All of us are so keen to be “modern”, in the process eager to copy the latest fashions from other places. What follows is an article about a remarkable group of people called the Amish. They live in America, often hailed as the land of milk and honey, El Dorado, the ultimate in modernity and all that. Yet, the Amish prefer to drive around in horse-drawn carriages, even though Cadillacs may whiz past. Not for them the business of “keeping up with Jones”. In effect, what the Amish tradition proves is that if the Mind is strong, one can practice ceiling on desires even when living next door to the greatest attractions in the world.
We thank Ted Henry for contributing this interesting article. Do you have similar things to report? Why don’t you get in touch with us?
Jai Sai Ram. SGH Team.
THE AMISH - AMONG GOD’S MOST PRIVATE AND SHY DEVOTEES
Whether you are walking down the main street of Hartville, Millersburg or
Sugar Creek, Ohio, invariably you will hear them coming. The galloping
hooves of a single horse pulling a black buggy is a familiar sound in North East
Ohio. Inside those buggies are Amish people. The married men are always
bearded, the women wear bonnets and dresses using hooks and eyes instead of buttons. All Amish men, women and children wear a basic style of clothing that was
popular in the 1800s.
This part of America where I grew up is dotted with small towns and villages
were many Amish live. The Amish are a conservative Christian sect that
arrived in my hometown of Canton, Ohio in 1835. Like Sai Baba, they preach only
love. They stress humility, family, community and separation from the world.
Today there are Amish living in 22 states in America and in parts of Canada.
The Amish in America live simple farm lives. Their strict religious beliefs
do not allow them to use electricity, telephones, modern dress, cars, trucks
or motorized vehicles. I first met the Amish in 1962 when my father’s hardware
store was relocated from Canton to Hartville, Ohio. My first job at the new
store was to construct an elaborate hitching post in the parking lot to which
the Amish could tie their horses. It was a familiar site to pass slow moving
Amish buggies on the highway and to see the warm dim glow of burning kerosene
lanterns in their homes.
The Amish quickly became frequent and loyal customers in my father’s store
and always paid for their urchases with cash. I found them to be kind, loving,
intelligent and extremely dedicated to their Christian beliefs.
Almost always the Amish build their own schools, enabling their children to
remain in close proximity with one another when they are away from the family
farms and businesses.
Even in America there were serious differences among the Amish. These led to
various schisms over the ears. In Hartville where I lived, religious
differences resulted in these people becoming members of two sub groups. The Amish is the more conservative group and Mennonites, members of the Evangelical
Mennonite Church have become the more liberal.
Most Mennonites I knew in Hartvile, did allow the use of electricity, phones,
cars and trucks in their daily lives and it was a prominent local Mennonite
by the name of Howard Miller who eventually came to purchase my father’s
hardware store several decades ago. His family now owns one of the largest hardware
and farm supply stores in America.
The pictures supplied for this article came from people I met at Spectrum
Publications in Orrville, Ohio. The photographs depict a simple life lived
mostly in the rural regions of one of the most industrialized states of North
America. This results in a cultural clash in some peoples eyes, but in this mix
you can also find a special harmony and even beauty as lifestyles of the new and
old peacefully exist together.
You won’t see any close-ups of people’s faces in these photographs because
Amish generally don’t like to have their pictures taken. Permission was
granted for these photographs as long as the camera was kept at a distance.
According to The History Of The Amish, by Steven Nolt, Our People, by Levi
Miller, and other publications, the Amish are a private people who believe God
has kept them together despite pressure from the modern world to change. The
women never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the back of the head.
They wear a white prayer head covering if they are married and a black one if
they are single. No jewellery of any kind is ever worn.
Amish are pacifists and oppose all forms of violence, even self defence. They
settled in Canton and other mostly rural areas of America’s Mid West after
persecution and several congregational splits led them to leave Alsace-Lorraine
The Pennsylvania Dutch Centre in America maintains a thorough history of the
Amish. The roots of all current Amish and Mennonite groups go back to the
Reformation. Originally they were part of an Anabaptist-Mennonite Christian
group in Europe. The Anabaptist part of their name stems from the fact that they
did not believe in baptism for the young. It was their belief that only
adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized. Because of this, many
early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both Catholics and
A former Catholic priest named Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement.
His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups as Mennonites.
Because so many main stream Christians were against them, many Anabaptists
and Mennonites fled to the mountain ranges of Switzerland and southern Germany.
It was here that began the Amish tradition of farming and holding services
in homes rather than in churches.
As a result of religious persecution many members parted from the core group
under the leadership of Elder Jakob Amman of Switzerland. Because of Amman’s
influence they soon became known as Amish Mennonites, although often they are
simply referred to as Amish.
In matters of faith the Amish might be closer to the teachings of Sai Baba
than to the practices of other Christians. A part of the Bible that is often
quoted during Amish worship services comes from Romans 12:2. “Be not conformed
to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that it may
prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”.
The Amish are taught to live a life that is separate from the world. These
private people don’t shun the outside world as much as they choose to focus
more on the interior world, something that Sai devotees would readily understand.
The Amish follow a code of conduct called the Ordnung. It is the Amish blueprint for expected behavior and it relates to private, public and ceremonial life. The Ordnung does not translate well into English and perhaps the best way to understand this term is to think of it as an ordering of the whole way of life.
Another important way in which the Amish are different from others living in
America is that the Amish do not pay Social Security tax. Self sufficiency is
the Amish community’s answer to government aid programs and they are
permitted by law to be exempt from this tax. The Amish have a long history of taking
care of their own members. They do not have retirement communities or nursing
homes and in most cases each family member takes care of their own.
The Amish live a simple life because they believe life is meant to be simple.
As Christians they believe they are supposed to remain committed to peace and
that faith calls for them to lead a lifestyle of discipleship and good works.
They stress that belief must result in practice. The Christian faith for
them is empty if it results mostly in doctrine. They succeed as followers by
living their faith and by putting long standing Christian views into everyday