Ay Zauq is Jahan Me Hai, Zaib Ikhtelaf Se
-Zauq, Urdu Poet
(Flowers of different hues do the garden deck and adorn. On the riot of colors alone, O Zauq, rests the garden’s good and beauty.)
Zauq describes a garden’s beauty as dependent on its range of colorful flowers; similarly, the beauty of humans rests on our souls radiating with colors of truthful living. Pascal said, “You should always keep something beautiful in your mind.” In my opinion, what he means by beauty is a vision that combines abundant grace, feelings of compassion, contentment and gratitude. These visions can be inspired by meditating on the wonders of beautiful landscapes, gardens, and mystery which surrounds us all. A lot of care and attention must be given to achieve a beautiful and well-kept garden. In inner gardening, one cultivates inner self by intentionally integrating humility, compassion, contentment, and gratitude in life. Practicing these virtues opens the door of one’s heart for grace to enter, thus enabling the practitioner to embark on the voyage towards the destination beauty.
The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, gives us the prescription to achieve this goal:
Nam Beej Santokh Suhaga, Rakh Garibi Ves
Rakh Bhau Karam Kar Jamsi,
Se Ghar Bhagath.
- Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Pg 595
(Sow the seed of Lord’s virtues in your heart,
Plough it with contentment/patience and humility.
Doing deeds of love, the seeds shall sprout and you should see your home flourish.)
Further on in the holy book, in allegorical form, Guru Nanak Dev Ji urges us to polish our true nature and rediscover our beauty by living a virtuous life.
Sach Varat, Santokh Tirath, Gyan Dhyan Isnan;
Daya Devta, Khiman Japmali, Se Manukh Pardhan
- Sri Guru Grant Sahib, Pg 1245
(Those who have a truthful living as their vow, contentment as pilgrimage, take bath in waters of spiritual wisdom, kindness as their deity, and forgiveness as their contemplation rosary are supreme beautiful souls.)
By practicing these virtues, one continues to cultivate his/her inner self and discover their inner beauty.
I realize that being good all the time is not easy. It is sometimes very difficult to resist the overwhelming and powerful negative thoughts that can enter the mind. However, if we allow ourselves to be infected by malaise of ego, aversion, hate, and anger, life’s sufferings will grow exponentially. People in these situations generally create negative energy around them and perpetually burn in the fire created by their own emotions. On the other hand, those practicing the virtues of gratitude, forgiveness, contentment are at peace and spread positive energy. Their thoughts, speech, and deeds are in perfect harmony.
By cultivating the inner garden, we rediscover our inherent beauty. We are all born with a beauty that radiates with the colors of compassion, contentment, love, and forgiveness. In Indian philosophy this beauty is called “Sahaj”, implying that we are born with this beauty. Unfortunately, over time this beauty gets covered with the weeds and bugs of ego, anger, hate, greed, etc., and we are unable to practice the mindfulness necessary to see our inner beauty.
In outer gardening, it is necessary to watch and remove weeds and invasive bugs. Similarly for inner gardening, one has to vigilant against creeping ego, hate, and anger – all of which are waiting to find an opportunity and invade. These latent feelings come back with vengeance. While initially the invasions of these feelings may not seem like a problem, but like weeds, they eventually take over. This reminds me of a very old Indian song:
Teri Gathri Mein Laga Chor Musafir Jaag Jara
Aaj Jara Sa Bitna Hai Ye Tu Kehta Hai Itna Sa Hair
Do Din Mein Yen Barh Kar Hoga Muhnfat Aur Muhnjor
(O, spiritual traveler, please wake up, a thief has entered into your thoughts. It is small today, but do not ignore. In no time it will inflict you with the disease of self- righteousness and uncompromising ego.)
Inner gardening is a journey – a journey to find the beauty of inner self and polish it by practice. The root for beauty in Latin is “calling.” A Yup’ik Eskimo song describes this call beautifully:
He sings to me
And calls my name from somewhere up there.
Over there, from somewhere here,
From the depths of our minds.
The call to rediscover our inner beauty is heard by inviting the grace that is all around us into our hearts which is all around us. Reading this blog, for example, is inviting that invisible grace and heeding the call for self -exploration. There are numerous ways to open your heart for grace such as prayer, reading inspirational stories, holy books, company of enlightened persons, etc. Regardless of where one is in his/her journey, the inspiration to work on the inner garden will always be there, even if it is just a flickering flame. To move resolutely towards the path of self- exploration, we must heed the call of beauty and provide continuous fuel to the flame through virtuous practices, thus giving our inner garden the opportunity to grow.
I often spend my evenings in the backyard watching the sunset. The experience of watching the setting sun is mystical to me. I try to practice mindfulness and contemplate on the virtues which will provide fertilizer to my inner garden, but I face the same struggles as many others do, and my mind goes towards negative thoughts like regret, self-pity, and resentment. Reinhold Niebuhr said that “Man is his own vexing problem.” I am no exception. I am constantly trying and learning, so that eventually I will get less and less attached to negative emotions when they come.
Inner gardening and our path towards self-cultivation is a journey full of mystery. The higher spirit, in ways we cannot fathom, puts challenges in our path such as suffering, relationships breakups, circumstances, etc. Through introspection, we realize that we are not the true writers of our biography. We are part of a story where our deliberate actions are weaved with chance, accidents, and sometimes just good or bad luck. If we understand and accept this thought, we can overcome anxiety and fear and rather than analyzing the experience, we learn to live it. Ultimately, nurturing our inner garden requires mindfulness, virtuous living, and deep introspection.
A few days ago while watching the setting sun, I was in deep thoughts on the mystery behind my sickness and sufferings. Somehow, automatically, I started humming Anand Sahib, a hymn of bliss. The hymn moved my wandering thoughts to wonders of creation, which we are part. The Sun was setting fast and moon was eager to show its reflective radiance from the East. It felt that the power of the hymn, setting sun, rising moon, and encroaching darkness were making beautiful music to serenade my inner garden.