The Spiritual Aspects of Natural Agriculture


Roy Gibbon

Shumei Natural Agriculture was developed by Mokichi Okada,whom we in Shumei refer to as Meishusama, in Japan back in the 1930s. Originally, Meishusama was mostly doing spiritual healing by directing Divine Light. But he understood that to be healthy it was not enough just to receive Light, though spiritual Light is crucial to health. One’s lifestyle, and how one behaves, contributes to one’s health as well. We are comprised of body, mind, and spirit. Even if we are receiving Light, if we live in a toxic environment, if we eat contaminated food, if we fight with our family and friends, if we harm our environment, all these things will in turn harm us.

This is in accord with Meishusama’s philosophy of spiritual precedence: everything originates on the spiritual level before coming to the physical level. Accordingly, our thoughts affect and manifest reality. For example, if one builds up resentment towards people, then eventually that person will probably become angry and aggressive. If one feels sorry for oneself, eventually he or she will become depressed. So, what we think affects what we do, and what we do has concrete effects on the world. What we think and say affects what happens in the physical world, and what happens in the physical world affects what we think and say. Emotions affect the chemicals in our brain, the expressions on our face, and how we behave.

It is a paradox. There are two sides to this. Like the Buddhist wheel of karma: our thoughts affect our actions, and our actions affect our thoughts. Yet, everything occurs in the mind of God. It is all a divine play. And yet, if we stub our toe on a rock, it will hurt.

Jyorei purifies us on a spiritual level. It purifies our spiritual body, and helps us to become healthier individuals. Conversely, if we eat healthy food, it helps us on the physical level. Here is a brief definition of Natural Agriculture:

Natural Agriculture is a way of farming that does not use chemicals, fertilizers, or manure and that emphasizes the farmer’s relationship to nature.

The first part of this definition, “Natural Agriculture is a way of farming that does not use chemicals, fertilizers, or manure,” relates to the physical realm. Spiritual relevance is found in the second part, “…and that emphasizes the farmer’s relationship to nature.”

What is meant by the farmer’s relationship? If there are two rocks in the garden, are they in a relationship? Barely. If you walk by somebody on the street, and you do not particularly notice him or her, are you in relationship with that person? To some extent, yes. When two people do not notice each other, they are hardly in a relationship. But if you are aware of someone, then a relationship exits. If you know the person and understand how he or she thinks and feels, then the relationship is deeper.

When farming, we are automatically in a relationship with nature, but the relationship is deeper if the farmer goes beyond awareness of the external components of the plants, rocks, and soil. One’s understanding is deeper if one becomes aware of the interior parts of people, plants, and one’s surroundings. For humankind, interiors are composed of thoughts and feelings.

One of the key concepts of Natural Agriculture is that nature is conscious, intelligent, and sensitive. This means that plants are conscious, soil is conscious, air and water are all conscious, intelligent, and sensitive. Therefore, nature can and does interact with us.

For some farmers, the plants are like their progeny. I think that Junzo Uyeno once said that the plants in his garden are his children. He loves them. Maybe it is easier to love a plant. A plant does not talk back. A plant does not come home late at night and does not play loud music. One does not argue with one’s plants, does one?

The notion that nature is conscious, intelligent, and sensitive can be understood when contemplating an aspect of God known as Miroku Omikami. The literal translation of that term might be Ultimate Great Spirit. It is a rather sophisticated concept of God. There are many ways to try to define Miroku Omikami. One is to say that God is everywhere, is omnipresent, and that God moves in and out of forms, is transmigratory and transubstantial. God is the substance of all things, and because God’s spirit is in all things, everything is conscious.

A plant is more conscious than a rock. We can observe a plant’s reactions to sun, water, heat, and cold, so we know it is sensitive. An animal is more conscious than a plant because it has a brain and complex nervous system. It also has eyes and ears. And a human is more conscious than a plant or an animal—usually.

The point is that we can form relationships with the world around us because of its consciousness, sensitivity, and intelligence. God is within everything and everything is sacred Many ancient traditions, as well as primitive cultures, knew this. Native Americans still know this. When they talk to a plant before they eat it, ask an animal’s permission before killing it for food, and thank it afterwards, they are talking to its spirit. Native Americans have always recognized the sacredness of nature.

Some people feel that because plants are conscious, one should do a little ritual to let the broccoli know that you intend to eat it. Some research has suggested that a plant will sometimes go into hibernation before being pulled from the ground or cut, so as not to feel pain. Details such as this are found in “The Secret Life of Plants,” a wonderful book about the consciousness of nature.

An expert lie detector technician wondered what would happen if he tested a plant. After attaching a plant to a polygraph machine, he dipped one of its leaves into a cup of hot coffee. Not much happened. So he thought, “OK, well what if I burn it?” (poor plant). He then struck a match. But before he even touched the plant, the lie detector needle started moving rapidly, the way it would if a person had a strong emotional reaction. He did many more tests, each time the device kept indicating emotional reactions. When another researcher, who incinerated plants after studying them, approached the first researcher’s plants, the plants would go into hibernation and not respond at all. As if the plants were trying to avoid feeling anything.

Yet another researcher used a biofeedback device to study plants’ reactions. As did most people who worked at his lab, he wore a white coat. He cut the plant with scissors and the plant reacted with a good deal of agitation. It kept reacting excitedly for quite awhile. Only when the researcher left the room did the device’s indicator slow down. Others in white coats came in and out of the room with some frequency, but the plant did not react. It was only when the cutter returned that the biofeedback device started reacting again.

The obvious question: Was the plant aware of its particular tormentor when he walked into the room? I do not know. Plants do not have eyes, ears, noses, or any other recognizable sensory apparatus. So, how could a plant know that this particular guy was entering the room? This happened many times during the experiments. The device kept responding every time he entered the room. So, there are indications that plants are intelligent and sensitive.

Some believe that water also responds to our thoughts and feelings. The Japanese scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto claims that water molecules cluster together and seem to respond to people’s energy, to thoughts, and even to music. What we consider positive emotions, like love, gratitude, and joy, cause water molecules to gather into beautiful polygonal shapes. Whereas, anger or heavy metal music—things that are dissonant – cause water molecules to arrange in chaotic clusters. So, it appears that water also responds to our thoughts and feelings.


People who practice Natural Agriculture do not use industrial fertilizers of any kind, not even organic fertilizer or manure. They do not believe the soil has to be nourished. Under the right circumstances, soil is naturally rejuvenated by nature. Plants in the Amazon do not need anyone to fertilize the soil they grow in. Yet, in the rainforests they have been thriving for thousands, if not millions, of years. The only thing rejuvenating the soil is decaying vegetation. One of the purposes of mulch is to keep the soil soft, warm, and moist. This encourages healthy microorganisms within the soil. And although some people may think soil is just dirt, just minerals, actually healthy soil is full of microorganisms such as yeast, bacteria, and earthworms. One can determine the health of soil by the many microorganisms that are in it. So, soil is alive. It is conscious. Even the minerals that comprise it are conscious.

The practice of Natural Agriculture does not feed soil with fertilizer, manure, or organic compost. But, the soil and plants are fed love and gratitude. The spiritual discipline of the farmer makes it possible to open his or her heart while in the fields and gardens and feel love for the plants, the soil, and the air; feel gratitude for the gifts nature gives us.

Meishusama once said that if somebody who is not spiritual by orientation practices Natural Agriculture diligently, he or she eventually will become spiritual. If you spend all day as a farmer, not only pulling weeds, planting seeds, harvesting, or watering, but also focusing on love, gratitude, and respect, the experience will change you. If you learn to pay attention to nature, if you look for what the plants and soil need, if you try to serve rather than dominate them, it will change you. One may discover that the tomatoes in a certain patch are not doing well—maybe they are getting too much shade or not enough water – but other tomato plants appear to do well in another spot. One finds out what the plants need, and responds to it. It is just as if one were raising children. If one pays attention to a child’s needs, he or she will probably be a good parent. Whereas if one tries to dominate them, if one says, “I don’t care what your needs are, just obey me!” how healthy do you think that child will become? Everything needs love, not just humans, but animals, plants, soil, and water do as well.

Take the example of an infant left at a hospital. If its mother dies giving birth, and there are no relatives or friends, the hospital staff can keep the baby alive with food and tend to its physical needs. However, if nobody picks the baby up and hugs it, nobody caresses it, no one talks to it, what do you think will happen to the baby? Will it be healthy? Will it mature emotionally and become a responsible, happy, creative person? Some say the baby might die if it does not get the love it needs. That is how important love is. Everything and everyone needs love. Natural Agriculture farmers nourish the soil with love.

Miroku Omikami, the Ultimate Great Spirit, creates the world through the elements of fire, water, and earth. These elements are all aspects of God, manifested in different ways. One could envision fire as expansion, water as contraction, and earth as the manifestation of time and space. These elements are metaphorical. But they are not merely symbols. Meishusama considered these three elements to be the energetic properties of everything we experience, both physical and mental.

For a farmer, fire represents his consciousness and perception, water his thoughts and feelings, and earth his actions and behavior. The more the farmer recognizes the consciousness within plants, rocks, and soil, the more his relationship with them will deepen and become meaningful. The more the farmer directs gratitude and love towards his crops, the more the crops repay him with bountiful harvests. The more the farmer behaves gently and cooperatively with nature, the more his life becomes harmonious.

One of my favorite philosophers, Alan Watts,5 said that one of the best symbols for the modern age is the bulldozer because we use it to level mountains and fill up valleys. We use technology to dominate nature. The result is ugly parking lots, gaudy shopping malls, and endless rows of tract homes atop squared off hills. Chopping up the land causes soil erosion and mudslides. This proclivity to dominate the earth causes many problems in the world, such as the huge oil spill that recently occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, climate change, water and air pollution, and food without taste or nutrition. So many terrible things are happening to the world because we do not consider the potential consequences of our actions. Our corporations just think about short–term profit rather than long–term effects.

So, if the principles of fire, water, and earth—our consciousness, our feelings, and our actions—are used to relate to nature in a kinder way, we will begin to farm in a more healthful, sustainable, and harmonious way.

Some farmers ask, “Why don’t you add fertilizer to the soil?” The question arises because of the conventional opinion that plants steal nutrients from the soil and so the soil will eventually become depleted if not artificially refortified. Some ask, “Don’t you have to add potassium or nitrogen to the soil?” This is why traditionally farmers have rotated crops, so that they do not deplete all of the phosphorus or calcium from one particular field. But Natural Agriculture practice allows diverse plants to cohabit the same area. Tomatoes, broccoli, and soybeans can be grown close together, so to balance the way nutrients are taken from and given back to the soil. In nature, there usually are no mono–crops. One does not find fields in which only tomatoes or broccoli grow. Different plants are mixed together, and the leaves they drop help support healthy soil.

The scientist Louis Kervran6 did research on the biological transmutation of minerals. He found that bacteria can transmute one kind of mineral to another. Potassium, for example, has 19 protons within its atom, whereas hydrogen has only one. If hydrogen and potassium atoms are amalgamated or transmuted, the result is an atom of 20 protons, which is calcium. This transmutation seems to occur within the mitochondria of a cell, a round or oblong part of the cell, located outside the nucleus, that produces energy for the cell.

The human body, if the intestines are healthy and have good flora, will create B vitamins, and possibly transmute minerals. So, some of the nutrients the human body needs are produced within the human system itself and is not ingested from sources outside the body. Although it is essential to eat healthy and nutritious food, some nutrients are created through the intelligence of nature, through the intelligence of the body. In the same way, if the soil is healthy, which means it is full of microorganisms, these organisms are probably transmuting minerals.

When farmers add nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK) to the soil, an imbalance is created within the soil. The soil may not have enough zinc, calcium, magnesium, or other minerals to create a proper balance with the NPK .

There is an oak tree that has lived in a very large pot for a couple of centuries. Some ask, “Where is the tree getting its nutrients?” It is getting plenty of water, but no fertilizer, minerals, or manure. The leaves fall from the tree and act as compost. But nobody adds fertilizer and nobody gives it NPK. You would think that eventually it would starve and die. Where does it get new minerals after the old ones are used up?

We may not really understand nature as much as we think we do. Nature is a mystery. Of course, over time we do learn more and more. Science is expanding our knowledge. But there is always a mystery beyond our reach.

Meishusama correlated the element of fire with oxygen, water with hydrogen, and earth with nitrogen. He also said that fire comes from the sun, water from the moon, and earth from the planet Earth. Earth energy spreads out from the earth’s core into the soil, fire energy penetrates the ground from the sun, and water energy circulates and merges the two other energies. This is a symbolic way of talking and writing about forces outside the knowledge of science. Many feel that humans interfere with nature, that we do not know how to live in harmony with nature. Some go so far as to say that if we start a garden in the Amazon rainforest, we will interfere with nature.

How much of a statement like that can be believed?

Humans are part of nature, just as the animals and birds are. But we act as if we are not. If we dominate nature, we create an imbalance with it.

Everything originates in the spiritual world. Everything originates from Miroku Omikami—from God.

Meishusama tells us we have a spiritual body or aura. Many believe they are able to see these auras. Do you? Your aura is your spiritual body. Some people with psychic gifts claim to be able to see illnesses within the aura before they occur within the physical body because they first occurs on a spiritual level.

If a person is under a good deal of stress for a long time, if he or she is angry or worried, the imbalance will first show up in the aura, and then eventually that person might undergo emotional distress and become sick.

The earth also has an aura. In places where there are wars raging, people mistreating other people, or a great deal of accumulated anger and hatred, spiritual clouds7 accumulate. Then, occasionally, nature will purify8 the land with an earthquake, fire, flood, or drought.

Whenever toxicity or negativity builds to a high point, the process of purification occurs. When the soil has too many chemicals from fertilizers or pesticides, the plants become weak because they are being poisoned. And when plants are weak, insects will attack. Chemical fertilizers make plants weak, and if pesticides are used to kill the invading insects, the plants will suffer further damage. Such practices are out of balance with nature because they try to control nature with technology.

So, we need to come into balance and harmony with nature. We need to become earth healers, not earth destroyers. By practicing Jyorei, Shumei members are energy givers, and by practicing Natural Agriculture farming, we are earth healers. Actually, through Natural Agriculture we are not so much healing the earth as allowing it to heal itself by doing it no further damage. We can also help nature by sending it love. Love heals. Love benefits both the garden and us.

Natural Agriculture is more than just a farming technique. It is a lifestyle that includes not only the farmer, but the consumers as well. Again, relationships are very important. Usually farming is practiced in a home garden, on a truck farm, or a large commercial farm. It is usually done for a profit. This means the farmer must sell his or her produce to a supermarket, at a farmers’ market, to a restaurant, or some other venue. For most farmers, the first one to get strawberries to the market gets the most money, as people pay more for the first batch of fruit because it is still scarce. But as more strawberries enter the market, the price comes down. So to have a successful business, it is important to be among the first to get potatoes, broccoli, or carrots to the market. Anything you can do to force those plants to grow faster increases your bottom line. The profit motive encourages aggressive and dominating ways of growing foodstuffs.

The practice of Natural Agriculture is nonaggressive, it does not push the plants to grow fast. Oftentimes strawberries do not germinate very quickly. We feel that seeds are intelligent, that they know when it is the right time to send up shoots. Instead of coming up all at once, they tend to grow gradually, shooting up at various times. Natural Agriculture’s practice does not force them to behave any differently. This means there may not be as much profit as that had by farmers who are first to bring their strawberries to market.

Instead, many Natural Agriculture farmers set up Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA), in which local people subscribe to a weekly supply of fruits and vegetables. Not only does this program support a farmer’s business, it also allows the farmer to get to know his customers. When you know someone, you develop a relationship with him or her. You become more aware of how that person thinks and feels, and you begin to care about that person. After a while, the customer may begin to care about the farmer. Many farmers encourage the participants of CSA programs to come to their gardens or farms to help with weeding, planting, or harvesting. This allows the consumer to get in touch with nature, which is very healing. The consumers can touch the soil, make friends with the plants, and begin to feel grateful to both nature and the farmers for the food they cultivate. This develops a circle of gratitude between the farmer, the consumer, and nature.

The family that sits down to dinner may think of the individual farmers who grew their food, and might include them in their prayer of gratitude before eating.

It is often claimed that home cooked food is best. They say that if a mother, father, or other family member cooks with love, those eating are nourished not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Healing energy goes into food prepared at home. And if plants are grown with love, they nurture the soul as well as the body.

The spiritual aspect of Natural Agriculture concerns bringing the heart and soul back into farming. Natural Agriculture is not just a collection of farming techniques. It is a philosophy and way of life. It is mostly about love and gratitude, and awareness of the consciousness within everyone and everything. The long–term goal of Natural Agriculture is to create Heaven on Earth,9 a world of health, abundance, and harmony.

In other words, we are working towards universal happiness, health and well being. And that is the ultimate goal of Shumei Natural Agriculture.

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