My love story with trees began when I was barely four years old. We lived in an old-fashioned house with a colossal but unkempt backyard. My father, himself an enthusiast of gardening, decided to embellish the place with a variety of plants and trees so that we could have a place to call a garden. He planted a Nilgiri tree the day my sister was born and a mango one, the day I was born. To this day, even though we no longer stay there, the trees which symbolize the birth of his two daughters, are still nurtured by my father!
As a child, I don’t ever remember playing with the neighborhood kids. Our lush, green garden, the chirping, vibrant birds, the lilting whiff of the flowers and the pleasurable company of my elder sister was all that I needed to pass my hours. Didi and I would endlessly amuse ourselves by watering the plants (and each other in the process), adorning our very own man-made pond with sea shells, and at times, playing hide and seek in the vast maze of green! That garden was our very own haven.
Till sometime back, my love for trees and plants was limited to appreciating their external beauty and to the calming effects, that spending a time of solitude in nature, had on me. However, since the time I have started practicing the art of mindfulness, my love for trees has become more profound. Buddhist philosophy (of which mindfulness is an important part) reveres nature since it is believed that there is a close interdependence between the natural environment and the sentient beings.
In Buddhist philosophy, there actually is a practice called “Touching the Earth”. The practice of “Touching the Earth” is to return to the earth, to our roots, to our ancestors, and to recognize that we are not alone. When we touch the earth, we become small with the humility and the simplicity of a young child. When we touch the earth, we also become great like an ancient tree, sending its roots deep into the earth, drinking from the source of all waters.
Being mindful of trees and nature taken together has made me appreciate the fact that every moment of our lives, we are provided for and taken care of by trees; be it for food or for the larger interests of the economy. In spite of being all providing, the tree teaches us the virtues of patience, calmness, compassion, selflessness and humility. But rather than showing gratitude, what do we humans do? Ruthlessly cut down trees for our own selfish needs. Repetitive as it might sound; there is a pressing need to protect our forests. Otherwise an appalling future awaits us all, not only in this life, but our consequent births as well. Just as the Bible teaches us the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” so does the Bhagavad-Gita teach us the rule of cause and effect which takes into account the karmic actions of every individual. In other words, if we don’t fancy the fate of a brutally cut-down tree in our next birth, we must stop this merciless killing of trees.
My realization of the significance of trees in our lives and the consequent gratitude I feel towards Mother Nature, made me renounce eating of non-vegetarian food and to perk up to fight for our environment. This is my way of giving back to Mother Nature for all those happy childhood memories as well as nurturing me thereon.
Henry Van Dyke has rightly said, “He that planteth a tree is a servant of God, he provideth a kindness for many generations, and faces that he haith not seen shall bless him.” Let us today take a vow to protect and prune our trees for a better tomorrow.