ELDERS AND YOUTH JOIN TOGETHER TO CREATE A FAMILY STYLE COMMUNITY
by Uma Simon
What happens when you combine a young group of adults with a community of elders who have been living at an ashram for over 40 years? “Exciting, nourishing and stimulating,” says both the elders and young organic farmers called Woofers (Worldwide Opportunities at Organic Farms). These Woofers temporarily live as guests with the residents at Kashi Ashram, which now includes within its complex a sustainable farm complete with goats and chickens, fruit trees, vegetable and herb plants and more to come.
Housed with community members, many of whom have resided at Kashi for over four decades, the Woofers received something more than what they expected. “We just thought we were coming to work the land, plant trees, compost and find out about sustainable farming. What we didn’t expect to find when living here was the warmth and love extended to us by these Kashi people or the peaceful atmosphere that contributed to our extending our stays.”
Mary Phillips, one of the Woofers, a teaching assistant for disabled children in Arizona, said that she had had a very trying time last year caring for her dying mother and when she came to Kashi, “It’s been an amazing healing experience for me to be at Kashi. I feel as if I am slowly getting back who I had been.” Eric, her husband, who had been in the solar industry, came here on a whim, thinking he would spend a few hours to see what was happening here. “Neither of us thought that we would remain here.” Still here after 7 months they are very grateful at what they have received in terms of not only education about organic farming, but in terms of the relationships cultivated amongst the residents. “We have been truly welcomed with kindness by a wonderful group of people.”
When Kashi’s guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, died last year in April, many wondered how an ashram which relied upon a singular figure such as Ma for spiritual teachings might survive. Having heard that it was not unique for ashrams to disband after a guru passes, Kashi CEO Swami Durga Das was asked to comment. He answered, “You have to understand that Ma’s teaching of love, acceptance and awareness continues. It is still about being in the moment; this is a teaching that is ongoing for all of us, whether the Guru is present in physical form or not. Those of us who have been with Ma for a long time understand this. Our job is to continue that teaching.”
A long time devotee, who lives at Laxman House where the Woofers are guest housed, is very excited about the new addition of Woofers. “I am grateful for the new excitement and life that these Woofers have brought into my house. We have been the recipients of not only their organic farming talent, but their abilities to cook and fix computers, not to mention,” she laughed, “we can borrow them occasionally to lift a heavy object,” she laughed.
Devotee Nancy Grossbart says, “As people get older, there is always the danger of isolation and separation. Here at Kashi, through the Woofers, they get the benefit of our wisdom and kindness; we get the benefit of youthful enthusiasm and energy. It’s a win-win.”
Summing this new feeling up, a long time resident of Kashi says, “In this day and age, people are expanding their definitions of what family is. Here at Kashi we are building a true family style community, which honors and respects all. That is the true legacy of our Ma Jaya.”