On being the Buddha’s gardener

On being the Buddha’s gardener September 14, 2017

Peony pexelsLast week Kaspa and I were on a break, and so we spent some time catching up in the temple garden. We’re lucky enough to have a large space, even if it periodically threatens to overwhelm us.

I forget that I enjoy gardening. When I’m busy with my work, I can’t imagine taking time to get into different clothes and fetch the trug and trowel from the shed at the top corner of the garden. I can’t imagine leaving my cosy office and walking out into the chilly or drizzly air.

I think that some of what holds me back from engaging with the garden is fear of a lack of competence. We are both amateurs when it comes to gardening. Until I wrote my novel about a gardener, I knew nothing about gardens. My research for the book included interviewing lovely old gardeners, learning the names of plants and visiting beautiful gardens around the country. I fell in love with them and started to plant bulbs or grow veg, but there is so much to learn. Especially when we first moved in and we had volunteers who knew much more than we did, I was afraid of getting it wrong and seeming like a fool.

As I actually engage with the work, I remember that I can make a difference to how the garden looks. I can weed the vegetable patch and use the secateurs to snip off all the spent flower heads. I can move the existing peonies and pinks around in this flower bed like rearranging furniture, and make a decision about where to place the new rose campion from Dawn. I can even wield the electric hedge trimmer! I will continue to make mistakes, but this is how we learn, and in a garden even the worst losses are eventually redeemable.

At the end of the week, I feel immensely satisfied with how different the garden looks. Yes, there is still a lot to do, but that is the nature of living here (or anywhere). I trust that I or others will contribute their time in the future to tackle the long weedy bed at the bottom, and the many tangled and brambly corners that need attention. If they don’t, well – those areas of the garden will just stay messy.

The best thing about being out in the garden is knowing that I am tending it for the Buddha. I feel this especially when I am working close to one of our garden rupas – spreading rich compost around the bright red geraniums at the feet of the stone wall Buddha, or sweeping leaves from the arch where the big Buddha lives. All the work I do in the garden is for the Buddha – for this temple, and for the people who use it. I know that it makes the Buddha happy to see anyone taking care of anything – and it makes me happy to know that I’m making him happy.

At my best, all the work I do is an offering to the Buddha – writing this blog, cleaning the cat bowls, sending birthday cards, thanking whoever has volunteered to wash up the mugs after our Buddhist services. When I catch myself feeling resentful about this or that, it helps to remember that I’m not really doing it for myself. If it’s all an offering, then it doesn’t matter if we get what we think we want in return or not.

The garden is a place where I learn about myself, and reconnect with the earth. It is where I make small rearrangements of living things on the Garden Buddha’s shrine. It is where I am given so much – the sweet scent of our luscious roses, long-tailed tits bombing the bird feeder, the puddle of dainty pale pink cyclamen, tadpoles clotting our pond, the dark magic of homemade compost, the sound of rain from the cosy dry alcove – all of it grace.


Image via Pixabay, with gratitude.

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