Most of us were taught that gardening is about control, about battling unruly, ravenous nature to succeed with our objectives. And a very complex and prosperous industry sprang up in the late 1940s to provide us with the power and weapons to meet those expectations. Petroleum products from World War II chemical weapons, defoliants and bombs were reformulated to solve our plant problems and feed the world. These chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have now had 50-60 years to show that this aggressive, heartless and poisonous approach has failed. Foods with little nutritional value and a polluted world are inspiring a strong international movement toward sustainability.
As genuine human beings, we can be inspired by a vaster vision than conquering nature and killing our pests with poisons. Like the Buddha, we can start at the ground level, to nourish the source of our mutual enrichment. As bodhisattvas, we can appreciate that if there is any blame in the garden, it belongs to us and our ignorance. And like Gesar of Ling, we can return destructive demons to the Buddha of Medicine (the compost pile).
We can save our plants and our planet using methods that are gentle to the earth, if not to the weeds and pests. To garden with a heart is to see that all manifestations of life have their place in the mandala and in the intricate balancing of Nature. Can resting in the nature of mind be that separate from resting in the nature of the garden? If we do not see ourselves as separate from Nature, we can relax our struggle and proceed in a partnership style.
In practice we begin with nourishing our earth and supporting the microorganisms with our plant wastes. We can trust that the plant life that springs out of this vibrant soil life will be healthy and strong. This may sound like wishful thinking, but it works. Healthy plants have few pests and a diverse environment supports beneficial insects and birds and fungi which help keep pests in balance.
Gardening is a practice. It is said, “The best application for the garden is the footprint of the gardener.”
For she who dares to dance with Nature
With tender heart and nurturing wakefulness,
There will be plenty of rewards in this lifetime,
For the goodness of the earth is so bountiful.