you want to act on it and live with it.
In the Satvik way of farming all techniques are supposed to be gentle, cooperative and cohesive with the soil and nature. Those farming the land are expected to act subtly and simply. This includes a somewhat minimalist approach, certainly not an industrial farming ideology here. Within the Indian tradition the food produced this way is said to be particularly refreshing, nourishing and revitalising. This holistic approach inherently comes with a lifestyle. The very act of farming this way is gratifying, relaxing and fulfilling.
The second way of farming under this Indian trichotomy, is the way of ‘Rajsik’. This is the way of ‘power-farming’. The meaning of the ‘power’ here is not quite how I first interpreted it. It is not power farming necessarily in the sense of ‘high-powered’ like ‘turbo farming’ or something like that. The power does not refer to intensity or level of imput of energy, it does not necessarily mean very high output, very high harvest or industrial techniques. Though all of these are far more likely within Rajsik farming than within Satvik farming. No, the ‘power’ here refers to political power, Rajsik is farming through controlling land and controlling people. The ‘Raj’ in ‘Rajsik’ refers to power and a position of rule, as in the British Raj, the former colonial rulers in India. We can see here that this three way division is actually a material and social dialectic, it is a tracing of how farming has developed with the world. Rajsik farming is farming as it was reconstructed under feudal rule. This form of farming, whilst clearly politically unjust and unfair in its treatment of people and how it conceives of land ‘ownership’, does not necessarily exclude practices which attempt conservation and cohesive living with the land. A feudal landlord does not necessarily hold the land and nature in contempt. Unlike Satvik farming though it does create the opportunity for farming outside of these principles, and it certainly destroyies the Satvik lifestyle of a satisfying relationship with nature at the point of contact.
Thirdly, and lastly, is the ‘Tamsik’ way. ‘Tamas’ is not a positive word, it does not translate simply into one word but generally gives the impression of darkness, depressiveness and ‘de-vitalisation‘. This is farming which is intensely destructive of land, livelihood, community and the ecosystem generally. This includes the use of pesticides or herbicides or any genetically modifying practices that over burden or simply destroy the land. This farming does not attempt to work with nature or the ecosystem, but instead attempts to bend it to the will of the farmer, to exploit it for maximum gain, with a small group massively overproducing to supply a amplified demand. This style of farming will leave one feeling guilty, disconnected and alienated. You will medicate these feelings physically, psychologically, socially and ideologically.
This commodification of land and nature has taken place on a mass scale. It is the situation of our planet and human race finds itself in. It is not a permanent state, it is not an eternal state. We have not always approached nature this way, wanting to beat and dominate it, allowing individual groups to work in a system of competition that drives them to find new techniques and practices to attempt over-exploitation of the land on an even larger scale and depth than their competitors.
I will write more on the Satvik, Rajsik, Tamsik trichotomy. All I will say for now is that these philosophies of farming apply to all aspects of life, and it is quite clear that from a philosophical angle at least, we should all be trying to farm and live in a more Satvik world.