A Caterpillar’s Journey

There is a Franciscan Friars shrine near our house, where I enjoy either walking on its trails, or sitting in its beautiful shaded spots. One shaded spot is next to a lotus pond. A couple of weeks ago, I first saw the pond on a sunny day in July. I had come upon the pond suddenly when I had lost my way in the wooded trails. It was a surprise to see huge pink lotuses blooming in North America. Likely the plants had been imported, because I later found that only a yellow variety (Nelumbo lutea) is native to North America; the pink variety, Nelumbo nucifera, is native to Southeast Asia and East Asia; the word nelumbo is of Sinhalese origin.

The pond in July had been filled with flowers, shining in the bright sun. For some reason I had felt that a few weeks would have passed, by the time I next saw the pond and that the lotuses would perhaps be gone by then.

Indeed, two weeks had passed by the time I returned to the shrine. Perhaps because it’s already mid-August and summer is coming to an end, I was reminded of my friend’s comment last year around the same time, about his vegetable garden, which he takes care of like his baby. He had been sad at the passing of summer and had said that the last vegetable crops had been harvested, the plants were dying and there was just the smell of death. I wondered how the lovely pond would look today. Perhaps past its prime?

It has been raining for the past few days. The grass was wet as I walked over to the lotus pond. From a distance, I could see that some of the stalks were broken by last night’s rain. Also, many flowers had lost their petals, and their pollen-filled, soft, yellow pods were now empty, hard, and green. But there were still several beautiful blooms and even a couple of plump buds. I sat for a few minutes in the small shelter next to the pond. The large leaves were sprinkled with dew and some of them held the water in their center. I saw a little caterpillar on the leaf near me and realized it had a water drop on its legs. I thought perhaps the caterpillar was standing on the water drop. But the caterpillar moved, and the water drop moved with it. It was carrying the drop with it! Taking it where?…I wondered. As I looked around, I saw several caterpillars in various stages – eggs, small babies, and fully grown adults munching on the lotus leaves. The lotus leaves were now food for the caterpillars. The July sun had brought the lotuses. The August rains had brought the caterpillars, with food ready for them.

There is no death. There is only life in different forms.

Much later I remembered that while sitting in the lotus shelter I had been listening to the Amritabindu Upanishad lesson taught by Swami Advayananda. (Amritabindu = drop of nectar). Perhaps that little caterpillar was carrying a drop of nectar home.

August 15, 2020

Chetana Neerchal

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