Ravi Mantha: healer, organic farmer and green investorMeet - March 14, 2018
Ravi Mantha is multifaceted, a man of many talents. He is a healer, angel investor, farmer, author, public speaker, political advisor, and poet. I met him in India, at the INKTalks, and since then I’ve visited his factory and his farm. Recently he came to visit us in Bali and we had a conversation about healing pain, what he thinks about sustainability and the future of bamboo in India.
On his green factory
Ravi: I have an organic farm in Hyderabad and a farm to table cafe. I also on the board of a company that recycles paper and leaf plates called Bollant. I happened to find a young man passionate about manufacturing and I thought it was a good idea to focus on green and sustainable. We’re doing it with zero emissions; we recapture the waste heat, the ash, the effluent. The idea is to take garbage in and send products out. In another 6 months, we’re going to have 1 megawatt in solar energy from panels on the roof. This will completely cover the power needs of the factory. 50% of our employees are also differently abled- the CEO is blind. We say the tagline of our business is that we also hire able-bodied people.
John: It blew my mind. A couple of months ago it was all in pieces- a ‘factory’ that was part of a scam to defraud a local bank. Srikanth (the CEO) has completely transformed it- it’s powered by rice husks and solar.
John: Ravi is multifaceted. Ravi cures billionaires and people who are not billionaires, but he charges the billionaires.
Ravi: Billionaires are like anyone, they just have more problems because they’re so isolated. When you have a lot of money, you have a very strong shield. There’s often a lot of anger because you think people are after your money and you become a prisoner of the money. I also know some very well adjusted billionaires- the ones who don’t get hung up on it- but a lot of them develop dysfunctions.
I was a fund manager for 18 years and did some work in politics as well. I like to take on difficult projects. But the healing part is accumulative as I take on more and more facets of it. It’s not really a discrete project even though it may not look like that. I call myself a healer because its the framework of how I think, what I see when I look at people.
On pain and its function
Ravi: Physical pain is generally easier to work with, as it becomes emotional pain it gets more challenging. I started with the gut- my first book was all about the microbiome: All About Bacteria. That’s what I call the biological layer or the bacteria that live in and on you. It took a few years of research to get that book done and out. And then I wanted to understand nutrition because the bacteria are living on the food you eat. So I started my second book, The Baby Elephant Diet: A Modern Indian Guide to Eating Right.
I started to develop a framework for health- there’s the chemical layer, or the diet and nutrition, the pharmaceuticals, and what you are exposed to etc. The biological layer is all the cells and bacteria that live on you, and then on top of that is the mechanical layer, or the exercise, the yoga, the strength training. Then I wondered what else is there in health? The unknown layer is the electrical layer- the ‘software’ of how your brain controls your body. Movement involves hundreds of muscles, it’s a symphony and you’re the conductor.
Then I started thinking about pain- what’s the function of pain? It’s a defense mechanism- telling you not to do stupid things like put your hand in the fire. It’s a barrier which means you can mess around with it but you shouldn’t remove it. What I realized about chronic pain is that it must be malfunctioning ‘software’ in the brain. When you have an injury your brain restricts motion to the injured area to freeze it and stop further pain. After few weeks the injury heals but the brain doesn’t reset the neurological function, leading to chronic pain.
Of all the people who know pain- chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other healers- the people who know pain least are the practitioners of western medicine. I realized that these highly qualified people know so little about pain because they spend the first three years of their training working on dead bodies. Dead people have no electrical layer, no pain, no signals, no emotion, and no chronic pain.
Doctors are actually anatomical engineers. They understand the hardware of the human body extremely well, but they don’t understand what pain is. They turn first to the gateway drugs, like paracetamol and ibuprofen, and then to opiates. And now this industry of legalized marijuana in North America, which I believe is a disaster. I’m not opposed to recreational use, but every day as treatment? It means no growth, it’s a Groundhog Day effect. It resets the brain- I find it impossible to treat marijuana users. It’s not a solution.
The solution is to figure out what is causing it. It’s almost always nutritional, something your body finds poisonous. It could be something as simple as tomato, or wheat, or dairy causing systemic illness. It could also be from a past injury, which means it needs to be reset. In 15-20% of the cases I see, the pain is emotional. You can manifest pain and at that level pain and pleasure is intertwined.
I treat about 1,000 people a year. One thing I never expected is that I’ve had people get very angry with me for taking away their pain- people develop a relationship with their pain.
On sustainability and financial incentives
Ravi: Sustainability is essentially is redoing the entire world- financial manufacturing, the entire way society organizes itself. We should start, in every decision we make, to understand and reward things we do that don’t harm the planet. Financial rewards work really well, I was in that world for 18 years. But financials incentives today are the exact opposite- farmers get paid to grow sheep or cattle, which release gases, or are subsidized to grow food so they grow too much of it. You aren’t penalized for harming the environment. We eat the beef because it’s there which then causes health problems. I don’t think we should ban meat, but I think we should let the market take care of the problems. Step one, stop the subsidies. Meat should be 4-5 times more expensive than it is today, so then you would be inclined to pick the healthier vegetables. This is what should be happening in this era of plenty. That’s sustainability.
Bottled water is the biggest scam in the world. It’s all the big joke, just shipping water all over the place, usually in plastic. It’s done for one simple reason, to let restaurants sell you water and make money. So tax them. Let them pay five times and tax the plastics out of existence. You just need sane regulators to get to sustainability instead of the people running the show today.
I do believe we can shift the conversation simply by using financial incentives. Today we’re in a place where solar is cheaper than coal. Solar panels are so cheap in India we are building over a gigawatt a year. India has announced that only electric cars will be sold by 2030. The minute solar is cheaper, coal is a sunset industry, thank goodness.
I think entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are bringing in a new era. The robber barons of the past made their huge fortunes destroying the environments and then, in their guilt, created foundations. This next generation, the Bill Gates of the world, gave the money away on societal good. The Elon Musks believe they give it away as they make it and that’s the kind of people we need now. People like the Green School students who have sustainability built into the DNA, who look at the world and think I don’t need to work for Coca-Cola or the oil industry.
We don’t have a lot of time. The levels of pollution, like heavy metals in our waterways, are at high levels. All these tiny amounts have added up to something huge. By the time we realize how toxic something is, it’s too late. We need to influence public policies, we need to groom better politicians and do that now.
On bamboo and India
John: I want to inoculate India with bamboo. India has more bamboo than China and the Chinese have factories producing billions of dollars of product. India just redesignated bamboo as a grass, instead of a tree/timber product.
Ravi: That’s going to unlock the whole thing. When it was still a forest tree you couldn’t touch it, even if you grew it on your land. So nobody wanted to plant it.
Connect with Ravi on his Facebook page.
Watch Ravi’s TEDx talk: