One of the tenets of Buddhism is that human beings find life frustrating because we see problems where no problems exist. I was reminded of this bit of wisdom as my wife and I faced our annual springtime ritual of pulling weeds and digging up unwanted tree saplings from the garden and yard.
Buddhism would remind us that the distinction we make between a flowering plant and a weed is a distinction we make in our minds. Put another way that Buddhists might approve, the weed doesn’t know it’s a weed, and the flowering plant doesn’t know it’s a flowering plant.
The truth of the matter from the Buddhist perspective is that what we label unwanted weeds and beloved flowering plants are both, in reality, green living organisms.
This will not stop my wife and me from kneeling to pull the weeds, and it won’t stop our knees and backs from rebelling at the exertion. But applying the Buddhist perspective might help us to stop cursing the weeds and actually learn something about life in the process.
The truth is that our minds call some green living organisms lowly and unwanted weeds solely because they are so hardy. Yes, weeds left unattended will take over a garden and shut out the flowering plants, but isn’t it nonsensical to label something “evil” when it is simply robust and full of life?
Imagine how different our reaction would be if the Hubble space telescope zoomed in on the desert landscape of Mars or the surface of any other planet in our solar system and revealed a field of dandelions?
I suggest that we’d be not just stunned by the discovery, but also overjoyed. The presence of dandelions would mean the presence of water, the presence of photosynthesis, and the release of oxygen into that planet’s atmosphere. The presence of dandelions would mean the presence of LIFE.
Buddhism suggests that what is the truth about dandelions on Mars is also true of the dandelions in our gardens. Dandelions are if we would see them for what they truly are, reminders of the power of life. This little green and yellow organism, something easily crushed in our hands, has the power of pushing up through the asphalt and even cement. That’s amazing, isn’t it?
At this point, you might be tempted to drop off your picked dandelions and other weeds on my porch with a sarcastic note attached. Thanks, but no thanks.
My point is that we talk a lot about respect for life in our society. The Buddhist perspective invites us to do just that—respect life in all the forms that surround us.
Yes, we will continue to pull weeds even as we water our flowers, but before tossing the weeds into a compost bin, let’s take a moment to realize we are holding a miracle of the universe in our hands.
And that dandelion, that miracle, has a message for each of us. “You too are alive. Live this day to the fullest.”