Saturday, Mar. 14, 9:00 PM
Bhaktivedanta Eco-Village, Karnataka, India
I feel bad about something I did today.
For much of the last week we (the Wwofing team here of 6) have spent much of our time beautifying the surrounding gardens, but more importantly focusing on clearing around the base of plants, flowers and trees, so that the plants, not the weeds, can drink the water. Now imagine a big long lot of maybe 20×60 meters that’s already planted with trees and some flowering plants, dug out with dozens of irrigation canals, but has been neglected for a year. So it’s really uneven, ditch-y, completely covered with a blanket of green vine-like weeds, with piles of dried-up flora and fallen banana leaves throughout, not to mention many large rocks in the soil. This job calls for more than a few people with “cuttys” (small curved blades)… so next phase in the Dam and Below Project calls for some big guns. I volunteered to help Tattba (the big man around here) fix-up the rarely used gas-powered weed whackers so we can reclaim the large area below the newly fixed-up dam, to clear out the irrigation canals and plant lots of new stuff between the banana trees. So I spent the second half of the day whacking away like crazy… only these whackers don’t have the little spinny plastic thread, rather they’re fashioned with big 3″ thick blades. Yes.
I’m trying to be kind to animals, even bugs. All life… if I can avoid breaking and killing, I will. (I start writing this now as a grasshopper hops right onto my back… geez gimme a break!) I flicked the same giant black ant off my bed 3 times, (he deserves flicking, as I’ve been watching him and his friends at work just outside my bedroom, like devouring a big dragonfly the other night, and I don’t need him working on me tonight.) They move in fast once the pheromones are out and will dismember a larger animal with group ferocity, then drag its big pieces down into the nest. There’s the gecko who’s been living in my room for 3 days, despite my efforts to shoo him out the door. I’m used to him now, as I’m confident in his abilities… he actually took the first bite out of the aforementioned dragonfly, but left him for the ants. (The bugs are relentless tonight… another something just flew into the back of my head… I’m getting so bugged out! You know how it is, half in the mind, but only half!) But this is how it is in the forest, in a farm, in nature… virtually anywhere but my somehow bug-less apartment was in NYC. I’m especially mindful, out here, that I’m in their home more than they’re in mine. I learned it in Nepal first with the spiders… we keep them (all) around to catch the bugs, to do their job in nature, as cats catch mice. Even in the bedroom, I’m perpetually curious to witness the cycle of life around me, but not without my limits. This beetle in my room has been buzzing all around and too close to me all evening, so I’ve tried to shoo him out the door too, eventually (3rd try) with a broom, then I had to keep a little frog from hopping in. Aww, froggie. That’s what’s really bugging me.
Near the end of the work day as I was tearing through some really tall and thick weeds, right down to the dirt, a hit a toad. It was terrible. I actually had a small audience, as two visiting students were standing right there next to me talking with Tattba when it happened. The big little guy (body as big and round as a softball) got sliced right in the face, half hopped-out of his little hole, before Tattba grabbed him by the legs and brought him over to the stream, said a few Hare Krishnas for him, while I grimaced at what I had accidentally done, and the sight of his blood pouring from that huge single slice in his face as he was being carried off. Poor little guy.
Why do I feel bad? Is it my Catholic guilt of having killed something? (The fear of God?) What about bad karma? One thing I recall sticking out in one conversation about Hare Krishna was about being freed from the cycle of karma… but is karma even real? Is killing something accidentally (albeit through volatile, potentially hazardous means) bad karma? How much time, or how many lifetimes may I have to spend paying off this karmic debt? Or was the toad, born again into that body (now there are many afterlife theories at play here) playing out his own karmic role on the stage of (this) life, as was always intended? Or does this event mean anything at all? What inside me feels bad? (I DO, indeed, feel bad each and every time I think of him.) If I didn’t feel bad, is that bad? How different is this scenario from killing the mosquito I invariably find each night before I go to sleep? (Dastardly little bugger.) Or the ant colony I didn’t notice as I was walking through the garden, or the one I did notice but whose home I destroyed anyway as it was in the irrigation ditch I was clearing out?
One can go on and on musing like this, or just fall back on whichever creed or superstition we have learned to supply us with an answer, a way to comprehend and feel safe, comfortable, or fearful in the Truth of our particular Lord, deities or beliefs… an event among countless events in our lives which will somehow tie into our ultimate end/fate/demise/whatever.
I’m sorry, Toady, because I would never ever deliberately cause you any harm, but that I did take your life today. You were just sitting down there in your burrow in the weeds, and I came and took your life from you. I don’t have it though. And I don’t know where it went. It seems such a waste, such a shame. I don’t know what you believed, or if you were a Believer at all. But if you were, I hope you went where you wished most to go… perhaps the beautiful nearby stream with all the delicious bugs to eat?