By John Di Leonardo
Today, I performed yoga and walked through the Gandhi Peace Garden at SUNY Old Westbury with new friends to commemorate the life and loss of Guarini Anjali, the founder of Long Island’s first ashram. Following a brief meditation, a pair of my fellow yogis discovered a paper wasps’ nest nearby. Fearful of the nest’s inhabitants, my compatriots discussed amongst themselves how to proceed and once convinced they were not honey bees, some even plotted to eradicate it. After all, everyone now knows that without bees, ecosystems would collapse—as would agriculture as we know it.
Like bees, however, paper wasps are important pollinators, carrying pollen from flower to flower as they sip sweet nectar from plants like goldenrod in open fields or woodlands. Unlike bees, they come with the added benefit of also feeding on other insects less favorable to farmers or gardeners, those that eat the plants themselves. Like bees, paper wasps build intricate nests, however rather than making their nests from wax, paper wasps build theirs out of paper made from wood and plant fibers mixed with saliva. Similar to bees, they only sting when they feel their colony—or more specifically their queen—is threatened.
With so many similarities among them, why should it matter whether these flying insects were bees or wasps? Why let one live while eradicating the other? I began to remind my otherwise very compassionate friends that wasps are no one to fear and that the energy we give out is the energy we receive back. If one approaches a nest aggressively, they are sure to be stung. If one respects the wasps and observes calmly from a respectable distance, they have nothing at all to fear and can instead enjoy the fascinating beauty that is a paper wasp nest.
In the midst of this conversation, my phone rang. A domestic duck had been abandoned nearby. By some miracle, we were around the corner from the frightened animal, but I had to go quickly as it would soon be night and they—unable to fly or camouflage—would be unlikely to survive the night. My wife and I remembered to put out good energy toward this duck and she was quickly rescued.
However, when I returned home, I opened a book entitled Rtu—a compilation of meditational poems by Guarani Anjali, the great teacher who we were there to commemorate—and stumbled upon a short poem that simply read:
The ant and I
yet sharing the same
My mind returned to the wasps. Like bees and wasps, ants are in the taxonomic order Hymenoptera. And like bees and wasps, ants are an integral part of our ecosystem. Just as we pay homage to our Gurani Anjali, a queen in her own right, it is right to respect the bees, ants, and wasps who only sting or bite to protect their queens in a space we must all learn to share together.
For this week’s Anuvrat, I ask that you consider the rights and will of someone different than you, someone weaker or smaller than you, someone less privileged than you, a stranger, or someone you simply don’t understand. Fight the urge to fear who you do not know. Do something kind for them instead.