On the Power of Roots, and a Neglected Garden
My son created a small plot of land five years ago, about 20’ x10’ or so, and surrounded it by a one foot wall of rocks, since they are plentiful here. He was inspired, and I added some topsoil, and thought about growing vegetables, which I did for a few years. Then I became busy writing and traveling, and this plot became like a wild, neglected area, overgrown with tall plants attracted by its fertile soil. As I recently worked on my son’s plot, I thought of many analogies for our spiritual life.
Shri Chaitanya compared taking up Krishna consciousness to cultivating a garden, and planting the seed of bhakti. After the seed germinates and the plant begins to grow, one has to be careful to properly water the plant (with hearing and chanting about Krishna), pulling the weeds (desires for worldly enjoyment), and fencing the garden to prevent the plant being trampled, or eaten by wild animals (compared to offending, or minimizing great devotees). From this unkempt plot, I see a practical demonstration of what happens if we neglect our spiritual practices—our spiritual potential is obscured, and it takes a super effort to get back on track (much more than it did to begin our spiritual life in the beginning). It is also evident that although superficially cleared of unwanted plants, much is going on beneath the surface.
As we study, learn, and imbibe the wisdom of Krishna consciousness, we find that it exists not only in a holy place, but is active in every sphere. A neophyte will only see God in his place of worship, and not know how to appreciate advanced devotees. This is an external, compartmental vision of spirituality. Although we may be beginners in spiritual life, we should aspire to come to the second stage of spiritual life, where we have a deep, abiding faith in Krishna, appreciate and apply the philosophy given by Shri Chaitanya, and endeavor to see the Lord’s hand in every aspect of our life.
Of late, I am putting more energy into our garden, as I had ¾’s of an acre cleared, to which I have begun planting flowers, berries, and fruit and nut trees. It is very hard work, and takes much time and sweat to transform the brush, weeds, and hard clay earth into usable land, amidst the heat and humid Southeastern United States air. As with everything, we can remain fixed in a project by thinking long term, and how our small painstaking actions, will bear fruit in the vision we hope to offer to Krishna. Whether we are successful or not is in Krishna’s hands. With a goal in mind, we have to offer him our moment by moment effort, depending on him for the results. This is how we can be enthusiastic to serve moment by moment, yet detached from the outcome. Many drops make the ocean!
I am amazed at tenacity of living beings to keep living. This is very obvious when you begin working with the soil. There are roots everywhere, and some travel some yards from far away plants, over a foot beneath and surface. I knew from experience that just cutting back the brush was useless without getting out the roots. I thought using a tiller to clear the brush and break up the earth would be sufficient. However, when I used a pitchfork, forcing it all the way into the soil and upturning it, the power of deep roots became evident. Such digging is very time-consuming and I found so many roots I had missed, as I worked in the cow manure, and planted vegetables. This reminds me of how deeply rooted we all are in the material world, fueled by our material attachments and desires. Only by learning to remember and serve Krishna and his devotees, can we invoke the mercy of the Lord, for although we all must endeavor in our spiritual practices, success is ultimately obtained by Krishna’s mercy.
Two verses from the Shrimad Bhagavatam come to mind which describe the life of Ajamila, who was a religious Brahmin in his youth, but fell victim to his senses, having not purified his heart: “Thus a sober and faithful person who knows the religious principles is temporarily purified of all sins performed with his body, words and mind. These sins are like the dried leaves of creepers beneath a bamboo tree, which may be burned by fire although their roots remain to grow again at the first opportunity. Only a rare person who has adopted complete, unalloyed devotional service to Krishna can uproot the weeds of sinful actions with no possibility that they will revive. He can do this simply by discharging devotional service, just as the sun can immediately dissipate fog by its rays.” [ SB 6.1.14-15] Devotional service removes the root of our embodiment, and gives the positive process and higher taste of a life of devotion, or bhakti.