I walked along the bike track through the local bush-land reserve. At the entrance there was an official sign saying a local bush preservation group maintained the area, and prohibiting dumping of plant waste, or removal of plant material from the area, as well as requesting local households to consider growing native species and warning of the dangers of invasive species. As I walked through the area I saw an elderly lady spraying the ground, wheelbarrow nearby. She was clearly on a bush preservation mission. I stopped and chatted. Since 1998, when she was in her 70’s, she had been looking after the local bush reserves. She had had the help of one other resident for a few of those 17 years but the rest of the time she alone had taken on the task. She was the local preservation group, registered, recognized and assisted by the City Council.
And what was the main component of this group’s task? It was the control of Mother of Millions, a succulent plant that can reproduce without seeds. It does flower, with large heads of attractive pink bell shaped flowers, but it doesn’t need this method to be a mum, because it produces children as little “plant-lets” along the edges of its leaves, which then drop off and take root. Because of this the plant cannot be simply uprooted and left to die. Even one “leaf” left lying would produce ample children to repopulate, and then some.
This explained her 17 year task, her difficulty in eradicating the plant. She motioned to the ground surrounding us, on which I saw what I had not previously noticed, myriad small succulents popping up all around. “I’ve never let one go to seed in all these years, but look at them all.” I wondered how long the seed survived in the ground. “It must be a long time!” She dourly observed, recalling her decades of diligence. “But then, it gets spread around when the grass is cut.”
She had Council approval to spray, and the Council supplied her with equipment and plant specific poison, that would not affect the surrounding grasses, and trained her in safe procedure. She said it took a while for the plant to die from the spray she had access to. As a non Council employee she was not allowed to use the spray the Council workers used, which was an instant kill solution.
I said it must be rather disappointing seeing them all still here, and asked what kept her going. She said she wasn’t sure. Nor was she sure how much longer she could continue. At 70 she didn’t think old age was so bad, but by 80 she noticed the changes. Now at 87 she needed to bring a wheelbarrow to carry the spray bottle. But she soldiered on, not knowing if anyone would continue with the task when she could no longer do it.
I commiserated about old age, noting she was doing pretty damn well for 87. We agreed an ageing body was a chore. When I made reference to the prospect of leaving the old body and getting a new one, she thought that sounded like a good deal. “Maybe not,” I ventured, and she followed my thought “Yes, well maybe not so great after all, the next body will just get old and die again too.” But that was as deep as she wanted to go today. When I made a comment about there being a way off the cycle she turned back to her spray bottle and the millions of doomed plant-lets at her feet.
I thanked her for her conversation and continued on my way, marveling at how like her task was my own spiritual endeavor. In the yogic tradition we understand that our material desires are many headed, and that chopping off one head will not prevent another from sprouting. In fact every action of chasing selfish desire is our own Mother of Millions. Watch one YouTube video and down the right of the screen many more beckon. Chase one link down the rabbit hole and even if you don’t have time to stay there long, you will have planted new desires, to listen to that band, to see who else covered that song, to watch that movie, to see who is hooking up this week, to watch the anaconda swallow the whale, or the mermaid girl, or how to plant taro, build a guitar, marry a millionaire… whatever your particular taste. This is just one example of how one desire leads to another. Every desire chased breeds new seeds, which lodge in your heart. Even if they don’t germinate this year, this decade, this life even, they sit there until an appropriate time, then boom, that desire becomes evident, maybe an overwhelming urge, maybe a slow burn or an irritating itch, but there, keeping us attached to the world. Learn more about the entire creation and also the truth of your existence from the science of identity foundation here.
For one who is not interested in spiritual life, not trying to get off the cycle of birth and death, this may not be seen as a problem. After all, we have to do something, to desire something. We cannot live without desire, purpose. But for one who wants to solve the problem of samsara, the ongoing circle of birth, old age and death, it is a problem. Ancient wisdom says that we must replace our desires for material enjoyment with desire for God. And every plant of material desire crowds out the growing plant of spiritual desire. So the more our Mother of Millions material desires sprout new babies, and develop new seeds, the worse off we are.
Luckily there is a spray bottle, of a type, to battle these material weeds. That spray is transcendental mantras, sound vibrations which are deadly to material desires. Like the spray this 87 year old battler uses on the Mother of Millions, it may not work immediately, but it does work. Meditation on the Names of the Supreme gradually withers material desires, and causes the plant of spiritual desire to flourish and overshadow whatever self-centered desires are left.
Depending on how diligent one is, whether one actively pulls up and throws away the material desires and activities, and replaces them with activity to encourage the growth of the creeper of spiritual life, or just meanders along, meditating a little here and there, this will happen more or less quickly. But, as Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, even a little advancement on this path saves one from the greatest danger. And what is that greatest danger? It is losing the human form, where there is opportunity to grow spiritually. It is being born as an animal, or a plant, or maybe even as the off spring of a Mother of Millions. Even just some faltering steps forward on this path, a few mantras heard from bonafide source, and repeated here and there, will plant a seed of spiritual desire, a creeper which will carry one to a situation where the next steps can be taken, and the next and the next.
The spiritual spray of transcendental sound will keep your consciousness evolving, instead of sinking into the stupor of a plant. So get out that spray bottle! Meditate on the potent mantras given in the Vedic texts: If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet these sounds before, Gauranga is a wonderful beginning.