By Francis Aradhya
Please receive this letter with several impulses, experiences and stories from Friends of Camphill India, also in the light of the worldwide changes…
Friends of Camphill India is a small life sharing community whose journey goes back to 1999. We began with a group of three young adults with special needs, a newly constructed house in the middle of nowhere and a large wild garden. With no running water, numerous days without electricity and the occasional herd of wild elephants visiting our garden, it was definitely a humble and adventurous beginning!
Today, 22 years on, we are a community of around 40 people, 24 of whom have special needs. Together with our friends, as we call our residents, we have transformed our land surrounding the 2 houses into a beautiful terraced garden filled with native tree species, fruit trees, vegetable patches and rain water harvesting structures. This small but richly diverse ecosystem has been shaped by a lot of impulses including biodynamics, permaculture and ancient Indian agricultural practices. Hundreds of hands have touched our soil, planted trees and made biodynamic compost which has enriched the deeply degraded soil we started out with.
As our garden continues to grow and flourish, the surrounding area is being transformed at an unbelievable speed. Fertile farmland, grazing spaces, ancient trees and lakes are making way for new houses, factories and real estate developments. We are located right on the edge of two extreme contrasts. To the North we have to contend with the ever-expanding mega city Bangalore, while to the south lies the 260 square kilometre Bannerghatta national park which is now one of the last safe spaces for the local wildlife in this area. We do miss the peace and quiet from the early days, as well as the cleaner air and clearer skies that once were.
We have since the last few years come to feel that we need more space to expand, to farm and work on the land. Being witness to the degradation of the natural world in our surroundings, we decided to buy land further out in the countryside. Our dream is to expand into a second community with a renewed focus on agriculture and sustainable living. Located around 25 kilometers away from the nearest city Mysore, our new piece of land is now ready for a small group of pioneers to move in. Over the last year and a half, we have constructed a small farm house and all the basic infrastructure is ready to support this step, including a solar energy system which was recently donated by a very generous friend and supporter of our community. We are looking for people who want to join us on this journey of exploring how to live in a way that meets the various needs of not only the people who will live there but also those of the land, the needs of our planet and our humanity in these unprecedented times. Discovering what community living can offer in today’s world of hyper individualism, climate emergency and ever-changing society. And finding out how social therapy can be rooted in the soil beneath our feet.
Last March we prepared a three day Festival to celebrate our 21st Birthday. The rich programme which included music, talks, dance, drama pieces and of course a delicious menu, was hoping to draw about two hundred participants to our campus. It was going to be a genuine Camphill event with our twenty-four special friends at the core of it all. The events of the festival would have been a reflection of twenty-one truly valuable years of being a Camphill Community unique to itself in the south of India.
All these years a brave team of permanent Indian coworkers “held the ship” so to speak while hundreds of young volunteers from all over the world came and went, staying usually for a year, and helped us flourish. As the years passed, we saw our trees grow, ourselves develop, and our ethereal substance get enriched. We have been free, unseen and unknown by the wider society or the government. We had only our own conscience to support us in our endeavour to practice social therapy in the widest sense. The Festival, which wanted to celebrate all this, never took place because suddenly the changes in the world became applicable to us as well. The history of the first 21 years remained though. Let me describe a few aspects.
Since we are Camphill pioneers in South India we had the necessity to enrich ourselves by conducting training programmes. During the last fifteen years we had about sixty people from all over India attending a three year part time course on Social Therapy hosted by our community. (Foundation Courses in Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy). The course was fortunate to receive, as teachers, Camphillers and Waldorf teachers from Ireland, Scotland, Germany, India and the USA. Simple accommodation, great vegetarian organic food and a creative blending with the day to day life of our residents was offered to the participants besides the subject matter. We are really satisfied and happy with this achievement in our biography. The last batch of relatively young students completed the third (of seven) session of their course last February and then all got hampered due to the changes in the world…
Another outreach activity we nourished and cherished was the following: Since 2013 we, as a community, have been attending annual Festivals of Anthroposophy in India travelling hundreds of kilometers to attend these inspiring weekends. Every year, we present a play at these festivals. At the last Festival in 2019 we presented “Maha Yuddham,” a play written and performed by our community. “Maha Yuddham” means “Big War.” The play spoke about the eco crisis and how man must and can take up responsibility for all the suffering he has caused to the living world. It displayed how mankind has lost much awareness in all three dimensions of space, allowing forces to work against the development of the spiritual dimension of man. Like Tagore said after he became totally disillusioned about the global contributions from the West: “Western man, you have gained the whole world but you have lost your soul.” Maha Yuddham displayed that eventually the most difficult part in redeeming our guilt is the awakening that the dragon to be fought is not external to us anymore. There has to be great inner movement and inner battles to begin to pay back all the wrong we have done. In the same month of November, when we performed this drama, we got all confronted with the big changes the world is going through. And that made the play even more relevant.
It’s with great pleasure to write that our collegial connections have expanded substantially. On the 10th of March 2018 Friends of Camphill India co-founded “Avapanam” Forum for Inclusive Social Development in India. “Avapanam” is a Sanskrit word and carries the meaning: “The field in which all offerings are sown.” At present it is a group consisting of eight organisations and several individual members..( http://www.avapanam.in ). Our aim is to introduce and foster curative education and social therapy towards an upgrading of dignity of children and adults with developmental challenges and an upgrading of those individuals who opt to work in the field. Handicaps, unique, unconventional individual features and vocational choices for our field are severely marginalised in India. This needs to change! It is also with this intention that Avapanam has chosen to organise three annual workshops on the theme “Seeds for Social Renewal” by Karl König.
Last January we had the first of this series and Jan Goeschel was the main speaker. He will continue this journey with Avapanam for the next two years as well. And our special world can count on quality changes indeed!
Another important expansion of our connections manifested in 2019. Two of our members went to Camphill Tinh Truc Gia in Vietnam to attend the International Movement gathering and witnessed the inauguration of the Eastern wing region of the Camphill Movement Worldwide. The picture of this meeting is hanging in our office. It was an auspicious moment to witness the completion of Camphill’s circle around the entire globe! It leaves us also with renewed responsibility. To let the Camphill impulse flourish out of the Indian soil, soul and spirit… To add to the Camphill movement from the East! Social renewal has surely an Indian context to deal with and we’re kind of still pioneering… But the beginning has been made!
Having mentioned several aspects of our activities, we also have to describe us, as part of the new karmic situation of the world. As in all the Camphill communities, the flow of incoming foreign volunteers stopped entirely. Since Christmas 2020 we have only one man from Brazil left with us. In the time since, young Indian people appeared as coworkers. Some college students are from affluent families, but also youngsters from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. Practicing social therapy and living an eco-conscious lifestyle became a new educational challenge. New dynamics are needed to weave a team spirit. Although it has been great to receive support from the young volunteers, the weight on the shoulders of the permanent older coworkers increased. We were suddenly “back” to the actual care for the residents. Brushing teeth, bathing, changing clothes, beds, etc. etc… I personally was disappointed with myself, to see how much resistance I felt towards these “old” jobs…. “I have not enough love” I sadly would exclaim to my husband….Many times Karl König’s Good Friday Play came back to my mind… “It’s not my ears that are deaf it is my heart”… The Virus crisis had brought me also into my dragon…I needed to change…release the heart, strengthen the I … Broaden my capacity to accept the different levels of consciousness, education, ages, social backgrounds which were brought into our community, etc. etc. … It is so easy to talk about love but to practice it on a mundane level is really challenging. After some weeks of deep struggle I started to feel somehow thankful for losing a bit of my importance to see clearly my heart’s weakness…The virus did also work on me! It’s part of the World’s necessary changes I guess…
My name is Francis Aradhya, married to Anantha Aradhya. He brought me to his home country, India, which has somewhat become my home country too. I have lived in Camphill for the last 32 years and clearly, I’m not done with it: for personal as well as community reasons. But we cannot ignore that Anantha is already 70 and I will be 59 soon. A new kind of energy is needed to carry our South Indian Camphill Impulse into the future. Like we heard in the Camphill research meetings of last December: Our generation is people with will power. The new “Millenium” folks have heart forces, empathy! I surely can recognise this. The young people have a chance to impact the wider society by performing deeds which are so precious towards a new social tapestry. Yet, they need a lot of support and educational input to grow as social therapists as well as a strong sense of integrity, dignity and truth of this field of work. To support the young people in this journey as well as the overall health of our community in this strange time, we could benefit from experienced Camphillers to join us for one or two years. If anyone can hear this call, please contact us. To help us with the changes in our part of the world…
I hope that my small writings about different aspects of Friends of Camphill India carries some interesting aspects for you readers. As most of you are also Camphillers there are probably many things that don’t come as surprises to you but nevertheless I have enjoyed writing this for you. And on behalf of all the members of Camphill India I do send you the warmest of greetings. And to all those people who have supported us in various ways I want to express our gratitude also via this platform!
Friends of Camphill India (Founded 1999)
Phone and WhatsApp : 994532674