I was born on Kashi ashram. It was founded in 1976 as an interfaith community by my mother, spiritual teacher Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, whose vision was to serve humanity, to “feed everyone,” and to bring joy even to those on the margins of society.
Over the years, the communal living and common purpose created deep bonds between all of the residents. I was raised at Kashi, along with about 25 children in my age group, as well and others who are older or younger. Most of us, including myself, wandered off to travel the world or pursue other opportunities as soon as we were old enough. Although we are scattered around the world, we have stayed in close touch, and we founded our own organization, Kashi Next Generation.
When my mother fell ill with pancreatic cancer, I came home. My mom was not only the founder, she was also a mother figure to many on the community. She was the glue that held us all together. Sadly last month she passed away. Her death has fuelled my passion, as well as many others, to bring this family back together and share with others what we have learned about community.
Many of the original residents at Kashi are well into their 50’s and 60’s. Financial difficulties over the years led them to sell off and develop some of the land, although the original 80 acres still functions as a community. Many of the younger people would like to return home and raise their children as we were raised, but they are limited by a lack of opportunities in the area for sustainable living.
I presently stand at the top of a hill looking down the back side, wondering if it is too late. However, I believe permaculture can help this community to a sustainable future.
My first goal is to bring youth back to Kashi. My second goal is to create sustainability. I believe we need to be able to support ourselves so we can continue to help others. My third goal is to keep Kashi vibrant in its mission to teach and serve.
My brother and I have both recently jumped full force into the wisdom of permaculture through reading, research, and online classes. We have moved back home after many years away to share and implement this knowledge. We are trying to fuel the vision of a sustainable Kashi and to preserve our mother’s compassionate humanitarian legacy.
Her legacy includes several non-profits. These include:
* The River Fund, which runs programs for women and children in Africa and India and food programs in several US cities, including New York, where it recently won a major award;
* By the River, a community residence for low income seniors, which the state of Florida has recognized as a model project;
* Kashi Ashram itself, one of the oldest intentional communities in the US, which welcomes people of every religion, background, and sexual orientation.
* Kashi School of Yoga, which trains teachers in a yoga system developed by my mother and sponsors meditation and yoga retreats.
I believe the next step in that legacy involves showing people how to feed themselves and maintain their community in harmony with nature.
So far we have started with the very basics, educating the residents, creating a compost system, and stockpiling organic matter for a sheet mulching campaign. We are currently working on designing the Zone 1 garden and chicken tractor. There is ample guest lodging and space for teaching. It is our hope to design a complete system based on our unique ecology and soils to link the zone 1 into zones 2-5. I feel that the correct push from those who have practical knowledge can transform this already beautiful property into an energy efficient food production sytem.
The long-term goals are to slash our near $100,000 a year vegetarian food bill, create a marketplace and cafe for our produce, develop an eco/green village with a youthful supply of WWOOFers and permaculture students to help with the labour while they learn; and to serve as a model and inspiration to others. We are looking for expert instructors that may want to host a series of classes and workshops on our land.
With a clear design and vision we can inspire more funding, designate lands appropriately for food forests and such, apply for grants, and open and create space for my generation to raise their children together in a vibrant and healthy community.