We all know humans beings need food to survive. And it may be equally obvious we need seeds in order to have food. But how much time do any of us spend thinking about what that really means? The sum equation of these two facts is: seeds = human survival. Most of us are pretty disconnected from the realities of their production, but that doesn’t make seeds any less relevant to our existence and our future.
For as along as we have had agriculture, people have been saving seeds. This has allowed us to amass an incredible biodiversity of seeds. Over many growing seasons we have developed, shared, and saved the seeds that have grown the tastiest foods, have been the hardiest, and have had cultural, historical, and nutritional significance. As a result, in India alone there are more than 100,000 varieties of rice!
But our 12,000-year-old seed-saving heritage has come under attack in recent decades. Currently, six multinational companies own approximately 60 percent of the commercial seed market. Key players include the world’s largest biotechnology companies, which are buying up traditional seed companies in an effort to control the industry and give preference to genetically engineered seeds and crops.
There is a story of two youths who went to a wise man. He had a reputation for being able to answer any questions asked of him. These two boys thought they could outsmart the man so they devised a test to see if he could pass. For this test they caught a small bird on their way to visiting him.
They found the wise man sitting under a tree. Before approaching him, one of the boys hid the bird in his hands. They came before the wise man and said, “You are known for your wisdom. I have a question for you. Can you tell me if the bird in my hands is dead or alive?”
The old man contemplated for a few minutes and then replied, “Dear boy, suppose I tell you that the bird is alive. You will want to prove me wrong by crushing the bird in your hands to show me it is actually dead. Suppose I reply that the bird is dead. You will want to show that I am wrong, and you will open your hands and the bird will fly away. The answer to the question of whether the bird is dead or alive actually lies in your own hands. You have control over life and death at this moment.”
The two boys looked at each other and realized that the wise man had outsmarted them.
The next principle in decision-making is whether it will knowingly hurt ourselves. If we analyze life in the modern world, we find society is permeated with temptations that are harmful to people. We have to struggle to resist temptations offered via television commercials, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising and billboards trying to convince us to smoke, drink, and eat foods that are detrimental to our health. If we are led by the persuasive power of companies trying to make us buy things that are not good for us, then we are the ones who will suffer. We need to be alert to making choices that will not harm us.
Another principle we can consider when making choices is whether it will create more karma for ourselves. Those following a spiritual path know that we are trying to wind up our karma. We want to lead our lives in such a manner that our karma is lessened rather than increased. What are the factors that increase our karma? Simply put, they are failures in nonviolence, truthfulness, humility, and selfless service either in thought, word, or deed.
The last principle by which we can make good decisions is by choosing those thoughts, words, and deeds that will lead us closer to God. To connect to God, we need to meditate regularly. To reach our lofty goals, we need to develop the ethical virtues, and practice selfless service. By serving others, we are serving the God within them. If we love others, whether human beings or animals, we will live in such a way that we will not hurt others. We will treat creation as our very own. Living our lives in this manner is liberating. The future we sow for ourselves will bring us happiness and joy by leading us closer and closer to God.