The drought is frizzling up our gardens, and the pounding South Easter summer winds are finishing off the job. Anything green and leafy is having a very tough time of it. So imagine my surprise on returning home from my Christmas family visit, to discover I have a flourishing tomato plant growing in the bathroom drain. Clearly it is a volunteer plant, and who knows how a tomato seed arrived in the drain. If it had sprung up in the kitchen drain, this would be less remarkable. Waste water exiting my bathroom is minimal because bathing is not happening in my life, only the briefest 2 minute shower every other day. And that waste water is recycled into my lavatory cistern, but somehow there’s enough water leaving my drain to sustain a brave tomato plant.
So there it is, yellow flowers and all, visibly expanding.
The inexplicable growing power of a stray tomato seed reminds me of something I heard from a wise old man, forty years ago. At that time in my life, I was privileged to hear the teachings of Swami Nisreyesananda of the Ramakrishna Mission, based on the island of Mauritius.
Swami was a scholar, a jnana yogi. He was a tall imposing figure, with a magnificent white beard, and very few teeth. His dark brown skin glowed, and his bald head positively shone. Swami spoke a quaint , old-fashioned heavily Indian-accented English, and made frequent reference to notable philosophers of the early 20th Century, like Bertrand Russell , for example.
I’m including a photo which I took of Swami. I had to take a photo of an old photo, so the quality is bad, but you will at least get an idea of the man.
Swami was educated in India, and had a comprehensive knowledge of classical Indian philosophy, in addition to his fascination with Western scientific ideas. He would recite long passages from the Upanishads, in Sanskrit, and then comment at length on the meaning. Listening to him was like being enrolled in a graduate programme on Indian philosophy. I have no idea how old he was, but he was definitely in his 70s, if not older; his mind was a vast, crystal ocean of sublime knowledge, which he loved to share.
One day he pointed to a small weed determinedly pushing up between the paving stones and said, “Mankind with all his cleverness cannot make even one seed grow. That growing power comes only from the One.”
In that moment I realised I’d heard a cosmic truth. His simple statement made a deep impression on me, which I’ve never forgotten.
Note: compiled from various sites:
It may not be out of place to tell here of the continuous preaching of Vedanta through classes and lectures for quite a few years now, being carried on by Swami Nihsreyasananda in South Africa, with Salisbury , Rhodesia (35, Rhodes Avenue) as his centre.
From 1959 Swami Nihshreyasananda, stayed in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) moving about the neighbouring countries.