With water, sun and soil, a tiny seed can grow into a majestic tree. The seed's power to transform so dramatically seems almost mythic in proportion, which is perhaps why seeds appear in many religious parables.
Today we've lost our connection to the life-giving properties of seeds as a by-product of our highly industrialized and "materialistic" culture, according to author and Sufi mystic Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.
"We have not only lost the sacred dimension of the seeds but a lived connection to the sacred Earth," Vaughan-Lee told The Huffington Post.
He went on to ask, "How can life have real meaning if we have no connection to a sacred Earth?"
Vaughan-Lee and other religious leaders addressed this question in Sacred Seed, a collection of essays collection of essays published in 2014 by the Golden Sufi Center, which Vaughan-Lee founded in 1991.
Thirty-three leaders and scholars from different religious traditions contributed essays to the book, each with a slightly different take on the sacred role of seeds in human life. The book was compiled and edited by the Global Peace Initiative of Women with an introduction by environmental activist Vandana Shiva.
The agricultural practices of genetically modifying crops and prioritizing monocultures over multi-crop farming have made biodiversity plummet in many parts of the world, Shiva wrote. India once had 200,000 rice varieties before monocultures took hold, she continued. Today the country grows just eight globally-traded strains of rice.
"When seed is living and regenerative and diverse, it feeds the pollinators, the soil organisms, and the animals, including humans," Shiva wrote. "When seed is non-renewable, bred for chemicals, or genetically engineered ... diversity disappears."
This loss of diversity and abundance has a metaphoric equivalent in human life. When seeds lose their potency, human beings lose a powerful symbol of renewal.
"Seeds are the one thing that are the only genuine promise we have of the future," wrote prominent nun and activist Sister Joan Chittister in her essay. Seeds contain the "power of creation."
"In every seed," she wrote, "is the gift of life to those seeking life, wanting life, denied the kind of life that is full of energy, full of hope."
The earth shares that energy with us by producing the food our lives depend on, wrote Buddhist leader Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa of Tibet, in his essay.
"It is very important that we emulate the Earth’s attitude of generosity towards us," Dorje wrote. "Just as we would do when receiving a precious gift from someone we love, we need to nurture what we have been given."
There are several ways we can begin nurturing the sacred power of seeds right away, according to the book's contributors. Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, of the indigenous Mohawk Nation, suggested in her essay that people plant community gardens and purchase foods that haven't been genetically modified.
On a spiritual level, Vaughan-Lee said we must develop deeper reverence for our food. That, he said, can start with a single bite.
"When you eat a fruit take a moment to sense the mystery of its seed, that it has a story," he told HuffPost. "Seeds are what gives us life, and we have to reclaim this simple but essential wonder, that food is not just a commodity, but a life-giving blessing."
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