Gardening has always been an important part of my family, especially for my father who took great pride in our well-maintained garden. As a child, and to a large extent, even as an adult, I have enjoyed the benefits of having a beautiful garden without having to put in any effort. In more recent years I have gradually taken on more responsibility in caring for the garden. In doing this I have realized how much work it actually takes to maintain it, and how much my father was doing. Similarly, in my Krishna Consciousness, for many years I have been enjoying so much facility in Krishna consciousness, benefiting from the mercy of guru, Prabhupada, and Krishna without having to endeavor for it. However, at some point, I have to take responsibility for my Krishna consciousness and maintaining my bhakti-lata-kripa.
Now that I am more involved in the garden, I realized that there has to be a constant endeavor to maintain it. I always have to attentive to watering and removing weeds, otherwise, everything goes into disarray very quickly. Similarly, I have to be regulated in my constant endeavor to read, chant, and do service. Otherwise, my anarthas or spiritual weeds, take over my garden of bhakti. It becomes so easy for me to give into my materialist desires while neglecting my fragile bhakti lata kripa.
Being the new and enthusiastic gardener, I would pull out weeds all over the place. Being proud of my efforts, I would walk away, leaving behind a huge mess of uprooted weeds all around the garden. While my intentions being well placed, created an even bigger mess than my father had to clean up. While he tolerated my messes for a while, so as to not discourage me, he eventually started to pass comments, or sometimes enlist my mother to politely encourage me to clean up after myself. I thought about all the times, in immature enthusiasm to do service, I inadvertently created a mess for other devotees to clean up. I realized now how tolerant and patient they were because they didn’t want me to feel discouraged. Yet I mistook their tolerance for confirmation of my excellent service. I became so proud of my “wonderful accomplishments”, that the devotees had to politely and sometimes not so politely correct me. At the time my pride did not allow me to see the humility and love for me in both the tolerance of my mistakes and the attempts to correct me so that I could learn and grow.
Another conflict arose from my enthusiasm for taking care of the garden. I would only care for the plants that I deemed important while neglecting other plants, that as far as I was concerned, were not as important. However, they were important to my parents. Now, frustrated with my blinkered watering priorities, my parents could not trust me to take care of the whole garden. My imbalanced approach to caring for the garden made it more difficult for them as they had to do even more work. Naturally, I thought of my imbalanced approach to service, where I only gave energy to services that I felt were important or that I enjoyed, neglecting others. I failed to see how all our services are important and collectively contribute to the welfare of Prabhupada’s ISKCON.
I would regularly buy and plant things without consideration of the space needed for that plant to grow properly, the proper timing for planting, or even knowing how to plant them properly. Often the result of these endeavors was that my father had to rescue these poor plants, though, sad to say, he was not always successful. Some plants just could not survive my foolish enthusiasm. How many times have I initiated a service or tried to cultivate someone in a manner that was more destructive than helpful? How many times could I have saved myself so much trouble if I had only consulted someone else? If I only had leaned on and learned from the experience of others?
The aspect of gardening that I found requires the most vigilance and constant endeavor is removing weeds. Amazingly weeds grow without any endeavor! A little rain and they spring up everywhere. There have been times when I did not treat attending to the weeds as a high priority. Leaving them unattended, they grew wildly taking over the garden. Now, not only did I have to put in an even greater effort to remove the weeds, but they were also hindering the growth of other valuable plants. In the process of removing the jungle of weeds, I found myself accidentally pulling out things that were not weeds. Anarthas do not need encouragement to grow. The seeds of anarthas have been scattered throughout my heart from many past lives. Even slight indulgences in seemingly innocent activities can act as showers of rain for these anarthas to start sprouting. Unless I am vigilant to stop bad habits when they first appear, they will completely overrun my life making it even more difficult to change my habits when the behavior becomes deeply rooted. The anartha take up so much of my life and energy that I neglect my sadhana and service. That leads to a downward spiral, where I become so overwhelmed that I feel like giving up on everything. At others times, I swing like a pendulum to the other extreme, where I frantically over endeavor to fix things, I act without thinking, I nearly uprooted my bhakti-lata-kripa. In some instances, I severely damaged it, to say the least. Only by careful nurturing with japa, reading Prabhupada’s books and the association of devotees was I able to resurrect my bhakti-lata-kripa.
Once my father amusingly remarked that I was happily watering the weeds. Of course, in order to be vigilant against weeds, one needs to discriminate the weeds from plants that are not weeds. In my ignorance I could not tell the difference, as a result, I was focusing all my effort in the wrong place. I have often lacked discernment between what is desirable and what is undesirable. I fooled myself into believing that I was advancing in my spiritual life when in fact I was going in reverse. By taking shelter of Prabhupada and the Holy Name, my vision has become clearer, making it easier to discern what is favorable for bhakti and what is unfavorable.
Some weeds are quite deceptive, appearing small and innocent, yet when I try to pull them out, I realize that they are very deeply rooted. Trying to pull them out by hand, only break of the surface stem, leaving the root to regrow at a later stage. The only way to uproot them completely is to dig them out with a spade and fork and a lot of effort. Interestingly, the same stubborn weeds, are easier to pull out, sometimes even by hand, after very heavy rain when the ground is very wet and soft. Often, I have underestimated the power of some seemingly innocent habits, mistakenly believing that I have overcome them, only for the habit to resurface later. When I try to uproot it myself, relying on my own strength I have to work very hard to properly uproot my bad habits, yet when I take shelter of Krishna, absorbing myself in japa, reading Prabhupada’s books, associating with devotees, the same challenges are so much easier to overcome and they don’t resurface, because Prabhupada and Krishna are helping.
Now, with a little experience and knowledge, I realize that I cannot maintain the garden by myself, It is something that my parents and I do together as a team. My bhakti-lata-kripa is growing in the field of my heart, by carefully hearing, chanting, and serving in the association of devotees, can I maintain my bhakti kripa so that it grows into a strong tree and bare fruits on the form of the love of Krishna.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies