Subject Matter Expert

BR. SEKHAR MILAN

Br. Sekhar Milan responded to Amma’s passionate dream of Village Empowerment of our holy nation, Bharat. Amma instructed him to help alleviate the water problems of farmers through effective technical interventions. She asked him to help with domestic water, sanitation, water-borne diseases and more. Amma advised him to serve India’s rural family with care and devotion.

When Br. Sekhar visited a village in Rajasthan, it was an eye-opener. He said, “The sturdy resolve with which our village communities battle the age-old challenges of health, employment, agriculture, education and more; is worth emulation! I realize that they disregard lost battles, since the war will result in a decisive victory!”

Seeing their daily struggles induced in him a sense of gratefulness towards God. Their ethos of culture, such as ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ cultivated a feeling that he was yet to be civilized. In the village community, plentiful displays of care and concern contrasted with the isolation of his familiar culture. He sensed an unclear boundary between giver and receiver, embracing the opportunity for his own spiritual progress.

Br. Sekhar believes that the only task is to awaken the sleeping giant of rural India to its own self-belief and self-reliance. He firmly trusts that Amma is guiding Amrita SeRVe’s efforts towards Village Empowerment, and that Her dream will soon blossom in full colour and fragrance. Currently he is focusing on watershed management for farmers, for increased access and rainwater harvesting.

 

DAVID MALONEY

As a little boy David helped his father grow vegetables and care for goats and chickens, and his family was self-sufficient for food. Based on this early experience, David chose to work with nature so that its laws are respected and its diversity maintained. In the last fifteen years, David has planted 5,000 native trees in Ireland, managed an organic farm growing medicinal herbs, created a community garden, and conducted organic farming and seed-saving courses in European countries.

Considering bees as a keystone specie for all of nature, David started keeping bees 10 years ago. Rather than harvesting the honey from his 35 hives, the intention was to encourage the bee population. The natural habitats of bees are decreasing and are endangered by the pesticides used in modern agriculture. Bees are crucially important for pollination and seed-saving.

Having gathered his knowledge mainly through observing nature and experimenting with different growing techniques over the years, David desired to make this onfield knowledge easily available and realisable for hobby farmers using organic techniques. Through educational videos he’s shared with more than 4,000,000 people worldwide via his youtube channel “workwithnature.”

In all his gardening and vegetable growing activities David aimed at using organically-grown seeds. Lack of availability inspired him to start seed-saving himself. Seeds are where it all starts. He has now collected over 300 varieties from all over the world and created a seed exchange website. In conjunction with AmritaSeRVe and for the benefit of start-up organic farmers, he is presently starting a seed-saving farm and storage facility in India, as requested by Amma.

 

JAGANNATH (JOHN KAISNER)

Jagannath became passionate about Natural Farming and Permaculture after he met Amma in San Ramon, CA, USA, in 2008.

Previously, he was an actor in New York City and Los Angeles. He then became an Architect, receiving his M-ARCH degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign. He practiced architecture for 15 years, and has completed projects in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. In 2012 he moved to Amritapuri ashram, where he began work as an Architect at Amrita University, Vallickavu campus.

Following efforts towards creating an EcoVillage on campus, in 2014 Jagannath was invited to join the Amrita SeRVe team as Head of Agriculture. He can often be seen wearing very dirty clothing and a big straw hat, as he is the principal worker at the Amrita SeRVe Demonstration Farm. What has impressed him the most during his tenure as farm manager is that by using virtually no budget and resources that are easily available in every village, the farm is becoming a true model of sustainability here in India.

He is very grateful for the opportunity to serve Amma and the villagers of India with this project, and feels quite fortunate to participate in a manner that brings all of his previous life experiences and pursuits together in a very special way.

NIRMALA (GLORIA SOLER)

Nirmala was born in Spain in 1956. After secondary studies, she pursued administrative studies and started working. However, at the age of 21 she felt the pull of spiritual life and in 1977 she left her work, family and country to come to India to look for her Guru. She spent one year living in ashrams and practicing various methods of meditation, without finding a special connection to any of the Gurus that she met. She started training as a yoga teacher in Kaivalyadhama Institute, Lonaula near Pune in 1978.

She returned to Spain, began teaching yoga, and continued studying yoga therapy. She was certified by the Federation of European Union of Yoga through the Sadhana School of Spain and India, in ETY Viniyoga coming from the Desikachar School in Chennai.

The practical focus for her life and work has been to connect with the inner Self, to find freedom from pain and suffering. Through humanistic and transpersonal psychology, as well as body-mind consciousness practices such as Holistic Fitness, Psychomotricity, and Myofascial Stretching, she has pursued methods to complement and develop emotional and mental peace. She has taught yoga for over 30 years and conducted body-mind workshops for 15.

Nirmala finally found her Guru when Amma came to Spain in 1997. She then came with her husband to live at Amritapuri ashram. Nirmala and her husband Hartmut will be serving as Amrita SeRVe fellows in the Byse village in Karnataka.

 

PRANADA

When I was young, my highest aspiration was to serve humanity and nature, and contribute to peace and harmony in the world. After graduating in Geography from the Federal University of Brazil, I felt I had not learned the true reality of the life of thousands of villagers who together formed the web of culture and ecology in South America. I travelled to distant villages in deserts and forests, slept in their mud and straw huts, and ate bananas and tapioca with indigenous tribes. With this, my understanding of Real geography arose as an aspiration to offer service that would truly contribute to a harmonious environment and society. After one year of volunteer service with a university extension group in forest villages, I felt completely discouraged by the complex net of conflicts within the villages and our own group.

I understood something fundamental was missing. I came to call this missing link spirituality. Praying deeply to God for guidance, sun rose with the news that a Saint was coming from India to Brazil. Amma came into my life, transforming it completely. Ever since, I have been living in her ashram at Amritapuri. When Amrita SeRVe was born, my heart wished to be part of this living prayer. Mother has fulfilled that wish. May all beings be happy and free.  May the Earth’s balance involve the lives of all her children.

 

SREERANJINI MOHAN REKHA

Sreeranjini is a Chemical Engineer who studied at Curtin University, Malaysia. As part of her courses she had the opportunity to pursue an optional unit in Wastewater Treatment. She is very interested in environmental issues and believes that there is lot to learn from villagers regarding how they live in tune with nature.

“I thought I must use this knowledge and make it practical in India where there is high need of waste management as a whole. India is rich in its spiritual knowledge, no doubt about that. But I want my country to look beautiful and healthy too.”

Sreeranjini is working in the Amrita School of Biotechnology and Amrita SeRVe for water and sanitation projects. Currently she is focusing on water filters and eco-friendly toilets. Most toilets in rural areas pollute the environment, as the untreated waste water goes straight into ground. Funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the new toilet being designed by the team will clean and reuse all of the waste water.

Her role for AmritaSeRVe is deployment: interfacing between the lab and the villages. As part of this role she orients the foreign students who come to participate in the Live-In Labs program. These are exchange students who are given the chance to spend time in the villages and work on addressing those problems through values-based engineering.