Simple Living

hand built house

There has been an ongoing discussion here at New Vrindaban about the possibility of establishing a Vedic or Eco Village, where people would be able to live simply, and practice Krishna Consciousness. Establishing cottage industries based on agriculture, dairy, arts and crafts, etc., and living a more earth based lifestyle

A few years ago my wife shared a link with me on Facebook describing an earth friendly, hand built house, built by Michael Buck, for practically nothing! As I have myself been a builder for almost 40 years now, and as we have been discussing the idea of an Eco Village here at New Vrindaban, I was of course interested. Although nothing like this has materialized here as yet, some of the devotees keep this hope alive. This is a nice example of a house that could easily be built with materials that are local to our area, using the ancient technique of  cob – building with a mixture of sand, clay, straw, water and earth.

The following is the text and images as it appears on the English web site Daily Mail.

It looks like something straight out of Middle Earth – and the story behind it is almost as fantastical.

This cottage cost just £150 to build, using only natural or reclaimed materials, and is now rented out for a fee of fresh milk and cream.

And with no mains electricity, gas or water, the bills don’t come to much either.

Smallholder Michael Buck spent eight months constructing the house using the ancient technique of  cob – building with a mixture of sand, clay, straw, water and earth. He taught himself the method by reading a book, even shaping the walls without a single power tool.

He also made the simple wooden roof frame and thatched it himself with straw from his fields.

The 300 sq ft of floor space features floorboards rescued from a skip, while an old windscreen from a lorry provided glass for the windows.

With no central heating, you might think it would be a bit chilly, but he says the cob walls and thatched roof make it incredibly well insulated – and the ceiling is stuffed with sheep’s wool from a nearby farm to help keep the heat in further.

Despite the somewhat Spartan arrangements, Mr Buck is renting out the unusual property. But there isn’t a hobbit in sight – and the current tenant is a worker on a neighbouring dairy farm who pays for her lodgings in milk and cream. Cooking can be done on the woodburner, but she has installed a small gas stove in the kitchenette.

Yesterday father of three Mr Buck, 59, who lives in a more conventional home nearby with wife Sheila, 57, said: ‘I wanted to show that houses don’t have to cost anything. We live in a society where we spend our lives paying our mortgages, which many people don’t enjoy.’

Mr Buck originally aimed to build the house for nothing, but miscalculated the amount of straw needed so had to buy more. He also had to buy nails to keep the thatch attached. Friends pitched in to help with the build and their names are written on the wall, along with the names of three cows – Marigold, Crystal and Mist – whose dung was used to make plaster.

Mr Buck, a former art teacher, drew the plans for the house on the back of an envelope and did not need planning permission as it was classed as a summer house.

Daily Mail

Simple Living High Thinking

In the Srimad Bhagavatam we find in one purport where it is described:

… Another feature of the devotee is nirīhayā, simple living. Nirīhā means “gentle,” “meek” or “simple.” A devotee should not live very gorgeously and imitate a materialistic person. Plain living and high thinking are recommended for a devotee. (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.22.24)

Srimad Bhagavatam
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Canto Four, Chapter 22, Text 22

ahiṁsayā pāramahaṁsya-caryayā smṛtyā mukundācaritāgrya-sīdhunā yamair akāmair niyamaiś cāpy anindayā nirīhayā dvandva-titikṣayā ca

ahiṁsayā—by nonviolence; pāramahaṁsya-caryayā—by following in the footsteps of great ācāryas; smṛtyā—by remembering; mukunda—the Supreme Personality of Godhead; ācarita-agrya—simply preaching His activities; sīdhunā—by the nectar; yamaiḥ—by following regulative principles; akāmaiḥ—without material desires; niyamaiḥ—by strictly following the rules and regulations; ca—also; api—certainly; anindayā—without blaspheming; nirīhayā—living simply, plain living; dvandva—duality; titikṣayā—by tolerance; ca—and.


A candidate for spiritual advancement must be nonviolent, must follow in the footsteps of great ācāryas, must always remember the nectar of the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, must follow the regulative principles without material desire and, while following the regulative principles, should not blaspheme others. A devotee should lead a very simple life and not be disturbed by the duality of opposing elements. He should learn to tolerate them.


The devotees are actually saintly persons, or sādhus. The first qualification of a sādhu, or devotee, is ahiṁsā, or nonviolence. Persons interested in the path of devotional service, or in going back home, back to Godhead, must first practice ahiṁsā, or nonviolence. A sādhu is described as titikṣavaḥ kāruṇikāḥ (Bhāg. 3.25.21). A devotee should be tolerant and should be very much compassionate toward others. For example, if he suffers personal injury, he should tolerate it, but if someone else suffers injury, the devotee need not tolerate it. The whole world is full of violence, and a devotee’s first business is to stop this violence, including the unnecessary slaughter of animals. A devotee is the friend not only of human society but of all living entities, for he sees all living entities as sons of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He does not claim himself to be the only son of God and allow all others to be killed, thinking that they have no soul. This kind of philosophy is never advocated by a pure devotee of the Lord. Suhṛdaḥ sarva-dehinām: a true devotee is the friend of all living entities. Kṛṣṇa claims in Bhagavad-gītā to be the father of all species of living entities; consequently the devotee of Kṛṣṇa is always a friend of all. This is called ahiṁsā. Such nonviolence can be practiced only when we follow in the footsteps of great ācāryas. Therefore, according to our Vaiṣṇava philosophy, we have to follow the great ācāryas of the four sampradāyas, or disciplic successions.

Trying to advance in spiritual life outside the disciplic succession is simply ludicrous. It is said, therefore, ācāryavān puruṣo veda: one who follows the disciplic succession of ācāryas knows things as they are (Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.14.2). Tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet:

tad-vijñānārthaṁ sa gurum evābhigacchet
samit-pāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahma-niṣṭham

“To understand these things properly, one must humbly approach, with firewood in hand, a spiritual master who is learned in the Vedas and firmly devoted to the Absolute Truth.”

In order to understand the transcendental science, one must approach the bona fide spiritual master. The word smṛtyā is very important in spiritual life. Smṛtyā means remembering Kṛṣṇa always. Life should be molded in such a way that one cannot remain alone without thinking of Kṛṣṇa. We should live in Kṛṣṇa so that while eating, sleeping, walking and working we remain only in Kṛṣṇa. Our Kṛṣṇa consciousness society recommends that we arrange our living so that we can remember Kṛṣṇa. In our ISKCON society the devotees, while engaged in making Spiritual Sky incense, are also hearing about the glories of Kṛṣṇa or His devotees. The śāstra recommends, smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇuḥ: Lord Viṣṇu should be remembered always, constantly. Vismartavyo na jātucit: Viṣṇu should never be forgotten. That is the spiritual way of life. Smṛtyā. This remembrance of the Lord can be continued if we hear about Him constantly. It is therefore recommended in this verse: mukundācaritāgrya-sīdhunā. Sīdhu means “nectar.” To hear about Kṛṣṇa from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam or Bhagavad-gītā or similar authentic literature is to live in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such concentration in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be achieved by persons who are strictly following the rules and regulative principles. We have recommended in our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement that a devotee chant sixteen rounds on beads daily and follow the regulative principles. That will help the devotee be fixed in his spiritual advancement in life.

It is also stated in this verse that one can advance by controlling the senses (yamaiḥ). By controlling the senses, one can become a svāmī or gosvāmī. One who is therefore enjoying this supertitle, svāmī or gosvāmī, must be very strict in controlling his senses. Indeed, he must be master of his senses. This is possible when one does not desire any material sense gratification. If, by chance, the senses want to work independently, he must control them. If we simply practice avoiding material sense gratification, controlling the senses is automatically achieved.

Another important point mentioned in this connection is anindayā—we should not criticize others’ methods of religion. There are different types of religious systems operating under different qualities of material nature. Those operating in the modes of ignorance and passion cannot be as perfect as that system in the mode of goodness. In Bhagavad-gītā everything has been divided into three qualitative divisions; therefore religious systems are similarly categorized. When people are mostly under the modes of passion and ignorance, their system of religion will be of the same quality. A devotee, instead of criticizing such systems, will encourage the followers to stick to their principles so that gradually they can come to the platform of religion in goodness. Simply by criticizing them, a devotee’s mind will be agitated. Thus a devotee should tolerate and learn to stop agitation.

Another feature of the devotee is nirīhayā, simple living. Nirīhā means “gentle,” “meek” or “simple.” A devotee should not live very gorgeously and imitate a materialistic person. Plain living and high thinking are recommended for a devotee. He should accept only so much as he needs to keep the material body fit for the execution of devotional service. He should not eat or sleep more than is required. Simply eating for living, and not living for eating, and sleeping only six to seven hours a day are principles to be followed by devotees. As long as the body is there it is subjected to the influence of climatic changes, disease and natural disturbances, the threefold miseries of material existence. We cannot avoid them. Sometimes we receive letters from neophyte devotees questioning why they have fallen sick, although pursuing Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They should learn from this verse that they have to become tolerant (dvandva-titikṣayā). This is the world of duality. One should not think that because he has fallen sick he has fallen from Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness can continue without impediment from any material opposition. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa therefore advises in Bhagavad-gītā (2.14), tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata: “My dear Arjuna, please try to tolerate all these disturbances. Be fixed in your Kṛṣṇa conscious activities.”