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Moving Beyond Life and Death

It’s harvest season here on the homestead. And the earth has been generous with its bounty. We’re approaching 200 pounds of vegetables; harvesting potatoes, beans, carrots, corn, and a variety of other foods.

It’s a wonderful life, but it’s also a strange one. Because the harvest requires me to kill the plants I’ve spent the last few months cultivating.

Corn cobs are snatched from their stalks with a violent, twisting motion. Bean plants break apart as beans are pulled from their vines. And potato leaves are left to rot in the soil as I pull their roots (the potato spuds) from the earth.

But the violence doesn’t stop there. The rabbits and chickens who live on the homestead are feral beasts, and their appetites are unending. I keep them satisfied by feeding them food from the garden.

I strip the corns plants of their leaves, in the same way, I stripped them of their cobs. The leaves are fed to the rabbits, and the tall, spindly stalks go into the compost pile. 

 Bean plants are pulled up by the roots and fed to the chickens as a snack.

I continue in this way, efficiently, systematically, until there is nothing left. And my once flourishing garden is little more than garden beds filled with soil.

This is the cycle of life and death; playing out in real-time. As a Buddhist, I try to limit the suffering involved by abstaining from eating animals. But there is no escaping death.

For something to live, something else must die. This is the truth of life.

However, there is a second part to the story. The dead bean plants I feed my chickens keep them happy and well-fed. Those happy, well-fed chickens provide eggs that nourish my household.

The dead corn plants I feed my rabbits keep them happy and well-fed. Those happy, well-fed rabbits produce manure, which feeds and fertilizes my garden.

Thus, the cycle of life and death is the cycle of transformation. The corn becomes a rabbit, becomes manure, becomes soil, and eventually becomes a new plant growing in my garden.

Similarly, the bean plant becomes a chicken. It becomes an egg, and finally, it becomes a man; planting beans in his garden.

When we understand that the cycle of life and death is actually a cycle of transformation, the death part becomes less scary.

We understand that it’s one of several steps in the cycle of rebirth, and we accept it in the same way that a homesteader accepts the need to harvest his crops.

Yes, there is some sadness. We were quite fond of the garden/ life we cultivated. But there’s also excitement as we wait to see what comes next.

Namu Amida Butsu

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