On Flowers—As Krishna’s Smile, and Our Teachers
The science, or art, of Krishna consciousness is not a negative theology, even though some scholars, or casual readers, are quick to label it as such. If parts of the yogic assessment of material life don’t seem very encouraging or positive, it is because this is only half of a larger picture. Life in itself is not condemned, but material life with no spiritual dimension, is. Criticism of the material world is always in this context, and is meant to put our conventional life, and sense of self, in perspective so we may be encouraged to understand our soul, and relationship to God. There are two primary impetuses for spiritual cultivation. One is the misery of a purely selfish, spiritually disconnected life, and the other is the higher taste of spiritual cultivation and activities. I have written about this is in another blog, Negative and Positive Impetus for Bhakti (http://www.krishna.com/blog/2007/10/1/positive-and-negative-impetus-bhakti). I am giving this introduction because my last blog about decorating a dead body, might seem like a curious contrast to today’s piece on flowers.
News frequently is focused on the negative side of the environment in the shape of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and droughts (which could be a negative impetus for bhakti). However, there is much in our environment to be inspired and awed by, and for a devotee, they see Krishna as the supreme artisan. This is certainly true in the wonder and beauty of flowers, that I see as Krishna’s smile to all of us, and a reminder that he is the transcendent Source of Creation, and all living things. Anyone who has a garden and sees the incredible bounty of the Earth and its gloriousness can’t help but be inspired at how the Nature is so inconceivably lovely, and its functionality, so beautiful and aesthetic. For a devotee of Krishna, or any theistic person, flowers and edible plants, cause us to completely reject the idea that such manifestations are simply happenstance, or have no higher purpose than to reproduce.
Last month has been an incredible show of the lavishness of the Earth with so many varieties of flowers blooming. I have been especially blown away by the Oriental Lilies since I missed most of their show last year with my mom’s passing. Perhaps there are 60 bulbs, from which we received hundreds and hundreds of deliciously fragrant flowers. The first third slowly bloomed, and now over half the remaining plants have been flowering, with the final dazzlingly show getting ready. A good number of varieties has keep us surprised at the diversity of colors. The altar is covered with vases, and I have another four around the house. Our visitors are rather amazed, and we haven’t tired of them yet!
Even though the sunflowers aren’t as prolific and are without fragrance, their commanding size, towering over everything is impressive, giving the garden certain grandeur. Sunflowers, the sun, and smiles are all very connected. I love observing the budding flower head face the moving sun, most notably in the early morning and late afternoon.
Flowers can teach us many things. For example, the movement through stages of life that all living things go through: from the seed of potential, to growth, contribution (beauty, food, fragrance) and progeny, or investment in future generations (seeds), deterioration, and then death. Something so beautiful that we want to bring it into our home, and for a short appreciate, until the forces of nature bring about deterioration, and we have to discard them. We can compare the cycle of flowers to the attractive faces and bodies of beautiful people at their peak, at which time, by Nature’s arrangement they attract much attention (like the bees and insects, who search out pollen laden flowers), until they lose their external beauty, and are given up for the next generation of young beauties. This is just biology at work, but human beings real happiness doesn’t come from externals or things.
We are meant to go beyond the physical laws to understand spiritual and eternal beauty coming from the soul and God, which gives this world and all living things their beauty. This cycle is the illustrated Bhagavad Gita in verses such as: “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change”, and “Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change. This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.”
Thus we can live our life and perceive the presence of Krishna within every situation, in everyone and everything. And we can take such beautiful and tasty things as flowers, fruit, veggies, grains, and milk, and offer them to Krishna, thereby spiritualizing our life. The ultimate offering is our very self and our heart of hearts, which will bring us to Krishna, and create the spiritual world even here.