Every once in a while, Western Civilization rolls out a “recent and new discovery” on how the world should address some aspect daily life only to discover that the Western experts are actually employing new terms to describe ancient wisdom and time-honored local genius. Such is case with “permaculture” – an approach to agriculture and social design that seeks to integrate sustainability into daily life by working with nature instead of against it. By understanding the “connections” that exists between all the components within the natural ecosystem, a deeper appreciation of natural balance and sustainability results.
Permaculture: Everything “Old” is “New” Again
The Desa Visesa Ubud has enthusiastically embraced permaculture in every aspect of its operation. At the most basic level, permaculture is a celebration of the ancient Bali Hindu percepts embodied in Tri Hita Karana – a life principle that resides at the very heart of the Balinese cosmos.
Tri HIta Karana’s impact on Balinese society is inescapable. Tri Hita Karana defines the myriad daily rituals, shared community services performed with one’s neighbors, and even the way in which the Balinese build their homes and spatially organize their family compounds. Even the way in which the ancient irrigation system of Bali – the subak – determines the equitable management of water emanating from a single source in order to serve thousands of people as it winds it way down volcanic slopes to the waiting sea, is a reflection of Tri Hita Karana.
How Bali manages its precious water supply is long-admired by the world. In 2013, then President of Indonesia praised the subak in an address on sustainable development delivered in Bali before world leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC).
Tri Hita Karana can be viewed as Bali’s sacred trinity – the key for spiritual and material well-being. Tri Hita Karana believes that a peaceful and sustainable daily existence can only be achieved through the careful balance of man’s relationship with the triad’s component parts, namely: harmony between Man and his fellow man; harmony between Man and the environment; and harmony between Man and God.
Bali’s religious and spiritual leaders warn that true and sustainable prosperity can only be achieved if equilibrium is carefully maintained in accordance with the dictates of Tri Hita Karana. And, these same sage leaders invariably point to a failure to honor this dogma when Bali’s modern development model occasionally goes off the rails.
Whether you chose to label it “permaculture” or merely “being Balinese” – no new project is ever commenced, no new guest welcomed, or service rendered at the Desa Visesa Ubud without first seeking God’s blessing and contemplating the impact of one’s actions on the larger community and the natural environment.
How Do Our Gardens Grow?
Sharing the same view, permaculture emphasizes the tilling and enrichment of the soil and the careful cultivation of complementing plants in a manner that does not deplete fertility. At Desa Visesa Ubud, there are areas dedicated to agriculture.
In the southern part of the Visesa village, a “living kitchen” or “dapur hidup” produces a wide range of herbs and spices destined for the Resort’s kitchens – including dill, flowering moringa, basil, ginger bananas, cucumbers, cassava, corn, eggplant and other vegetables.
At the Resort’s center, visitors encounter one of Bali’s ubiquitous rice fields and adjoining fishponds, both enjoying a symbiotic relationship of cross-fertilization.
Finally, a larger agricultural area is located in the northern part of Desa Visesa Ubud reserved for growing flowers to be used in religious offerings, table decorations and guest’s rooms. The North Garden also yields a wide range of tropical fruits and aromatics used in the creation of healthy elixirs and soothing spa products
Permaculture and time-honored Balinese tenets of Tri Hita Karana demand a “waste not, want not” approach to agriculture by recycling agricultural byproducts into compost and the minimizing or eliminating the use of potentially harmful herbicides and pesticides.
Located on an ancient volcanic mountain slope at 300 meters above sea level, Desa Visesa Ubud exists along a water continuum that forms part of a larger Subak water management system that is carefully rationed to the Resort’s working fish ponds, gardens and rice fields before moving on to nurture communities further downstream.
The splish-splash and quack-quack of a family of 28 ducks and 9 geese that live at the Resort can be heard from the Desa Visesa Ubud’s ponds. Are you eager to sample the taste of a duck egg omelet? Just tell the chef who will, more likely than not, personally select from the dozen or so eggs laid each day that will form the perfect yolk-centered complement to tomorrow’s breakfast.
Serving as source of bucolic entertainment, many guests express their delight at seeing the Visesa’s ducks march single-file following a white flag carried by their keeper leading them to the rice field to naturally control insects or, later, waddling off to an enclosure near the Resort’s Pura Dugul temple where they will spend the night in safe proximity to the temple-home of Dewi Sri – the Goddess of Fertility.
In addition to the unfaltering emphasis given to safeguarding sustainable relationships with God and Nature at the Desa Visesa Ubud, it is, in fact, service to our fellow man – the Resort’s guests, that most distinguishes daily life at the Resort. The unobtrusive manner in which meals are prepared and served, rooms cleaned, and protective floral offerings or canang sari placed in guests’ rooms and vehicles – are all unfailing manifestations of a permaculture mindset that Balinese have long-called “Tri Hita Karana”.
When it comes to sustaining our fellow man and woman, no part of the Desa Vises Ubud better exemplifies the mantras embodied in Tri Hita Karana than the treatments and products offered at the Visesa Spa. Guests sipping a healthful juice or elixir while waiting for their spa treatment to commence, typically enjoy an intriguing encounter with a local “Balian” or “Holy Man” who will gladly provide a horoscope reading based on one’s date of birth on the 210-day Balinese calendar. Herbal scrubs, massage oils and soothing lotions hand-crafted from precious “home-grown” ingredients from the Resort’s gardens are administered in mystical, candle-lit caves that are imbued with soulful music and aromatherapy bouquets.
Tri Hita Karana – striking a balance between the “sekala” and “niskala – the “seen” and “unseen”; the basic elements of fire, earth, water, air and space; and the “sacred” and “profane” – are all intrinsic parts of the services and courtesies extended to the Resort’s guests and emblematic of the tender care and pampering that awaits at the Visesa’s popular spa.
This same natural balance is the hallmark of the delicious food and drinks served at the Desa Visesa Ubud. Whether dining at the main Lesung Restaurant, the open-air Warung Sawah overlooking a working rice field; sampling hygienically-prepared street stall fare at Warung Tani; or enjoying traditional Balinese or vegetarian cuisine at the Resort’s newest premier restaurant located under the entry bridge – the same attention to detail, authenticity and permaculture sustainability rule the day.
In the end, sustainability is about self-perpetuation and the certain knowledge that what we enjoy today can also be enjoyed time and again in the future.
Judging by the large number of returning guests who have adopted the Resort as their “Home in Bali” – there’s no doubt that a truly sustainable experience await guests at Desa Visesa Ubud.