Rejuvenating Relaxation Retreat-The Kanha Shanti Vanam
Let me take you to the Man behind this initiative, Sri Kamlesh Desabhai Patel, fondly known as
Daaji ( means the elder brother). As we get to know him better, through the question answer series:
By Payal Sahni
As we get to know him better, through the question answer series:
1.Could you briefly tell us about your initial childhood days?
I was born in a small village named Kalla, in Bharuch District, in Gujarat into an ordinary agricultural family. I had an elder brother and three sisters. After I finished primary school, I went to the nearby town and stayed in a hostel there while I pursued my higher education. I had a very joyful childhood and a good, loving family. My father had medical knowledge of many Ayurvedic treatments.
2.What were the key challenges that you recall when you started the spiritual journey?
In India, the notion that to attain the highest spiritual states one must undergo hardships was widely perpetuated. I too had the same opinion initially. As a teenager, I was inspired by Swami Vivekananda. When I was 19 years old, I decided to follow in his footsteps and left home not knowing what spirituality was. I wanted to become a monk or a wandering sannyasi. I soon met a monk on the banks of the River Narmada. He told me that I cannot find God that way. He regretted the choice he had made, but it was too late for him to correct his mistake. He considered returning home many years earlier but was afraid to face his family. Now he did not know what became of his wife and family and children. He also was dejected that he did not find God as a sanyasi. He was disillusioned and advised me not to follow that path and sent me back home.
I continued Pharmacy College and stayed in a hostel where I tried to meditate on my own by ruminating on profound thoughts. I did not know what to do. That is when my friend took me to a trainer of Heartfulness meditation with whom I had a Heartfulness session. I received Pranahuti or Yogic transmission of divine energy. The trainer told me, “If God is everywhere, He is also inside you. Why not look for him in your own heart during meditation?”
For the following sessions, she requested me to approach another Heartfulness trainer. These sessions were also very deep and energetic. The experience of these meditations convinced me that this is what I was waiting for.
And, anytime I wanted to have a Heartfulness session, I would go to one of my trainer’s homes. Not only did they offer me a meditation session, but we had tea, snacks, and sometimes lunch too. They were like family. And they extended this courtesy and hospitality to my friends and professors too who wanted to try meditation. It was a very beautiful period of my life.
3.When did you go to the USA, please tell us about your professional years in the USA, the struggles you faced and how you handled them, the achievements you have had and at what moment did you decide to come back?
I went to the USA with 20 USD in my pocket in the early eighties. Despite being the gold medalist in my Masters in Pharmacy from India, I had to appear for many certifications and exams before getting a license to practice pharmacy there. Initially, I worked for someone else, but slowly the idea of starting my pharmacy took shape, and eventually, I started a chain of pharmacies over the years. I had many trustworthy partners and I shared my profits generously with them. That was a wise attitude as well which I learned from my spiritual guide. Even when someone was not so honest, one employee, I could convince him that it is more profitable for him to be honest and loyal, and he became trustworthy. Other businesses came my way too, and there was no looking back. I learned that if one shows up with joy and aspiration, the world shows up!
4.What was that moment that made you realize your inclination towards spirituality and the path of Heartfulness?
It was so from the beginning: spirituality and god realization was the main purpose of my life and earning money was only a means to an end and not an end in itself. As I mentioned, I was drawn to spiritual pursuit even from my teenage days. And I feel all of us in some ways are drawn to a higher purpose in life, some of us sense it early on, and some of us later in life. But we all crave something more meaningful, something higher than ourselves, something deeper from the universe.
For me, Heartfulness meditation was the obvious choice because it taught the balance between spiritual life and material life; it is an integration of both. It is the natural way to reach the goal of human life, the expansion of one’s consciousness. Yogic transmission and the Cleaning process of Heartfulness, along with the bedtime deep meditation, helps to connect with the heart that helped me transcend limits of mind and that of ego. Mind and ego were no longer hindrances but became catalysts.
5.How did you meet your mentor?
I met my mentor a few months after I started meditation with a local trainer in Ahemdabad. I went to Shahjahanpur to meet him and learned quite a few lessons which help me immensely even to this day. For example, he taught me the importance of connecting to the heart when you start any activity. He taught me the importance of focusing on one’s mind, to achieve total success in one’s efforts. There are so many life lessons he taught me, a few of which I have covered in my books like ‘The Heartfulness Way’ and ‘Designing Destiny.’
6.Please let us know more about the sustainable self-efficient projects within this vicinity.
Our organization has been in existence for 75 years in the service of humanity. Its current headquarters is located outside Hyderabad and is called Kanha Shanti Vanam. Our journey at Kanha Shanti Vanam begun in 2014 from a dry, arid land pocket of about 1000+ acres which now has grown to about 1400+ acres of abundant greenery.
There are many projects that we have implemented at Kanha and also at the other 250 Heartfulness centers all over the world. We want to enable people to improve their economic situation by farming. People can plant high-value trees like sandalwood even in small spaces of land. We started hydro-farming, without the use of large plots of land, and everyone can raise enough vegetables in their roof garden. We are also planning a new project to increase the micro-forests throughout the country. It is not a mere increase of green cover, which by itself is very useful. We go far beyond, by planting rare, valuable herbal plants, medicinal plants, and other high-value plants, in these micro forests. At Kanha Shanti Vanam, we revived the creation of bio-char and the use of it in farming to increase the yield and shorten the growth time of various species of plants. We are now spreading knowledge of all of these techniques to farming communities all over India.
7.Could you please throw some light on the development projects which are happening around?
Every bit of the land at Kanha has been paid attention to concerning all-natural elements which include soil, water, air, plantation, bio-diversity, etc.
Before our taking over this land for development, there were barely any trees or vegetation. This place being part of Mahabubnagar district was part of one of the driest areas of the state. Much of the land was barren.
We had surveyed the land for contours, water features like water bodies, covered and potential water channels, carried out geological surveys to identify the opportunity and to apply the most appropriate methods to develop the region.
We have revived the water channels which once existed but were buried by silt. Along the paths of storm water, we have created several rainwater harvesting systems. We have re-established the Full Tank Levels (FTL) for all the water bodies and also identified and rebuilt one of the stepped wells that were buried in silt and other waste . . Multiple check-dams were also created along the way in these storm water drains to slow down the pace of the silt runoff into the water bodies. All the weirs were cleared so the overflow from the water bodies is uninterrupted when the water body reaches its FTL. All the bunds of these water bodies have been strengthened as per irrigation standards to ensure they are robust against the sudden surge of water volumes in the peak rainy seasons.
Every rooftop has been designed to collect and carry the rainwater through gutters to designated storm water drains. We have built covered reservoirs to store the rainwater. Provisions are made for runoff to enter the storm water drains. Special attention is paid to collecting the rainwater for reuse.
Every drop of wastewater generated on the campus is being let into the Sewage Treatment Plants set up on either side of the campus. We have deployed an Advanced Aerated Wetlands technology to treat the majority of the wastewater coming out of the various facilities on the campus. The same plant is designed to scale up to meet 8 to 10 times higher volume when large gatherings of 1 to 2 lac people happen on the campus. All the treated water is brought back into use for irrigating the plantation, lawns, and gardens.
We have planted over 7,00,000 plants, shrubs, and trees on our campus over the past few years. 80% of these were planted and nurtured by people from the Heartfulness community from all over the world and others who passionately supported the initiative.
The outcome of all these initiatives has surpassed our expectations, and we continue to invest our time and energy, and effort in it for continuous improvement. Overall moisture content in the soil and the atmosphere has improved significantly. Groundwater level improved to the tune of 200 to 300 feet difference from where it was to where we are now. In fact, not discounting the heavy rainfall this year, we have seen the water table just about a few meters below the natural ground level. We were able to grow coconut trees here in this once dry/arid land which is an indicator of the transformation of this place. We are committed to realizing the power of water as a lifesaving, sustaining, and nourishing resource for all species in this universe. We are committed to training thousands of farmers across India to realize its importance and learn the techniques to preserve and manage this powerful natural resource.
8. We can see the growth and development of Kanha Shanti Vanam. Please share your vision for the same.
Kanha Shanti Vanam is just the beginning. There must be many more Kanha Shanti Vanam or forests of peace all over India and all over the world.
They need not all be of the same size as Kanha Shanti Vanam. They can be much smaller, mini or micro forests. At the other end of the spectrum, of course, they can be much bigger than Kanha as well.
9.Our readers would love to know your vision for this practice and your disciples. What can they do to fulfill your vision?
We have to be the change we want to see in the world. Let us always start with what we can do, and go on from there. Often we feel guilty about the mistakes we made, forgetting that not doing the things we could have done, or wanted to do, but deliberately failed to do, make us guilty.
Unless every organ in the body stays healthy and works for the health of the human being as a whole, the person cannot be very healthy for very long. As Isaac Asimov said in his science fiction novel ‘Foundation and Earth’ the most important attitude for survival and stability is to think in terms of “WE” instead of “I”. This is essential. The sooner we start with the right attitude to living, the better. There is still time to save earth and humanity. Our Spiritual Guide told us, “Live as if you are going to die the next moment.” It does not mean reckless or selfish, it means to do the best you can do, by becoming the best you can become, the best version of yourself. And then improve on it. That is evolution.
In the end I would like to extend my deep gratitude for meeting “Daaji” and the sustainable centers that are being created.