The potency of a seed


PARTHASARATHI RAJAGOPALACHARI explores some age-old questions about creation and creativity, and how we nurture ‘seed’ ideas in order to create uniqueness and innovation.

My Guide once told me, “There has been one question which has been before the world’s philosophers throughout time: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, the seed or the tree?” And he said, “God is not a fool to make a tree when he can make a seed and make it grow into a tree!”

Western science has stumbled upon this, perhaps truth, perhaps secret, when they talk of the mighty atom which was the seed of the Universe in some distant past time, and that has grown into this Universe. One day it will collapse back into itself and become the seed again, and it goes in a swinging way like this. It is the dance of Shiva, as they call it in Hindu mythology – creation, destruction, creation. It is only a collapse of the whole thing into itself that becomes the seed for the next creation.

So the gift is given to us in seed form. I remember a children’s story about a man who had some children. One of the children was avaricious, another was greedy, and the third was a patient worker. When the old man died, they found that in his will he had left factories to one, to the second he had left his money, and to the last son he had left a packet of seeds. When the distribution occurred everybody thought it was highly unfair. The old man must have been a stupid fellow to treat his sons so differently, especially the youngest, who got a packet of seeds. But it was the youngest who became famous. He used those seeds to cultivate enormous forests, from which he cut trees, got timber and all the paraphernalia of wealth.

The purpose of a tree is to bring more seeds, and the seeds fall to the ground and become trees again. Suppose a tree were just to multiply and make more trees, what would happen? There is no beauty, there is no creation, there is no newness, there is no novelty, there is no change. It is in this aspect of creation from a seed into a full-grown thing – whether it is a plant, or an animal, or a human being, or even a universe – that the possibility of change comes. Speaking in terms of biology, that is where mutation comes into picture. If you produce clones, there is never any mutation, there is never any change.

Variety is there not because God produced varieties, but because he produced seeds and gave them the opportunity of change, of being affected by external circumstances, and this produces uniqueness in each individual growth. Therefore uniqueness is a product of small, seeded gifts.

We can strive to express what is hidden in us in seed form. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, there is one story in which a seed was cut and the boy says, “There is nothing inside.” The rishi says, “From that nothing this tree has home.” It is from nothingness that everything comes. From something only something can come. It is a vital equation. From something only something can come. From nothing the possibility of everything coming exists.

It is from nothingness that everything comes.
From something only something can come.
It is a vital equation.
From something only something can come.
From nothing the possibility of
 coming exists.

From a seed comes what? Plenty. From plenty comes what? Only seeds, again to produce plenty. One seed thought must multiply. Otherwise we would not go and buy seeds. Imagine having to buy sheaves of grain and plant them in your garden only to cut them, take them out only to thresh them again. So the effort is not so much in developing the seed as in finding the right seed. What seeds should I use? Which seed thought should I use? From which seed thought shall I develop that which is necessary here? It is well-known that you cannot plant oak trees where mangoes grow. So, the right seed is needed!

I have known many people who are interested in gardening, and when any of them plant seeds with a negative idea, “Oh, I don’t know how many of these will come,” nothing comes. And there are others who know nothing of botany and zoology, of seeds and soil science. They plant with love, water their garden tenderly, and everything thrives. We say that they have green fingers; they are the ‘love-hearted’. What are green fingers? It is the love that goes with the water to the seed. It is the love to which the seed responds and grows.

So when we are given seed gifts, treat them gently, with love and with care. Water them with patience and let them grow spontaneously.

Excerpt from a talk called ‘The Potency of a Seed’



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