I am not a gardener. However, I’ve grown up watching my mother work tirelessly to make her garden beautiful, and I am in the process of learning from her what it means to gardening. It’s not because it’s my mother’s garden, however, I have to say it’s gorgeous. It is a skill: Gardening. Everyone cannot be a good gardener. It takes time. One has to be able to understand the Nature. One has to be sensitive enough to understand how to coordinate colours and textures. And one can also learn so much about Buddhism by understanding gardening.
Once a Buddhist monk witnessed a storm. He was meditating in his hut and outside was a massive gale. The next day early morning, he got up and went out of his hut. It was a gigantic mess. Tree branches strewn all over, leaves ripped apart from the trees. This monk was observing everything that was around him.
Then he noticed that among the leaves on the ground, there were young green leaves, and some yellow ones, and lots of brown ones. The brown ones would have easily fallen off the trees. And yet, there were young shoots also lying on the ground. And then he looked at the trees. On the branches, there were young green leaves and yellow ones. And also some brown ones. Instantly the realisation struck him about what life was. This was death. Mother Nature was teaching this monk a profound lesson. The leaves were symbolic of all the people on Earth- The young, the middle-aged and the elderly. And the trees symbolized life.
"Gardening reflects life. It teaches us the key teaching of the Buddha- that of change and impermanence. Plants grow and thrive with care. If they are unattended, new plants take over"
Nature is a form of Dharma- or Spirituality. Trees bring forth flowers and fruits. Once the fruits are ripe, they could be plucked. Growing vegetables is a learning experience by itself. For example, if one is growing carrots. You plant the seedlings and you’ve got to be patient for them to grow into mature vegetables. You cannot be all the time digging the ground where you planted them to see how much they have grown. That simply will not work. Similarly in life too, one must leave things be of their own nature. You cannot have instant results overnight. The same goes for meditation. It has to be cultivated. And over time, one gets the results, sooner or later.
Weeding can be therapeutic. Among the grass, there are weeds. One cannot rashly pull the weeds. If one does so, the roots of the weeds will not get uprooted and the weeds have the potential to sprout once again. So one must be gentle and eventually with practice, one has to master the art of proper weeding. It takes time and patience. It is a good practice for being mindfulness. One has to be mindful of what one is doing, if not one might uproot the good plants as well.
"Flowers bloom and within a few days wither. After some time, there’d be fresh blooms again. A garden is a perennial source of growth and regeneration, just like human life"
Gardening in tropical countries like Sri Lanka is different compared to the gardening done in Western countries, especially countries that have the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The four seasons can be paralleled to the cycle of human life: Spring is childhood. Summer is the prime period. Then Autumn is the middle age and of course, Winter is the old age. Winter is the hardest of all. One who is young cannot understand what an elderly person goes through. We should be sensitive towards the elderly people and treat them with respect. They’ve come a long way and their journey will continue in Samsara until they eventually realise Nirvana.
Caring for the sick is like caring for the Nature. To make plants flourish well, one should constantly care for their needs, like applying fertiliser and watering. Similarly the sick need a lot of care and attention to make themselves well and comfortable. The Buddha has said that caring for the sick is like caring for the Buddha himself. One who cares for the sick becomes much closer to the Buddha although He is not alive now. Sometimes, if they are ailing, the remaining family have to decide (whether to ‘pull the plug’ or not) whether to let them continue or whether to help end their existence. However, it’s not something one should just heedlessly do.
"This is death. Mother Nature was teaching this monk a profound lesson. The leaves were symbolic of all the people on Earth- The young, the middle-aged and the elderly. And the trees symbolize life "
There’s this true story. One lady had a dog who was dying. The Veterinary Surgeon wanted to ‘pull the plug’, - but this lady who was a Buddhist said that she needed time to decide. So she went to a quiet corner and waited with her dear dog for a while and she realised that the dog wanted to live. He didn’t want to die. She could feel it. She could sense it. So she told the Vet that, she was taking him home. The Vet who became furious told her, “How can you be so cruel? How can you let this poor animal suffer so? How selfish you are”. However, she ignored him and took her beloved pet home. In six months she visited the same Vet with her beloved dog. now back in good health and doing well. The Vet was in disbelief. And then he said, “You Buddhists are so wise!”.
This story teaches all of us a valuable lesson. If it’s family members who are ailing, go near them and ask them (Even if they can’t speak) what they’d like, and more often than not, you’ll know what your loved ones wished for you to do.
Even in Nature, so many people heedlessly chop off trees. It takes years and years for a tree to sprout. Some people can cut down trees effortlessly without thinking twice. One cannot ask a tree whether it would like to live (Unlike for a human relative )- however, Nature is precious like human life and one must be sensitive to the nuances in Nature. And Nature will respond in her way. One should be more sensitive not just to plants but also to animals.
Similarly the birds too depend on nature, on flowers and fruits. They cannot speak, but they would let us know if they could, that they too needed the love and attention of us, humans. I am personally very fond of butterflies. I love rescuing them from closed places and releasing them into nature. I find these ethereal beings truly beautiful.
"Then he noticed that among the leaves on the ground, there were young green leaves, and some yellow ones, and lots of brown ones"
Gardening reflects life. It teaches us the key teaching of the Buddha- that of change and impermanence. Plants grow and thrive with care. If they are unattended, new plants take over. Flowers bloom and within a few days wither. After some time, there’d be fresh blooms again. A garden is a perennial source of growth and regeneration, just like human life.
The Buddha loved trees. He attained Enlightenment under the serene shade of the Bo Tree. Buddha was the Chief Gardener. He was nurturing Life as a gardener and He showed us that we too, can accomplish it!
Wishing you a Blessed Poya - With Metta!