When my now 27-year-old daughter, Alisa, was growing up at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, she regularly prowled the fields with a roving posse of renegade Zen kids. These young ruffians disappeared all day long into dense blackberry thickets, to emerge at dusk with rough wooden machetes fashioned to slash down 9-foot-tall poison hemlock plants menacing the neat lettuce rows at the edge of the farm.

Chagrined by their feral behavior, a few Zen parents organized family practice days, taking turns to offer simple interactive programs for our children, grounded in the original teachings of the Buddha. I planned a summer session on the noble eightfold path with Reverend Heng Sure, the director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, who came to the family program strumming his guitar and belting out this sassy rendition of the noble truths:

“Ouch,” says Suffering,
“Mooooore,” says Craving,
“Stop!” says Cessation,
“Walk the noble eightfold path.”

The Noble Eightfold Path of Organic GardeningOur Zen kids loved both this catchy mantra and imitating Reverend Heng Sure. With their interest piqued, they decided to plant a noble eightfold path garden in the shape of an eight-spoke wheel. It became my summer work to help realize this garden.

As sons and daughters of practicing Buddhists, our children understood that the teachings of the eightfold path are divided into three categories—wisdom, morality, and concentration. To make these categories clear in their garden design, they chose signage marked with three primary colors: blue for clear-eyed wisdom, yellow for warm-hearted morality, and red for fiery concentration.

I was surprised to see how avid the children were in creating their garden. They loved selecting the best plants for their design. For right view, in the wisdom section, they chose eyebright, a medicinal herb that fosters clear vision, and for wisdom’s matching virtue, right intention, they planted a rich mix of cover crop seed to feed the garden ground.

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