IN THE Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.19.8) Srila Prabhupada notes, "Although the earth's ground is the same, different tastes arise due to different kinds of seeds." What a miracle it is that although two plants grow next to each other in the same dirt, one produces sweet melons, the other hot peppers! Although they use the same resources from Mother Earth, it is as if they give different interpretations of those resources like two artists with a box of oils, one painting a stately portrait, the other a rich landscape.
Different living entities have different ways of serving Krsna. The portrait artist might paint a picture of the spiritual master; the landscape artist a landscape of Vrndavana, Krsna's home. Both artists can gain spiritual advancement, because Krsna reciprocates with everyone's service. Similarly, when the fruits of both the melon and the pepper plant are offered to Krsna in tasty preparations, He blesses the living entities in those plant bodies with spiritual advancement in their next life.
But, whereas artists can arrange for their paintings to be used in Krsna's service, plants cannot make an offering to Krsna. They need humans to harvest their produce and offer it to Krsna. Only then can plants gain spiritual advantage.
Not only do the plants benefit, but as the Bhagavatam indicates, even Mother Earth feels spiritual satisfaction when the fruits, grains, and vegetables she produces are offered to the Lord. The reverse is also true. The Fourth Canto of the Bhagavatam gives the example that under evil King Vena none of Mother Earth's products were offered to Krsna and she became so offended that she stopped producing food.
This is like a mother who gives her child money or flowers to offer in a temple or church. When the child takes these things and offers them, both the child and the mother feel spiritual satisfaction. But if the mother finds that the child is ruining the flowers or spending the money on candy, she stops giving the child things to offer. Then neither mother nor child is happy.
Srila Prabhupada once said that every plant has a use. So weeds can serve Krsna, too. Even pesky stinging nettles can be used as a coagulant to replace animal rennet in cheese-making. Devotees fortunate enough to live in the countryside don't have to import foods from abroad to make an enjoyable offering for Krsna. The finest foods to offer are the ones grown with love and devotion right in our own gardens. As Prabhupada told devotees in France, "Anything grown in the garden is a hundred times more valuable than if it is purchased from the market."
Devotees in Krsna conscious farm communities around the world have taken up the spirit demonstrated by Srila Prabhupada, and they rejoice in offering Krsna things they have grown themselves. I once asked Lalita Sakhi Dasi, the head cook at Gita Nagari Farm in Pennsylvania, to describe her favorite offering to the Deities. She replied, "Pizza because everything is produced right here at Gita Nagari. Our oxen grow the grains for the flour. Our cows produce the milk for the cheese. The tomatoes for the sauce are extra flavorful because they're grown with cow manure from our barn. Even the basil and oregano come from our herb garden."
Mother Earth wants to help her children, but if they're uninterested in serving Krsna she becomes discouraged. Srila Prabhupada writes, "Just as a cow cannot deliver sufficient milk without being affectionate to her calf, the earth cannot produce sufficient necessities without feeling affection for those who are Krsna conscious." In the ideal Krsna conscious village, the process is perfect. Devotees express their love for Krsna by singing and dancing in kirtana, and that stimulates the affection of Mother Earth, who produces crops and pastures abundantly. Cows and oxen graze on the lush pastures, and in turn produce milk and grains. Plants in the gardens and fields become healthy and productive.
Devotees then collect all the foodstuffs and prepare tasty offerings for the Deities. In this way the offerings of Mother Earth are used perfectly, and all the living entities Mother Earth, the plants, the devotees, the cows and oxen, and even the neighbors who receive the food after it's offered to Krsna get spiritual happiness.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.