Kizami and Other Gardening Practice

A blog reader emailed me this question:

“As a new student of Buddhism and a gardener too, I’m trying to find ways to bring Buddhism into gardening so that I can be sure that my new hobby (gardening) is in line with my beliefs. Are there any books that can help me, or do you have any ideas I can use?”

This question got me thinking about my early days as a Buddhist. I’ve been an avid gardener since childhood, but Buddhism didn’t come along until about 15 years ago, and I’ve been a committed layperson for only slightly more than 10 of those years. So I’m no expert on ways to merge the two; all I can do is reflect on how my gardens changed after I took refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

The first thing that came to an end was any manner of food production that deliberately harmed any sentient being. By the time I was seriously exploring Buddhism, I had already dispensed with applications of chemicals to gardens. Pesticides, fungicides, and rodenticides were long gone from my repertoire.

But then came the question of digging grubs out of the dirt and flinging them off to die somewhere on the pavement. Or swatting mosquitoes as I harvested the veggies. Or squishing Japanese beetles that wiped out the squash and beans. All that had to stop. Even mechanical means of keeping insects and rodents away had to be revisited, and then eliminated.

Another change came when I realized that my practice called me to give away more than I kept. So now, lots of veggies and fruits go to neighbors, family, colleagues, and friends. I feed our dogs whatever they want from the garden, and plant extra greens for the rabbits that happen by. At the end of the season, we let the waning vegetables feed whatever four-legged friends come by.

Encouraging others to grow their own wholesome food is, in my view, a form of Right Intention. There are so many good things to cultivating an organic food garden, and encouraging and showing others the way to do it benefits everyone, from human to animal to insect.

I also burn Kizami in my garden. (Kizami is a fine, granulated Japanese incense used in Buddhist devotional and cleansing practices.) For my purposes, Kizami burning is part of my ever-deepening gratitude for the soil, sun, and rain that make garden food production possible. Thanks to the many blessings of Mother Earth, we have more than enough fresh food through summer and into autumn, and plenty to jar and freeze for the cold weather.
Lastly, I also have a Zen garden in the works. A corner for meditation and rest, where my two favorite things in the world come together in one wonderful place.

As for books that can help you – as a Buddhist, the only books I would read absolutely every day are the Dharma texts. Everything you need to know is found there. I’ve never seen a ‘how to’ guide for Buddhism and organic gardening, but you’ve given me an idea!

From my standpoint as a Buddhist practitioner, I’d say don’t try to intellectualize it. The two pillars of Buddhism are wisdom and compassion. Make these the heart of your daily practice, and everything you do – gardening included – will be imbued by them. Everything else will follow beautifully, for the benefit of all.

May all beings be safe from harm, free, and happy, and may all beings achieve enlightenment.

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