The other week something happened that filled me with delight.
On a lunch-hour visit to a health food supermarket to shop for groceries, I found a beautiful display of hanging plants outside the store. To my surprise the prices were quite a bit lower than anything I’d seen elsewhere, so I decided to splash out. My apartment balcony definitely needed a hanging basket of real flowers to improve on the artificial ones I’d creatively hung until now, to avoid spending a minimum of thirty dollars.
However, encouraged by the reasonable prices this store had posted, I went inside to pay. The cashier asked me for $8.50. I thought she misunderstood what I wanted to buy, and told her again.
“Yes,” she said, “they’re 50 percent off.”
Feeling like a little kid at Christmas, I carefully stowed my prize in the trunk of my car. Back in the office I told anyone who would listen about my good luck. At the end of the workday I brought “her” home and proudly placed her on the hook close to the balcony door. Now my balcony felt complete.
I looked after her well, delighted in her, and she thrived.
This Wednesday morning, the beginning of a hot and sunny day, I told her that to avoid getting water on her leaves that would burn in the strong sunlight, I wanted to wait until the evening to water her.
But in the evening when I went onto the balcony, my beautiful hanging plant had turned into a decimated, dessicated, desecrated ruin. From a hundred gorgeous little flowers that gave me such joy she had perhaps four remaining. Everything else was dead, dead, dead. Dry, withered and brittle, like pale plant skeletons.
I was gutted.
Filled with regret I apologised profusely to her and ran to get water. It looked like a lost cause, but I had to try. I watered her crisp remains.
Then I thought, “I need to chant for her. She needs to hear daimoku1.”
When the balcony door window is open, the sound of me chanting in my living room at my Buddhist altar carries outside. So I sat down and chanted for 15 minutes. I expressed my regret and apology in my prayers, and sent daimoku to revive her, in my mind’s eye picturing her resplendent again in the abundant beauty I had revelled in.
And in the morning, a miracle awaited me. She had returned to life! In almost all her beauty! Three colours of flowers and vibrant green leaves and stems.
Over the next 36 hours I removed some shrivelled flowers that hadn’t made it, and since our hot spell continues, I make sure to water her well. She responds to my care by growing more beautiful by the day.
As for me, I’ve learned my lesson, and consider myself lucky to have such a great teacher. For my plant has taught me much.
Firstly, the necessity to be less cavalier with my life-altering power.
Next, my plant had the sheer guts and drive to return to life after what must have been a hellish experience. It felt as though she had made a choice to forgive me and to trust me. To trust that life would be kinder, better, this time. She followed her natural urge to make a comeback, supported materially by water and spiritually by daimoku.
And finally, blooming exuberantly as her greatest self after such a serious setback shows me what is possible for all of us.
Life is worth fighting for!
1 Daimoku means Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life force of the Universe.