Nepal is a country with a rich cultural and spiritual heritage deeply connected to the Vedic tradition of knowledge. Despite upheavals in recent times, its people have an innate understanding of the value of living in harmony with Natural Law. One man who has dedicated his life to promoting these values for the benefit of his nation is Dr Deepak Baskota.
As well as being the National Director of Nepal Maharishi Vedic Foundation (the organisation that offers Maharishi’s programmes in the country) he has had a distinguished career in government as a Member of Parliament and Minister for Home Affairs. He is also the founder of the first cooperative organic tea plantation in the country, Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Centre (KTE).
A country in tune with Natural Law
Recently, Dr Baskota visited the Maharishi European Sidhaland, Skelmersdale, and its sister community Maharishi Garden Village in Suffolk. At both locations he gave a fascinating presentation on the progress of Maharishi’s programmes in Nepal, illustrated with photographs that included pictures of Maharishi’s historic visit to the country in 1974. In recognition of the liveliness of Natural Law in the consciousness of the Nepalese people, Maharishi called his visit, ‘Nepal to lead the world’. He conducted large open-air meetings on Vedic Science and taught Transcendental Meditation to 28,000 people. He took with him technical experts with the equipment necessary to broadcast television, the first time this had been done in Nepal. A television station was set up on the tallest available building, a Buddhist temple, allowing everyone to hear his lectures in different parts of Kathmandu.
In recent years, Nepal Maharishi Vedic Foundation, under Dr Baskota’s leadership, has hosted conferences on the application of Maharishi’s programmes in areas as diverse as education, health, organic agriculture, culture and national security. There has been keen interest and participation from members of the government, an interest that Dr Baskota is well placed to foster because of his own career in government.
Dr Baskota’s presentation included pictures of the group of Maharishi Vedic Pandits resident in Kathmandu, all of whom are of Nepalese nationality. As well as practising the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Programme together, they are also regularly performing Yagyas – special Vedic performances to enliven Natural Law – thereby creating a nourishing influence of peace for the whole country.
Many other projects are getting underway including Consciousness-Based Education programmes in several schools, supported by sponsorship from the David Lynch Foundation. Nepal Maharishi Vedic Foundation also enjoys close links with Maharishi University of Management in Iowa, USA. This year 55 students from Nepal graduated at the American university.
An inspiring story of success
Dr Baskota’s visit to the UK was partly motivated by his wish to see first-hand the two coherence-creating communities, Maharishi Garden Village and the Maharishi European Sidhaland, since he is keen to establish such groups in Nepal, particularly among those working for the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate (KTE).
Kanchanjangha is the Nepalese spelling of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, in the foothills of which, at an altitude of 1300-1800 metres, KTE is located. This remote area of eastern Nepal borders the famous tea growing area of Darjeeling. The north-facing slopes constantly receive fresh air from the snow-capped Himalayas, and the unique blend of climatic and other natural geographical factors give the tea its special aroma and flavour.
The story of how KTE came into being is an inspiring testimony to the dedication of one man to the welfare of his nation. Many years ago, as a young man, Dr Baskota had the idea of establishing a tea plantation in his home area after visiting a plantation in Darjeeling. As well as enjoying the serene beauty of the tea gardens, he was impressed by the standard of living among the workers which was much better than that of people in his own village. The idea came to him that if a tea plantation could be set up in his locality, it would be a way to raise the villagers’ standard of living while maintaining their independence and traditional way of life.
At that time, tea for Dr Baskota was just a morning beverage and he knew little about its cultivation. Moreover, he faced the task of convincing the local farmers of the viability of his plan. The first step was to establish that the soil was suitable for tea cultivation. To do this he had to carry two sacks of soil to a testing laboratory at Birathnager, a difficult journey that took him three days on foot. The test proved positive, but still the villagers were doubtful of his idea that their as yet unproductive land could be used for tea cultivation. Undaunted, Dr Baskota started with a plantation on his own property.
Seeking help from specialists in Darjeeling he learned much about the cultivation of tea and he bought select seeds for planting using organic methods. It was three years before the villagers were convinced of the prospects that tea cultivation offered them. In 1984 the enterprise was launched on a cooperative model with over 100 farmers pooling their land holdings and becoming joint owners of Nepal’s first organic tea plantation covering nearly 94 hectares. A government grant approved by the late King Birendra helped to bring the project to fruition.
Certified organic tea produced with care for the environment
Since 1997, the plantation has been certified organic by the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture, Australia, which is accredited by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture) – the international umbrella organisation for organic agriculture.
By using organic farming methods, KTE is committed to conserving the environment. Regular training is given to farmers in areas such as integrated pest management (based on traditional Ayurvedic practices including companion planting and the mixing of pest-repellent botanicals with compost) and techniques that reduce soil erosion, including sustainable forestry and the cultivation of vetiver, a plant that binds the soil. Soil fertility is maintained by the use of locally available farmyard manure, composting and the planting of green manure. As well as tea, organic herbs and spices are also grown to supplement the farmers’ income.
Dr Baskota has organised conferences on Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture that have drawn participation from leading members of the Nepalese government and the farming community interested in converting the entirety of Nepal’s agriculture to organic. In September 2010, the Deputy Prime Minister, Sujata Koirala, inaugurated one such conference by declaring: “Organic agriculture is considered the most pure, safe and environmentally friendly method of agricultural development. In countries like ours, where religious and social traditions play important roles in social policies and lifestyle, the Vedic Organic Agriculture system offers positive hopes and successful examples for scientific agricultural development.”
A perfect business model for community development
KTE has emerged as a perfect business model for community development and for poverty reduction at a grass roots level. As well as improving the living standards of local farmers, KTE has created jobs in Kathmandu with the establishment of a tea packaging factory and a busy marketing office. Those who have benefited from the opportunity for employment include women who were previously destitute and homeless. A dynamic marketing team is engaged in promoting the high quality organic tea to niche markets worldwide. Dr Baskota tells how it was a source of great satisfaction for him when he heard that the company’s tea was being stocked by Harrods.
At present, in the Kathmandu office and factory, a staff of about 30 practises Transcendental Meditation together daily. Everyone, from the CEO to the cleaning staff, gathers in the packaging room for the 20 minute sessions. Dr Baskota is expanding the programme to include instruction in Transcendental Meditation for the farmers and villagers at the plantation. Courses in the Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Programme are also due to commence very soon.
During his visit to Nepal in 1974, Maharishi explained how the practice of Transcendental Meditation – by giving the experience of the non-changing transcendental field, the Self – brings the fruit of all knowledge, evenness of life. Nepal Maharishi Vedic Foundation, under Dr Baskota’s leadership, is continuing Maharishi’s great work to enable each individual to enjoy that evenness of life, and for all levels of society in Nepal to express the perfect harmony and affluence that is the full expression of Natural Law.