Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Indra's Net and Gardening

I've been enjoying the eclectic writing over at the new webzine Life as a Human. You never know what's going to appear, given the wide approach the journal is taking, which is part of the fun. I've contributed about half a dozen articles to the journal, with more coming soon. In fact, I have a new post up right now about abortion and the first precept. Dicey stuff, but definitely important to dig into.

Karen York, in her current Life as a Human post, says the following:

Our health is inextricably bound to the Earth’s health that we have jeopardized. The good news is that, in restoring the earth, we restore ourselves.

The garden, as Peter Harper so eloquently puts it, “provides a unique opportunity to explore the mutual healing between you and the Earth. It is a model of the universe, a microcosm of the biosphere and a metaphor for yourself.”1

I have wrestled somewhat with that word, healing, because for many people — and according to the first dictionary definition — it is synonymous with cure. I prefer the second definition: “to set right,” as in “to heal the rift between us.”

If we grow in understanding and set things right with nature in our gardens, then we too can be “set right,” and the rifts in our lives, whether with our family, our work, or within ourselves, will be healed. There is a third, equally essential definition of healing: “to restore a person to spiritual wholeness.” That is something we can all strive for—and can achieve, despite disease or disability.

As a gardener, and lover of plants and the earth, this resonates with me deeply. As does her struggle with the word "healing," which has become a toss about word found everywhere from doctor's offices to New Age magazines.

Every time I put my hands into the soil, tending to a plant or simply moving the earth about, it's a unique, one time act. In a way, it's beyond any notions about being cured, being set right, or even being restored to spiritual wholeness. Although I have read a lot about the benefits of gardening and touching the earth, when I'm doing so, all that stuff usually falls away and I'm just there. Is this enlightenment? I don't know. I'm not even sure that's worth considering.

Obviously, if you around, the planet is in a lot of trouble. Even for those of you who question global warming, there's really no doubt that ecosystems have been vastly changed by human intervention and exploitation, and I don't think for the better in many cases. It's easy to feel tiny and insignificant within the midst of it all, so much so that planting a tree, growing your own food, or re-seeding a field with native grasses can feel pointless.

I'm trying to recall Indra's Net at such times, to remember that each jewel in the world and it's activity (or non-activity) reflect in all of the others. That my tiny drop added to the ocean of life is the ocean itself, nothing more or less.

Not easy to remember this during difficult times, but when in the garden, when touching the earth as the Buddha did all those years ago, I don't even need to remember - it just is.

*The photo is of Prairie Sage from my garden last summer.

1 comment:

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Great post. As I understand it, the Hua-yen image of Indra's net suggests that we are already healed, or that there is no wound to begin with. It tells us to step back and marvel at the profundity which has led to here (spatially, temporally) and to relax in that vision - non-separate from Buddhahood. It doesn't exactly 'solve' our ecocrisis, but it gives a grander perspective and perhaps a sense of hope and 'okay-ness' as we work to make the world whole again.