Environment in a New Light III

Environment in a New Light III

“Prabhate mala darshanam” -unknown
This dictum probably comes from Vedic time. It says, “every morning look at your feces.” As we try to make our lifestyle more eco-friendly by avoiding wrong eating, saving water, and recycling sewage, this advice of a Rishi (sage) of ancient times is more appropriate now than it was then.

It sounds simple; some people may even think it simplistic. But it is profoundly wise counsel. I have lived by it all my life and it has worked like a powerful talisman.

By its odor, color, texture, shape, quantity our feces clearly tells us every single day whether or not we are eating the right food in right quantity.

For instance, normally our feces should not stink. Its rancid odor means we are eating wrong food in large quantity and it is not digesting properly inside the stomach. When we change our food, the offensive smell goes. This can be seen in animals also. I lived in upstate New York for several decades. In the 60’s and 70’s the state was dotted with small farmers many of whom raised dairy cows in addition. Cows were mostly grazed in the fields and fed some additional grain meal to sustain their high milk yield. Their excreta smelled okay. But later, in the 80’s and 90’s yield of milk per cow had to be raised in order for the farmer to remain competitive. Factory made feeds of higher nutrient content became vogue. They contained grain and waste materials from food processing plants. Some clever animal nutrition experts began to recommend feed factories to use waste products of butcheries. These included blood, ground up hoofs, bones and bits of viscera. Cow dung odor turned terribly obnoxious. Dairy farms began to stink so bad that one could smell them from miles.

This trend is changing for the better in the present millennium as dairy farmers go organic. I visited some of them in 2006. Offensive odor in many dairies had vanished. We visited a highly successful farmer who keeps 80 cows. “It smells good,” he said. My family and I live in a house right next to the dairy. He served us snacks and coffee in his house to prove his word. He also told us that Cornell experts had warned him that he would not be viable for long. “I proved them wrong,” he boasted! As you can see I am doing well.

In India we have always considered cow dung shuddha, (clean and safe). We use hands to lift, carry and use it. Our houses were regularly plastered with it. The reason obviously is that we fed the cows their natural feed, i.e. grasses. No wonder we call it gobar, not cow shit!

When I am at Navadarshanam I never use indoor WC, for I do not want to waste precious water and valuable manure. I find a secluded area near our house and a spot where a plant can use manure. I cover the excreta with mud or dry cow dung if some is found nearby.

Most of the time all is well but sometimes odors turn rancid. I quickly make amends. Sometimes one may notice little worms squirming and whole peas and other grains. Timely action sets things right. Feces may occasionally be too runny or hard. It may be of unusual color or have too much white mucus. It may come out as one long piece, or in small shreds. Sometimes I have to spread it with a twig to see clearly. Whenever one or more unusual signs appear, they tell a tale. I can easily recall what and how much I ate the previous day. Because of long experience I know what amends I need to make. Often all I have to do is miss one or two meals and all turns well. But occasionally I have to fast for a day or much longer. I must also avoid foods that do not agree with my stomach. One thing to remember always is to eat less.

Human feces dry quickly in open air. Good living soil decomposes it quite fast. I cannot even find it after three or four days in many places; microbes and insects have eaten it up. All of it is finished off and gone. There is no room for pathogens to lurk. But when we give human feces a watery medium, like in a modern flush latrine, pathogens love it and thrive. No wonder every city in the world faces a huge sewage disposal problem. There is no solution in sight while the problem worsens at alarming speed.

Mala Darshanam teaches us much more. But it won’t fit in this paper.

Partap, December 29, 2009