For over forty years I've been teaching about the spirituality of vegetarianism and our sacred relationship with the animal kingdom. Now that I'm working with others to develop a vision about how cut flower farming can help revitalize at least 1% of all the vacant blighted land in Detroit, I'd like to share with you what flowers are teaching me about God.
To begin with, natural things like flowers didn't come about by chance or natural selection. Just like every other aspect of the natural world, flowers are creations that exemplify the exquisite handiwork of God. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, "Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from a spark of My splendor." Through nature, God is able to teach us, speak to us, and provide for us. It should be fairly obvious to most that God made flowers to provide for us, for the bulk of the food we eat comes from flowering plants. But to "see" how God uses flowers to teach us and speak to us, our hearts and souls must behold what our physical eyes cannot discern.
"For since the creation of the world," Paul explains in Romans from the Bible, "God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." In other words, once we realize that we're meant to know and love God, and that God designed this world to help us regain our original God consciousness, His invisible love for us can be so clearly "seen" in His creations, that even nonbelievers and idolaters are left without excuse.
When I look - and I mean really look - at flowers, I'm always astonished by their appearances. Their colors, shapes, textures, lifestyles and scents are endlessly fascinating to my physical senses and mind. But, I don't want to be deceived by appearances, because I know God didn't create flowers to merely bind our attention to the material world. Rather, He made them so inconceivably beautiful that we would eventually choose not to be fooled by their mere appearance anymore and ask, "Who made these? There must be some supreme intelligence that designed these flowers." And thus, instead of becoming merely fixated on their appearance, flowers can teach us how to become fixated on their Creator, which is the ultimate purpose of human life.
This willingness on our part to be shown a higher truth will allow God to give us the vision to see that which may have been invisible to us until now, namely His divine qualities and His love for us. In the words of the 17th century French Jesuit priest Jean Pierre de Caussade, who wrote Abandonment to Divine Providence, "God disguises himself so that we may reach that pure faith which enables us to recognize him under any appearance. How mistaken we are not to see you in everything." And how mistaken we are not to see Him in the magnificent world of flowers!
Although God is omnipresent, meaning there is no place in the universe where He is not present, He is not everything. Lord Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, clarifies this point in the Bhagavad Gita, "And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold my mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities, and although I am everywhere, still my Self is the very source of creation." Yes, God is "present" inside everything, including humans, animals and flowers, but that does not make a person, animal or flower God. Material creations are not identical with divinity. In other words, worshiping anything in nature is not as valid as worshiping its Creator and Sustainer. That's why monotheistic religions forbid the worship of items in nature. While God is omnipresent, we want to see Him as separate from His creation, because the view that the creation and God is identical, implies a denial of the personality and transcendence of God.
In the Vedic scriptures of India, there is only one definition for the word "love" - bhava, which means love of God. This fact implies that because God is omnipresent and the truth that underlies all appearances, you can not love anyone or anything without loving God. Bearing this in mind, instead of my being endlessly fascinated by flowers - whether it is a dahlia, daisy or dandelion - I want to be endlessly fascinated by the mercy of God who created each and every one of these masterpieces. I do not want to love a flower independent of the Person who made the flower. It gives me great faith to know that He made flowers to help coax us out of the human tendency to separate ourselves from Him and His creation. For me, therefore, flowers are becoming outstretched fingers that point to God, everyone of them preaching a sermon to my soul.
In Jean Pierre de Caussade's words, "There is no peace more wonderful than the peace we enjoy when faith shows us God in all created things. All that is dark becomes light, and what is bitter sweet." My wish is that as God shows me how to love Him and see Him beyond the appearance of flowers, and all other appearances for that matter, I will learn how to love Him everywhere.