Flowers are The Jewels of Kali-yuga!
Prabhupada commented that “flowers are the jewels of Kali-yuga” in relationship to Deity worship. He didn’t want us to use valuable jewels as that would encourage people to steal from the Deities. In fact many of the British “crown jewels” were taken from Temple Deities in India. This is another of the many reasons for the demise of the British “empire” which is a huge topic.
In another sense we can see flowers as jewels because they are very priceless in terms of their beauty, inspiring our awe and sense of aesthetics and connection to Krishna as the Source of all opulent, beautiful and mighty things. We can’t make flowers that can compare with those that are grown, and for that we have to depend on Krishna’s natural laws. If we are open-hearted and blessed, it is difficult to doubt the existence of God amidst exquisitely beautiful flowers and abundant tasty fruits and vegetables. In addition when we decorate Krishna’s altar with flowers, one can’t help but smile. As it feels so enlivening to offer Krishna the best of our flowers, that we think Krishna must be smiling too!
Therefore, those of us who have some land, even a front or back yard, can grow flowers for Krishna and have a little vegetable garden as well. We are advised in the Gita to offer Krishna, “…with love and devotion, a leaf, flower, fruit, or water”. Although in one sense simple things these items represent natural opulence, and are contrasted with great industrial enterprises which are polluting the world and creating false necessities for modern people. Of course in one sense there is nothing the matter with industry—I am typing on a computer and you are reading this blog on one—but it is a question of balance.
What is the use of modern conveniences if our land, water, air and food—and thus our own bodies are contaminated. As Prabhupada often said and the devotees have frequently repeated, “we can’t eat nuts and bolts”. And if we don’t spend time in Nature, appreciating her scenic beauty our hearts will be hardened, and we will tend to forget our dependence on Krishna’s Nature for the true necessities of life.
We are encouraged by Prabhupada and all the scriptures to become like beautiful swans by living in the mode of goodness, and not to be like garbage seeking crows: “The swans do not take pleasure in the places where crows are assembled for conferences and meetings. They are instead seen in the atmosphere of natural scenic beauty where there are transparent reservoirs of water nicely decorated with stems of lotus flowers in variegated colors of natural beauty. That is the difference between the two classes of birds.” [pp to SB 1.5.10]
As far as the importance of Nature’s gift’s there are many purports by Shrila Prabhupada in the Shrimad Bhagavatam describing this, such as: “Perfection of human civilization is made possible by utilizing the gifts of nature in their own way. As we find herewith in the description of its opulence, Dvaraka was surrounded by flower gardens and fruit orchards along with reservoirs of water and growing lotuses. There is no mention of mills and factories supported by slaughterhouses, which are the necessary paraphernalia of the modern metropolis. The propensity to utilize nature's own gifts is still there, even in the heart of modern civilized man. The leaders of modern civilization select their own residential quarters in a place where there are such naturally beautiful gardens and reservoirs of water, but they leave the common men to reside in congested areas without parks and gardens.” [pp to SB 1.11.12]
Offering fragrant flowers and incense to Krishna—transforming it into prasadam--is one way to use our nose in devotional to Krishna and thus we can purify our sense of smell. Krishna consciousness is not world denying, but world engaging—we use the things of this world to serve Krishna and thus they become spiritualized or “Krishnized.” Otherwise we become attached to material things and continue our sojourn of birth and death. By serving Krishna we awaken our love for him and become attached to him. When we are so advanced in Krishna consciousness that we see him everywhere, though constantly feeling his separation, then the material world will not longer be able to accommodate our spiritual desires. This is the perfection of yoga Samadhi, and completely natural. When we love someone we will always think of them, especially in their absence as we will miss them so much.
Here is one snapshot of this process of bhakti-yoga or devotional service to Krishna from a purport in the Bhagavad-gita [13.8-12]: “Therefore, by systematic regulation, the tongue should always be engaged in tasting the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krishna and chanting Hare Krishna. As far as the eyes are concerned, they should not be allowed to see anything but the beautiful form of Krishna. That will control the eyes. Similarly, the ears should be engaged in hearing about Krishna and the nose in smelling the flowers offered to Krishna. This is the process of devotional service, and it is understood here that Bhagavad-gita is simply expounding the science of devotional service.”
Flowers represent Krishna’s splendor, attractiveness and opulence. They are associated with the mode of goodness and spirituality. Thus, whenever we read of the residences of sages, or about the heavenly planets or the spiritual world the beauty of the flowers is noted, especially lotus flowers. When great personality like Vedic kings or royalty, and naturally Krishna or his devotees, are welcomed they are showed with flower petals. In addition flower garlands are always offered to great persons, and Shri Krishna and Radharani are always adorned with lovely, fragrant flowers.
So let us be inspired by the beauty of flowers and offer Krishna the best flowers we can. If possible we can grow them ourselves, and have altars decorated with the most fragrant and beautiful flowers. And what better time to do this then flower bearing Spring which, out of all the seasons represents Krishna. Flowers are truly jewels and it is difficult to imagine life without them, or in fact to live with no parks or places of scenic beauty.
“Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor.” [Bhagavad-gita 10.41] If his creation is so wonderful, just imagine his glorious beauty and opulence! After-all, he is the origin of everything, so he must be supremely lovable, gorgeous and well, cool!