“If we love ourselves we will not eat the food we don’t know. We will not do things that can be harmful for our lives. To be sustainable is to love ourselves and live in the normal way.”—Jon Jandai
Ever since Jon Jandai was young, he was taught that the only way to be successful was to go to Bangkok to work. When success is often measured by money, he felt there was no other option for him if he wanted to get rich. He made his way to the capital when he was 18.
Without higher education or a degree from an elite university, Mr Jon looked for any job he could do with his limited knowledge and skills. He worked as a security guard, factory worker and a construction worker. He basically did everything that would earn him money no matter how hard it was.
He lived in a temple and ate free meals there to save money. He worked hard to earn enough money to send himself to college. He later enrolled in Ramkhamhaeng University’s faculty of law.
And then … he gave it all up for “the simple life” and found out that life is easy … when you know how! The result was co-founding Pun Pun Organic Farm in Thailand, talking as an international speaker, and hosting a thriving YouTube Channel.
Read on for my interview with “Mr” Jon Jandai on the “how” of that knowledge of making life easy.—Susan
Susan: You are known as being a “sustainability guru” . . . you give talks far and wide, and your YouTube Channel has over 3 million views in one year! Is there one definition of sustainability you personally have, which is both simple and wise?
Mr Jon: The definition of sustainability is to be normal. Most of the things we do in our life are not normal now. It is not normal to use too much thinking but did not use the bodies enough. Why do most people love to work in the office but don’t like to do physical work? It is not normal to eat processed food more than real fresh food. There is no animal that likes to eat old food like humans. Most of the package food on the shelves are the dead plants or dead animals that died older than 6 months. Most of the juice in the box was squeezed longer than 1 year. When we drink a glass of water why do we need a plastic bottle? Most of what we do in our life is not normal. When it is not normal we need to work more. We need more resources then we will have less time and be more busy. Then we don’t have enough time for ourselves and our families. Then our bodies get sick and our families break down. Life will be harder and harder. To be normal is balancing our bodies and mind. Love ourselves is normal but most people don’t care about ourselves. We can eat whatever to fill up our stomach and hurry to work. Work is more important than our health. If we love ourselves we will not eat the food we don’t know. We will not do things that can be harmful for our lives. To be sustainable is to love ourselves and live in the normal way.
Susan: Simplicity brings happiness: this is the message that rings out loud and clear from all you do in your life. But it took you until your ’50’s to get the life you wanted. If there was one wisdom you could give someone today in their 30’s and wondering what was the next step in life what would you tell them?
Mr Jon: It doesn’t take a long time to learn and live in simplicity. The hardest part is to change the way we think. We normally believe that money is security or more is better. We need to learn more to understand that money is not secure any more but natural resources and our skill to be self-reliant are more secure than money. The value of money decreases every day but the value of natural resources increase every day. When we can be reliant on ourselves we will buy things less than before . When we have less things our lives will be very light . We will have less burden. We will have only what we need. That is freedom. We have less things but no fear no worry because we can rely on ourselves in every situation .
To be happy we need to train our mind to accept the truth but our mind was trained to be under illusion for a long time. The easiest way I did is practice to remind myself all time when I want to buy something I will ask myself : Is it needed or want? If it is my need I will buy it but if I want it or I like it then I will walk away. When I keep practising like this for a while I have less things in my life but I can do so many things that I love to do. When I have enough skill I can do many things with less money. To develop our skill is easier than trying to make money. I feel very light. I feel good and feel less fear. That is freedom or joy or happiness for me.
Susan: Pun Pun sounds like a very relaxed place to live, work, get some training and of course eat at the cafe! Like an ashram where the guru manages the energy of the community, is it your values and ethos that maintains the community balance?
Mr Jon: What makes PunPun community balance is freedom because we can build our own houses. We grow most of our food. We can make most of our daily needs. We know a lot of self-healing techniques. We have less worry than other people even though we have less income than average people. PunPun is not like many communities. We have no guru, no leader, no rule. Everybodies feels free and we can be the way we want to be but we are very close like a family.
Susan: PunPun is a place for “slow living and slow growing”, yet you have the technology to make good quality videos for YouTube. Is the internet reliable? Is electricity reliable? Are you technical yourself?
Mr Jon: The internet is quite good in most of Thailand except when we have a very big storm. We have very stable electricity. I’m very bad about using technology. My 16 years old son helped me to set up a YouTube channel for me last year. I only know how to edit videos with my cell phone and how to upload them on YouTube. That is all I know. I travel around the country every week to do self-reliant training. We try to organize a network of sufficiency economy groups in Thailand. I don’t have enough time to develop the technique of how to do good videos on YouTube. I did not watch other people’s videos also. So my YouTube videos are quite boring. I don’t even know how to put music on my videos. I did everything myself. I don’t have a team.
Susan: Your YouTube videos are so varied! From “why go to University” to “what is garlic chive, how to grow it and how to eat it” . . . do you have any plan for the videos you make? Is the video content spontaneous? You look so relaxed on camera!
Mr Jon: My videos are varied because I try to tell what I’m doing each day. I did so many things every day. I did not prepare my content, no plan, no setting up. While I was working in the garden I heard a young man from the neighbourhood complaining with his dad. ” I don’t want to go to school dad.” I drop my hoe in the garden and grab my cell phone to set up and film myself talk about education or university and go back to the garden. It’s my normal life. My videos are low quality because I did not have time to develop the content and technique.
Susan: Volunteers are important at PunPun and you also do training courses there – do you send the students out into the world as “teachers”? And do you get feedback from them on the positive impact they are making?
Mr Jon: People who came to PunPun are from every part of the world. Many of them did the same thing with us at home. Many people build earthen houses or saving seeds or do some appropriated technology or even start a learning center. Many people change their lives but we don’t think they are our students but they are our friends . They develop their own way so we keep learning from each other. We are not teachers. We are not gurus. We are learning together.
“Do we really need to go to University?”—Jon Jandai Life is Easy
Jon Jandai (Jo) ) is foremost a farmer, secondly a widely known earthen builder in Thailand. He is from Yasothorn Province Thailand and has been farming all of his life. He also began building earthen homes on his family farm in 1997. He began doing workshops on earthen building in 2002, initially traveling the country and voluntarily teaching farmers’/villager groups, NGO’s etc creating what is now a widespread earthen building movement in Thailand. He co-founded Pun Pun in July 2003 and is most interested in preserving our heritage in seeds. Read more on PunPun Organic Farm [click here]. Watch the videos on Jon Jandai’s Life is Simple YouTube Channel [click here].