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Celebrating Jethro Tull - Holidays
Jethro Tull, who died today, February 21 1741) was the first human to apply the scientific method to the care of plants and animals in agriculture. Though he invented many technologies and practices (including the mechanized seed drill for planting, the cultivator for destroying weeds, scientific fertilization for the feeding of plants, modern scientific and experimental botany, genetic manipulation methods, scientific veterinary care, animal dietary science, the tarp, the storage pallet, the modern crane, the first mechanized construction equipment, mechanized harvest equipment, and numerous other things besides these), he is best remembered for the invention of a better plow: the disc plow. Amazingly enough, he was not a scientist by training, nor a farmer by profession, but a lawyer who, after seeing the abject poverty and starvation of the countryside, was inspired to learn the science required for an increase of bread.
The practice of agriculture continues to evolve through science; it is through science, as well, that the practices of Hinduism improve over time as well. Indeed, if our own personal spiritual practice did not improve over our own lives, there would be a fault in the methods we strive to perfect - the method itself is designed to permit increasing strength of mind, body and heart, allowing greater and greater understanding and perfection. There is similar evolution in the practices of Hinduism as a whole: as one Yogi achieves more than any previous Yogi, their success is analyzed and emulated; when a Yogi fails, their failure is analyzed and emulated. The reason for the success or failure is understood as being the result of causes and conditions - which can be engineered to promote greater success in the future.
To celebrate and anticipate the sacrifice of plants for our food, there is often celebrated a plowing ceremony in the spring. Similar in many respects to the festival of first leaves, this festival celebrates especially those plants and animals with which our own human species has developed a friendship through agriculture. Oxen and other work animals are given honor, and given a greater share of their favorite foods, and adorned with jewels and precious metals as a sign of respect and love. Not only the farmers, but all of society remembers their role in securing a successful harvest, understanding the causes and conditions required for success.
Without food, all of our society fails its purpose and the sacrifice of the plants and animals would be for nothing - and without all of society, our farms would fail. There is an important connection between cities and rural areas, and between all people - and all creatures.
Jethro Tull likely celebrated a similar festival: plow monday (the 6th monday after the Christian festival of Epiphany, held annually on January 6) on which locals would all contribute to charity and appreciate the roles each played in society by sometimes exchanging jobs for the day. Elsewhere in Europe, this would even be accompanied by cross-dressing, to emphasize the importance of both sexes (the culture there had stratified work and duty by sex). After the mechanization of agriculture, fewer people were required to produce more food than ever before - and these people migrated to the cities, to continue their duties to society in the new factories and businesses there. This resulted in an industrial revolution and a democratization of English society as the peasants were freed from the yokes of their Lords to become free tradesmen and merchants (England also had a hereditary caste system until recently). Like Jethro Tull, we may all take a moment and consider the hereditary poverty of our fellow beings, and consider what might be done to free them from their debts.
But especially today, take some time to appreciate the role you play in your home, and in society - and how much you depend on others in your home and society; how much you rely on those plants and animals which will soon die for your nutrition and strength. Consider what you can do to earn this gift of life by examining this profound act of Karma Yoga in the context of your own duties - at home and in society. Consider your duty to bring an end to your own distress, and the distress of all beings.
And, of course, a good Asana to practice today is the Plow!