Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Buddha's Garden

When transcendentalists talk about finding God in nature, there's always that Walden-esque image of a "house in the woods," or of hippies carrying Nalgene bottles walking barefoot through the woods smelling ferns and sitting on rocks with their eyes closed. But the realization of divinity can be as simple watching a seed germinate. When I was in the throws of a deep depression, I had no desire to do anything...except to grow some seeds. They were about all I could take care of, since dealing with my own life seemed so overwhelming. I am not a patient person, but growing little plants indoors through the winter taught me; as Kazantzakis said after killing a hatching butterfly with his impatience: "For I realize today it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature." I planted the seedlings in my mom's garden and they grew up to be plants, strangely special, because i had nursed them from a pinhead-sized embryo.

There is something holy about gardening; besides making babies, it is as close as one can come to creating life in the manner of God. The growing cycle mirrors the spiritual life cycle: barrenness, germination, growth, proliferation, production, harvest, pollination, death, barrenness, germination...Gardening is a spiritual discipline. Cloistered Carthusian monks typically have a small patch of garden attached to their cell for praying and growing flowers and vegetables. The Divine Office recited by monks and nuns also reflect the importance placed on alignment with the natural rhythm. The entire book of Psalms is typically sung in the course of a week, and then repeated. During my time at Mt. Saviour, in between offices, we would work in the orchard, or sheer sheep, or do chores around the grounds. Benedictine life is about rhythm and balance--finding a Middle Way.

My own garden is doing well this year. My neighbor trapped the groundhog that had been eating my beets and eggplant. I've put little fences up around many of the plants. One-armed Buddha guards the small 5x12' plot. I found him in the trash with one arm, smiling, but I picture Maya the groundhog sneaking out from the bushes and eating his arm, trying to gnaw it off, while Gold Buddha smiles stoically unaffected because he knows he will be reincarnated into all things--including Maya--transcending desire and becoming untouchable, in the same way Jesus accepted Death as a guest and then threw It off when enough days had passed and it was time to show the world that Death was nothing to fear.

It's interesting to see that a 'Doomsday Vault' is being designed in Norway to house rare seeds to avert world famine...a giant plant sperm bank. With all the genetic modification of seeds occurring today, some plants have stopped reproducing, making it all the more important to preserve seeds with an untouched genetic makeup. When Doomsday coming, the opening of the vault will be the resurrection of the bodies.

Eucharist is not so crazy when you think about it. Jesus making himself into bread and wine for us to eat and calling it his flesh and blood. When we eat a tomato, we are eating a fruit of the earth (in French potato is translated "pom de terre": apple of the earth), and as Ben Harper says, "what's from the earth is of the greatest worth." A embyonic seed is planted, draws water and air from the ground, germinates, synthesizes light and CO2, producing fruit which contain the seeds necessary for future propagation. When we eat a tomato, we are eating everything that made it, the causal process, a cycle of becoming; we become all things, one with all things. When we eat the fruit, we eat the seed. When we excrete, the seed, amazingly, comes out whole and after surviving the ride to the sewage treatment plant, will often find its way to the ground (if the plant has discharged the untreated water), draw on the nutrients in the waste and soil, and repropagate. Resurrection! A great seed bank is being kept in a Nothing really dies...it just goes away.

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