Sometimes life throws you a curve-ball that leads to insight and education in a really positive way. Recently I called one of our customers to talk about his experience with our products and service. The customer is a grower in Hawaii and he just happens to be a monk.
I must preface this blog with the fact it was the first time I’ve ever spoken to a monk. There’s not a lot of them in my neighborhood (as in zero) so this was a first for me. How do I address him? Can I tell a joke without offense? What happens if I accidentally drop an ‘f’ bomb in the conversation?
My next thought was “Hawaii”, the place I’ve always wanted to visit. I wonder if I could organize a ‘grower visit’ (my colleagues would look at me rather skeptically if I raised that idea).
Sannyasin Yoginathaswami is one of 19 monks based at the Kauai Hindu Monastery on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. He is the leader of the Siddhidatta Kulam, the monastic group responsible for buildings, grounds and equipment maintenance, gardens and food production. One thing that may surprise many is that the Monastery is thoroughly modern when it comes to technology. They are self-confessed Mac addicts (or as I say MacMonks). In his own words Yoginathaswami says:
“When a monk joins our order he gets his robes, his prayer beads, his MacBook Pro and iPhone. What we call a complete set of monastic tools.”
This was not something I would expect of a monk and would surely make them the most technologically connected monasteries in the world. The picture of monks walking around with iPhones in one hand and prayer beads in the other was a little disconcerting.
He explained to me they believe they shouldn’t isolate themselves, especially from technology. They live a very traditional life, very orthodox but also use technology to advance the religion, their lives and the community too.
“We literally grew up from floppy discs all the way to cloud storage.”
I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Yoginathaswami and it was genuinely one of those times where I could have continued to talk to him for hours. A thoroughly fascinating man who spoke of their passion for growing crops (and have done for 20 years), that they recently bought a greenhouse and run an NFT system as well as two aeroponic systems.
“I enjoy the process of creating something and not just using it myself. As a tester you can influence the process and gain a deeper understanding of the technology and how to make it work for you. It’s a wonderful experience working together with Autogrow on next generation tech.”
Throughout our chat the one thing that didn’t surprise me was the support they give their local community or the general giving nature of the monastery. Any extra produce they have is freely given but what is also given is knowledge.
Yoginathaswami is firm on the idea that you should share your knowledge with those who wish to learn. He said it best:
“We believe knowledge is for sharing. We are happy to share anything we know and have to other growers, so they can get started. It’s a real journey of discovery, using modern technology to grow quality produce. My team finds it very rewarding.”
This is a concept that really resonated with me as it’s also something we believe in at work and I personally embrace wholeheartedly. From this one conversation I gained much more than simply ‘grower information’. My own stereotypes on monks, gained admittedly from television, were given an adjustment — and that’s always a good thing.
Now to figure out how to get a work trip to Hawaii to meet my new friend 😊