Book: Sacred Seed

Available Now!

A Collection of Essays

Compiled and edited by
the Global Peace Initiative of Women
with an introduction by Vandana Shiva

“Whatever happens to seed affects the web of life.”

—Dr. Vandana Shiva

Essential to survival, seeds have profound spiritual implications. For centuries the planting of seed in the earth not only nourished humanity, but also symbolized the mystery of life and the journey of the soul. In our current supermarket lifestyle of pre-packaged products, far removed from the cycles of planting, we have nearly forgotten this mystery. Now as the integrity of the seed is threatened, so is its primal meaning.

Inspired by physicist and environmental leader Dr. Vandana Shiva, each essay draws on the wisdom of ancient and modern traditions. Mystics, shamans, monastics and priests remind us of the profound sacredness of the seed—how in its purity, it is the source and renewal of all of life.

Tenderly composed of original writings and vibrant photos, this book bears witness that the Earth is alive, and establishes that only by working together with the Earth—with its wonder and mystery—can we help in its healing and  regeneration and once again bring meaning back into the world.

Edited and compiled by the Global Peace Initiative of Women, the book includes contributions from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, H. H. the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Sister Joan Chittister, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, Swami Veda Bharati, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Chief Tamale Bwoya, Blu Greenberg & others.

Publication date: November 1, 2014 • Price: $19.95 US
ISBN: 9781890350635 • Page Count: 144 pages
Size: 7.5 by 7.5 inches • Format: Paperback and eBook



From the Introduction


For the past four decades I have dedicated my life to the defense of biodiversity, and the integrity and well-being of all species, including all humans. For the past three decades I have been working in the service of seed freedom, and through it contributing to Earth Democracy for the well-being of all.

I started Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers, in 1987 when I first heard corporations speak of their plans to genetically modify every seed, patent seeds, and impose patents on life laws, globally. A patent is granted for an invention. Patents on seed transform our highest sacred duties of sharing and saving seed into “intellectual property crimes.”

I am inspired by the sanctity of life, the sacredness of seed. How can corporations claim to be the creators and inventors of life on Earth when all they have the capacity of doing is to introduce toxic genes into the cells of plants by means of gene guns and plant cancers?

Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity). Navdanya also means “new gift.” We see our work as reclaiming the gift of the commons, of saving and sharing seeds.

Whatever happens to seed affects the web of life.

—Dr. Vandana Shiva


“A Best Spiritual Book of the Year”

—Spirituality & Practice

“More than an essay collection, this is a call for worldwide action.”

—Publishers Weekly

“…This book provides a powerful perspective to temper our unseemly rush to engineer everything within the biosphere.”

—David Suzuki, author, The Sacred Balance

“…the brilliant spiritual leaders who contributed their voices to this book are all elevating our dialogue about seeds, and the profound role they hold for the future of all humankind.”

—Alice Waters, culinary visionary, and proprietor of Chez Panisse

“This book is timely and timeless in its importance…”

—Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director,
Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University

“‘How many are your works, Lord! …the earth is full of your creatures. …teeming with creatures beyond number — May the glory of the Lord endure forever…’ (Psalms 104).
Whether secular or religious, we must recognize and preserve the bounty of nature or we stand to lose our very humanity.”

—James Hansen, former director,
NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies



Selected Excerpts


“Every seed contains the potential to save the world. Each seed can keep millions of people from starvation. Each seed is a mirror and guardian of the world’s future. Each seed is the ecology that can sustain the economy. This is why seeds are sacred and why they are traditionally believed to be miraculous in indigenous circles.”

His All-Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
From: “Sacred Seed – The Orthodox Christian Tradition”


“The food that shows up on our plates, meal after meal, is made available through far-reaching chains of interactions—of many people who have struggled under terrible conditions, of animals that are painfully exploited, and land that has been misused and contaminated. When we eat that food, the least we can do is feel some gratitude to all the beings that have taken part in the process so that we can live. It is essential that we awaken the seed of compassion in ourselves and make ethical choices that minimize the suffering of others.”

H. H. the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa,Ogyen Trinley Dorje
From: “The Seed of Compassion”

More excerpts »

From the Foreword

The seed is among the most sacred gifts of nature, and yet in modern times we have come to take this gift very much for granted. Nature has provided a tremendous variety of crops to give us all the nutrients we need for a healthy life. As humankind developed the technology to manipulate the seed, so too did this diversity begin to diminish, to our own detriment. Over the last decades we have lost most of our seed and crop diversity, and this loss directly impacts human health. . . .

There is an important role to be played by spiritual leaders and practitioners—those who have the wisdom and compassion to understand the breadth of the agricultural and ecological crises we are needlessly creating. To manipulate nature’s life energies is to directly harm Earth’s ecological systems and human health. Hopefully the human community will pause, reflect, and learn to treasure again the sacred gift of the natural seed, which when used wisely can provide for all the needs of the growing human family.

–Dena Merriam
Founder & Convener, Global Peace Initiative of Women


Click each contributor’s name below for their biography:


“The way we live and act is determined by the perceptual lenses that are shaped by our beliefs and values. Our belief that it is our right to use as we wish, any part of the biosphere—air, water, soil, other life forms—has created problem after problem. If life is sacred, then we cannot treat other organisms as if they are cars or computers, we must act with humility, respect and love. This book provides a powerful perspective to temper our unseemly rush to engineer everything within the biosphere.”

—David Suzuki, author, The Sacred Balance

“There is no more beautiful gift from nature than the seed—and its protection is vital to our survival. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, the Global Peace Initiative of Women, and the brilliant spiritual leaders who contributed their voices to this book are all elevating our dialogue about seeds, and the profound role they hold for the future of all humankind.”

—Alice Waters, chef, author, culinary visionary, and proprietor of Chez Panisse

“These essays establish, with clarity and eloquence, a single crucial insight: our spiritual well-being and our approach to the use of the Earth for our nourishment are inseparable. We have woken up to the fact that the problem of food security is painfully pressing for the coming generation: what this book tells us is that we cannot address this without thinking again very radically about how we see our human growth and nurture; and we cannot cultivate a ‘spirituality’ that pays no attention to the facts of hunger, waste, environmental degradation and so on. This is an exceptional testimony to the holistic thinking our society so desperately needs.”

—Dr. Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, and current Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge

“Ever since I watched the women in Bangladeshi farm families carefully saving seed from one generation to the next, I’ve pondered on this greatest symbol of our connection through time to those who came before and those who will come after. This book is a rich storehouse of wisdom for all the springs to come.”

—Bill McKibben, founder,

“This book is timely and timeless in its importance. The seeds that bring forth life and food for our planet and its people are indispensable for the continuity of all living things. Thus our care for seeds is one of the most vital things we can do amid our many challenges of the present. These articles light a luminous path forward.”

—Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director, Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University and Emerging Earth Community; executive producer and co-writer, Journey of the Universe

“A reverence for our ancient seeds is essential to our very survival. Sacred Seed explains in beautiful detail how and why we must protect them.”

—Ed Begley Jr., American actor, director and environmentalist,

“Through the seeds, they say, speak the voices of the ancestors. It’s hard to imagine a more timely moment than now—when the global biodiversity of seeds is so dangerously under threat, with the hopefulness and promise that seeds symbolize and embody—for this gathering of sacred voices to emerge. Gift yourself with the vitality of this collection, and share it, to revitalize your community and encourage restoring a sense of sacredness to our foods, and health and security.”

—Nina Simons, president and co-founder, Bioneers; past president, Seeds of Change

“Caring for seeds is caring for one of the the most evolutionarily profound and numinous expressions of life. At this critical time in human history, seeds could not be more important and this beautiful and transformative book, Sacred Seed, is an exquisite poetic testimony that reconnects us to the very web of life. Each author offers elegant wisdom and heartfelt praise of life-giving seeds.”

—Osprey Orielle Lake, founder, Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus

“Preserving seed diversity—our vast and beautiful heritage of seeds—is one of the most pressing crises facing the human community. Our future depends on our courageous actions now. May these essays by great spiritual voices from around the world awaken us to value, care for, and stand up for the seeds that nature has gifted to us.”

—Frances Moore Lappé, author, Diet for a Small Planet and EcoMind

“‘How many are your works, Lord! . . . The earth is full of your creatures . . . teeming with creatures beyond number . . . May the glory of the Lord endure forever . . . ’ (Psalms 104). Whether secular or religious, we must recognize and preserve the bounty of nature or we stand to lose our very humanity.”

—James Hansen, former director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

“To name a seed as sacred is to make a small but emphatic protest against its commodification, genetic manipulation, and corporate control. But such naming does more; it moves us beyond protest and calls forth a necessary reverence for the material stuff of Creation. In this fine collection of essays the subject is seeds, but what these authors call for is nothing less than the re-enchantment of the world.”

—Fred Bahnson, author, Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith; director, Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity;

“This book is a testament to the relevance of the seed selection of our ancestors that we have an obligation to continue for ourselves and future generations; seed saving, and by extension appropriate selection, is a natural behaviour of human kind and a very important part of our positive position in the potentially infinite cycle of life on Earth. Without governing ethics, science has continued in a direction of seed manipulation that can only be honestly described as sociopathic behaviour governed only by short-term greed.”

—Geoff Lawton, permaculture design pioneer,

“Through gorgeous photography and essays spanning many traditions, this book offers a diversity of lenses to view the sacredness of seed.”

—Charles Eisenstein, author & speaker,

Sacred Seed honors farmers and eaters around the world who recognize that seeds are not only the foundation of the food system, but that their preservation is intricately tied to the preservation of humanity. Seeds provide both dietary and cultural diversity—reminding us of our past and providing us with future sustenance. The essays in this book show us the true value of protecting seeds for both present and future generations—and that the time to take action is now!”

—Danielle Nierenberg, president, Food Tank: The Food Think Tank

“This book, its very theme, and its reverent illustrations have the taste and scent of holiness! The humble seed on which we totally depend is just as invisible, humble, and unappreciated as holiness itself often is. As a Franciscan, I know that is exactly where we find the greatest mystery and the most alluring truth.”

—Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation

“By virtue of the fact that ‘the end is in the beginning’ with reference to everything in life, the primordial sacredness of a ‘seed’ is a reality we should all embrace. This brilliant series of essays by the most distinguished of spiritual thinkers reveals every aspect of this truth with great force and clarity. All thanks goes to those who have compiled this remarkable offering.”

—John Reed, author, Elegant Simplicity

“This rich and much needed collection of essays inspired in me my own prayer. . . . The Prayer of the Seed: ‘I am but small and seemingly insignificant yet I bear life in my tiny body. I am a source of hope for a hungry and hurting world. So I pray treasure me as precious—source of life for God’s creatures.’”

—Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, chair, Global Peace Initiative of Women; former general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ

“Almost 100 years ago, Liberty Hyde Baily admonished us to adopt a ‘new hold’ with respect to agriculture and our entire relationship with nature, a ‘hold’ that recognized the importance ‘for spiritual contact.’ Such a new hold constitutes a cultural transformation that is essential to the survival of the human species. Sacred Seed is an inspiring collection of brief essays from a variety of faith communities that can help inspire us to engage this important transformation.”

—Frederick Kirschenmann, author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher

“The journey of a seed, so intuitively reverenced in the Earth’s spiritual traditions, continues to be illumined today by the discoveries of modern science. Now we can not only intuit, but also observe the sacred unity embedded in a seed. This observation is a different kind of contemplative gaze, the fruit of an unwavering and persistent search for truth by those questioning the cosmological, biological, historical, and geological assumptions held by earlier generations who, through no fault of their own, could not have made those observations.

“The present unspeakable violence to seeds, which is a human-caused tragedy, has too often been tacitly condoned through silence. In no small way the perspectives of an evolving universe have catalyzed the writings in this book, and they counteract that silence with an expansion of the rich spiritual legacy of traditional wisdoms. We need these words now more than ever.

“We also give thanks to the farmers, activists, and ordinary people who have struggled mightily, with conscience and their own common sense, to resist the desecration of the seed. We give special thanks to Vandana Shiva, for her extraordinary courage and towering accomplishments.”

—Miriam MacGillis, O.P., director, Genesis Farm

“Here is a beautiful mandala of voices of religious leaders worldwide, bringing moral imperative to the fight for seeds. Human salvation depends on seed salvation. I devoured the teachings of this holy text—seeds as the bridge over death, seeds as compassion…”

—Janisse Ray, author, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Seeds

“Ancient cultures representing the world’s wisdom traditions maintained a sacred connection to seeds and agriculture; evolving with the natural world as one. As humanity becomes more and more disconnected from the natural world so do our relationships with the life-supporting systems that we are destroying faster than our ability to understand the future consequences and impacts. Extinction of traditional seed species is likely to be one of our longest-lasting legacies and likely our own extinction. The essays in Sacred Seed present us with another possibility, an urgent awakening and honoring that reunites seeds with the sacred.”

—Suzanne Marstrand, founder, Earth Origin Seeds

“Generative inspiration and awakening thoughts pour out of these pages like seeds waiting to land in the rich soil of cultivated empathy. Tend them with the light of thinking and the warmth of interest and invite the miraculous to emerge.”

—Martin Ping, executive director, Hawthorne Valley Association (link is external)

Sacred Seed is a not only an homage to the endangered nourishment of our planet but to the spiritual source of our lives. Each reading is both a teaching and a prayer, and the beauty of the illustrations alone is enough to make me want to keep this book by my bed or next to my meditation pillow for years, there to provide inspiration when I need it. Drawing from diverse sources, it feeds our longing for the sacred while it awakens the energy to act so that our grandchildren and theirs will enjoy strong, healthy, and sacred lives.”

—Mirabai Bush, senior fellow and associate director,
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

“This collection of short meditations leads to the image of the seed as a spiritual potency that mediates transformation and life on earth. A sense of respect, a desire to care, and the will to protect grows in the soul when we begin to recognize this potency. It is this transformation of our inner relation to the world that provides deep and sustaining ground for environmental awareness and activism. That is a central message of the book. The authors of the meditations are rooted in different spiritual traditions and many of them are also activists. Moving through the variety of perspectives I could sense a common ground of insight and concern that informs the traditions—a unity that is all the more potent when spoken through the diverse voices.”

—Craig Holdrege, author, Thinking Like a Plant, A Living Science for Life; director, The Nature Institute

“Seeds are it, containing within their humble abode all of life’s potency, promise, and potential. This beauteous book is a call to conscious action. It is chock full of seeds ready to take root in hearts and minds, sparking a reverentially infectious connection to life’s sacred beginnings.”

—Trathen Heckman, director, Daily Acts, and board president, Transition US

“Seed is life. Sacred Seed brings to light that we are killing ourselves by destroying the very seed of life . . . the gift of God, the word of God. This book speaks to the rebirth of souls, and shows how all religions and cultures consider seed as the life giver and saver.

“A first of its kind, this collection of articles from great spiritual and cultural leaders from around the world reflects the cosmic intelligence embedded in all forms of life, where seed acts as the source and the connection to the higher self. Seed is a part of natural law, and a fight against it is not only unlawful but harmful to our coexistence in the true sense.

“This book clearly shows how seed is humble and powerful. Everything on earth is grown from a seed, and every seed carries a secret that it only tells when it grows. The seed is the beginning and the end of everything. A seed is the power of nature, and it is part of us and we are part of it. Seed predates all historical facts, because it is the beginning.

“As Lord Buddha said some 2700 years ago, everything is interdependent. Listen to the spiritual and natural voices of the earth. They never get old or lost. I recommend to all people on our planet to understand deeply the implications of GMOs in light of the significance, meaning, and power of seed. An indigenous seed can bring the earth back to life.”

—Dr. Saamdu, The Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan