Aviram Rozin and his wife, Yorit Rozin came to India for the first time in 1998 and immediately fell in love with the county.
“We landed in Tamil Nadu and never felt like we were in a different country or place, we felt like coming home. We loved everything here and the people. So we decided to move to India a couple of years later,” Aviram Rozin who was born in Israel, but now calls India home says.
How Sadhana forest was founded
Born in a satellite town of Tel Aviv, Aviram Rozin was a successful businessman and the CEO of a medical devices company.
But in the early 2000s, he decided to reinvent his life, away from the hustle and bustle of business.
“I decided that I want to move on and do something different in life, something that is not career or money-oriented, something that is more of a service. But I didn’t know how that would look like,” Rozin told Indiatimes.
That pursuit took the couple and their daughter to Auroville in Tamil Nadu.
In December 2003 they started a forestation and water conservation drive on a 70-acre plot, which has now grown into Sadhana Forest, a self-sustaining green patch that is now teeming with wildlife.
Vegan food, no smoking and drinking
“We wanted to live life the way we wanted to. There was no intention to turn this into anything big or start an organization. All those things evolved naturally. We started living and planning the saplings here. In a matter of days we got some volunteers, then more and more came. Within a month we had some twenty volunteers staying with us in makeshift accommodation,” he said.
The ‘rules’ were simple – the guests will be served vegan food, and there was no smoking and drinking allowed.
This, Rozin said he felt would make it ‘unattractive’ for most people, especially for the youth. But to his pleasant surprise, the opposite happened.
Living Atithi Devo Bhava
“Our gate is like a railway station in India, people are walking in and out all the time. We offer a free tour to anyone who comes here, and if they are coming during meal hours, they will get a free vegan breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on what time of the day it is. People are so appreciate and I think that for many it symbolises the guest is god concept,” he said.
Another interesting thing Rozin said he noticed while growing the forest is how nature selects what is best suited for a particular environment.
“We started with water conservation because when you do that you almost don’t need to plant the trees. The water makes the soil fertile and other plants grow by themselves. The water also attracts birds and animals who then defecate the seeds which will later grow into plants and trees. So nature chooses its own spices,” he said.
Today the 70 acres of the forest have a large variety of flora and fauna including animals such as peacocks, wild boars, rabbits, civet cats, jackals, foxes, etc.
Keeping wildlife and volunteers together
Having such a high density of wildlife at a location that is frequented by visitors can be tricky and uncomfortable for both sides.
But Rozin says Sadhana forest has managed to strike a balance between the two to coexist without one disturbing the other.
“We maintain the balance by separating where we live and where the animals are. The forest is largely undisturbed and we hardly go there. If we have to into the forest, we follow a specific path where people can see the forest and wildlife and not roaming into the wilderness and interfere with the animals,” he said.
Sadhana forest to Haiti and Kenya
After tasting success in India, Rozin took the concept of the Sadhana forest to Haiti and Kenya.
“In 2010 immediately after the earthquake in Haiti we started the Sadhana forest there. In 2014 we also started Sadhana Forest in Samburu County. We don’t feel the pressure to millions of trees, but every tree we plant, we take good care of it and also add value for the people,” he said.
Life of compassionate action
Rozin says his forest and lifestyle are based on his take on veganism, which is one based on compassionate action.
“The message that we want to send out is to turn compassion into action. If we can wear the glasses of compassion when we make decisions on life, food, building our house or even interacting with people, we have to think if it is compassionate, or can we do better, that is what we are trying to inculcate, Not in words, but in action – when you eat, eat food that is compassionate, when you build something do it compassionately, when you employ someone treat them compasionalty,” he said.
Vegan forest festival
Pre-COVID-19 Sadhana Forest used to have well over 1000 volunteers from across the world in a year.
As the world is slowly coming out of the clutches of COVID-19 Sadhana Forest is also spreading its message about compassionate living through a Vegan Forest Festival, a three-day event in February 2023, which Rozin said will be free for all attendees.
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